Posts Tagged ‘Len Burman’

Tax Roundup, 3/25/14: Shaky foundations can be costly. And: monitors!

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140325-1Not a firm foundation.  A U.S. District Court case out of Texas last week shows why using a tax-exempt entity can be hazardous to your health.  A Mr. Ziegenhals was “manager, director, trustee, and registered agent” of The Le Tulle Foundation, which was “formed in 1991 as a testamentary trust with the stated purpose of operating ‘exclusively for charitable purposes for the benefit of the citizens of Matagorda County, Texas [and] for no other purposes.’”

The court said an IRS audit found that Mr. Ziegnhals “used funds from the Foundation to obtain personal benefits and pay his expenses unrelated to the purported charitable purposes.”  That triggered a revocation of charitable status and taxes on “self-dealing,”  The total amount of “self-dealing” is alleged as $46,266.21.

What did that cost the alleged self-dealer?  From the decision (my emphasis):

The amount allegedly owed by Ziegenhals – $461,125.44 as of November 29, 2013 — is based on the IRS’s calculations of penalties, statutory additions, and interest that have accrued from his unpaid private foundation excise taxes in 2003 and his unpaid federal income taxes in 2007. See Docket Entry Nos. 42-13, 42-14, 42-15. The current amount owed is much larger than the original unpaid taxes of $46,266.21 from 2003 and $6,829.98 from 2007 because the IRS assessed several statutory taxes and penalties on Ziegenhals as both a self-dealer and foundation manager for each year until he was issued the notice of deficiency in 2009 -- an example of what can happen when someone fails to pay his taxes in the first place and then also does not cooperate in repaying the delinquencies in a timely manner.

For example, the IRS imposed a first tier tax of 5 percent for each act of self-dealing, see 26 U.S.C. § 4941(a)(1), a second tier tax of 200 percent of the amount involved for each act of self-dealing that was not corrected within the taxable period, see § 4941(b)(1), a first tier tax of 2.5 percent against Ziegenhals as the foundation manager, see § 4945(a)(2), and a second tier tax of 50 percent of the amount involved for refusing to agree to corrections, see § 4945(b)(2). In addition, the IRS determined that Ziegenhals’ actions constituted willful and flagrant conduct, and thus imposed a penalty equal to the amount of the private foundation excise taxes pursuant to § 6684. 

I don’t recommend private foundations for taxpayers who lack a huge amount of money.  While it can seem attractive to have something named for you that will outlive you, you need a lot of money to make it worth the hassle.  You have to file very detailed and complicated annual reports with the IRS, with $100 daily penalties for late filing.  Those filings are open to the public.  And if you or your heirs get careless in managing the foundation, the taxes and penalties can explode, as the gentleman from Texas now knows.

It’s much easier to use a donor-advised fund run by a competent charity, like The Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines.  They take care of the filings and hassles, and you get at least as good of a tax benefit as you get from having your own foundation.

Cite: Zeigenhals (USDC SD-TX, 3:11-cv-00464)

 

20120906-1Special interest break approaches the checkered flag.  The bill to extend the special sales tax spiff for the Newton racetrack passed the Iowa Senate yesterday.   The bill lets the track keep sales tax it collects from customers, up to a 5% rate.

The break was first passed when the track opened, with requirement that 25% of the ownership be from Iowa and with a 2016 expiration.  When NASCAR bought the track, that ended the deal.  SF 2341 extends the deal through 2025 and lets NASCAR, owned by a wealthy out-of-state family, keep this special deal that is unavailable for any other tourist and entertainment facilities competing for Iowa dollars (though an athletic facility under construction in Dyersville will have a similar break).  I’m sure they have a good story why they needed to pass this, but I don’t buy it; the track isn’t going anywhere, and NASCAR bought it knowing they didn’t qualify.

Like much bad legislation, it had bipartisan support, passing 36-9.  There is a glimmer of good news.  The total of nine “no” votes is the most I’ve seen for an “economic development” giveaway.  Hats off to Senators Behn (R, Boone), Bowman (D, Jackson), Chapman (R, Dallas), Chelgren (R, Wappelo), Guth (R, Hancock) , Quirmbach (D, Story), Schneider (R, Dallas), Smith (R, Scott) and Whitver (R, Polk).

