Posts Tagged ‘Leslie Book’

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

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan


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

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

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

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

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

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

Cite: Spjute, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-58




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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 866

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

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


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

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


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



Tax Roundup, 9/8/15: One Week to the 15th. And: First-world tax payment problems.

Tuesday, September 8th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150803-1September 15 is one week away. If you have extended partnership, corporation or trust returns, time is running short. There are many reasons to file on time:

  • Tax elections made on a late return, including automatic accounting method changes, may not count. With all of the “repair regulation” method changes this year, that could be a big deal.
  • If you owe money, late filing turns a 1/2% per month late-payment penalty into a 5% per month (up to 25%) late filing penalty.
  • If you have a pass-through entity, late-filing triggers a $195 per K-1 per month penalty.

Remember to e-file, or to document timely paper filing via Certified Mail, return receipt requested, or with a shipping bill from an authorized private delivery service.


Gretchen TegelerDART: A property tax funded amenity ( Disturbing trends on the inability of the Des Moines-area public transportation service to cover its operations through fares: does appear the service expansions are generating more ridership  However, as was noted last year, property taxes are basically covering the cost of these additional riders. Total operating revenue was 10.1 percent below projections for the year that closed June 30th, 2015; with fixed route operating revenue being 8.65% percent short of budget.

The overall trends have not changed much from a year ago. Total operating revenue is still less than it was four years ago despite substantial service expansions and improvements since that time. Basically, as it weighs future improvements for DART, the community will need to decide if it is willing to continue to raise property taxes to fund them.

The post includes this chart:


That doesn’t include the cost of the recently-completed $18 million Palace of Transit.


TaxGrrrl, Mega-Mansion Attracts Notice By Feds, Results In Criminal Charges:

According to local sources, federal agents flying in and out of Pittsburgh noticed the size and scope of a mansion belonging to Joe Nocito, Sr., and started asking questions. Those questions eventually led to a guilty plea last week from Ann E. Harris, the personal assistant, secretary and bookkeeper for Nocito, in a tax evasion scheme thought to involve as much as $250 million.

If you are a tax evader, it’s unwise to flaunt your wealth, especially to the point of attracting attention from passing aircraft. But maybe that would take the fun out of the thing.




Russ Fox, The Family that Commits Tax Evasion Together Goes to ClubFed Together. “This is yet another reminder for everyone who uses a payroll service to join EFTPS and make sure your payroll deposits are being made. Trust but verify is excellent practice in payroll.”

Kay Bell, Labor Day tax tip: Union dues might be tax deductible

Scott Greenberg, This Labor Day, How High is the Tax Burden on American Labor? (Tax Policy Blog). “In 2014, the average wage worker saw his or her labor income decrease by 31.5 percent due to federal, state, and local taxes, according to the OECD.”

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Excluding Gain On Sale Of Home, And Recognizing Gain On Repossession

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Tax Implications of the Unlicensed Daycare Provider

Jim Maule, “Who Knows Taxes Better Than Me?” Professor Maule notes that Donald Trump’s understanding of tax law and economics might not be all that Mr. Trump thinks it is.

Peter Reilly, From Russia With Built In Losses. “There is a certain irony to the whole thing as it seems like financiers were too focused on looting the US treasury with phony shelters to see the probably larger upside of distressed Russian assets.”

Robert D. Flach, DONALD TRUMP FOR PRESIDENT IS A LOT LIKE OBAMACARE, That isn’t meant as a compliment.




Leslie Book, Tax Court Opinion Reaffirming Validity of Regulations Addressing Foreign Earned Income Exclusion Illustrates Chevron Application (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert Wood, IRS Gets Tax Data From India As Black Money Hunt Hits Americans Too

Jack Townsend, IRS and DOJ Tax Conferences Before Indictment. That doesn’t sound like fun at all.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 849850851852


Renu Zaretsky, Deals, Dreams, and Data. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the ground from A (Amazon’s sweet Illinois tax credit deal and Apple’s Irish strategy) to Zaretsky.

Cara Griffith, Why Is It So Hard to Find Information on the Sharing of Taxpayer Information? (Tax Analysts Blog). “Taxpayers are expected to blindly provide massive amounts of information to tax authorities, but are then not allowed to know the process through which one state or municipality shares information with another.”


I’ll make sure not to have this problem when I file in April:

Effective January 1, 2016, the IRS will not accept any payment greater than $99,999,999.00. Two or more checks will be required, or we recommend that the taxpayers use Fed Wire to make their payments.

If I did owe more than $100 million, I would be tempted to write one of the checks for $99,999,999.01, just to see if they are serious. Not to give away my income secrets, but I’m pretty sure my 2015 taxable income will spare me the temptation.

Cite: Announcement 2015-23.



Tax Roundup, 9/1/15: If the taxman takes your car, recode your garage door. And: jobs, $211,111 each.

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015 by Joe Kristan
1974 mercedes

A 1974 Mercedes scheduled for IRS auction 8/31/15 at Bama Jammer Storage, Huntsville, AL.

As if having your car seized by the taxman wasn’t bad enough. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, in a report on IRS handling of property seized for tax nonpayment, notes a potential problem if the IRS takes your car:

However, during our discussions with IRS employees involved in the seizure process, we determined that there was no guidance on what actions to take if seized vehicles are equipped with installed navigation or garage door opening systems. Additionally, except for one employee, everyone we spoke with had not considered what actions to take if they seized a vehicle with one of these systems. While we do not have any examples in our case reviews of this situation occurring, it is in the taxpayers’ and Government’s best interest that employees are prepared if seizures involve these types of systems. If these systems are not reset to the original factory settings, there is a risk that the third-party purchaser of the vehicle can gain access to the taxpayer’s personal information or property. For example, the purchaser could use the vehicle navigational equipment to locate a taxpayer’s residence and then use the garage door opener to gain access to the home.

I have to admit, it wouldn’t have occurred to me either. It’s easy to forget that cars are also more and more data systems. Still, computerized data probably wasn’t an issue with the 1974 Mercedes pictured above that was scheduled for auction by the IRS yesterday in Huntsville, Alabama.


O. Kay HendersonBranstad defends state tax incentives for new Kum & Go headquarters:

Governor Terry Branstad today called the “Kum & Go” convenience store chain a “great…family-owned”, Iowa-based business and he has no objection to the nearly $19 million in state tax incentives it will get for moving the company headquarters to downtown Des Moines.

The convenience store chain is moving its headquarters about 10 miles from West Des Moines to Downtown Des Moines. It is getting $6.33 for every Iowan for its trouble. I’m sure Kum & Go is a perfectly nice company, and I don’t blame them for taking money the state is giving away, but there are lots of nice employers who don’t get $211,111 in state tax breaks for each new job they create. The unfortunate ones have to pay some of the highest business tax rates in the country to help pay for those who do benefit from tax breaks.

For perspective, check out Jared Walczak, Location Matters: Effective Tax Rates on Corporate Headquarters by State (Tax Policy Blog). “Today we’ll take a look at states’ effective tax rates on new and mature corporate headquarters.”  Have a look:


For this ranking, Iowa is the fourth worst. Giving millions to one company doesn’t fix it for everyone else.


Robert D. Flach has fresh Buzz for us today. Robert buzzes about blog posts he’s found about higher taxes, due dates, and the “Cadillac tax” on high-cost health plans — which seems to be most of them nowadays.

Russ Fox, The Hospital’s Closing; Who Will Notice the Missing Charity Money? Apparently one of the doctors, with unfortunate tax results.

TaxGrrrl asks Which State Has The Highest Property Taxes In America?

Kay Bell, IRS gets so-so rating so far on Yelp. Well, I’d never eat there.

Leslie Book, Legislative Language Directs IRS To Make Self-Prepared EITC Claims More Burdensome (Procedurally Taxing).




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 845. Today the Prof links to Robert Wood’s Court Orders IRS To Reveal White House Requests About Taxpayers. The White House will surely appeal, waiting until the last minute to file for it, and drag the process out as long as possible. This is good news, though: “Finally, though, the court ruled that the IRS cannot hide behind a law used to shield the very misconduct it was enacted to prohibit.”

The stonewalling doesn’t mean there was misconduct. By stonewalling everything, the administration makes it hard to unearth misdeeds; as an added bonus, when a painful and drawn out process finally forces the administration to yeild innocent information, it makes the investigators look silly while sapping their resources.


Jeremy Scott, Trump’s Lack of Specifics on Tax Is Hardly Unique (Tax Analysts Blog). ” There are many reasons to dislike Trump and his ill-defined platform (which seems mostly based on nativism and reality-show-style demagoguery), but his lack of policy details at this stage of the game is hardly unique.”


News from the Profession. AICPA Lays the Smackdown on Dear Abby (Greg Kyte, Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 6/8/15: Hush money edition. And: IRA invests in IRA owner’s business, disaster ensues.

Monday, June 8th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
"Dennis Hastert 109th pictorial photo" by United States Congress - Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

“Dennis Hastert 109th pictorial photo” by United States Congress – Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The TaxProf and I are cited in a New York Times article on the tax implications of former House Speaker Hastert’s hush money scandal: If Hastert Was Extorted, He Could Deduct Some Losses From His Taxes.

Mr. Hastert has been indicted on charges of “structuring” deposits to avoid reporting rules as part of a plan to pay for silence from “Individual A” for alleged sexual contact pre-Congress. From the article:

While extortion payments would be taxable for Individual A, they would actually be partly deductible for Mr. Hastert, said Paul Caron, a tax law professor at Pepperdine University. It’s right there in I.R.S. Publication 17, Chapter 25: You get to deduct losses because of theft, to the extent those losses exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income. Blackmail and extortion count as theft.

But to claim the deduction, Mr. Hastert would have to convince the I.R.S. or a court he had been extorted, which could be difficult.

