Posts Tagged ‘Kay Bell’

Tax Roundup, 10/19/15: Keeping a calendar pays off big for Brooklyn apartment owner. And: Irwin Schiff dies in prison.

Monday, October 19th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150811-1Marking time pays. If you ever think owning income property is easy money, a Tax Court case last week might make you think twice. But the case also shows how keeping track of the time you spend can make a big difference if the IRS questions your rental losses.

The taxpayer couple owned “a four-floor mulifamily house” in Brooklyn. The couple lived on the first two floors, and rented out the two remaining floors as two apartments. He had a day job involving construction, but he also had his hands full with the apartment.

The couple claimed just under $70,000 of rental losses between 2010 and 2011. The IRS challenged the losses. The IRS has a good track record in rental loss cases because the tax law sets a high bar for deducting them. Such losses are automatically “passive,” and deductible only to the extent of “passive income,” unless you are a “real estate professional.” To be a real estate professional, you have to

  1. work more than 750 hours in a real estate trade or business during the year, and
  2. Your real estate work has to take more time than anything else you do.

It’s that second test that usually trips up people with day jobs. The taxpayer here, though, had an advantage, as Special Trial Judge Panuthos explains:

For purposes of the requirement in section 469(c)(7)(B)(i) [the real estate professional test], a real property trade or business includes construction and reconstruction. Sec. 469(c)(7)(C). 

So that meant the rental activity didn’t have to take more time than the day job. But the real estate professional rule doesn’t automatically make a rental loss deductible. The taxpayer still had to show that he “materially participated” to avoid the passive loss rule. Material participation is generally based on time spent working on the activity during the year, with 500 hours annually being the most common threshold used.  Fortunately, the taxpayer kept track of his time:

We used petitioner’s contemporaneous activity log to calculate the amount of time that he spent on the rental property. We included the amount of time petitioner recorded in his contemporaneous activity log for the work related to the tenants’ apartments and two-thirds of the amount of time petitioner recorded in his contemporaneous activity log for the work related to the common areas. On the basis of these calculations, we conclude that petitioner spent 1,008 hours performing services with respect to the rental activity for 2010. Because the 1,008 hours meets the more-than-500-hour requirement of section 1.469-5T(a)(1), Temporary Income Tax Regs., supra, petitioner meets this requirement for the 2010 taxable year. Accordingly, petitioner materially participated in the rental real estate activity for 2010, and petitioner’s 2010 rental real estate activity was not a passive activity.

That’s a lot of time. So much for the idea that rental income is easy money. The taxpayer’s records also carried the day for 2011. In total, the recordkeeping saved the taxpayer $25,174.60 in taxes and penalties that the Tax Court overturned.

The Moral? Keeping a daily calendar of your time is the best antidote to an IRS passive loss examination. It may seem like a hassle, but as this case shows, it can turn out to be the best investment of time you can make if the IRS comes for a visit.

Cite: Simmons-Brown, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-62.


Irwin SchiffTax Protester Schiff dies in prisonIrwin Schiff, a prominent figure among those denying the general application of the income tax, died in prison last week, reports Peter Reilly. Mr. Schiff, 87, had been diagnosed with lung cancer while serving a 13-year sentence for practicing what he unwisely preached. Peter’s humane and thoughtful coverage includes this:

When I first encountered Schiff’s arguments in the nineties I was so impressed by how well put together they were, that I found it difficult to believe that they were constructed by someone who believed them, as citations always checked out, but were wildly out of context.  Irwin, however, has proved his sincerity.  That doesn’t make his arguments right, but it does merit some grudging admiration.

Mr. Schiff’s story shows that however sincerely you believe that the income tax doesn’t apply to you, your sincerity does little good when the IRS, the U.S. Marshals, the federal judges, and the Bureau of Prisons think it does. And they do.



Russ Fox, That Was the Year that Was. Russ reflects on the filing season ended last week:

Calling the IRS was almost a joke. The “Practitioner Priority Service” hold times were so bad that I’d hate to think of what they were for regular numbers. Unfortunately, I see no improvement possible with the IRS budget until the IRS scandal is resolved. That’s not going to happen until we have a new President, so we have probably two more years of misery in dealing with the IRS.

At least.


William Perez, Where to Find and How to Read Tax Tables

Annette Nellen, Responsible Governance – Tax break bills vetoed! “What happened – On 10/10/15, Governor Brown vetoed nine bills that either created or expanded a tax credit or exclusion or exemption.”




Alan Cole, How Do Property Taxes Vary Across The Country? (Tax Policy Blog). The post feature a handy interactive map showing the average property tax deduction taken in each U.S. county in 2013.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 891Day 892ay 893. Day 892 covers the connection between Lois Lerner and a bureaucrat behind the outrageous Wisconsin “John Doe” investigations of conservative organizations.

Howard Gleckman, The Debt Limit: Here We Go Again (TaxVox).

Kay Bell, GOP presidential candidates tax trash talk on Twitter

Robert Wood, Execs Get 10 Years Prison Over Company Taxes? Yes, Here’s How. Robert covers the Arrow Trucking saga.

TaxGrrrl, As TIGTA Continues To Warn On IRS Scams, New Treasury Scams Surface. “In one version, scammers advise that an individual has been awarded a grant or a similar sum of money and in order to collect, the individual needs to provide personal information or a sum of money to ‘release’ the funds. It sounds a little bit like those lottery scams making the rounds but the use of the name of the Office of the Treasury seems to make individuals believe that it’s more legitimate”


News from the Profession. A Noncomprehensive List of Morale Boosters for Accounting Firms (Leona May, Going Concern). “Accounting firms, who generally eat their young, are all competing for ‘who has the best perks’ in race to scoop up all of the competent new hires.”



Tax Roundup, 10/16/15: Is the Earned Income Credit really all that great? And: Ed Brown house back on the block.

Friday, October 16th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150929-1Can a program that wastes 25% of its cost be worthwhile? While many economists left and right say the Earned Income Credit is a great poverty fighting tool, some of us who do tax for a living aren’t so sure. Now two scholars at the libertarian Cato Institute have published a report that fleshes out some of these doubts: Earned Income Tax Credit: Small Benefits, Large Costs. The report provides this background:

While the EITC is administered through the tax code, it is primarily a spending program. The EITC is “refundable,” meaning that individuals who pay no income taxes are nonetheless eligible to receive a payment from the U.S. Treasury. Of the $69 billion in benefits this year, about 88 percent, or $60 billion, is spending.

Articles by liberal and conservative pundits regarding the EITC often make it seem as if there are few downsides to the program. The EITC is aimed at reducing poverty and encouraging work. Who could be against that?

Alas, there is no free lunch with subsidy programs. The EITC has a high error and fraud rate, and for most recipients it creates a disincentive to increase earnings.

The waste and the “disincentive effects” are the things that bother me the most. The phase out of the benefits makes it very expensive to earn a little more, after a certain low-income point. My computation of the Iowa marginal rates on EITC recipients is in chart:eic 2014

That’s a 55% tax on every dollar earned, which doesn’t exactly encourage you to earn more dollars. And I don’t try to account for the hidden tax resulting from the loss of other welfare benefits as income increases.

Unfortunately, the study doesn’t really address what should replace the EITC, other than calling for generic good tax policy: “For example, cutting the corporate income tax rate would boost business capital investment. That would generate higher demand for labor, and thus raise wages and create more opportunities for American workers over time.”

I wish they had discussed the “universal benefit” that Arnold Kling and others have set forth. Arnold describes this version:

For a universal benefit, I propose something like $6000 for each adult in a household and $4000 for each child. [Charles] Murray proposed $10,000 per adult and zero per child.

Murray described the program as a cash grant. I describe it as flex-dollars that can only be used for “merit” goods, meaning health care, food, housing, and education.

Each of us presumes that people will purchase health insurance. I am explicit that catastrophic health insurance would be mandatory.

I propose something like a 20 percent marginal tax rate, or phase-out rate, for the universal benefit.

Arnold would have the phase-out as an addition to the income tax; I would couple it with the standard deduction so it phases out as part of the income tax, not as an addition to it. In any case, it would address many of the fraud and administration problems we see in the EITC.


honey princesses 2014


Robert D. Flach has your fresh Friday Buzz! Last minute filing, neglected beneficiary designations, and Dance Moms are highlighted.

Laura Saunders, Beware of Tax Surprises Lurking in Mutual Funds (Wall Street Journal). “Here’s why: By law, each year mutual funds must pay out to investors nearly all their income, which includes interest, dividends and net realized capital gains—in short, the profits on their trades minus offsetting losses… Already, one fund has announced the largest capital-gains payout some experts can remember.”

William Perez, I don’t make too much money, does the new health insurance rule apply to me?

Annette Nellen, Worker Voice, Classification and Taxes. “One of many things the “on demand” economy means is more clear and consistent rules on worker classification.”

Jason Dinesen, Glossary: S-corporation. “S-corporation is a tax term that refers to a corporation or an LLC that elects to be taxed under the rules of Subchapter S of the Internal Revenue Code.”

Jim Maule, Taxes, Consumption, Soda, and Obesity. “It is not unlikely that people who find soda to be too expensive because of the tax will spend their dollars on pies, cakes, candy, doughnuts, cookies, ice cream, and similar items.”

Leslie Book, Tax Court Holds Preparer Who Placed Truncated Social Security Number on Returns Subject to Penalties. He didn’t use a PTIN or Social Security Number on the returns he signed. The penalty is $50 per return. He prepared 134 returns in 2009. I’ll leave the math as an exercise for the reader.

TaxGrrrl, ‘Dance Moms’ Star Abby Lee Miller Accused Of Hiding Income, Indicted On Fraud Charges. So many TV shows I’ve never seen, so many indictments.

They both eat brains. Presidential candidate debates outdraw zombies (Kay Bell)




Howard Gleckman, The Debt Limit: Here We Go Again (TaxVox):

The House is largely leaderless and a significant minority of its Republican caucus will oppose any increase in the federal borrowing limit. In the Senate, CNN reports that GOP leader Mitch McConnell wants major concessions from the White House on such hot button issues as Social Security and Medicare before he moves a debt bill. And a lame-duck President Obama seems increasingly disinclined to negotiate with Hill Republicans on any issue. 

Pass the popcorn.


Jeremy Scott, Democrats Offer Nothing Much on Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog):

Taxes were discussed. Bernie, of course, wants to use them to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, something it’s not clear his plan even addresses. Chafee wants a new 45 percent bracket on higher incomes. And Hillary talked some about the numerous small tax provisions she would like to enact to accomplish extremely specific, targeted goals. But nothing said onstage Tuesday night should give any tax reform observers hope that a Democratic White House in 2017 will be any more behind a broad tax reform effort than President Obama has been.

A complicated tax code that meddles in everything is exactly what you would expect from big government fans. There’s no reason to expect reform from the avowed party of big government.


Kyle Pomerleau, Governor Lincoln Chafee’s Modest Tax Proposal (Tax Policy Blog).

Bob McIntyre, Although He Left out Key Details, It’s Clear Kasich’s Tax Plan Is a Deficit-Busting Giveaway to the Wealthy (Tax Justice Blog). We don’t need no stinking key details.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 890

News from the Profession. Will the CPA Exam Become Optional? (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)


The Brown house. Photo from IRS Auction web site.

The Brown house. Photo from IRS Auction web site.

6,000 Sq. Ft., Handyman’s and Ordnance Clearance Specialist’s Dream! The IRS is going to once again try to auction the home of Ed and Elaine Brown, the couple serving loooong prison terms as a result of an armed standoff following their conviction on tax charges. It has some unusual features, reports

In the back of a closet, a hidden door can be found. A ladder leads to a small bunker with a passageway that leads just outside. Dirt hides the manhole cover that provides an exit to the passage.

Admit it, you’ve always wanted one of those.