 

Time for Project Oblivion!  The Des Moines Register reports West Des Moines data center project gets $18 million in incentives:

Iowa’s next major data center prospect seeking state-incentive money is headed to the Iowa Economic Development Authority with a stamp of approval from the West Des Moines City Council.

The council on Monday endorsed “Project Alluvion” as a consent agenda item without any discussion, offering up to $18 million in local incentives to land the major project.

Council documents show Project Alluvion would create at least 84 jobs and a minimum of $255 million in taxable valuation.

“People might say, ‘Geez, giving $18 million for only 84 jobs.’ The jobs are important, but it’s more than the jobs,” Councilman Russ Trimble said after Monday’s meeting. “It’s going to help us build the tax base and keep property taxes down.”

That’s 214,285.71 per “job.”   So, if we were to move our firm to West Des Moines, that would qualify us for about $7.5 million.  Hey, we use computers — we’re high-tech!  We’d even call it a cool name, like Project Oblivion!  Or Des Moines can pay us to stay, whatever.

Related:  LOCAL CPA FIRM VOWS TO SWALLOW PRIDE, ACCEPT $28 MILLION

 

Joseph Henchman, Wisconsin Approves Income Tax Reduction, Business Tax Reforms (Tax Policy Blog).

 

Kris20140321-3ty Maitre, Changes Coming for IRA Rollovers in 2015. (ISU-CALT)  ” So going forward, advise your client to make only one IRA rollover per tax year, or to be on the safe side one rollover every 366 days.”

Peter Reilly, No Margin For Error When Using IRA Rollover As Bridge Loan   

Kay Bell, IRS offers an easier way to deduct your home office 

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): M Is For Medicare Payments   

Paul Neiffer, One More Reason Why Tax Reform is Going After Cash Method:

 I ran across a posting on the net farm income and loss reported by Schedule F farmers for 2011 and 2012.  During each of these years, the USDA estimated that farmers had net farm income in excess of $120 billion.

However, on schedule Fs reported by individual farmers, they showed a net loss in 2011 of about $7.11 billion and for 2012 a net loss of $5.06 billion. 

Yeah, “simplification” is really why farmers need accrual accounting.  Not paying tax is a lot simpler.

 

Jeremy Scott, Portman’s Disappointing Tax Reform Plan (Tax Analysts Blog).

Len Burman, Profiles in Courage at the IRS (Really) (TaxVox).  It’s a good post, once you get past the manifestly false statement that the current scandals are “fake.”  And you’ll notice that Doug Shulman, unlike the hero of the Burman post, left on his own terms.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 320

 

 

Going ConcernThe Debate Heats Up Over How Many Computer Monitors You Should Have.  The good folks at GC quote some loser who says nobody needs more than one monitor.  Here’s how I feel about the issue:

monitors

Now if the one monitor was, oh, 3′ x 5′, I’d reconsider.

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/14/14: Unhappy with your state revenue exam? Iowans can appeal to the examiner’s boss! And: stealing the wrong identity.

Friday, March 14th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

How would you feel about going to court and finding out that if you win, the appeal will be heard by your opponent?  That’s pretty much how the Iowa internal tax appeals process works.  And while a reform bill is getting attention in the legislature, that feature isn’t going to change just yet, reports Maria Koklanaris in a State Tax Analysts article

In a letter to legislators, DOR Director Courtney Kay-Decker said the department was able to successfully draft legislation for some of the priorities outlined in the report, including implementing a small claims process and eliminating the State Board of Tax Review for all matters except property tax protests. But she said it could not come up with language this year for what she called her highest priority, which is also the top priority of taxpayers in the eyes of many.
“Most importantly, we were unable to cohesively and comprehensively incorporate the recommendation to remove the Director from the appeals process,” Kay-Decker said in her letter. “This is disappointing as it was perhaps my highest priority.”

The Council on State Taxation gives the current Iowa system failing marks.  From Tax Analysts:

Ferdinand Hogroian, tax and legislative counsel at the Council On State Taxation, said Iowa’s tax appeals process is the only area in which the state earns poor marks in COST’s most recent report on tax administration.  The report specifies the director’s involvement in tax appeals as a major problem.
“Although an Administrative Law Judge of the Department of Inspections and Appeals conducts evidentiary hearings, IA DOR can retain jurisdiction and override,” the report says.

