Posts Tagged ‘Kay Bell’

Tax Roundup, 4/7/15: Dealing with that long-awaited K-1. And: IRS, beacon for Millenials?

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

My K-1 finally showed up. Now what? Many Tax Update visitors arrive here when they ask their search engines something like “understanding K-1s” or “deducting K-1 losses on 1040.” As more business income is now reported on 1040s via K-1s than on corporation returns, these aren’t trivial questions.

k1corner2014It helps to understand what a K-1 does. “Pass-through” entities — partnerships, S corporations, and trusts that distribute their income to beneficiaries — generally don’t pay tax on their income. The owners pay. The tax returns of the pass-throughs gather the information the owners need to report the pass-through’s tax results properly. Because many different tax items are required to be reported differently on 1040s, the income, deductions and credits of the business have to be broken out on the K-1. That’s why there are so many boxes and so many identification codes on the K-1.

The challenge for the return preparer is to take the information off the K-1 and to report it properly on the 1040. It can get especially complicated when losses are involved.

While anything short of a full seminar will oversimplify the treatment of pass-through items, there are three main hurdles a loss deduction has to clear. They are, in order (follow the links for more detail):

You have to have basis in the pass-through to take losses. Basis starts with your investment in the entity. It includes direct loans to the entity. If you have a partnership, it includes your share of partnership third-party debt. It is increased by earnings and capital contributions and reduced by losses and distributions. If you don’t have basis, the loss is deferred until a year in which you get basis.

There is no official IRS form to track basis, but many pass-throughs track basis for their owners. Check your K-1 package to see if includes a basis schedule.

Flickr image courtesy  Grzegorz Jereczek under Creative Commons license.

Flickr image courtesy Grzegorz Jereczek
under Creative Commons license.

Your basis has to be “at-risk” to enable you to deduct losses. While the at-risk rules are a very complex and archaic response to 1970s-era tax shelters, the basic idea is that you have to be on the hook for your basis, especially basis attributable to borrowings, to be able to deduct losses against that basis. Special exclusions exist for “qualified non-recourse liabilities” arising from third-party real estate loans. Losses that aren’t “at-risk” are deferred until there is income or new “at-risk” basis. At risk losses are computed and tracked on Form 6198.

You can only deduct “passive losses” to the extent of your “passive” income. A loss is “passive” if you fail to “materially participate” in the business. Material participation is primarily determined by the amount of time you spend on the business activity. Real estate rental losses are automatically passive unless you are a “real estate professional.”

Passive losses are normally deductible only to the extent of passive income. The non-deductible losses carry forward until a year in which there is passive income, or until the activity is disposed of to a non-related party in a taxable transaction. You compute your passive losses allowance on Form 8582.

Even if you have income, instead of losses, be sure to use any carryforward losses you might have against it. And consider visiting a tax pro if you find the whole process perplexing.

This is another of our 2015 Filing Season Tips. There will be a new one every day here through April 15!

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Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #5: Ignoring California

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): Y Is For Years Certain Annuity

William Perez, Opportunity to Increase Charitable Donations for 2014 under a New Tax Law. “Individuals who donate cash by April 15, 2015, to certain charities providing relief to families of slain New York City police officers can deduct those donate on their 2014 tax return.”

Robert Wood, Beware Tax Mistakes IRS Calls Willful. “Even a smidgen of fraud or intentional misstatements can land you in jail.”

Have a nice day.

I’m from the IRS, and I’m here to help! IRS Agent Causes Grief For Taxpayer’s Spouse By Being Helpful (Peter Reilly)

Kay Bell, Don’t bet on fooling IRS with bought losing lottery tickets.

Leslie Book, District Court FBAR Penalty Opinion Raises Important Administrative and Constitutional Law Issues. “Taxpayers should not be forced to sue in federal court to get an explanation as to the agency’s rationale or the evidence it considered in making its decision.”

Jason Dinesen, It’s Pointless for EAs to Attack CPAs. And vice-versa.

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 698

Roger McEowen, Rough Economic Times Elevate Bankruptcy Legal Issues (ISU-CALT)

Martin Sullivan, How Much Did Jeb Bush Cut Taxes In Florida? (Tax Analysts Blog). “So was Jeb Bush a pedal-to-the-metal tax slasher in Florida?”

Renu Zaretsky, It’s Spring Break, and “Everything’s Coming Up Taxes…” (No Daffodils). The TaxVox headline roundup covers IRS budget cuts, reefer madness, and online sales taxes in Washington State today.

 

Career Corner. Do Any Millennials Want to Work at the IRS Non-ironically? (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). Not very hipster.

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/6/15: I don’t have my K-1 yet. Is that illegal? Or, why K-1s are slower.

Monday, April 6th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

k1corner2014I have my W-2. Why don’t I have my K-1? Tax practitioners hear some version of this every year. The short answer is that employers are required to provide W-2s by the end of January, but most K-1 issuers can legally wait until September 15.

The long answer is that K-1s can be much harder to prepare. For a W-2, you only need to have the wage, withholding and benefit information for the employee — not always super-simple, but usually easy enough with a good payroll system.

To issue a K-1, in contrast, a business has to determine its taxable income, and then it has to determine how to allocate it among its owners. Most businesses don’t even have a clean close on their books until well into January. Many then have their auditors in to opine on the financial statements, sometimes with adjustments that change the results. Then the tax preparers show up.

The tax preparers have to determine where the financial statement books have to be changed to get to taxable income. They have to evaluate elections as to the timing of assets and present them to the business, which then has to make a decision. They may have to prepare accounting method changes that require a review of years of fixed asset additions and disposals. If ownership has changed, they have to determine how the income is to be allocated based on the differing ownership during the year. If property has been contributed, they may have to allocate income and deductions for that property differently than for everything else in the business.

20140321-3Then it’s time for state returns. Every state tax system has its own quirks, and the preparer has to determine whether a business needs to file in a state, how to allocate or apportion the business income to the state, and then to identify where the state computes income differently from federal income.

Oh, and they have to do this for more clients than just the one that issues your K-1.

So it’s not a crime for you to not have your K-1 yet. There are a lot of good reasons, from the complexity to the tax law to the rules that require most K-1 issuers to have their work done at the same time, that delay K-1s. If you are missing a K-1 and April 15 is looming, an extension is likely to be your best option. There’s no evidence that the IRS pays special attention to extended returns, but they definitely notice if you file a return that leaves out a K-1. And you’d much rather file an extended return with a correct K-1 than to amend a return because a K-1 prepared in haste was wrong.

Tomorrow we start to talk about what to do with your K-1 when it does show up as part of our series of , one a day through April 15. Don’t miss a one!

 

Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #6: Nevada Corporations. “If the corporation operates in California it will need to file a California tax return. Period. It doesn’t matter if the corporation is a California corporation, a Delaware corporation, or a Nevada corporation.”

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): W Is For Withholding From Wages

 

William Perez, The Penalty for Not Having Health Insurance

Robert Wood, Know IRS Audit Risks Before Filing Your Taxes. Your audit risk is a lot less if you don’t make a prep mistake. If extending helps you avoid mistakes, extend.

Jack Townsend, Court Approves FBAR NonWillful Penalty Merits But Wants Further Development of APA Issues. ” The IRS disregarded its own promise and assessed the penalty before Mr. Moore could request an ‘appeal.'”

 

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David Brunori has thoughts on state tax incentives ($link):

To the extent blame is to be assigned, it rests solely on our political leaders. Governors, and to a larger extent legislators, have the power to grant or deny incentives. If they adhered to the principles of sound tax policy, they would build tax systems on a broad base with low rates. There would be little, if any, special treatment. But they don’t, because they are driven by two human conditions — greed and fear. They want a big corporation with thousands of employees to move to their state. They believe, incorrectly, that the way to achieve that is to give tax breaks that are unavailable to the rest of us. Conversely, they fear that a company might leave and take the jobs with it. They believe the only way to do that is through the tax code. I have said that politicians are unimaginative cowards when it comes to incentives. I don’t think that is too strong a statement. Of course, we put them in power. So perhaps the real blame lies with us.

The other reason is that nobody shows up at your golf fund-raiser to lobby for broad bases and low rates, but they do when they want a special deal.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 697Day 696Day 695. Thoughts on how this scandal would have been viewed if it occurred under a President Bush, and a victory for a group suing for a complete list of entities targeted by IRS for their politics.

Jared Walczak, Legislators Take on the Taxing Logic of Nevada’s Live Entertainment Tax (Tax Policy Blog). How Nevada puts musicians out of work.

Annette Nellen, Designing sales tax exemptions – what is necessary?

Robert Goulder, Stateless Income Revisited: Kleinbard, Herzfeld, and BEPS (Tax Analysts Blog)

Richard Phillips, Will this Tax Day be the First and Last Including Premium Tax Subsidies for Millions of Americans? (Tax Justice Blog).

 

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Kay Bell, Mad Men’s Pete Campbell complains about 1970’s tax rates. “In 1970, when the midseason premiere is set, the top tax rate was 70 percent on, for a single filer like Pete, income of more than $100,000.”

Career Corner. Ten Days Until Tax Day: How To Tell Inconsiderate Clients You’ll Be Extending Their Returns (Tony Nitti). “Yet, despite presumably possessing the ability to comprehend the standard Gregorian calendar, here you are, dropping off all of your information mere days before the deadline — just as you did last year, and the year before that — and leaving me a Post-It note thanking me for ‘squeezing you in.'”

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Tax Roundup, 4/3/15: The no appraisal, no deduction rule for big donations. And: Iowa to reconsider forfeiture?

Friday, April 3rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Who is going to appraise those bags of clothes? If you’ve prepared tax returns for a long time, you have probably seen something like this in client tax information:

20150402-1Donation, used clothes, Goodwill: $12,000.

In addition to (probably) failing the charitable documentation requirements we discussed yesterday, another shortcoming would be fatal for the deduction: the lack of a “qualified appraisal.” When you make a non-cash donation exceeding $5,000, the tax law requires the filing of Form 8283 supported by a qualified appraisal for the property. Only a few items, including publicly-traded securities, are exempt from this requirement (details here). Otherwise, it’s no appraisal, no deduction. 

