Posts Tagged ‘Leslie Book’

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

Thursday, July 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

2. Extenders Are Often Attached to Larger Bills

3. Congress Has Never Fully Offset Extenders Legislation

4. Most Extenders Have Been Renewed at Least 3 Times

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

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

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

More of that Congressional accounting.

 

Jack Townsend, Interesting Article from the Swiss Bankers Side.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

20140710-1

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/27/14: IRS tries preparer regulation through the back door. And: why was Lerner at IRS?

Friday, June 27th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130121-2IRS tries “voluntary” end run around the law.  The IRS yesterday announced that it doesn’t need no stinking law (IR-2014-75):

The Annual Filing Season Program will allow unenrolled return preparers to obtain a record of completion when they voluntarily complete a required amount of continuing education (CE), including a course in basic tax filing issues and updates, ethics and other federal tax law courses.

“This voluntary program will be a step to help protect taxpayers during the 2015 filing season,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “About 60 percent of tax return preparers operate without any type of oversight or education requirements. Our program will give unenrolled return preparers a way to stay to up-to-date on tax laws and changes, which we believe will improve service to taxpayers.”

Tax return preparers who elect to participate in the program and receive a record of completion from the IRS will be included in a database on IRS.gov that will be available by January 2015 to help taxpayers determine return preparer qualifications.

The database will also contain information about practitioners with recognized credentials and higher levels of qualification and practice rights. These include attorneys, certified public accountants (CPAs), enrolled agents, enrolled retirement plan agents (ERPAs) and enrolled actuaries who are registered with the IRS.

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

So the Commissioner is keeping a little list of his friends.  And if you aren’t on his list of friends, you are on his list of not-friends.  It’s obvious what is going on here.  Through PR and subtle or non-so-subtle IRS preference for those on the Friends List, they will make life unpleasant for the non-friends, encouraging them to submit to “voluntary” CPE, testing, and ultimately, IRS control.  The IRS is trying to achieve its preparer regulation, ruled illegal by the courts, through other means.  This eagerness to take on a new program that nobody wants must mean the IRS is adequately funded, and its cries for more resources can safely be ignored.

Other coverage:

IRS Offers Voluntary Tax Preparer Education Program (Accounting Today)

Adrienne Gonzalez, IRS Goes Ahead With Voluntary Tax Preparer Program Despite AICPA Objection (Going Concern)

Leslie Book, IRS Announces Voluntary Education Program For Return Preparers (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert D. Flach, IT’S JUST STUPID  “This program will do little to ‘encourage education and filing season readiness’. ”

 

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Why did Lois Lerner work at the IRS?

This question came to mind in discussing the Lerner emails with a reader, who noted how a Politico piece about the Grassley email chain revealed this week pointed out this high-level IRS leader’s evident lack of tax skills:

Former ex-IRS tax exempt division chief Marcus Owens said the email chain shows Lerner knew very little about tax law, as there would have been nothing wrong with Grassley and his wife attending such an event, so long as the income was reported.

“It is nothing that rises to the level of referral for examination,” Owens said.

It is a mystery.  Her Wikipedia biography shows that she was a cum laude graduate of Northeastern University and the Western New England College of Law.  She worked as a high-level attorney at the Federal Election Commission, but moved to IRS as “Director Rulings and Agreements” in the exempt organizations branch of the IRS.  She rose to Director of Exempt Organizations in 2006.

Her resume, then, is that of a bureaucrat, rather than a tax practitioner or specialist.  She apparently never practiced tax law before moving into her important policy position — important in the tax world, anyway.

This sort of thing may be common in the federal bureaucracy.  It’s likely that she got a raise for the move, or something.  But it seems that while you could take the girl out of the FEC, you couldn’t take the FEC out of the girl.  She took it upon herself to monitor the electoral process with the tools of the tax law.

Megan McArdle explains why that was a bad idea:

This exchange suggests that Lois Lerner not only didn’t have a good, basic grasp of the tax law she was supposed to be administering, but also viewed her job as an extension of her work at the Federal Election Commission.

That’s not what the IRS is for. The IRS is not given power over nonprofit status in order to root out electoral corruption or the appearance of it. It is given power over nonprofit status in order to make sure that the Treasury gets all the revenue to which it’s entitled

Unfortunately, politicians see the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy, and it’s unsurprising that an IRS bureaucrat would see it the same way.

Moreover, Lerner’s overbroad instincts also seemed to kick into high gear when Republican politicians were involved. Of course, such reports might well be survivor bias — Republicans are complaining about Lerner, while Democrats who also had run-ins with her may be keeping quiet for fear of fueling the fire. At this point, however, the fire is burning merrily on its own. If Democrats who encountered Lerner’s overzealous use of her powers are out there, they’d do well to come forward and tell their stories to reassure Americans that even if her actions were overbroad, they weren’t broadly partisan.

They would have emerged by now.  The stats, as we noted yesterday, demonstrate one-sided enforcement.

It’s unlikely that Ms. Lerner came to the IRS with the idea of using her position to harass the opposition.  She just happened to be in a position to do so when applications from groups she didn’t like — perhaps that she even saw as dangerous and wrong — came across her desk.  It’s possible that she did it entirely on her own.  And that’s the scariest thing — a bureaucracy that moves on its own to squash ungoodthinkers is much more dangerous than a top-down conspiracy.  It may be hard to replace an administration, but it’s almost impossible to replace a bureaucracy.

 

taxanalystslogoChristopher Bergin, The IRS Has Been Set Up (Tax Analysts Blog):

I don’t know if the IRS has been politicized. Until recently that possibility would have been unthinkable. But the potential of the 501(c)(4) rules to be a setup for the politicization of the IRS is enormous. You simply can’t have the tax collector refereeing the people who provide it with its budget. 

Christopher calls for the repeal of 501(c)(4).

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 414

Johnnie M. Walters, Ex-IRS Chief, Dies at 94 (New York Times):  “Johnnie M. Walters, a commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service under President Richard M. Nixon who left office after refusing to prosecute people on Nixon’s notorious “enemies list,” died on Tuesday at his home in Greenville, S.C. He was 94.”

Funny how nobody is doing that anymore.

 

Jason Dinesen, I Can’t Do Much to Help You Once the Transaction Is Completed.  “The point is: the time to ask for tax advice about something that will generate a massive tax bill is beforehand, not afterwards.”

Russ Fox, FBAR Deadline Is June 30th, but It’s Not a Midnight Deadline.  “My advice is simple: File the FBAR asap–it at all possible by Saturday.”

TaxGrrrl, Kentucky Fried Hoax: What Happens To The Cash?

Peter Reilly, Kuretski – Was Legal Dream Team Really Trying To Help The Taxpayers?

Jack Townsend, False Statements Crime Element of “Knowingly and Willfully” Requires Proving Knowledge that Making False Statement Is Illegal

Robert D. Flach brings the Friday Buzz!

 

This happened in 2008.  It's raining again.

This happened in 2008. It’s raining again.

 

Lyman Stone, Pennsylvania House of Representatives Passes Suspension of Tax Credits (Tax Policy Blog). “Most of these credits amount to narrow carve-outs for favored industries and firms, and thus their elimination would generally be good tax policy as a way to make the tax code more neutral.”

Richard Phillips, Clinton Family Finances Highlight Issues with Taxation of the Wealthy (Tax Justice Blog).

Scott Eastman, Tax Inversions are a Symptom, Corporate Tax Reform is the Cure (Tax Policy Blog).

Howard Gleckman, CRFB’s New Online Budget Simulator (TaxVox).  “Neither Congress nor the White House seem to care much about the budget deficit these days, but if you do, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has created an updated online budget simulator that lets you try to get a handle on fiscal policy.”

 

The new Cavalcade of Risk is up at Worker’s Comp Insider.  Good stuff always at the blog world’s roundup of insurance and risk management — including Hank Stern on a potential diabetes breakthrough.

Oops. U.K. tax system errors mean 3.5 million unexpectedly owe (Kay Bell)

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/10/14: When doing a like-kind exchange, keep the kids away. And: Iowa biofuel credit claw-backs?

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2Keep your friends close, and your relatives far away.  The tax law often assumes that any financial transaction between relatives is untrustworthy.  Many transactions that work just fine with a stranger become tax disasters when family is involved.  A New York man got a hard education in this yesterday in Tax Court.

The man was selling property at a $1.5 million gain, and he wanted to use the Section 1031 “like-kind exchange” rules to defer the gain by using the proceeds to acquire new property.  The tax regulations let you do so under the right facts as long as you follow rules on escrowing funds or using a “qualified intermediary,” and you meet deadlines for identifying and closing on the new “replacement property.”

For example (a very simplified example), if you sell an investment property and the proceeds are held by a “qualified intermediary,” and you identify the property within 30 days and close on it within 180 days, using the funds held by the intermediary in the purchase, the gain on the original property is transferred to the new property, to be only recognized if and when that property is sold.  But the IRS insists you go by the book.

These deals only work if you use a “qualified” intermediary.  The taxpayer in this case used his son.  Game over, said the Tax Court:

Petitioner acknowledges that there was no direct exchange of like-kind property; property A was sold and property B was purchased with proceeds from the sale of property A. Petitioner also acknowledges that the intermediary used in the transaction was his son. However, petitioner asserts that he meets the requirements of the regulation’s safe harbor because (1) his son is an attorney; (2) the funds from property A were held in an attorney trust account; and (3) the real estate documents refer to the transaction as a section 1031 exchange. We do not accept petitioner’s argument. The regulation is explicit: A lineal descendant is a disqualified person, and the regulation makes no exception based on his/her profession. Consequently, petitioner’s disposition of property A and subsequent acquisition of property B is not a deferred exchange within the purview of section 1031, and he must recognize income on the gain from the sale of property A.

There are a number of reputable firms that specialize in serving as intermediaries and escrow agents in like-kind exchanges.   They can make a potentially complicated deal go much more smoothly.  And they are probably not your son. Yes, they charge for their services, but when a $1,512,000 taxable gain is at stake, as it was here, it can be a real bargain.

Cite: Blangiardo, T.C. Memo 2014-110.

 

In other legal news, the Supreme Court declined to hear Wells-Fargo’s appeal of a 2013 decision striking down a lease tax shelter designed to generate a $423 million capital loss.

 

20120906-1Iowa wants some tax credits back.  Agweek reports:

 The Iowa Department of Revenue has warned at least one investor who owns shares in Energae LP of Clear Lake, Iowa, that tax credits for the company’s green energy production couldn’t be verified for 2012, and the credits must be paid back.

In a letter dated May 20, 2014, David Keenan, a revenue examiner for the compliance division of the Iowa Department of Revenue, told an unidentified taxpayer from Iowa to pay back $1,131.73. Victoria Daniels, public information officer for the agency, declined to comment on what might have disqualified the credits, or whether the denial affects only 2012. She also declined to comment on whether the department’s decision was focused on just one audited person or whether it will be extended to others who used the credits.

The Department has clawed back credits in cases where ethanol producers have failed or otherwise not met the requirements for the credits.

The article shows that the state subsidies encourage careless investing.  An attorney in a lawsuit on the matter is quoted:

“They offered a dollar-for-dollar tax credit, so people thought, ‘How can you lose?’ They may find out. I hope things come to a head soon because it seems to me there’s a lot of confusion and misinformation in the investing public. I think there needs to be some clarity.”

While this is only one side of the story, it’s easy to see where an investor might overlook due diligence when a “dollar-for-dollar tax credit” makes the deal seem like a free play.

 

The Onion is a satirical publication, but it’s hard to tell sometimes:   States Now Offering Millions In Tax Breaks To Any Person Who Says ‘High-Tech Jobs’

ST. PAUL, MN—In an effort to spur their local economies, many state governments are now offering tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks to any person who simply says the words “high-tech jobs,” according to a survey by the Pew Research Center published Monday. “We must do what it takes to draw potential innovators to the great state of Minnesota, which means granting lucrative tax credits and loan guarantees to any individual—whoever they may be—who utters the phrase ‘high-tech jobs’ in any context whatsoever,” said Minnesota governor Mark Dayton, whose office has reportedly joined numerous other states in doling out tax exclusions, low-interest municipal loans, full income tax exemption for 10 years or more, and other valuable incentives to thousands of people who have spoken such phrases as “biotech,” “innovation center,” “high-skilled workers,” and “tomorrow’s economy.”

If the story were written about Iowa, the magic words would include “renewables,” “wind-energy,” and “fertilizer.”

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 397.  The stories today mostly cover a huge illegal transfer of confidential 501(c)(4) taxpayer data to the FBI.  The House committee investigating the Tea Party scandal revealed  communications between Lois Lerner and FBI representatives arranging the illegal transfer.  This is a big deal, making it clear that the activities involving Ms. Lerner weren’t accidental, and were far more sinister than the “phony scandal” crowd would have you believe.

Russ Fox, Perhaps This Is Why Lois Lerner Is Taking the Fifth.  “Based on what I just read, if anyone is expecting the IRS’s budget to increase this year, well, that has as much chance as it snowing here in Las Vegas tomorrow. (The high is expected to reach just 105 F.)”

Leslie Book, Exploding Packages and IRS Disclosure of Confidential Tax Return Information (Procedurally Taxing)

 

Robert D. Flach brings your fresh Tuesday Buzz!

Kay Bell, Lowest U.S. property tax bill? Probably $2 in coastal Georgia

 

Jack Townsend, Court Holds Online Poker Accounts are FBAR Reportable:

The two issues were:  (1) whether the accounts with the three entities were “bank, securities or other financial account[s]” that must be reported on an FBAR; and (2) whether each of the three accounts was in a foreign country  The Court answered both questions yes.

A potentially expensive result for a lot of folks, if it holds up.

 

Gerald Prante, Deductions for Executive Pay Is Not a Subsidy. (Tax Policy Blog)  “Essentially, IPS and ATF are starting from a baseline that assumes all executive pay should be capped at $1 million and any deviation from this is a subsidy.”