“There’s a lot of stuff that you need to look at and say, ‘Do I want to finish it that way? Do I want to go a different direction?'” said Roger Sweeney, liquidation specialist for the IRS. “But it also comes with 100 acres, and with that price, it’s a heck of a deal.”

There are solar panels and a wind turbine on the land, but investigators have found explosive devices, as well. A warning is included in the notice of sale.

The article has a little photo tour of the property. You can learn more at the IRS auction website. The starting bid is only $125,000.

Related: Tax Update Blog Ed Brown coverage.



Tax Roundup, 10/15/2015: How to do that last-minute filing right. And: C.R. ID thief sentenced, Iowa sales tax rule delayed.

Thursday, October 15th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

certifiedFile! Today is the last, final, immutable deadline for filing an extended 2014 1040.* What are the stakes for getting that return in today?

  • If you owe federal taxes, it’s the difference between a late payment penalty of 3% (1/2% per month since April 15) and a late filing penalty of 25% (5% per month, capped at 25%).
  • It’s the last chance to make a free grouping election of your activities for the ne investment income tax and passive loss rules.
  • If you have an international reporting form on your return — a 5471, 8865, 3520, 8938, or 8891, for example — it’s the only way to avoid an automatic $10,000 late penalty on your filing. These forms may be due if you own an interest in a foreign corporation, partnership or trust; if you received a foreign gift or inheritance; if you have foreign financial assets, like a loan to an overseas person; or if you have an interest in a Canadian retirement plan.

So how to file? If you haven’t started yet (ugh), Russ Fox has some tips. If your return is done and you just need to file, e-file if at all possible. That gives you the assurance that your return has arrived on time and saves you the hassle of a trip to the post office or the UPS or FedEx store. And I feel safer if my return doesn’t have to be touched by an actual IRS employee.

OK, you ask, why can’t I just drop it in the mail or use the office postage meter? After all, the Mailbox Rule says “timely mailed, timely filed.”

Because then you have no proof that you filed on time. If the letter gets lost, or delayed, the IRS can call it “late” and you have no way to prove otherwise. If you have anything at stake with a timely-filing, it’s foolish to rely on the competence of the postal service and the goodwill of someone at the IRS service center.

If you aren’t e-filing, the best thing to do is to go to the post office, spring for Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested, and get a hand-stamped postmark. Save it and keep it with the return receipt when that comes back. That will ward off late-filing vampires. Filling out the certified mail slip and running it through the office postage meter or using a postmark doesn’t work.

If you can’t make it to the post office before they close, then you can go to the FedEx Store or UPS store and use a “designated private delivery service.” This is trickier. You have to use one of the delivery methods specified by IRS Rev. Proc. . For example, “UPS Ground” doesn’t work, but “UPS 2nd Day Air” does work. Make sure the shipping paperwork shows today’s date. Be sure to use the proper IRS service center street address, because the private services can’t use the IRS post office box addresses.

*Unless you are a South Carolina flood victim, a war zone resident, or a non-resident alien.





Five years for Cedar Rapids ID reports an Iowa woman will go away for 61 months after pleading guilty to one count of ID theft. The Government’s sentencing memorandum says Gwendolyn Murray prepared “at least 136 false and fraudulent returns.” Ninety-four of them were processed, netting over $380,000 in refunds.

And that’s the real crime. The IRS has such poor controls that an amateur, probably using an off-the-shelf tax prep software package, could help herself to that much taxpayer money before getting caught. The chances of getting that back are about the same as my chances of a pro baseball career. And yet the IRS says the real problem is that honest preparers don’t have to take a compentency literacy test and submit a fee and paperwork.

Related: TIGTA: 1,300 IRS Computers, 50% Of IRS Servers Are Running Outdated Operating Systems, Putting Taxpayer Data At Risk (TaxProf)


Iowa Sales Tax Rule for Manufacturing Supplies to be delayed six months. It will now take effect July 1, 2016, reports AP.


Gretchen Tegeler, Ask questions about your property taxes (

You may not realize you are supporting not only your city, county and school district, but also Broadlawns Medical Center, Des Moines Area Regional Transit (DART) and the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC).

For instance, 8.6 percent of the property taxes my husband and I pay on our home are going to Broadlawns. The single largest percentage increase in our property taxes (and this would be the case for most everyone in Polk County) is for DART, a whopping 10.4 percent!  

I’m sure it’s worth every penny…


Roger McEowen, Obamacare; Reimbursement of Health Insurance Premiums; and Limited (and Inconsistent) Transitional Relief (AgDocket). On the incomplete and confusing relief for “Section 105 plans” being clobbered by insane ACA regulations.


Paul Neiffer, What about Partnerships?:

The ACA mandates an $100 per day per employee penalty for providing non-qualified health insurance to more than one employee.  Many of our farm operations operate as S corporations and partnerships.  There is specific IRS guidance that allows shareholders and partners to deduct these health insurance premiums for owners and since this guidance did not line up with the guidance on the imposition of the $100 per day penalty, the IRS issued a notice earlier this year that indicated S corporations could continue to file their returns the same way until the end of this year.

However, this notice appeared to be silent on the treatment for partnerships and partners. 

They had to pass it for us to find out what was in it.


Peter Reilly, Santorum 20/20 Flat Tax Might Be Hard On Many Small Businesses. “I don’t understand why there does not seem to be more excitement about the elimination of business interest deductions.” Maybe because it’s Rick Santorum.

Robert WoodU.S. Tax 35%, Ireland 12.5%, New Irish Tech Rate 6.25%, Any Questions?

Kay Bell, Be like Trump: Pay as little tax as possible




David Brunori, Getting Taxpayers to Rat on Each Other: Uncool (Tax Analysts Blog):

Private citizens should not be in the business of administering or enforcing the tax laws. The most obvious reason is that they do not have the expertise or the context to judge whether taxes are being evaded rather than, say, avoided. It is hard enough for trained tax professionals to ascertain the difference between tax fraud and very aggressive tax planning. That task should be left to the professionals.

Not to mention the free play it gives to bitter ex-lovers or spouses, shakedown artists, and parasites in general.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 889


A big thank you to Gretchen Tegeler and the Taxpayers Association of Central Iowa for inviting me to be on a panel last night on small business tax and regulation last night. I wish I could have lingered to chat longer, and enjoy some of that delicious Lucca food, but it being October 14 and all, I couldn’t stick around. It was a good session with lots fo great discussion.



Tax Roundup, 10/14/15: The return’s not joint without that Jane Hancock. And: Iowa supplies rule advances.

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

1040 signature blockSignatures matter. A Tax Court case yesterday reminds us that even though they seem like an afterthought, the IRS cares whether you sign your paper return.

A busy executive mailed the family’s 2000 1040 near the October 15, 2001 extended due date. Possibly through a miscommunication, his wife failed to sign the return before he took it to the office to mail near the deadline. The Tax Court takes up the story (citations omitted):

Sometime after the Andover Service Center received the original 2000 return, respondent returned it to petitioners. The Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) requires the examining agent to perform certain actions before sending a return back to a taxpayer. The examining agent must attach certain forms explaining to the taxpayer why the return is being sent back, what needs to be done with respect to the tax return, and when is the deadline to comply and resubmit the return.

Petitioners claim they received a date-stamped original 2000 return with some red ink marks on it but did not receive any attached correspondence. The date on the stamp was October 15, 2001.

They never signed or re-submitted the return, and it apparently didn’t occur to the taxpayers to ask their CPA why they got it back:

[The husband] explained that he was not alarmed to have received back the original tax return with some red ink marks on it because he requested copies of his tax returns from time to time for various business reasons.

That doesn’t sound right. They had a tax preparer who would normally keep copies of client tax returns. Why would anyone go through the hassle of getting one from the government when you can call your tax man?

The tax year came up for audit, and the taxpayers tried to get 2000 dismissed on the grounds that the 3-year statute of limitations had expired. The statute only starts to run once a return is filed, and the IRS said that with only one signature, there was never a legitimate joint return. The Tax Court discussed and rejected two taxpayer arguments on why the return should count: the “substantial compliance doctrine” and the “tacit consent” doctrine. The first one was easy: filing with only one signature is not “substantial compliance” when both are required.

The “tacit consent” doctrine is more interesting. Again from the Tax Court:

At the outset of our discussion of the tacit consent doctrine, we note that courts generally apply this doctrine when one spouse signs a joint return for both spouses and it is later shown that the other spouse has tacitly consented to the joint return filing.  Most of the cases that petitioners cite follow this general pattern.

This happens in real life more than I care to think about. But Judge Laro ruled that it didn’t fit here where there is no second signature at all:

Extending the application of the tacit consent doctrine to cases such as the current case has the potential of creating an exception that would swallow the rule. We believe sufficient administrative mechanisms are already in place to deal with such situations. Existing procedures described in the regulations and the IRM provide how to handle documents when one of two required signatures is missing. At the very least, a nonsigning spouse who did not intend to file a joint return may be alerted that something is wrong.

Decision for IRS.

The Moral? It’s always best to get both signatures. Better still to not run to the deadline, where it’s easy to miss one. Best of all is to e-file, so the IRS has no manual signature issues in the first place, and your signed e-file authorization is safely in the hands of your e-file originator.

Cite: Reifler, T.C. Memo. 2015-199




Iowa rule on sales tax of manufacturing supplies passes first test. The legislative rules committee yesterday split 5-5 on a party-line vote on a Democratic objection to the rule. The split vote allows the rule to go forward, and probably means it will become final, according to this report by O. Kay Henderson.

The rule would flesh out the definition of consumable manufacturing supplies that are exempt from Iowa sales tax. This has been a contentious issue for years, one that has been a large portion of disputes at the Iowa Department of Revenue. Good tax policy favors a broad definition, as good sales tax policy doesn’t tax business inputs in the first place. But it turns out that the people who most benefit from tax receipts — state employees — don’t care for things that deprive them of their cash flows. From the report:

“I don’t believe it’s ever been done, to use the rule-making process to cut taxes. That seems like a heck of a precedent,” says AFSCME Council 61 Danny Homan, head of the union that represents the largest share of state workers.

He says all 150 legislators should vote on the proposal and Homan accuses Branstad of abusing executive power to try to cut taxes for corporations.

“After, on July 2, the governor vetoed $55 million in one-time appropriations for schools and vetoed funding for the MHIs in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant,” Homan says. “It seems like he’s got money to reward his friends, but he doesn’t have money for education and he doesn’t have money for folks that are suffering from mental illness.”

There is so much wrong with the idea that all of this money is the Governor’s to give out, and that the only problem is that he isn’t giving it to state employees. It’s a great example of why public employee unions as bargaining units are an awful idea.


William Perez, Do Your Home Improvements Qualify for the Residential Energy Tax Credits? “Homeowners who install solar panels or make other energy-efficient improvements to their home may qualify for a federal tax credit.”

Jason Dinesen, Are Tax Preparers Who Operate on Volume Doomed? It would be a blessing, actually.

Peter Reilly, A Twisted Tale Of New Jersey Use Tax,

TaxGrrrl, Losers Like Me: Fantasy Sports Sites Like FanDuel Attract Billions And Scrutiny As Popularity Grows

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Daring To Take On The Section 263A Adjustment. A key part of the 1986 tax reform process, it is a monument to the baneful tax policy consequences of the tax revenue scoring process.


Scott Greenberg, NY Times Reporter Casts Doubt on Financial Transactions Taxes (Tax Policy Blog). They are an awful idea.

Howard Gleckman, How A Carbon Tax Could Have Prevented The Volkswagen Diesel Scandal (TaxVox)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 888. Today’s link discusses a GAO report on how the IRS has failed to enact safeguards against continued political bias in IRS operations.


And finally: With first Wrigley clinch, Cubs move on to NLCS.