Attorney Bruce Baker, who frequently does battle against the Department of Revenue, points out the obvious problem with the current system: “I’ve often joked that my clients would like to be able to appeal to the chairman of the board.”  But the Department of Revenue will retain that option, at least for now.

While the legislation they are working on (SSB 3203) is an improvement, I still think Iowa needs an independent tax court — perhaps three judges from around the state who will agree to serve as tax judges as part of their caseloads to develop expertise.  It could be modeled on the specialty business litigation court that Iowa is experimenting with.  Now if you leave the current internal Department of Revenue Process — appealable by the Department to the Director of the Department — you litigate before generalists judges who may have never heard a tax case before.  They tend to defer to the Department, even when it seems clear the department is wrong.

 

Paul Neiffer, A Bad Day in Court.  A bookie who tried to hide funds overseas does poorly.

Tony Nitti, Professional Gambler Bets Wrong In Tax Court – Takeout Expenses Are Gambling Losses, Not Business Expenses   

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): G Is For Garnished Wages .  I hope not yours or mine!

Kay Bell, Sorry tax pros, more taxpayers filing on their own.  Taxpayers always have that option, and preparer regulation would drive more taxpayers to do so by increasing the cost of preparers.  Whether that will improve compliance is left as an exercise for the reader.

 

taxanalystslogoChristopher Bergin, It’s Not Just About Lois Lerner (Tax Analysts Blog):

But we need to remind ourselves that there is a lot more potential abuse going on at the IRS than what’s been associated with Lois Lerner. Here are a few examples. I talk to many practitioners who (a) don’t want to be identified, probably for fear of retaliation, and (b) question the independence of the IRS Appeals Office. That is a big problem.

In 2012 a high-ranking IRS executive said in a speech that she believes the government has a higher duty than that of a private litigant. “The government,” the executive said, “represented by the tax administrator, should not pursue a particular outcome and then look for interpretations in the law that support it. The tax administrator should do nothing more or less than find the law and follow it, regardless of outcome. The separation of powers, a bedrock principle of our Constitution, demands it.”

I have a few questions. How many private tax litigators believe that’s actually how the IRS operates? If this noble statement is taken seriously by others in the IRS, why did Tax Analysts have to go to court to get training materials? And why is the IRS being questioned so strongly by Congress on its belief – or, more accurately, the lack thereof – in the bedrock principle of the separation of powers?

The results-driven IRS approach to non-political issues doesn’t lead you to think Lois Lerner was acting with Olympian detachment in the Tea Party scandal.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 309

Len Burman, How the Tax System Could Help the Middle Class (TaxVox)

My most “innovative”—some would say “radical”—policy option would replace across-the-board price indexing, which exists under current law, with indexation that reflects changes in economic inequality.

An awful idea.  The tax code will never “solve” the problem of inequality.  This is a clever-sounding idea that will do nothing but create complexity.

 

Sauce for the gander, indeed.  Identity Thief Sentenced for Filing Tax Returns in the Names of the Attorney General and Others:

A federal judge sentenced Yafait Tadesse to one year and one day in prison for using the identities of over ten individuals, including the Attorney General of the United States, to file false and fraudulent tax returns.

I don’t wish identity theft on anybody, not even a politician.  It can lead to all kinds of expensive and time-consuming inconveniences and embarrassments.  But if it had to happen to someone, why couldn’t it have been Doug Shulman, who let identity theft spin out of control while he pursued his futile and misguided preparer regulation crusade?

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/28/14: Somber reasoning and copious citation edition. And: tax soda, not pop!

Friday, February 28th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

crackedThe courts rarely spend much time on tax protesters.  While optimistic and deluded folks may spend lots of time submitting documents trying to convince the judge that he is sitting in an admiralty court or something, courts rarely rise to the bait.  They typically dismiss the nonsense filings this way, in language arising from Crain (CA-5, 1984):

We shall not painstakingly address petitioner’s assertions with somber reasoning and copious citation of precedent; to do so might suggest that these arguments have some colorable merit.