 

taxanalystslogoJeremy Scott, Whistleblower Highlights Undue Influence at the IRS (Tax Analysts Blog)  “He claimed that granting credits for the use of black liquor was opposed by most of chief counsel, but that a few senior managers changed the policy, allowing paper manufacturers to take advantage of a true tax loophole.”

But we are supposed to trust them to regulate preparers without fear or favor.

 

Tax Justice Blog, State News Quick Hits: Keeping Score? Real Tax Reform 0. Tax Cuts 2

Martin A. Sullivan, How Not to Tax the Rich (Tax Analysts Blog).  “The liberal case for corporate taxation has been severely weakened by capital mobility.”

Renu Zaretsky, Repatriation, Havens, and Tax Reform Abroad.  The TaxVox daily headline roundup talks about extenders, tax havens and the costs of repatriation tax holidays.

 

Peter Reilly, Confidence Games – How The Most Prestigious Accounting Firms Raided The Treasury: 

 Now thanks to Tanina Rostain and Milton C. Regan, Jr. you can read all about it in “Confidence Games – Lawyers, Accountants, and the Tax Shelter Industry”. It is a sad story with no heroes and only one villain, who is colorful enough to be engaging – Paul Dauugerdas, who is still awaiting sentencing on his second conviction (He got a do-over on his trial due to juror misconduct).  The book is a must read for all tax professionals and others may enjoy it too.  

Sounds like a buy to me.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/29/14: Supreme Court ponders crediting city income taxes on state returns. And: more jeers for “voluntary” preparer regulation.

Thursday, May 29th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

supreme courtThe U.S. Supreme Court will decide a case on whether states must allow a credit for taxes paid to municipalities.  The Supreme Court yesterday agreed to hear an appeal of Maryland v. Wynne, where a Maryland court ruled that the state must allow a credit against Maryland taxes for taxes paid in non-Maryland cities by Maryland residents.

State generally allow their residents credits for taxes paid to other states, to the extent the taxes don’t exceed resident-state tax on the same income.  Iowans compute this credit on Form 130.  This keeps residents with out-of-state income from doubling-up their state taxes.  Municipal taxes don’t necessarily get the same treatment.  An Iowa Department of Revenue representative outlined the state’s position:

Iowa Code section 422.8(1), which provides for the out-of-state tax credit, only refers to tax paid to another state or foreign country.  “State” is defined in Iowa Code section 4.1(32) as including the District of Columbia and its territories.  Therefore, based on the Iowa statute, Iowa would take the position that the out-of-state tax credit is not allowed for municipal taxes.

I have no idea how the court will rule on this.  Both Maryland and the Obama administration urged the court to take the case, which might indicate the court is sympathetic to them.  Or it might not.  For its own reasons, the Court may be looking for a vehicle to clarify the law of multistate income tax.

A brief from an organization of municipality attorneys describes the Maryland holding being appealed:

1. First, in order to avoid substantial interference in interstate commerce, the dormant Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution requires every state and subdivision thereof to give its residents a full tax credit for all income taxes paid in another state or subdivision; and

2. Second, the receipt of Subchapter S pass-through income in Maryland is “interstate commerce” which is being substantially affected by Maryland’s tax structure, in violation of the dormant Commerce Clause.

Both of those points seem perfectly reasonable to me.  If the court rules against the taxpayer, states may try to raise money be limiting their credit for taxes paid to other states.

In any case, it would be prudent for Iowans who have paid taxes to non-Iowa municipalities to file protective refund claims for open years.  For taxpayers who extended 2010 returns, that year is still open; otherwise, 2011 is the earliest open year.  The court will hear the case in its term beginning in October.

The TaxProf has a coverage roundup.  TaxGrrrl reports in Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Landmark Case On Whether States May Tax Income Earned In Other States, with a good discussion of the history of the case.

 

20130121-2Another supporter of preparer regulation comes out against “voluntary” certification.  The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants came out against the IRS “voluntary” preparer certification system this week.  Now the National Association of Enrolled Agents, which like the AICPA was a fan of the now-defunct IRS mandatory preparer regulation scheme, has also come out against the “voluntary” program proposed by Commissioner Koskinen.  Robert D. Flach reports:

It appears that the main objection of NAEA to the current IRS proposal is the replacement of the original initial competency test used in the pre-Loving mandatory RTRP program with a “50-question ‘knowledge based comprehension test’ to be created by individual CE providers”.

It goes on to say -

“CE by itself, even in combination with a ‘knowledge based comprehension test’, fails to provide a taxpayer with any assurance that the person preparing his or her return is even minimally competent to do so.”

I think this is just another way for the IRS to help its friends at the national tax prep franchises to get something to put on their windows without helping taxpayers.  Considering its limited financial resources, it is absurd for the IRS to be taking on a new program.  Taxpayers can already choose CPAs or Enrolled Agents if they want “certified” preparers, and nothing stops unenrolled preparers from setting up their own system.  You have to have a lot of unwarranted faith in IRS goodwill to believe that the “voluntary” program won’t really be mandatory, as the IRS gives little perks to the “volunteers” and little hassles to everyone else.

 

 

Kay Bell, Actual auto expenses or standard mileage rate? Which business deduction method will cut your taxes more?

William Perez, IRS.gov’s Direct Pay.  “Unlike the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), people using Direct Pay do not need to register to use the service.”

 

20140328-1Russ Fox, Punt Blocked; National Audit Defense Network Heading to ClubFed.

Cara Griffith, How Much Knowledge Is in an Audit Manual? (Tax Analysts Blog).  “Yet while the IRS and several states make their audit manuals available online, other states, including Louisiana, do not. Taxpayers should not have to make a public records request to obtain manuals that will provide guidance on how a state conducts an audit. ”

Leslie Book, TEFRA Outside Basis and Tax Court Jurisdiction (Procedurally Taxing). “Periodically, like a kid forced to eat spinach, I will tackle TEFRA developments.”

Peter Reilly, Z Street Suit On IRS Israel Targeting Can Move Forward. “This lawsuit much like Teapartygate confirms me in my view, that the evaluation of whether an organizations purposes should allow it exempt status is not something that the IRS should be doing.”

Jack Townsend, Zwerner Jury Verdict — FBAR Willfulness for 3 Years

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 385

 

guillotineAndrew Lundeen, France’s 75 Percent Tax Rate Offers a Lesson in Revenue Estimating (Tax Policy Blog):

Since elected, French President Francois Hollande has raised the income tax, corporate tax and VAT. The government forecasted that these tax increases would lead to an increase in revenue of 30 billion euros.

As reported by the BBC, those estimates were off by about half:

“The French government faces a 14bn-euro black hole in its public finances after overestimating tax income for the last financial year.”

You can’t expect people just to stand still for something like that.

 

Adele Morris, Three Options for Better Climate Policy (TaxVox) Carbon Taxes, State carbon taxes, or no carbon tax.

 

Going Concern, IRS Throws Hissy Fit About Not Being Able to Regulate Preparers, Gives Up On Everything.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/13/14: UPS Ground grounds late filer. And: how “voluntary” would “voluntary” preparer regulation be?

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

UPS 2nd-dayUPS Grounded.  E-filing is the best way to make sure your filing is timely, but sometimes it’s just not available.  If you do an old-fashioned paper filing, you can rely on the “mailbox rule,” which says that a tax filing postmarked by the deadline is considered filed on-time.  The mailbox rule used to only apply to returns sent via the U.S. Postal Service, but the IRS expanded it to private carriers like UPS and Federal Express. The availability of private delivery services for timely last-minute filing has been a boon to procrastinators.  Few post offices stay open late anymore to receive last-minute tax filings, but there are 24-hour FedEx and UPS stores.  Unfortunately, the IRS rules on private delivery services are tricky, and they tripped up one taxpayer in Tax Court yesterday. The IRS lists qualifying private delivery services in Notice 2004-83.  The notice identifies specific services for DHL, UPS and FedEx that qualify for the mailbox rule.  The UPS services that qualify:

UPS Next Day Air, UPS Next Day Air Saver, UPS 2nd Day Air, UPS 2nd Day Air A.M., UPS Worldwide Express Plus, and UPS Worldwide Express.

The taxpayer in yesterday’s case sent his package via UPS Ground, and while sent before the 90-day deadline for Tax Court filings, it arrived after the deadline.  The Tax Court said that didn’t work:

 UPS Ground has not been designated by the Commissioner as a private delivery service. Notice 2004-83, supra. Thus, the timely mailing/timely filing rule of section 7502 does not apply to “UPS Ground” service… In so holding we acknowledge that the result may appear harsh, notwithstanding the fact that petitioner had nearly 90 days to file his petition but waited until the last moment to do so. However, the Court cannot rely on general equitable principles to expand the statutorily prescribed time for filing a petition.

The Moral?  If you use a private delivery service, make sure you use one that qualifies.  If you are filing with an IRS service center, be sure to use the correct street address, as the private delivery services can’t deliver to the service center post-office box addresses.

Cite: Sanders, T.C. Summ. Op. 2014-47

 

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

TaxProfThe IRS Scandal, Day 369.  This edition links to the TaxProf’s own USA Today piece, The Media Ignore IRS Scandal:

Today’s news media are largely ignoring the IRS scandal, and it is impossible to have confidence in the current investigations by the FBI, Justice Department, and House committee. I am not suggesting that the current scandal in the end will rise to the level of Watergate. But the allegations are serious, and fair-minded Americans of both parties should agree that a thorough investigation needs to be undertaken to either debunk them or confirm them. Step one should be to give Lois Lerner full immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony. And then let the chips fall where they may.

True all around.   Journalists don’t care to investigate their own team.

 

Leslie BookABA Tax Section Procedural Highlights and Cohen APA Teaser:

Even without legislation, OPR Director Karen Hawkins stated that IRS will take a narrow interpretation of Loving insofar as it relates to its ability to regulate practitioners. As to the policy relating to regulating preparers, Director Hawkins announced that IRS will soon begin a voluntary testing and education plan that will provide some benefits to preparers who opt in to a regulatory regime.

What does it take to teach some people?  You got whipped, IRS.  The courts ruled that you grossly overreached.  How do you find a “narrow interpretation” of that?  It sounds to me like they will make their new program “voluntary” in the same way the national accounting firm I used to work at made United Way contributions “voluntary” —  they always had 100% participation.

 

Russ Fox, Florida Doctor Does Much Wrong on her Way to ClubFed:

She (and allegedly her husband) created nominee accounts at UBS and other foreign banks; of course, that income didn’t find its way to her tax return. Her half of the sale of the medical schools also didn’t find its way to the tax return. Those nominee accounts were at foreign banks; she didn’t file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR). And the money was used for conspicuous consumption: an airplane and three homes.

If you cheat on your taxes, it’s not wise to call attention to your wealth.

 

Wikipedia image

Wikipedia image

Jack Townsend, When is Booker Variance Too Much? Per DOJ, Certainly in the Ty Warner Case.  “What I draw from the sentence is that, when the hypothetical client is in the criminal cross-hairs asks the hypothetical reasonably welleducated and experienced criminal tax attorney with good judgement whether he [the client] will be treated as well as Ty Warner, the right answer is likely to be: ‘You’re not rich enough to get that quality of justice.’ “

 

Janet Novack, Prosecutor: Beanie Babies Billionaire Tax Cheat Didn’t Deserve `Get-Out-Of-Jail’ Card 

 

TaxGrrrl: What If Congressional Elections Were Run Like The NFL Draft?.  Well, a large percentage of football players are broke within three years of being drafted.  I’d favor that for congresscritters.

Kay Bell, IRS getting sneakier in tracking tax cheats.  ” If you’re bragging on Facebook about buying a Ferrari but reporting only $30,000 in annual income on your Form 1040, your social media comments will probably prompt the IRS to take an interest in you.”

 

It’s Tuesday Buzz-time!  At the Robert D. Flach emporium.

20140513-1

Lyman Stone, The Facts on Interstate Migration: Part One (Tax Policy Blog):

CBPP’s new report says that “State taxes have a negligible impact on Americans’ interstate moves,” and so falls pretty comfortably in the “taxes don’t affect migration” camp.What we’ve consistently argued at the Tax Foundation is that taxes matter on the margin, but that they’re just one of many factors. After reviewing Mazerov’s main arguments, this theme will be apparent: that his analysis doesn’t address the effect of taxes on the margin.

Any practitioner has dealt with cases where taxes do make a difference where people choose to live.  It’s painfully obvious when you live in a high-rate state with a zero-rate state (South Dakota) next door.  And to assume taxes don’t matter is to assume incentives don’t matter, which is like assuming gravity doesn’t hold things down.

Renu Zaretsky, Pizza, Expats and Drugs.  The TaxVox headline roundup covers today’s expected senate vote on extenders, take and bake pizza, and the high costs of FATCA for foreign companies who hire Americans abroad.

 

That’s clupeida roseus to you, Judge. States’ Failed Tax Policies Have Some Governors Throwing Red Herrings (Tax Justice Blog). 

Career Corner.  Helicopter Parents are Hitting Alumni Groups on LinkedIn to Find Junior a Job Now (Going Concern)

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Tax Roundup, 5/9/14: Worst-ever edition. And: It’s Scandal Day 365!

Friday, May 9th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

I was grumpy yesterday when I noticed Tax Analysts correspondent @Meg_Shreve’s live-tweeting of a speech by Doug Shulman, the Worst IRS Commissioner Ever.  So I tweet-grumpted, adding “#worstcommissionerever (fixed)” to one of her posts — the “(fixed)” as a perhaps inadequate attempt to inform the Twitterverse that the tag was my addition, not hers (apologies to Meg Shreve).  That earned this response:

 

20140509-1

 

Ah, where to begin?  How about with identity theft?  Doug Shulman took office with a reputation as an information systems maven.  He then presided over an historic IT debacle.  Tax refund fraud — fundamentally a systems failure —  has let two-bit grifters like Rashia Wilson steal tens of billions of dollars in fraudulent refunds over the years.