The tax law sets strict requirements for a qualified appraisal.  Some relate to the contents and timing of the appraisal report. For example, an appraisal made more than 60 days before the contribution doesn’t work, and the appraisal can’t be received after the due date of the return, including any extensions received. That means you can’t wait for the IRS to audit you to get the appraisal.

The tax law also doesn’t let just anyone do the appraisal. The appraiser must meet minimum credential requirements and regularly appraise the property type at issue. The appraiser also cannot be:

The donor of the property, or the taxpayer who claims the deduction.

The donee of the property.

A party to the transaction in which the donor acquired the property being appraised, unless the property is donated within 2 months of the date of acquisition and its appraised value is not more than its acquisition price. This applies to the person who sold, exchanged, or gave the property to the donor, or any person who acted as an agent for the transferor or donor in the transaction.

Any person employed by any of the above persons. For example, if the donor acquired a painting from an art dealer, neither the dealer nor persons employed by the dealer can be qualified appraisers for that painting.

Any person related under section 267(b) of the Internal Revenue Code to any of the above persons or married to a person related under section 267(b) to any of the above persons.

 

20150403-1Going back to our clothing donation, good luck getting that stuff you dropped off after last year’s spring cleaning appraised now.  But, you say, that wasn’t one $12,000 donation! There were at least 20 garbage bags of stuff. That’s 20 $600 donations. No problem!

Problem. The Treasury Regulations determine whether the $5,000 limit is met using (my emphasis):

the aggregate amount claimed or reported as a deduction for a charitable contribution… for such items of property and all similar items of property… by the same donor for the same taxable year (whether or not donated to the same donee).

So 20 bags of clothes are still one donation.

The IRS, and the courts, are strict about the appraisal requirement. If you’ve donated something worth more than $5,000 to charity and you don’t have the appraisal, extend your return and get one before it’s too late. Remember, no appraisal, no deduction. 

Related: A gold mine, or just a pile of old clothes? 

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

 

Des Moines RegisterCivil forfeiture gets statehouse attention:

The House Government Oversight Committee plans to hold a public hearing regarding Iowa’s civil forfeiture laws as a result of a series of articles published by The Des Moines Register.

Rep. Bobby Kaufmann, R-Wilton, who chairs the committee, said the panel was discussing future speakers at its Thursday meeting when representatives brought up the articles and expressed interest in the issue.

20150403-3It’s good that they’re looking at it, but Mr. Kaufmann may not have fully grasped the nature of the problem:

“After talking with several members of law enforcement, I feel a supermajority of law enforcement are conducting themselves in the best manner possible and I believe they’re following Iowa’s civil asset forfeiture law,” he said. “But there are outlier cases where there should maybe be a higher standard for when people’s cash can be seized.”

I’m not sure that talking with the beneficiaries of the system is really the way to determine whether it’s unjust. I suspect a poll of Vikings loading their longboats with loot and captives would also find a supermajority feeling they were conducting themselves “in the best manner possible.” It’s also not helpful that they are “following Iowa’s civil asset forfeiture law” if the law is a license to steal.

It’s a matter of due process. Civil forfeiture imposes what amounts to outlandish fines without conviction, or even arrest, and it puts the burden of proof on the citizen, whose resources to fight the forfeiture have, conveniently, been seized by the state.

It’s also a matter of incentives. If a law enforcement agency gets to keep what it seizes, and faces no punishment for seizing items unjustly, their incentive is to take stuff unjustly. And that’s what happens.

 

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

Kay Bell, Tax tips for the self-employed small business owner

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): V Is For Veterans’ Benefits

 

Jason Dinesen, Should a Business Owner Keep Their Own Books?

 

Peter Reilly, Another Proof That S Corp Can Be Best Choice For Professional Practices:

If you viewed the Tax Court decision in the case of Midwest Eye Center as a wake-up call for people who have highly profitable professional practices inside C corporations, I think you would be mistaken.  The wake-up call was in 1986.  This decision is hitting them over the head with a two by four, particularly coming on top of the Vanney Associates, Inc decision late last summer.

Peter is discussing the case I discussed here.

 

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Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for the weeks of 3/06/15 through 3/20/15 (Procedurally Taxing), rounding up courtroom and administrative tax procedure happenings.

Robert Wood, Real ‘Mystic Pizza’ Owner Pleads Guilty To Tax Evasion, Could Face 15 Years. It’s the time of year when tax prosecutors get busy, to motivate the rest of us.

Liz Malm, Michigan House Lawmakers Pass Bill Ending Film Incentive Program (Tax Policy Blog). Unfortunately for Michigan, the bill may not pass.

Howard Gleckman, For Most Households, It’s About the Payroll Tax, Not the Income Tax (TaxVox)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 694

 

Career Corner: Going Concern March Madness: The #BusySeasonProblems Championship — Deteriorating Mental Health vs. That Voice Inside Your Head (Caleb Newquist, 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, 4/1/15: No fooling – if you reached 70 1/2 last year, take a distribution by today. And: Freedom on April 17!

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1212They don’t call them “required” distributions for nothing. If you reached 70 1/2 years of age in 2014, first, congratulations! Second, today is the deadline for you to take your first required minimum distribution from your (Non-Roth) IRA or SEP, and, if you have retired, from your defined-contribution retirement plan. The rules for the two types of plans are slightly different.

The tax law doesn’t want your retirement plan assets to be growing tax-free forever. That’s why the RMD rules were enacted. You are required to pull an annual taxable amount out based on your remaining life expectancy, determined by IRS tables.

The first required distribution must be taken by April 1 of the year following the year in which you turn 70 1/2. That means you, if you were born after June 30, 1943 and before July 1, 1944. Subsequent distributions have to be taken by December 31. That means if you are taking your first one today, you’ll need to take another one this year.

If you don’t have a spouse 10 years younger than you, you can compute your IRA distribution at this table. If you do, use this table instead. You will need to know your IRA balance as of December 31, 2014.

And if you don’t take your distribution on time? A 50% penalty tax on the amount you should have withdrawn. That would hurt.

This is the first of our 2015 filing season tips. Come back daily through April 15 for more!

 

Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #9: 300 Million Witnesses Can’t Be Right!:

For a tax blogger, people like Richard Hatch are wonderful. Hatch, for those who don’t remember, was the winner of the first Survivor and won $1 million. About 300 million individuals worldwide saw Hatch take down the $1 million.

Yet, somehow it didn’t land on his 1040. Things went badly.

 

People in Iowa get in tax trouble too. St. Charles man sentenced to prison for filing false tax return (Osceola Sentinel-Tribune).

 

Tax Freedom Day is April 24, The Tax Foundation Announces:

Tax Freedom Day is the day when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its total tax bill for the year. Tax Freedom Day takes all federal, state, and local taxes and divides them by the nation’s income. In 2015, Americans will pay $3.28 trillion in federal taxes and $1.57 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total tax bill of $4.85 trillion, or 31 percent of national income. This year, Tax Freedom Day falls on April 24, or 114 days into the year. 

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The big day is a day later than it was last year. As state taxes differ, states have different Tax Freedom Days. The first one is Louisiana, which arrives tomorrow. New York and Connecticut have to wait until May 13. Iowa celebrates fittingly on my next day off, April 16.

 

William Perez, How Saving for Retirement Can Reduce Your Taxes

Kay Bell, Time to choose between a Roth or traditional IRA

Jason Dinesen, Iowa Adoption Credit and Deduction. “The Iowa deduction for adoption expenses is also still available, and there is a relationship between the credit and the deduction.”

Robert Wood, Five Ways To Audit Proof Your Tax Return Against The IRS. For example, “Don’t claim flaky deductions.”

TaxGrrrl,Taxes From A To Z (2015): S Is For Scams

 

Keith Fogg, Impact of Bankruptcy Determination of Tax Liability on Tax Court Case and on Assessment Timing (Procedurally Taxing). “When a taxpayer goes into bankruptcy, a new forum for tax litigation opens up, or potentially opens up, based on section 505 of the Bankruptcy Code.”

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 692. Today the TaxProf says that Commissioner Koskinen has put all this unpleasantness behind him:

The IRS has fixed its errors, such as improper extra scrutiny of Tea Party groups, and they won’t happen again, the tax agency’s commissioner said Tuesday.

“The changes are so significant throughout the agency that you could hang a sign out at the front of the headquarters saying ‘Under New Management,’” Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen said in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington.

Uh-huh. And there were no more Lerner emails, and the Commissioner had made sure he looked very hard for them.

 

Oh, goody. The Rich Are Finally Paying More in Taxes (Jeremy Scott, Tax Analysts Blog). Oddly, he thinks that’s a good thing. But ultimately, the rich guy isn’t buying. And when you try to smack “the rich,” you are really going after employers.

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

 

David Brunori, Transparency: Good for the Tax System, Critical for Good Government (Tax Analysts Blog):

Modern state tax policy has been dominated by cravenness and cronyism. But every once in a while, politicians muster the courage to do the right thing. Several proposals have been advancing in legislatures that will bring more transparency to state fiscal systems. I cannot overstate the importance of these measures.

Cronies and cockroaches prefer darkness.

 

Howard Gleckman, Is a Consumption Tax Talk Making a Comeback? (TaxVox)

 

Robert D. Flach emerges from his 1040 cave just long enough to do a little Showboating. He’ll get the reference.

 

That’s not funny! Accountants Ruin Joke (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

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Tax Roundup, 3/31/15: Stopping travelers in Iowa for fun and profit. And: more tax credits!

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20120703-2Highwaymen with badges. The Des Moines Register is running an excellent series describing the worst public finance innovation in recent decades — civil asset forfeiture. That’s a fancy name for police stealing money from travelers and using the proceeds to fund their own operations, on mere suspicion of wrongdoing by the travelers. The victims have to sue to get it back, and they have to prove they aren’t criminals — turning the normal burdens of proof upside down. That’s expensive and difficult. The result is a terribly-designed tax on the unlucky and the intimidated.