”Sometimes judges will find a way to disallow deductions for what they find unsavory behavior,” said Joe Kristan, a tax accountant with the Roth C.P.A. firm. He noted a case in which a divided Ninth Circuit panel denied a tax deduction for extortion to a man who said he paid hush money to his mistress.

For the record, I have no personal experience in deducting extortion and hush money payments.

Related: Jack Townsend, Article on Structuring to Avoid Bank Currency Reporting Requirements, on the structuring charges of the Hastert case.


No Walnut STTaxpayer’s IRA-owned corporation leads to tax disaster. The Eighth Circuit appeals court has upheld horrendous tax penalties against a taxpayer who had an IRA capitalize his business as an investor.

A Mr. Ellis rolled his 401(k) plan into an IRA, which invested about $310,000 in CST, a C corporation. CST started an auto dealership and employed Mr. Ellis as General Manager. That led to unfortunate tax results. From the court opinion (my emphasis):

The tax court properly found that Mr. Ellis engaged in a prohibited transaction by directing CST to pay him a salary in 2005. The record establishes that Mr. Ellis caused his IRA to invest a substantial majority of its value in CST with the understanding that he would receive compensation for his services as general manager. By directing CST to pay him wages from funds that the company received almost exclusively from his IRA, Mr. Ellis engaged in the indirect transfer of the income and assets of the IRA for his own benefit and indirectly dealt with such income and assets for his own interest or his own account. See 26 U.S.C. § 4975(c)(1)(D), (E); 29 C.F.R. § 2509.75-2(c) (“[I]f a transaction between a party in interest and a plan would be a prohibited transaction, then such a transaction between a party in interest and such corporation . . . will ordinarily be a prohibited transaction if the plan may, by itself, require the corporation . . . to engage in such transaction.”)

While the investment itself wasn’t ruled a prohibited transaction, things got messy once the IRA-owned corporation started paying Mr. Ellis a salary — an “indirect transfer” occurred.

The consequences? The prohibited transaction terminated the IRA. That means the whole value of the IRA became taxable income, with no cash made available to cover the taxes. With penalties, the bill will exceed $160,000.

The Moral? Direct business investments from IRAs are dynamite. If you must use retirement plan funds for a business start-up, it may be wiser to take a taxable withdrawal and use the after-tax funds to make the investment. If there is any way to fund it without retirement plan funds, that would be wiser still.

Cite: Ellis, CA-8, No. 14-1310 

Prior coverage here.


20150528-1Margaret Van Houten, Legislature Passes Bill Affecting Iowa Trusts and Estates (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  “Beginning on July 1, 2016, a step grandchild will no longer be subject to Iowa Inheritance Tax.  Currently, direct ancestors and descendants, including stepchildren, were exempt from the tax, while step grandchildren were grouped with other individuals, such as siblings, nieces and nephews and unrelated individuals and were subject to the tax.”

TaxGrrrl, The Not So Skinny On National Doughnut Day. That’s every day!

Jason Dinesen, Breakeven Analysis for Small Businesses — Service Providers and Not-for-Profits

Annette Nellen, More on marijuana businesses and tax ethics. “Despite state actions, the production, sale and use of marijuana is a crime under federal law. Thus, for licensed practitioners, there is concern about ethical violations of helping someone commit a crime.”

Kay Bell, H&R Block explores virtual tax preparation.

Peter Reilly, A New York Day Is Like A New York Minute At Least For Taxes:

In the case of John and Janine Zanetti, the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division agreed with the Commissioner of Taxation and Finance that a New York day can be less than 24 hours.  The point of the decision was to determine whether the Zanettis had spent enough time in New York to be considered statutory residents for the year 2006.


Jim Maule asks Is the Federal Income Tax Progressive? He focuses on the “low” federal effective rate on the “Top .001%.” Of course, the reason people get to those rates is normally because of a one-time event, typically the sale of a corporation, that is taxed at long-term capital gain rates. Such taxpayers are normally at that income level only once in their life. Of course, Prof. Maule ignores the built-in double tax hidden in these figures.

Leslie Book, DC Circuit Criticizes Government in Case Alleging an Israel Special Policy for Tax Exemptions (Procedurally Taxing). “As IRS has increased responsibility beyond its paramount mission of collecting revenues, the historical reasons for the discretion IRS has exercised have lessened.”

Robert Wood, Are On Demand Workers Independent Contractors In Name Only?

Tony Nitti, Put It On The Card! Congressman Proposes To Make Credit Card Debt Forgiveness Tax Free

Russ Fox, Another Las Vegas Preparer Gets In Trouble Over the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. “I’d say it was something in the water but Las Vegas is in a desert.”




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 758Day 759Day 760. The IRS treatment of the Tea Partiers is compared and contrasted with that of the Clinton Foundation.


Arnold Kling, Payroll Taxes in Europe. ” I find it hard to reconcile Germany’s relatively low unemployment rate with this high payroll tax rate.”

David Henderson responds:

I don’t find it hard to reconcile the two. The reason: Germany has had high payroll tax rates for a long time–for decades, actually. So real wages have had a long time to adjust.

I understand this as saying the total employment cost is about the same, but the employee gets less of it.


Kyle Pomerleau, CRS Outlines Four Important Aspects of the EITC. “The EITC enjoys bipartisan support among lawmakers. This is due to the fact it both reduces poverty among families with children and has a positive impact on the labor force for certain individuals. Yet, the EITC is not without its flaws. It’s benefit phase-out has a negative impact on the labor force and it suffers from high error rate and overpayment.”

Richard Auxier, Choose your tax system: progressive vs. regressive (TaxVox). A critique of the “Fair Tax” and other national sales tax proposals.


News from the Profession. Pope Figured The Lord’s Work Could Use a Good Auditor (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)




Tax Roundup, 5/27/15: 104,000 taxpayers compromised by IRS transcript app breach. And: EITC is no free lunch!

Wednesday, May 27th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20130419-1That took some work. The IRS disclosed yesterday that 104,000 taxpayer accounts have been compromised by identity thieves who did it the hard way. The Wall Street Journal reports:

The IRS said that to access the information, crooks had to clear a multistep authentication process that required prior personal knowledge about the taxpayer, including Social Security information, date of birth, tax filing status and street address before accessing IRS systems. The process also involved answering personal identity-verification questions, such as “What was your high school mascot?”

Mr. Koskinen, when asked how impostors obtained answers to these so-called “out-of-wallet” questions, suggested social media might have played a role.

“This is not a hack or data breach. These are impostors pretending to be someone who has enough information” to get more, said Mr. Koskinen, who said thieves might be using sophisticated programs to aggregate and mine data.

This is much more difficult than your standard ID theft, where all you need is a Social Security number to go with a name, and maybe a birth date. Getting through the IRS transcript access system requires a fair amount of data entry and outside information.

The breach will complicate filing for the 104,000 taxpayers whose data was accessed, and possibly for another 96,000 taxpayers whose records the thieves failed to breach. Tax Analysts reports ($link):

The IRS will provide credit monitoring and protection to the 104,000 victims at the agency’s expense, Koskinen said. Victims will also be given the IRS’s identity protection personal identification numbers so they are not targeted again, he said. All 200,000 of the taxpayers affected by the raid will be sent notification letters from the IRS and will have their accounts flagged on the agency’s core processing systems, he added.

The IRS has been losing the IT security wars for some time. It’s a shame, because the transcript service has been very useful for taxpayers needing return information for loans or to resolve IRS notices. I think the IRS will eventually have to delay refunds and processing so that it will be able to match third-party information — W-2s and 1099s — with returns before issuing refunds. The era of “rapid refunds” is coming to an end.

Lots of coverage of this. The TaxProf has a roundup. Other coverage:

William Perez, IRS Data Breach: Hackers Gain Access Through ‘Get Transcript’ Web App. “The IRS emphasized that taxpayers don’t need to do anything further. The agency will be sending letters to affected taxpayers explaining what to do next.”

TaxGrrrl, IRS Says Identity Thieves Accessed Tax Transcripts For More Than 100,000 Taxpayers “IRS was alerted to the problem when its monitoring systems noted an unusual amount of activity related to the [transcript] application.”

Russ FoxIRS “Get Transcript” Application Hacked; 104,000 Tax Returns Illegally Accessed. ” It would be time consuming but entirely possible for a stranger who had my social security number and date of birth to answer all the other verification questions.”

Accounting Today, IRS Detects Massive Data Breach in ‘Get Transcript’ Application

J.D. Tucille, Details About 100,000 Taxpayer Accounts Stolen From IRS (

“[T]he vast databases held by the IRS, HHS, security agencies, etc, will be leaked on purpose, leaked because of bureaucrat sloppiness, or be hacked. The more they collect, the more that will eventually leak.” Chris Edwards, director of tax policy studies at the Cato Institute, predicted to me last year. That “eventually”—at least, the latest round of it—is now.

Oh, goody.




Kay Bell, Winners of meet-the-candidate contests face tax costs:

True, you won’t pay from your own pocket for the flights, hotel stay, chauffeur or meal with a future president. But the value of those things, like all prizes, is considered taxable by the Internal Revenue Service.

The winners can’t simply ignore the potential tax bill. The political contest organizers should send them, and the IRS, 1099 forms stating the value of the prize.

Well, that’s one tax problem I won’t be having, unless they start paying voters enormous amounts to talk to us. I will meet any candidate who will pay me $100,000 for 10 minutes of my time. Meet me at the Timbuktuu on the EMC Building skywalk.


Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: You Won the Dream Home, Part 4 — Changing My Mind

Jack Townsend, Switzerland Publishes Certain Identifying Information of Certain Foreign Depositors in Swiss Banks

Bob Vineyard, Bad Moon Rising (Insureblog). “Obamacare news isn’t good.”