Tax Roundup, 10/13/15: Thoughts for those facing the due date. And: Ex-Iowa revenue director backs sales tax rule.

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today visitors, click here to go to the YMCA story.


20151013-4It’s time. The extended return deadline is Thursday, October 15, and no more extensions are available (unless, perhaps, you are in South Carolina, drying out from the floods, or you are in an overseas combat zone).

Haven’t filed yet? Haven’t even started? Russ Fox has some thoughts for you:

Somewhere, there’s a procrastinator wondering that exact question. He’s likely thinking, “I don’t have to do anything; I have until October 15th!” That’s not a good answer (with one exception [1]).

First, most tax professionals will not be able to fit you in. I took in one new client appointment this week—and he’s filling a cancellation. Determine your income, gather all your documents, and do your best. Tax forms are available online (the IRS website is actually quite good). Commercial tax software, though flawed [2], is a good choice at this point in time.

That makes sense. You really shouldn’t file late. It’s habit-forming, and it’s a bad habit. If you have a refund coming, you will probably lose it if you don’t file in two years — and without a due date deadline, that happens a lot. If you don’t file, you can’t get a 2016 ACA advance premium credit, making you out-of-pocket for the whole thing until you file your 2016 tax return, assuming you get around to that one.

Russ has another comment worth noting:

I disagree with fellow tax professional Robert Flach on his description that all tax software is fatally flawed. For individuals in simple situation it works perfectly. It doesn’t make math mistakes. And it usually allows for seamless electronic filing. I agree with Robert that the ability to look at a return and evaluate what’s on it (does it pass the smell test) is vital but when you’re up against a deadline, you don’t have a choice.

While I am in awe of Robert’s practice of doing his returns by hand, I don’t recommend it for anyone else. While software, like any human endeavor, is “flawed,” it’s much less flawed than a do-it-yourself tax filer without software. Tax software prevents a lot more mistakes than it causes.


Speaking of Robert Flach, it’s Tuesday, so he has fresh Buzz! His artisanal mind wanders from the size of the tax law, charity scams, and maintaining small business records. Presumably posted with flawed software!




Mike Ralston, Manufacturers shouldn’t be taxed twice. The President of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, and former director of the Iowa Department of Revenue, defends the new proposed rules broadening the definition of “manufacturing supplies” exempt from sales tax: “To the best of my knowledge, no one inside the Statehouse has argued that the proposed rule is bad policy.” David Brunori is quoted.


Tulsa World, Doug Pielsticker: Sentence more than justified. “Laid-off employees blamed the company’s bankruptcy partly on Pielsticker’s lavish lifestyle, which included a $1.3 million mansion, a Bentley and a wedding with 1,000 guests at Philbrook Museum.” We covered the sentencing yesterday.


John Mickelson, Importance of succession planning for privately held businesses (

TaxGrrrl, Be Smart When Being Charitable: IRS Warns On SC Flood Relief Scams

Keith Fogg, The Right Instincts and the Wrong Decision Leads to No Relief as an Innocent Spouse – An Adam and Eve Story (Procedurally Taxing) “Reading the opinion, I realized that I had watched the trial with my students and we had analyzed it in class reaching the same conclusion as Judge Lauber but still feeling sad for the individual who sought relief.”

Peter Reilly, Volkswagen’s Emissiongate May Include Tax Crimes

Jack Townsend, Schumacher, UBS Banker Enabler, Sentenced to Probation Only and Fine. Once again, slapping the real international financial criminals on the wrist while shooting the jaywalkers.

Kay Bell, Some in GOP question Ryan’s conservative commitment; others say he serves the party best as tax-writing chair.  

William Perez, Changes in Tax Deadlines to Take Effect in 2017 (Plus Deadlines for 2015 and 2016). There’s a big one this week.




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 887. Today’s installment features some guy who think the IRS isn’t meddling in politics enough.

Scott Greenberg, Bobby Jindal’s Tax Plan Would End the Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Exclusion (Tax Policy Blog):

Some of the features of Bobby Jindal’s recently released tax plan – fewer tax brackets, ending the estate tax, and eliminating itemized deductions – should be familiar from other Republican candidates’ tax plans. But a few elements of Jindal’s plan stand out from the rest of the field. Specifically, Jindal would significantly change the tax treatment of employer-sponsored health insurance plans.

It would replace the employer exclusion for health care with a “standard deduction” for insurance costs.


Bob McIntyre, We (Don’t) Need to Talk about Bobby Jindal (Tax Justice Blog). We don’t like him. We’ll pretend he’s not there.

Renu Zaretsky, A Speaker, A Speaker, Their Kingdom for a Speaker. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the House Speaker situation, Hockey free agents, and the upcoming Democratic candidate debate.

Career Corner. The Rise of the Lifestyle Accountant (Chris Hooper, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 10/12/15: Broken Arrow (Trucking) nets CEO 7 1/2 years. And: Last week of tax season!

Monday, October 12th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today visitors, click here to go to the YMCA story.

Last Week! Extended 2014 1040s are due Thursday. That’s it, no more extensions are available.  It should be all over by now, but it’s not. Don’t put your preparer off until Thursday because there might be a $25 charitable contribution you missed, and you are just too darned busy to find it today.


ice truckWrecked. A weird and strange payroll tax crime case wrapped up last week when James Douglas Pielsticker was sentenced to 7 1/2 years in prison.

Mr. Pielsticker was CEO of Arrow Trucking when it failed spectacularly, leaving hundreds of its drivers stranded:

December 24, 2009

Hundreds of truckers nationwide are stranded and trying to get home before Christmas after their company shut down operations with little notice.

Arrow Trucking, based in Tulsa, suspended operations and laid off employees. Arrow is among the largest trucking companies in the nation.

About 900 truckers were left stranded across the country. Many drivers learned that the company had folded only after filling up their rigs and discovering the company’s fuel credit cards would not work.

There was no money to get the drivers home because Mr. Pielsticker was using it for… other things. From the Department of Justice press release (my emphasis):

According to the plea agreement and other court records, in 2009, Pielsticker and others conspired to defraud the United States by failing to account for and pay federal withholding taxes on behalf of Arrow Trucking Company and by making payments to Pielsticker outside the payroll system.  Pielsticker and others withheld Arrow Trucking Company employees’ federal income tax withholdings, Medicare and social security taxes, but did not report or pay over these taxes to the IRS, despite knowing they had a duty to do so. 

The conspirators paid for Pielsticker’s personal expenses with money from Arrow Trucking Company and submitted fraudulent invoices to TAB to induce the bank to pay funds to Arrow Trucking Company that were not warranted.  In total, the conspiracy caused a loss to the United States totaling more than $9.562 million.

What sort of personal expenses? According to the government’s sentencing memorandum, they included:

…expenses related to his Bentley and Maserati automobiles, and trips on private jets…  In 2007, Arrow paid at least approximately $361,000 for Pielsticker’s benefit; in 2008, it was at least approximately $753,000; and in 2009, Arrow paid approximately $1,300,000 for Pielsticker’s benefit in addition to his normal salary. 

The company collapsed under the weight of the looting, and the drivers were left hanging. Fortunately, other drivers and industry players came to their rescue to get them home, showing a lot more consideration than Mr. Pielsticker.

Employment tax fraud is a very stupid crime (not that there are a lot of smart ones). Jack Townsend reports that the government has recently updated its procedures for prosecuting payroll tax fraud, a sign that this is an enforcement priority. Don’t fail to remit withheld taxes. It’s not just a bad financial move; it could get you in criminal trouble.


Pielsticker Criminal Information Document

CEO Gets 7 1/2 Years Prison Over Employment Taxes, Owes $21M In Restitution (Robert Wood)




Call me when you start using the tools you have. We keep hearing how “common sense” preparer regulation is needed to keep us tax pros in line. Yet the IRS Return Preparer Office isn’t even using the authority it actually has, according to a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration:

However, the RPO does not revoke PTINs from tax return preparers who are not compliant with their tax filing and payment obligations. In January 2015, the RPO identified 19,496 preparers with PTINs who were potentially noncompliant with these obligations. These preparers had over $367 million in tax due as of January 26, 2015. In addition, the RPO identified 3,055 preparers who failed to file required tax returns for one or more tax years and eight tax return preparers who failed to file required tax returns for five years.

Our review of PTIN holders as of September 30, 2014, identified 3,001 preparers who self reported a felony conviction on their application; 87 reported a crime related to Federal tax matters. Lastly, processes do not ensure that PTINs assigned to prisoners or individuals barred from preparing tax returns are revoked. Specifically, the RPO did not revoke the PTINs assigned to 65 of 445 confirmed prisoners and 15 of 87 individuals who the IRS identified as barred from preparing tax returns.

This supports the case that preparer regulation is more about driving out competitors of the big national tax franchises than it is about promoting quality tax compliance.




Russ Fox, Gilbert Hyatt Goes to Washington…Again:

Back in 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that Gilbert Hyatt could sue the Franchise Tax Board in Nevada. That was after the FTB rummaged through his trash. The FTB was then hit with over $400 million in damages. However, the Nevada Supreme Court threw out much of the decision, though the court upheld that the FTB committed fraud against Mr. Hyatt.

Sauce for the Gander is excellent tax policy. We should get to assess the same penalties against the government that they assess against us.

Mitch Maas, Netting Tax Savings Found to be a Goal of Many NHL Free Agents (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).

Kay Bell, Computer scientists’ tax code algorithm could make it easier for IRS to catch partnership tax cheats. If nothing else, visit Kay to check out her slick new site design.

Paul Neiffer, How Much Does Section 179 Cost the Government? Or, how much does it save the taxpayer?

Jason Dinesen, Iowa Taxation of Retirement Income

Jim Maule, A Federal Income Tax on Everybody? How Would That Work?

Peter Reilly, Jindal Tax Plan Creates A Wonderland Of Dodging



Scott Hodge, Biggest Challenge To Tax Reformers: Overcoming Our Progressive Tax Code. “But as many of the presidential candidates have found in crafting their tax reform plans, the extreme progressivity of the individual tax code makes broadening the base and lowering the rate an exercise in raising taxes on the poor and cutting taxes on the rich—hardly a winning political message.”

This chart says a lot:

20151011 effective rate chart tax foundation


It’s hard to have an income tax reform that doesn’t disproportionately benefit the folks who pay the tax in the first place.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 884Day 885Day 886. The votes are in:



Richard Auxier, Taxes penalize hockey teams? That’s a bad call, eh?

Career Corner, Would You Work for Revenue Share? (Chris Hooper, Going Concern). Well, I sort of do.



Tax Roundup, 10/9/15: If you don’t e-file your business return, you may stand out. And: FATCA follies, Friday fun.

Friday, October 9th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

e-file logoI shouldn’t e-file, they might notice me. There remain some people who worry that by filing electronically, they make it more likely that the IRS will cause them trouble. Their numbers are shrinking, according to this IRS press release:

The Internal Revenue Service announced today the number of tax returns e-filed by businesses rose nearly 9 percent this year, continuing the growth in the number of corporate and partnership returns filed electronically. This year, an additional 625,000 corporations and partnerships chose to e-file their tax returns.

As of Sept. 20, almost 8 million corporations and partnerships e-filed their income tax returns. The IRS estimates that e-file accounts for 77 percent of all corporate and partnership returns filed during 2015. Many corporations and partnerships operating on a calendar year receive filing extensions. The due date for filing a return after filing for an extension is usually Sept. 15.

I like e-filing for a number of reasons. I like that we can be sure the return is actually filed and received on time by the IRS, especially when there is a time-sensitive election, or a foreign information return that can trigger a $10,000 penalty if filed late. As you can now e-file most extra forms, like elections and signed charitable contribution Form 8283 appraisal statements, it’s become more convenient. And I think that any time an IRS employee has to touch your return, you increase the risk of an IRS mistake, or of IRS curiosity.