The Tax Court made an exception yesterday.   A taxpayer whose tax information apparently appears on a well-known tax protester site showed up before Judge Buch, and the judge decided to take advantage of a teaching opportunity:

The Court has taken the time, however, to address those arguments because Mr. Waltner appears to be perpetuating frivolous positions that have been promoted and encouraged by Peter Hendrickson’s book Cracking the Code: The Fascinating Truth About Taxation in America (2007). Indeed, it appears not merely that Mr. Waltner’s positions are predicated on that book but that his returns and return information have been used to promote the frivolous arguments contained in that book. Consequently, a written opinion is warranted.

I have mentioned Mr. Hendrickson before.  His most recent appearance here involved an appeal of his sentence on tax convictions.  Needless to say, if Mr. Hendrickson has “cracked the code,” a lot of good it did him.  Judge Buch addresses some of the contentions Mr. Hendrickson’s book makes, including the idea that most of us aren’t “persons” subject to the tax law and that “private sector” income is non-taxable.  Judge Buch addresses Mr. Hendrickson’s qualifications in tax law (let’s just say they are non-traditional, including a firebombing conviction).

The opinion describes Mr. Hendrickson’s main tax tactic:

This misguided view leads to the author’s strategy for filing tax returns, which was mirrored by Mr. Waltner’s returns. The author recommends “correcting” Forms 1099 by including a declaration that nothing that was received was taxable. Mr. Waltner did this. The author recommends creating substitute W-2s by changing only the amount of the reported wages. Mr. Waltner did this. The author recommends filing a Form 1040 based on these inappropriately revised forms. Mr. Waltner did this. The author recommends including FICA taxes amongst the taxes withheld. Mr. Waltner did this. 

In the end, this long Tax Court opinion comes to the same conclusion as all of the shorter ones addressing the same arguments, concluding that they don’t work.  The taxpayer, Mr. Waltner, was hit with a $2,500 penalty for making frivolous arguments.

The Moral:   No matter how many words they throw out there, tax protest arguments don’t work.  Also, it’s unwise to take tax advice from advisors whose arguments can’t keep themselves out of prison.

Cite: Waltner, TC Memo 2014-35

Related: Russ Fox, He Cracked the Code (but Won’t be Happy with the Result)

 

William Perez, Tax Credits for Families with Children

Me, IRS issues 2014 auto depreciation limits; luxury begins at $15,800

Jack Townsend, Another Sentencing of UBS Client.  In case you think bank secrecy still works.

 

20131209-1Len Burman, Hidden Taxes in the Camp Proposal (TaxVox):

The plan resurrects the 1960s era add-on minimum tax—the granddaddy of today’s uber-complex Alternative Minimum Tax. Effectively, the surtax can be0 thought of as an additional tax on certain preference items such as the value of employer-sponsored health insurance, interest on municipal bonds, deductible mortgage interest, the standard deduction, itemized deductions (except charitable contributions), and untaxed Social Security benefits. Although the list of preference items differs from the old add-on minimum tax, the idea is eerily similar.

The more I see of the Camp plan, the less it seems like reform.

 

Clint Stretch, 10 Reasons Democrats Should Like the Camp Tax Bill. (Tax Analysts Blog)  Generally reasons why it doesn’t count as actual reform.

Joseph Rosenberg, How Does Dave Camp Pay for Individual Tax Cuts? By Raising Revenue from Corporations (TaxVox)

Kay Bell, GOP’s tax reform bill DOA

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 295

Johannes Schmidt, New Soda Tax Proposed in Illinois (Tax Policy Blog).  That must mean it only applies in Southern Illinois, because it’s (properly) called “Pop” everywhere else in the state.

20140228-4

News from the Profession: Big 4 Firms Making Necessary March Madness Preparations as Usual (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/2/2013: essential government function edition. And… commas!

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Wikipedia image courtesy Tallent Show under Creative Commons license

Wikipedia image courtesy Tallent Show under Creative Commons license

A bunch of federal government workers stayed home yesterday, but enough showed up to try to keep some 90-year olds off the grounds of the World War II memorial in Washington.  They will try to stand up to the guys in wheelchairs again today.  That must be one of those essential government functions.

 

Today’s shutdown roundup:

Kay Bell, Government shuts down. Who, besides citizens, will pay?

Janet Novack,  Federal Government Begins First Shutdown In 17 Years 

TaxGrrrl, Congress Marches Towards Shutdown, Spares Military   

Tax Trials, Tax Court Filing Deadlines during Government Shutdown

Joseph Thorndike, The GOP Is Right About One Thing: Ditch the Medical Device Tax (Tax Analysts Blog):

Narrow excise taxes — even when somehow correlated with special benefits — are not a good way to fund major social programs. Broad programs deserve broad taxes.

