Posts Tagged ‘Joseph Thorndike’

Tax Roundup, 5/14/15: Snowbird fails to melt Iowa Department of Revenue opposition to gain exclusion. And many links!

Thursday, May 14th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

Programming note: No posting tomorrow. See you Monday!

 

Iowa's business tax climate, illustrated

Materially-participating in winter

Snowbird loses “material participation” Iowa capital gain exclusion argument. A taxpayer who claimed the unusual Iowa exclusion on very-long-term capital gains failed to convince the Department of Revenue that he “materially participated” in the activity for the minimum of ten years required to qualify for the exclusion.

Iowa allows taxpayers to exclude certain long-term gains from their Iowa taxable income if they meet two requirements:

– They have held the property for ten years, and

– they “materially participated” in the business sold (or in the business holding real property sold) in the ten years preceding the sale.

The “material participation” rule follows the federal “passive activity” material participation definitions. This usually is based on time spent in the activity. Farmers who materially participate in five of the last eight years before they start drawing Social Security payments are considered to materially participate in the farming activity forever. Other taxpayers who retire after working in a business generally are considered to “materially participate” for five years after retirement.

The Iowa ruling letter gives sketchy facts, but it does note (my emphasis):

In determining material participation, only the 10 calendar years immediately prior to the sale are considered and the determination of the participation is limited to that property which is sold.  Both the Department’s rule and the Internal Revenue Code (IRC) require material participation to be regular, continuous, and substantial.  The fact that you wintered in Florida lends serious doubt as to the regular part of that requirement.  Additionally, your daughter was paid for management services.  Rule 701 IAC 40.38(1)(e)(7) states in part, “Management activities of a taxpayer are not considered for purposes of determining if there was material participation if either of the following applies: any person other than the taxpayer is compensated for management services, or any person provides more hours of management services than the taxpayer.”

The letter goes on to say that it’s up to the taxpayer to prove participation, and the taxpayer failed to provide logs, calendars or other evidence that he worked sufficient hours to meet the material participation tests.

The moral? If you want to claim material participation, and you have stepped away from the business, it’s important to keep good records of your participation. The state may not be inclined to take your word for it.

Cite:  Document Reference: 15201008

Related:

Material Participation Basics

IOWA’S SUPER-LONG TERM CAPITAL GAINS DEDUCTION: IF YOU QUIT, DON’T WAIT TOO LONG TO RETIRE

 

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Kay Bell, Don’t ignore that IRS letter and nine other tax notice tips

Robert Wood, Facts About FATCA, America’s Global Disclosure Law. “If you think money anywhere can escape the IRS, think again.”

Jim Maule, When Do Relationships End for Federal Income Tax Purposes?:

The taxpayer argued that the child remains her foster child because they continued their relationship and hold each other out as parent and child. The Tax Court, however, determined that the taxpayer’s guardianship terminated in 2004 when the child attained majority. At that point, the child no longer could be said to be someone who “is placed” with the taxpayer.

Interesting.

 

Robert D. Flach, NO INCOME IS TAXED ALONE

Andrew Mitchel has a new Flowchart – Taxation of Pension Distributions Under UK – US Income Tax Treaty

 

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

Despite its bad reputation, the property tax has numerous benefits. For local governments, the tax provides a relatively stable source of revenue. Local governments also have a fairly high collection success rate. Many property owners have escrow accounts through their mortgage companies, which collect tax monthly and remit it at the appropriate time. Because of that, and the fact that the property tax is attached to something physical, it is hard to avoid or evade.

It’s hard to beat the property tax for funding local services. When the politically-influential carve themselves out of it with TIFs or special exemptions (e.g., special agricultural assessment rules), those that are left footing the bill are understandably unhappy.

 

Renu Zaretsky, Wishes, Dreams, and Bittersweet Denials Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers thoughts on the effect of reduced refunds on this spring’s retail sales, the failure of a proposed soda tax in California, and the need for more IRS authority to fix bad EITC claims.

Alan Cole, NFIB Survey: Taxes a Top Problem for Business (Tax Policy Blog).

Carl Smith, IRS Plays Cat and Mouse With Tax Court on Its Constitutional Status (Procedurally Taxing).

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Joseph Thorndike, Even Under a Flat Tax, Learn to Love Those Loopholes, Because They’re Here to Stay (Tax Analysts Blog). “Once you win the battle, you have to keep fighting it over and over again.”

Greg Mankiw, Why I invest in index funds. “For investors, 2014 was the sixth consecutive year that hedge funds have fallen short of stock market performance, returning only 3 percent on average.”

Hank Stern, Cover Cali sputtering. (InsureBlog). “The Golden State’s health exchange (Covered California) continues to burn through tax-payer dollars at an alarming rate.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 735

 

Career Corner. Should CPAs Consider an MBA? (Paul Gillis, Going Concern). Not to fix your car, no.

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/21/15: Loans aren’t taxable, until you don’t have to pay them. And: ACA, dope, and lots of other stuff.

Tuesday, April 21st, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2Pay me now, tax me later. A hospital in a poor county in Central Florida wanted to recruit an OB-GYN. Rural employers often have to do something extra to recruit good help, so the hospital offered him a $260,000 loan. It came with a sweetener: if certain goals were reached, the loan would be forgiven.

It’s well established that loans aren’t taxable income. That can be pretty sweet to have $260,000 to spend with no withholding and no tax bill. But there’s a catch. You either have to repay the loan (out of your after-tax income), or you have to pay tax on the loan amount if the debt is forgiven.

It’s natural to try to want to have your cake and eat it too — to not pay the loan, and not pay the taxes. That is the very trick behind the leveraged ESOP. But for the rest of us, it’s an elusive goal. It eluded the doctor in Tax Court yesterday.

The doctor met his goals, and $260,000 of debt was cancelled over four years. The doctor didn’t report the income, so the IRS assessed additional tax. The doctor objected. From the Tax Court opinion:

Although the amount that petitioner received from the hospital pursuant to the Revenue Guarantee/Repayment Forgiveness addendum represented a bona fide loan, petitioner contends that the loan was a nonrecourse loan, i.e., that he was not personally liable for its repayment, and that, as a consequence, he did not receive income when the loan was forgiven and canceled by the hospital. The Court disagrees with the premise of petitioner’s argument.

The court pointed out that the terms of the note did make the doctor liable, and added:

Further, although the Court does not accept the premise of petitioner’s contention regarding the nature of the loan, it bears mention that just because a taxpayer is not personally liable for a debt does not mean that cancellation of indebtedness cannot give rise to income…

Under these circumstances, forgiveness and cancellation of the loan gave rise to income.

The Court added in a footnote:

…petitioner argues that when debt is canceled, the creditor should issue a Form 1099-C, Cancellation of Debt, and not a Form 1099-MISC. Although this may be so, the fact of the matter is that a bookkeeping error does not serve to negate income arising from the forgiveness or cancellation of debt.

Apparently the hospital knew that there was income, but issued the wrong kind of 1099. But the 1099 doesn’t change the nature of the income.

The moral? Forgivable loans are nice — cash now, tax later. But later happens.

Cite: Wyatt, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-31.

 

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Megan McArdle, Obamacare’s Tax Day Mystery:

Meanwhile, Louise Radnofsky of the Wall Street Journal offers an example of Effect 3, which I confess hadn’t occurred to me: folks who were covered in 2014, got their refund docked to cover subsidy overpayments, and therefore decided to cancel their insurance for this year.

At first blush, this seems irrational. You don’t need to cancel your insurance to make sure that your tax refund remains intact; you just need to do a better job of estimating your income when you go to buy your insurance so that you don’t end up with overpayments. Of course, the taxpayer in question might not have bought the insurance if she’d known what it was actually going to cost her.

Complex systems have unintended consequences.

Hank Stern, The 4% Solution (Insureblog). “Only 4% of people who signed up for ObamaCare got the correct subsidy”

Christine Speidel, Penalty Relief and Premium Tax Credit Reconciliation (Procedurally Taxing). “This post will describe the penalty relief available under Notice 2015-09 and some of the barriers that may prevent low-income taxpayers from accessing the relief.

 

William Perez, Taxes When Hiring Household Help

Tony Nitti, IRS Seeks Record $2 Billion In Back Taxes From Prominent Businessman And Philanthropist Sam Wyly. Offshore trusts are involved.

Peter Reilly, Superior Point Of Sale Software Does Not Mix Well With Skimming

Jason Dinesen, Breakeven Analysis for Small Businesses, Part 1

Kay Bell, IRS telephone tax help was a dismal 38.5% this filing season. Part of your Commissioner’s “Washington Monument Strategy” of making taxpayers suffer to boost his budget.

 

20130607-2TaxGrrrl, 4/20: The Blunt Truth About Marijuana & Taxes

James Kennedy, Marijuana Dispensary Settles Case after IRS Suggests It Engage in Money Laundering (Tax Policy Blog):

Imagine running a small business and being assessed a penalty by the IRS. Then imagine being told by the IRS that the only way to avoid the penalty is to commit a serious felony, laundering money. This Kafkaesque nightmare actually became reality for a Colorado marijuana dispensary called Allgreens when it tried to pay its federal payroll taxes.

At some point this decade or next, marijuana will become more or less legal. I wonder if the tax law will be the last bastion of prohibition.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 712. “The IRS Assures an Atheist Group It Will Monitor Churches.” What could go wrong?

Robert Wood, Before IRS Targeting, Lois Lerner Targeted At Federal Election Commission

 

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Paul Neiffer, Senator Wyden Indicates Tax Reform Must Include Flow Through Entities

Joseph Thorndike, Republicans Want to Repeal the Estate Tax Because Too Much Is Never Enough (Tax Analysts Blog).

For my money – and admittedly, it’s not my money, since I don’t expect the tax to be an issue for my heirs – repeal is a bad idea under any circumstances. But it’s an especially bad idea when paired with a continuation of stepped-up basis.

If there is a good argument for the estate tax, it’s to allow basis step up. The “breaking up dynasties” thing is silly. From what I’ve seen in practice, all you need to break up inherited wealth is a second generation.

Eric Toder, Corporate Tax Reform and Small Business (TaxVox).

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 4/20: State Houses Consider Cuts (Tax Justice Blog).

 

Career Corner. The Non-Golfing Accountant’s Guide To Hitting the Links (Leona May, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/2/15: For gift deductions, it’s not just the thought that counts. It’s the paperwork. And: more!

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

salvation armyToday’s filing season tip: assemble your contribution documents. For some things, spending the money isn’t enough to put a deduction on your return. You also have to get the paperwork right.

Charitable contributions are very much in this category. And it’s not good enough to find some paperwork when the IRS examiner starts asking questions. You need the documents in hand before you file your return.

For cash contributions of $250 or more, you need to have, in the words of IRS:

…a contemporaneous written acknowledgment from the qualified organization indicating the amount of the cash and a description of any property contributed. The acknowledgment must say whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift and, if so, must provide a description and a good faith estimate of the value of those goods or services. 

That’s true whether you give cash or property. That means if you don’t have a nice note from your donee for your $250 gift, you need to bug them until they give you one. It also means that if you claim a deduction for dumping a bunch of household goods at Salvation Army, you need to get a note from them with a list of the items donated and the “goods or services” statement.

You need an appraisal if you donated property (other than publicly-traded securities) to charity for deductions starting at $5,000. We will talk about that tomorrow.

For more information, See Topic 506 – Charitable Contributions at www.irs.gov.

Come back every day through April 15 for another 2015 filing season tip!