Russ Fox, IRS to Tax Professionals: Rules for Thee but Not for Us. Russ discusses the IRS rules for preparers on safeguarding taxpayer data, including this:

6. Do not mail unencrypted sensitive personal information.

Russ comments:

There’s nothing wrong with these recommendations; in fact, they’re excellent. But note that the IRS says that authorized e-file providers that participate in the role as an Online Provider must follow these rules.

I highlighted the last rule (#6, above) regarding mailing unencrypted sensitive personal information. Why? Because the IRS is one of the biggest offenders in this area.

Yet serious people think that this agency, which can’t even run its own shop, should regulate preparers more.


Robert D. Flach offers fresh-picked hand-crafted Friday Buzz. His links today range from the effects of high tax regimes to the early distribution penalty for IRAs

TaxGrrrl, The Last 10 Things I Bought: How A Busy Working Mom Spends Her Money

Kay Bell, McCarthy ends House Speakership quest; Ryan still says ‘no’




Colleen Graffy, The Law That Makes U.S. Expats Toxic (Wall Street Journal):

Aimed at preventing money laundering, the financing of terrorism and tax evasion, Fatca requires foreign financial institutions such as banks to report the identities of their American customers and any assets those Americans hold. Institutions that don’t comply are subject to a 30% withholding tax on any of their own transactions in the U.S.

This provision was enacted without regard for its effects on the 8.7 million U.S. citizens living abroad, who have essentially been declared guilty of financial crimes unless they can prove otherwise. Many institutions no longer consider their American clients worth the burden and potential penalties of the law, and are abandoning them in droves.

This isn’t news for regular readers here, but it is for almost everyone else. Yet the politicians who smugly imposed this outrageous regime blithely move on to other targets, like the “carried interests.” And so many people trust the politicians to “solve” the “problem” without doing massive damage — despite all history and evidence to the contrary.


Glenn Reynolds, If You Tax It Too Much, They Will Go (USA Today). “IRS data show that taxpayers are migrating from high-tax states like New York, Illinois, and California to low-tax states like Texas and Florida. And it’s not just sports stars or star scientists, doing that, but fairly ordinary people — though, of course, people who earn enough money to pay taxes.”


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 883. In which he features Peter Reilly’s discussion of whether his scandal coverage has “jumped the shark.” So meta. I get a mention.




Kyle Pomerleau, The Key Component of the Estonia’s Competitive Tax System (Tax Policy Blog).

There are many impressive features in the Estonian tax code. It has a flat individual income tax rate of 20 percent, a broad-based 20 percent value-added tax, and has few distortive taxes such as the estate tax or financial transaction taxes.

All of those features contribute the Estonia’s high score. However, the most important and competitive feature of the Estonian tax code is its corporate income tax system. And not only is its corporate tax system competitive with a low, 20 percent rate, it is unique among OECD countries in how it works.

The Estonian corporate income tax is what is called a cash-flow tax. Rather than requiring corporations to calculate their taxable income using complex rules and depreciation schedules every single year, the Estonian corporate income tax of 20 percent is only levied on a business when it pays its profits out to its shareholders.

I prefer that corporations be taxed as income is earned and that they be allowed to deduct payments to shareholders, but the Estonian way has an advantage. The business owners are never taxed until they actually get something out of the business. There is no possibility of income tax exceeding corporation income over its life that way, which can easily happen in our system.


Steven Rosenthal, Making Wall Street Pay—Proposals from the Campaign Trail (TaxVox). There’s no shortage of stupid out there on the trail.


Career Corner. Reminder: Please Take Vacation So You Don’t Die (Leona May, Going Concern).




Tax Roundup, 10/8/15: Your tax preparer has to protect your confidential info. IRS, not so much. And more!

Thursday, October 8th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

TIGTAIRS Basically Plastering Your Social Security Numbers on Billboards Now, Because Why Not? (Peter Suderman,

The IRS continues to recklessly print Social Security Numbers (SSNs) on hundreds of millions of notices and letters, despite warnings that this practice dangerously exposes sensitive personal information, and years of pressure to reduce the use of SSNs on documentation.

In fact, the tax agency doesn’t even have procedures in place to fully track its use of SSNs, according to a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), a tax agency watchdog.

This is a problem because of the identity theft epidemic. Every document from IRS sitting untended in your mailbox that has your Social Security number is an ID theft vulnerability. Private parties have changed their practices to protect ID numbers. One example is the adoption of secure password-protected web portals to send anything with an SSN. Another is the decline of the practice of identifying tax returns on the outside of mailing envelopes. The increased risk of attracting an ID thief outweighs the risk a taxpayer might not bother opening an unmarked envelope.

Yet TIGTA says IRS is behind the curve. From their press release:

TIGTA found that as of January 2015, the IRS estimates that it has removed SSNs from 58 (2 percent) of the 2,749 types of letters and 93 (48 percent) of the 195 types of notices it issues.

“A person’s Social Security Number is the most valuable piece of personal data identity thieves can obtain.” said J. Russell George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “The fact that the IRS does not have processes and procedures to accurately identify all correspondence that contain Social Security Numbers remains a concern.”

Businesses have to be careful with taxpayer information because we could lose business, or be sued, or worse. The IRS doesn’t have that motivation, and it shows.


20151008 tax incidenceTaxProf, Who Benefits From State Corporate Tax Cuts? Firm Owners (40%), Workers (35%), Landowners (25%). The Prof links to a study of “tax incidence,” or who “really” bears the burden of the corporation tax. While politicians and activists like to talk about corporations as tax-avoiding fat cats, it’s a fact that corporations ultimately don’t pay any tax; it comes out of the pocket of an actual human somewhere. Economists will endlessly debate whether its owners, customers or workers who bear the burden. Whoever it is, it’s not a free lunch for the tax man.


Russ Fox, Tax Relief for South Carolinians. “Note that the relief is automatic; impacted taxpayers need not do anything.”

Robert Wood, Skimming Cash — Even From Yourself — Can Mean Prison For Tax Fraud:

Prosecutors said the Horners owned Topcat Towing and Recovery Inc., a towing business in Georgia. Between 2005 and 2008, they skimmed $1.5 million in cash from the businesses, depositing into their personal bank account without disclosing the income on their corporate or personal tax returns filed with the IRS. They tried to conceal their cash deposits from the government by “structuring,” splitting up cash deposits that exceed $10,000.

Unwise. Banks have great incentive to report “structuring,” and they do.


Jason Dinesen, Glossary: Audit (Of Financials)

Leslie Book, Senate Again Takes Aim at Improper Payments in Federal Programs. The government wants to use the IRS inability to stop issuing fraudulent payments as an excuse to regulate preparers.

Jack Townsend, U.S. Senators on Senate Finance Committee Probe the Tax Aspects of the Volkswagen Debacle. “As often in tax-related and other potential criminal settings, the prosecutor has a panoply of provisions to choose from.”

Kay Bell, NHL players’ goal: Play in low or no income tax states


Jared Walczak, How Much Does Your State Collect in Taxes Per Capita? (Tax Policy Blog).



Iowa is #20.


Cara Griffith, Why Is It So Hard to Fund Schools? (Tax Analysts Blog). This article actually highlights the dangers when judges meddle in the appropriation process.

Renu Zaretsky, Questions, Subsidies, Deductions, and Profits. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup has stories on whether Volkswagen’s emission test rigging got them clean air tax credits, questions on the need to subsidize wind turbines, and much more.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 882

Peter Reilly, Paul Caron’s Day By Day IRS Scandal Has Jumped The Shark – Conclusion. “I fear that the series which serves as a great resource is in danger of having its quality diluted.” I worry that the administration will succeed in running out the clock on the outrageous IRS misconduct.

Tax Justice Blog, New CTJ Report: 358 or 72% of Fortune 500 Companies Used Tax Havens in 2014, Alternate headline: 72% of Fortune 500 Companies try not to squander shareholder value.


Finally: Arrieta, Cubs ace Wild Card test vs. Bucs

Not tax related? Oops.



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

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

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

The Des Moines Register reports:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Link: Proposed new Iowa rules.




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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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



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




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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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


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



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

Tuesday, October 6th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

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

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

Problems arose. Tax Court Judge Dawson tells the story:

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

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

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

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

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

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

That led to a bad result:

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

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

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

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




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

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

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

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

Peter Reilly, Boston Bernie Backers Probably Not Bashing Bruins



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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 880

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

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

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

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


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



Tax Roundup, 10/5/15: Cool implosion, but no tax break. And more tax fairy tales!

Monday, October 5th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

This happened in Downtown Des Moines over the weekend:

YouTube Video Courtesy star105

Preservationists wanted to save the building, the old YMCA. I never understood this. Some beautiful buildings have been lost in Des Moines, but this isn’t one of them. If you aren’t willing to buy a building and fix it up yourself, it doesn’t seem right to tell the owners that they have to do it with their own money.

But did they get a tax break for the implosion? Did they get to write off the cost of the building when they brought it down? It would seem logical — obviously the building is a total loss. But no, it doesn’t work that way. Internal Revenue Code Section 280B is pretty clear:

In the case of the demolition of any structure—
(1) no deduction otherwise allowable under this chapter shall be allowed to the owner or lessee of such structure for—

(A) any amount expended for such demolition, or
(B) any loss sustained on account of such demolition; and

(2) amounts described in paragraph (1) shall be treated as properly chargeable to capital account with respect to the land on which the demolished structure was located.

So not only is there no write-off of the building, the cost of the demolition itself is capitalized, along with any remaining basis in the building — to be recovered only when the land is sold someday. So the income tax law doesn’t encourage implosions. Pretty much the opposite.




Jack Townsend, IRS Makes FOIA Disclosures to Tax Analysts Regarding OVDP and Streamlined Processing. “One point that was already known to practitioners is that rejection of the transition streamlined relief inside OVDP is not a determination of wilfulness so that, upon opt out, the wilfulness penalty is pre-determined.”

Peter Reilly, Rand Paul Suffers Setback In Foreign Reporting Lawsuit


Kristine Tidgren, Let the Motions Begin: Drainage Districts Seek Partial Summary Judgment. Des Moines Water Works is suing upstream drainage districts for not keeping nitrates out of the river. 

Annette Nellen, Obamacare – can pieces be removed? “Obamacare has too many complicated tax provisions in addition to many complicated non-tax provisions.”

Kay Bell, Time to make your flexible spending account choices

Sonya Miller, Freezing the Refunds of Our Guests (Procedurally Taxing). “We are aware of a group of nonresident taxpayers (taxpayers that fall under the rules for aliens temporarily present in the United States as students, trainees, scholars, teachers, researchers, exchange visitors, and cultural exchange visitors) who had their 2014 refunds frozen.”

TaxGrrrl, Treasury Sends Dire Warning To Congress: We’re Running Out Of Money Faster Than Expected.



TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 877878879. They’re still talking about impeaching Koskinen. If the administration really wants to build trust in the IRS, they’ll dump him. Until they do so, we can assume his stonewalling and stiff-arming of the GOP appropriators is the behavior the administration wants out of him.

Scott Greenberg, New Study Shows that Tuition Deduction Does Not Increase College Attendance (Tax Policy Blog):

 Last year, Bulman and Hoxby published a similar study of three federal education credits, which concluded that all three have a “negligible” effect on college attendance. This finding was in stark contrast to the Obama administration’s claim that the expansion of the American Opportunity Tax Credit made it possible for 12 million more students to earn a college degree.

The increase in subsidies over the years coincides with wild increases in tuition costs. I don’t believe that’s a coincidence.


Renu Zaretsky, Hope’s Limits, Math, and Cuts. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup talks about the apparent death of an international tax reform effort and efforts to improve IRS verification of earned income tax credit eligibility.


Russ Fox, There Is No Magic OID Process. Just like there is no Tax Fairy.