This problem has been ramping up for years, and only now, with Shulman gone, is the IRS beginning to take effective action to prevent it.  My wife can’t go shopping in Chicago without me getting a call from the credit card company warning me of a suspicious transaction, but Doug Shulman’s IRS could send 655 refunds to the same apartment in Lithuania without batting an eye.

Rashia says "thanks, Commissioner!"

Rashia says “thanks, Commissioner!”

While the theft of taxpayer billions is outrageous enough, the inept treatment of ID theft victims makes it even worse.  Only after Doug Shulman left did the IRS even begin to get this right.

The Worst Commissioner Ever was just too darned busy to stop ID theft.  He was busy trying to increase IRS power over preparers with a useless, expensive and unilateral preparer regulation regime.  He reversed the longstanding IRS position that the agency had no such regulatory power, only to be unceremoniously slapped down by the courts.   In the meantime, the prospect of the regulations drove thousands of preparers out of the business, increasing taxpayer costs and driving many taxpayers to self-prepare — and surely causing some to fall out of the system altogether.  The IRS wasted enormous resources on this futile power grab — resources that might have been better-devoted, to, oh, maybe the fight against identity theft.

 

He was also busy shooting jaywalkers.  International tax enforcement is considered Doug Shulman’s greatest success — but there was no reason the pursuit of wealthy international money-launderers had to also terrorize American expatriates whose offenses were to commit everyday personal finance.  Many folks have been hit with ridiculous penalties for not filing FBAR reports that they had no idea existed.  These folks are often people who married overseas or moved out of the U.S. as children, but were presumptively treated as international money-launderers when they tried to come into the system, and were hit with enormous penalties — often when little or no tax had been avoided.

It’s hard to imagine that an agency that can find ways to simply wave away the ACA employer mandate couldn’t find a way to allow expats and individuals without criminal intent to come into the international reporting system without risking financial disaster.  The states that allow non-resident non-filers to come in by paying five years of back taxes provide an obvious model.

 

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how big is legacy is.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how big is legacy is.

Then there is the scandal.  When Tea Party groups complained about absurd and abusive IRS information requests, sympathetic Congresscritters asked Doug Shulman if the IRS was targeting Tea Party groups.  The Worst Commissioner Ever testified before Congress that the IRS was doing nothing of the sort:

“There’s absolutely no targeting. This is the kind of back and forth that happens to people” who apply for tax-exempt status, Shulman said.

That statement, of course, became inoperative when the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reported that the IRS was, in fact, picking on the Tea Party groups.  Subsequent revelations have shown that it was exactly a partisan attempt to fight anti-administration groups.  So Doug Shulman either was too lazy and ineffective to know what his own agency was doing, or he knew, or he didn’t care.  He destroyed the credibility of the agency as a nonpartisan enclave of competent technicians.

Now the party controlling the House of Representatives is on notice that the agency wants to see it lose.  That agency can hardly expect generous appropriations as long as that perception remains (and the new Commissioner has done nothing reassuring on that score).   This will damage the agency’s effectiveness for years — all because The Worst Commissioner Ever was unwilling or unable to run a professional, non-partisan agency.

This is a record of administrative ineptitude and negligence that is unbeaten.  No IRS commissioner has so squandered agency resources and reputation.  If another Commissioner has even come close, I’d sure like to know who it was.

 

Meanwhile, the TaxProf has reached a milestone: The IRS Scandal, Day 365.  The biggest item in this edition is the report that the IRS had not destroyed Tea Party donor lists — after saying it had — and that the IRS has audited 10% of Tea Party donors.  This is a staggering audit rate, if true, and is a tremendous scandal in itself if the IRS doesn’t come up with a good explanation.

TaxGrrrl, House Finds Lerner, Central Figure In Tax Exempt Scandal, In Contempt Of Congress

 

20140509-2Jana Luttenegger, Deadline Approaching to Avoid Losing Tax Exempt Status (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). Get those 990-series reports filed!

Trish McIntire, EFTPS – Inquiry PIN.  “The Inquiry PIN will allow taxpayers to check and make sure that their federal tax deposits have been made and catch a problem before it becomes a major issue.”  This should be used by all employers.

Peter Reilly, Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Owner Scores Touchdown In Tax Court.  “It may seem odd to look at a case that ends up with a charitable deduction dis-allowance of nearly $4 million as a victory, but when you consider how taxpayers generally fare in easement cases it really is.”

Leslie Book, Tax Court Jurisdiction to Determine its Jurisdiction: Foreign Taxes and Credits (Procedurally Taxing)

Mindy Herzfeld, International Tax Trending (Tax Analysts Blog)

 

Richard Borean, Tax Freedom Day Arrives in Final Two States: Connecticut and New Jersey (Tax Policy Blog)

Howard Gleckman, Taxing Employer-Sponsored Insurance Would Hike Social Security Benefits But Boost Federal Coffers (TaxVox)

 

Kay Bell, IRS employee arrested after inadvertently following Obama daughters’ motorcade onto White House grounds.  Oops.

Tax Justice Blog, Déjà vu: Oklahoma Enacts Tax Cut Voters Don’t Want.  I’m not sure about the “don’t want” part.

Robert D. Flach has your Friday morning Buzz!

 

News from the Profession.  Deloitte CEO Prefers Traditional Photo Op Over Selfie  (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/4/14: Your Honor, nobody follows that law! And: extenders advance.

Friday, April 4th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120801-2Maybe that wasn’t the best argument, under the circumstances.  Things went badly for a California man yesterday who tried to tell the Tax Court how things work in the real world.

The man had claimed $5,309 in vehicle expenses for his real estate sales business.  Vehicle and travel expenses are subject to the special rules of Section 274, which requires corroborating records of the amount, time, place and business purpose of travel expenses.  The judge found the taxpayer’s evidence wanting (my emphasis):

Petitioner provided his 2009 Mileage Chart and Itemized Categories documents, which appear to be reconstructions asserting the places he traveled to for business and the vehicle expenses he incurred in 2009. Petitioner, however, failed to provide any corroborating receipts or other records that substantiated the statements made in these two documents. Moreover, neither document identifies a business purpose for each trip, and both fail to show mileage. (While the Itemized Categories does have a handwritten note of “mileage for 2009 11,135″, this note alone does not substantiate the mileage of each trip or show how the mileage was allocated between business and personal use.) Additionally, the 2009 Mileage Chart provides a log for only three weeks for 2009 and fails to show the amount of each trip expense. Because petitioners failed to substantiate the claimed expenses as required by section 274(d), the vehicle expense deduction must be disallowed.

The IRS asserted negligence penalties for claiming an undocumented deduction.  The taxpayer tried to tell the judge that nobody does that stuff:

Petitioner did not argue reasonable cause or good faith. Instead, petitioner argued at trial that no one keeps records in accordance with the “IRS code”.

Well, OK, then, screw Section 274!  Well, no:

That argument is unpersuasive, and the section 6662(a) penalty will be sustained.

The IRS is serious about documenting business miles.  If you have them, keep a log, a calendar, or use a smart-phone app to record the time, place, cost and business purposes of your travels as you go.  If “no one keeps records in accordance with the ‘IRS code,’” no one is going to be happy with the results when they get audited.

Cite: Chapin, T.C. Summ Op. 2014-31

 

20130113-3Tax Extenders Legislation Advances in Senate (Accounting today):

 The Senate Finance Committee voted to revive almost all of the 55 tax breaks that expired Dec. 31, providing benefits for wind energy, U.S.-based multinational corporations and motor sports track owners.

Motor sports track owners have lots of friends in high places.

It’s not just motor sports lobbyists who did will in the Finance Committee.  Almost all
“expired” provisions of this lobbyist right-to-work vehicle were renewed, including the renewable fuel credits.  The only expiring provisions that actually expire are the credit for energy-efficient appliances and a provison for oil refinery property, so there remains some lobbying to do.

But wait, there’s more!  Tax Analysts reports ($link) that this Christmas in April bill includes a provision to “expand the research credit to allow passthroughs with no income tax liability to apply the credit, up to $250,000, to their payroll tax liability.”  It also would renew the reduction of the S corporation built-in gain tax “recognition period” at five years through 2015.

While the House still hasn’t acted on any of this, the passage of all of this stuff on a bipartisan basis would seem to indicate that something like this is likely to pass.  Still, Kay Bell thinks the House tax leadership may be reluctant to follow the Senate’s lead.

The reason Congress pretends these provisions are “temporary” is that under their rules, Congress can pretend that they will only cost as much as they will cost before they are renewed again, regardless of the probability that they will be renewed forever.  It’s the kind of accounting that would get us thrown in jail if we tried it with the IRS or SEC, but it’s just another Thursday in Congress.

Link: “Summary of Modified Chairman’s Mark.”

 

20091010-2.JPGKristy Maitre, E-Filed Return Rejected at Deadline? Don’t Panic

Paul Neiffer, Patronage Dividend Notices Can Be Sent by Email or Posted to a Website

Jason Dinesen, Accounting for the Work Opportunity Credit on an Iowa Tax Return 

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): T Is For Tip Income   

Leslie Book, ACA and Victims of Domestic Abuse (Procedurally Taxing)

Russ Fox, Yes, Online Poker Players Must Pay Taxes

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 330

William Perez, State and Local Tax Burdens as a Percentage of Income for 2011

Lyman Stone, Missouri Senate Passes Problematic Income Tax Cut Plan (Tax Policy Blog).  “Missouri’s state Senate this week passed a $621 million tax cut including a 0.5 percentage point income tax reduction and a special carveout to deduct up to 25 percent of business income.”

Howard Gleckman, Two Ways to Fix the Corporate Income Tax: Internationalize it or Kill It. (TaxVox).  I vote “kill.”

 

There’s a new Cavalcade of Risk up!  At Insurance Writer. Don’t miss Insureblog’s contribution about how those making health care policy don’t know what they’re talking about.

 

20120906-1Corporate Welfare Watch:

Iowa city prepares to give mystery company millions. (Foxnews.com)  “West Des Moines city officials have cued up $36 million in local and state tax incentives for a company, but won’t tell its citizens who that company is.”

Iowa senator calls BS on attempt to limit tax credits for fertilizer plant (Watchdog.org)

Iowa View: From wind to solar, clean power is good for Iowa (Joe Bolkcom, Mike Breitbach).  Green corporate welfare is still corporate welfare.

 

News from the Profession: Deloitte Declares Weekends Are Not For Working, Unless You Are Working (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/2/14: CPA Revenge edition! And more.

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140330-1Mutually assured destruction.  Accounting firm breakups can generate bad feelings.  Bad feelings can generate bad ideas — like filing bogus 1099′s on your erstwhile colleagues.  That went badly for an Ohioan in a U.S. District Court case reported in today’s Tax Notes ($link). 

When Waldman, Pitcher and Co. broke up, it wasn’t amicable. Lawrence Waldman felt ill-used by departing partners Kenneth Pitcher  and Michael Enders.  Some background from the District Court judge:

This case arises from the acrimonious break-up of the successful accounting firm Waldman, Pitcher, and Co., P.S.C. The individual parties in the present case were formerly partners in that firm. The break-up has spawned numerous related lawsuits, various audits by the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”), numerous complaints of improper conduct to various professional oversight groups, and protracted contentious litigation of the present case.

Mr. Waldman apparently attempted to enlist the IRS in his fight, using an assignment of uncollected receivables in the break-up agreement (footnotes and other references omitted):

In January 2010, Waldman & Co. issued 1099-MISC forms to Pitcher and Enders personally for tax year 2009, for non-employee compensation in the amount of $111,535.00 for Pitcher and $13,260.00 for Enders. It is undisputed that Waldman and his company had not collected any of the AR/WIP money reflected on those 1099 forms (doc. no. 134, ¶¶ 18-19). Waldman was admittedly angry at Pitcher and Enders and has repeatedly characterized their departure as effectively “stealing” two million dollars from him. As a prominent and experienced CPA, Waldman was familiar with the matching program of the IRS and knew that issuing these 1099s to Pitcher and Enders personally would likely result in IRS audits of their personal income tax returns. Waldman & Co. benefitted by taking a corresponding tax deduction for the reported amounts.

The unhappy 1099 recipients fought back:

In February and March of 2010, Pitcher and Enders complained to the IRS’s Office of Professional Responsibility (“OPR”) that Waldman had issued 1099s containing information that Waldman knew to be inaccurate. They asserted that Waldman had done this “to exact a revenge that he couldn’t otherwise exact during our negotiations.” They filed similar complaints with the Accountancy Board of Ohio and Ohio Society of CPAs . Those groups declined to take disciplinary action against Waldman.

20120509-1It then got even uglier:

In February 2011, Waldman & Co. issued “corrected” 2009 1099s to the plaintiffs, reflecting “zero” for their nonemployee compensation. At the same time, he issued “corrected” W-2s to Pitcher and Enders reflecting increased amounts in Box 1 . For Pitcher, an additional $199,290.00 of reported income was included, reflecting the $111,535.00 for the accounts receivable assigned to KPE, $27,755 for the amount paid to KPE by Waldman & Co., and $60,000.00 for attorney fees paid by Waldman & Co. to plaintiffs’ attorneys… For Enders, an additional $13,260.00 was included, consisting of $13,260.00 for the accounts receivable assigned to KPE. Waldman & Co. took a tax deduction for the increased amounts listed on the corrected W-2s, even though such returns indicated that no federal income taxes had been withheld.

I suppose if you are going to make up compensation on W-2s, you may as well be consistent and deduct the pretend expense.