 

Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #8: Be Frivolous! “Tax Court judges don’t have the same sense of humor that I do about frivolous arguments.”

 

atombombAmanda Athanasiou at Tax Analysts reports ($link), FATCA: Swatting Flies With Atom Bombs:

Possible inflation of the offshore tax evasion problem and the staggering costs of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act are causing even the most ardent advocates of information sharing and ending bank secrecy to question the U.S. approach.

“For the U.S. to ask countries around the world to spend billions in implementation costs to deliver less than $1 billion per year is, economically, complete nonsense,” said Martin Naville, CEO of the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce. He referred to FATCA as the least considered program in history and “mind boggling” in its unilateralism. “The net value of FATCA for the U.S. is probably negative,” said Naville, who added that tax compliance is a must but that there are better ways to achieve it.

But it goes after Fat Cats! Don’t you get our clever pun? And besides, how can we go after international money launderers without making it a crime to commit personal finance abroad?

Related: Wall Street Journal, Checking the IRS Overseas (Via the TaxProf). “Even the Obama Administration says the law would capture only $870 million a year in additional tax revenue, which is probably overstated given changes in behavior by Americans and their overseas employers.”

 

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William Perez, Do Your Home Improvements Qualify for the Residential Energy Tax Credits?

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): T Is For TIN (Taxpayer Identification Number)

Peter ReillyZombies Can’t File Tax Court Petitions. Making Tax Court headquarters the go-to place for a Zombie Apocalypse.

Kay Bell, IRS’ Koskinen says tax agency’s troubles are over. No joke. Joke.

Kristine Tidgren, Don’t Be Fooled! “While many artless tactics remain (if you just wire this money to Nigeria by Friday…), the emerging scams come wrapped in a cloak of credibility. It’s often difficult for even the wary to separate fact from fiction in this new age.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 693. “The Department of Justice announced yesterday that it will not pursue contempt of Congress charges against Lois Lerner.”  Of course not. That’s not what a scandal goalie does.

Marc Bellemare, Soda taxes don’t seem to work. (via Tyler Cowen)

Renu Zaretsky, A Penny for Your Sugar: Setting a Price on Sin. (TaxVox). “Are we are all aware of our sugar sins?”  Sins? So food nannyism is really a religion.

Not that the current tax law is exactly a shining light.  Ted Cruz and His Dim-Bulb Tax Policy (Joseph Thorndike, Tax Analysts Blog). “Increasingly, Washington is alive with interesting, conservative tax proposals. But none of them are coming from the junior senator from Texas.”

Meg Wiehe, More Than 20 States Considering Detrimental Tax Proposals (Tax Justice Blog). Pretty close to 50, I’d guess.

 

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Christopher Bergin, April Is More Than Just Tax Season (Tax Analysts Blog). “Koskinen announced that so far, the filing season has gone “swimmingly,” which apparently means the IRS answers the phone less than half the time when taxpayers call for help.” 

Today in advanced tax policy debate: How Tax Brackets are Adjusted Explained in Taylor Swift Gifs (Kyle Pomerleau, Dan Carvajal, Tax Policy Blog)

 

News from the Profession. Deloitte Not Taking Any Chances That Someone Might Burn Their Disneyland to the Ground (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/19/15: Iowa Alternative Maximum Tax advances to its doom. And: The Tax Foundation doesn’t want your 1040!

Thursday, March 19th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
If Iowa's income tax were a car, it would look like this.

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

Iowa House Ways and Means advances Alternative Maximum Tax. The committee voted to send HSB 215 to the House Floor yesterday.  The bill would let taxpayers choose between the current Iowa income tax and a simpler version with a broader base, lower rates, and no deduction for federal taxes.

The ideas in the alternative bill are all good policy. But just adding this to the current awful income tax is like spray painting a car that’s half rusted-through. It’s extra work that does no good.

In the real world, taxpayers would compute both taxes and pay the lower one. This is the opposite of the current alternative minimum tax, where you pay the higher of the regular or alternative tax base. That’s why I call it an Alternative Maximum Tax.

If you want to simplify taxes, simplify the tax system; don’t just tack a simplification module on the existing code.

Really, though, this proposal is just for show, as they know Senator Gronstal will never let it move in the Iowa Senate. If it reinforces the idea that you can lower rates with a broader base and by taking out the deduction for federal taxes, it could even do some good. It might even get them thinking about the  Tax Update Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

Filing season tip: Please Don’t Mail Your Tax Returns to the Tax Foundation (Joseph Henchman, Tax Policy Blog):

Someone mailed us their tax returns and documents today. We quickly sent it back to that individual, as we neither process tax returns nor assist individuals with tax planning or preparation. Tax documents contain a lot of private information and everyone should be very careful about to whom they send this information.

We are here for taxpayers but we are unable to assist individuals with tax planning or preparation. Our staff includes scholars who study tax policy and data, not tax preparation professionals.  

Another inadvertent argument for e-filing: those returns are pretty sure to end up in the right place.

 

TPC logoRoberton Williams, Who’s Afraid of Income Taxes? New Interactive TPC Tools To Help You Understand the 1040. A cool new feature at TaxVox:

In bite-sized pieces, Who’s Afraid of the Form 1040? discusses the main tax form, explaining the different filing statuses, who counts as a dependent, and what income is taxed (and what income isn’t). How do deductions and credits cut your tax bill and how does the AMT boost it? And how does the income tax help you pay for college, health care, and retirement?

With tax trivia (we used to file our returns on the Ides of March) and facts (just 2.9 percent of taxpayers will owe AMT for 2014 but they’ll pay an average of $6,500), the new feature explains many aspects of the income tax. It won’t make it easier to file your taxes but it might make the process a bit more interesting.

We have also updated our Interactive 1040. Inaugurated last year, this web tool allows users to examine each individual line of the 1040 and Schedule A (itemized deductions). Pop-up boxes contain brief explanations and links to distributional tables and other TPC resources on each topic.

It might be a good way to help you understand why that refund you thought you had coming didn’t.

 

IMG_1322TaxGrrrl, It’s Not A Scam: IRS Is Really Sending Out Identity Verification Letters. Letters, people, not phone calls, not emails. They don’t call without sending a letter first.

Kay Bell, What should be on the IRS’ taxpayer service to-do list? I would start with not sending billions of dollars to ID-fraud scammers.

Me, IRS issues Applicable Federal Rates (AFR) for April 2015.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 679.

 

David Brunori, A Very Good Tax Reform Idea in Louisiana (Tax Analysts Blog).

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) has a tax plan that should be creating buzz all around the country. He wants to convert some of the state’s individual and business tax credits from refundable to nonrefundable. Let’s be clear: Refundable tax credits are government transfers. They are welfare. They merely use the tax code as a vehicle to take money from some people and give it to others. And apart from the earned income tax credit, no refundable credits represent sound policy.

Given that over 25% of the EITC ends up in the wrong hands, I’m not sold on that one either. David is absolutely correct on the unwisdom of refundable credits, and transferable credits are just as bad.

 

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Tony Nitti, AICPA Sends 34 Tax Proposals To Congress

Annette Nellen posts on Need for greater tax literacy and regulation of preparers. Tax literacy, sure. Preparer regulation? Not so much. Massive simplification? Definitely.

Joseph Thorndike, Mike Lee’s Tax Plan Was Promising. Until It Wasn’t. (Tax Analysts Blog). “Are the reformicons done for?”

Matt Gardner, GOP Budget Proposal Once Again Punts Tough Questions (Tax Justice Blog)

Career Corner. Busy Season Zen: The Swish Montage (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). Ommmm.

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/11/15: Iowa Code Conformity, America’s more selective appeal, and your tax dollars at work in the $1 DVD bin.

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1284The Iowa Code Conformity bill goes to the Governor. The Iowa House yesterday approved the Senate-passed bill, SF 126, to update Iowa’s 2014 tax law for the federal “Extender” legislation approved in December. Iowa will conform to the federal legislation, including the $500,000 Section 179 limit, but will not adopt the federal bonus depreciation.

The Governor is expected to sign the bill.

 

Our appeal is just getting more selective. 2014 – More Expatriations Than Ever (Andrew Mitchel):

Today the Treasury Department published the names of individuals who renounced their U.S. citizenship or terminated their long-term U.S. residency (“expatriated”) during the fourth quarter of 2014. 

The number of published expatriates for the quarter was 1,062 (second highest quarter ever), bringing the total number of published expatriates in 2014 to 3,415.  The total for the year breaks last year’s record number of 2,999 published expatriates. The number of expatriates for 2014 is a 14% increase over 2013.  

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC

Expatriation is often an inconvenient and expensive process. The willingness of so many to go through the hassle is disgraceful evidence of the burden the “shoot the jaywalker” penalties of the foreign account reporting rules and FATCA impose — on top of America’s unique worldwide taxation regime.

Related: Thousands Renounce U.S. Citizenship Hitting New Record, Not Just Over Taxes (Robert Wood)

 

haroldYour tax dollars at work in HollywoodWhen Sony’s emails were hacked, the companies executives were embarrassed by the emails complaining about “spoiled brat” starlets and other insider dish that was exposed. But Tax Analysts’ Brian Bardwell shows that the state legislators who have approved taxpayer funding around the country for filmmakers also have plenty to be embarrassed about. From the subscriber-only story:

While the broader topic of film incentives comes up daily, it appears that top executives — at Sony, at least — are not usually involved in finding credits for individual projects, but when they are, it may be because the film is unlikely to bring in enough money to justify producing it without a government subsidy.

In other words, taxpayers are financing the marginal direct-to-DVD projects for Hollywood. That comes as no surprise to those of us who followed Iowa’s disastrous Film Tax Credit story. In a story line right out of “The Producers,” inflated expense claims allowed awful films to be made without the need to ever get a paying customer — the sale of the resulting transferable tax credits covered the expenses and generated a profit — not counting the attorney fees and jail time, of course.

 

Kay Bell, Tax fraud concerns in Minnesota, Connecticut & now Florida:

“The personally identifiable information apparently hacked at Anthem is exactly what tax fraud thieves use to make false refund claims that appear to be legitimate,” said Department of Revenue Services Commissioner Kevin Sullivan. Sullivan is suggesting that residents beat tax ID thieves to the punch.

Great.

 

Peter Reilly, Breaking – Repair Regs – AICPA Says Help On The Way – Maybe. “The only thing that I find really encouraging about the AICPA announcement is that I can show it to my partners and justify my wait and see approach, which now apparently has the imprimatur of the AICPA.”

TaxGrrrl, UNRETIREMENT. “The Social Security and tax laws hold hidden traps and rewards for the growing army of well-off folks who just keep on working.”

Leslie Book, Congress Considering Procedural Legislation (Procedurally Taxing).

Jack Towensend, Judge Jed Rakoff Reviews Brandon Garrett’s Book on Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations

 

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David Brunori, It’s Time to End Property Tax Exemptions — for Everyone (Tax Analysts Blog).

City governments are usually looking for payments in lieu of taxes rather than ending exemptions. And the nonprofits — particularly universities and hospitals — tenaciously oppose paying. To be sure, some municipalities and exempt organizations have reached a compromise on payments in lieu of taxes, particularly in Boston. But in the vast majority of the nation, universities, nonprofit hospitals, and property owned by religious organizations are exempt from tax.

I propose we end those exemptions. First, let’s be honest — if you narrow the tax base by exempting some property, everyone else pays more. So in Brunswick, Maine, people and businesses pay more property taxes because Bowdoin College doesn’t. And sometimes they pay a lot more.