This creates a horrible incentive system. Police can always gin up an excuse to confiscate some traveler’s cash to buy new toys (“scented candles, mulch and tropical fish“) for the department. They then send the travelers on their way, a dead giveaway that they aren’t really fighting crime. Most travelers will be intimidated and drive away without fighting. Even if the traveler wins, nobody is punished for the unjustified seizure.

Today’s installment also shows how this system leads to corruption:

Former Dallas County Sheriff Brian Gilbert was convicted of felony theft for taking $120,000 in cash seized during a 2006 traffic stop.

More recently, Altoona resident Vicki Wharton’s car and some of her money was seized in 2012 by Polk County deputies working with the Mid Iowa Narcotics Enforcement team in a case involving her son.

She fought the forfeiture and managed to get both her car and most of her cash back — minus a few hundred dollars that seemingly disappeared.

Some people assume that anybody traveling with large amounts of cash is up to no good, but there are plenty of horror stories of travelers losing their life savings to thieves with badges to show otherwise. Other cases involve seizure of homes or businesses because, for example, a son was arrested for drug use or a customer used a hotel room for a crime.

While asset forfeiture is likely to be more catastrophic for the victim, it is kindred to highway speed cameras as a corrupt use of law enforcement powers for revenue. It is an inherently unethical, unjust, and third-world way to raise revenue. If you aren’t willing to fund your local Sheriff with property taxes, you shouldn’t ask him to fund himself from passers-by.

Other stories in the Des Moines Register series:

Iowa forfeiture: Forfeiture spending questioned in Iowa, elsewhere

Iowa forfeiture: A ‘system of legal thievery?

 

20120906-1Des Moines Register, Branstad: Iowa ‘blessed’ to have Hy-Vee; defends tax credits.

Gov. Terry Branstad is defending the state’s decision to award $7.5 million in state tax credits to Hy-Vee Inc. at the same time one of the grocery company’s chief competitors in the Des Moines market has closed its doors because of bankruptcy.

I shop at Hy-Vee, and I like them just fine. Still, they are a 100% ESOP-owned, presumably through an S corporation, meaning they pay no income taxes. Do they need tax credits, too? Their competitor Dahl’s won’t get this credit — they died. Iowa-based Fareway isn’t getting this sweet subsidy — let alone Price Chopper, Aldi, IGA, Super-Valu, Target, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods…

 

William Perez, How to Get a Federal Tax Credit for the Cost of Child Care

TaxGrrrl, As Tax Day Nears, Don’t Panic: File For Extension. Far better to extend than to amend.

Robert Wood, Ten Things You Should Know About IRS Form 1099. “Before you file taxes, collect all your IRS Forms 1099 and pay attention to each one. The IRS sure does.”

Peter Reilly, Exelon Subsidiary Denied Tax Breaks On Three Mile Island Purchase.

Jack Townsend, Swiss Bank Enablers Get Unsupervised Probation and Relatively Light Fines. We need to shoot the jaywalkers so we can wrist-slap the real criminals.

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Kay Bell, It’s clear that all tax exempt categories need to be re-evaluated. Scientology is today’s topic.

Clint Stretch, Who Should Pay for the Mess We’re In? (Tax Analysts Blog)

Renu Zaretsky, Just the Facts, Ma’am: On Filing and Reform. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers whether the Rubio-Lee tax plan includes refundable personal credits and the trade-offs of public pension reform.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 691. He links to Robert Wood discussing the reflexive strategy of obstruction and lies that has become standard operating procedure in the executive branch.

 

And: Tomorrow we start our run to the end of filing season with our 2015 filing season tax tips. Collect one, collect them all!

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

Monday, March 30th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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And here is the site yesterday:

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

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

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

Related:

Sunday Morning Skywalks.

Goodbye, Younkers Building.

A VISIT(ATION) TO DOWNTOWN YOUNKERS

DOWNTOWN YOUNKERS PICTURES

 

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

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

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

 

This may be the most depressing tax case I’ve ever seen. From MyFox8.com:

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

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

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

 


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

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

William Perez, What Is the Alternative Minimum Tax?

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

Younkers Tea Room in its last week.

Younkers Tea Room in its last week.

Joseph Henchman, Nevada Governor Attacks Tax Foundation Report:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Younkers elevator

 

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

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

 

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

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

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Tax Roundup, 3/26/15: Not every project is an “activity,” and why that’s a good thing. And: starting Iowa’s tax law fresh.

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

What’s an activity? The tax law’s “passive loss” rules limit business losses when a taxpayer fails to “materially participate” in an “activity.” Whether an “activity” is “passive” is mostly 20150326-2based on the amount of time spent in the activity by the taxpayer. That can raise a tricky question: just what is an “activity?”

Many businesses do multiple things. Take a CPA firm that does tax and auditing. If those feckless auditors lose money, is that a separate “activity” from the hard-working tax side? Or consider a convenience store owner with two locations; is each a separate activity, or are they one big activity?

The Tax Court addressed this problem yesterday in a case involving a South Florida developer. Greatly simplifying a complex story of real estate backstabbing and inter-family rivalry, the problem was whether an S corporation was the same “activity” as a partnership with the same owners set up for s specific development project. If so, family patriarch Mr. Lamas could cross the basic 500-hour threshold for participation in the combined activity, making his losses deductible.

Judge Buch explains the IRS regulation (1.469-4(c)) governing this issue:

This regulation sets forth five factors that are “given the greatest weight in determining whether activities constitute an appropriate economic unit for the measurement of gain or loss for purposes of section 469″:

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

(ii) The extent of common control;

(iii) The extent of common ownership;

(iv) Geographical 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).

This regulation further instructs that taxpayers can “use any reasonable method of applying the relevant facts and circumstances” to group activities, and that not all of the five factors are “necessary for a taxpayer to treat more than more activity as a single activity”.

Equality in action in the Soviet Union on the Belomor Canal

The judge said that Shoma (the S corporation) and Greens (the partnership) met these requirements, considering they had the same control and both were in the same general business. Also:

Finally, Shoma and Greens were interdependent. Greens operated out of Shoma offices, used Shoma employees, and consolidated its financial reporting with Shoma’s. Greens was formed by Shoma as a condominium conversion project. The shareholders intended that Greens be dissolved after the project was completed and the capital returned to its shareholders.

Because Shoma and Greens meet these five factors, we find that they are an appropriate economic unit and should be grouped as a single activity.

The taxpayer was able to satisfy the court through witness testimony and phone records that he met the 500-hour requirement.

This case is good news for developers, as this structure is common in that business: a permanent S corporation sets up new LLCs for each development project. This case correctly concludes that they are all part of the same development business.

Cite: Lamas, T.C. Memo 2015-59.

 

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.

Me, What an Iowa income tax might look like with a fresh start. My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record Business Professionals’ Blog, on what Iowa’s tax system might look like if we could start over. A taste:

A system designed from scratch would apply the ultimate simplification to Iowa’s corporation income tax: it wouldn’t have one. Iowa’s corporation income tax is rated the very worst, with extreme complexity and the highest rate of any state. 
 
Eliminating the corporation income tax would eliminate the justification for almost all of the various state incentive tax credits, all of which violate the principles of neutrality and simplicity in the first place. For its astronomical rates and complexity, it generates a paltry portion of the state’s revenue, typically 4-7 percent of state receipts.
 
For S corporations, a from-the-ground-up tax reform might tax Iowa resident shareholders only on the greater of distributions of S corporation income, or interest, dividends, and other investment income earned by the S corporations. The investment income provision would prevent the use of an S corporation as a tax-deferred investment. The effect would be to put S corporations on about the same footing as C corporations.

I have little hope in the legislature actually doing something sensible, but we have to start somewhere. I’d love to hear any thoughts readers may have.

 

 

Roger McEowen addresses the Tax Consequences When Debt is Discharged (ISU-CALT): “There are several relief provisions that a debtor may be able to use to avoid the general rule that discharge of indebtedness amounts are income, but a big one for farmers is the rule for ‘qualified farm indebtedness.'”

Russ Fox, A Break in my Hiatus: Poker Chips and Tax Evasion. Russ lifts his head from his tax returns to tell of the tax problems of a poker chip maker that he has personal experience with. “A helpful hint to anyone wanting to emulate Mr. Kendall: Just pay employees in the normal way, on the books, and send the withholding where it belongs.”

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): N Is For Nonrefundable Tax Credits

Robert Wood, Tax Fraud Draws 6 1/2 Year Prison Term Despite Alzheimer’s. Specifically, a dubious claim of Alzheimer’s.

Peter Reilly, Did Andie MacDowell’s Mountain Hideaway Require Tax Incentives? To listen to some people, you’d believe nothing good ever happened until tax credits were invented.

 

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Jason Dinesen, Financing a Small Business, Part 5 of 5: Know When to Keep Quiet With the Banker. “Here are a couple of real-world examples I’ve seen where business owners got hung up with the bank because the owner wouldn’t stop talking.”

This has lessons for IRS exams, too.

Kay Bell, Obamacare, bitcoin add twists to 2014 tax filing checklist

Annette Nellen, Another Affordable Care Act Oddity. “Perhaps the problem is more tied to the “cliff” in the PTC that causes someone to completely lose the subsidy once their income crosses the 400% of the FPL (more on that here).”

William Perez, How Much Can You Deduct by Contributing to a Traditional IRA?

 

Alan Cole, Richard Borean, Tom VanAntwerpWhich Places Benefit Most from State and Local Tax Deductions? (Tax Policy Blog):

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The short answer? Places with high state tax rates and high-income earners. Note the purple spot right in the middle of Iowa.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 686

Renu Zaretsky, Sense and Sensibilities. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the House GOP budget, a Texas tax cut, and tax-delinquent federal employees.

 

Richard Phillips, How Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz Would Radically Increase Taxes on Everyone But the Rich (Tax Justice Blog). A taste:

On the flat tax, Cruz has not yet spelled out a specific plan that he would like to see enacted, but it’s unlikely that any plan he proposed will be significantly better than the extremely regressive flat tax proposals that have been offered in the past.