Much litigation later, the District Court ruled for the departing accountants Pitcher and Enders:

Given his education, knowledge, and business experience as a CPA, [Mr. Waldman] could not have reasonably believed that these information returns were proper to file. He filed these information returns “willfully” in order to obtain tax benefits and harass the plaintiffs. Despite having “settled” a previous lawsuit over the plaintiffs’ departure from the firm, Waldman was dissatisfied and stubbornly believed the plaintiffs had “stolen” two million dollars from him by leaving his firm with clients. In taking on the role of whistleblower, he deliberately misused the IRS reporting system.

A lot of good it did them.  They were each awarded $15,000 in damages, but not attorney fees:

In light of the unusually hostile litigation history between the parties, the Court observes that plaintiffs have certainly played a significant role in creating the bitter circumstances of this case. This case has also been marked by needlessly contentious discovery battles, repetitive briefing, and unfortunate personal attacks. In view of the animosity between the parties, the Court in its discretion declines to award attorneys’ fees to the plaintiffs. The Court is aware that, absent such an award, this may be a Pyrrhic victory for plaintiffs. Nonetheless, the Court is convinced that this is a just result under the unusual circumstances of this case.

It’s hard to believe that the plaintiffs came out ahead on this, especially when their time is taken into account.

The Moral: breaking up is hard to do, even for accountants.

Cite: Kenneth B. Pitcher et al. v. Lawrence Waldman et al., DC-SD Ohio, No. 1:11-cv-00148

 

20140307-1Jason Dinesen, Life After DOMA: Estate Tax   

Kay Bell, No April Fools’ joke: No capital gains taxes for some investors

William Perez, Extended Time for Choosing When to Deduct Colorado Flooding Losses

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): R Is For Royalties   

Leslie Book, What is a Fair CDP Hearing: Courts Push Back on IRS

 

William McBride, French Economist Wants Top Tax Rate of 80 Percent to Fix Inequality (Tax Policy Blog).  No, it’s not an April Fools joke, and some people who should know better take this serously.  The “French economist” is Thomas Picketty, who is big into the whole “inequality” hand-waving being used to distract us from our real problems.   The post illustrates the folly of the whole war on millionaires with this chart:

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He could have added that an increasingly progressive tax system has coincided with increasing inequality.

 

Howard Gleckman, House Republicans Punt on Tax Reform (TaxVox): “…it effectively turns its back on the tax reform plan drafted by Dave Camp, the GOP chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee.”

Tax Justice Blog, ITEP Predicts Illinois Tax Reform Debate…and Then Puts Crystal Ball Away

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 328

Name that Party!, tax edition.  Instapundit has a recurring gag poking fun at news stories of corrupt politicians whose political affiliation is left mysteriously unstated.  Here’s an example from the tax world: Gary councilman sentenced to prison.

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/18/14: Now it gets serious. And: a foolproof plan goes awry.

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

 

Flicker image courtesy Michael Coghlan under Creative Commons license.

Flicker image courtesy Michael Coghlan under Creative Commons license.

OK, we’ve got all of the corporations done or extended.  Now it gets serious.

For the last several years, our 1040 practice has become more and more a three or four-week death sprint.  Most of our individual returns are business owners or executives, or their families.  That means most of them are waiting on K-1s.  Ever since the enactment of the reduced dividend rate, it has taken longer every year for brokerages to issue their 1099s.  It’s common for “corrected” 1099s to come out several weeks after the originals.  So it just takes longer for our clients to assemble their 1040 data.

While the start of the returns is delayed, April 15 is still April 15.  That means all of the most complicated returns hit in the four weeks after the corporate return deadline.  This isn’t good for many reasons — not least of which is that you don’t want a bleary-eyed tax pro helping you deal with big-dollar decisions, like the grouping options under the passive activity rules that kick in this year.

What I’m getting at: if your tax pro recommends an extension, don’t object.  This stuff is hard — if it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be paying someone else to do it.  You don’t want to risk an expensive mistake by rushing things.  There is nothing to the myth that extensions increase your risk of getting examined.  I have extended my own 1040 every year for 20+ years without an exam.   Errors, on the other hand, absolutely do increase your audit risk.

Your tax return is worth the wait.

 

Russ Fox, The Flavor of the Season

 

20140303-1Paul Neiffer, Real Estate Includes Land but Not For Depreciation Purposes.

William Perez, Alternative Minimum Tax

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): I Is For Internal Revenue Code

Leslie Book, Insider Trading and Forfeiture of Millions in Stock Gains Runs into Section 1341 and Issue Preclusion (Procedurally Taxing)

Janet Novack, Former Qwest CEO Could Score $18 Million Tax Refund For Forfeited Insider Trading Profits

Kay Bell, College bowl tax audits and Colorado pot taxes.

 

Marc Ward, Annual Financial Statements Must Now be Delivered to Shareholders:

One of the changes to the Iowa Business Corporation Act that went into effect this year is a new requirement that corporations deliver financial statements to their shareholders. These financial statements must include a balance sheet, an income statement and a statement of changes in shareholders’ equity.  The financial statements must be sent within 120 days of the end of the fiscal year.

I did not know that.

 

taxanalystslogoJeremy Scott asks, Would a Republican Senate Improve the Chances for Tax Reform? (Tax Analysts Blog):

Republican chances for retaking the Senate have improved… 

And that would be good for tax reform proponents, even those who don’t support GOP policies or want to see Republicans in office. Senate Democrats aren’t interested. And they aren’t going to work with a Republican House at all. Tax reform takes a lot of legislative groundwork, and right now at least, the GOP is the only party with any real interest in doing it.

There is, of course, another factor.  I don’t think President Obama will sign anything big coming out of a GOP Congress.

William McBride, Some Questions Regarding the Diamond and Zodrow Modeling of Camp’s Tax Plan. (Tax Policy Blog).

Eric Todor, Who Should Get the Tax Revenue from Apple’s Intellectual Property? (TaxVox)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 313

 

Great moments in tax evasion.  A Texan who was worried about being sentenced to prison came up with an ingenious plan: hire someone to murder the sentencing judge.  Because then the court system would just forget about him, or something.

Somehow that plan went awry, and Phillip Ballard was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison yesterday for his trouble. Mr. Ballard is 72.  This will impact his retirement options.  (via Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/5/14: President proposes $1 million Sec. 1031 cap. And: other doomed stuff!

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Economic supergenius

0-99, 0-414

The President trotted out his old petty tax increases in his 2015 budget yesterday, and a few new ones.  The  new taxes would go towards, among other spending increases, an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit welfare program for childless taxpayers.

If history is a guide, the Obama budget isn’t going to do well in Congress.  His own party leadership in the Senate has already pledged to pass no budget at all.  When his 2013 budget plan came up for a vote in Congress, it was rejected 99 -0 in the Senate and 414-0 in the House.

Still, it is worth mentioning some of the tax proposals, just so you are aware of them and their low likelihood of passage anytime soon.  Also, in light of the recent Camp “tax reform” proposal, apparently no tax provision is too dumb to get bipartisan consideration, so some of these might even pass someday.

S corporations: the bill would tax as self-employment income 100% of K-1 income from professional S corporations and partnerships of materially-participating owners.  Businesses covered would include health, law, engineering, architecture, accounting, actuarial science, performing arts, consulting, athletics, investment advice or management, brokerage services, and lobbying.  For some reason, regular compensation would no longer be wages, but would instead be self-employment income.  That would wreak havoc on everybody’s 401(k) and profit-sharing plans.

- Like-kind exchange benefits would be capped at $1 million per taxpayer per year.  That won’t be popular with the real estate industry.

The bill also drags out dozens of the old proposals from his prior budgets, including LIFO repeal, ordinary income treatment for carried interests, capping the value of deductions at 28%, and capping build-ups in retirement plans.  Nothing at all is likely to happen before the next election on these proposals, but as many Obama proposals are also included in some form in the GOP Camp plan, they all have to be considered viable next time a major tax bill shows signs of moving.

The TaxProf has a good link-filled roundup.  The official explanation of the revenue-raisers is here.

Other coverage:

Kay Bell, Obama budget proposes more child care help for younger kids

Leslie Book, President’s Budget Proposes Major Procedural and Administrative Changes (Procedurally Taxing).  “The popular media has generally described the plan overall the way Reuters did in reporting that it ‘stands little or no chance of being approved as is by Congress, where Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, disagree with the president’s policy priorities.’”

 

Des Moines Register, Voters OK increasing franchise fee in Des Moines.  The vote is the result of the city being ordered to repay an illegally-collected utility tax:

The money raised by increasing the franchise fee to 7.5 percent from 5 percent for seven years will be used to pay off about $40 million in bonds issued by the city to pay for the refund and administrative costs.

Among the “administrative costs” is $7 million in legal fees Des Moines was ordered to pay to the winning taxpayer attorneys after a scorched-earth court battle by the city to avoid repaying the illegal tax.  Next time, don’t collect an illegal tax, and pay up if you’re called on it.

 

Alan Cole, True Marginal Tax Rates under Chairman Camp’s Proposal (Tax Policy Blog).  Full of high-income phase-outs, it creates all sorts of goofy marginal rate anomalies:

Marginal Tax Rates Camp Tax Reform

Note the spike in rates at the low-end as a result of the earned-income tax credit phase-out.  That doesn’t even include the effect of the state EITCs that piggyback on the federal credit.  All of this is the opposite of tax reform.  Apparently neither party is ready for reform.

William Gale and Donald Marron, The Macro Effects of Camp’s Tax Reform (TaxVox): “How would Camp’s plan increase growth, and why is the range of estimates so wide?”

 

Paul Neiffer, Additional Tax Reform Items.  “Remember, this is just a proposal and nothing will happen this year.”

Gene Steurle, A Camp-ground for Tax Reformers (TaxVox).

 

20130419-1Russ Fox, Deadlines for Us, but Not for Them:

For practitioners, the current state of the IRS is such that you can expect a lot of delays in responding to notices. Think months instead of weeks. Expect to have to call the IRS to verify that your response was received, and make sure clients are aware that the IRS is moving like molasses rolling uphill. Make sure anything you send is documented: certified mail with proof of receipt if by mail; if faxing, make sure you have the proof of receipt. Given the lengthy delays our clients are going to be in fear for far longer…

For taxpayers, you need to be aware that expediency is not part of today’s IRS. You have to be expedient in responding to notices but don’t expect the IRS to be expedient in getting back to you. Do not worry if it takes a long, long time to resolve something with the IRS. That’s just par for the course today.

Unfortunately, clients generally assume that if the IRS has sent a letter, that means the practitioner screwed up.  Many people, especially old folks, just pay up when they get an IRS notice.

 

William Perez, Tax-Deductible Relocation Expenses

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): B Is For Basis   

David Brunori, Taxing Coca Cola while Exempting Broccoli is Bad Policy Even for Native Americans (Tax Analysts Blog):

 In any event, several newspapers reported that one of the sponsors of the proposal was himself obese. He decided to change his life and lost 100 pounds. And he did it without any tax increases or help from the government.

Like so many reformed smokers/overeaters/drinkers, he has become annoying about it.

Tax Justice Blog, State News Quick Hits: State Policy Makers Need a Tax History Lesson

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 300.

 

Cheer up!  Filing Your Tax Return Is Terrible — But It Was Worse 100 Years Ago (Joseph Thorndike, Tax Analysts Blog).

News from the Profession.  The Real Loser at the Oscars This Year Was PwC.  (Going Concern)

20140305-1Jason Dinesen shares his Tax Season Tunes:

Here’s a sampling of other tunes I listen to while working when not getting my Gordon Lightfoot fix:

  • Neil Diamond. Generally not his “famous” songs. I detest — and I mean absolutely revile — “Sweet Caroline,” for example. The original recording is okay, but he’s turned it into a hokey, over-the-top, karaoke show-tune over the last few decades. Blech. I like the more introspective songs like “Shilo,” “If You Know What I Mean,” “Stones,” pretty much anything from his relatively new “12 Songs” and “Home Before Dark” albums,  and a host of other Neil Diamond songs that most people have probably never heard of.

  • An mix of songs that include Billy Joel, pop rock from the 60s and early 70s, Elvis, Willie Nelson, Conway Twitty, AC/DC, Juanes, Bon Jovi, CCR, Johnny Cash and Jimmy Buffett.

In case you were wondering, I believe Jason works alone.

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/4/14: Des Moines votes on refunding illegal tax. And: life after football!

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20121002-2Des Moines voters decide today whether to approve a legal tax to refund a similar tax imposed illegally.  The Des Moines Register reports:

A special election Tuesday will determine how the city pays back a portion of a franchise fee it illegally collected from 2004 to 2009.

The Iowa Legislature gave Des Moines the authority to temporarily increase its franchise fee — a tax assessed on anyone who connects to electric and natural gas utilities — to pay off the judgment.

However, if voters reject the proposal, city officials will be forced to raise property taxes for at least 20 years in order to issue and pay municipal bonds to cover the court judgment.

When the tax was ruled illegal, the city appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court before finally conceding that it would have to issue refunds — incurring enormous legal bills in the process, including a $7 million bill to the winning lawyers on the other side.  From the District Court opinion awarding the fee:

This case has been in our courts since 2004.  To say it was highly contested would be a gross understatement.  The history of this case shows that the City, while it was entitled to do so, erected one barrier after another in an attempt to prevent the class from being successful in obtaining a refund.  Almost without exception, class counsel was successful in dismantling each of those barriers.

It just goes to show that the city will do the right thing, once it has exhausted all appeals.  Maybe next time they won’t be so quick to enact an illegal tax.

The state legislature voted to allow Des Moines to impose the tax legally to repay the illegal tax.  Somehow I doubt the legislature would do a similar favor for taxpayers by letting them, say, legally not pay income tax for a few years to help them repay the taxes they had illegally avoided in prior years.  