David Brunori, Scalia is Right (Tax Analsyts Blog). “The dormant commerce clause is here to stay, with precedent and established expectations and all, but it would be nice if we just admitted that we made it up.”

Robert Wood, Why Aren’t Those $26.4M Speech Fees Taxable To Bill & Hillary Clinton?

James Kennedy,Pennsylvania Senate Considers Hiking Income and Sales Taxes (Tax Policy Blog). They’re pretty high already.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 748


Howard Gleckman, Marco Rubio Wasn’t the Only One Who Cashed Out an IRA Last Year (TaxVox). “Substantial assets leak because people under age 59 ½ take early withdrawals or borrow against their IRAs or 401(k). And the problem raises an important and challenging policy question:  Should the money in these accounts be available for non-retirement purposes?”


eic 2014Leslie Book offers thoughful consideration of Warrren Buffet’s support for an expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (Procedurally Taxing). You should read the whole thing, I’ll highlight this part:

As Mr. Buffet knows, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Using the tax system to deliver benefits is no silver bullet when it comes to addressing inequality. To administer the tax system as we know it today is no easy task. When Congress asks the IRS to do more, there are costs to taxpayers and the system overall. As Congress considers whether to ratchet up EITC, it should do so with the absence of rhetoric. It should also consider the tools it wants to give IRS to combat errors as well as address what costs it wants to impose on claimants and third parties. The current system passes costs on others, many of which are hidden. As with lunch, someone has to pick up the tab.

Among the costs is the 20-25% improper payment rate. Another cost is the high hidden marginal tax rate caused by the phase-out of the credit as incomes increase — a combined federal and state rate that can exceed 50%. And there is a cost to an already-stressed tax system of administering a social program.

Sebastian Johnson, Some States Support Earned Income Tax Credits for Working Families, Others Fall Short. (Tax Justice Blog) A piece that is oblivious to the issues raised by Leslie Book.


News from the Profession. EY Law Continues to Not Threaten Law Firms By Poaching Lawyers (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).


Tax Roundup, 5/11/15: Returned, recovering, and ranting! Sales taxes, tax credits for special friends pondered by Iowa legislature.

Monday, May 11th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


IMG_0983I am back from overseas, and somewhat recovered from a nasty bug that hit me just before it was time to come home. So much to catch up on — if I don’t link your post today, I might get it later this week, as I dig out.

I was saddened to learn that the Iowa legislature is still in session. David Brunori reports ($link) on a proposal to allow Des Moines to vote on increasing its own sales tax without participation of its neighbors:

Iowa Rep. Tom Sands (R), chair of the House Ways and Means Committee, has introduced legislation that would allow greater Des Moines communities to ask voters to approve a 1 percent local option sales tax. I have written about this issue a lot over the years. The reality is that while there are sound reasons for imposing a local option sales tax, the problems far outweigh the benefits.

When Des Moines adopts this tax, the folks who shop in the city will pay. But many of them don’t live within the city limits. It will be people in the surrounding suburbs and rural areas who pay some of the tax. That’s great for Des Moines, but not so good for other jurisdictions. I am unsure why a legislator from a rural area — or even an area without significant retail — would support this measure. Their citizens will pay but won’t see the benefits.

Well, it’s just another example of the delight Des Moines politicians take in picking the pockets of non-voters (Exhibit A: freeway speed cameras). But remembering the result of the last sales tax increase vote in the area — crushed by a 85% “no” vote — I don’t think the municipal highwaymen should count their sales tax loot just yet.


Politicians call for more subsidies for their well-connected friends, from your pockets. Iowa leaders call for biochemical tax credits for ethanol, biodiesel (Sioux City Journal).


Andrew Lundeen, Pass-through Businesses Employ Most of the Private Sector Workforce (Tax Policy Blog).



“Pass-though” businesses are those taxed on owner 1040s. When you tax high income individuals, there is no escaping that you are reducing funds available for the nations principal employers to hire and expand.


William Perez, Your Guide to the 6 Types of Business for Federal Tax Purposes. “Entrepreneurs can set up their small business as a sole proprietorship, corporation, S-corporation, partnership, non-profit organization, Limited Liability Company, Limited Liability Partnership, and in some states a Professional Limited Liability Company/Partnership.”

Jason Dinesen, Why Make Estimated Tax Payments, Part 1. “People who are new to self-employment are often confused about what estimated tax payments are and why they might need to make these payments.”

Kay Bell, A Mother’s Day tax gift: 10 child care tax credit tips

TaxGrrrl, 11 Things I’ve Learned About Tax From My Mom

Leslie Book, On Mother’s Day Cowan Case Highlights Unfairness of Family Status Tax Rules

Paul Neiffer, Don’t Get Too Greedy! And however greedy you get, you need to follow the appraisal rules if you want to deduct a property donation.

Jack Townsend discusses a Sentencing for Failure to Pay Over Trust Fund Taxes. If you don’t remit withheld payroll taxes, thinking that you are just “borrowing” it, your “interest” might include prison time.

Peter Reilly, Home Schooling Contingency Does Not Kill Alimony Deduction

Robert D. Flach, WHAT TO EXPECT WHEN WRITING TO THE IRS. Not a speedy resolution.



Andrew Mitchel, The Exodus Continues (2015 1st Quarter Published Expatriates).

We began tracking expatriations in late 2009 because we anticipated that the number of expatriations would increase as a result of changes in U.S. tax laws and due to “saber rattling” by the IRS about the imposition of potential penalties in the wake of the UBS scandal.  Our prediction has been accurate.

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC


Robert Wood, New Un-American Record: Renouncing U.S. Citizenship

Me, An obscure tax deadline that could cost you big. A discussion of the looming FBAR deadline.



Kristine Tidgren, Minnesota Producers Impacted by Avian Flu Granted Extra Time to File and Pay Taxes (ISU-CALT Ag Docket)

Hank Stern at Insureblog notes that May is Disability Insurance Awareness Month. Given the stakes, and the relatively low price, it’s shocking that 57% of working adults have no coverage.

Annette Nellen, Narrow exemptions cause inefficiency, inequity and complexity – HR 867 and S. 1179. But they are such a great way to get lobbyists to come to your summer golf fund-raisers.




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 732. “Every time we turn around we get more emails.” Two years, and Commissioner Koskinen is still tired of your complaining.

Russ Fox,730:

The IRS’s budget isn’t going to be increased until the root cause of the IRS scandal is known. That’s a fact. It’s now been over 730 days (Monday will be day 732) that the scandal has been ongoing. If a Republican wins the White House in 2016, we’ll likely know what happened by day 1460. Otherwise, who knows.

The day Commissioner Koskinen resigns is the first day the IRS might start to figure it out.


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

Howard Gleckman, Congress Has Not Passed A 2016 Budget. It Has Only Begun The Process.


Career Corner. The Monthly Close: White Collar Crime Should Be a Fun and Scary Surprise (Going Concern)



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

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Flickr image courtesy  Grzegorz Jereczek under Creative Commons license.

Flickr image courtesy Grzegorz Jereczek
under Creative Commons license.

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

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

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

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

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



Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #5: Ignoring California

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

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

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

Have a nice day.

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

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

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

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



TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 698

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

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

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


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



Tax Roundup, 3/2/15: Thawing Iowa’s frosty business tax climate. And: film credit post-production!

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan
Iowa's business tax climate, illustrated

Iowa’s business tax climate, illustrated

Baby steps towards fixing Iowa’s business tax climate. At, the Des Moines Business Record’s Business Professionals’ Blog, I discuss some easy steps to make Iowa’s tax climate a little less frosty, along with a few slightly harder ones.

The real easy:

– Eliminate the Iowa individual and corporation alternative minimum tax.

– Have Iowa’s tax law automatically conform to federal changes.

– Tie Iowa return due dates to federal due dates for all returns.

The slightly harder:

– Encourage or require “composite” returns or withholding for pass-through non-resident taxpayers.

– Repeal the deductibility of federal taxes by building the tax advantages into lower tax rates.

– Repeal refundable and transferable business tax credits.

None of this takes the place of a real Iowa tax reform along the lines of the Tax Update Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan, but you have to start somewhere. My next IowaBiz piece will attempt to put some more meat on the bones of the Quick and Dirty plan.


The Iowa Film Tax Credit Program is dead, but the lawsuits linger. A disappointed filmmaker wanted more taxpayer money, but the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the Department of Economic Development had the final say over what expenses would qualify. Ghost Player, L.L.C. and CH Investors, L.L.C. vs Iowa (Sup. Ct. Iowa, No. 14-0339)


Kristine Tidgren, March 2 Deadline Extended for Farmers Waiting for 1095-A. Farmers that file by March 1 (today this year, because March 1 was on a Sunday) do not have to pay estimated taxes. “In a last-minute announcement, the IRS has declared that farmers waiting for a corrected 1095-A will have until April 15 to file their returns and pay their taxes. If they file Form 2210-F along with their return, the penalty for failure to pay quarterly estimated tax will be waived.”

Russ Fox, It Was the Sisterly Thing To Do. “Three Wisconsin sisters allegedly decided that tax fraud and identity theft should stay in the family. They’ve been accused of filing 2,000 phony returns by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.



Jack Townsend, DOJ Tax Tough Talk About the Violating Trust Fund Tax Withholding and Payment Obligations. It seems that the IRS has become more willing to try to jail employers who fail to pay withholding; this post discusses how it can become a criminal issue. You can’t argue with this: “The solid advice is to withhold, account for and pay over to the IRS.”

William Perez explains The Key Benefits of Health Savings Accounts. “Contributions are tax-deductible when going into the HSA. And distributions can be tax-free when coming out the HSA.”

Jason Dinesen, Financing a Small Business, Part 3 of 5: Tell Your Accountant Before You Spend the Money

Kay Bell, Lions, lambs, warning Ides and luck all apply to March taxes. “Are you a tax lion, aggressively hunting down tax breaks? Or are you a tax lamb, cowering before the complicated Internal Revenue Code?”