Sometimes it can be confusing. Des Moines officials will freely complain about the big hospitals not paying property taxes, but they lacked enthusiasm when the two big non-profit hospitals in town opened new hospitals in the suburbs.

 

Scott Drenkard, Richard Borean, How Many Cigarettes Are Smuggled Into Your State Each Year? (Tax Policy Blog). A lot more since they jacked up the cigarette tax a few years ago.

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The threat of lost cigarette revenue is the real reason state officials are so horrified by the vaporous health risks of e-cigarettes.

 

Renu Zaretsky, Tax Preferences, Investigations, and Settlements. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers Senator Hatch on tax reform, financial supergenius Bernie Sanders on Social Security, and more Swiss bank tax troubles.

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 2/10: Semi-Encouraging News (Tax Justice Blog)

Joseph Thorndike, When It Comes to Tax Reform, History Tells Us What Might Happen – And Why It Probably Won’t (Tax Analysts Blog). “The 1986 reform happened not because it was wise and prudent and necessary, but because it worked politically. And even then, only barely.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 643

 

News from the Profession. The Annual Close: The Year in Adverse Accounting Jokes (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/4/15: Backlashes, Blood and Dollar Bills Edition.

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1236It’s a busy, snowy day, so just links.

Robert Wood, Obamacare Tax Filing Backlash: There Will Be Blood:

This year for the first time, the Affordable Care Act has created a trickier tax season. It is more expensive, as virtually all Americans filing tax returns will have to consider the law’s impact. There will be confusion and many mistakes. 

Well, there are always the “repair regs” to cheer us up.

 

William Perez, Should Married Couples File Taxes Separately? Joint returns usually get a lower tax on the same income, but joint returns stick you with any snakes hiding in your spouse’s return.

Kay Bell, Tax moves to make in February 2015

Jason Dinesen, Glossary: Varnum Ruling. “Whenever you see or hear reference to the Varnum Ruling in Iowa, it’s referring to the 2009 decision by the Iowa Supreme Court that legalized same-gender marriage in Iowa.”

IMG_2535Jack Townsend reports on the ABA Tax Section Meeting Developments on Streamlined Disclosures. “The IRS representative said that the IRS will not issue additional guidance on the meaning of willfulness in the streamlined program.”

Leslie Book, Tooting Our Own Horn and Remembering Janet Spragens and the Needs of Low Income Taxpayers (Procedurally Taxing). P.T. contributor Keith Fogg received the ABA Tax Section  Spragens Pro Bono Award for “‘outstanding and sustained achievements in pro bono activities’ in tax law.”  Congratulations!

 

David Brunori, Ignoring the People in Nevada (Tax Analysts Blog):

The state apparently needs money, and the governor is proposing to increase a “fee” on businesses. Specifically, Sandoval is calling for an increase in the state business license fee based on a business’s gross revenue. The current fee is $250 and is justified to cover the administrative costs of registering and regulating business enterprises. Most states have these fees, and they are usually nothing more than small nuisances. But Sandoval would like to impose the fee based on the amount of gross income — not profit — earned by state businesses.

Many folks have moved from California to Nevada to get away from ridiculous taxes. I don’t see the attraction of imitating California like this.

 

IMG_0940TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 636

Joseph Thorndike, Obama Abandons the Gas Tax – Just Like Everyone Else (Tax Analysts Blog):

The Obama plan would break with the long tradition of using gas taxes to pay for roads (and some mass transit, as conservatives are quick to point out). Over the decades, this tradition has served the nation well, funding the construction and maintenance of the interstate highway system, among other things. And it has assigned the cost of building all those roads to the people and businesses that actually use them.

Funny, I thought the 2009 “stimulus” fixed all the roads.

Kyle Pomerleau, Obama Budget would Increase Top Marginal Capital Gains Tax Rate in California to 37.2 percent. Of course, it’s worse than that, as capital gains normally have already been taxed once.

Renu Zaretsky, Taxed Reactions and Revenue Rules. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers Treasury Secretary Jack Lew’s dislike of pass-through entities and John Koskinen’s “what scandal, give me money!” testimony before the Senate Finance Committee.

Amber Erickson, Obama’s Progressive Plan to Simplify and Expand Education Tax Credits (Tax Justice Blog). Subsidies for higher education have led to $60,000 annual tuition. What do you think more subsidies will do?

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Career Corner. How to be More or Less Happy as an Accountant. (Jennifer, Going Concern)

TaxGrrrl, Texas Man Arrested After Attempt To Pay Taxes With Dollar Bills. I hope he brings pennies next time.

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Tax Roundup, 1/29/15: Iowans, fill ’em up now. And: lessons from the Obama Sec. 529 retreat.

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

dimeFill me up. ‘Overall consensus’ toward 10-cent hike in state gas tax O. Kay Henderson reports:

 Key legislators say a 10-cent increase in the state gas tax has a good chance of passing the legislature in February and going into effect as early as March.

“I think the overall consensus is to go 10 cents now…We’re so far behind that we need to implement it right away,” Senator Tod Bowman, a Democrat from Maquoketa who is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said this morning.

At the opening of this session of the General Assembly, I guessed that there would be no gas tax boost. It’s looking more likely every day that I was wrong. I asked a few legislators and lobbyists about it when I attended the Iowa ABI Legislative Reception, and they all said a 10-cent gas tax boost was a done deal.

That would test my alternative forecast – that if there was a gas tax boost, it meant Governor Branstad will not run for a seventh term.

 

csi logoAlan Cole, President’s Plan to Tax 529s Was Not a Distraction (Tax Policy Blog):

While the issue was, perhaps, a distraction from the administration’s priorities on community college, it was not at all a distraction from the administration’s priorities on tax policy. It is deeply philosophically consistent with virtually every tax policy proposal, proposed or enacted, from the administration.

The administration’s proposals all tend to follow a particular blueprint for tax policy: simply put, that when Americans save by investing in some kind of asset, that they should be taxed at ordinary income rates on both the initial value of the asset and all the future returns on the asset. (For example, with 529 plans, the initial investment is taxed, and the Obama Administration’s proposal is to tax the returns as well.) This view is mistaken, in that a financial asset’s value is precisely in its future returns. The value of the financial asset, then, is taxed twice. 

The difference here is that the administration has dressed up its tax grabs by saying only “the rich” would have to pay. That’s never really true, but it was so obviously wrong here that even the President’s allies couldn’t support it with a straight face.

 

IRAJoseph Thorndike, What Obama’s 529 Flip-Flop Says About Your Roth IRA (Tax Analysts Blog):

The bursting of the 529 trial balloon should serve as an object lesson for anyone hoping to rein in other tax preferences. In particular, proposals to scale back Roth IRAs – popular among liberal analysts – seem hopeless in the extreme.

I think the dumbest thing was pairing the elimination of a tool to enable people to save for education costs with the unwise “free” community college proposal. That was pretty much saying those who want to pay their own way through college without government grants are chumps.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 630. It has become an issue in the hearings for the Attorney General nominee.

 

Jason Dinesen, What I’m Asking My Clients Regarding the ACA. Pretty much what we are asking our clients.

TaxGrrrl, Form 3115 Adds Confusion & Cost – But May Be Required For 2015. “Since there’s no user fee – and virtually no risk – I tend to agree with those who suggest that businesses owning real and/or tangible property err on the side of caution and file form 3115 to obtain automatic consent.”

Robert Wood, Missing A Form 1099? Why You Shouldn’t Ask For It “Nevertheless, if you don’t receive a Form 1099 you expect, don’t ask for it. Just report the income.”

Tony Nitti, Super Bowl XLIX Tax Tale Of The Tape: Who Ya’ Got? Meh. My football rooting interest ended in Seattle. But for socially-awkward tax nerds (but I repeat myself) who are going to Super Bowl gatherings, Tony has a lifeline.

 

20140512-1Peter Reilly, Don’t Use The IRS To Address Koch Political Spending. Whether it’s Tom Steyer, George Soros, or the Brothers Who Must Not Be Named, the government has no business telling them what causes they can fund.

Russ Fox, Caesars Wins Round One: Chicago, not Delaware. Caesars Entertainment’s bankruptcy litigation, that is.

Carl Smith, Unpublished CDP Orders Dwarf Post-trial Bench Opinions in Uncounted Tax Court Rulings (Procedurally Taxing). Insight on what Tax Court judges do that those of us who don’t do that sort of litigation for a living don’t see.

Jack Townsend, Unreported Offshore Accounts Remains on IRS Dirty Dozen” List

Kay Bell, Illinois shoppers to start paying state sales tax on Amazon purchases on Feb. 1; federal online tax bill still stalled

 

Tax Trials: Georgia Tax Tribunal Rules that Electric Utility’s Machinery and Equipment Used in Transmission and Distribution System Not Exempt from Georgia Sales & Use Tax. Bad tax policy all over. Business inputs should not be subject to sales tax.

Cara Griffith, Tax Appeal Reform May Be a Possibility in Washington State (Tax Analysts Blog)

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David Brunori, Regressive Taxes Are Neither New Nor Good (Tax Analysts Blog): “States should also broaden the sales tax base to tax things rich folks buy, while lowering the tax rates on the things the poor consume the most. But the rich will remain rich.”

Steven Rosenthal, Is Obama Closing Retirement Savings Loopholes or Just Curbing Congress’ Generosity? (TaxVox). How about another choice – he’s just looking to increase taxes on “the rich” any way he can get away with?

Richard Phillips, Congress Should Pass the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act to Combat International Tax Avoidance. (Tax Justice Blog). I have a better idea: a less onerous tax system that would make international tax avoidance less attractive.

 

Career Corner. The Public Accountant’s Definitive Guide to Disclosure of Past Convictions (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

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Tax Roundup, 1/7/15: Resolve to monitor your payroll taxes this year. And: searching for gray.

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

EFTPSIf you’re an employer, here’s a new year’s resolution: “I will verify that my tax payments have been made on time every payroll by logging into EFTPS.”

The customers of Riverside, California payroll service Paycare are wishing they had made and kept that resolution. From The Press Enterprise:

The co-owner of a Riverside-based payroll service, Paycare, Inc., pleaded guilty Monday to failure to pay federal payroll taxes and embezzlement from a federally-funded program, the Internal Revenue Service reported.

Scott Willsea, 56, entered the guilty plea in federal court before U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real, according to a press release from IRS spokeswoman Linda Lowery.

Willsea allegedly prepared quarterly payroll taxes for 15 different client companies in the 2009 and 2010 tax years, including All Mission Indian Housing Authority and Of One Mind, LLC, and failed to account for or pay the full amount of tax owed to the IRS by each company.

The IRS and the states want those payroll taxes; after all, they issue refunds to the employees based on the reported withholdings, paid or not. If your payroll provider steals your payroll taxes, you have to pay them again. That can ruin a struggling business,and cripple a strong one.

That’s why employers who use a payroll service should still log onto their accounts with the Electronic Federal Tax Payroll System to verify that the payments have been made. If you do payroll taxes in-house, it’s good financial hygiene to do the same thing.

It’s also a reason for extra due diligence if you consider a “professional employer organization” to meet your payroll needs. These outfits pay your payroll taxes under their own account, and you can’t use EFTPS to monitor your payments. That can work out badly.

 

FranceflagAndrew Mitchel, A Reminder for Green Card Holders Living Outside the U.S.:

U.S. lawful permanent residents (“green card holders”) who live outside the U.S. continue to be subject to U.S. tax on their worldwide income until the green card has been revoked or has been administratively or judicially determined to have been abandoned. 

Sad and true.