Me, Chasing the Tax Fairy. My latest at, the Des Moines Business Record business professionals’ blog. I discuss four manifestations of the Tax Fairy cult – The ESOP Fairy, the Home-based Business Fairy, the Pennies-on-the-dollar Fairy, and the Classic 105 fairy that Hank Stern spotted.




Tax Roundup, 10/2/15: What your Health Savings Account can do that your IRA can’t. And: They don’t stay bought.

Friday, October 2nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150803-1Your IRA isn’t an HSA. Last week I was asked whether there was a penalty for taking money from an Individual Retirement Account to pay for surgery. I said there was no penalty, but that it was taxable income. The person who asked was surprised and confused, thinking that penalty and taxation are the same thing. They aren’t.

The Tax Court faced a similar question yesterday. A 47 year-old taxpayer took money from her IRA to pay medical expenses for her non-dependent son. The IRS noticed, presumably via a computer match, and assessed her a 10% early withdrawal penalty, as well as regular income tax. Judge Guy explains the issue:

Generally, if a taxpayer receives a distribution from a qualified retirement plan before attaining age 59-1/2, section 72(t) imposes an additional tax equal to 10% of the portion of the distribution which is includible in the taxpayer’s gross income. Sec. 72(t)(1) and (2). The additional tax is intended to discourage taxpayers from taking premature distributions from retirement plans — actions that frustrate public policy encouraging saving for retirement…

Section 72(t)(2)(B) provides an exception to the imposition of additional tax to the extent that retirement plan distributions “do not exceed the amount allowable as a deduction under section 213 to the employee for amounts paid during the taxable year for medical care (determined without regard to whether the employee itemizes deductions for such taxable year).” Section 213 in turn allows as a deduction “the expenses paid during the taxable year, not compensated for by insurance or otherwise, for medical care of the taxpayer, his spouse, or a dependent…

The “dependent” part was bad news:

The record reflects that petitioner did not claim her son as a dependent for the year in issue and fails to demonstrate that her son met the definition of a dependent provided in section 152. Consequently, we conclude that petitioner is not eligible for the exception under section 72(t)(2)(B) — even assuming that she used the funds in question to pay her son’s medical expenses.

But even if she did qualify to avoid the 10% tax (she didn’t), the withdrawal would still have been subject to income tax.

Health Savings Accounts look a lot like IRAs — they allow tax-free build-up, and they can be tapped penalty free like IRAs for retirement income. But HSA funds withdrawn for medical expenses are tax-free — not just penalty free. As with the IRA, though, the medical expenses have to be the taxpayers, the spouse’s, or a dependent’s. This extra flexibility makes HSAs a better savings vehicle than an IRA for those who qualify.

Not everybody qualifies. You need a “high deductible” health insurance policy to qualify for an HSA. For 2015 a “high deductible plan” is one with an annual deductible of at least $1,300 for single coverage and $2,600 for family coverage.  Annual out-of-pocket costs can’t exceed $6,450 for single coverage and $12,900 for family coverage. The 2015 contribution limits are $3,350 for single coverage and $6,650 for family coverage.

Unlike employer “flex-plan” arrangments, there is no “use it or lose it” feature in HSAs. You can accumulate contributions and save them for a year with large medical expenses, or for retirement. You don’t have to withdraw the funds in the same year as the medical expenses, either; if you had medical expenses in year 1, you can wait until year 2 to withdraw the amount and still have it tax-free.

Cite: Ireland, T.C. Summary Opinion 2015-60

Related Links:

IRS publication 969.

Kiplinger, FAQs about Health Savings Accounts.




Maria Koklanaris, ConAgra Foods, Winner of Largest-Ever Nebraska Incentive Package, Moving to Illinois (Tax Analysts, subscriber link):

ConAgra Foods Inc., recipient of the largest tax incentive package ever awarded in Nebraska, announced October 1 that it would move its corporate headquarters from Omaha to Chicago, cutting at least 1,500 jobs in the process.

As I’ve said before, incentive tax credits are like taking your wife’s purse to the bar to buy drinks for the girls. It cheats the person who’s paying, the girls aren’t impressed, and if you leave with one, she’s not the type to be faithful.


It’s Friday! It’s Buzz Day for Robert D. Flach. Trumpmania figures prominently.

Jason Dinesen, How to Protect a Deceased Person’s Identity. “Thankfully, Congress has now limited access to the Death Master File, which was the cause of much of the identity theft relating to deceased people.”

Paul Neiffer, Form 1099-G Does Not Always Require Schedule F Reporting. “The key thing to remember is just because USDA or a cooperative issues a Form 1099 does not mean the income has to be fully reported on Schedule F and subject to full self-employment tax.”

Jim Maule, Taxation of Prizes, Question Three. “The question, however, also referred to the local or state sales tax. The awarding of a prize is not a sale, so the sales tax ought not apply.”

Kay Bell, Hurricane Joaquin intensifies, threatens East Coast…maybe. Maybe you should dust off your disaster recovery plan once in awhile.

Leslie Book, Restitution Based Assessment and Tax Return Preparers: An Uneasy Mix (Procedurally Taxing). On the problems the IRS has in getting restitution from crooked preparers.

Robert Wood, Marijuana Goes Native American And Tax Free




David Henderson, via Don Boudreaux:

Herbert Hoover, in the midst of the Great Depression, more than doubled the top [income-tax] rate to 63 percent and increased the bottom rate by more than nine times to 4 percent.  He did this in spite of the fact that raising income tax rates during a depression lengthens the depression.  Franklin Roosevelt carried on Hoover’s policy throughout the 1930s and increased tax rates further.  By 1940, he had raised the top tax rate to 81.1 percent on incomes over $5 million.

Putting the “great” in the Great Depression.


Stephen Entin, Expensing: The Right Tax Treatment for All Investment Regardless of Financing Arrangements (Tax Policy Blog)

Howard Gleckman, How Investment Managers (And Maybe You) Would Benefit From Trump’s Tax Plan (TaxVox).

Cara Griffith, Idaho Legislators Shamed Into Good Behavior (Tax Analysts) Politicians, bureaucrats and cockroaches prefer darkness.

Carl Davis, Michigan Becomes the 26th State Where Online Retailers like Amazon Must Collect Sales Tax (Tax Justice Blog).


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 876. Lois Lerner and the Wisconsin witch hunt.


The Critical Question. Is Technology Making Accountants Dumb and Lazy? (Chris Hooper, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 10/1/15: Carried interests are good for you. State tax incentives aren’t.

Thursday, October 1st, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Public domain image via WikipediaSympathy for the Devil. The devil is “carried interest” taxation of partnerships interests. Megan McArdle discusses this devilry in Sure, Debate Carried-Interest Taxes. Or Something That Matters.:

It’s fundraising gold for Democrats, and a perennial talking point for liberal columnists: hedge funders pay taxes on some of their income at the lower rate for capital gains, rather than the higher rates assessed on “ordinary income” (read: money you earn by working).

If you only know about it from politicians, you get the idea that the only beneficiaries of the carried interest are hedge fund managers who light their cigars with $100 bills. If you see it in tax practice, though, it looks different.

The “carried interest” is really a profits interest, or a preferential allocation of profits, to an employee or manager of a partnership. A private equity manager might get no current equity in an investment, but a portion of the profits. The same rule lets a partnership give an interest in future earnings to the business’s managers or employees. It’s a partnership version of stock options (options are allowed for partnerships, but the differences between partnership and corporation taxation makes options less attractive in partnerships).

Carried interest opponents find this “abusive” when the business does well and gets sold. The result is a portion of the gain on the sale of the business goes to the managers and employees with carried interests, who may have not put cash into the business. But it’s the same total amount of gain taxed. It’s just that some of it gets allocated from the investors to the managers. The investors are presumably fine with it because they have gain to share — that’s why they cut the managers and employees into the deal in the first place.

But isn’t this abusive because it treats “compensation” as capital gain rather than ordinary? Not really — the investors are forgoing the same ordinary deduction, so the net effect is the same. There’s no conceptual reason why a profits interest — which by definition has no value when granted — can’t generate capital gain. (Of course, I think taxing capital gains in the first place is the real abuse). And in many cases the carry includes an allocation of ordinary business income in tax years prior to the sale, so for that part of the deal, there’s not even a conceptual abuse.

Ms. McArdle is puzzled about the attention the issue gets:

The carried interest issue is thus a convenient way for Democrats making stump speeches to claim that they’re really going to do something about inequality and cronyism, and maybe fund some important new spending on hard-working American families. With the entrance of Jeb Bush and Donald Trump into the arena, it is also a way for Republicans to seem tough on rich special interests while simultaneously proposing tax plans that will help affluent Americans hold on to a lot more of their income and wealth.

As with most Washington Issues, my actual level of concern about carried-interest taxation hovers somewhere between “neighbor’s bathroom grout drama” and “Menudo reunion tour.” Nonetheless, I’m beginning to wish that Congress would get rid of it without demanding anything in return, just to force politicians to talk about something that actually matters.

I’m less willing to just go along. Any “reform” of carried interest will complicate an already byzantine partnership tax law. It will inevitably create traps that will cause tax pain for people just trying to run their business and put beans on the table. At worst, it can become a potential nightmare like the Section 409A rules, which were enacted to punish long-defunct Enron, but which now menace any employees who have a deferred comp deal with their employer.

And of course any carried interest “reform” won’t shut up those who want to jack up taxes on “the rich” for more than a moment before they find another hate totem.

Related, but not agreeing: Peter Reilly, President Obama Could End Special Tax Treatment For Two Twenty Guys



Don Boudreaux, a blogging economics professor, makes a good case against the Export-Import Bank that works just as well against state “economic development” subsidies and tax credits (my emphasis):

Second, subsidies doled out by governments weaken, not strengthen, their economies.  To see why, suppose that other governments conscript all 22-35 year olds within their borders and force these conscripts to work at subsistence wages for the industries located within those countries.  Further suppose that the results are beneficial for corporate shareholders in those countries: their companies export more and rake in higher profits than they would without such conscription.  Should Uncle Sam therefore follow suit? 

Economically, the only difference between export subsidies as they exist today in reality and the above hypothetical is that real-world export subsidies are less extreme than is conscription.  Yet no essential economic difference separates real-world subsidies from such hypothetical conscription: each is a government policy of forcibly seizing resources from some people in order to bloat the purses and wallets of other people.

Substitute “economic development tax credits” for “subsidies” and “other states” for “other countries,” and you have the case against the tax credits paid for by Iowa taxpayers to lure and subsidize their competitors.


David Brunori, A Word of Advice for Legislators of All Stripes (Tax Analysts Blog). You should read the whole thing, but I especially like this: “That politicians can impose economic policy through tax incentives is more akin to a Soviet five-year plan than to anything Adam Smith ever said.”



Russ Fox, TIGTA: “IRS Can’t Track International Correspondence.” IRS: “So What.” “It turns out that the IRS doesn’t know what happens to much of the mail the agency sends overseas.” And it doesn’t much care.

TaxGrrrl, Government Shutdown Avoided For Now: Funding Bill Only Temporary.

Kay Bell, Federal government funded for 10 more weeks




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 875. Today’s installment features Robert Wood on newly-revealed bonuses to IRS employees:

As you read about bonuses, you might recall other reports saying that 61% of IRS employees caught willfully violating the tax law aren’t fired, but may get promoted.

And people wonder why anyone might not want this organization regulating tax preparers.


News from the Profession. Accounting Had a Toxic Culture Before It Was Cool (Leona May, Going Concern). “As ‘The Great Email Chain of 2013’ demonstrates, the public accounting workaholic culture has spawned a whole bunch of work-obsessed, white-collar monsters.”

Well, our little firm isn’t so monstrous. If you feel abused and would like to live in Central Iowa, drop me a line. We might be able to improve things for you.