Or, “we don’t know what he will do, but it will be terrible!”

 

Caleb Newquist, Big 4 Gunning for Big Law. To steal a cheap line: who wins if the Big 4 and Big Law fight to the death? Everybody!

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Tax Roundup, 3/25/15: Why the casino may not be the place to invest those millions from that Chinese guy.

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

In the movies, an American who is entrusted with millions from a Chinese shipping magnate, but blows it at casinos, would face unimaginably dire consequences. In real life, he faces the IRS.

20120511-2That’s the story in a weird Tax Court case decided yesterday. The shipping magnate, a Mr Cheung, had fared poorly as an investor. He met a Mr. Sun from Texas and decided that he might be better at investing. He shipped the money to a C corporation and an e-Trade account owned by Mr. Sun, under a handshake deal with fuzzy terms. Judge Paris explains:

The only part of the arrangement that both Mr. Cheung and Mr. Sun consistently agreed on was the general structure of the investment. Mr. Cheung would transfer sums of money through his shipping companies’ bank accounts to Mr. Sun, who would then invest the money in the United States. Mr. Cheung would decide how much money he wished to send, and Mr. Sun had discretion on which investments to pursue with Mr. Cheung’s money.

The remaining terms of the verbal agreement were not memorialized and are unclear. Specifically, Mr. Sun and Mr. Cheung inconsistently described the investment term, the expected return, and enforcement provisions. Mr. Sun believed the term was a minimum of 5 years and did not give a maximum period, whereas Mr. Cheung believed the term was 7 to 10 years. The expected return is also unclear; Mr. Sun believed the return on investment would be a 50-50 split of the net profit with a minimum 10% gain annually, but the return might not be paid annually. Mr. Cheung believed the return would be 10% to 15%, but was uncertain whether that return was annual or total.

Not the sort of investment arrangement Suze Orman or Dave Ramsey would embrace. Nor would they embrace some of the “investments” described in the Tax Court case.

The funds sent to Mr. Sun’s C corporation went into an “officer loan account” for Mr. Sun. And then… well, again from Judge Paris (emphasis mine):

Mr. Sun would either pay his personal expenses directly from the officer loan account or he would remove money and use it at his discretion. For example, in 2008 Minchem paid $135,874.43 for home automation, $158,517.80 for a new Mercedes Benz, and $49,598.81 for personal real estate tax. In total, Minchem’s officer loan account was debited $4,116,414.43 in 2008 and $1,811,127.65 in 2009 for expenses that Mr. Sun identified as personal during his trial testimony.

Some of the personal expenditures included gambling expenses. In 2008 $4,800,100 was transferred to casinos from the officer loan account and $2,394,550 was returned. In 2009 $1 million was transferred to casinos and $1,300,000 was returned. Thus between 2008 and 2009 Mr. Sun transferred $5,800,100 from the officer loan account to casinos and received back $3,694,550; i.e., over the two years in issue Mr. Sun lost $2,105,550 from gambling from the officer loan account.

20120801-2Judge Paris said that the funds never belonged to the C corporation because it was a mere conduit for the cash; that meant the corporation was not taxable on the amounts.

Mr. Sun didn’t get off so easy. Judge Paris said that the funds became income to Mr. Sun when he began spending them for his own purposes (citations omitted):

Whether funds have been misappropriated is a question of fact, but facts beyond “dominion and control” must be considered. More specifically, an individual misappropriates funds when money has been entrusted to the individual for the sole purpose of investing and the individual instead uses the money for personal activities.

Mr. Sun undisputedly treated as his own money held for Mr. Cheung’s benefit and specifically earmarked for investment purposes. For example, Mr. Sun used some of the funds to purchase a personal automobile and a home automation system. Perhaps the most obvious example of Mr. Sun’s misappropriation of the funds is his gambling activities.

The opinion dismissed the idea that the funds were loans because there was no documentation of any sort of loan agreement or terms. The court said that the amounts weren’t gifts because no Form 3520, where U.S.  taxpayers report large foreign gifts, was filed, and because there was no evidence of an intent to make a gift.

While the Tax Court ruled that Mr. Sun misappropriated the money, it ruled that the IRS failed to prove fraud. That meant the penalties were only 25% of the roughly $4.7 million of additional tax, rather than the 75% under the civil fraud rules.

The Moral? Hard to say. Don’t squander millions of dollars entrusted to you for investment at casinos? You didn’t need the Tax Court to tell you that. Maybe it’s a handy reminder to file Form 3520 if you receive large foreign gifts, lest the IRS get the wrong idea (and lest they hit you with a $10,000 penalty for not filing it). And if you have had bad luck with your investments, maybe index funds are a better way to go than a handshake deal with some guy in Texas.

Cite: Minchem International, Inc., et. al., T.C. Memo 2015-56.

 

Kyle Pomerleau, U.S. Taxpayers Face the 6th Highest Top Marginal Capital Gains Tax Rate in the OECD (Tax Policy Blog):

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The United States currently places a heavy tax burden on saving and investment with its capital gains tax. The U.S.’s top marginal tax rate on capital gains, combined with state rates, far exceeds the average rates faced throughout the industrialized world. Increasing taxes on capital income, as suggested in the president’s recent budget proposal, would further the bias against saving, leading to lower levels of investment and slower economic growth. Lowering taxes on capital gains would have the reverse effect, increasing investment and leading to greater economic growth.

But, but, the rich!

 

IMG_1388William Perez covers Various Types of Individual Retirement Accounts.

Paul Neiffer, Tax Court Allows $11 Million Horse Loss to Stand. “Now, though this is a victory for the taxpayer in Tax Court, they are still out over $11 million in losses (or more).  I am not sure if it really is an overall win for the taxpayers.”

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): M Is For Municipal Bonds.

Jason Dinesen discusses Recordkeeping Considerations for a Startup Business.

Roger McEowen, USDA Releases Proposed Definition of “Actively Engaged in Farming” That Would Have Little Practical Application. Sounds useful.

Kay Bell, $42 million Montana mansion owner loses property tax fight. Looks like a nice place.

Jim Maule, When Social Security Benefits Aren’t Social Security Benefits: When They Meet Tax. “By reducing social security benefits on account of the state retirement system benefit payments, the Congress causes the portion of the taxpayer’s overall retirement receipts that is treated as taxable pension payments to increase, which in turn not only increases gross income on its own account but generates gross income from a portion of the social security benefits.”

Joni Larson, Proposal to Amend Section 7453 to Provide that the Tax Court Apply the Federal Rules of Evidence (Procedurally Taxing)

 

Tony Nitti, Ted Cruz To Run For President: Why His Plan For A Flat Tax May Doom His Candidacy:

Whether a move to a much more regressive system than the one currently in place is ultimately in the best interest of the economy and country is irrelevant; the Democrats will seize on the shift in the tax burden and continue to paint Republican candidates as seeking only to placate the rich.

I think Hillary Clinton, or whoever the nominee is, will do that to any Republican opponent, regardless of any actual policy positions. The question is whether they will be able to more successfully deal with the issue than Mr. Romney.

Robert Wood, Taxing Stephen King, Taylor Swift And Phil Mickelson

 

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Renu Zaretsky, Tax Struggles and Tax Sneaks. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup has stories about how Orrin Hatch wants tax reform and John Koskinen wants more money.

David Brunori, Louisiana Tax Reform: Some Smart Guys Worth Listening To (Tax Analysts Blog)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 685.  Today’s post features Media Matters, living proof that the IRS concern over political activity was rather selective.

 

Career Corner. Confirmed: Golf More Difficult Than CPA Exam (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). But almost as much fun!

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/24/15: Goldilocks and the medical practice. And: the spirit is willing, but the Tax Fairy is weak.

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2Reasonable Compensation and the Goldilocks Rule. The IRS has been fighting taxpayers over how much compensation is “reasonable” since Great-grandpa realized he could reduce his corporate tax by taking it out as a salary. The agency historically fought this war over whether taxpayers were taking too much compensation. The IRS has since opened a second front, arguing that S corporation owner-employees were improperly reducing their employment taxes by taking too little salary out of the corporation. Employee owners now need to find a comp level that is “just right.”

As in any two-front war, a victory on one front might cause problems on the other. A Tax Court victory yesterday for the IRS over an eye doctor who took “too much” compensation may give ammunition to S corporation professional practices that take corporate earnings out via their K-1s and distributions — free of Medicare taxes — rather than as salary and bonus.

Judge Kerrigan says Dr. Ahmad, the owner and principal employee of Midwest Eye Center, took four $500,000 bonuses in November and Decemeber of 2007. This wiped out corporate income, which would likely have otherwise been taxed at a flat 35% rate under the “professional corporation” tax rules. They even overdid the bonus a little, carrying a net operating loss into 2008.

The taxpayer failed to convince the judge that the bonus was “reasonable”:

Petitioner produced no evidence of comparable salaries. Instead, petitioner argues that there are no “like enterprises” under “like circumstances” from which to draw comparisons. Petitioner argues that Dr. Ahmad’s large bonus was reasonable for several other reasons. Petitioner points to Dr. Ahmad’s increased workload during 2007 and the various roles that Dr. Ahmad performed, such as CEO, CFO, and COO, and the corresponding managerial duties of those positions. However, petitioner did not provide any methodology to show how Dr. Ahmad’s bonus was determined in relation to these responsibilities.

This tells us that when you have a C corporation owned by a single professional, you have to do more to determine how much bonus is “reasonable” than estimate what the pre-bonus taxable income is. If you are going to suck the income out of such a corporation through bonuses, it is wise to have written bonus criteria that make sense when compared to other practices.

It might be even better to make an S corporation election. The medical practice C corporation was hit with over $320,000 in tax on $1 million “excessive” compensation (and some other items), and another $62,000 in penalties — all of which would have been avoided in an S corporation, where all income is taxed on the 1040 regardless of whether it is “excessive.”