True.  But the political magic behind ACA was the idea of a “free” mass welfare benefit  – free to you, anyway, because some rich guy gets the tab.  But as Joseph has pointed out, the rich guy isn’t buying.

Len Burman, Would the Government be Shuttered if Obamacare were Romneycare?

Russ Fox,  The Government Shutdown and Taxes

 

Jason Dinesen,  Life After DOMA: Audits of Prior-Year Returns.  Jason explains how audits work for amended returns of same-sex married couples.

William Perez, How Social Security Benefits are Taxed by State

Jim Maule, Failing to Keep Those Records Can Increase Taxes

It is not implausible that the taxpayers paid more than $2,052 for the support of the wife’s mother. Certainly during the time when she was living with them, a portion of the costs of maintaining the taxpayers’ residence constituted support of the wife’s mother. But apparently the taxpayers did not offer any evidence of those costs.

It’s up to the taxpayer to keep the records needed to support your tax return.

 

TaxProf, Supreme Court Grants Cert. to Decide Whether Severance Pay Is Subject to Payroll Tax.  Is being paid to go away taxed the same way as being paid to work?

Peter Reilly, Court Rules Against Slots Playing As A Business 

Tony Nitti, The Real Winner In The Breaking Bad Finale: The IRS   

 

tax fairyPhil Hodgen, Sooner or later, secrecy fails as a tax planning strategy:

Americans: secrecy is a weak tax planning strategy; stop using it.

What seemed like a good idea 10 years ago has now compounded itself into a seemingly intractable dilemma. I know this because people tell me so every day.

Start looking for what is true, not what you want to be true. When you hear the answer, accept it. Swallow and digest the big chunks of truth.

In other words, there is no Tax Fairy

 

 

Jack Townsend,  Article on DOJ’s Swiss Bank Initiative

Keith Fogg, Representing Clients in Tax Court (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert D. Flach, SOME REMINDERS

 

News from the profession.  BREAKING: Commas To Be Added to the CPA Exam (Going Concern).  “We are adding a comma to the calculator on the CPA Exam. The comma is meant for large numbers such as 1,000 and above to make them easier to read.”  Calculators.  With commas. In my day when we took the exam, we had “fingers.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/22/2013: Phil, we have altered the deal. Pray we don’t alter it further.

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Wikipedia image

Wikipedia image

What’s it cost to be a successful golfer in California?  Phil Mickelson says his tax rate in California for 2013 is 62%.  He doesn’t like it.  Naturally he is called a whiny rich guy and told to suck it up.

What is his real rate?  He will be paying a real federal rate, considering the itemized deduction phase-out, of 40.788%.  His California rate will be an insane 13.3%.  That will be deductible on his federal return, so the net combined income tax rate is about 48.662%,

But there’s more!  Golfers are independent contractors, so they have to pay self-employment taxes. That rate is 3.8% in 2013, but 1.45% can be deducted on the federal return, so the net is about 3.19%.  That gets his rate up to about 51.856%, or so.

In 2011, Lefty’s combined rate worked out to about 42.589%.  That means his effective rate increased by about 9.266%.  But that understates it.  Think of Phil Mickelson as a business.  His after-tax profit on a given income level has taken a real hit.  Where after-tax income was about 57.411 cents out of every dollar in 2011, now its about 48.144%.  That means his after-tax income has fallen by about 16% – nearly 1/6.  Don’t think it matters? Try it sometime with your own after-tax income.

A 16% cut in margins would be a worry in any business.  Mr. Mickelson is in a business where he can boost his margins by nearly 8% with a moving van.  He’d be an odd businessman indeed if he didn’t give the idea serious consideration.  And he will have plenty of company.

 

Jason Dinesen,  Further Thoughts on Preparer Regulation:

My concern is more for the EA [Enrolled Agent] name itself. I really fear that EAs are getting pushed further and further to the margins. We’ve always been on the margins, so how much further can we be pushed?

The problem is, there’s no good solution for how to enhance and protect the EA name, because there’s so few of us.