 

William Perez, Deducting Work-Related Expenses

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): A is for Affordable Care Act

Leslie Book, EITC Snapshot: Overclaims and Commercial Preparer Usage (Procedurally Taxing).  “In fact, there is a steady decline in the use of paid preparers among EITC claimants, while the rate of paid preparer usage overall has remained fairly steady.”

Another reason why preparer regulation to cut fraud is like pushing on a string.

Jack Townsend, The Scariest Tax Form? Scary Is in the Eye of the Beholder.  I think the article he cites, which chooses Form 5471, makes a good case, considering the almost-automatic $10,000 fine for filing it late.

Kay Bell,  Tax moves to make in March 2014

 

TaxProf, Tax Court Issues 63-Page Opinion Debunking Cracking the Code Book

 

taxanalystslogoTax Analysts Blog is having a tax reform party:

Clint Stretch, 10 Reasons Republicans Should Embrace the Camp Tax Bill.  This is pretty faint praise:  “2. If they want a credible claim that Obama and Democrats are responsible for the failure of tax reform, they must pass a bill in the House.”

Jeremy Scott, Comparing the Camp and Obama Bank Taxes:

Including the bank tax in his plan is one of Camp’s most intriguing decisions, if only because the gain for him isn’t obvious, even after a closer look. The tax doesn’t raise much money. It is very similar to an Obama proposal that congressional Democrats didn’t really like, meaning it doesn’t buy the chair any bipartisan support. And it comes about four years too late to take advantage of widespread public anger at financial institutions. All Camp seems to have accomplished is legitimizing a revenue raiser for future use by the progressive caucus and undermining his own party’s opposition to this kind of tax increase.

Just… brilliant.  I prefer ending the “too big to fail” subsidy directly, if necessary by denying deposit insurance to such institutions.

Martin Sullivan, 25 Interesting Features of Camp’s New Tax Reform Plan.  “Biggest disappointment. Camp and fellow House Republicans all but promised to reduce the top rate to 25 percent. They failed.”

Christopher Bergin, Tax Reform Only a Mother Could Love:

Many political observers think the GOP has a good chance of not only increasing its majority in the House, but also taking the majority in the Senate. I’m among those who believe that the Republicans will shoot themselves in the foot before that happens. I’ll bet there are more than a few Republicans this week who fear that Camp just put a bullet in the chamber.

I think the Camp plan will be quietly forgotten long before November, but there is still plenty of time for the GOP to demonstrate its skills with a Glock 40.

Norton Francis, Camp Tax Reform Would Create New Challenges for States (TaxVox).  The repeal of the deduction for state and local taxes and limits on muni bonds won’t win friends in the state capitals.

 

National Review, via InstapunditThe IRS Is the Problem:

Representative Camp’s thou-shalt-not list is fine so far as it goes, and, unlike the IRS bureaucracy, Congress does have the authority to rewrite the law. But his proposal falls short in that it assumes that the IRS is a proper and desirable regulator of political speech. It is not. It is not even particularly admirable in its execution of its legitimate mission, the collection of revenue: Its employees have committed felonies in releasing the confidential tax information of such political enemies as the National Organization for Marriage and Mitt Romney, and the agency itself has perversely interpreted federal privacy rules as protecting the criminal leakers at the IRS rather than the victims of their crimes. 

Instapundit comments: “Abolish governmental immunity and make them personally liable for damages for misconduct.”  Hard to argue with that; it would be a good addition to my “Sauce For the Gander” reforms.  I still don’t understand why a nonprofit should lose its exempt status for being primarily political.  Isn’t freewheeling debate a good thing?  The IRS certainly hasn’t shown itself a neutral observer here.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 299

 

Scott Drenkard, Johannes Schmidt, Guess Which State Has the Highest Liquor Taxes in the Nation? (Tax Policy Blog).  Think coffee.

 

Preparing for life after football.  Two former members of a Sioux Falls indoor football league team may have to change their post-athletic career plans.  From the Sioux Falls Argus:

A federal grand jury has indicted six people for conspiracy to defraud the United States and aggravated identity theft.

Two of those indicted – Undra Stewart Franks, 27, and Donta Moore, 28 – are former Sioux Falls Storm players.

The new federal indictment says Moore, Franks and the others conspired to defraud victims by using names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth stolen from others to file fraudulent income tax returns that claimed false income tax refunds.

Identity theft isn’t just a Florida thing.  If you deal with Social Security numbers at work, treat them as valuable confidential data — because that’s what they are.  Guard your own identity by never giving out your social security numbers, protecting your bank account info, and being sure never to transmit those things in unencrypted e-mails.  If you need to send documents with that info electronically, use a secure file transfer site, like our rothcpa.filetransfers.net.

 

News from the Profession.  10 People Not Cut Out to Be Partner (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/27/14: Doomed Tax Reform Frenzy Edition.

Thursday, February 27th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

President Reagan signs PL 99-514, the Tax Reform Act of 1986.
When I think of income tax reform, I think big.  I think of massive elimination of tax deductionPresident Reagan signs PL 99-514, the Tax Reform Act of 1986.s, with great big rate reductions as consolation for taxpayers that lose their breaks.  I look for elimination of alternative ways of tracking income and deductions, with the idea that one way that everyone can understand is better than special breaks for different industries.  I look to eliminate double taxation of income everywhere, including elimination of capital gain taxes and integration of the corporate and individual systems.

By these standards, the tax reform plan put forth by Dave Camp, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is a disappointment.  While it would make many simplifying changes to the tax law while rates, it would leave behind a system that would still be very recognizable to a Rip Van Taxman who fell asleep in 1993.  It prunes tax complexity, but it doesn’t begin to clear the forest.

Still, politics being what it is, trimming the weed sanctuary is probably the best we can expect.  Maybe better than we can expect.

 

Tony Nitti has already posted detailed walk-throughs of the individual and business parts of the proposal, so there’s no point in me repeating his work.  Instead I will list some of the bigger changes proposed, with my commentary.  I don’t expect anything like the Camp plan to be enacted during the current administration, but I think it gives us an idea of the kinds of changes that could happen after 2016, if the stars align.

Individual Rates.  The bill would have a three-bracket tax system: 10%, 25%, and 35%.  The 35% bracket would replace the current 39.6% bracket, and would only apply to income other than “qualifying domestic manufacturing income.”  Lowering rates is fine, but this would retain the stupid difference between manufacturing income and other income embodied in the current Section 199 deduction.  It’s a complex and economically illiterate break for a favored class of income paid for by higher rates on all other income.

Capital gains and dividends would be taxed as ordinary income, but only after a 40% exclusion.  That would be a 21% net rate on 35% taxable income. (Initially I said 14%, math is hard).

Against the forces that have risen on K Street, there is no victory.

Against the power that has risen on K Street, there is no victory.

Deductions would be trimmed back.  The maximum home mortgage interest debt allowed for deductions would be $500,000, instead of the current $1.1 million.  Medical deductions would go away.  Standard deductions would increase to $11,000 for individuals and $22,000 for joint filers.  Many itemized deductions would reduce taxes only at the 25% rate, rather than the 35% top rate.  Charitable deductions would be simplified, but only deductible to the extent they exceed 2% of AGI.  The deduction for state and local taxes would be eliminated.

The increase in the standard deduction is an excellent idea.  I’m fine with reducing the mortgage interest deduction.   The limiting of deductions to the 25% rate is pointless revenue-raising complexity.  The elimination of the medical deduction will be a real burden on people in skilled nursing care; they are the people who generally can take this deduction.  Taxing them while they burn through their assets paying nursing home costs  will only put them into title 19 that much sooner.

While I am sympathetic with the policy reasons for not allowing a deduction for state and local taxes, those reasons don’t apply to taxes arising from pass-through business income.  State taxes are a cost of doing business for those folks, and should be deductible accordingly.

Alternative Minimum Tax would go away.  About time.

Corporate rates.  The proposal replaces the current multi-rate corporate tax with a flat 25% rate.  Excellent idea, as far as it goes, but it is flawed by the 35% individual top rate; it provides a motivation to game income between the individual and corporate system.

The proposal eliminates a number of energy credits while retaining the research credit.  I think that it would be better to get rid of the research credit and lower rates.  I think the IRS is no more capable of identifying and rewarding research than it is of fairly administering political distinctions.  Unfortunately, the credit seems to be a sacred cow among taxwriters.

Incredibly, the Camp corporate system gets rid of the Section 199 deduction while retaining a similar concept for individual rates.  Here it doesn’t get rid of pointless and economically foolish complexity; it just moves it around in the code.

LIFO inventories go away under the proposal.  As this comes up every proposal, it’s going to happen sometime.

Carried interests become taxable as ordinary income.  This is more complexity, apparently a sop to populist rhetoric.

Pass-throughs would be tweaked.  S corporation elections would be easier to make, and could be delayed until return time.  Built-in gains would only be taxable in the first five years after an S corporation election, instead of ten years.  Basis adjustments on partnership interest transactions would be mandatory, instead of elective.

Fixed assets would have mixed treatment.  While the Secti0n 179 deduction would permanently go to $250,000, depreciation would go to a system more like the pre-1986 ACRS system than the current MACRS system.

20120702-2Cash basis accounting would be more widely available, and fully available to Farmers and sole proprietors.  This is a step in the wrong direction.  Advocates of cash accounting say that it provides “simplicity,” implying that poor farmers just can’t handle inventory accounting.  Meanwhile these “poor” bumpkins play this system like a fiddle, manipulating cash method accounting to achieve results that are only available through fraud to the rest of us.  Modern farm operations with GPS, custom planting and nutrient plans, and multi-million dollar asset bases are as able to handle accrual accounting as any other business of similar size.

There’s plenty more to the plan, but you get the idea.  I find it disappointing that they don’t replace the current system of C and S corporations with a single system with full dividend deductibility.  I find the treatment of preferences and tax credit subsidies half-hearted.  I think there should be fewer deductions, fewer credits, and a much bigger standard deduction.  That’s why I’d never get elected to anything, I suppose.

The TaxProf rounds up coverage of the proposal.  Other coverage:

Peter Reilly, The Only Comment On Camp Tax Proposal You Need To Read – And Some Others

Paul Neiffer, Tax Reform – Part ?????!!!!!  “Since this is a mid-term election year, it has little chance of passing this year, but it is important to note possible changes that Congress is pondering.”

Annette Nellen, Congressman Camp’s Tax Reform Act of 2014 Discussion Draft

Leslie Book, Quick Thoughts on Procedural Aspects of Camp’s Tax Code Overhaul Proposal and the Spate of Important Interest Cases (Procedurally Taxing)

Joseph Thorndike, Democrats and Tax Reform: Can’t Do It With ‘Em, Can’t Do It Without ‘Em (Tax Analysts Blog).  “If you’re a left-leaning populist, what’s not to like?  Well, at least one big thing: The bill doesn’t raise taxes.”

TaxGrrrl, Camp’s Tax Proposal: The First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All The Lawyers 

Kyle Pomerleau, Andrew Lundeen, The Basics of Chairman Camp’s Tax Reform Plan (Tax Policy Blog).  “We’ll have more analysis on the plan soon – it will take us days to get through the 979 pages of legislative text – but in the meantime, here are the basics.”  They note that the plan uses tax benefit phase-outs based on income — a bad idea that creates hidden tax brackets.

Renu Zaretsky, Tax Reform: one foot in front of the other (TaxVox)

 

Other Things:

William Perez, Last Year’s State Tax Refund Might Be Taxable

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: Depreciation 

Trish McIntire, Brokerage Statements.  “Actually, my problem is clients who don’t bring in the whole statement.”

 

Jack Townsend, Wow! Ty Warner Is Ty Warner is Not Quite the Innocent Abroad 

Janet Novack, Senate Offshore Tax Cheating Report Skewers Credit Suisse And U.S. Justice Department 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 294.  I note that Lois Lerner won’t testify without being immunized from prosecution.  “Not a smidgeon” of wrongdoing, indeed.

 

Finally, Seven People Who Have a Worse Busy Season Than You, from Going Concern.  That’ll cheer you right up.

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/12/14: Lawless and Unregulated edition. And: Lincoln!

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130121-2As we reported yesterday, the IRS preparer-regulation power grab failed in the D.C. Court of Appeals.  The three-judge panel unanimously ruled that “The IRS may not unilaterally expand its authority through such an expansive, atextual, and ahistorical reading” of the law.

One grumpy IRS person told us that we would regret it, that Congress will pass a worse IRS-run preparer regulation regime.  While it’s possible, I don’t think Congress is in any mood to give the IRS more power right now (see TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 279).

It’s a victory for taxpayers, for preparers, and for the rule of law.  One hope it is a good omen for future court decisions on the on-the-fly rewrites of the Obamacare effective dates.

My endzone dance is here.  The Tax Prof has a roundup of coverage, as well as a guest op-ed: Johnson: The D.C. Circuit Rejects the IRS’s Regulation of Tax Return Preparerswhich says “At bottom, Loving stands for the proposition that exigency does not excuse illegality.” 

Other tax bloggers weigh in:

Russ Fox, DC Court of Appeals Rules Against IRS: Loving Decision Upheld.  “The real problem is the huge complexity of the Tax Code, and the biggest villain here is Congress. Rather than regulating tax professionals, we need to regulate (gut) the Tax Code itself.”

Leslie Book, Initial Reactions to the Government’s Loss in Loving (Procedurally Taxing):  “The government may seek to get Supreme Court review of the matter, or may work with Congress to get specific legislative authority. I offer no views on the odds of the government seeking cert, but its sound beating in two opinions leaves the possibility of obtaining cert and a victory in the Supreme Court seemingly small.”

Joseph Henchman, Big Win for Taxpayers: IRS Loses Effort to Expand Power Over Tax Preparers (Tax Policy Blog).  “In May 2013, we filed a brief opposing an IRS appeal of a court decision striking down their regulation of small tax preparers.”  That’s the brief I joined, along with fellow tax bloggers Russ Fox and Jason Dinesen.