In fact, this case helps S corporation professional practices a little, in that it is evidence that it is not “reasonable” to assume that all income of the practice has to come out as compensation subject to employment taxes.

Cite: Midwest Eye Center, S.C., T.C. Memo 2015-53.

 

tax fairyIRS says “Rabbi” had a tax practice that wasn’t entirely orthodox. A Department of Justice Tax Press Release tells a story of a man who sought the Tax Fairy in the Torah:

The lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of California, alleges that Lawrence Preston Siegel, aka Larry Lave, Yehuda Lave and Larry Easy, falsely represented that he is a licensed attorney and CPA in order to solicit business for his tax practice. 

According to the civil injunction suit, Siegel pleaded guilty to one count of tax evasion and two counts of subscribing false tax returns in 1994.  He subsequently resigned from the California bar in 1994, lost his CPA license in 1997, and never regained either accreditation, according to the suit.  The complaint alleges that following his release from federal prison in 2001 for additional convictions, Siegel established a tax practice and stated online that he is an “[i]interesting combination of a Tax Lawyer and CPA who is also a Rabbi trained in Spirituality.”  Siegel, the complaint alleges, claimed to others that his “goal as a spiritual Rabbi, Tax Attorney and CPA is to save people money without going to jail … Everybody wants to pay very little tax, I do it legally and morally under the Torah.” 

It never occurred to me that a Rabbi would require the qualifier “trained in Spirituality.” Isn’t that the whole idea? In any case, he isn’t well-trained in tax, if the Justice Department press release is to be believed (my emphasis):

According to the complaint, among his tax fraud schemes, Siegel falsely advised his customers, typically high earners who own profitable businesses, that they can establish companies in Nevada and treat their California home as an out-of-state corporate office.  Siegel falsely claimed that doing so would transform a vast array of non-deductible personal expenses into tax deductible business expenses, according to the suit.  According to the complaint, Siegel boasted about this tax fraud scheme in e-mails, including one where he falsely claimed that his customers are entitled to free housing as tax-free compensation from their out-of-state companies and that “[t]he housing can [b]e luxurious and cost thousands a [] month” because “[t]here is an assumption that corporations don’t waste money.”

What’s amazing to me is that (if the allegations are true) he had clients who actually believed this. Religious or secular, reform or orthodox, believer or non-believer, the desire to believe in the Tax Fairy is strong among all races, religions and belief systems. But there is no tax fairy.

 

terrace hill 20150321

 

Kristine TidgrenExpanded Relief for Taxpayers Receiving Erroneous 1095-As:

On Friday, March 20, CMS announced that it had discovered additional 1095-A errors among those forms issued by both State-run exchanges and the federally-facilitated exchange. CMS is notifying taxpayers impacted by these errors with emails, phone calls, and messages in their Marketplace accounts. Because of these errors, Treasury is expanding the relief it offered in February.

Now, anyone who (1) enrolled in any type of marketplace coverage, (2) received an incorrect Form 1095-A, and (3) filed their return based upon that form, does not need to file an amended tax return. The IRS will not pursue the collection of any additional taxes based on updated information contained in the corrected forms. This relief applies to tax filers who enrolled through either the federally-facilitated marketplace or a state-based marketplace. As provided before, taxpayers who were harmed by the errors may file amended returns to collect the difference.

So the liability of a taxpayer for potentially thousands of dollars in taxes depends on two items:

1. Whether the exchange botched the 1095-A filing, and

2. Whether the taxpayer filed before the 1095-A was corrected.

These are whimsical criteria on which to stake thousands of dollars of tax credits.

 

Chicago Tribune, It’s Obamacare’s first tax season. Can the IRS handle it?Kristy Maitre of the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation is quoted: “Overall, I do not believe they’re as prepared as they could have been.”

Hank Stern, The Best Laid Plans [Updated]. “In other words, a lot of folks with even rudimentary math skills have figured out that paying the fine penalty tax and “going bare” is a much more cost-effective choice than buying coverage.”

Robert Wood, Happy Anniversary Obamacare Taxes, Many Happy Returns.

 

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Norton Francis, Bobby Jindal’s Revenue Enhancements (TaxVox). “His trick: Turn refundable business credits into non-refundable credits.”

Kay Bell, Downton Abbey’s new tax connection via Rep. Aaron Schock

Tyler Cowen presents New arguments on a carbon tax, including one that suggests a way in which “…a carbon tax could make global warming worse.”

Martin Sullivan, U.S. Effective CorporateTax Rate Higher Than Foreign Competitors? Not Really (Tax Analysts Blog)

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 684

 

News from the Profession. Conducting Tax Return Update Meetings at the Gym Maybe Not the Best Idea (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). “If a client requests a meeting at a location where heavy objects are laying around, and there’s an off-chance that the news you have may be anything other than positive, may we suggest an alternative venue.”

 

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

Monday, March 23rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

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

 

obamasignsaca

President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act. Image via wikimedia.org

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

Peter Reilly, Ninth Circuit Rules Against War Tax Resister

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

I’ll take the underdog.

 

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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, 3/18/15: In Spite of all the Danger, state shuts down revenue cameras. And more!

Wednesday, March 18th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
Flickr image by Robert Couse-Baker under Creative Commons license

Flickr image by Robert Couse-Baker used under Creative Commons license

Des Moines to lose freeway revenue cameras. The Iowa Department of Revenue moved to reduce the tax on strangers driving through Des Moines yesterday by ordering the city to shut down its speed cameras in I-235. From The Des Moines Register:

Ten of 34 automated traffic enforcement cameras on or adjacent to Iowa highways must be shut down by April 17 because they are not making roads safer, the state’s Department of Transportation ruled Tuesday.

Among the 10 that would be powered down are speed enforcement cameras on eastbound Interstate Highway 235 near Waveland Golf Course in Des Moines.

Department of Transportation traffic and safety director Steve Gent explained:

Gent said that that section of I-235 is safe, with a crash rate that is significantly lower than the state average for urban interstates. In addition, the crash rate there has not changed significantly since the cameras’ installation, he said.

People who live here know where the cameras are. It’s people who are new to town, who have been driving 75 all the way from Omaha, and who hit town when traffic is light, who are likely to get the tickets. Of course, the municipal highwaymen are not pleased:

“We give out 43,000 tickets a year there to people who that are going 11 miles an hour or more over the speed limit,” Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie said. “It’s amazing to me that the DOT doesn’t think that that is a safety issue.”

Hmmm. The cameras aren’t reducing speeding; the number of tickets issued is holding steady. They aren’t reducing the accident rate. But safety is at risk! The the safety of the municipal revenue stream. “Last year, 43,032 citations were issued, which generated about $1.2 million for the city, officials said.”

Related:

The city needs to pick your pockets for four more years to be sure you are safe.

Des Moines revenue cameras: $32,305 per accident ‘prevented’

 

eic 2014The TaxProf reports GAO: Improper Government Payments Increased 18% in 2014, to $125 Billion; EITC’s 27% Error Rate Is Highest of Any Program. That’s $17.7 billion either misdirected or stolen annually under “our most effective anti-poverty program.” It certainly helps reduce the poverty of the scammers and grifters that rob the program, and the shady preparers who make it easier.

 

 

 

TaxGrrrl, Understanding Your Forms: Form 1098, Mortgage Interest Statement

And probably not YOUR situation. Clothing tax deductions are OK, but just in certain situations (Kay Bell)

Peter Reilly, Dude Ranch Shareholders Stuck With Corporate Tax – It’s All About Execution. A “Midcoast” transaction falls afoul of “transferee liability.”

Robert Wood, There’s Still Time To Turn Your Hobby Into A Tax Write-off. “Will the IRS pay for your hobby? The short answer is no, at least if you ask the question this way. But sometimes, the IRS will foot the bill provided you make your pastime enough of a real business to qualify.”

Jason Dinesen, Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 4: Joint Returns Still the Norm in 1917

Tony Nitti, Take The Tax Bracket Challenge: Which Is The Best Code Section Of Them All?. My favorite is Sec. 6313, without which the whole edifice must fall. It reads in full:

In the payment of any tax imposed by this title, a fractional part of a cent shall be disregarded unless it amounts to one-half cent or more, in which case it shall be increased to 1 cent.

 

If only the whole tax law were that clear and easy to understand.

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 678. The IRS role in criminalizing political opposition is discussed.

Clint Stretch, How to Make Tax Return Filing Easier (Tax Analysts Blog)

Scott Hodge, A Response to Josh Barro on Dynamic Scoring (Tax Policy Blog).

Howard Gleckman, The House GOP Budget As Can Opener: An Impossible Task and A New Lesson in Dynamic Budget Scoring (TaxVox)

Caleb Newquist, Triple Entry Accounting: Harebrained or Genius? (Going Concern). “I’ve never been to SXSW, but I imagine that all the smart people talking about smart ideas and getting all smart with each other is nauseating.”

 

Hiryu, the fourth and last Japanese aircraft carrier destroyed at the Battle of Midway 70 years ago today.

Hiryu, the fourth and last Japanese aircraft carrier destroyed at the Battle of Midway

Yes, because it worked so well the last time.  Japan should follow wartime slogan to deal with tax evasion, LDP lawmaker says:

Junko Mihara, a House of Councilors member from the ruling party, referred to the slogan hakko ichiu at a meeting of the Upper House Budget Committee on Monday, saying it represented “values Japan has cherished since its founding.”

The term roughly translates as “all the world under one roof.”

During the Sino-Japanese war and World War II, the Japanese government used the slogan to justify its Emperor-centered policies and overseas expansion.

If that doesn’t work, they can always rebrand it as The Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. I’m sure neighboring countries would be on board.

 

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

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Picture by Dan Kristan

Picture of Irish countryside by Dan Kristan

 

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/13/15: Making the ultimate sacrifice to tax administration. And: Tax Sadist Tourism!

Friday, March 13th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SPA51928.JPG#/media/File:SPA51928.JPG

“SPA51928″ by Jan Leineberg – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

Maybe I should leave my office door open. A tax office official in Finland who died at his desk was not found by his colleagues for two days (BBC, via the TaxProf):

The man in his 60s died last Tuesday while checking tax returns, but no-one realised he was dead until Thursday.