So again, where do EAs fit in? There’s just not a good answer or good solution.

I thought the RTRP designation was a mortal threat to the EA brand.  Enrolled Agents have to pass a much harder IRS-administered test and more rigorous CPE than the RTRPs would face.  Yet few people know what an enrolled agent is.  If IRS wants to improve the caliber of tax preparers, they should give more publicity to the existing EA designation and make it more desirable.  But that doesn’t help them expand their power over all preparers.

Robert D. Flach proposes a voluntary Registered Tax Return Preparer designation.    I have no problem with a voluntary branding, and if Robert and other unenrolled preparers can make a brand of it, more power to them.   I don’t see it happening, though, as it would do nothing for the big franchise preparation companies, who already have their own brands.

Martin Sullivan, “Now it’s about loopholes.”

Republicans want to use revenues from base-broadening solely to reduce rates. Democrats want to use revenues from base-broadening solely to raise revenue. (The quote in the title of this post is from senior Obama advisor David Plouffe.)

We will never be able to begin the tax reform process in earnest until Republicans and Democrats settle their differences on the total amount of revenue the federal government can collect. It was actually Bowles and Simpson who outlined the process: First, you settle on a number for the amount of revenue you want to raise (if any). In their case the amount of revenue was $800 billion over 10 years (using a different baseline).  Second, you broaden the base as much as possible. The money from base-broadening is first devoted to deficit reduction and whatever is left over is used for rate reduction.

That requires agreement on how much we can afford to spend.  Until that answer changes from “MOAR!” it won’t be enough.

 

Brian Strahle, ALERT:  California Sales Tax Refund Opportunity: Optional Service Contracts.  If you bought a service contact on a Dell and paid California sales tax, you may have a refund coming.

Peter Reilly,  Tax Planning – Repairman Jack Style

Missouri Tax Guy,  Tax Issues with early Distributions from Retirement savings.

William Perez,  Qualified Charitable Distributions from IRAs for 2012.  You have until January 31.

Kay Bell, Alternative minimum tax still around, but now indexed for inflation

Jack Townsend,  More on Conscious Avoidance

Yes.  Are Taxes Progressive in the US? (Paul Neiffer)

Not if you are Phil Mickelson.  Can You Use the 1040EZ? (Trish McIntire)

News you can use: JUST SAY “NO” TO HENRY AND RICHARD  (Robert D. Flach)

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Tax Roundup, 11/5/2012: Last week for the commissioner!

Monday, November 5th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Soon-to-be-former-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman

Little disasters every day, courtesy Doug Shulman’s IRS.  We shouldn’t be surprised that the federal government is once again making a hash out of disaster relief.  They can’t even handle one-victim disasters at the IRS.  Jason Dinesen has posted two more installments (9, 10) of the infuriating saga of a client’s struggle with identity theft after her husband died.  From the latest installment:

I then proceeded to point out that it’s been 33 months since Brian died, 18 months since we filed the tax return, and 12+ months since we sent the original Form 14039 to the IRS. Again, can’t they use common sense and wrap this up?

The answer was, no.

Contrast that with the prompt issuance of a tax refund to the identity thief over a year ago.

Jason’s client ID theft problem was almost certainly the result of a glaring problem that has been known in the agency for years involving the use of social security numbers of recently-dead taxpayers published by the government by identity thieves.  The IRS is only now taking steps to fight it, while billions of tax dollars continue to go out to the thieves annually.  Meanwhile, they’ve found time to institute an expensive and futile preparer regulation scheme and power-grab.  They have their priorities, after all.

One thing voters of all parties can look forward to this week is the Friday expiration of the term of Doug Shulman, The Worst IRS Commissioner Ever.

 

Richard Morrison,   Chart of the Day: Trends in Business Income (Tax Policy Blog)

 

Brutal Assault on Reason Watch: 

TaxGrrrl,  Election Day Primer: Comparing the Obama and Romney Tax Plans

TaxProf,  Johnson: Tax Reform and the Presidential Election

Kay Bell, Voters get their say Nov. 6 on 30 tax-related state ballot initiatives

Joseph Thorndike,  Muzzling CRS is a Bad Idea — Even for Republicans (Tax.com)

Len Burman,  Which presidents spend the most? You might be surprised. (TaxVox)  For some reason he stops in 2001.