Tax Roundup, 9/30/15: Taking from rich doesn’t give to the poor; state incentives favor the big.

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Today we have two instances where policy tanks that I usually disagree with make important tax policy points.

TPC logoFirst, The center-left Tax Policy Center, a project of the Brookings Institution (which I castigate below), makes an important observation about the overrated problem of income inequality in their paper, Would a significant increase in the top income tax rate substantially alter income inequality? The summary (my emphasis):

The high level of income inequality in the United States is at the forefront of policy attention. This paper focuses on one potential policy response: an increase in the top personal income tax rate. We conduct a simulation analysis using the Tax Policy Center (TPC) microsimulation model to determine how much of a reduction in income inequality would be achieved from increasing the top individual tax rate to as much as 50 percent. We calculate the resulting change in income inequality assuming an explicit redistribution of all new revenue to households in the bottom 20 percent of the income distribution. The resulting effects on overall income inequality are exceedingly modest.

I have zero hope that politicians will heed this. Just because you take from the rich doesn’t mean it goes to the poor. It goes to the well-connected, as in the next item.

Second, the not-so-center-left Good Jobs First takes the side of the angels in the battle against state tax incentives, with a survey of small businesses called In Search of a Level Playing Field:

A national survey of leaders of small business organizations reveals that they overwhelmingly believe that state economic development incentives favor big businesses, that states are overspending on large individual deals, and that state incentive programs are not effectively meeting the needs of small businesses seeking to grow. 

I think they have this exactly right. It’s not start-ups that get the big deals from the legislature and the Economic Development bureaucrats. It’s the well-connected and wealthy companies that know how to work the system. The rest of us get to pay for it.




Jason Dinesen, The Iowa School Tuition Organization Tax Credit. “Iowa offers dozens of obscure tax credits. The one I get asked about most is the tax credit available for donations to a ‘school tuition organization’ or STO.”

Kay Bell, Maryland issuing court-ordered county tax credit refunds. If you don’t want to repay illegal taxes, don’t collect illegal taxes.

Russ Fox, How to Wynne Your Money Back in Maryland

Paul Neiffer, IRS Provides List of Counties Eligible For Additional Extension on Livestock Replacement

Jim Maule, Taxation of Prizes, Question Two. He quotes a post from a sweepstakes message board:

 I won concert VIP tickets, there is no value on the tickets, so I can’t sell them. If no value is on them, why am I paying taxes on them? 

Mr. Maule explains that there is a value. If there isn’t, then why didn’t the winner give them away?





InsureBlog, Yes, The New York Obamacare Co-op [squandered*] $340 Million. *The actual headline uses a more colorful term.

Robert Wood, Hillary Backs Cadillac Tax Repeal


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 874. Today’s edition features IRS agents abusing their power on everyday taxpayers. But we can trust them to regulate their tax preparer adversaries, right?

Arnold Kling, Hypocrisy and Cowardice at Brookings. Arnold addresses the firing by the Brookings Institution of Robert Litan, a scholar accused by Senator Elizabeth Warren of “writing a research paper to benefit his corporate patrons.” He is appalled:

1. Robert Litan is one of the most decent individuals in the whole economics profession.

2. Giving Litan’s scalp (sorry for the pun) to Elizabeth Warren does nothing to bolster the integrity of Brookings. It amounts to speaking cowardice to power.

There’s more. The episode is appalling, and it shows the totalitarian tendencies that are barely beneath the surface of Senator Warren’s populism.




Alan Cole, Donald Trump’s Tax Plan Will Not Be Revenue-Neutral Under Any Circumstances (Tax Policy Blog)

Jeremy Scott, Trump’s Tax Plan Is Pretty Much GOP Orthodoxy (Tax Analysts Blog)

Matt Gardner, How Donald Trump’s Carried Interest Tax Hike Masks a Massive Tax Cut for Wealthy Money Managers (Tax Justice Blog)

Peter Reilly, Trump Tax Plan Would Increase Deficit By Over $10 Trillion

Tony Nitti, Love Trump, Hate Romney, But Their Tax Plans Are One And The Same

Renu Zaretsky, Thirty days, goodbye September, shutdown talks—maybe in December. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers shutdown politics, plans to use reconciliation procedures to pass bills repealing pieces of Obamacare, and tax Trumpalism.


See you at Hoyt Sherman Place tonight!



Tax Roundup, 9/29/15: Iowa, worst of the worst in corporate taxes. And: Trump, CPA extinction events, more!

Tuesday, September 29th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20120906-1The U.S. Corporation tax is the worst in the OECD. So that makes Iowa… The Tax Foundation yesterday released its 2015 International Tax Competitiveness Index, an international counterpart to their State Business Tax Climate Index. The news isn’t good for the U.S. (my emphasis):

The United States provides a good example of an uncompetitive tax code. The last major change to the U.S. tax code occurred 29 years ago as part of the Tax Reform Act of 1986, when Congress reduced the top marginal corporate income tax rate from 46 percent to 34 percent in an attempt to make U.S. corporations more competitive domestically and overseas. Since then, member countries of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have followed suit, reducing the OECD average corporate tax rate from 47.5 percent in the early 1980s to around 25 percent today. In 1993, the U.S. government moved in the opposite direction, raising its top marginal corporate rate to 35 percent. The result: the United States now has the highest corporate income tax rate in the industrialized world.

Iowa’s 12% rate is the highest state corporate tax rate in the U.S. Iowa’s corporation tax ranks 49th out of 50 states in the 2015 State Business Tax Climate Index. That makes us extra-special.

The United States places 32nd out of the 34 OECD countries on the ITCI. There are three main drivers behind the U.S.’s low score. First, it has the highest corporate income tax rate in the OECD at 39 percent (combined marginal federal and state rates). Second, it is one of the few countries in the OECD that does not have a territorial tax system, which would exempt foreign profits earned by domestic corporations from domestic taxation. Finally, the United States loses points for having a relatively high, progressive individual income tax (combined top rate of 48.6 percent) that taxes both dividends and capital gains, albeit at a reduced rate.

Estonia gets the best scores:

Estonia currently has the most competitive tax code in the OECD. Its top score is driven by four positive features of its tax code. First, it has a 20 percent tax rate on corporate income that is only applied to distributed profits. Second, it has a flat 20 percent tax on individual income that does not apply to personal dividend income. Third, its property tax applies only to the value of land rather than taxing the value of real property or capital. Finally, it has a territorial tax system that exempts 100 percent of the foreign profits earned by domestic corporations from domestic taxation, with few restrictions.

Unfortunately, for some of the current presidential candidates, the worst features of the U.S. system are their favorite parts.




Robert D. Flach’s Tuesday Buzz rounds up topics from Blue-to-Red migration, saving too much (hard to do), and the tax costs of stock sales.

Russ Fox, Cash & Carry Your Way to Tax Evasion:

Mr. Kobryn was determined to lower his tax burden. Instead of making sure all expenses were noted on his tax returns and perhaps contributing to a SEP IRA, he decided to not deposit all of the cash into his business bank account. He knew about the currency transaction reporting (CTR) rules, so he made his cash deposits just under $10,000 and deposited them into several branches of his local bank.

That’s a reliable way to attract IRS attention.

Robert Wood, Lance Armstrong Legal Settlement Makes Tax Problem On Steriods. He paid tax on his biking income, but deducting the lawsuit costs isn’t so straightforward.

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for the week ending 8/28/15 (Procedurally Taxing). This roundup of recent tax procedure developments includes a baby picture, no extra charge.




Megan McArdle, Obamacare’s Nonprofit Insurers Are Failing, Predictably. Iowa’s CoOportunity was only the first.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 873


Howard Gleckman, Trump Proposes a Huge Tax Cut. YUUUGE!

Peter Reilly, Trump’s Plan Inverts Traditional Tax Planning Makes Carried Interest Moot. “If you think that Trump will win and enact this program normal tax planning is the order of the day.”

Kay Bell, Trump’s ‘amazing’ tax plan zeroes out taxes for some.


News from the Profession. In Order Save the Accounting Profession, It Has to Be Destroyed First (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). “I’ll even take it a step further and say a mass extinction is exactly what the accounting profession needs.”



Tax Roundup, 9/28/15. IRS logic: A and B are part of set X. A is part of Set X, so B isn’t. And: Blood Moon!

Monday, September 28th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


Flickr image by Sage under Creative Commons license

Flickr image by Sage under Creative Commons license

On further review, it’s silly. I’ve had a weekend to think about last weeks IRS “Action on Decision” to continue trying to collect self-employment tax on Conservation Reserve Program payments in the Eighth Circuit. It’s a poke in the eye of the court, and one that will probably not help the IRS when it inevitably has to defend itself before the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The gist of the IRS position is that because legislation was enacted in 2008 that specifically stated that CRP payments are payments for renting real estate, and therefore, not self-employment income, to taxpayers collecting Social Security, they suddenly become self-employment income to everyone else.

The Eighth Circuit majority ruled in Morehouse that CRP payments to non-farmers pre-2007 were real estate rentals. Logically, saying that a subset of those payments are real estate rentals shouldn’t by itself make other payments something else. But that’s what the IRS argues.

Unfortunately, the IRS has now made uncertain a seemingly-settled area of the tax law. They did so by taking a position that, if taken by a taxpayer, might trigger negligence penalties. It really is another example of the need for a “Sauce for the Gander” rule that would make the IRS liable to taxpayers for penalties for faulty IRS positions in the same way taxpayers have to pay penalties for bad positions to the IRS.

Prior Coverage at IRS: Post-2007 CRP payments remain self-employment income unless you collect Social Security.


Scott Sumner has posted an outstanding set of tax policy observations: Our bizarre system of taxing capital (Econlog). You really should read the whole thing, but I’ll give you a taste:

It’s difficult to think of a more bizarre and foolish policy than the practice of taxing capital. Consider:

1. If it were appropriate to pay taxes on capital gains, why wouldn’t it be appropriate to pay negative taxes on capital losses? Economic theories tend to be symmetrical. And yet capital losses do not result in negative taxes, except in certain limited cases. And why only those cases?

2. Economic theory suggests that two people with essentially identical economic outcomes should pay identical taxes. But consider two people who both bought 1000 shares of Apple stock for $50/share at the beginning of the year. One sold the shares on November 9th at $100 and bought them back 5 minutes later at the same price. Both held 1000 Apple shares at year-end. To an economist those two outcomes are essentially identical. But one person must pay a large tax on capital gains, while the other does not. Why?

A fan of capital gain taxes would say that just means we should tax unrealized capital gains. Mr. Sumner is not such a fan:

A simpler and fairer solution would be to abolish all taxes on capital, and start over.

But because that would help “the rich,” it isn’t happening. Nothing is too stupid or counterproductive to do to them.


"Blod moon" photos by Jose Guerrero, taken in Columbia. Used by permission.

“Blood moon” photos by Jose Guerrero, taken in Colombia. Used by permission.



A client should not take the finished returns from his/her tax professional and just sign and mail without actually looking at them. The client should carefully review all the forms and schedules that make up the returns before signing the return, and ask the preparer if there is something that he/she does not understand.

And that is the problem with clients who wait until the very last minute — I mean October 15, when no further extensions are available — to finish their tax information. They obviously aren’t going to give the return a good review when they have to immediately sign the e-file authorization or run it to the post office. But if there is something seriously wrong, the IRS isn’t going to take “I didn’t have time to review before filing” as an excuse.


Kay Bell, Electric vehicle tax credits favor the wealthy. You don’t see many Teslas, or for that matter Chevy Volts, in poor neighborhoods.

Paul Neiffer, Involuntary Conversion of Livestock. “If a farmer sells livestock because of consequences of a drought, the payment of income tax on the taxable gain from the sale may be postponed.”