The head of personnel at the office in the Finnish capital, Helsinki, said the man’s closest colleagues had been out at meetings when he died.

He said everyone at the tax office was feeling dreadful – and procedures would have to be reviewed.

Procedures? Like what? I can see the memo now:

To: All Employees

From: Pekka Raanta, HR director

Re: New Procedures

The recent unfortunate incident involving our dear colleague highlights a need for new procedures for preventing a recurrence of the incident. The presence of unauthorized dead in the office poses both safety and administrative issues.

To ensure early deduction of deaths among our colleagues, we will initiate the following MANDATORY daily procedures.

1. The office manager is to begin each day by kicking all employees. The receptionist will kick the office manager. Should they not respond, please complete form HR-6-MORT.

2. At 10 am and 2 pm each day, we will have a roll call. THIS IS IMPORTANT. Please do not answer the roll for an absent colleague, as this could inadvertenly conceal a death.

3. Buddy system. You will be assigned a “death buddy” by the H.R. Department. You and your death buddy will be responsible for continuous respiration monitoring. Should you go on break or to the restroom, IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO SECURE A SUBSTITUTE. You are also responsible for making mutually satisfactory arrangements to vacation together.

4. ALL EMPLOYEES are required to attend training to enable you to identify dead colleagues. Warning signs such as unusually low productivity and wearing the same outfit for consecutive days will be covered. We realize that it can be difficult to distiguish between the productivity of the dead and the normally-functioning, but there are important signs to look for.

Pihla will complete our colleague’s final time report. Please charge the final two days to “diversity training.” 

I wonder if there is a Purple Heart for tax officials who die at their desks. TaxGrrrl has more on this important story.

 

Foggy Friday at Principal Park. Opening day looms in the fog, April 17!

Foggy Friday at Principal Park. Opening day looms in the fog, April 17!

Russ Fox reminds us that Corporate Tax Deadline is Monday, March 16th and Form 1042 Filing Deadline is Monday, March 16th. Form 1042 reports most foreign withholding, except for partner withholding.

 

Jack Townsend, Judge Posner Confronts a Crackpot in a Tax Crimes Case. “The point is, Judge Posner entertains.”

Jim Maule, Moving? Let the IRS Know. “The lesson is undeniable. Taxpayers who move need to send a change of address notice to the IRS.”

Peter Lowy covers the same case as Prof. Maule in Gyorgy v Comm’r Tees Up Important Procedural issues at Procedurally Taxing.

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

Robert Wood, Fake IRS Agent Scam Targets Public, Even Feds, While Identity Theft Tax Fraud Is Rampant. “Senate testimony shows just how serious fraudsters are at tax time, and just how easy it is for them to get your tax refund.”

Tom Giovanetti,, Blame the IRS and Congress, not software, for tax fraud (The Hill)

Responsibility falls squarely at the feet of the IRS to enforce existing law but ultimately to Congress, as it’s within Congress’s power to reform and simplify programs and restructure administrator incentives to identify and prosecute fraud.

That’s why it’s shameful to see Congress pass the buck and attempt to pin the blame for tax fraud on . . . tax preparation software. That’s right—according to some in Congress, apparently TurboTax is to blame.

Blaming TurboTax for the way the IRS sends billions to thieves every year is like blaming GM for a bank robbery when a Chevy was used as the getaway car.

 

Peter Reilly, Jury Finds Kent Hovind Guilty Of Contempt Of Court No Verdict On Fraud Charges. More on the sago of the founder of the young earth creationist theme park.

 

20130316-1Kyle Pomerleau, Irish Business Leader Calls for Income Tax Reform:

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

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

I did not know that.

 

Robert Goulder, Reading Between the Lines (Tax Analysts Blog). “Reading between the lines, we can surmise that conservatives in Congress are now trying to decide which is worse: Camp’s revenue raisers or a federal consumption tax.”

Kay Bell, Old online sales tax bill resurrected in new Senate

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 673. My high school classmate got pushed around by Lois Lerner in her FEC days, and Politico can’t be bothered to care.

Carl Davis, Nine States and Counting Have Raised the Gas Tax Since 2013 (Tax Justice Blog)

G. William Hoagland, Dynamic Scoring Forum: Overblown Concerns? (TaxVox)

 

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Tony Nitti, House Bill Would Provide Tax Deduction For Gym Membership; Shake Weight. I wonder how long it would take to start qualifying gyms specializing in 12-ounce curls to tap into this?

Alberto Mingardi, Greece and tax sadist tourism (EconLog):

The Greek government apparently announced that it wants to hire part timers as “undercover agents to grab out tax evaders”. Tourists, students and housewives could work armed with wireless devices to catch shopkeepers and service providers who do not issue receipts when they sell goods and services.

The application of the concept to tourists potentially opens up a new whole kind of business: sadistic tourism. Syriza regularly portrays Germans as evil people that want to make the poor Greek suffer: why not turning that into a profitable line of activity for the government? Come to Greece. Ouzo, great sea, beautiful landscapes, moussaka, and you’ll have the pleasure to force dirty little shopkeepers to pay their dues to the government!

If the Treasury Employees Union has a travel office, this could be a popular offering.

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/12/2015: Tails and legs: Tax Court says that by any name, refundable tax credits are income.

Thursday, March 12th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20120801-2Yesterday the Tax Court ruled that refundable business incentive tax credits issued by New York generate taxable income. Judge Holmes made the decision entertaining. Well, except maybe for the taxpayer who lost.

Credits works differently from deductions. A $100 tax credit reduces your tax by $100, while a $100 deduction reduces the tax of a taxpayer in the 25% bracket by only $25. When a credit is “refundable,” if it exceeds the tax you would otherwise owe, the government sends you a check for the excess. The federal Earned Income Tax Credit is the most common example. Iowa has several such credits, including its EITC and its research credit for business.

New York also uses refundable credits. Judge Holmes sets the stage (all emphasis is mine):

New York State uses extremely targeted tax credits as an incentive for extremely targeted economic development in extremely targeted locations. Those who receive these credits may be extremely benefited — even if they do not owe any state income tax, New York calls the credits overpayments of income tax and makes them refundable. David and Tami Maines say that none of the credits should be taxable because New York labels them “overpayments” of past state income tax, and they never claimed prior deductions for state income tax. The Commissioner disagrees and argues that these refundable credits are, in substance even if not in name, cash subsidies to private enterprise — and just another form of taxable income.

The taxpayer said that because New York called the refundable amount of the credits “overpayments,” they were like withholding:

So the key question in this case becomes whether a federal court applying federal law has to go along with New York’s definition.

The Maineses understand the importance of this question, and they argue that if New York State tax law calls these payments “overpayments” we have no power to call them something different. They point to cases like Aquilino v. United States, 363 U.S. 509, 513 (1960) (quoting United States v. Bess, 357 U.S. 51, 55 (1958)), where the Supreme Court held that Federal tax law “‘creates no property rights but merely attaches consequences, federally defined, to rights created under state law.”‘

Judge Holmes is unconvinced (my emphasis):

The Commissioner does not challenge these cases. And he also agrees that New York law labels the credits as “income tax credits,” and excesses or surpluses as “overpayments” of state income tax for state-tax purposes. But is a state’s legal label for a state-created right binding on the federal government? Here begins the disagreement. The Maineses contend that New York’s tax-law label of these excess EZ Credits as overpayments is a legal interest that binds the Commissioner and us when we analyze their taxability Lincolnunder federal law. The Commissioner warns that if this were true, a state could undermine federal tax law simply by including certain descriptive language in its statute. To use Lincoln’s famous example, if New York called a tail a leg, we’d have to conclude that a dog has five legs in New York as a matter of federal law. See George W. Julian, “Lincoln and the Proclamation of Emancipation,” in Reminiscences of Abraham Lincoln by Distinguished Men of His Time (Allen Thorndike Rice, ed., Harper & Bros. Publishers 1909), 227, 242 (1885), available at https://archive.org/details/cu31924012928937.

We have to side with the Commissioner (and Lincoln) on this one: “Calling the tail a leg would not make it a leg.” Id. Our precedents establish that a particular label given to a legal relationship or transaction under state law is not necessarily controlling for federal tax purposes.

The taxpayer advanced a more novel argument:

The Maineses also contend that their credits are excludable from their taxable income as welfare. The Commissioner has long held that certain payments from social-benefit programs that promote the general welfare are not includible in gross income.

I’ve called such credits “Corporate welfare” at least once or twice myself. But calling a tail a leg, or corporate welfare, doesn’t make it welfare for tax exclusion purposes:

Critics of programs like New York’s might call them “corporate welfare.” But that’s just a metaphor — the credits that New York gave to the Maineses were not conditioned on their showing need, which means they do not qualify for exclusion from taxable income under the general-welfare exception. See also, e.g., Rev. Rul. 2005-46 (holding that state grants for expenses incurred by businesses that agree to operate in disaster areas are not excludable under the general-welfare exclusion).

We therefore hold that portions of the excess EZ Investment and Wage Credits that do not just reduce state-tax liability but are actually refundable are taxable income.

New York FlagOne interesting thing about the New York credits at issue is that they can either be refunded, at the cost of a loss of some of the credits, or carried forward in full at the taxpayers option. In a footnote, Judge Holmes says that while the taxpayer has the option of whether to claim the refund, there is no option on when it affects taxable income:

Recall that whether or not the Maineses choose to receive the refundable portion of the credit, they are in constructive receipt of it and therefore must include it in their gross income.

This is a full-dress “reported” Tax Court decision, which means it is meant to guide future litigation in this area. A footnote in the decision says there are 10 other related New York cases pending. It has obvious implications for the Iowa research credit and historical building credits, which are refundable. There are many other such refundable tax credits in other states.  I never doubted that such credits were taxable “accessions to wealth,” and the Tax Court feels the same way.

Cite: Maines, 144 T.C. No. 8.