 

Jason Dinesen, Sorry, But There Really Isn’t a “Gray Area” for Most Taxpayers to Push:

NEWSFLASH: for the vast majority of taxpayers, there is no gray area to be pushed.

Your income is whatever your W-2 says it is.

Your deductions are whatever they are. Mortgage, property taxes, charitable, car registration. I suppose there could be a gray area if someone is claiming employee business expenses. But even then, those expenses are not likely to end up being deductible anyway.

No matter what the H & R Block commercials say, there is no magic wand that a tax preparer can wave to make a bigger tax refund appear.

Absolutely true. And if a preparer boasts otherwise, it’s likely that there is a perfectly bad explanation.

 

20141231-1Tim Todd, Late Tax Return Precludes Bankruptcy Discharge. One more reason to file timely.

Russ Fox, Varagiannis Gets 15 Months for Tax Evasion. In Nevada, pimping is OK, but only if you pay your income taxes.

Robert D. Flach has word of ANOTHER UNTRUE TAX EMAIL making the rounds. You mean we can’t trust spam emails? Next thing you’ll tell me that people post things on Facebook that aren’t precisely true.

 

Joseph Thorndike, Planned Disasters Are Here to Stay – and Probably the Only Hope for Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog).

All in all, it seems likely that the new GOP majority will need to gin up some potent crises if they hope to get anything done over the next two years.

I would think we have plenty of crises to go around already.

 

Kay Bell, Tax reform is part of new GOP Congress’ agenda

 

David Brunori is full of wisdom today in Want Bad Tax Policy? Here’s a Blueprint (Tax Analysts Bl0g):

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee recently released his proposed budget. It illustrates a lot of what is wrong with tax policy in the states. The governor wants to raise taxes by $1.4 billion over the next two years. Conservatives may think this is terrible — and it is. But the problem is how Inslee wants to raise the new revenue. He wants to impose a 7 percent capital gains tax on a narrow band of Washington residents. Specifically, he wants to impose the tax on the earnings sales of stocks, bonds, and other assets above $25,000 for individuals and $50,000 for those filing jointly. It would affect “only” an estimated 32,000 people who live in Washington.

Keep in mind that this is a state without an income tax. Certainly not a way to encourage their population of tech millionaires to stick around.

Also:

Inslee is also proposing a new excise tax on e-cigarettes and vapor products at 95 percent of the taxable sales price. Yes, 95 percent of the taxable sales price. If the government cared about the health of the poor, it would be subsidizing e-cigarettes.

States hate the idea of losing their tobacco revenue stream.

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Andrew Lundeen, Kansas Would Have Benefited from Dynamic Scoring (Tax Policy Blog):

The tax cuts didn’t pay for themselves. Instead, they left Kansas was left with a hole in the budget. (You can read about what Kansas could have done better here and here.)

This isn’t because individual tax cuts are bad for the economy; they’re just expensive. If the governor had used dynamic scoring, he would have known this.

Iowa has a lot of room to improve its tax system, but they could always screw it up even worse.

 

Howard Gleckman offers Nine Tax Stories to Watch in 2015 (TaxVox), including this:

Tax extenders: They are, after a resurrection of two weeks, once again expired. This is tiresome to even write about, but the best bet is Congress will once again delay action on these 50-plus tax breaks until at least next fall, when the budget wars are likely to come to a head. After that, well, don’t ever bet against another short-term extension.

Yuk.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 608Peter Reilly is featured.

 

Robert Wood, Taxman Is Funny In UK, Why Not IRS? Must not be in the budget.

Career Corner. Skip the Shout Outs and Other Helpful Farewell Email Advice (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). “Quitting your job is a part of life in public accounting. Unless you’re one of those sick, carrot-chasing freaks sticking around until partner, that is.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/11/14: Cromnibus cuts IRS budget, delays extender vote. And: Mileage goes to 57.5 cents.

Thursday, December 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The “Cromnibus” train-wreck spending bill process seems to be holding up everything else, including the extender vote. The 55 Lazarus provisions awaiting revival are on hold while Congress struggles to avert a government “shutdown” at midnight tonight.

Flicker image courtesy Michael Coghlan under Creative Commons license.

Flicker image courtesy Michael Coghlan under Creative Commons license.

Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Reid has said that the Senate will finish the Cromnibus before voting on the extender bill, HR 5771. The house-passed bill would extend dozens of tax breaks that expired at the end of 2013 retroactively through the end of this month. Business provisions in the bill include the $500,000 Section 179 deduction, 50% bonus depreciation, the R&D credit, and the 5-year built-in gain period for S corporations. The provision allowing IRA charitable donations is among the individual breaks at stake.

There is no indication that the Senate will fail to eventually pass HR 5771, or that the President will veto it, but politics are uncertain, and I’ll feel better about things when they do pass it. It appears the hope they would finish up today is wishful thinking, though; this Wall Street Journal story says the House is expected to pass a two-day funding bill today to give the Senate extra time to approve the spending bill.

The IRS faces a 3.1% funding cut in the bill. That’s a tribute to the tone-deaf and confrontational attitude of IRS Commissioner Koskinen, who has responded to the Tea Party scandals pretty much by saying “give us more money!” Given the increased responsibilities given the IRS by Congress, cutting their budget seems strange. Yet as long as the Commissioner keeps antagonizing his funders, and keeps finding money to fund his “voluntary” preparer regulation program to get around the Loving decision, he can expect similar appropriation success.

Related: Paul Neiffer, Tax Extender Bill May Be Punted to Weekend

 

Mileage rate goes to 57.5 centsWith gas prices falling, the standard IRS mileage rate is naturally going… up. The IRS yesterday released (Notice 2014-79) the 2015 standard mileage rates:

– 57.5 cents per mile for business miles. This is 56 cents for 2014.

– 14 cents per mile for charity miles, same as in 2014.

– 23 cents per mile for medical and moving miles. This rate is 23.5 cents for 2014.

Related: William Perez, How to Deduct Car and Truck Expenses on Your Taxes

 

20130819-1Peter Reilly, Iowa Corporation Not Liable For California Corporate Tax From Ownership Of LLC Interest. It discusses a California court ruling that mere ownership of a California LLC interest isn’t enough to make the corporate owner subject to California’s $800 minimum franchise tax. If it holds up, it will be good news for many taxpayers dinged by this stupid fee.

Jim Maule, Do-It-Yourself Tax Preparation? Better? Paid preparers didn’t do an impressive job handling the GAO’s secret shoppers.

Kay Bell, Mortgages offer nice tax breaks, but in limited parts of the U.S.

 

The new Cavalcade of Risk is up! at WorkersCompensation.com.  Always good stuff in the venerable roundup of insurance and risk-management blog posts; this edition features Hank Stern’s take on the “creepy” ACA 404Care.gov site.

 

Bryan Caplan, The Inanity of the Welfare State:

While taxes are highly progressive, transfers have an upside-down U-shape.  Households in the middle quintile get the most money.  The richest households actually get more money than the poorest.  Think about how many times you’ve heard about government’s great mission to “help the poor.”  Could there be any clearer evidence that such claims are mythology?

Eye-opening. Read the whole thing.

 

 

Robert Wood, Obama Justice Department Was Involved In IRS Targeting, Lerner Emails Reveal

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 581

 

EITC error chartAlan Cole, Treasury Report: Improper Payments Remain a Problem in EITC, Child Credit (Tax Policy Blog)

David Brunori, Mississippi’s Very Good Idea to Help its Poor (Tax Analysts Blog). It’s an earned income tax credit. Given the massive EITC fraud and error rate, I’m not convinced.

Tax Justice Blog, Update on the Push for Dynamic Scoring: Will Ryan Purge Congress’s Scorekeepers?

Joseph Thorndike, Wall Street Journal Prefers Ignorance to Expertise (Tax Analysts Blog). It’s about the CBO.

 

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Robert Goulder, Taxing Diverted Profits: The Empire Strikes Back (Tax Analysts Blog).  “The message is this: Once people realize what a functional territorial regime looks like, they suddenly become less enamored with the concept. One of several reasons why U.S. tax reform won’t be easy.”

Chris Sanchirico, A Repatriation Tax Holiday for US Multinationals? Four Contagious Illusions (TaxVox)

 

News from the Profession. The AICPA Can’t Figure Out Why Record Numbers of Accounting Grads Aren’t Taking the CPA Exam (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/12/14: IRAs, IRS, and the Liar’s Paradox. And: mass benefit, class tax.

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Bluto20140910

You trusted us.

The Liar’s Paradox, IRS Version. If somebody says “I am lying,” can he be telling the truth? It’s a puzzler. So are many tax law rules, like the rules governing IRA rollovers.

The tax law does not subject an IRA withdrawal to tax if it is reinvested in an IRA within 60 days. It can only be done once each year. The IRS publication on such “rollovers” said from 1984 though 2013 that the one year restriction applied to each IRA, so a taxpayer with multiple IRAs could make multiple rollovers.

Alvin Bobrow made multiple IRA rollovers in 2008 consistent with this guidance. On examination, the IRS said the once-a-year rule applied per taxpayer, not per IRA, and assessed him tax and penalties.  The Tax Court upheld the assessment and penalties, in spite of the published IRS position. This is a classic example of the unfair, penalty-happy nature of the IRS examination process, too often abetted by the courts.

While manifestly unfair, the IRS long ago won the right to bait-and-switch via its publications. As the Tax Court said years ago, “well established precedent confirms that taxpayers rely on such publications at their peril.”

Even the IRS apparently is a little embarrassed by this. On Monday it issued Announcement 2014-32, saying it would not enforce the position it took in Bobrow for distributions before 2015. That seems fair to other taxpayers, if not to the Bobrows.

But here is where the liars paradox comes in. Announcement 2014-32 is mere “administrative guidance,” just like an IRS publication, and it has no more legal standing. Technically, nothing but a sense of self-restraint keeps the IRS from saying “fooled you!” on examination, just like they did in Bobrow. Does that make anyone else a little nervous?

 

The Tax Foundation has issued a wonderful new publication, A Visual Guide to Business, Taxes, and the Economy. It is full of wonderfully-illustrated insights on the economy and taxes. I love this illustration:

 

Source: Tax Foundation, "Business in America Illustrated"

Source: Tax Foundation, “Business in America Illustrated”

The chart shows that most business income subject to tax is reported on 1040s, not on corporate returns. That means every increase in taxes on high-income individuals is a tax on businesses and a tax on employers — not just on some guy lighting cigars with $100 bills.

 

20131209-1Paul Neiffer, Sheldon Iowa is Cold. It is indeed, at least this week.

Andrew Mitchel, New Rules for Canadian RRSPs & RRIFs

Kay Bell, A question for Congress on Veterans Day: Will the business tax break for hiring returning military members be renewed?

Jason Dinesen, Same-sex Marriage, Amended Tax Returns and Filing Status. “So if you’re in a same-sex marriage and you’re amending a 2011 or 2012 tax return, you can file that amended return as married or keep your filing status as single.”

Peter Reilly, Tax Court Goes To Webster For Definition Of Construction – And Watch That NAICS Code. The courts have been placing an undeserved significance on the business code you put on your tax return.

TaxGrrrl, 14 Ways To Show Your Thanks To Our Military On Veterans Day. “Here are 14 ways to show your thanks to our vets – and some of them come with a nice tax benefit to boot.”