Leslie Book, US v Clarke Remand: Allegations of Bad Faith Still Face A High Hurdle (Procedurally Taxing). “The case involved allegations of retaliatory summons issuance following a failure to extend (for a third time) the statute of limitations and allegations that the summons was a way to avoid discovery limitations in a Tax Court TEFRA proceeding that was commenced after the summons was issued.”

Bob Vineyard, Solyndra-care (InsureBlog). While Iowa’s ACA co-op, CoOpportunity, was the first one to collapse, it might not be the last.


Liz Malm, Richard Borean, How Does Your State Sales Tax See That Blue and Black (or White and Gold) Dress? (Tax Policy Blog):



Robert Wood, Finally, Suing IRS Over All Those Emails. “IRS attorneys said the back-up system would be too onerous to search. Yet in recent testimony, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said IRS tech employees told them that IRS management never asked for the tapes.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 660Day 661Day 662. It appears that Commissioner Koskinen is putting the same effort at getting to the bottom of the Tea Party harrassment that Vladimir Putin is putting into finding Boris Nemtsov’s killer.


Richard Phillips, Netflix is a Real-Life Frank Underwood When it Comes to Tax Breaks (Tax Justice Blog)

Eric Todor, What if We Funded Public Education Like Affordable Care Act Health Insurance? (TaxVox). “Both seek to promote a form of universal or near-universal coverage – K-12 education for all and mandated health insurance for many. But they go about it in very different ways: one makes government subsidies explicit and the other makes much of them disappear, at least in the budgetary and political sense.”




Peter Reilly, Will Christian Soldiers Be On The Streets Of Pensacola As Kent Hovind Goes To Trial? Peter covers the latest developments in the strange and sad case of the guy who had the “Young Earth Creationist” theme park devoted to the idea that humans and dinosaurs co-existed.

 De gustibus non est disputandum. Form 1040: An Unappreciated Work of Art. (Christopher Bergin, practitioner of dark arts for Tax Analysts).

News from the Profession. Florida Man Drives Porsche on Sidewalk to Make a Point, Gets Arrested. (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). When Grandma started doing that, we took away her keys.



Tax Roundup, 2/25/15: Iowa gas tax boost goes to Governor. And: an appointment with Sauron.

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1284Both houses of the Iowa General Assembly approved a 10-cent per gallon gas tax increase yesterday. The Des Moines Register reports:

The fuel tax increase has had strong support from a coalition representing farm groups, business organizations and local government officials. Iowa Farm Bureau members flooded the Capitol last week to lobby legislators to encourage a vote in favor of the gas tax increase. They contended better roads are crucial to the state’s economy and that gas taxes — 20 percent of which are paid by out-of-state motorists — offered the best solution.

The legislation was opposed by Iowans for Tax Relief and Americans for Prosperity, a conservative advocacy group, as well as truck stop operators and convenience store owners who worry retailers on Iowa’s borders will lose business to competitors in neighboring states. Opponents suggested lawmakers needed to better prioritize state spending, and proposed tapping revenues from the state’s general fund to pay for highway projects.

While I think gas taxes are a good way to pay for roads — they put the cost on the users — I am unconvinced that the state uses the funds wisely. By ramming the bill through committee by stacking it with yes votes, the legislature leadership made sure such concerns would not be addressed.

I expect the Governor to sign the bill. The legislature wouldn’t have gone through the trouble if they had any doubt. I have predicted that his approval of a gas tax increase means he won’t run for another term. But I also predicted the gas tax wouldn’t pass.

Somewhat related: Jim Maule, So Who Should Pay for Roads?


IMG_0543Why not exempt everyone? Tax Analysts reports ($link) that taxpayers who have filed returns based on incorrect ACA 1095-A forms will not have to pay any additional tax based on the corrected forms:

Tax return filers who purchased health insurance from federal marketplaces set up under the Affordable Care Act and who then filed tax returns based on erroneous information contained in Forms 1095-A will not need to file amended returns with the IRS to stay compliant, the Treasury Department said in a February 24 statement.

“The IRS will not pursue the collection of any additional taxes from these individuals based on updated information in the corrected [1095-A] forms,” the Treasury statement said.

It’s yet another example of the IRS making up rules for Obamacare when its flaws become too obvious. I’m not one to complain when the IRS fails to enforce a dumb tax, but does anybody think the IRS would be as understanding for, say, failing to amend based on a corrected K-1?

Related: Robert Wood, Wrong Obamacare Form Tax Filers Get Relief From IRS. “Unfortunately, the 750,000 people who were sent erroneous form but who haven’t yet filed their taxes are being told to wait until the corrected forms arrive in March.”


TaxGrrrl, IRS Testing Taxpayer Appointments At Some Taxpayer Assistance Centers. Why appointments?



Tax season is saved! Majority of Taxpayers with Obamacare Premium Tax Credits Need to Pay Back Portion (Accounting Today). I’m sure that’s popular.

Howard Gleckman, So Far, Affordable Care Act Users Are Managing Tax Filing, Many Uninsured May Use New Enrollment Period (TaxVox)

Jason Dinesen, Is Iowa Filing Status Tied to Federal Filing Status When You’re Married?

Annette Nellen explains Bitcoin transaction reporting. If you use Bitcoins regularly, you’ll need a bigger tax return.

Kay Bell, New York city, state lawmakers seek pet adoption tax credit. Not every problem is a tax problem, folks.

Leslie Book, Taxpayer Rights: A Look Back to Congressional Testimony of Michael Saltzman and Nina Olson

Jack Townsend, Cono Namorato to Be DOJ Tax AAG.


Enjoying a short Des Moines winter commute.

Snow warning today!


Scott Drenkard, Utah Is Eyeing An E-Cigarette Tax, But Its Reasoning Is Faulty (Tax Policy Blog). States have a pretty sweet deal with the tobacco devil, getting a cut of tobacco revenues. They hate the idea of e-cigs cuttting into that.


David Brunori, Sorry Folks — Clothes Should Be Taxable (Tax Analysts Blog):

The sales tax should fall on all final personal consumption. Everything you buy, be it tangible personal property or services, should be subject to the tax. Such a broad base minimizes economic distortions, allows for overall lower rates, and makes both administration and compliance easier.

But it minimizes the opportunities for legislators to do favors for friends.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 657


Caleb Newquist, Accountants vs. Lawyers: A Pointless Debate (Going Concern). “A lawyer and an accountant walk into a bar. Everyone else in the bar doesn’t care.”



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

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

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

The Governor is expected to sign the bill.


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

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

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

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC

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

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


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

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

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


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

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



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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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


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


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


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

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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 643


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



Tax Roundup, 2/10/15: Iowa House may vote on conformity today. And: pass-through isn’t the same as “small.”

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1284Iowa Conformity Update: No action yesterday in the Iowa House on SF 126, the Senate-passed bill that conforms Iowa income to federal rules, except for bonus depreciation. The house version of the bill, HF 125, is scheduled for debate today in the Iowa House. That means we may have a vote today.

Update, 9:15 a.m. SF 126 passes Iowa House, 94-0. The Senate-passed bill was substituted for HF 125 on the floor and approved. It now goes to the Governor, who is expected to sign.


Kyle Pomerleau, Some Pass-Through Businesses are Significant Employers (Tax Policy Blog):

In the United States, most businesses are not C corporations. 95 percent of businesses are what are called pass-through businesses. These businesses are called pass-throughs because their income is passed directly to their owners, who then need to pay individual income taxes on it. Contrast this with C corporations that need to pay the corporate income tax on its income before it passes its earnings to its owners. Combined, pass-through businesses employ 55 percent of all private-sector workers and pay nearly 40 percent of all private-sector payroll.

When business income is taxed on the 1040 and income tax rates are raised, the business has less income to hire and grow.



Not recognizing the fact that pass-through businesses can be large employers can bring about poor policy choices. For example, increases in the top marginal individual income tax rate will not only hit individuals with high wage income or business income, it may hit a significant number of large employers who are organized as pass-through businesses. Conversely, some policies that are aimed at helping small businesses, such as state-level pass-through business income tax exemptions, could incidentally benefit large established businesses.

Unfortunately, no individual rate is ever high enough for some people.


younker elevatorsHoward GleckmanTax Subsidies May Not Help Start-Ups as Much as Lawmakers Think (TaxVox):

But the biggest reason startups may be unable to take advantage of tax subsidies is that they often lose money in their early years. In theory, generous preferences such as Sec. 179, the research and experimentation credit, or even the ability to deduct interest costs are all available to startups. In reality, many cannot use them because they make no profit and, thus, pay no tax.

Firms can carry net operating losses forward for up to 20 years but these NOLs are far less valuable than immediate deductions for three reasons—money loses value over time, some firms never generate enough income to take full advantage of their unused losses, and some lose their NOLs when they are acquired. A 2006 Treasury study found that at least one-quarter of these losses are never used and others lose substantial value.

One way to help this problem would be to increase the loss carryback period. Businesses can only carry net operating losses two years. Corporations in Iowa and some other states can’t carry them back at all.

Consider a business that has income in year one, breaks even in years 2 and 3, and loses enough to go broke in year four. It never gets the year 1 taxes back, even though over its life it lost money.

An increased loss carryback period would be especially useful to pass-through owners, enabling some of them to get tax refunds to keep their businesses alive. But once the government has your money, they hate to give it back.

Loosening the “Sec. 382” restrictions on loss trafficking would also help. A struggling business would be more likely to get investment funds if the investor could at least count on using some otherwise wasted tax losses. But the government is more interested in protecting its revenue than in helping struggling businesses.