 

The Des Moines Register reports Lawmaker proposes end to Iowa taxes on pensions:

Sen. Roby Smith, a Republican, has introduced Senate File 277, which would phase out taxes on retirement income over five years, starting in fiscal year 2017. The measure is co-sponsored by 23 Republican senators. He said that during his re-election campaign last fall, one of the common complaints he heard from older Iowa voters was the need to pay taxes on retirement income.

Let me register my complaint about having to pay taxes on income while I’m working. Can I get an exemption?

IMG_1284This sort of carve-out is a classic example of how the tax law goes bad. High rates make people motivated to carve out breaks for themselves. It works especially well if those seeking the breaks are organized and have time to spare to press their case, like retired folks.

But giving tax breaks just by virtue of age or working status is the wrong way to go. If a retired person is poor, reduce his taxes to take his poverty into account (the tax law already does so in a number of ways). But if he is wealthy and retired, why should he get a better deal than a less-wealthy person who still trudges to work every day? In terms of wealth, the elderly are better off than the not-so-elderly, as a group.

It would be much better for the legislature to cut the rates for everyone, get rid of special carve outs for the politically influential, and help the poor, of whatever age, with a reasonable exemption for low-income taxpayers.

 

Jason Dinesen asks Why Do Unethical Clients Bother Working With Tax and Accounting Pros?:

I asked one of my peers about this and he said it’s because that type of person likes to feel important. They “have an accountant” and they can brag about it to their friends.

It’s an excellent question. My answer is that they feel they are buying excuses. If they get caught, they will immediately blame the accountant.

Robert Wood, Former NFL Player & 2 Others Get Jail & $35M Restitution For Tax Break Scheme:

The evidence at trial established that through NADN, the defendants promoted and sold a product called Tax Break 2000. Tax Break 2000 purported to be an online shopping website. The defendants falsely and fraudulently told customers that buying the product would allow them to claim legitimate income tax credits and deductions under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) by modifying the website each customer was provided to make it accessible to the disabled.

If the stupidity of the tax scheme were a factor in sentencing, they’d have faced a firing squad.

 

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): Early Distributions

Cara Griffith, Will There Be an Increase in State Transfer Pricing Audits? (Tax Analysts Blog). “States have not, however, been particularly successful in challenging the arm’s-length pricing of intercompany transactions”

 

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Kay Bell, Senate tax writers want public suggestions for tax reform

Stephen Entin, Tax Indexing Turns 30 (Tax Policy Blog)

William Gale, Rubio-Lee Hints at Tax Reform’s Troubling Direction (TaxVox).

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 672. The state continues its efforts to criminalize opposition.

Tax Analysts ($link), IRS Stops Providing Exemption Letters to Press. Given the stellar performance of the IRS Exempt Organizations division, what’s not to trust?

 

Adrienne Gonzalez wonders What Are the Accounting Profession’s Darkest Secrets? (Going Concern). Other than the ritual human sacrifice?

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/11/15: The $195 pass-through timely-filing incentive. And: taxing your neighbor may just send him your retailers.

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

7004 cornerExtend your corporations! The deadline for corporation returns looms. This year it’s March 16, as the usual March 15 deadline is on a Sunday.

The need to file or extend C corporation returns by Monday should be obvious. A failure to file penalty starts 5% of any underpayment, up to 25%, and 100% of the corporate tax is due by March 15 even when you extend.

Failing to meet an S corporation deadline can be even more expensive. How can that be? After all, S corporations don’t usually pay tax. What’s the big deal?

Blame Congress, which has used S corporation late-filing penalties as pay-fors for tax breaks. Congress has now made the penalty $195 per month, Per K-1. So an S corporation return with ten shareholders that is one day late racks up a $1,950 penalty. A S corporations can have up to 100 shareholders — and more when family members own shared – you can see that the numbers can get big in a hurry.

Missing filing deadlines has other bad consequences. You lose the ability to make automatic accounting method changes for the late year, for example; this can be costly, especially if you have lots of depreciable assets. You also lose the ability to 20130415-1make many other elections that can only be made on a timely-filed return. And, of course, you increase the risk of audit. While extended returns don’t increase audit risk, late filings certainly do.

Extensions can be obtained automatically on Form 7004, which can be filed electronically. If you must paper file, go Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested, to prove timely filing.

 

 

David Brunori is, as usual, wise in his post Local Sales Taxes are Poor Revenue Options (Tax Analysts Blog). “I think the biggest problem with local option sales taxes is that they afford politicians the ability to export tax burdens.”

I think it might be more accurate to say that it deludes politicians into thinking they can export tax burdens. Over time, the effect is to export retail into the next jurisdiction that doesn’t impose the local option tax. Anyone who has observed the outward march of retail to the suburbs over the last century or so, and the death of the first generation of malls that sucked the retail out of down at the hands of newer malls, knows retail can move. But I’m sure that the localities that drive out their retailers with a local sales tax will try to bribe them back with TIF financing.

 

IMG_0603Jack Townsend, TRAC Publishes Statistics on Tax and Tax-Related Prosecutions. “Year after year, April consistently has the greatest number of criminal prosecutions as a result of IRS investigations — two-thirds or more higher than those seen in January.”

I’m pretty sure that’s that’s designed to encourage the rest of us.

 

William Perez, Deducting Health Insurance Premiums When You’re Self-Employed. The nice thing is that when you qualify, this is an “above-the-line” deduction; you don’t have to itemize.

Paul Neiffer, IRS Provides Guidance on Repair Regulations. “Last week, the IRS actually provided some very good practical Q&A guidance on these Regulations that should provide great comfort to many of our tax preparers and farmers.  I wish that this guidance had been provided several months ago, but it is better late than never.”

Peter Reilly, IRS Busts In Las Vegas Tip Case. “I really think the Service would have been better off if they had settled with Mr. Sabolic rather than setting this precedent and encouraging more tipped employees to drop out of the program.”

 

Annette Nellen covers Use Tax Lookup Tables, which are handy for those good citizens who actually pay their use taxes on mail-order purchases.

Jana Luttenegger Weiler talks about Financial Literacy at Tax Time (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Jason Dinesen shares his Tax Season Tunes: 2015. He’s a Gordon Lightfoot fan. I’m more Punch Brothers and, of course, Fleeting Suns.

Jim Maule, Tax Courses and Food. “At the risk of seeming crude, the idea of tax law making someone want to eat strikes me as the opposite of reality.” Something to drink, I can definitely see.

 

Richard Borean, Annual Release of “Facts & Figures: How Does Your State Compare?” (Tax Policy Blog). This is a wonderful resource, putting summary information from all of the states, including rates, per-capita tax burdens, business tax climate rankings, and much other data all in one place.

 

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Robert Wood, Feds Launch Internet Sales Tax Again, So Better Click While You Can. I think he’s against the “Marketplace Fairness” bill.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 671. This is interesting:

In September 2014, during a House Oversight Committee hearing on the Lerner e-mails, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said it’s policy not to use personal e-mail.

“One of the things we’re doing is making sure everybody understands that you cannot use your e-mail for IRS business,” he said. “That’s been a policy; we need to reinforce that.”

Say what you will about Lois Lerner, she didn’t set up LoisLerneremail.com.

 

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You don’t say. Improving Deficit Numbers Don’t Make Obama a Deficit Hawk (Jeremy Scott, Tax Analysts Blog) “The CBO’s new baselines will undoubtedly be touted by President Obama as showing that he is keeping his promise to shrink the deficit, but those who think the president is a deficit hawk should note that the smallest deficit projected during this administration ($462 billion in 2017) is still larger than the deficit he inherited ($458 billion in 2008).”

Howard Gleckman, Watch What You Wish For: Dynamic Scoring Creates More Issues for the GOP (TaxVox)

Caleb Newquist, Accounting Programs, Ranked (Going Concern). None of UNI, Iowa State or Iowa are listed in the U.S. News top 10. That makes it obviously wrong.

Kay Bell, Tourists, students to act as tax spies for Greek government. Greece cements its hold on the title of laughingstock of public finance.

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/6/15: Crime Watch Edition. Rashia, still 21.

Friday, March 6th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

It’s the time of the year when exasperated taxpayers and preparers are tempted to say, “bugger all this, I’m going to go for the gusto and cheat on my taxes!” That’s when it’s useful to look in on an old friend of the Tax Update to see how well that’s going.

Rashia says "thanks, Commissioner!"

Rashia says “thanks, Commissioner!”

Let’s look in on Rashia Wilson, who proclaimed herself (on Facebook!) the “Queen of IRS Tax Fraud.” Her reign was cut short by federal identity theft tax refund charges, resulting in a 21-year sentence. And with federal sentences, you have to serve at least 90% of the time.

Ms. Wilson naturally was unhappy with this judicial lèse-majesté, so she appealed, citing procedural irregularities. The trial judge was ordered to reconsider. On further review, the call on the field stands. 21 years.  Robert Wood has more.

Iowa has tax ID fraud too. While South Florida may be the kingdom of tax refund fraud, it has colonies everywhere. Even in Iowa: Cedar Rapids woman charged with filing false tax returns (KWWL.com):

The United States Department of Justice says 33-year-old Gwendolyn Murray is charged with twelve counts of filing false claims for tax refunds, seven counts of theft of government property, and two counts of aggravated identity theft.­ The indictment containing the charges was unsealed on Tuesday.

It is alleged that Murray filed 12 fraudulent tax returns in 2012 and 2013 using other people’s names. She received refunds on seven of those tax returns. The court also alleges that Murray stole the identities of two people.

It’s good to prosecute ID thieves, but it’s far better to keep them from thieving. It’s eye-opening that 7 of the 12 alleged attempts allegedly succeeded. Criminals aren’t known for their impulse control or their ability to anticipate long-term consequences. If they see somebody get a bunch of cash just from keying in some numbers on a computer, they’re going to want some of that bling themselves, and they aren’t going to ponder the likelihood of a prison sentence first.  The IRS is pretty much leaving the door unlocked and the cash register open.