Trish McIntire, The IRS Lost!  “I don’t know if there can be any more appeals (not a lawyer) but I bet there will be a tax preparer bill in Congress soon.”

 

20130419-1Paul Neiffer, When Farmers Barter.  While bartering is taxable, Paul muses: “Some of these barter transactions are properly reported, however, my educated guess is that much higher percentage is not.”

William Perez, How to Handle Owing the IRS

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Allocation of Partnership Liabilities “Admit it. Nobody really understands what’s going on in this remote corner of the K-1; typically, most tax preparers just apply the tried-and-true “same as last year” approach to allocating liabilities, and trust that it won’t matter in the end.”  Oh, it does, it does.

Jana Luttenegger, “Extensive Wait Times” Ahead with the IRS (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  And it’s not like they were brief before.

Kay Bell, The pros and cons of tax refunds.  While logically you don’t want to let the taxman sit on your money, clients always seem happiest with a fat refund.  That leads many tax advisors to sandbag a bit on payments.

TaxGrrrl, Yes, Olympic Wins Are Taxable (And Should Stay That Way) 

 

Peter Reilly, Pilot To Black Panther To Pastor Calls For Financial Transparency In Churches 

 

Jack Townsend, Corporate Corruption Case Charged With Swiss Bank Accounts to Hide the Loot 

Tax Trials, The Tax Education of Lauryn Hill

Annette Nellen links to the Video of IRS Commissioner Koskinan on the filing season.

 

The Iowa Department of Revenue has a Facebook page!  It’s a good idea, and they actually answer questions, like this:

 20140212-1

It’s great that they are answering disgruntled taxpayers for everyone to see.  Best thing is that it’s available to anybody, not just Facebookers.  You don’t have to bring yourself to “like” the Department of Revenue to read it.

 

David Brunori, Tax Breaks for Lawyers — No Joke (Tax Analysts Blog):

I read recently in the Kansas City Business Journal that Missouri gave a big law firm $2.8 million in tax incentives to move to Kansas City. I thought there must be some kind of mistake. Certainly, no politician would agree to give citizens’ hard-earned money to lawyers. And certainly, they would not give citizen money to big-firm, wealthy lawyers. But once again, reality trumps good tax policy. The Missouri Department of Economic Development gave the nearly $3 million to attract the international law firm Sedgwick LLP to downtown Kansas City. 

Must be a rough neighborhood if that’s considered an improvement.  Or, more likely, Missouri has completely lost its mind.

 

Tax Justice Blog, The States Taking on Real Tax Reform in 2014.  One blog’s “real tax reform” is another blog’s march to madness.

News from the Profession: Big 4 Dude Says Dudes at His Firm Rewarded For Treating Non-Dudes Like Dudes (Going Concern)

 

LincolnToday is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.  He was born 205 years ago today in Kentucky, before anybody thought of an income tax.  His presidency saw the first U.S. federal income tax, passed to finance the Civil War.  The Revenue Act of 1861, Section 49, imposed a flat 3% levy “upon the annual income of every person residing in the United States, whether such income is derived from any kind of property, or from any profession, trade, employment, or vocation carried on in the United States or elsewhere, or from any other source whatever” over $800.  It was replaced by a progressive levy in 1862, with a 3% rote on income over $600, with a 5% rate kicking in at $10,000.

The tax expired under its own terms in 1866, after Lincoln’s death.  Lincoln never came back, but the income tax returned to stay in March 1913.

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/5/14: Tax Credits do it all! And: advice from a champion.

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
The income tax, the Ultimate Swiss Army Knife of public policy.  Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

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

Tax Credits! Is there nothing they can’t do?  Bill offering tax credits to rehab abandoned public buildings advances (Jason Noble, Des Moines Register):

House Study Bill 540 adds abandoned public buildings to the list of properties eligible for tax breaks under the state’s Redevelopment Tax Credits program, meaning businesses or nonprofits could obtain state aid for such projects as they currently can on renovations of industrial or commercial properties.

It’s an idea that Gov. Terry Branstad highlighted in his Condition of the State Address last month, and appears to have bipartisan support.

This is a back-door appropriation to help out school districts and local governments, but running it through tax return hides it from those pesky taxpayers who foot the bill.  As with Congress, the Iowa General Assembly sees the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy.

 

20121120-2Arnold Kling exposes the vastness of the Right Wing Conspiracy:

The Congressional Budget Office, a Koch-funded organization known to be affiliated with the Tea Party, writes,

CBO estimates that the ACA will reduce the total number of hours worked, on net, by about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent during the period from 2017 to 2024, almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor—given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive.

A conspiracy so vast…

 

James Schneider, guest-posting at Econlog, discusses why we pay our taxes in  The Sucker Tax:

Imagine a state of anarchy (a lack of government not a house full of boys). An evil genius announces that he will impose a sucker tax. Everyone will be taxed ten dollars, and the proceeds will be redistributed back to all the citizens in equal shares without reference to who paid the tax. In a certain sense, this tax maximizes unfairness. It serves no other purpose than to punish people in direct proportion to how much of the tax they paid. To make tax compliers feel even more ridiculous, the evil genius announces that he will make no effort to punish “tax cheats.” A fair outcome of the game requires that there be no suckers. This will occur if everyone evades the tax. However, it will also occur if everyone pays the tax. Under this scenario, you probably wouldn’t pay the tax (even if you believed in fairness) because you would assume that no one else was going to pay the tax.

Now imagine that the evil genius announces that unless everyone pays the tax one person will be punished.

Read the whole thing.  I especially like this: “Compliance does not mean consent.”

 

20121220-3TaxGrrrl, Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Surviving The Winter With Some Tax Help From Uncle Sam

Paul Neiffer considers One Possible Section 179 Strategy. A reader asks Paul, “Should I wait to buy section 179 property until the date 179 property is raised from $25,000 to whatever?”  He has a way for farmers to plan around the uncertainty.

William Perez, Filing Form 1040A May Help Parents Qualify for the Simplified Needs Test.  For college financial aid.

Jason Dinesen asks, Why Doesn’t the IRS Push the EA Designation?:

The IRS already oversees the EA program. There’s no new infrastructure to put in place. No new exams to create. The infrastructure and exams already exist.

Yet throughout the IRS’s ill-fated attempts at creating the “Registered Tax Return Preparer” designation, the IRS rarely mentioned the EA program, except as a side note of “CPAs, EAs and attorneys are exempt from the RTRP testing.”

I think it’s because it would be inconvenient to their efforts to regulate all preparers.

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Peter ReillyThe Dog That Did Not Bark – IRS Issues Adverse 501(c)(4) Rulings To Deafening Silence:

An interesting question about the whole scandal narrative is how it would look if it turned out that many of the groups that the IRS “targeted”  were in fact inappropriately claiming 501(c)(4) status.  Tea Party Patriots Inc, for example, spends a lot of energy talking about how all those intrusive questions were harassment, but what if it turns that, in fact, all those phone calls that TPP Inc made telling people that November 2012 was the last chance to stop Obamacare from turning the country into a cradle to grave welfare state could be viewed as political? 

I think Peter is missing the point.  The issue isn’t whether every right-wing group qualified under the standards historically used for 501(c)(4) outfits.  It’s whether the rules were selectively enforced against right-side applicants —  as seems to be the case.   After all, it wouldn’t be OK to examine 1040s of only Republicans even if it turned out some of them were tax cheats.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 272

 

David Brunori, Casino Taxes for Horses or Children? (Tax Analysts Blog):

Horse racing has been a dying sport since Nathan Detroit bet on a horse named Paul Revere in Guys and Dolls. In Pennsylvania, the schools are broke. So naturally, when governments need money, they turn to a moribund pastime to pay the bills. 

For the children!

 

William McBride, New CBO Projections Understate the Average Corporate Tax Rate. “Particularly, the CBO is using as their corporate tax base measure domestic economic profits from the BEA, which includes both C and S corporations, even though S corporations are pass-through entities not subject to the corporate tax.”  Well, that’s just nuts.

Tax Justice Blog, Gas Tax Remains High on Many States’ Agendas for 2014

 

Joseph Thorndike, Debt Limit Debates Are Good for Theater, Not For Policy Reform. (Tax Analysts Blog)

Jack Townsesnd, TRAC Posts Statistics on Criminal Tax Enforcement Related to IRS Referrals   “[A] surge in IRS criminal investigations referred under Obama has fueled an increase in the number of cases prosecuted.”

 

Answering the Critical Question: What Kids Peeing in the Pool Can Teach Us About Tax Compliance (Leslie Book, Procedurally Taxing)

News from the Profession: McGladrey Interns Are Busy Learning Their Colleagues Are Boring, How to Use an Ice Cream Truck (Going Concern)

 

Nice Work, Champ.  It’s funny how hard it can be for some people to heed their own good advice.  Take this North Carolina man:

Prosecutors said Larry Hill, who coined himself “the people’s champ” for his efforts to keep local children out of trouble, didn’t live by his own message and that his case represented “disturbing hypocrisy.”

In a YouTube clip posted in November 2012, Hill says, “I want all my young people to think before you act. Trouble is too easy to get into, and once you get into trouble, you’ll be all by yourself.”

Federal Judge Earl Britt sentenced Hill to 100 months in prison for conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and 18 months for filing false tax returns.

If it’s any comfort, Mr. Hill will have plenty of company where he’s going.  But he will have to get used to a more spartan existence:

The judge agreed to the lower sentence of 100 months but said Hill deserved the “most severe punishment to reflect the seriousness of the offense,” pointing out that Hill used much of the money to buy himself expensive jewelry and cars, including a Maserati. The judge also noted that Hill was on supervised release from an insurance fraud prison term when he committed the tax fraud.

That doesn’t make his advice any less sound:

He should follow it sometime.  Russ Fox has more on Mr. Hill.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/29/14: E-cigarette panic! And: SOTU, SALY.

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Via e-cigarettepedia.com

Via e-cigarettepedia.com

Jeff Stier, Iowa should tread carefully on e-cigarette rules, on the weird impulse to restrict and tax water vapor:

Restricting the use of e-cigarettes, known as “vaping” for the vapor they emit, would undermine the very goal of this law.

First, it wouldn’t reduce exposure to environmental smoke, better known as second-hand smoke, because there is no smoke. There isn’t even any first-hand smoke.

More important, a ban on vaping in public places would damage public health because it would make e-cigarettes a less convenient alternative to cigarette smoking. It would also send the implicit (and incorrect) message that they are also equally dangerous, not only to the user, but to those exposed to the vapor.

All true.  There are two explanations for the why politicians have their dresses over their heads over what amount to very small room vaporizers.

First, because people vaping look a little like smokers, and smoking is a great sin these days, they must be sinning, and sin must be stopped.  For the children!

The second explanation is more cynical, so it probably is true.  The state has a nicotine addiction.  Iowa collected $227 million in tobacco taxes in 2013.  If smokers use e-cigarettes to quit, that money dries up.  We can’t have that.

 


EITC error chart
Tax Analysts’ 
headline ($link) on its story about the tax proposals in the State of the Union doesn’t exactly scream Hope and Change:  “Obama Proposes EITC Expansion in State of the Union, Otherwise Reiterates Old Tax Proposals.”

One hopes that Congress will do something to keep 20-25% of the EITC from being issued “improperly” to grifters before it increases the theft pot.  We can expect the President’s other tax proposals to go nowhere, as they went nowhere when he was in better political shape.  The dead-on-arrival proposals include disallowing more of the Section 199 deduction for f0ssil fuels and tax credits to “build fuel infrastructure” and to subsidize alternative fuels.

His budget also provides for a hodgepodge of other tax incentives.  His revenue-raisers include repealing LIFO inventories, slower depreciation for aircraft, changing grantor trust rules so they are treated the same for income and tax purposes, and limiting the size of retirement accounts — all doomed absent an unlikely comprehensive tax reform.

Related:  Tax Policy is MIA in the State of the Union (Howard Gleckman, TaxVox). “The president perfunctorily restated his support for business tax reform but added no new twist to make his plan any more acceptable to congressional Republicans.”

Good Jobs First, a left-side think tank, has released Show us the Subsidized Jobs, a report on state tax incentives.  Iowa only scores 27%, largely because there is no online disclosure of recipients of the Industrial New Jobs Training program and the Iowa New Jobs Tax Credit.  I would give Iowa zero percent, because these hidden subsidies wouldn’t exist in a well designed tax system.  They should be repealed and replaced by the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

Broadbandits.  Speaking of corporate welfare, SSB 3319 was introduced yestarday in the Iowa Senate.  Among other ways to pay providers for something they will do anyway if customers want it, the bill includes a 3% credit on the cost of “new installation of broadband infrastructure.”  Just one more step away from simplicity and transparency.

 

20111040logoDavid Henderson, Marginal Tax Rates: Singing Taxman to My Class:

Think about the Beatles’ earnings. Late 1963 was when they first started making real money. Then in 1964, they hit it big. Presumably they didn’t spend it all but started investing, figuring that they would get interest and dividends on their investments. They probably did. But those returns would be taxed at the 95% rate. When would they start noticing this? Probably some time in 1965. Thus the 1966 song. 

And we all know what an economic dynamo the UK was then.

Martin Sullivan, The Obama Administration’s Backdoor Bailout of Puerto Rico (Tax Analysts Blog):

But here’s a little secret that the powers that be inside and outside government don’t want you to know: The Obama administration has already provided a multibillion-dollar bailout to Puerto Rico. Nobody in the major media outlets has noticed because the issue is highly technical.

And because Look!  Justin Bieber!

 

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Why You Should Never Hold Real Estate In A Corporation? 

William Perez, Filing Requirements for Tax Year 2013

TaxGrrrl, ‘Same Love’ Grammy Wedding: Married Is Married For Tax Purposes

Leslie Book, Corbalis v Commissioner: Tax Court Holds it Has Jurisdiction to Review Interest Suspension Decisions (Procedurally Taxing)

 

Scott Hodge, President Obama Signs Executive Order to Increase Minimum Wages Paid by Federal Contractors (Tax Policy Blog).  Spending our money to show us how generous he is.