Department of Foreseeable Unintended ConsequencesTax Analysts Jennifer DePaul reports ($link):

 While a joint session of the New York State Legislature on February 9 heard Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $142 billion budget proposal, the governor released more details about several tax measures included in his budget plan.

Among them was a proposal designed to crack down on tax scofflaws by suspending the driver’s licenses of debtors who owe the state as little as $5,000.

This means taxpayers with relatively small balances due will be deprived of their legal transportation to get to work. This means some taxpayers will have to quit their jobs and never get caught up with their debt, leading to a financial death spiral. Others will try to get to work, get locked up for driving on a suspended license, lose their jobs because they didn’t show up, and go into a financial death spiral. It’s a recipe for locking more people into the underclass because their Governor wants their money faster.

Related: Brian Doherty, Drivers License Suspensions Slamming the Working Poor for No Particular Good Reason in Florida  (; Megan McArdle, Cities Dig for Profit by Penalizing the Poor




Russ Fox, Harassing IRS Agents Isn’t a Bright Idea. “Speaking of ways to get in trouble with the IRS, one is to harass an IRS agent. They don’t like it (and it’s a crime).”

Tony Nitti, Are You Exempt From The Obamacare Insurance Penalty?

Robert Wood has 7 Reasons Not To File Your Taxes Early, Even If You’ll Get A Refund. “Measure twice, cut once.”

Paul Neiffer, How Do Repair Regulations Affect My Farm Operation? It does. Find out more when Paul helps present a webinar on the topic for the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation February 18.

William Perez, How Dividends Are Taxed and Reported on Tax Returns


Peter Reilly, Tax Court Hammers IRS CI Who Went Out Into The Cold. The strange, sad saga of Joe Banister.

Leslie Book, Some More Updates on IRS Annual Filing Season Program and Refundable Credit Errors. Leslie thinks that preparer regulation would help. I believe the persistent high rate of incorrect EITC payments in spite of increasing IRS initiatives to bug preparers and force them to document due diligence for EITC clients shows that preparer regulation won’t solve this problem.

Jason Dinesen, Send a 1099-C to a Non-Paying Customer? Updated. Probably unwise.



Jeremy Scott, Finance Committee Review of 1986 Act Smacks of Desperation (Tax Analysts Blog):

The Senate Finance Committee will try to use history as a guide to break the logjam on tax reform. The Republican-led body will hold a February 10 hearing featuring former Finance Chair Bob Packwood and former Sen. Bill Bradley, who will talk about the process that led to the historic legislation that redefined the tax code and has left its imprint on the minds of would-be tax reformers for almost three decades now. However, looking back at 1986 appears more desperate than inspired because most of the factors that existed then are almost totally absent now.

I think all this Congress can accomplish is to not make things work, and to lay the groundwork for a tax reform that might be enacted in a more congenial political climate.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 642.


Career Corner. Let’s Discuss: Wearing Headphones at the Office (Jesstercpa, Going Concern). You can tell you are moving up in the CPA world if you get an office with a door, and you can use actual speakers. Unless you are in one of those hideous “open offices,” of course.



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

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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


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

Kay Bell, Tax moves to make in February 2015

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

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

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


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

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

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


IMG_0940TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 636

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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


Tax Roundup, 1/28/15: President scurries away from plan to tax college savings. And: more hard-hitting journalism!

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

csi logoAccounting Today reports: Obama Said to Drop Proposal to Repeal 529 College Tax Break. Good.

This was perhaps the most obnoxious of the proposals in the President’s budget, and that’s saying something. Promoting “free” community college tuition, while punishing those who actually save for college to avoid government loans, is a model of awful incentives and policy.

I can’t let pass this item from the Accounting Today report (my emphasis):

The administration’s quick retreat on the proposal emphasizes the difficulty of changing popular tax breaks, even in ways that lower the overall tax burden.

Yes, hard-hitting journalism in the form of making excuses for the President. It what way does repealing the exclusion for Section 529 plan withdrawals from taxation help “lower the overall tax burden?” The CBO estimates the President’s proposals would increase taxes by over $1 trillion over ten years.

Speaking of hard hitting journalism, we have this from the Des Moines Register today:


For those who no longer take the print edition, be assured that this important story is also available to internet readers.

Related: Annette Nellen, President Obama’s 2015 Tax Proposals


William Perez, Tips for Green Card Holders and Immigrants Who are Filing a US Tax Return. “Being a resident for tax purposes doesn’t necessarily mean you actually live here full time. As long as you have a green card, for example, you are responsible for reporting and paying tax on your worldwide income.”

Jason Dinesen, Iowa Trust Fund Tax Credit for 2014 Tax Returns. $15 per person this year.

Kay Bell, New IRS Form 1095-A among tax docs that are on their way. ACA adds a new wrinkle to this year’s filings.



1099misc2014TaxGrrrl, Where Are My Tax Forms? Due Dates For Forms W-2, 1099, 1098 & More. Including a reminder that K-1s from S corporations, partnerships and trusts are not due when 1099s and W-2s are.

Leslie Book, Thumbs Up on No Income Even When IRS Serves up 1099 DIV: Ebert v Commissioner (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert Wood, Disagree With An IRS Form 1099? Here’s What To Do. “What happens if the issuer won’t cooperate?”


Jim Maule on The Taxation of Egg Donations. “The Court’s conclusion makes sense, and not simply because it reaches the conclusion I advocated for reasons I suggested relying on cases on which I relied.”

Russ Fox, One Good Crime Deserved Another:

Let’s say you’re involved in a 20-year scheme that has successfully evaded millions of dollars in payroll and income taxes for your largest client. However, you’ve only had minor profits from the scheme. So why not embezzle millions of dollars from that client?

Russ offers some pretty good reasons why not.


cooportunity logoHank Stern, CoOpportunity assumes room temp (InsureBlog). More on the demise of Iowa’s sole SHOP provider, set up with millions in government grants and loans. Underwriting is hard.

Jack Townsend asks Why the Lenient Sentencing for Offshore Account Tax Crimes. “But, from my perspective, it seems to me that one can fairly question the notion that commission of tax crimes via offshore accounts is any less blameworthy — i.e., punishable — than commission of tax crimes in other contexts.”



Kyle Pomerleau, Richard Borean, Pass-through Businesses Account for More than $1.6 Trillion of Payroll (Tax Policy Blog):

Today, Pass-through businesses pay a significant role in the United States Economy. They account for 95 percent of all businesses, more than 60 percent of all business income, and more than 50 percent of all employment.

These are businesses taxed on owner 1040s. Remember that when politicians want to raise rates on “the rich” even more — they are hammering employers when they do this.

Richard Auxier, Pitching, Defense, and State Tax Policy (TaxVox): “So is Max Scherzer saving money in DC? Yes. Are the District’s tax laws a big reason why he signed with the Nationals? I doubt it.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 629

News from the Profession. Jilted Girlfriend Has Totally Had It With Cheap Accountant Boyfriend and His Stupid Spreadsheet (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 1/23/2015: Egg donor compensation taxable payment for services. Meanwhile, kidney donor compensation is a felony.

Friday, January 23rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan
"White-&-Brown-Eggs" by Evan-Amos - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

“White-&-Brown-Eggs” by Evan-Amos – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The big news in the tax world today is a Tax Court case ruling that payments to an egg donor were compensation for services. The case turned on the language of the contract of between the egg donor and the agency that procured the eggs. Tax Court Judge Holmes ruled that the payments were not excludible as payments for physical damages because there was no tort claim involved.

There are plenty of places you can read more details on this case, including Russ Fox and Tony Nitti. The TaxProf has a roundup.

So there is an organized and legal market for donor eggs, which, if all goes well, turn into an entire new human. That’s a good thing. But if an agency paid you for one of your kidneys to save the life of an already-born child on the kidney donor list, they would face a $50,000 fine and five years in prison under the Gore-Hatch National Organ Transplant Act of 1984.

The National Kidney Foundation reports that 12 people die daily waiting for a donor kidney, and that 4,453 died waiting for a kidney transplant in 2013.  It’s a felony to save any of those lives by buying a kidney from a healthy, willing and fully-informed seller. Meanwhile, nobody dies waiting for a donated egg.

Cite: Perez, 144 T.C. No. 4

Related: The Case for Paying Organ Donors (Sally Satel)


Kyle Pomerleau, Richard Borean, More than Half of all Private Sector Workers are Employed by Pass-through Businesses:

53.7% of Iowans work for pass-through businesses taxed on 1040s.

53.7% of Iowans work for pass-through businesses taxed on 1040s.

“Pass-through” income is income earned by S corporations and partnerships, including LLCs. This income is taxed on 1040s. Those who favor ever-increasing individual taxation of “the rich” by definition favor increasing the tax on employment.


buzz20140923Robert D. Flach has your Friday Buzz, including thoughts on avoiding scammers claiming to be from IRS and on Wal-Mart’s cash tax refund program: “My advice – avoid this program.”

Kay Bell, IRS gets $1.3 million for Darryl Strawberry’s Mets annuity

Paul Neiffer, IRS Scammers Net $14 Million from 3,000 Victims. If the e-mail says it’s from the IRS, it’s not. If you aren’t expecting a call from the IRS, the caller isn’t from the IRS.

Jason Dinesen, Ridiculous IRS Situations I’ve Recently Dealt With. A continuing series.

Leslie Book, Tax Court Addresses Verification Requirement in Trust Fund CDP Case (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert Wood, Washington Nationals $210M Pitching Contract For Max Scherzer Is About Taxes. “The Home Rule Act prohibits the District from imposing a commuter tax on non-residents.”

Peter ReillyExclusive – Kent Hovind Claims Congressmen Are Looking Into His Case. All you could possibly want to know about the case of the guy who thinks the Flintstones was actually a documentary series.