 

20130121-2Good. IRS Power To Regulate Tax Practitioners Slipping Away (Christopher Rezek, Procedurally Taxing). The author appears to think this is somehow a bad thing.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 552

 

Joseph Thorndike, Democrats Getting What They Deserve on Medical Device Tax (Tax Analysts Blog):

If Democrats eventually face a funding crisis for Obamacare, they have only themselves to blame. After all, they should have known better. It was a Democrat, Franklin Roosevelt, who conclusively established that broad spending programs deserve broad taxes.

Precisely. You can’t fund a mass entitlement with a class tax, but that’s exactly what Obamacare tries to do.

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/15/14: Extended return do or die day – tips on timely filing, and why you should do that.

Wednesday, October 15th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130415-1Friends, it’s deadline day. Extended 1040s are due today for U.S. residents. No second extension is available.

What happens if you don’t file?  Nothing good.  A few of the bad things that can happen:

If you owe money, you can turn a 1/2% per-month late payment penalty into a 5% per month late-filing penalty.

If you have an election to make that can only be made on a timely-filed return — for example, an election to defer insurance gains, or to carry forward net operating losses – you lose the chance to make that election forever.

If your return would include a foreign disclosure, such as a Form 8938, Statement of Specified Foreign Financial Assets;  a Form 5471, disclosing an interest in a foreign corporation; or a Form 3520 if you have a foreign trust or a gift from a foreign personlate filing can trigger a $10,000 penalty.

– You don’t start the statute of limitations, so the IRS can come after you indefinitely for the tax year.

– Not filing can cause you to lose refunds. If you don’t file, you lose your ability to get a refund of withheld taxes after two years.

Failure to file is habit forming, and it’s a costly habit. Even if you owe and can’t pay, you still should file; you have options when you owe and can’t pay.

e-file logoWith so much on the line, it’s worth a little effort to make sure your last minute return is treated as timely-filed.  E-filing is the best way to ensure timely filing. There’s no worry about lost mail, and you get quick confirmation from the IRS.

If you must paper file, either out of conviction or because you are filing a form that can only be filed on paper, you should send it Certified mail, return receipt requestedGet down to your friendly post office and get the postmark hand stamped. And get there early; they often aren’t so friendly, or willing to hand-stamp your certified mail postmark, if you show up at closing time. And sometimes they consider that to be approximately “after lunch.”

If you can’t make it to the post office before closingall is not lost. You can go to a FedEx store or a UPS store and use a designated private delivery serviceBe sure to use one of the specified services. For example, “UPS Next Day Air” qualifies, but “UPS Ground” does not.  Get a shipping receipt with today’s date. And remember to use the street address for the IRS service center, as private services can’t deliver to the post-office box addresses.

 

Kay Bell, Tax Day 2014, the sequel: Oct. 15 Filing Extension Panic

Jason Dinesen, My Response to the IRS Saying I Can’t Speak On My Own Behalf

Peter Reilly, UnFair – One Night Stand Tonight – Exposing IRS Or Fair Tax Infomercial?

 

Keith Fogg, Picking the Wrong Collection Due Process Notice to Petition (Procedurally Taxing)

TaxGrrrl, Ireland Declares ‘Double Irish’ Tax Scheme Dead

 

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William McBride, U.S. Companies Continue to Flee Uncompetitive U.S. Tax System (Tax Policy Blog)

Matt Gardner, The Inversion Parade Continues: Steris Announces Pretend Move to Britain (Tax Justice Blog)

Howard Gleckman, The Small, Happy World of Supersized IRAs (TaxVox)

Joseph Thorndike, Forget Privacy — It’s Time to Tax Miles, Not Gas (Tax Analysts blog).  How do I put this politely? No, it’s not.

 

David Brunori, Schooling the Governors (Tax Analysts Blog) “Back when my libertarianism was still in the closet, I wrote critically of the Cato report card. I now regret my harsh critiques of the project because I believe Cato does the nation a great service by analyzing, assessing, and rating state executives.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 524

The new Cavalcade of Risk is up at Chatswood ConsultingThe ancient and venerable roundup of insurance and risk management posts has many highlights, including Hank Stern on Ebola and your health coverage.

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/19/14: Brutal Assault on Reason Season Edition. Arrggh!

Friday, September 19th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20121006-1Brutal Assault on Reason Season is underway. Elections depress me. Arnold Kling sums up my feelings:

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.

Very few of us are in a position to have more than intuitions on the great issues of the day. Rarely are voters health-care economists, trade experts, military or foreign policy specialists, etc., and most of us have little basis to tell when the politicians are lying about these issues (though that is a good default assumption). Doing taxes for a living, though, I feel competent to identify bogus tax claims by politicians. William McBride does so in a Tax Policy Blog Post,  U.S. Corporate Tax Revenue is Low Because High Taxes Have Shrunk the Corporate Sector.

He quotes the U.S. Senate’s only unabashed socialist, Bernie Sanders:

“Want to better understand why we have a federal deficit? In 1952, the corporate income tax accounted for 33 percent of all federal tax revenue. Today, despite record-breaking profits, corporate taxes bring in less than 9 percent. It’s time for real tax reform.”

There is a truly brutal assault on reason, and Mr. McBride fights back:

The share of U.S. business profits attributable to pass-through businesses has grown dramatically as well, as they now represent more than 60 percent of all U.S. business profits. The second chart below shows that C corporation profits, while extremely volatile, have generally trended downward in recent decades, while the profits of S corporations and partnerships have trended upwards. In the 1960s and 1970s, C corporation profits were about 8 percent of GDP, while partnership profits were about 1 percent and S corporation profits were virtually nil. Now C corporation profits hover around 4 percent of GDP (4.7 percent in 2011), while partnership profits are almost at the same level (3.7 percent in 2011) and S corporation profits are not far behind (2.4 percent in 2011). Partnership and S corporation profits are growing such that they will each exceed C corporation profits in the near future if not already. When commentators claim that “corporate profits are at an all-time high”, they are referring to Bureau of Economic Analysis data that combines C corporations and pass-through businesses, whether they know it or not.

In sum, the Senator’s statement is flat out false. It is completely misleading to claim that corporate profits are up while corporate tax revenues are down, essentially implying there is some mischief going on via “loopholes”, etc. The truth is corporate tax revenue has been falling for decades because the corporate sector has been shrinking, and not just by corporate inversions. The most likely culprit is our extremely uncompetitive corporate tax regime.

In other words, high rates are driving businesses out of the corporate form and to pass-throughs of one sort or another.

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As we head into election season, expect the brutal assaults to continue. Here are a few phrases commonly seen in assaults on reason when taxes are involved, enabling you to spot them even if you don’t know a 1040 from a hole in the ground:

“Politician X voted for tax breaks to ship jobs overseas.”

“This tax cut will pay for itself.”

“I believe in free markets, but tax credit X is needed to level the playing field.”

“I don’t want to punish success; I want X to pay his fair share.”

“This tax credit created X jobs”

I know I’m missing many. If you point out more in the comments, I’ll be happy to talk about them.

 

It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day, so Kay Bell comes through with Avast, me hearties! The IRS wants its cut of your illegal income, be it pirated or otherwise criminally obtained.

 

Peter Reilly, Professional C Corp Denied Deduction For Uncashed Salary Check To Owner.  He covers a story I covered earlier this week where a professional corporation deducted a year-end bonus “paid” through an NSF check that was “loaned” back to the corporation.  His take: “I’m not sure that the Tax Court was right to deny any of  deduction, but I really question whether the whole deduction should be denied.”

 

TaxGrrrl, Back To School 2014: Deducting Student Loan Interest (Even If You Don’t Pay It)

20140826-1Robert D. Flach has fresh Friday Buzz, including links on the cost of tax compliance and “7 deadly tax sins.”

William Perez, When are State Refunds Taxed on Your Federal Return?

Jason Dinesen, IRS Says Online Sorority Is Not Tax Exempt. Social media apparently isn’t social enough for them.

Jim Maule, An Epidemic of Tax Ignorance. He covers one of my pet peeves — people who use the term “the IRS code” for the Internal Revenue Code. It’s Congress that came up with that thing, not the IRS.

Russ Fox, Hyatt Decision a Win for FTB as Far as Damages, but Decision Upheld that FTB Committed Fraud. FTB is the California Franchise Tax Board. Tax authorities should get in trouble for fraud to the same extent they hold taxpayers responsible for fraud.

 

A. Levar Taylor, What Constitutes An Attempt To Evade Or Defeat Taxes For Purposes Of Section 523(a)(1)(C) Of The Bankruptcy Code: The Ninth Circuit Parts Company With Other Circuits (Part 1) and (Part 2).

 

20140801-2Joseph Thorndike, Should We Tax Away Huge Fortunes? (Tax Analysts Blog). “In other words, if you like the estate tax, talk more about revenue and less about dynasties.”

Richard Philips, House GOP Bill Combines Worst Tax Break Ideas of 2014 for Half-a-Trillion Dollar Giveaway. (Tax Justice Blog). When they know that the Senate will ignore whatever they do, it’s easy to accommodate anyone lobbying for a tax break.

Renu Zaretsky, Will Tax Reform See Light at the End of the Next Tunnel? This TaxVox headline roundup covers Tax Reform, Treasury’s plans on inversions, and the continuing resolution passed before the congresscritters left D.C. to assault reason some more.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 498

Me, IRS issues Applicable Federal Rates (AFR) for October 2014

News from the Profession. Grant Thornton Has a Fight Song and It’s As Awful As You Might Expect (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/3/14: Fight the power edition. And: another Iowa film credit economic triumph!

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

It’s good to be back.  Sometimes other things take precedence over work.

 

Fight the Power!  Tax Analysts’ Joseph Thorndike defends the corporation income tax as a bulwark against corporate power ($link):

Popular fondness for taxing corporations may reflect an imperfect understanding of the corporate levy’s incidence. But it also reflects a clear-headed view of where the power lies in American society.

That’s interesting.  Lets see where some major institutions stack up in terms of “power,” measured by revenue (an imperfect measure, but one that is at least available for all of them, unlike net worth).

Google: $55 billion.

Apple: $171 billion.

Microsoft: $23 billion.

BP: $379 billion

State of California: $112 billion

United States Government revenue: $2,770 billion.

United States Government spending: $3,450 billion.

 

In handy graph form:

20140902-1

Of course, only one of these outfits can also send in people with guns to settle disputes with all of the others.  So who is going to impose an income tax to rein in the monster on the Potomac?

 

Economic Development, film style: Iowa pays $2 million to settle film lawsuit (Des Moines Register).  But think of the intangible benefits!

 

Kristy Maitre, Kristine Tidgren, ACA’s Thorny Impact On More-Than-2% S Corporation Shareholders

Consequently, in the absence of further guidance, we believe that if an S corporation chooses to increase wages for its employees to make up for its non-ACA-compliant employer payment plan, the more-than-2% shareholders will now have to pay FICA/FUTA taxes on that compensation, just as the other employees will now have to pay income taxes and FICA taxes on the increased wages. These payments are no longer made pursuant to an employer health plan and cannot be excluded from taxation.

You don’t have to have 50 employees to have Obamacare problems.

 

Peter Reilly, IRS Will Not Tax Forfeited Jackpots Of Compulsive Gamblers.  Mighty kind of them.

Kay Bell, Running errands for mom and other September tax moves

TaxGrrrl, Credit Cards, The IRS, Form 1099-K And The $19,399 Reporting Hole

Tony Nitti, Tax Court Says Bank ‘Thank You’ Points Are Taxable Income   

 

 

Scott Hodge, IRS Data Contradicts Kleinbard’s Warnings of Earnings Stripping from Inversions  (Tax Policy Blog)

Ajay Gupta, Yep, Son, We Have Met the Enemy (Tax Analysts Blog).  Mr. Gupta discusses the FIRPTA precedent for the current inversion hysteria:

It turns out that the enemy in the ‘80s was not the pools of offshore money ready to descend on onshore real estate. Nor will the enemy this time be the many offshore tax havens ready to shelter departing onshore companies. The enemy, as always, is closer to home.