Tax Justice Blog, Has the Tax Code Been Used to Reduce Inequality During the Obama Years? Not Really.   They’ve tried, but it doesn’t work.

Jeremy Scott, BEPS Project Should Include Digital Economy Permanent Establishment (Tax Analysts Blog).   Should companies be taxable in a country because they have a “digital permanent establishment”?  I say they shouldn’t be taxed at all.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 265

Jack Townsend, DOJ Tax AAG Keneally Reports on Swiss Banks Joining DOJ Swiss Bank Program

Kay Bell, Mortgage tax break contributes to fading American dream.

 

Robert D. Flach is a sensible man:

I did not watch the State of the Union address last night.  Instead I watched the wonderful film GAMBIT with Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine on TCM.

I ate a delicious dinner and had pie for dessert, with the TV off.  My view of the whole SOTU thing is well-reflected here.

 

Career Corner: You Can Run But You Can’t Hide. Therefore, Sabotage Your Coworkers (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/10/2014: Taxpayer advocate rips IRS penalties and foreign account enforcement. Also: the Code still stinks!

Friday, January 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

The Taxpayer Advocate’s Annual Report directs some well-deserved fire on two of the worst IRS practices: the penalty-happy approach to examinations and the shoot-the-jaywalkers approach to offshore enforcement.

The report says this about penalties:

The IRS’s decision not to abate inapplicable penalties illustrates its resource-driven approach to them. As we have described in prior reports, the IRS too often proposes accuracy-related penalties automatically when they might potentially apply — before performing a careful analysis of the relevant facts and circumstances — and then burdens taxpayers by requiring them to prove the penalties do not apply.

The IRS should identify and abate all of the accuracy-related penalties that should not apply. It should minimize taxpayer burden when administering the IRC § 6676 penalty (e.g., by not proposing it automatically) and work with the Treasury Department to support a reasonable cause exception.

Amen.  The tax law is hard, and when a taxpayer does what a reasonable person — not a reasonable tax lawyer — should do to pay the right amount, there shouldn’t be an automatic 20% mistake penalty.  Too bad the advocate doesn’t seem to have embraced my “sauce for the gander” penalty, which would make the IRS pay taxpayers the same 20% penalty when the IRS makes an unjustified assessment.

Regarding foreign account enforcement, the report faults the IRS shoot-the-jaywalker approach (my emphasis):

In the 2009 OVD program, the median offshore penalty paid by those with the smallest accounts ($87,145 or less) was nearly six times the tax on their unreported income. Among unrepresented taxpayers with small accounts it was nearly eight times the unpaid tax. The penalty was also disproportionately greater than the amount paid by those with the largest accounts (more than $4.2 million) who paid a median of about three times their unreported tax. When the IRS audited taxpayers who opted out (or were removed), on average, it assessed smaller, but still severe, penalties of nearly 70 percent of the unpaid tax and interest. Given the harsh treatment the IRS applied to benign actors, others have made quiet disclosures by correcting old returns or by complying in future years without subjecting themselves to the lengthy and seemingly-unfair OVD process. Still others have not addressed FBAR compliance problems, and the IRS has not done enough to help them comply.

20121129-1Shooting the jaywalkers so you can slap the bad actors on the wrist.

The IRS should expand the self-correction and settlement options available to benign actors so that they are not pressured to opt out or pay more than they should; do more to educate persons with foreign accounts (e.g., recent immigrants) about the reporting requirements; consolidate and simplify guidance; and reduce duplicative reporting requirements.

The IRS should follow the lead of the states that allow non-resident taxpayers who voluntarily disclose past non-compliance to file and pay five years of prior taxes, with only interest and no penalties — reserving the penalties for those who wait until they are caught.  Tax Analysts quotes one lawyer as saying this would be unfair to the already-wounded jaywalkers:

“It’s very hard to make the program more lenient now without going back and adjusting thousands of [prior] taxpayers’ resolutions since 2009,” he said. That is something the IRS is likely unwilling to do, he added.

Too bad.  That’s exactly what they should do.

 There’s a lot more to the report, including a call for a new taxpayers bill of rights (good) and a renewed call for IRS preparer regulation (a waste of IRS and preparer time).

Related: 

Lynnley  Browning, IRS top cop says the agency is too hard on offshore tax dodgers.  I can’t imagine she wrote that headline.  Any lazy headline writers who call an inadvertent FBAR violator a “tax dodger” should have half their bank account balances seized if they ever forget to report a 1099.

TaxGrrrl, Report To Congress: IRS Is Increasingly Unable To Meet Taxpayer Needs

Jack Townsend,New Taxpayer Advocate Report to Congress Addressing, Inter Alia, OVDI/P Concerns

 

TaxProf, IRS Releases FY2013 2006 Enforcement Stats:

The IRS has released Fiscal Year 2013 Enforcement and Service Results, showing among other things:

  • Individual audit rate:  0.96% (lowest since 2005)

  • Large corporation audit rate: 15.8% (lowest since 2009)

  • Revenue from audits:  $9.8 billion (lowest since 2003)

  • Number of IRS agents:  19,531 (lowest since pre-2000)

  • Conviction rate:  93.1% (highest since pre-2000)

It’s hard to see where the IRS has the resources for making compliant preparers waste their time on preparer regulation busywork.

 

William Perez, Fourth Estimated Tax Payment for 2013 Due on January 15

Paul Neiffer, How Low is Too Low For A Rental Arrangement?  “We had a reader ask the following question: ‘Does leasing cropland to a family member for substantially less than fair market value become “gifting” subject to taxes for value above gifting limit?’”

Jason Dinesen,  Review Your Small Business Operations as Part of Year-End/Year-Beginning Planning

Leslie Book, NTA Annual Report Released (Procedurally Taxing)

 

 

Christopher Bergin, The Tax Code in 2014 – It Still Stinks (Tax Analysts Blog):

I’ve always believed in progressive income taxation. This isn’t it. The conservatives have sold us on the notion that tax is a dirty word, and the liberals have sold us on the notion that class envy is a healthy state of mind.

And that, folks, is why the tax code stinks. And it won’t get any better in the new year.   

There’s more to the stink than that, but it’s a good start.

 

Scott Hodge, Millionaire Taxpayers Tend to be Older.  Well, that’s one good thing about aging, I guess.

20140110-1

Howard Gleckman, Pay to Extend Unemployment Benefits? Why Not Pay to Extend Temporary Tax Breaks Too?  (TaxVox)

Tax Justice Blog,  Reasons Why Congress Should Allow the Deduction for Tuition to Remain Expired

Kay Bell, Marijuana sales, tax collections good for Colorado coffers.

 

The Newest Cavalcade of Risk is up!  Hank Stern participates with an Overseas ObamaTax Conundrum

 

Robert D. Flach brings the Friday Buzz!

Career Corner: This Year, Resolve to Finally Decide What You Want To Be When You Grow Up in Public Accounting (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/17/2013: Map day! A B+ for Iowa tax administration.

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

I did my last session of the year yesterday for the ISU-CALT tax school in Ames, and I have much catching up to do today in the office.  It’s a two-day school, and today Paul Neiffer is on the Day 2 team at the Ames Tax School.

 

Ben Harris, The US Income Tax Burden, County by County (TaxVox):

While the median federal income tax burden across counties is about $3,400, approximately 10 percent of counties  have average tax burdens less than $2,100 and around 10 percent of counties have  average tax burdens over $6,700.

20131217-1

I think the right side of the little color key is supposed to read $7,000, not $70,000.  Unless Central Iowa has higher income than I thought, anyway.

 

Meanwhile, Joseph Henchman reports that the Council on State Taxation graded the states on “taxpayer administration,” with this map (Tax Poliy Blog):

20131217-2

Iowa gets a B+:

20131217-3

 

I think they are grading on a curve.  And Iowa gets credits for making rulings and decisions available; that hasn’t been done since August, at least not on the Iowa Department of Revenue website.

 

Jeremy Scott, IRS Moves Closer to Having a Commissioner (Tax Analysts Blog).  How novel.

O. Kay Henderson,  Energy execs say end of federal credit to curb wind energy expansion.  When something can’t happen without subsidies, that’s nature’s way of saying it shouldn’t happen.

Jason Dinesen, Will Same-Sex Married Couples Pay More or Less in Taxes Now?  “I answer by saying that the answer is: ‘yes, no, maybe.’”

 

Leslie Book, Omitted Income, Accuracy-Related Penalties and Reasonable Cause (Procedurally Taxing).  He talks about the case I discussed here, saying:

Sometimes when I read penalty cases involving individuals I am struck by how the penalties are inappropriate. Here, I understand why IRS counsel stuck to its guns and tried the case, but I also agree with the court’s conclusion on these facts. I suspect that very few taxpayers leaving off this amount of income would get relief from the penalties, though wonder if the IRM should extend the first time abatement relief to penalties other than failure to file or failure to pay, so that perhaps Counsel or Appeals will feel more comfortable in exercising discretion if there are facts suggestive of an isolated and understandable mistake.

IRS is much too quick to assess foot-fault penalties on taxpayers with a good compliance history.

 

William Perez, IRA Distributions at Year End:

Taxpayers who are age 70.5 or older are required to distribute at least a minimum amount from their traditional IRAs, 401(k) plans and similar pre-tax savings plans. These required minimum distributions must begin no later than April 1st after the reaching age seventy and a half. Individuals continue taking required minimum distributions each year. So the first year-end tactic is to figure out how much needs to be distributed from the retirement plan to satisfy the required minimum distribution rules.

Basic, but missed surprisingly often.

 

Tony Nitti,  IRS Issues Guidance On Employee Benefit Plans For Same-Sex Couples

Russ Fox,  Health Care Fraud Leads to Tax Charge

Kay Bell, Medical tax breaks’ 10% and FSA year-end considerations

TaxGrrrl has kicked off her “12 Days of Charitable Giving 2013.”  Today she highlights Children Of Fallen Patriots 

TaxProf,  The IRS Scandal, Day 222

 

Grab a Tuesday Buzz from Robert D. Flach!

News From the Profession.  Accounting Firm Busted Stealing From the Cloud in “Plain, Vanilla Dispute About a Customer List” (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/22/13: Baucus proposes end of depreciation as we know it; also targets LIFO, cash-method farming.

Friday, November 22nd, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Max Baucus

Max Baucus

Baucus aims at LIFO, depreciation.  Senator Max Baucus has issued a tax reform proposal that slows depreciation and eliminates LIFO.  While it is a long way from becoming law — and certainly won’t become law in its current form — it will help shape the next round of tax reform.  Some key points:

-Depreciation for non-real estate assets would be computed not asset by assets, but in “pools,” with a set percentage of the amount of assets in each pool deducted during the year.  If the pool goes negative with dispositions, income is recognized.  There would be four “pools” with varying recovery percentages.

- Buildings would be depreciated under current rules, but over 43 years.

- The annual Section 179 limit would be $1 million, but with a phaseout starting at $2 million of assets placed in service.

- Research expenses would be capitalized and amortized over five years.

- LIFO would be repealed.

- Advertising costs would only be half deductible currently with the rest amortized over 5 years.

- Farmers would lose their exemption from accrual-basis accounting.

I think this goes the wrong way, adding complexity and lengthening lives.  I would prefer more immediate expensing.  LIFO repeal, and maybe the farm rule,  are the only proposals that seem to actually simplify anything.  The rest seem like high-toned revenue grabs.  If the revenue all goes to reduce rates, that wouldn’t be so bad, but I doubt that’s the idea.

 

Victor Fleischer, Tax Proposal for an Economy No Longer Rooted in Manufacturing:

The Baucus proposal aims to make the tax system match economic reality, removing the tax distortions from the equation. It would group tangible assets into just four different pools, with a fixed percentage of cost recovery applied to the tax basis of each pool each year, ranging from 38 percent for short-lived assets to 5 percent for certain long-lived assets.

It would be hard to make the case for giving the priority to tangible assets, and yet that is precisely what current law does by allowing rapid depreciation. At a minimum, the tax depreciation system should strive for neutrality and not discourage investment in intangibles and human capital.

That’s true.  Yet it’s hard to see how the Baucus proposal to require R&D costs to be amortized over five years, or the proposal to require 20-year amortization of intangibles instead of the current 15 years, encourages investments in intangibles and human capital.

Via Lynnley Browning’s Twitter feed.

The TaxProf has a roundup of the plan:  Senate Finance Committee Releases Depreciation and Accounting Tax Reform Plan 

William Perez, Draft Tax Reform Proposals from the Senate Finance Committee

Paul Neiffer, MAJOR Farm Tax Law Changes Proposed by Senate

Leslie Book, Senator Baucus Releases Proposals to Reform Administration of Tax Laws (Procedurally Taxing.

 

St. Louis loses another preparer.  From a Department of Justice Press Release:

A federal district judge in St. Louis has permanently barred defendants Joseph Burns, Joseph Thomas and International Tax Service Inc. from preparing federal tax returns for others, the Justice Department announced today…

According to the complaint, the defendants repeatedly fabricated expenses and deductions on customers’ returns and falsely claimed head of household status for customers who were married in order to illegally understate their customers’ federal tax liabilities and to obtain fraudulent tax refunds. The complaint also alleged that the defendants falsely claimed that some of their customers earned income from businesses that the defendants fabricated or increased the amount of business income their customers earned in order to illegally claim the maximum earned income tax credit on customers’ returns.

The IRS has certainly given their clients’ returns a good going over.  That’s the risk of going with a preparer whose results are too good to be true.