Robert Goulder, Reading the Tea Leaves: China’s Jurisdictional Tax Claims (Tax Analysts Blog). Contrary to some reports, even Communist China doesn’t plan to tax worldwide income of non-resident Chinese. The U.S. stands alone in doing that.

Howard Gleckman, A Look at the Territorial Tax Systems in Four Countries Finds No Magic Bullets (TaxVox). No magic beans, either, I’ll bet.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 624


Career Corner. Here Are Just a Few Questions You’ll Be Asked in a Big 4 Interview (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 1/14/15: Education credits to delay refunds? And: it’s not volunteering when you’re paid.

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
Kristy Maitre

Kristy Maitre

If your tax refund this year seems to take forever to arrive, education credits might be involved. The invaluable Kristy Maitre, former IRS Stakeholder Liaison and now with the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation, has leaned that the IRS may delay refunds on returns claiming the “American Opportunity Credit.” From an e-mail she has distributed:

If your client is getting the American Opportunity Credit this year you need to be aware of a possible “refund hold” on the credit to verify attendance at the college. At this time we “assume” only that part of the refund will be held and the other part of refund not related to the American Opportunity Credit will be released.

At this time we are not sure who this will impact, IRS appears to want to keep it a BIG secret. Our concern is that the tax preparer will be blamed for the delay of the refund and overall it would make the preparer look bad as well as having to deal with an upset client due to the issue. I was able to find some criteria in a new IRM, but we need more information from IRS.

Your client should be  informed by IRS of the reason the refund is being held and that once the 1098-T from the accredited institution is verified the refund will be released,  or they will receive a Letter 4800C to inform them if further documentation is required to allow the education credit…

The AOTC is a “refundable” credit; if the credit exceeds the tax computed, the IRS will pay you the excess. Given the high incidence of refund fraud involving refundable credits like the AOTC, it’s understandable that the IRS would want to verify eligibility before issuing a refund.

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.

Unfortunately, this verification will come from matching 1098-Ts issued by colleges and universities. These forms, which purport to show tuition paid, are notoriously unreliable. The inevitable matching errors will leave some taxpayers trying to get their refunds fixed well into the summer.

This highlights the unwisdom of using the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy. It’s hard enough to get taxable income right. Congress also assigns IRS education policy, health care, social welfare, industrial policy, campaign finance regulation, you name it. Like with the Swiss Army Knife, you can only add so many functions before you make it bad at being a knife.


This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

Commissioner Koskinen wants us to blame cuts in his budget for tax refund delays. In a memo to IRS employees, he outlines the dire effects of the cuts in his agency budget, including:

Delays in refunds for some taxpayers. People who file paper tax returns could wait an extra week — or possibly longer — to see their refund. Taxpayers with errors or questions on their returns that require additional manual review will also face delays.

It’s foolish of Congress to pile work onto the IRS and then cut its budget. That said, Mr. Koskinen has brought a lot of this on himself with his combative and tone-deaf response to the Tea Party scandal.

Also, there’s a bit of the Washington Monument Strategy in his memo, by making cuts in areas that inflict pain on taxpayers. I would be more convinced that the IRS is really committed to making taxpayer service a priority if his list of budget adjustments included sending to the field, or laying off, the hundreds of full-time IRS employees who do only union work. He would be more convincing if he said the “voluntary” preparer regulation initiative was on ice until funding improves. Instead, the Commissioner puts the National Treasury Employees Union and his own power grab ahead of processing refunds.


No Walnut STVolunteering. I don’t think that word means what you think it means. From Governor Branstad’s 2015 Condition of the State address:

 In addition, I am offering legislation creating the Student Debt Reorganization Tax Credit. This tax credit allows individuals to volunteer for worthy causes within Iowa’s communities and in exchange have contributions made toward their student debt.

There is so much wrong with this, beyond the idea that it’s “volunteering” when you get paid for it. It’s one more random addition to an already ridiculous mishmash of distortive and unwise education subsidies. It’s one more incentive for students to take on debt they can’t otherwise afford. And it misplaces human capital from productive for-profit enterprise to the black hole of the government and non-profit sector.

Iowa Form 148 already lists 32 different tax credits. The Governor thinks adding some more is the solution to Iowa’s problems. I think the credits are a big part of the problem, as they help make the Iowa tax law the complex high-rate mess that it is.


William Perez, How Soon Can We Begin Filing Tax Returns?

Kay Bell, Reducing your 2014 tax bill using exemptions, deductions

Jason Dinesen, H&R Block Doesn’t Really Have ACA “Specialists” On Staff. A bold charge, but a convincing one.

Peter Reilly, Can Walgreen Stance On Property Tax Hurt Income Tax Position Of 1031 Investors? Thoughts on getting too cute in analyzing the value of a real estate interest.

Leslie Book, Can IRS Change Taxpayers from Procrastinators to Payors By Drafting Letters that Make Taxpayers Feel Bad? (Procedurally Taxing). Usually people feel bad when they get a letter that says “notice of levy,” but that’s not what he’s talking about.

Robert Wood, Citizenship Renunciation Fee Hiked 422%, And You Can’t Come Back

Jack Townsend, Another UBS Depositor Sentence; Consideration of the Role of Potential Deportation



David Brunori, Using the Poor for Fixing the Roads (Tax Analysts Blog):

The Michigan Legislature passed a bill that would significantly increase the state’s earned income tax credit. Some 800,000 Michigan families will see tax relief. I think that is a good thing. But the change won’t go into effect unless voters approve a sales tax increase from 6 percent to 7 percent.

I don’t share David’s enthusiasm for the EITC, but I do appreciate the absurdity of the sales tax link.

Kyle Pomerleau, Representative Van Hollen Releases New $1.2 Trillion Tax Plan.  “Unfortunately, most of Representative Van Hollen’s tax plan would move the U.S. further away from having a competitive, modern tax code.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 615. This installment covers a Tea Party group that has been waiting five years for Lois Lerner’s old office to approve their exemption application.


Career Corner. Age and accounting as a second career (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 1/8/15: Tax shelter turned upside down: S Corp – ESOP structure produces pretend income. And: you are the 1%!

Thursday, January 8th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

tack shelterFlaky tax shelters are supposed to generate pretend losses. You know a shelter has gone very bad when it generates pretend income instead. Yet that’s how it worked out for an “S corporation ESOP management company” plan considered by the Tax Court yesterday.

The plan involved a partnership, a C corporation, an S corporation, and an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. The ESOP owned 100% of the S corporation. S corporation income is taxed to its owners. As a tax-exempt entity receiving special treatment from the tax law, ESOP-owned S corporations can achieve Tax Fairy-like results. The ESOP’s can earn non-taxed business income passing through from the S corporation (though this gets very tricky and dangerous when there are few ESOP beneficiaries).

The plan was hatched by A. Blair Stover, who has shown up in these pixels before. Mr. Stover started his tax career with a national firm in Nebraska, moving on from there to Kansas City and then to California, leaving questionable tax shelters in his wake. He was barred from promoting shelters like the one in this case in an injunction affirmed by the Eighth Circuit in 2011.

This plan involved the payment of “management fees” and other purported expenses by a partnership owned by the taxpayer and his spouse that ended up in his ESOP-owned S corporation. The partnership appears to have had no other purpose than to gin up deductions by paying pretend management fees and other expenses. The taxpayers deducted the “expenses” on their 1040, with the idea that they would avoid tax because they flowed through the S corporation to the ESOP.

tax fairyWhen the IRS went after Mr. Stover’s shelters, his clients received unpleasant IRS attention. In yesterday’s Tax Court case, the taxpayers signed a settlement agreeing to include in income on their 1040 the purported management fees paid to the ESOP.

So far, so good. But the agreement didn’t address the other side of the deal – the deduction for the payment of the purported fees by the partnership. The taxpayers claimed that if they had to pick up the pretend fees in income, they should get to deduct them too. Fair’s fair.

But if you want fairness, the tax law might not be the place to seek it.  The court held that while they agreed to pick up the extra income, their settlement said nothing about a deduction, and they were stuck with the results (my emphasis, citations omitted):

Generally, recognition of income does not inexorably prove a corresponding deductible expense. For example, payments to a promoter in furtherance of a tax avoidance scheme constitute income to the promoter, but they are not deductible under section 162 by the payor.  Furthermore, that petitioners might otherwise be obliged to recognize phantom income does not relieve them of their obligation to identify some legal authority for the deduction, nor does it permit the Court to manufacture such authority from whole cloth.

Petitioners’ phantom income argument amounts, in essence, to a plea for fairness. This Court strives to avoid unjust results, but “we are not a court of equity and cannot ignore the law to achieve an equitable end.” Moreover, the parties’ recent stipulation assuages our fairness concerns. In our order of July 1, 2014, we directed the parties to stipulate if possible, or to otherwise brief, the source of and factual and/or legal basis for the income inclusions required by the SOSI. The parties stipulated that the required income inclusions represent “the amount of taxable income petitioners avoided reporting” for tax years 2001 through 2003 because of their use of the management S corporation/ESOP structure. Taxable income is a term that is defined in the Code. Section 63 generally defines taxable income as gross income less allowable deductions. The parties’ chosen language thus implies that the $84,837 of income petitioners must include for 2003 pursuant to the SOSI represents not “phantom income” but bona fide, net taxable income that petitioners received and should have reported. So interpreted, the stipulation is difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile with petitioners’ theory for deducting the administration fee.

The result: a reverse tax shelter, generating only phantom income.

I’m not sure this too-bad-to-be-true result would hold up on appeal, but it does serve a warning. The Tax Fairy is a fickle sprite, and she can magically generate income for those seeking magical deductions. And if you agree to include phantom income when the IRS comes after you, make sure they allow the offsetting phantom deduction in writing.

Cite: Wakefield, T.C. Memo 2015-4.