Paul Neiffer,  Get Ready For The New Medicare Tax Increase on Earned Income

Anthony Nitti,  Victims of Superstorm Sandy May Be Able To Exclude Assistance Payments From Taxable Income

Jack Townsend notes an Article on Erosion of Swiss Secrecy

Peter Reilly,  Unfair Tax Court Decisions On Life Insurance Are Tip Of Unclaimed Property Iceberg

Missouri Tax Guy,  Advantages of Filing a Tax Return Extension

Robert D. Flach,  TOP TEN LIST ADDENDUM.  This is so true:

More than half of the balance due notices that are sent out by the Internal Revenue Service and state tax agencies are incorrect.  If you receive such a notice send it to your tax professional ASAP.

I would love to see an accounting of how much revenue the government steals from taxpayers who write checks because they are afraid of the revenue agencies, or because the amounts are known to be wrong, but the taxpayer doesn’t think they are worth the fight.

 

Bad News you can Use:  Bad News for German Poker Players (Russ Fox)

 

Richman, Dumdum man.  The story you are about to read is true.  Then names have been left the same to protect the humor.  CBSlocal from Chicago reports:

He wasn’t too smart about paying federal income taxes, and now Rimando Dumdum man is going to prison. 

WBBM’s Bernie Tafoya reports the 44-year-old Morton Grove tax preparer, who came to the U.S. from the Philippines in 1989, owned a company called “Richman Tax Solutions.”

Apparently it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a Richman to get a tax return right.  But all things are possible:

According to his plea agreement, he helped clients illegally trim an average of $1,400 from their tax bills. In all, between his clients’ returns, and his own tax fraud, Dumdum cheated the federal government out of $232,000 in all.

However, prosecutors said he likely helped clients evade $3.5 million in taxes, citing an audit showing his company falsified 99 percent of the tax returns it filed.

The way he looks out for the 99%, he should be a favorite of the Occupy people.  I wonder if the 1% of his customers who didn’t get phony returns feels cheated somehow.

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Tax Roundup, 5/30/2012: life among the jaywalkers. What rich folk don’t pay taxes? And does having someone else cover your losses make a bad investment a good one?

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

What the war on “international tax cheats” means to the cowering civilians in the bombing area. International tax planning attorney Phil Hodgen dined with some Americans working abroad and reports:

For you, the American living overseas, tax return preparation is an order of magnitude more complicated than for someone living at home in the USA. There are extra forms to fill out. Extra stuff to report. Big, big penalties if you fluff things up. So you either spend an inordinate amount of your free time doing the tax returns yourself, or you pay a lot of money to an accountant to do the work for you. I don’t know what the people around the table last night spend, but it would be common to see tax bills of $3,000 – $4,000 in my experience. Let’s say you only spend $2,000. Lucky you.

The amount of tax that the IRS typically collects from people living in Europe and other high tax countries is ZERO. The foreign tax credit (PDF) ensures this. So does the foreign earned income exclusion (PDF).

Short story? You pay $2,000 or maybe much more to do a tax return that yields zero revenue for the U.S. government. And you burn up a lot of nights and weekends doing the paperwork.

Then you hear some Senator yammering about people like you and how you should be paying your “fair share” to the U.S. Treasury. 

The whole post is very much worth reading.  The pointless burden put on innocent taxpayers by the IRS shoot-the-jaywalkers enforcement of the already ridiculous international reporting rules is most disgraceful of IRS Commissioner Shulman’s many policy blunders.

And Here You Thought It Was Just Peasants Not Paying Any Income Taxes (Going Concern).  They quote a Bloomberg article:

 The percentage of U.S. taxpayers reporting adjusted gross income exceeding $200,000 who paid no U.S. income taxes increased in 2009 to 0.53 percent from 0.51 percent, meaning that one in 189 high earners avoided taxation, an Internal Revenue Service study found. The filers reported tax-exempt interest along with deductible charitable contributions, medical expenses and other items to legally reduce their taxable income.