Jason Dinesen, How to Calculate an RMD. If you don’t start withdrawing from your IRA when you hit 70 1/2, the penalties pile up.

Jim Maule, Taxation of Prizes, Question One. “So a person wins a prize, tells the company awarding it that the winner cannot accept it because it will be taxed, creating a liquidity problem, and the company spokesperson says, in effect, ‘Not a problem, it’s not in cash, we won’t send a Form 1099.'”

Peter Reilly, A Slick Estate Planning Trick And Intimations Of Mortality. “The Tax Court decision in the case of Jean Steinberg is a great example of planners taking a rule that is meant to prevent taxpayers from getting away with something and using it to, well, get away with something.”

Russ Fox, Neymar Tax Evasion Investigation Continues; Judge Freezes $48 Million of Assets. Considering how impossible Brazil’s tax system is, it would be surprising if somebody there weren’t guilty of a tax crime.


brazil chart 2


Tony Nitti, House Bill Would Give Tax Deduction, Credit In Exchange For Learning Science And Math. The tax law. Is there anything it can’t do?


Jack Townsend, GE Asks the Supreme Court to Screw Up Again to Bless a BS* Tax Shelter. *Expletive deleted.

Leslie Book, Fifth Circuit Tackles Intersection of TAO Rules and Statutes of Limitation (Procedurally Taxing). “Earlier this week in Rothkamm v US, the Fifth Circuit issued an opinion that considered whether a wife’s application for a Taxpayer Assistance Order (TAO) concerning a recovery of funds levied from her bank account to satisfy her husband’s tax debt tolled the nine-month wrongful levy statute of limitations.”




David Brunori on historic preservation credits ($link): “Nothing says boondoggle like giving rich folks tax dollars to fancy up old buildings.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 870Day 871Day 872. Including musings about how the IRS gagged on Tea Party gnats but swallows Clinton Foundation camels.

Scott Greenberg, Senate Democrats’ Bill Would Overhaul the Treatment of Energy in the Tax Code (Tax Policy Blog):

Currently, nearly every source of energy is subsidized to some extent by the federal government. This means that the U.S. economy is more energy-heavy than it would be under normal market conditions, leading to an inefficient allocation of resources. The Senate Democrats’ bill would continue to heavily subsidize energy production in the United States.

In general, tax expenditures, such as energy subsidies, leave the federal government with less revenue, requiring higher tax rates overall on individuals and businesses.

Anybody who thinks Congress will wisely allocate these subsidies to create our optimal energy use mix for the country hasn’t been paying attention in recent decades.

Renu Zaretsky, A Resignation, and… Resignation. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the implications of Speaker Boehner’s resignation, a politician promising more tax credits! and the sublime awfulness of trying to pay business taxes in Brazil.


News from the Professon. Deloitte Dabbles in Orwellian Tracking Devices (Greg Kyte, Going Concern). “The gadget looks and works like what you would expect if an ID badge had sex with an iPhone.”



Tax Roundup, 9/25/15: IRS: Post-2007 CRP payments remain self-employment income unless you collect Social Security.

Friday, September 25th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

binIRS says not farming is just like farming, for self-employment tax purposes. Last year the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that non-farmers are not subject to self-employment tax on conservation reserve program payments received for not planting land. The IRS yesterday announced (AOD 2015-02) that it disagrees with the decision. It said that it will follow the decision only within the Eighth Circuit, and even there only for pre-2008 payments.

The Eighth Circuit panel said that CRP payments are properly treated for non-farmers as rentals from real estate, which are not subject to SE tax. The IRS says it still disagrees, and it said that a 2008 law change “clarified” things (my emphasis):

In addition, the 2008 amendment to section 1402(a)(1) to treat CRP payments made to Social Security recipients as rentals from real estate effective for tax years beginning after December 31, 2007, served to clarify that other CRP payments are not excluded as rentals from real estate. Congress neither enacted a blanket exclusion with respect to CRP payments (or CRP payments made to non-farmers) nor evidenced any disagreement with the analysis of the Sixth Circuit in Wuebker. Although the statutory amendment does not apply to the years at issue in Morehouse, the implication is that prior to the amendment, CRP payments to farmers and non-farmers alike are not excludible from self-employment income as rentals from real estate. If these payments were already excluded as rental payments then the amendment would have been unnecessary. After the amendment, the implication is that CRP payments to farmers and non-farmers alike are not excludible from self-employment income unless made to Social Security recipients.

That conclusion may not go unchallenged. Roger McEowen of the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation had a different take after the Eighth Circuit decision came down:

For CRP rents paid after 2007, the question is whether the recipient is a materially participating farmer.

That means the IRS can be expected to reject refund claims for SE tax paid by those not receiving Social Security payments. From the AOD:

We recognize the precedential effect of the decision in Morehouse to cases appealable to the Eighth Circuit. Accordingly, we will follow Morehouse within the Eighth Circuit only with respect to cases in which the CRP payments at issue were both (1) paid to an individual who was not engaged in farming prior to or during the period of enrollment of his or her land in CRP and (2) paid prior to January 1, 2008 (i.e., the effective date of the 2008 amendment to section 1402(a)(1)). We will continue to litigate the IRS position in the Eighth Circuit in cases not having these specific facts. We will also continue to litigate the IRS position in all cases in other circuits.

This means the whole issue will assuredly end up back in the courts sooner or later. For now, though, we are on notice that the IRS considers current CRP payments to be subject to SE tax in all circuits.

Robert D. Flach has a fresh Friday Buzz roundup of tax bog posts, with items including the awfulness of the coming tax season, state tax fairness, and the savers tax credit.

TaxGrrrl, 7 Budget & Tax Related Reasons We May Be Headed Towards A Government Shutdown.

Kay Bell, Bartering is a great — and taxable — way to buy and sell. A lack of cash doesn’t mean a lack of tax.

Jim Maule, In What Year Should a Prize Be Reported as Gross Income?. “The question is simple. When a person wins a prize, in what year should the person report the income on the federal income tax return?”

Sheldon Kay, “Judging Litigating Hazards – Another View” (Procedurally Taxing). “He [Keith Fogg] also suggests that Appeals officers “with little or no knowledge of litigation” cannot properly analyze evidentiary questions or properly evaluate hazards of litigation. I respectfully disagree with his assessment.”

Annette Nellen, Challenges of base broadening


Alan Cole, Cadillac Tax Working as Planned on Auto Workers (Tax Policy Blog). ”

The situation above is not a mistake in the Affordable Care Act; rather, it is the Cadillac tax fulfilling both of its intended goals.

The first goal is to encourage substitution from employer health benefits back towards ordinary compensation, like wages and salaries…

The second goal of the Cadillac Tax is to raise revenue.

By delaying the painful parts, the bill fooled enough people long enough to get enacted. Now the rubes are catching on, but it’s too late.

Robert Wood, Bernie Sanders And Republicans Both Urge Cadillac Tax Repeal




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 869

Norton Francis, The Trouble with State Tax Triggers (TaxVox). “Here’s how a tax trigger works: A state cuts taxes over a period of years. There may be an initial tax cut that takes effect right away but future reductions are tied to some other benchmark, typically (but not always) achieving an overall revenue target.”

Sebastian Johnson, Maine Republicans Double Down on Tax Cut Fervor (Tax Justice Blog).


If only he had been regulated by the IRS. Oh, wait… IRS Agent Busted for Extorting Money From Marijuana Dispensary Owner (High Times, Via the TaxProf)



Tax Roundup, 9/24/15: Small partnership, big late-filing penalties. And: tax tips from the Duke and the Yogi.

Thursday, September 24th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150813-1Didn’t file that 1065? The penalties can add up, even for small partnerships. Congress decided a few years ago that late-filed partnership returns could be an IRS profit center. They imposed a penalty of $195 per partner for returns filed even one day late — a penalty repeated for each additional month the return is late. Needless to say, a ten-person partnership can rack up a big bill.

When Congress enacted that penalty, it left in place an escape hatch. Back in 1984, the IRS issued a ruling providing a standard exemption from the late filing penalty for “small partnerships.” Rev. Proc. 84-35 allows partnerships composed only of individuals with straight-up allocations of income and loss to be excused from the late filing penalty. But there’s a catch: the penalties are excused only:

…provided that the partnership, or any of the partners, establishes, if so requested by the Internal Revenue Service, that all partners have fully reported their shares of the income, deductions, and credits of the partnership on their timely filed income tax returns.

A Federal Court in South Dakota this week ruled that this catch means a late-filing small partnership is at the mercy of its least responsible partner to avoid penalties. One late-filing partner can cause penalties for the whole partnership.

Battle Flat, LLC filed its 2007 and 2007 Form 1065s over six months late. It requested a penalty waiver based on Rev. Proc. 84-35. Unfortunately, none of the six partners filed a timely 1040 for 2007, and three of them also filed their 2008 returns late — four years late in one case. The IRS denied the penalty relief because the partnership was unable to demonstrate “that all partners have fully reported their shares of the income, deductions, and credits of the partnership on their timely filed income tax returns.”

The partnership argued that the requirement for timely-filed partner returns isn’t a requirement that the statute allows. On brief, the partnership argues:

Congress did not impose or even mention an intent to require that each individual partner’s (sic) must timely file his or her individual return in order for the partnership to qualify for a “reasonable cause” forgiveness of a late filing penalty. But, the IRS has engrafted such a requirement in Revenue Procedure 84-35.

20140321-4The IRS disagrees, and so does the Federal Judge (citations and footnotes omitted, emphasis added):

The IRS’ position is persuasive. Although § 6698 does not expressly impose a timeliness requirement by which partners in a “small” partnership must file their personal income tax return in lieu of filing a partnership tax return, this is exactly the type of interpretative question left to the discretion of the IRS in implementing our nation’s tax laws. The IRS’ interpretation that partners in a “small” partnership timely file their personal income tax returns is reasonable and is a highly practical aid in its assessment of the tax consequences of a partnership for a given year and on a year-over-year basis. IRS’ interpretation is consistent with the legislative history of § 9968 in that it strains credulity to characterize a personal income tax return filed years after the reporting deadline as an adequate, full reporting of each partner’s share of the partnership’s income and deductions.

Conversely, Battle Flat’s interpretation that § 9968’s “reasonable cause” exception is satisfied so long as the partners in a “small” partnership file their personal income tax returns at some unspecified future date is unreasonable. The interpretation would result in a system where the tax consequences of a “small” partnership would go unassessed for years at a time. Furthermore, under Battle Flat’s interpretation, the IRS would be required to track the status of each partner’s personal income tax return until every partner’s tax return was received before it could accurately calculate the annual tax consequences of the partnership.

At least one commentator appears to argue that small partnerships are excused from annual 1065 filing requirements. That’s not how the judge ruled in this case. While this case may be appealed, partners should consider this a warning that the IRS and at least one federal judge aren’t on board with a blanket filing exemption for small partnerships. Considering how fast that $195 per partner, per month penalty can add up, filing timely 1065s for small partnerships seems like a prudent bet.

Cite: Battle Flat, LLC (USDC-SD, No. 5:13-5070-JLV)

Related: Roger McEowen, The Small Partnership Exception – A Possible Way to Avoid Failure to File Penalities, but Not Complexity


Liz Malm, Does Your State Levy a Capital Stock Tax? (Tax Policy Blog):


“In broad economic terms, capital stock taxes (referred to as franchise taxes in many states) are destructive because they disincentivize the accumulation of additional wealth, or capital, which distorts the size of firms.”



If you receive a balance due notice from the IRS or a state tax agency DO NOT AUTOMATICALLY PAY THE AMOUNT REQUESTED!

In my 40+ years of preparing tax returns I have found that more often than not (actually in my experience it is more like 75% of the time) a balance due notice from “Sam” or your state is wrong. And, again in my experience, notices from a state tax agency (at least when it comes to NJ and NY) are wrong more than ones from the IRS.