IMG_0598Leslie Book, Bank of America on Hot Seat For Issuing Allegedly Incorrect 1099C to Disabled Veteran (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert D Flach explains WHAT’S NEW FOR THE 2014 FORM 1040?

Kay Bell, Daily Tax Tip #2: A tax quiz!

Robert Wood, The 1031 Exchange That Ate New York City. A lesson on the scalability of swaps.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 609. The Worst Commissioner Ever comes out the other side of the revolving door.


The EITC as a poverty trap: phaseouts of the benefit impose stiff marginal tax rates on the working poor.

The EITC as a poverty trap: phaseouts of the benefit impose stiff marginal tax rates on the working poor.

Scott Sumner on low-income use of untraceable cash at Econlog:

College professors who advocate the elimination of currency are often unaware of how important currency is for those with low incomes, many of who lack bank accounts. For instance, consider someone getting government benefits that are conditional on income (food stamps, EITC, disability, welfare, Medicaid, etc.) This group often faces relatively high implicit marginal tax rates. However currency allows them to supplement their meager benefits with additional earned income, perhaps doing home repair for neighbors, or working as a nanny. Lots of those jobs are paid in cash. If we eliminate physical cash then all transactions will be easily traceable by the government… That’s bad for two reasons; low-income people would see reduced incomes (increasing inequality), and the rest of us will be denied the services that they might have produced in the underground economy. Economists who advocate the elimination of currency need to consider those side effects.

This highlights one of the dangers of the earned income tax credit: its phase-outs serve as a hidden high tax rate on low incomes, resulting in a poverty trap on those earning their way out of poverty.



Russ Fox, The Tax Court Looks for $1,410 in Dividends. Sometimes you can fight a small injustice and win.


We are the 1% Admit It: You’re Rich (Megan McArdle):

The cutoff for the global 1 percent starts quite a bit lower than the parochial American version preferred by pundits. I’m on it. So is David Sirota. And if your personal income is higher than $32,500, so are you.  

It’s all a matter of perspective.



Tax Roundup, 12/15/14: Is today the day the expired provisions arise? And: Ames Day!

Monday, December 15th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Hey, calendar-year corporations and foundations, your fourth quarter estimates are due today.

lazarus risingCromnibus passes. Extenders today? The monstrous $1.1 trillion ($1,100,000,000,000) government funding bill that had been holding up passage of the one-year “extender” bill finally cleared the Senate over the weekend. We might see the Lazarus provisions rise again as early as today. The 55 provisions that expired at the end of 2013, and which HR 5771 would retroactively extend through the end of this month, include the $500,000 Section 179 limit, 50% bonus depreciation, and the research credit. The bill would also extend the five-year built-in gain tax recognition period and the rule allowing IRAs to contribute to charity.

I’ll be following developments and post if the bill clears today.

Update, 10:54: This from The Hill makes it look like nothing happens on the extenders before late tonight.


Ames! Today is the final session of this year’s Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax School. We expect over 300 attendees here at the conference and another 80 webinar attendees.  I always learn a lot from teaching and hearing from the attendees. Thanks to everyone who attended.


Kay Bell, Cutting IRS budget is a bad idea for taxpayers, U.S. Treasury.

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.

Kay is correct. Congress continues to pile more policy into the tax law. The IRS has become a superagency with a portfolio covering everything from industrial policy to historic preservation to running the national health care finance system. Oh, and it’s supposed to collect the revenue to finance the government, too.

Unfortunately, with great power comes great responsibility. The IRS has been abusing the power and scurrying away from the responsibility. The new Commissioner has forfeited any goodwill he had by stonewalling Congressional investigators in the Tea Party scandal. He insisted to Congress that the agency had exhaustively tried to retrieve the missing Lerner e-mails, only to have them turn up on backup tapes.

Also, the IRS undercuts its claims of poverty when it spends on things like the “voluntary” preparer initiative to sneak in the preparer-regulation scheme that the courts have barred.

It’s hardly a surprise that Congress isn’t eager to fund a rogue agency with an untrustworthy leader. Until a new Commissioner can restore trust, IRS will continue to struggle to get funding.



In 2006 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) sent undercover operatives to 19 “commercial preparer” branch offices in a major metropolitan area posing as taxpayers looking to have their tax returns prepared. Errors were identified in 19 of the 19 completed federal returns, some “significant”.

As complicated as the tax law has gotten, this is no surprise, and it’s gotten a lot worse since 2006.

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2014: #3-Aragona Trust Changes The Way We Look At Real Estate Professionals.   This case is a big deal, and it definitely changes the landscape of trusts under the new 3.8% Net Investment Income Tax.

Robert Wood, IRS Can Audit For Three Years, Six….Or Forever. “Anyone who is hiding income or assets from the taxman should consider how long they need to be looking over their shoulder.

William Perez, What You Need to Know About the Penalty for Not Having Health Insurance

Jason Dinesen, 5 Things You Didn’t Know About EAs, #3: Two Ways to the EA. One requires working for the IRS.

Leslie Book, CDP and Installment Agreements: Sometimes Court Review is Crucial; Other Times Not So Much. “This past week the Tax Court issued an opinion in a collection due process (CDP) case, Hosie v Commissioner. The case is a bad case for those who support CDP.”

Tim Todd, Tax Court Not Limited to Administrative Record in Plan Revocation Action



TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 585.

Peter Reilly, Did You Hear The One About Lois Lerner Walking Into A Bar?

Elaine Maag, Will Immigrants Get A Tax Windfall From Refundable Credits? (TaxVox)

Alan Cole, The Problem with Free Stuff (Tax Policy Blog):

If you see a promotion for something like 7-Eleven’s Free Slurpee Day, you always end up having to temper your excitement when you realize that you’ll inevitably be waiting in line with the many others who want to enjoy the same treat. This is an unfortunate fact of life, the sort of thing we all reluctantly come to grips with by the time we turn twelve or so.

What puzzles me, then, is why we so often forget that fact of life when we’re sitting in traffic.

Roads are very much like free Slurpees. While roads are certainly not free to construct (much like a Slurpee isn’t free to make) using a road involves relatively little in the way of a user fee.

I’ve driven in Slurpee-like conditions. Good tires are a must.



Tax Roundup, 12/3/14: House voting on extenders today. Are Senate, White House on board?

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130113-3The House will likely pass one-year extender bill today. Will the Senate and White House go along? Multiple reports say that the House of Representatives is expected to approve HR 5771 today, reviving 55 perennially-resurected tax breaks through 2014. The breaks, which include bonus depreciation, the $500,000 Section 179 deduction, and the research credit, all expired at the end of 2013.

While the fate of the bill in the Senate and the White House are not entirely clear, I expect the House bill to pass, given the lack of alternatives.  The Wall Street Journal reports:

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) used a weekly Senate Democratic luncheon Tuesday to push for an alternative that would extend expiring tax breaks through 2015.

But his Republican counterpart on the committee, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, brushed that aside, saying time was running out. Mr. Hatch—on whom Mr. Wyden frequently relies when crafting deals—came out in favor of the short-term fix, saying the only alternative he would support at this point was the one worked out between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) and drew a White House veto threat last week. If the Senate advanced a new version, “there will be no bill” because “the House is going to leave,” Mr. Hatch said.

The full text of Sen. Hatch’s statements can be found here.

The Hill reports that the White House appears ready to go along with the House bill. Given the way the White House threatened a veto of the House-Senate deal that would have extended some of the breaks permanently, I think the lack of a veto threat means the President is likely to sign this version. While there appears to be some unhappiness with the House bill — Senator Grassley is not a fan of the one-year approach —  I expect the lame-duck Senate to pass it anyway. Unfortunately, it’s not clear when the Senate will act.

Congress has for years passed these provisions for one or two years at a time because Congressional budget rules allow them to pretend they are less expensive than they really are. Unfortunately, that often leaves taxpayers uncertain as to what the tax law is for the year until the year is almost over — or, in 2012, until the year was over. That makes it hard to evaluate the economics of important fixed-asset decisions. The abortive House-Senate deal would have ended this game for several key provisions, but the White House chose scoring cheap political points over an improved business tax environment.


Paul Neiffer, Is an One-Year Extension of Section 179 all we get?!

Howard Gleckman, How To End the Tax Extender Drama: Stop Calling Them Extenders—And Make Congress Pay For Them

Kay Bell, Tax extenders compromise: OK expired breaks for 2014 only


20121108-1Peter Reilly, Repair Regs – A Hellish Tax Season And Refunds Of Biblical Magnitude. Peter discusses the need, or not, for massive filing of useless accounting method changes to implement the new “repair regulations.” He also touches on a potential boon for owners of commercial real estate.


William Perez, What You Need to Know about the Premium Assistance Tax Credit

Russ Fox notes A Rare Piece of Efficiency from the IRS

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2014: #4-IRS Rules on Self-Employment Income Of LLC Members.


Robert Wood, What IRS Calls ‘Willful’–Even A Smidgen–Can Mean Penalties Or Jail

TaxGrrrl, Feeling Spendy This Year? ’12 Days Of Christmas’ Slightly More Expensive


microsoft-appleSound Advice. David Brunori offers Advice for the New Republican Legislative Majorities (Tax Analysts Blog). It’s full of sound advice, but I especially like this:

Republicans should become the party of virtue, courage, and honesty when it comes to taxes. They should fight crony capitalism, as there is nothing more abhorrent to the free market than the government picking winners and losers. Yet state governments do just that all the time. The proliferation of tax incentives represents horrible tax policy. That politicians can decide economic policy through tax incentives is more akin to a Soviet five-year plan than to Adam Smith’s invisible hand. True conservatives should fight attempts to use tax policy to further economic objectives. Broad-based taxes and low rates will always serve the conservative cause better than the existing nonsensical tax laws. Standing on principle to ensure a broad tax base is hard — and neither party has been able to do it. But it is a stand worth taking.