 

Scott Hodge, Andrew Lundeen, America Has Become a Nation of Dual-Income Working Couples (Tax Policy Blog)

20131122-1

Though its a brave man who tells the stay-at-home she’s not “working” after a day spent between taking care of an elderly parent and little kids.

 

Jason Dinesen,  Life After DOMA: What if You Amend One Year But Not the Next?

TaxGrrrl, When Mom and Dad Move In: The ‘Granny-Flat Tax Exemption’ For the Sandwich Generation 

Jana Luttenegger, Electronic Signatures, What’s Next? (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  E-filing of wills?

Phil Hodgen, U.S. brokerage accounts after you expatriate

Russ Fox, It’s All Greek to Me. Don’t gamble in Greece, seems to be the point.

 

20121120-2Kay Bell, Ways & Means’ tax plays in GOP anti-Obamacare game plan

Howard Gleckman,  How Washington May Turn June Into Fiscal February (TaxVox).  Yes they’ll be running out of our money again soon.

Christopher Bergin, The End of the Era of Multinationals (Tax Analysts Blog)

Tax Justice Blog, Scott Walker’s Tax Record Will Be on the Wisconsin Ballot Next Year.  Shockingly, TJB doesn’t like Walker.

Tony Nitti, International Tax Reform For Dummies 

Visit Robert D. Flach for fresh Friday Buzz!

 

News from the Profession: New Audit Associate Looking For Prank Ideas, Possibly a New Job in Near Future (Going Concern)

Oh, one more thing: Magnus!

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Tax Roundup, 11/13/13: Is more IRS money what we need? And why I’m hoping against hope!

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Is more money the answer to “pitiful” IRS service?   That’s what Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson believes, based on a story by Tax Analysts ($link):

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson in a November 9 speech decried as pitiful the level of IRS customer service given to taxpayers, which she attributed to inadequate funding that has forced the Service to automate many of the most important tax administration functions and skimp on training employees on taxpayer rights.

Everything else being equal, you can do more with more money.  Yet we all face limits to our resources, so we prioritize.  The IRS — at the urging of Nina Olson — has directed resources unwisely to its misguided attempt to boss the tax prep industry.  It has been a debacle so far, and it appears headed to oblivion in the courts.

The IRS has another administrative problem that the Taxpayer Advocate has pointed out.  The tax law is too complicated to effectively administer even with a much larger budget.  The tax law is seen as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy, and like a knife with too many gadgets, it becomes hard to work as a knife.  This chart from Chris Edwards at the Cato Institute illustrates the problem:

irs budget cato 20131113

 

Chris Edwards explains:

The chart shows that the IRS has become a huge social welfare agency in recent decades. Handouts have soared from $4.4 billion in 1990 to an estimated $91.1 billion in 2013 (red line). Handouts are down a bit in recent years because some of the refundable credits from “stimulus” legislation have expired. IRS administration costs have grown from $7.7 billion in 1990 to an estimated $15.3 billion in 2013 (blue line). 

How should we reform the IRS budget? First, we should terminate the handout programs. That would save taxpayers more than $90 billion annually and cut the IRS budget by 86 percent. 

The largest IRS handout is the refundable part of the EITC, which is expected to cost $55 billion in 2013.

So true.  Considering that over $10 billion of the $55 billion is stolen or otherwise issued improperly, the EITC is a nightmare.  There would be plenty of funding available for tax administration if EITC could go away.

But the chart also shows something else: if the tax law was no more complicated than it was in 1990 — and believe me, it was plenty complicated — the IRS administrative budget would be adequate.  But with the IRS transformed into a monster multi-portfolio agency charged with healthcare administration, welfare, industrial policy, environmental enforcement, etc., etc., its budget is hopeless.

 

This will work out well:

This article examines the tax collection process to see how the IRS might enforce the individual mandate under the healthcare reform law. It concludes that resistant taxpayers can generally be forced to pay the tax penalty only if they are entitled to receive refundable tax credits that exceed their net federal tax liability. 

From Jordan BerryThe Not-So-Mandatory Individual Mandate, via the TaxProf.

 

Don’t trust the Tax Foundation?  Maybe you’ll trust the Congressional Budget Office.  A commenter yesterday took issue with a chart I reproduced showing not only the tax burden at different income levels, but the amount of government spending benefiting different income levels:

It’s not “the first chart for any tax policy debate,” it’s the last chart you should want to find on your side of the debate if you want to have any credibility.

If that doesn’t work for you, maybe this one from the CBO will be less objectionable:

cbo table

This chart is more focused on direct transfers, but it says pretty much the same thing.  It also covers 2006, and the tax law has hit the high end harder since then. (Via Greg Mankiw).

 

Scott Hodge, Andrew Lundeen,  54 Million Federal Tax Returns Had No Income Tax Liability in 2011 (Tax Policy Blog)

 

Paul Neiffer,  Sale of CRP Land – Is it Subject to the 3.8% Tax?  It depends a lot on whether an appeals court upholds the Tax Court Morehouse decision imposing self-employment tax on CRP income.  “And if the Morehouse case is overturned on appeal and the CRP is treated as rents, the land sale will also be subject to the 3.8% tax.”

 

Kay Bell, Tax tips for newlyweds saying “I do” on 11-12-13 or any day

Jack Townsend,  U.S. Banks File Long-Shot Litigation to Block FATCA Reciprocal Requirements

Leslie Book,  Disclosure and the 6-Year Statute of Limitation: S Corp Issues (Procedurally Taxing)

Jason Dinesen,  EAs are Partly to Blame for Our Obscurity  “Yes, we are treated as the red-headed stepchild of the tax world. But a big reason for this is that we ALLOW people to treat us this way.”

Russ Fox, Dan Walters with Another Example of California Dreamin’

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 188

 

Hope lives! 

It’s Time to Give Up on Tax Reform” – Joseph Thorndike, October 29, 2013

When Tax Reform Rises From the Dead, What Will It Look Like?Joseph Thorndike, November 12, 2013.

I should note that his vision of resurrected tax reform is hideous.  If that’s what hope for tax reform comes to, I’ll hope against his hope.

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/8/13: Kyle Orton gets the bad news about the Tax Fairy. And: how many Lithuanians can you fit into a mailbox?

Friday, November 8th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

tax fairyKyle Orton’s old lawyer fails to find the Tax Fairy, departs the tax business.  From a Department of Justice press release:

A federal court has permanently barred Gary J. Stern from promoting tax fraud schemes and from preparing related tax returns, the Justice Department announced today.  The civil injunction order, to which Stern consented without admitting the allegations against him, was entered by Judge Robert Gettleman of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  The order permanently bars Stern from preparing various types of tax returns for individuals, estates and trusts, partnerships or corporations (IRS Forms 1040, 1041, 1065, and 1120), among others. 

According to the complaint, Stern designed at least three tax-fraud schemes that helped hundreds of customers falsely claim over $16 million in improper tax credits and avoid paying income tax on at least $3.4 million.  Stern allegedly promoted the schemes to customers, colleagues, and business associates.  The complaint alleges that his customers included lawyers, entrepreneurs and professional football players, and some of the latter, including NFL quarterback Kyle Orton, have sued Stern in connection with the tax scheme, alleging fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and professional malpractice. 

Mr. Stern seems to have led his clients on a merry chase after the Tax Fairy, the legendary sprite who can wave her wand and make your taxes disappear.  Kyle Orton is a graduate of Southeast Polk High School near Des Moines, where the truth about the Tax Fairy apparently was not in the syllabus.

Related: Jack Townsend, Chicago Lawyer Enjoined From Promoting Fraudulent Tax Schemes 

 

20131108-1Maybe Lithuanian apartments are crowded?  USA Today reports:

The Internal Revenue Service sent 655 tax refunds to a single address in Kaunas, Lithuania — failing to recognize that the refunds were likely part of an identity theft scheme. Another 343 tax refunds went to a single address in Shanghai, China.

Thousands more potentially fraudulent refunds — totaling millions of dollars — went to places in Bulgaria, Ireland and Canada in 2011.

In all, a report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration today found 1.5 million potentially fraudulent tax returns that went undetected by the IRS, costing taxpayers $3.2 billion.

When your controls don’t notice something like that, you have a lot more urgent problems than regulating preparers.   Yet Congress and the Administration think the IRS is ready to take on overseeing your health insurance purchases.  What could go wrong?

Tony Nitti is moved to offer the IRS a proposition:

MR. IRS,

REQUEST FOR URGENT BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP

FIRST, I MUST SOLICIT YOUR STRICTEST CONFIDENCE IN THIS TRANSACTION. THIS IS BY VIRTUE OF ITS NATURE AS BEING UTTERLY CONFIDENTIAL AND ‘TOP SECRET’.

Heh.

 

 

S-SidewalkCosting taxpayers by not taking their money.  Tax Analysts reports ($link):

Democrats seeking to raise revenue in ongoing budget talks have circulated a list of tax preferences they would like to see eliminated, including a provision that allows some wealthy individuals to avoid large payroll taxes, the carried interest preference, and the tax break for expenses businesses incur when moving operations overseas. 

The “provision that allows some wealthy individuals to avoid large payroll taxes” is called Subchapter S.  Form 1120-S K-1 income has never been subject to payroll or self-employment tax.  This bothers the congresscritters (my emphasis):

Commonly known as the “Newt Gingrich/John Edwards” loophole, it is most often used by owners of Subchapter S corporations to avoid the 3.9% Medicare tax on earnings, which costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year.  Many S corporation shareholders receive both wages from the S corporation and a share of the S corporation’s profits, but they pay payroll tax only on their wages.

“Costs” taxpayers?  From my point of view, and from that of my S corporation clients, it saves taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year — but keeps it out of the hands of grasping politicians, so it’s perceived as a bad thing, by grasping politicians.

The versions of this “loophole closer” proposed in the past have been lame.  When all they have to offer on tax policy is warmed over lameness like these, they aren’t serious.

 

 

TaxProf, Brunson: Preventing IRS Abuse of the Tax System.  The TaxProf quotes a new article by Samuel D. Brunson:

The IRS can act in ways that violate both the letter and the intent of the tax law. Where such violations either provide benefits to select groups of taxpayers without directly harming others, or where the harm to taxpayers is de minimis, nobody has the ability or incentive to challenge the IRS and require it to enforce the tax law as written.

Congress could control the IRS’s abuse of the tax law. Using insights from the literature of administrative oversight, this Article proposes that Congress provide standing on third parties to challenge IRS actions. If properly designed and implemented, such “fire-alarm oversight” would permit oversight at a significantly lower cost than creating another oversight board. At the same time, it would be more effective at finding and responding to IRS abuse of the tax system and would generally preserve the IRS’s administrative discretion in deciding how to enforce the tax law.

Right now the IRS — and by extension the administration in power — can pick and choose what parts of the law it wants to apply.  For example, the current administration has chosen to allow tax credits for participants in federal insurance exchanges, which the law does not authorize, while unilaterally delaying the employer insurance mandate but not the individual mandate.  Somebody should be able to challenge this sort of fiat government.

 

More on the shutdown of Instant Tax Service, a story we covered yesterday:Irwin

Department of Justice press release: Federal Court in Ohio Shuts Down Nation’s Fourth-Largest Tax-Preparation Firm and Bars CEO from Tax-Preparation Business

 

Irwinirwin.jpgPeter Reilly, Ninth Circuit Rules Against Irwin Schiff Sentence Appeal:

Irwin Schiff is probably one of the more famous alternate tax thinkers.  His seminal work “How Anyone Can Stop Paying Income Taxes” is available in hardcover on Amazon for one cent.

Mr. Schiff appealed his sentence on tax crimes on the basis that his attorney failed to raise a “bipolar disorder” defense and what an attorney I know calls the “good faith fraud” defense — the Cheek argument that you really thought the wacky stuff you were saying is true.  Peter wisely notes:

The problem with the Cheek defense is that you have to be smart to raise it, but if you show that you are too smart, then it does not work.

Its a fine line — smart enough to spend “thousands of hours” researching the tax law, but not smart enough to avoid a massive misunderstanding of it.

 

Jana Luttenegger,  IRS Change to Use-Or-Lose Rule for FSA Accounts (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog): “New IRS rules permit employers to allow participants in a health Flexible Spending Arrangement (FSA) to carry over unused amounts up to $500 from one plan year to the next.”

 

Paul Neiffer, Trusts Get Hit with New 3.8% Tax too. And hard.

Kay Bell, It could be time to harvest capital gains and future tax savings

Rush Nigut,  Careful Planning Necessary When Using Retirement Monies to Fund Startup Business

Brian Strahle, IGNORANCE MAY NOT BE BLISS WHEN IT COMES TO ‘ZAPPERS’  These are software apps designed to hide point-of-sale receipts from the taxman.

Phil Hodgen’s Exit Tax Book: Chapter 9 – Estate and Gift Tax for the Covered Expatriate

Catch your Friday Buzz with Robert D. Flach!

TaxGrrrl,  Former NFL Star Cites Concussions, Receives Prison Sentence For Role In Tax Fraud 

Leslie Book,  TIGTA Report on VITA Errors (Procedurally Taxing)

 

Howard Gleckman,  Can Expiring Tax Provisions Save the Budget Talks? (TaxVox).  “Sadly, it is hard to see how.”

 

Not strictly tax-related, but good reading anyway:  How to Put the Brakes on Consumers’ Debt(Megan McArdle).  Megan points out the wisdom of spending less than you take in, in preference to trying to get the government to cover your shortfalls.

 

News you can use: 3 ways to screw up your next website (Josh Larson at IowaBiz.com)

News from the Profession: Failed PwC Auditor Finds Success in Burning Bridges With This Ridiculous Farewell Email (Going Concern)

 

Quick thinking.  From The Des Moines Register:

A Des Moines man awoke to find a stranger in his living room Thursday afternoon, police said. When the victim confronted the burglar, the suspect reportedly offered to mow the victim’s lawn for $5.

Guy needs to work on his pricing model.

 

 

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