Of course, the article is wrong in blaming muni bonds, which aren’t included in AGI in the first place.  So how do $200,000 AGI taxpayers get to zero tax?  It’s often where net income is overstated because the gross is in AGI but the expense generating the “income” is an itemized deduction.  Some candidates come to mind:

  • People with big margin interest accounts or other borrowing costs.  If you have $200,000 if interest income, you can deduct $200,000 of expense incurred to buy the interest-generating assets.  The income is “above the line” and included in AGI, but the deduction is a below-the-line itemized deduction.
  •  Gamblers.  A busy slots player can easily burn through $200,000 in “winnings,” which are above the line, offset by below-the-line gambling itemized deductions.

Another likely example is Old folks in a full-time nursing home. The medical costs can go through the roof. 

Readers – if you have other candidates, I’d love to hear about them in the comments.  Related: somehow Linda Beale gets from 1 in 189 high-income taxpayers paying no federal tax to one in fourNot a chance.  I’d say it was a typo, but she makes the assertion both in her headline and in the article text (UPDATE, 5/31: corrected now)

 

New state tax credits making solar a better investment for Iowans. (Sioux City Journal). Nonsense. It doesn’t make it a better investment, it just shifts the loss on the “investment” to us chump Iowa taxpayers who have to pay for other peoples’ solar toys.

Because Congressional accounting is always so reliable? FASB under political heat from Congress over lease accounting (TaxBreak)

 You man people have to pay for something on their own? Hot, Hot, Hot: Air Conditioning Tax Credits Have Disappeared (TaxGrrrl)

Paul Neiffer: Be Careful if You Have a Foreign Account

Jack Townsend: Why We Cheat and Lie — Taxes Included

 Len Burman: Billions in Tax Refund Fraud–and How to Stop Most of it

Howard Gleckman: Tax Reform: Going Long v. Going Prudent

Catch Robert D Flach’s Wednesday Buzz roundup of tax posts.

Dan Meyer: Am”Bushed” by Taxes? Keep or Let Die the Decade-Old Tax Cuts?

Next time he should proclaim himself “Lord Vader of the South” instead.  “Self-proclaimed “Governor” of Alabama Sentenced to Ten Years in Federal Prison for Tax Fraud.”  Just one more bit of proof that “sovereign citizen” tax schemes don’t work.

 At least it’s an aim that any legislator can achieve.  “Legislators aim at tax fraud

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Sometimes three strikes are too many

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Legendary Oakland A’s owner Charles Finley proposed to shake up baseball by awarding walks on three balls and strikeouts after two strikes. It never caught on in baseball, but there’s a place for it in the tax law.
Every year or two Congress passes 70 or so “extenders” — tax breaks provisions enacted with an expiration date, but which they have no intention of letting expire. By pretending the breaks are temporary, they avoid facing up to the true revenue cost.
Len Burman proposes a “three-strikes” rule for Extenders:

I propose a

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Surely? You jest.

Monday, December 5th, 2011 by Joe Kristan

It looks as though the “temporary” tax cut to employee FICA taxes will be extended another year as a re-election stimulus measure. Len Burman at TaxVox argues for the extension:

With the economy producing almost a trillion dollars less than its capacity, there

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The jaywalker slayers would be more popular if they had a Twitter account

Friday, August 26th, 2011 by Joe Kristan

When billionaire Warren Buffet again climbed on his high horse to complain that other rich people should pay more taxes, fellow billionaire Harvey Golub was having none of it:

Governments have an obligation to spend our tax money on programs that work. They fail at this fundamental task. Do we really need dozens of retraining programs with no measure of performance or results? Do we really need to spend money on solar panels, windmills and battery-operated cars when we have ample energy supplies in this country? Do we really need all the regulations that put an estimated $2 trillion burden on our economy by raising the price of things we buy? Do we really need subsidies for domestic sugar farmers and ethanol producers?

Len Burman of the Tax Policy Center says that there is something to Mr. Golub’s complaint, but that he wouldn’t be so grumpy if the government just explained itself better — maybe with Facebook or something:

More importantly, the government does a terrible job explaining what it does well. I think in large part it

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We’re doomed. Have a nice day.

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011 by Joe Kristan

Len Burman is just full of good cheer at TaxVox as he evaluates the latest edition of the CBO’s “The Long-Term Budget Outlook”:

Translation: big tax increases or spending cuts right now would be a bad idea given the fragile state of the economy, but committing to serious debt reduction that will take effect once the economy has recovered is urgent if we are to avoid a budget catastrophe.

If you find anybody in charge acting “serious” or doing anything “urgent,” let me know.

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