That would be wonderful advice here in Iowa, but our newly re-elected GOP governor has been up to his mustache in crony tax breaks to chase high-profile businesses. Meanwhile Iowa’s home-grown businesses don’t get the big subsidies. They are dragged down by the highest corporation tax rate in the developed world, baroque complexity, and a bottom-ten business tax environment.

A real pro-business tax reform in Iowa might look something like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 573.


lizard20140826Leslie BookH&R Block CEO Asks IRS To Make it Harder to Self-Prepare Tax Returns and Why That is Good for the Tax System.  “Yet, as I explain here, I think the changes he proposes would likely be good for the tax system because they could enhance visibility and accountability, principles the IRS should emphasize with issues that tend to have sticky error rates.”

H&R Block has been trying to pad its income for years on the backs of retail taxpayers. Its former CEO authored the illegal tax preparer regulations system the IRS tried to force on the industry — a system that would have run many of Henry and Robert’s competitors out of the buisness. Now they want to force the lowest-income earners through their doors.

I think the right approach to advice from an outfit that so shamelessly promotes its interests at the expense of taxpayers may be to carefully note it, and to do exactly the opposite.


Stephen Entin, No Mystery that Investment Slump Hurts Workers, Lowers Productivity and Wages (Tax Policy Blog)


News from the Profession. Why Is Everyone in Public Accounting Obsessed with Sports? (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 11/18/14: The ACA and filing season. Be afraid.

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20121120-2Megan McArdle, Reality Check on Obamacare Year Two:

Another thing to keep in mind, however: This open enrollment period isn’t the biggest test for Obamacare in the next 12 months.  The biggest test will be what happens on or around April 15th.  That’s the first time all the people who didn’t buy insurance will get hit with the individual mandate penalty, and the ones who thought that it was a nominal $95 fee are in for a nasty shock .  April 15th will also be the first time that people who got too much in subsidies are going to be asked to pay back some of that money.  I do not have hard figures on this, but my basic experience in personal finance and tax reporting suggests that approximately zero percent of those affected will be expecting the havoc it will wreak on their tax refund.  Brace for a wave of taxpayers angrily complaining to congressmen and their local newspapers.  

After completing the first six sessions as a panelist in continuing education for tax preparers around Iowa, I completely agree. Preparers learning about the process of computing the individual mandate penalty and the tax credit adjustments are appalled.

The first question we receive is: how are we going to get people to pay for this? The taxpayers who will have the biggest issues here will be the ones who formerly had the simplest returns and who will not be excited about paying for an extra 1-4 hours of preparer time.  A chart prepared by the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation to guide preparers through the client interview process for ACA return issues looks like this:



Courtesy Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation. Full-size version available to TaxPlace subscribers.


But it’s worse than even Ms. McArdle knows. It’s not just individual taxpayers who look to get clobbered by this. Based on what I’ve seen at our sessions, dozens or hundreds of Iowa small businesses are starting to figure out that they have had non-compliant health insurance plans so far in 2014 as a result of the ACA “market reforms.”  Non-compliance carries a penalty of $100 per day, per employee. At $36,500 per employee per year, it doesn’t take too much of this to bankrupt a small business. And it’s not as though these employers are doing something abusive; they have just continued funding employee insurance the way they always had, but in ways the “Departments” that run Obamacare no longer like. Or they just might have done all the right things, except for properly notifying employees of their coverage options in writing. Trivial violations, crushing penalties.

While there is a provision to have the penalty waived for reasonable cause, that’s not very comforting in a state where the IRS is willing to loot a restaurant’s bank account without any indication of wrongdoing.  In addition to dealing with a parade of irate individuals with sticker shock from their return fees, let alone their new taxes and penalties, preparers also have to tell noncompliant business-owning clients that they suddenly have a potentially devastating tax liability.

If taxpayers are upset after tax season as practitioners are before it, Obamacare will be about as popular as Ebola by April 15.



Today in Red Oak.Kay Bell, IRS offers tax relief in certain Ebola situations

Robert D. Flach discusses TAX EFFICIENT INVESTING

Leslie Book, Living With Your Decisions: Delinquent Mortgage Debt (Procedurally Taxing). “Courts and IRS put the kibosh on deductions when the new loan comes from the same lender as the old delinquent loan; the theory in those cases is that the taxpayer has not really gone out of pocket and that there is just a shuffling of papers.”


Martin Sullivan, Why the Upcoming Battle Over Expiring Tax Provisions Matters — A Lot (Tax Analysts Blog). “Extenders legislation is not just about the fate of a grab bag of miscellaneous tax provisions this year. If Republicans can get expensive expiring provisions permanently extended, the chances for enactment of tax reform will be significantly improved.”

Steve Warnhoff, New CBO Report: Yes, the Rich Are Paying “a Bit” More (Tax Justice Blog). How much more, Steve?  “New CBO study shows that ‘the rich’ don’t just pay their ‘fair share,’ they pay almost everybody’s share.” (Via Instapundit):



Kyle Pomerleau, CBO: Overall Federal Taxing and Spending is Progressive (Tax Policy Blog)


Donald Marron, Spin Alert: DOE Loans Are Losing Money, Not Making Profits (TaxVox). Of course they are losing money. If they were profitable, they wouldn’t need the feds to make the loans.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 558


News from the Profession. You’re Not Really as Busy as You Claim (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 10/31/14: Halloween! And: mortgage interest? Put it on the tab.

Friday, October 31st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140325-1The deduction for home mortgage interest is hugely popular among those with huge home mortgages. Taxpayers get to deduct all of the interest paid on loans used to buy a home, up to $1 million in principal; they also get to deduct interest paid on the first $100,000 in home equity debt.

But there is a technicality: the interest needs to be “paid.” That was a problem for a California couple in Tax Court yesterday.

The couple bought a home in 1991 for $300,000. They refinanced it for $600,000 in 2007. Then 2008 happened, and they got a loan modification in 2010. Tax Court Judge Lauber explains:

The modifications included a reduction of the interest rate, a change in the payment terms, and an increase in the loan balance. Immediately before the modifications, the outstanding loan balance was $579,275; after the modifications, the new balance was $623,953. The difference (equal to $44,678) resulted from adding the following amounts to the loan balance: past due interest of $30,273, servicing expense of $180, and charges for taxes and insurance of $14,225.

The taxpayers added the $30,273 to the $9,253 the bank put on their 1098 mortgage interest statement for 2010. The IRS noticed the difference and disallowed the $30,273.

20121031-2The Tax Court sided with the IRS:

Petitioners are cash basis taxpayers. It is well settled that “[a] cash-basis taxpayer ‘pays’ interest only when he pays cash or its equivalent to his lender.”

 Through the loan modification agreement, the $30,273 in past-due interest on petitioners’ mortgage loan was added to the principal. No money changed hands; petitioners simply promised to pay the past-due interest, along with the rest of the principal, at a later date. Because petitioners did not pay this interest during 2010 in cash or its equivalent, they cannot claim a deduction for it for 2010. They will be entitled to a deduction if and when they actually discharge this portion of their loan obligation in a future year. 

In short, you can’t just add interest to the loan balance and get a deduction. That has obvious implications for “reverse mortgages.”

As the taxpayers make the payments, they will have some additional factors to consider. Their original purchase price was $300,000 for the house. Unless the additional borrowing was used for renovation or expansion of the home, it is “home equity indebtedness.” Interest on only the first $100,000 of equity debt will be deductible — and only for regular tax, not AMT.

Cite: Copeland, T.C. Memo 2014-226.


mst3k-lanternWilliam Perez, The Tax Audit Success Story and Tips from Audit Experts

Jason Dinesen, Same-sex Marriage and State Taxes: 2014

Kay Bell, 2015 income tax rates, income brackets

TaxGrrrl, IRS Announces 2015 Tax Brackets, Standard Deduction Amounts And More

Robert D. Flach has A SCARY THOUGHT for Halloween. “What if the 114th Congress turns out to be made up of most of the same idiots as the 113th Congress!”  It will be.


Leslie Book, AICPA Suit Against IRS Voluntary Education and Testing Regime Thrown Out of Court (Procedurally Taxing)

Tax Trials, Tax Court Preserves Taxpayer Protections against Arbitrary and Capricious Appeals Rulings


Arnold Kling  on “middle class” tax credits:

Brooks endorses the reform conservative Room-to-Grow idea of showering middle-class families with tax credits. I see that as political posturing. If I could be in charge of tax reform, we would get rid of credits and deductions, and we also would move away from taxing income and instead toward taxing consumption. Note, however, that tax reform is not one of my top three priorities.

Except for the last sentence, I agree with it all.


6fpw32atDon Boudreax on the Arnolds Park IRS cash seizure:

I challenge anyone to justify, or even to excuse, such an abuse of power.  (HT a dear and wise and passionate friend.)

Words normally do not escape me, but I can find none that adequately convey the anger and sense of injustice that course through me when I read of seizures such as this one.  Best to let the matter speak for itself, which it surely does to anyone this side of Frank Underwood in decency and civility.  Fortunately, the great Institute for Justice is on the case.

Oh, I’m sure that things like that could never happen if the IRS had a bigger budget.


Andrew Lundeen, Tens of Thousands Protest Internet Tax in Hungary (Tax Policy Blog) Would-be dictators come up with wacky ideas.

20141027-2Matt Gardner, Obscure Law Allows Wealthy Professional Sports Team Owners to Reap Tax Windfalls (Tax Justice Blog) . He doesn’t care for intangibles amortization.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 540


News from the Profession. Grant Thornton to Have Rat Problem for Foreseeable Future (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

Tony Nitti, Want To Do Your Part To Help Fight Ebola? Skip Your Next Vacation. OK, I’m skipping my next vacation to Liberia.