Robert speaks wisely. As scammers are getting more sophisticated — sometimes even mailing authentic-looking “IRS notices” — this advice becomes even more important.


Jason Dinesen, When Do I Have to Take My RMD? If you don’t start withdrawing from your retirement accounts on time, penalties can be ugly.

Tony Nitti, Tax Court: Drop In Property Value Does Not Create Deductible Loss. You usually have to sell out, as a real estate investor  learned the hard way this week in tax court.


TaxGrrrl, Profiting From Star Wars, Michael Jackson & Taylor Swift Memorabilia: There’s A Tax On That

Russ Fox, Are Turf Rebates Taxable?

Robert Wood, Why Churches Are The Gold Standard Of Tax-Exempt Organizations


Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for the Week Ending 8/21/15. It’s the Procedurally Taxing roundup of recent developments in the tax procedure world.

Kay Bell, How charitable are you and your neighbors? “Overall, ALEC’s analysis found that for every 1 percent increase in a state’s total tax burden, there is a 1.16 percent decrease in the state’s rate of charitable giving.”

Peter Reilly, Yogi Berra’s Sayings Worked Their Way Into Tax Decisions.



Renu Zaretsky, A lawmaker’s work is never done. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup ranges from Russian tax revenue problems to improper EITC credits, plus much more.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 868


He was a quiet guy, but he seemed a little odd. Peculiar Man Indicted for Tax Evasion (Kansas City InfoZine). “Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced that a Peculiar, Missouri, resident has been indicted by a federal grand jury for tax evasion.”



Tax Roundup, 9/23/15: Certified mail > And more!

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan


certifiedTiming is everything. While electronic filing solves proof of filing questions for many returns, not everything is e-filed. While the IRS “mailbox rule” holds that things mailed by the due date are considered filed on time, it’s up to the taxpayer to prove timely mailing. I recommend Certified Mail with a post office postmark and return receipt requested, though a shipping slip from a “qualified private delivery service” also works.

But not a postmark. A taxpayer sent a petition to the Tax Court, which does provide for electronic filing of petitions. The taxpayer used certified mail, and the date on the mark was on time, but the petition arrived late. That went badly (my emphasis):

In the instant case, the “sender’s receipt for certified mail” was not postmarked by a USPS employee but rather was handwritten by an employee of petitioner’s counsel. Therefore, sending the petition by certified mail afforded petitioner no guarantee of a timely postmark, and he assumed the risk that the postmark would bear a date on or before the last day of the 90-day period prescribed for filing the petition. Unfortunately for petitioner, the “postmark” upon which he relies is superseded by USPS Tracking data, which tracking data serves as a postmark, see Boultbee v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2011-11, and is therefore conclusive in determining whether the petition was timely mailed, see sec. 301.7502-1(c)(1)(iii)(B)(3), Proced. & Admin. Regs. In the instant case, USPS Tracking data demonstrates that the petition was not timely mailed.

The Moral: you want to protect yourself using certified mail, you should make a trip to the post office. Marking the certified mail slip in the office mailroom doesn’t do the job; neither does a postage meter or

Cite: Tilden, T.C. Memo. 2015-188.





I’ve read so many blog posts taking victory laps on Obamacare, but surely something is wrong when our most scientific study of the question rather effortlessly coughs up phrases such as “but most uninsured will lose” and also “Average welfare for the uninsured population would be estimated to decline after the ACA if all members of that population obtained coverage.”  The simple point is that people still have to pay some part of the cost for this health insurance and a) they were getting some health care to begin with, and b) the value of the policy to them is often worth less than its subsidized price.

-Tyler Cowen (Marginal Revolution), The incidence of the ACA mandates

Alan Cole, The Cadillac Tax is Still Probably Raising Deductibles (Tax Policy Blog).  “The news website Vox today covered the issue of rising deductibles in the U.S. health care market. As with their past coverage of the issue, there is a curious omission from the piece: the Cadillac tax.”


Jason Dinesen, The Difference Between Not-for-Profit and Tax-Exempt. “Not-for-profit is a legal term,” but “Tax-exempt is a federal tax term.”

Robert Wood, Who Pays Tax On Business Sale? Ask Warren Buffett. Warren likes taxes paid by other people.

TaxGrrrl, 2015 Tax Season ‘Miserable’ For Many Taxpayers: Will It Get Better In 2016?

Russ Fox, Kiplinger’s Tax-Friendly and Least Tax-Friendly States: Bring Me (Mostly) the Usual Suspects. Iowa’s somewhere in the middle. Delaware is rated best, California worst.


Kay Bell, Senators seek Treasury Secretary’s help in hiking IRS budget. I’m sure they’ll get it.

Peter Reilly, Tax Rules Forbid Churches From Endorsing Candidates, Will IRS Take Action? “If Pope Francis starts “feeling the Bern” will the taxman show up at St. Patrick’s Cathedral?”

Robert D Flach, IT’S NOT ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL. “Once again the idiots in Congress have put off dealing with the now infamous ‘tax extenders’. And once again these idiots will probably extend the entire lot for at least one more year at year-end.”




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 867

David Brunori, Don’t Be Fooled — Services Should Be Subject to Sales Tax (Tax Analysts Blog) “Most services aren’t subject to sales tax in most states. From a tax policy perspective, that’s no good. The sales tax should fall on all final consumption — preferably at a very low rate. So everything we buy should be subject to tax.”

Howard Gleckman, Senate Democrats Would Take Some Small Steps To Clean Up Energy Tax Breaks (TaxVox) “The government is still picking winners and losers—it is subsidizing clean energy—but at least it would no longer hyper-manage the process by creating one set of subsidies for hydrogen and another for solar panels.”

Matt Gardner, It’s Not the Real Thing: Coca-Cola Hit with $3.3 Billion Tax Bill for Fake “Foreign Income” (Tax Justice Blog).


Cause: The Most (Montana) And Least (Washington) Fair State & Local Tax Systems (TaxProf)

Effect: Crackdown On Luxury Car Owners Dodging Taxes With Montana Registration (CBS Minnesota)


The Dangers of Video Games. PAC man says 1MDB left US$975m loan off the books, suggests fraud (Malaymail Online)


Speak for yourself, buddy. Your Firm’s Website Sucks; How to Help Improve It and Boost Your Career at the Same Time (Brian Swanson, Going Concern).





Tax Roundup, 9/22/15: A resounding call to document your mileage. And: preparer regulation, IRS service, lots more!

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan


No Walnut STYou know you’re having a bad day in Tax Court when:

After concessions, the remaining issue relating to deductions claimed on petitioner’s Schedule A is whether she is entitled to deduct an additional $1,616 of mileage expense that she claimed as part of her unreimbursed employee business expense deduction. The answer is a resounding no.

I’m pretty sure that the Tax Court judges never read their opinions out loud, so I don’t think it was literally resounding. Still, it’s fun to imagine Judge Marvel calling the court into session, calling out a booming “NO!” and then adjourning.

The “no” may hae been resounding because of a little error the Judge detected in the taxpayer’s evidence. The taxpayer claimed mileage deductions for going between work locations. Travel expenses have to meet the special substantiation requirements of Sec. 274(d), where the taxpayer maintains evidence, such as calendars or mileage logs, to prove the deduction. This taxpayer went through a lot of effort generating a log from her work history. However…

Petitioner testified at length regarding how she prepared the reconstructed log. She testified under oath that she had worked for both ATC and MSN throughout 2007 and carefully explained her work assignments for each employer, including her work assignments for ATC from January through September 2007. Unfortunately for petitioner, the document that ATC provided to her summarizing her work history with ATC shows that she did not start her employment at ATC until October 2007. That document demolished any credibility that petitioner’s reconstructed log and her sworn testimony might otherwise have had. [emphasis added]

The Moral? No matter how much effort goes into reconstructing your unreimbursed work mileage, it doesn’t help you if you didn’t actually have the job.

Cite: Spjute, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-58




Bryan Camp has a long piece in Tax Notes today ($link) arguing that the IRS can and should “cut and paste” its way into a new preparer regulation regime. I won’t argue the legalisms, though I think if the IRS thought it plausible, it would have tried it already.

I will point out that in an article with 101 footnotes, there is no discussion of additional costs to the taxpayers, or whether the benefits exceed those costs. He discusses evidence that “unregulated” preparers make more errors, and he assumes that regulation will fix the problem. That’s not necessarily so. It’s hard to imagine the perfunctory examination and CPE requirements of the old RTRP program would improved preparation. You can make somebody take a test, but you can’t make them competent.

Mr. Camp also ignores the unintended but predictable effects of the inevitably-increased price of preparation on the quality of tax returns received by IRS. If prep price goes up, more taxpayers will do their own returns, almost certainly at a higher error rate than from paid-for preparation. Other taxpayers will drop out of the system rather than pay higher prep costs.

In short, regulation advocates assume regulation will solve the problems of inaccurate returns. That’s unproven but unlikely. It is likely, though, that it will increase taxpayer costs and push customers away from paid preparers, which creates a new set of problems.

Related: Leslie Book, AICPA Defends CPA Turf and Challenges IRS Efforts to Regulate Unenrolled Preparers (Procedurally Taxing)


buzz20140909Robert D. Flach has fresh Buzz today, with links ranging from silly tax proposals to silly home office deductions.

Paul Neiffer, What About Those AFRs? “Periodically I will get a question from a client asking me ‘How much interest they have to charge on a loan to their child or some other related party?’. ”

Kay Bell, Meet Obamacare deadlines or pay the higher tax price. “If you don’t file last year’s return, you won’t be able to claim an advance premium tax credit to help you pay for your 2016 Obamacare coverage.”

William Perez, What Tax Documents to Bring to Your Accountant?


Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Making Sense Of Partnership Book-Ups. A primer on adjusting capital accounts to reflect the price paid when partners enter or leave a partnership.

Russ Fox, We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Phone Calls.

So let’s translate this into reality. In the 2013 fiscal year, 22,363,345 phone calls were attempted to various IRS toll-free lines; 15,609,615 were answered (69.8%). In the 2015 fiscal year, 22,013,468 phone calls were attempted to various IRS toll-free lines; 8,277,064 were answered (37.6%). As for the time on hold allegedly decreasing to 23.5 minutes, perhaps that’s after excluding all the time some of the 7 million people who called but whose calls were dropped or who hung up spent on the phone.

I think the IRS cuts in customer service are a sort of “Washington Monument Strategy” of cutting the most visible and useful aspects of taxpayer service to pressure Congress into providing more funds. I’ll believe the IRS is serious about its customer service issues when the IRS takes its 200 employees who spend all of their time doing Treasury Employee Union work and puts them on the phones.

Robert Wood, Let’s Tax Churches. I’m sure that won’t be controversial…

Peter Reilly, The Tax Code Explained & Why It Matters In This Presidential Race (No, It’s Not 70K Pages)

Jack Townsend, Wyly Brothers Seek Bankruptcy Relief from Disgorgement Order from Offshore Shenanigans




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 866

Martin Sullivan, Donald Buffett? (Tax Analysts Blog). Looking for tax wisdom in all the wrong places.

Renu Zaretsky, Inversions, Schools, and Supermarkets. Today’s TaxVox roundup covers the ground from tax increases in Chicago to tax favors for supermarkets in Baltimore.


Sebastian Johnson, Progressive Era Reform Can Be Anything But Progressive (Tax Justice Blog). “Supermajority requirements and tax and spending limits, two frequently proposed ballot measures, are not designed to promote the well-being of states.”

The point isn’t the well being of the state; it’s the well-being of the citizens.


News from the Profession. Accountant Hiding on the Appalachian Trail Has the Mugshot to Prove It (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). “If you were an accountant accused of making off with about $9 million of your employer’s money, I can think of few places better to hide than the wilderness.”