Congress would be a good place to look.

 

Robert D. Flach once again gets to the heart of the matter:  “There is absolutely nothing illegal, immoral, or unethical with trying to ‘dodge’ taxes.  By ‘dodge’ I mean ‘avoid’.”

 

20140527-1Joseph Thorndike, When Do-Gooder Taxes Don’t Do Good (Tax Analysts Blog).

I’m no fan of anti-obesity taxes, whether they target soda, candy bars, or any other junk food. They are regressive and arbitrary, not to mention paternalistic and condescending. Supporters have all sorts of genuine good intentions. But ultimately, these taxes are simply an unfair money grab dressed up as a public health initiative.

Now we have some evidence that they may be ineffective, too.

Imagine that.

 

William Gale, Don’t be fooled: America’s deficit is still a problem

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown: Sept. 2 (Tax Justice Blog).  A left-side rundown of “Oil tax ballot fails in Alaska, film tax credits pass in California, and Ohio needs to do more on EITC expansion. Also: updates on Iowa gubernatorial election and a new report on airline gas tax breaks.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 482

 

And New Coke marketing genius award goes to…  From Going Concern, news of the boldest marketing move since the Edsel.  (Adrienne Gonzalez)

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/27/14: Inversions! Fire! Flee! FIRPTA! Edition. And: state credits and the race for Governor.

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140815-2DOOM! PANIC!  Corporate inversions!  DO SOMETHING!  This isn’t the first time politicians have gotten their dresses over their heads in a pseudo-patriotic panic over legal transactions, as Ajay Gupta explains for Tax Analysts ($link):

FIRPTA is a statute conceived in xenophobia and dedicated to the proposition that not all investors are created equal. It is nothing more or less than the embodiment of a congressional desire to limit the grasp of foreign investors on domestic real estate.

“FIRPTA” is the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act, and it requires buyers of U.S. real estate to withhold 10% of the gross purchase price paid to non-U.S. sellers.  In practice, it functions as a trap for unwary U.S. buyers who fail to withhold, leaving them liable for the withholding liability on top of their purchase price.  It arose out of the panic over a wave of Japanese purchases of U.S. real estate — a panic that we can now see clearly as madness.  Yet FIRPTA lives on, long after the Japanese moved on to other things.

Things like this tell us that the best way to deal with the current panics, like corporate inversions, is to not “do something” that will surely be half-baked and haunt the tax law forever.

 

Megan McArdle, Burger King and the Whopper About Taxes (my emphasis):

As my colleague Matt points out, most Americans — including a lot of journalists who write about this — seem to be under the misimpression that companies that invert, or people who renounce their citizenship, are doing so to get a lower tax rate on income they earn here. And in a few intellectual-property-based businesses, which can make aggressive use of transfer pricing strategies to declare most of their income in low- or no-tax countries, these complaints have some basis. In most cases, however, including Burger King, they’re doing it because the U.S. inexplicably insists on taking a big chunk off the top of all their foreign income, and making their lives miserable in the process.

But, but, deserters!  Traitors!

 

canada flagIf you are wondering why Burger King might be attracted to Canada,  read How Much Lower are Canada’s Business Taxes? (William McBride, Tax Policy Blog):

First, Canada has a much lower corporate tax rate: 15 percent at the federal level plus another 11 percent on average from provincial corporate taxes. Compare that to the U.S. federal corporate tax rate of 35 percent plus an average state corporate tax rate of about 4 percent.

Second, Canada has a territorial tax system, meaning there is no additional repatriation tax on foreign profits. The U.S. has a worldwide tax system, which applies a repatriation tax to foreign profits when those profits are brought back to the U.S. The repatriation tax is basically the difference between the foreign corporate tax rate and the U.S. corporate tax rate, which is typically more than 10 percent. The average foreign corporate tax rate in the developed world is 25 percent.

Third, the U.S. is not particularly competitive in terms of taxing shareholders. Canada integrates its corporate tax with shareholder taxes to avoid double-taxation. In the U.S. it just piles up, so the integrated corporate tax rate on equity financed investment is over 50 percent.

A corporation pays 35% federal tax on its net income, leaving 65% for the shareholders.  If it gets distributed to a top-bracket taxpayer, it gets hit at 20%, plus the 3.8% Obamacare surtax. That is a combined effective rate of 50.47% — and that’s low, as it doesn’t count phase-outs or state taxes. Yet congresscritters profess astonishment that anybody would find that a problem worth solving.

 

Howard Gleckman, Could The U.S. Fix Taxation of Multinational Corporations With A Sales-Based Formula? (TaxVox) “Instead of focusing on the real disease—an increasingly dysfunctional corporate income tax—we are obsessing over a symptom—firms such as Burger King engaging in self-help reform by relocating their legal residences overseas.”

Joseph Thorndike, Warren Buffett Is a Tax Avoider. Good for Him. (Tax Analysts Blog). Now Mr. communitarian billionaire who wants high taxes for other people is a deserter too.  Is nothing sacred?

 

20140729-2Paul Neiffer,  $563 Cost a Taxpayer $6,320:

If the taxpayers had simply paid the $563 of additional tax owed on the original assessment, that is all they would have been out-of-pocket.  However, when they went to court, the IRS determined that they had made a math error in their original calculation of AMT and reassessed the tax owed from $563 to $6,883 or an increase of $6,320.  Since this calculation was now correct, the Tax Court honored the IRS calculation and suddenly the taxpayers suddenly owed another $6,320 just for going to court.

Oops.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 475.  It links to this from George Will: “The IRS is the most intrusive and potentially punitive institution of the federal government and it is a law enforcement institution and it is off the rails and it is now thoroughly corrupted.”

And the IRS Commissioner thinks all his agency needs is more money.

 

Kay Bell, IRS, betting that expired state and local sales tax deduction will be renewed, hires firm to calculate Schedule A tables

TaxGrrrl, IRS Still Struggling With Tax Treatment Of Immigrants, Changes Rules Again   

Jack Townsend, BASR Briefs On Issue of Unlimited Statute of Limitations for NonTaxpayer Fraud

David Brunori, Repealing the Bad Franchise Tax is a Good Idea (Tax Analysts Blog).  “Eighteen states still impose a franchise tax; they shouldn’t.”

 

MP branstadBy all means, lets make state tax credits an issue.  The Branstad re-election campaign is making a big deal about how his campaign opponent, Jack Hatch, bottled up a GOP bill that would have reduced developer fees in tax credit deals — fees that Mr. Hatch makes a good living collecting.

Senator Hatch could truthfully explain that his committee snuffed every GOP tax bill last session, so that bill didn’t receive special treatment.  Still, it doesn’t look good.

Yet this ignores the real scandal with state incentive credits: they are inherently corrupt.

For starters, the credits for low-income housing and historic rehabilitation go disproportionately to well-connected insiders who know people and know how to pull strings — at the expense of real estate owners without the connections — and arguably at the expense of renters who might benefit more from housing aid not run through developers.

But also that’s true of the other credits.  Special deals go to Microsoft, Google and Facebook because they are big and they know how to play the system.  Tax credits go to big fertilizer companies for doing what they would do anyway, while other poor schmucks without lobbyists and fixers pay full-freight on their income and property taxes.  NASCAR and the Field of Dreams played on glamour and celebrities to keep sales taxes they collect, while other sellers of amusements have to collect the same sales taxes and turn them over to the state.  And Governor Branstad has handed out these tax credits generously.

I’m fine with the Governor’s criticism of Senator Hatch for tax credit deals; I don’t care for them either.  Still, the Governor should keep his old MP helmet handy, because he is calling down fire near his own position.

 

Claire Celsi, PR is like pork scraps and pickle juice (IowaBiz.com).  Sounds yummy.

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/14/14: Department of Revenue says: no SE Tax, no Iowa gain exclusion on CRP ground. Cash rents also fail.

Thursday, August 14th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140814-1Cash Rent, failure to pay self-employment tax ruled fatal to Iowa capital gain exclusion.  Iowa has an unusual capital gain exemption on sales of farm and business property for taxpayers meeting both a 10-year holding-period requirement and a ten year “material participation” test.  The Iowa Department of Revenue yesterday released three rulings holding that taxpayers failed to meet the second requirement on sales of farm ground.  The material participation rules are for the most part the same as in the federal “passive loss” rules.

Cash rent.  Document 14201019  holds that you don’t “materially participate” if all you do is rent farm ground:

The issue raised in the protest involves whether a capital gain deduction from the sale of farmland was properly disallowed on the Iowa individual income tax return for the 2009 tax year.  The farmland, which was held in the name of two partnerships, West Side Acres and East Side Acres, was involved in a cash rent arrangement.  There is no dispute that the farmland was held for more than ten years, but the Department contended that the ten year material participation test was not met.

The taxpayers claimed they spent more than 100 hours managing their farm rentals, but the Department said that activity didn’t count (my emphasis):

The Department notes that most of the hours spend by protester in the farming operation that was provided in the January 29, 2014 letter related to maintenance of business financial records, including review of property tax estimates and assessments and payment of expenses.  The Stoos decision stated that actions of paying the mortgage, preparing taxes and other financial work is not materially related to the farming operation, and these hours were considered “investor-type” activities which were not part of the day-to-day operation of the farm.  Therefore, those hours do not count toward material participation, and the 100 hour test has not been met by protester.  

This is the result I would have predicted.  Cash rent of farm land is not normally considered  “farming” under the passive loss rules.

binConservation Reserve and Self-employment Tax.  Documents 14201020 and 14201017 deny the capital gain exclusion to two taxpayers because they failed to pay self-employment tax on CRP payments.  The liability of CRP recipients for self-employment tax is controversial; a pending Eighth Circuit case seems likely to hold that the tax doesn’t apply to CRP recipients who do not otherwise farm.

The rulings say that the Department goes by the treatment of the payments reported on the taxpayers returns: if they taxpayer paid SE tax on CRP payments, they are considered to have materially-participated in those years, but not otherwise.  From Document 14201017 (my emphasis)

The Department first notes that the Federal Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Weubker v. Commissioner, 205 F.3d 897 (2000) held that CRP payments were net income from self-employment because they were received in exchange for performing tasks “that are intrinsic to the farming trade or business” such as tilling, seeding, fertilizing and weed control. Subsequently, the Internal Revenue Service issued Notice 2006-108 which states that CRP payments either to a farmer who either personally fulfills the CRP obligations or who isn’t an active farmer and fulfills this obligation through a third party are both includible in self-employment income and are not excludible as rentals from real estate.

Therefore, the Department contends that self-employment tax was clearly due on these CRP payments.

Since protester did not pay self-employment tax on this CRP income, the Department contends that the material participation test was not met. In addition, protester does not meet the retired farmer exception regarding material participation for 5 of the 8 years prior to retirement since self-employment tax was not paid on the CRP acres prior to you receiving social security benefits in 2003. Therefore, the Department contends that you do not meet the qualifications for the capital gain exclusion since you did not materially participate in the CRP activity for ten years.

The liability for SE tax on CRP payments was never as open-and-shut as the Department says. Some commentators have argued that Weubker is wrong, and that CRP, by itself, doesn’t constitute farming (see here and here).  Even so, it is also a stretch to say that the minimal maintenance required on CRP ground rises to the level of “material participation.”