 

Megan McArdle says the culture of “getting a big refund” is part of the problem in Fewer Tax Refunds, Fewer Scams:

If all returns were submitted at the same time, and refunds were held until they could be cross-checked against the IRS’s copies of W-2s and 1099s, then this sort of fraud wouldn’t work very well; the IRS would know it had two returns and could start the process of figuring out which one was fraudulent before it mailed the check. But we love our early refunds, and people often count on getting that check as early as possible.

She offers wise advice:

However, there’s one thing you personally can do to fight tax fraud, and that’s make sure that you don’t give the government more money than you have to. You should never get excited about a tax refund; all it means is that you gave the government a substantial interest-free loan by withholding too much tax throughout the year. You should aim for your refund to be as small as possible — ideally, zero.

A system that sends $21 billion annually to fraudsters — and that number is rising rapidly — can’t continue forever. Part of this will be a technological fix.  My wife can’t buy a dress at Nordstrom in Chicago without triggering phone calls from two credit card companies.  Meanwhile, the IRS happily wires wads of cash to Rashia. One would hope the IRS could learn something from Visa and Discover.

But the IRS is bad at technology, so part of the fix will have to be slower (and ideally, smaller) refunds. This could include lower penalty thresholds for underpayments so that taxpayers will be more willing to risk owing a bit on April 15 — perhaps combined with withholding tables that leave taxpayers owing a bit, rather than getting refunds.

 

What else can you do to protect yourself? 

  • Be careful with your tax information. Never divulge your bank account or credit card info to strangers over the phone.
  • Assume any unexpected call from a tax agency is a scam.
  • Don’t send copies of 1099s and W-2s as e-mail attachments to your preparer, and don’t email a pdf of your 1040 to a loan officer. That leaves your information exposed.
  • When you transmit confidential information, use strong encryption, or better yet upload it via a secure file transfer site, like the FileDrop system we use at Roth & Company.

 

 

20150105-2Peter Reilly, IRS Grossly Unqualified To Make Determinations About Software Related Exempt Applications. The IRS is grossly unqualified for any number of things that Congress gives it to do. Just a very few that come immediately to mind:

– Determining what is “qualified research” for the research credit.

– Determining the energy properties of “green fuels” for the biofuel subsidies.

– Running the nation’s healthcare insurance finance system.

– Policing political speech by tax-exempt organizations.

An outfit that can’t keep two-bit grifters from cashing in billions in tax refunds annually shouldn’t be looking for new things to do.

 

Kay Bell, Tax identity thief mistakenly sends fake refund to real filer. The police don’t spend their days chasing geniuses.

Jack Townsend, More on Light Sentencing for Offshore Account Tax Crimes.

 

Russ Fox provides a valuable service with Online Gambling Addresses Updated for 2015. Taxpayers with offshore online gambling accounts are required to report them on the “FBAR” report of foreign financial accounts (Form 114). The FBAR requires a street address for the account, and these can be hard to find for gambling websites.

William Perez offers advice on how to Communicate Effectively with Your Tax Preparer. We aren’t always the best company this time of year. Come prepared, be efficient, and you can leave our office before we do something bizarre. Other than what we do for a living, of course.

Jason Dinesen, Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 3: Big Changes in 1917

Jim Maule, The IRS and the Taxpayer: Both Wrong. “The taxpayer argued that because the distribution from the IRA was less than the his investment in the IRA, it should be treated as a return of investment. The IRS argued that the entire distribution should be included in the taxpayer’s gross income. The Tax Court concluded that both the taxpayer and the IRS were wrong.”

 

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Kyle Pomerleau, The Rubio-Lee Plan Would be Good for Everyone, Especially Low Income Earners (Tax Policy Blog):

If you take all the pieces of the Rubio-Lee tax plan together, it actually produces the largest increase in after-tax income for the lowest income earners, not the highest.

According to our analysis, the bottom decile of taxpayers will see an increase in after-tax income of 44.2 percent, a percentage increase in income nearly four times larger than the top 1 percent’s increase in after-tax income. But the plan doesn’t just increase the after-tax income of the top and the bottom. All taxpayers will see higher after-tax incomes due to this plan.

The Rubio-Lee plan, with its elimination of the double corporate tax and its business rate reductions, is the most promising tax reform plan to surface in a long time. But its opponents can never see wisdom in anything that benefits “the rich,” even when it benefits everyone else.

 

Renu Zaretsky, Expensive Plans, ACA Developments, and Exercises in Futility. Today’s TaxVox roundup has links to folks hating on Rubio-Lee, Spanish film tax credits, and more.

Patrick Smith, Supreme Court’s Direct Marketing Case May Have Great Significance in Anti-Injunction Act Cases (Procedurally Taxing)

 

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Spring will come!

 

 

Cara Griffith, The Use of Big Data in Auditing (Tax Analysts Blog). “For state auditors, big data (like other types of data) could be used to better evaluate and select taxpayers for audit.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, 666

 

Why would he want a job with less power? Former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson To Run For President. Yes, Of The United States (Tony Nitti)

Culture Corner. A Tax Shelter Board Game Is a Thing That Exists (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/4/15: Big week for trusts. And: Iowa gets its own tax phone scam!

Wednesday, March 4th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

1041Friday is Day 65 of 2015. Though March 6 is just another day to most people, it has always meant something to me (happy birthday, Brother Ed!). It also means something to trustees. The tax law allows trusts to treat distributions made during the first 65 days of the year as having been made in the prior year. This allows complex trusts to control their taxable income with a distribution, because trust distributions carry trust taxable income out of the trust to beneficiary 1040s.

This has become more important since the enactment of the Obamacare 3.8% Net Investment Income Tax. This tax hits trusts with adjusted gross income in excess of $12,150 in 2014. If a trust has beneficiaries below the much-higher NIIT thresholds for individuals, it can make at least some of that tax go away with 65-day rule distributions.

This affects “complex trusts,” which are trusts that are not required to distribute their income annually and which are not otherwise taxed on 1040s. Distributions from such normally carry out ordinary income, but not capital gains. If the trust has income that is not subject to the NIIT, the distribution will be treated as carrying out some of each kind of income, so trustees have to take that into account in their NIIT planning.

Income subject to the NIIT includes interest, dividend, most capital gains, rents, and “passive” income from businesses or K-1s. Retirement plan income received by trusts is normally not subject to the NIIT. A 2014 Tax Court decision makes it easier for trusts to have non-passive income, but trust income is normally passive.

 

20120920-3An Iowacentric tax scamThe Iowa Department of Revenue warns of a scam targeted at Iowans:

The Iowa Department of Revenue has been made aware of a potential scam targeting Iowa taxpayers. The scam begins through an automated phone call, which shows on caller ID as being from 515-281-3114. That phone number is the Department’s general Taxpayer Services number; however, no automated phone calls can originate from that number.

When answering the call, the taxpayer is informed they are eligible for a refund from the Iowa Department of Revenue. The taxpayer is then asked whether the refund should be deposited into the account the Department has on file or if they’d like to donate the refund to an animal charity.

The Iowa Department of Revenue does not make these types of calls. We believe this is an attempt to steal bank account or other personal information. By fraudulently displaying the Department’s phone number on caller ID, the scammer is attempting to convince the taxpayer of the legitimacy of the call.

The Iowa Department of Revenue doesn’t phone you out of the blue. The IRS doesn’t phone you out of the blue — they barely even answer phones anymore. If you get a call from a tax agency, assume it is a scam. It is, unless you have already been in contact with the agency because of a notice you’ve received in the mail

 

Obamacare is again on the dock in the U.S. Supreme CourtThe IRS decision to allow tax credits for policies in the 37 states that did not set up ACA exchanges is up for debate. The law provides for credits only for exchanges “established by a state.”

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

Those arguing for the IRS interpretation say the chaos will ensue and thousands of people will dieMichael Cannon, a prime architect of the case against the IRS rule, has a more measured discussion of the consequences of a decision against the IRS rule in USA Today. Aside from upholding the rule of law, a decision against the IRS rule could have many benefits.

Related: Megan McArdle, Obamacare Will Not Kill the Supreme Court. For a roundup of posts on the topic, try King v. Burwell — The VC’s Greatest Hits, from the Volokh Conspiracy’s attorney-bloggers.

Update: From Roger McEowen, Would It Really Be That Bad If the U.S. Supreme Court Invalidated the IRS Regulation on the Premium Assistance Tax Credit?

 

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William Perez, Self-employed? SEP IRAs Help Reduce Taxes and Save for Retirement

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): A Is For Actual Expense Method

Kay Bell, Some Ohio taxpayers stumped by state’s tax ID theft quiz

Jason Dinesen, Is Chamber of Commerce Membership Worth It?. Our local group functions as an alliance of crony capitalists.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 664. Today’s edition mentions my high school classmate and junior class president election opponent, Al Salvi, and his outrageous treatment at the hands of Lois Lerner when she was with the Federal Elections Commission. For the record, Lois Lerner had nothing to do with my electoral triumph.

Robert Wood, Warren Buffett To Al Sharpton, The 1% Makes 19% Of All Income, Pays 49% Of All Taxes

Alan Cole, Most Retirement Income Goes To Middle-Class Taxpayers (Tax Policy Blog).

Distribution of Pension Income-02

Clint Stretch wonders whether it is Time to Retire Income Tax Reform? (Tax Analysts Blog). “With income tax reform out of the way, we could focus the conversation on the important issue – the size and scope of government. If eventually we can agree on how much tax we need to collect, we can always ask tax reform to come out of retirement for a little consulting.”

 

Len Burman, Cutting Capital Gains Taxes is a Dead End, Not a Step on the Road to a Consumption Tax. As someone who thinks the proper capital gain rate is zero, I can’t agree.

Career Corner. Starting a CPA Pot Practice Is Your Next Opportunity (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). “Consider a joint venture, at least.”

 

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

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

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

Russ Fox, Don’t Call Us:

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

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

 

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

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

William Perez, Moving Expenses Can Be Tax-Deductible

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

Soon, my precious, soon.

Soon, my precious, soon.

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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