The Department here is saying in effect that they will take your word for it — as shown on your tax filings.  If you paid SE tax on your CRP income, you’re a farmer as far as they are concerned, and you qualify for the exclusion.  Given the stratospheric cost of farm ground nowadays, taxpayers may find it worth paying a little SE tax to qualify for the Iowa gain exclusion.

Related:

Material Participation Basics.

Iowa Capital Gain Deduction: an illustration

 

Canadians born in U.S. sue Ottawa over tax fraud law (TheStar.com):

Canada has violated the charter rights of nearly a million Canadians by agreeing to share their financial details with authorities in the United States, two Ontario women allege in a new lawsuit.

FATCA sponsor Charlie Rangel, D-NY

FATCA sponsor Charlie Rangel, D-NY

They are talking about “FATCA,” the outrageous Congressional overreach into the operations of banks around the world.

Gwen Deegan of Toronto and Ginny Hillis of Windsor, Ont., have launched a claim against the Attorney General of Canada.

In it, they accuse Ottawa of breaching the Constitution by complying with a sweeping new American tax fraud law, known as the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.

Under the terms of the legislation that took effect last month, banks must share all personal and joint account details of anyone deemed to be a “U.S. person.” This includes American citizens and people born in the U.S., even those with no existing ties to the country.

I wonder what the reaction in the U.S. would be if, say, Russia demanded the bank account information of every American it said was a “Russian person.”  I don’t think it would be popular. Yet our Congress thinks it is entitled to demand that non-U.S. banks cough up whatever information it feels like asking for.

The response has been to make financial life difficult for Americans overseas, as dealing with U.S. persons becomes more of a hassle than their business is worth.  It also restricts employment opportunities abroad for Americans by making their employment inconvenient.

Charlie Rangel was one of the main sponsors of FATCA.  He would know a little about not paying taxes.

 

20140814-2Paul Neiffer, Sale of Gifted Grain Can Be Tax Free:

When the donee sells this grain, it will be reported as a capital gain.  If time after harvest of the grain and the time of sale is less than a year, it is short-term.  If this time is greater than a year, then it is long-term. 

If the donee is in a low-enough bracket, long-term capital gains are taxed at zero.  But watch out for the “Kiddie Tax.”

 

Jason Dinesen, Proper Documentation of Business Expenses:

In most circumstances, you can prove your expenses even if you don’t have a receipt. But again, I feel that receipts AND other documents are the safest way to go.

Absolutely.  Jason has some tips for keeping track of them.

 

Kay Bell, School’s back. So are some, but not all, education tax breaks

 

Andrew Lundeen, Alan Cole, The Inequality Debate Ignores How Incomes Change Over the Life Cycle (Tax Policy Blog):  “Income data from the IRS and the Census Bureau have their uses, but measuring equality isn’t one of them.”

 

Joseph Thorndike, How ISIS Is Using Taxes to Build a Terrorist State (Tax Analysts Blog)

TaxGrrrl, Tax Revenues Still On Pace To Break Records In 2014   

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 462

Career Corner.  Study: Working in a Windowless Cube is Ruining Your Life (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/6/14: Telemarketing isn’t an airplane. And: inversion hysteria, always in style.

Wednesday, August 6th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120529-2Is your airplane any of your business?  The Tax Court yesterday dealt with a problem that will arise a lot as taxpayers struggle with the new 3.8% Obamacare Net Investment Income Tax: what “activities” can be considered to be part of a single business?

The issue comes up because “passive” activities are subject to the tax, while non-passive activities are exempt.  It is especially important when S corporations are involved because their K-1 income is also exempt from the 2,9 Medicare tax and the .9% Obamacare Medicare surtax.  The status of activities as “non-passive” usually depends on the amount of time spent working in the activity; if you can combine activities they are less likely to be passive.

Tax Court Judge Buch outlines yesterday’s case:

 Mr. Williams is an aviation buff who owns a business that is unrelated to aviation. He purchased an airplane that he made available for rent, used for personal purposes, and used in his other business. On the Williams’ joint tax returns, they offset losses related to the ownership of the airplane against their income from the other business. Respondent disallowed those offsets… 

Passive losses cannot offset non-passive income under the 1986 passive loss rules; they carry forward to offset future income until the activity is sold.  Mr. Williams reported the airplane expenses as part of his business of training telemarketers.  The court reviews the rules on combining activities (footnotes omitted; my emphasis):

Section 1.469-4(c), Income Tax Regs., sets rules for determining what constitutes a single “activity”. That regulation provides: “One or more trade or business activities or rental activities may be treated as a single activity if the activities constitute an appropriate economic unit for the measurement of gain or loss for purposes of section 469.” Whether activities constitute an “appropriate economic unit” depends on the facts and circumstances, giving the following five factors the greatest weight:

(i) Similarities and differences in types of trades or businesses;

(ii) The extent of common control;

(iii) The extent of common ownership;

(iv) Geographic location; and

(v) Interdependencies between or among the activities (for example, the extent to which the activities purchase or sell goods between or among themselves, involve products or services that are normally provided together, have the same customers, have the same employees, or are accounted for with a single set of books and records.)

The judge said the airplane wasn’t part of the same “economic unit” as Mr. Williams’ other business, called WPP:

The fact that there was no meaningful interdependence between the ownership of the airplane and the business of WPP is evidenced in part by the fact that Mr. Williams would rent another airplane for travel because he could earn more from renting WPP’s airplane to other pilots or pilot trainees than he would pay if he or WPP rented another airplane for a trip. Further, most of the airplane’s use and income came from renting the airplane outside WPP, which had no effect on the business of WPP. Likewise, there is no indication that the airplane activity depended on WPP; it was only an occasional user of the airplane. There is no evidence that WPP and the airplane activity had any of the same customers or that the two activities were integrated in any meaningful way.

When the airplane activity was separated his other business, Mr. Williams was unable to muster enough hours to reach “material participation,” making the airplane losses passive and non-deductible.

What does this mean in planning for the NIIT?  Taxpayers get to revisit their activity groupings for 2013 and 2014 returns.  Taxpayers with multiple businesses will want to ponder what things they can realistically combine.  Just because you own both businesses doesn’t mean the tax law will consider them an “appropriate economic unit.”

Cite: Williams, T.C. Memo 2014-158

 

20140805-3Paul Neiffer, IRS Provides Two Optional Methods for SE Health Insurance Deduction.

Jack Townsend, Whistleblower Award for FBAR Penalties?

Jason Dinesen, Kudos to NAEA for Promoting EAs.  Not to sound dumb, but isn’t that what the National Association of Enrolled Agents is supposed to do?

Russ Fox, The IRS Apparently Thinks They Won the Loving Case.  “In Loving v. IRS, the IRS was permanently enjoined from the Registered Tax Return Preparer designation. One would think that the IRS would realize this and remove the designation from forms.”

Keith Fogg, How Bankruptcy Can Create a Pyrrhic Victory out of a Tax Court Win (Procedurally Taxing)

 

Peter Reilly, FAIR Tax Abolishes IRS – Then What?  I have long thought the fair tax was half-baked gimmick, deceptively marketed.  If you want to move to a consumption tax, move to a real consumption tax.

Adam Michel, What is the Consumed Income Tax?  (Tax Policy Blog)

 

 

Allison Christians, Regulating Return Preparers: A Global Problem for the IRS:

The problem of regulating all foreigners in service of U.S. citizenship taxation plagues FATCA in the details, and it will plague the project of tax return preparer regulation as well. It won’t be easily solved unless Congress can accept that the universally practiced norm of residency-based taxation is really the only viable option in a globalized world. If not, as the world adjusts to the ongoing expansion of U.S. regulatory power through more — and more complex — financial regulation, everyone will have to accept that virtually every tax move Congress makes has global implications.

Via the TaxProf.

Just what the world needs: more IRS.

 

nra-blue-eagleDavid Brunori, Keep the Inversion Hysteria Out of the States (Tax Analysts Blog).  “A company’s decision to invert is no different from an individual’s decision to live in a state without an income tax or to buy a house rather than rent to take advantage of a tax break.”  But, but, what about your loyalty oath?  You must hate America!  Or, worse, Iowa!

Scott Hodge, More Perspective on Inversions: Not a Threat to the Tax Base but the Face of U.S. Uncompetiveness (Tax Policy Blog)

Bob McIntyre, Statement: Despite Walgreens’ Decision, Emergency Action Is Still Needed to Stop Corporate Inversions (Tax Justice Blog, where inversion hysteria is always in style).

Eric Toder, How Political Gridlock Encourages Tax Avoidance (TaxVox)

 

Joseph Thorndike, The Origination Clause? Let It Go (Tax Analysts Blog).  Since the courts allow the Senate to strip any house bill of its text and replace it with revenue provisions, it’s pretty much dead already.  And that’s a shame.

 

Your legislators at work: 

Chicago lawmaker pleads to misdemeanor; faced 17 felonies. ““I’m sorry I underestimated my taxes.”

Fattah Jr. released on bail following U.S. indictment on theft, fraud and tax-evasion charges.  The son of a Congresscritter has tax issues? The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 454

Career Corner.  Career Limiting Moves: A Beginner’s Guide (Leona May, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 7/29/14: Whither Halbig and the ACA. And lots more!

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20121120-2The Big Tax News while I was on vacation was the Halbig decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.  The decision holds invalid the IRS decision allowing tax credit subsidies for policies purchased on federal insurance exchanges.  The impact of the decision was offset by a Fourth Circuit decision the same day coming to the opposite conclusion, but it is still a big deal, especially in light of some subsequent events.

The D.C. circuit has national implications because every taxpayer can come under its jurisdiction by litigating through the Court of Federal Claims.  An alert reader corrects me:

Your post today contains an error.  The  D.C. circuit is not the same as the federal circuit.  The court of federal claims is appealable to the federal circuit. The district court for the D.C. circuit is appealable to the D.C. circuit.  Halbig is a big deal in any event because the dc circuit instructed the district court to vacate the rule.  Vacated means that there is no rule anywhere.  In any event, SCOTUS will make the final call here.

As long as that decision stands — and the IRS will certainly ask the 15-member court to reconsider Halbig, decided by a three-member panel — it threatens not only the tax credits for the 37 states without their own exchanges, but it also invalidates the employer mandate tax in those states and takes much of the bite out of the individual mandate.  The South Carolina Policy Council explains why (my emphasis):

The subsidies are also important for their function as triggers of both the individual and employer mandate portions of the ACA. The ACA imposes a $2,000 per employee penalty for companies with more than 50 employees who do not offer “adequate health insurance” to their workers. This penalty is triggered when an employee accepts an IRS subsidy on a plan purchased through an exchange. If individuals in the 36 states without a state-run exchange are ineligible for subsidies, there will be no trigger to set off the employer mandate.

An absence of subsidies would also allow many people to avoid the ACA’s individual mandate, which requires citizens to maintain health insurance covering certain minimum benefits or pay a fine. This is because the ACA exempts citizens from the individual mandate whose out-of-pocket costs for health insurance exceed 8 percent of their household income. If IRS subsidies are removed, insurance plans offered on exchanges would exceed this cost threshold for many people – thereby providing them an exemption from the mandate.

Flickr image courtesy Tim under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy Tim under Creative Commons license

This would devastate the already shaky economics of Obamacare.

The key ruling in Halbig is its finding that statutory language allowing tax credits through exchanges “established by a State” doesn’t cover the federal exchanges that are used in the 36 states without exchanges.   Critics of Halbig say that Congress couldn’t have been that stupid.  For example, Jonathan Gruber, an architect of the ACA, says“Literally every single person involved in the crafting of this law has said that it`s a typo, that they had no intention of excluding the federal states.”

That assertion has been challenged by a number of observers, notes Megan McArdle.  She cites a January 2012 speech by one Jonathan Gruber, an architect of the ACA:

Only about 10 states have really moved forward aggressively on setting up their exchanges. A number of states have even turned down millions of dollars in federal government grants as a statement of some sort — they don’t support health care reform.

Now, I guess I’m enough of a believer in democracy to think that when the voters in states see that by not setting up an exchange the politicians of a state are costing state residents hundreds and millions and billions of dollars, that they’ll eventually throw the guys out. But I don’t know that for sure. And that is really the ultimate threat, is, will people understand that, gee, if your governor doesn’t set up an exchange, you’re losing hundreds of millions of dollars of tax credits to be delivered to your citizens. [emphasis added] 

The 2012 Jonathan Gruber repeated the story that only state-established exchanges qualify for credits in other forums.   It’s remarkable that two ACA architects named Jonathan Gruber have such divergent views of what the bill does.  It’s even more remarkable that they are the same guy.  This seems like strong support for the D.C. Circuit’s approach.

supreme courtIf the ACA were just another tax bill, it would be pretty easy to predict that the Supreme Court would go with the D.C. Circuit’s approach, based on prior rulings involving statutes that reached results the IRS didn’t care for.  In the Gitlitz case, which arguably provided an unintended windfall for S corporation shareholders when the S corporation incurred non-taxable debt forgiveness income, the Supreme Court said in an 8-1 decision (footnotes and citations omitted, emphasis added):

Second, courts have discussed the policy concern that, if shareholders were permitted to pass through the discharge of indebtedness before reducing any tax attributes, the shareholders would wrongly experience a “double windfall”: They would be exempted from paying taxes on the full amount of the discharge of indebtedness, and they would be able to increase basis and deduct their previously suspended losses.  Because the Code’s plain text permits the taxpayers here to receive these benefits, we need not address this policy concern.

In other words, if Congress doesn’t like what it has done, it’s up to Congress to fix it, not the IRS.  Congress did just that with the Gitlitz result within a year of the decision.

Of course, the ACA isn’t typical tax legislation.  Chief Justice Roberts tied himself in knots to find a way to uphold Obamacare in 2012.  Politics makes it unlikely that the Gitlitz approach will be followed by the left side of the Supreme Court, and who knows how Justice Roberts will rule.  But it does appear at least possible that Halbig will be upheld.

What should taxpayers do?  My thought is to assume the mandates remain in effect and pay tax (or reduce your withholding) accordingly.  Then be prepared to file a refund claim if Halbig is upheld by the Supreme Court.  Plan for the worst and hope for the best.

At least one thoughtful commentator says that ultimately if Halbig is upheld, holdout states will fall into line and establish exchanges.  For the reasons laid out here, I don’t think that will happen, and Congress will be forced to clean up its mess.

 

Paul Neiffer, ACA Subsidies: One Court Strikes Down, Another Upholds

Kristy Maitre, IRS Releases Additional ACA Revenue Procedures and Draft Forms  (ISU-CALT)

 

20140729-2Jason Dinesen, Don’t Be “That” Business Owner.  “I see too many with preconceived notions of what they can “get by with.” I’ve seen and read about too many people whose life got turned upside-down when they ended up NOT “getting by with it” after all.”

Russ Fox,  2:42.  “That’s how long I spent on hold on the IRS Practitioner Priority Service (PPS) yesterday–two hours, forty-two minutes.”   It’s a good thing Practitioners are a “Priority,” or who knows how long he’d have been on hold.

Phil Hodgen, Green card holders, treaty elections, and exit tax

Stephen Olsen, Ct. of Fed. Claims Holds Merger Results in “Same Taxpayer” for Net Zero Interest Rate (Procedurally Taxing)

Peter Reilly wonders if it is Time To Let Kent Hovind Go Home?  Peter thinks the former owner of a theme park based on the idea that hominids and dinosaurs co-existed may have suffered enough for his tax misdeeds.

Robert D. Flach brings the fresh Tuesday Buzz!

Well, these things are never tidi.  Spanish Court Moving Forward With Messi Tax Evasion Case  (TaxGrrrl)

 

taxanalystslogoDavid Brunori, Who Wants to Tax a Millionaire? Lots of People (Tax Analysts Blog).  This is full fo good observations about the unwisdom of states soaking the “rich.”  Highlights include:

States do not (and should not) do a lot of redistributing to the very poor.

When states jack up taxes on the “rich,” the money doesn’t exactly go to people sleeping under bridges, as David explains (my emphasis):

I have written about this before.  I noted that “the real beneficiaries of most government spending, certainly at the state level, never come up. No one ever says that we need higher taxes because my friends in the construction business want new contracts. No one ever says that they want new taxes to expand bloated public employee union bureaucracies. Yes, crony capitalism and union bosses drive most calls for higher taxes.” My right-wing friends often criticize liberals calling for higher marginal taxes as delusional. But they know exactly what they’re doing. Often they want higher taxes just so they can give money to their friends.

The money taken from “the rich” goes to the well-connected.  Iowa’s highest-in-the-nation system fleeces those without pull to pay rich subsidies to well-connected politicians and corporations.  Better to throw out the crony subsidies and lower rates for the rest of us — like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Tax Reform Plan would do.

 

Elaine Maag, The “Helping Working Families Afford Child Care Act” Would Help, but Doesn’t Solve the Timing Mismatch (TaxVox).  “Making the CDCTC refundable and increasing allowable expenses is a huge step in improving child care assistance for low-income families.”

 

20140729-1Joseph Thorndike, The Corporate Income Tax Will Never Be ‘Fixed.’ And That’s OK. (Tax Analysts Blog):

Again, I think the corporate income tax is on the way out. But that’s a long-term problem. It doesn’t mean we should throw in the towel right away. The corporate tax may, as McArdle suggests, be an “insane, unwinnable chess game” pitting lawyers against tax collectors. But for the time being, the game is still worth the candle.

I think Megan McArdle has the better case, that the corporation income tax needs to go away, one way or the other.   I like the idea of doing so via a corporation dividends-paid deduction, combined with an excise tax on dividends for otherwise-exempt stockholders, as a way to get there.

Scott Hodge, More on Inversions and the Effective Tax Rates of Foreign-Owned Firms.   “The administration may want to think twice about taking unilateral action without considering the consequences.”

Clint Stretch, Dreams of Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog).  Patsy Cline is invoked.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 446

 

Greg Kyte, Clarifying Sex and Auditor Independence After the EY and Ventas Affair (Going Concern).  Can an auditor be “independent” while sleeping with a CFO?  Well, auditors are supposed to have hearts of stone…

 

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Tax Roundup, 7/10/14: The sordid history of temporary tax provisions. And: NOLA mayor wins 10-year term!

Thursday, July 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

taxanalystslogoLindsey McPherson of Tax Analysts has a great, but unfortunately gated, article today, “Things to Know About the Tax Extenders’ History” ($link) Update: Tax Analysts has ungated the article, so read it all here for free! ( It details four points:

1. Two-Year Retroactive Extensions Are Often Passed Late in Election Years

2. Extenders Are Often Attached to Larger Bills

3. Congress Has Never Fully Offset Extenders Legislation

4. Most Extenders Have Been Renewed at Least 3 Times

What does “most” mean? “Of the 55 expired provisions that are the focus of the current debate, 39 have been around since 2008 or longer and thus have been extended at least three times…”

This implies that Congress has no intention of letting the extenders expire.  It only passes them temporarily to hide their real cost, because Congressional funky accounting doesn’t treat them as permanent.  It also requires lobbyists to come to fund-raising golf outings every year to ensure that they get their pet provisions extended.  Honest accounting would at least treat any provision extended twice as permanent, but accounting you and I would do time for is business as usual on the Hill.

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 427.  It has this interesting bit, from the New York Times, Republicans Say Ex-I.R.S. Official May Have Circumvented Email:

Lois Lerner, the former Internal Revenue Service official at the center of an investigation into the agency’s treatment of conservative political groups, may have used an internal instant-messaging system instead of email so that her communications could not be retrieved by investigators, Republican lawmakers said Wednesday.

But the crashed hard drive epidemic is perfectly normal, isn’t it, Commissioner Koskinen?

 

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday(?): The IRS Finally Figures Out The Real Estate Professional Rules.  Tony covers the IRS walk-back from its untenable position on the amount of participation required to be a “real estate professional.”  My coverage is here.

Paul Neiffer, Watch Out for Spousal Inherited IRAs.  “Spouses who inherited IRAs have a couple of elections available to them that non-spouses do not have.  However, care must be taken to make sure that the 10% early withdrawal penalty does not apply when distributions are finally taken.”

Kay Bell, Home sales provide most owners a major tax break

 

 

Accounting Today, IRS Loses Billions on Erroneous Amended Tax Returns.  A report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration faults IRS procedures to review amended returns.

 

Cara Griffith, The Criminal Side of Sales Tax Compliance (Tax Analysts Blog):

Imagine this scenario: In the middle of an acquisition deal, the due diligence review of a company being acquired reveals that the company has underremitted its sales tax liability. The deal is never finalized because of the problem. The company approaches its tax adviser with the news that it failed to remit some of the sales tax it collected and asks for advice. On hearing that, most state and local tax practitioners would cringe. It doesn’t matter why the company failed to remit the sales tax it collected from customers — the company is in serious trouble and could face both civil collection penalties and criminal prosecution.

You have to be special to legally keep sales tax you collect.

 

20140505-1Len Burman, “Pension Smoothing” is a Sham (TaxVox):

In a nutshell, here’s what it does: Companies can postpone contributions to their pension funds. This means that their tax deductions for pension contributions are lower now, but the actual pension obligations don’t change, so contributions later will have to be higher—by the same amount plus interest. In present value terms (that is, accounting for interest costs), this raises exactly zero revenue over the long run. 

More of that Congressional accounting.

 

Jack Townsend, Interesting Article from the Swiss Bankers Side.

Leslie Book, Recent Tax Court Case Shows Challenges Administering Civil Penalties and the EITC Ban (Procedurally Taxing)

Overnight, if you leave the cap off.  When Will the Soda Tax Go Flat? (Joseph Thorndike, Tax Analysts Blog)

Scott Eastman, $21,000 Tax Bill Just for Some Potato Salad (Tax Policy Bl0g).  I’ve had potato salad that should have been charged more than that.

Adrienne Gonzalez, Tax Superhero and George Michael Among Those Caught Using Tax Shelter in the UK.  This is a different type of shelter than the one that caused Mr. Michael’s prior legal troubles.

 

When they say it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.  From the Washington Post,  Former New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin sentenced to 10 years in prison:

“I’m not in it for the money,” Nagin said after he was elected to the first of two terms in 2002.

Mayor Nagin was convicted on 20 charges, including four charges of filing false tax returns.  Mayor Nagin’s indictment tells a story of pervasive fraud involving kickbacks and bribes for city business, and third-party payment of limo rides and private jet services.  But he did a heck of a job with Hurricane Katrina.

20140710-1

One interesting thing about the Post piece: it never mentions that Mayor Nagin is a member of a political party.  Unusual, for a politician.  Someone should look into that.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

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

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

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

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

 

 

20140623-1TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 410

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Robert says something I agree with:

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 391

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Joseph adds, wisely:

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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