Posts Tagged ‘Linda Beale’

Tax Roundup, 6/28/2013: Not dead yet edition

Friday, June 28th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20120928-2Thought the IRS scandal was dead? IRS Inspector Firm on One-Sided Targeting; Small Number Faced Extra Scrutiny, While All Tea-Party Applications Were Reviewed (Wall Street Journal):

Internal Revenue Service employees flagged for extra scrutiny fewer than a third of progressive groups applying for tax exemptions from mid-2010 through mid-2012, compared with 100% of conservative applicants, an IRS inspector general said.

The new data, released in a letter to Democratic lawmakers that was dated Wednesday, appear to support Republicans’ contention that conservative groups were subjected to more IRS scrutiny, and undercut Democrats’ case that the IRS treated left-leaning and right-leaning groups similarly.

Just saying it’s over doesn’t make it so.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 50

Christopher Bergin, Get to the Bottom of It  (Tax Analysts Blog)

Clearly, there is a problem at the IRS, a serious one. And that does not just apply to exempt organizations, which, frankly, have always been the third rail of national tax administration. What’s going on is not funny or entertaining. What’s going on means the country is in trouble.

While I am more easily entertained then Christopher, I agree with his conclusion.

David Cay Johnston, Revelations Show Lois Lerner Blew It  (Tax Analysts Blog)

 

Linda Beale isn’t on board with the IRS “apology payment” plan floated by the Taxpayer Advocate:

This seems to me to be a very very bad idea.  Creating payments for jobs not perfectly done implies a perfection that simply isn’t achievable in large institutions with multi-faceted functions.

OK, fine — but if it’s not achievable for a giant institution with enormous resources and all the time in the world, maybe it’s not achievable for small institutions with with “multi-faceted functions” and far fewer resources under severe time constraints — like your average business or your local Tea Party run by activists in their free time.  Maybe the IRS shouldn’t so routinely assert penalties on audit deficiencies.  Until they stop, though, I say sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander.

 

Remember when the state-run Iowa Cable Network was going to make Iowa the cutting edge tech state?  Iowa tries to sell ICN, but gets bids from only one prospect (Thegazette.com, via Gongol)

 

More DOMA demise fallout

William Perez, Tax Issues of the Supreme Court Ruling that DOMA is Unconstitutional

Margaret Van Houten, Tax Implications of DOMA Ruling   (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Peter Reilly, DOMA Decision May Affect Civil Unions

Tax Justice Blog, What Are the Tax Implications of the Supreme Court Ruling on Marriage Equality?

 

In other news…

Trish McIntire, Amortizing Your Life:

I get asked occasionally if a client can take the value of their time as a deduction. They’ve done the repairs on a rental house themselves and they want to deduct what they would have paid someone else to do it or they have worked for a charity and would like to use their time as a charitable deduction. Of course, the value of one’s time is not deductible. 

Philip Hammersley, Elizabeth Malm, Pennsylvania’s Family Business Death Tax on Life Support (Tax Policy Blog)

Howard Gleckman,  Can The Baucus-Hatch Blank Slate Plan Jump Start Tax Reform?  (TaxVox)

TaxGrrrl, What Back Taxes? Senate Passes Immigration Reform Bill, Goes Easy On Tax Repayment

Robert D. Flach is ready with your Friday Buzz!

 

Going Concern, Oregon Department of Revenue Sensitive to the Fact That Some Religious Groups Think Filing Tax Forms Electronically Is of the Devil.  There are days when I think that’s right if you leave the word “Electronically” out.

 

It looks like I have to update my blogroll for Megan McArdle for what — the fifth time?  But Megan was one of the first economics bloggers, and she’s well worth following to her new blog home.

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/27/2013: All apologies edition. And DOMA Carnival!

Thursday, June 27th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Apology payments? The Taxpayer Advocate’s office issued a special report yesterday blasting the IRS treatment of 501(c)(4) exemption applications.  The report also said the IRS apparently violated the law, and its own internal procedures, by having unpublished secret internal guidance on handling the Tea Party cases.The report raises the idea of allowing the issuance of $1,000 “apology payments” for taxpayers who are mistreated by the IRS.

Not a bad start, but far better would be a “sauce for the gander” approach, where the IRS could be subject to penalties for late processing, delays and unjustified positions on the same basis as taxpayers.  If a little charity can be hit with a $100-per-day penalty for not filing a Form 990, the IRS could pay $100 per day for sitting on a 501(c)(4) exemption.  If the IRS takes an unsupported position on an examination, it should pay to the taxpayer 20% of the tax it would have collected through its bogus position.

The TaxProf has more.

Joseph Thorndike, So the IRS Hounded Liberals Too – But We’ve Still Got a Problem (Tax Analysts Blog) I still await tales left-side organization applications left to languish for years or subjected to the grilling applied to the Tea Party groups.

 

Lots of reaction to yesterday’s Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act. 

Jason Dinesen owns this issue.  He has an extensive practice in Iowa same-sex married couples, and he posted up a storm yesterday:

DOMA Ruled Unconstitutional:

It means couples in same-sex marriages no longer have to jump through the following hoops to meet their tax obligations:

  1. Prepare and file separate federal tax returns as two single people and applying tax law as it applies to single people.

  2. Prepare a “mock” federal return employing tax law as it applies to married people, to see what their tax situation would have looked like if the federal government had recognized their marriage.

  3. Use that “mock” return to prepare their state return as a married couple.

Also, DOMA Done, But Complications Live On and More DOMA Musings — Married But Living in a Non-Recognition State:

IRS Revenue Ruling 58-66 says marital status is determined at the state level and does not change even if you move to a state that doesn’t recognize your marriage… But would this Revenue Ruling from 1958 regarding common-law marriage apply to same-sex couples from states like Missouri or Nebraska who drive to Iowa to get a marriage certificate but who actually live in Missouri or Nebraska, or some other non-recognition state?

The IRS will have to come out with guidance on this and other issues, including:

– A standard procedure for amended returns from same-sex couples who want to obtain joint filing benefits.

– Guidance on the mandatory nature of joint returns for same-sex married couples, and whether it is retroactive.  If same-sex married couples get to choose for open years whether to file jointly or single, is it also an equal-protection violation to deny that choice to double-sex couples?  I doubt it, but that would be fun.

Jason also offers a DOMA Tax News Roundup today.

 

Tony Nitti, Tax Implications Of The Supreme Court’s DOMA Decision: Same-Sex Couples To Be Subject To Marriage Penalty:

The Supreme Court’s ruling is clearly a victory for equality. And from a tax perspective, the decision stands to save meaningful dollars for same-sex couples who will now be defined as married for purposes of the federal estate and gift laws; because the marital deduction will now apply to these couples, spouses will be permitted to transfer assets to each other tax-free during their lifetime or at death.

Kay Bell, DOMA is dead: The effect on same-sex married couples’ taxes

Len Burman, What Will Supreme Court Decision on DOMA Mean for the IRS? (TaxVox)

Let’s assume that half of the newly recognized couples receive bonuses, which means that roughly 50,000 couples might benefit from filing amended income tax returns for 2012, 2011, and/or 2010. If all 50,000 filed amended returns for an average of 1.5 years out of the three this would yield 75,000 amended returns.

Roberton Williams, DOMA’s Demise and Federal Taxes (TaxVox)

Russ Fox, DOMA Done, But Don’t File that Joint Return Just Yet:

The US Supreme Court ruled today that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional.  That makes it appear that same-sex couples should be able to file joint tax returns.  There’s only one problem: The IRS computers likely would reject such a return if it were filed today.

TaxGrrrl, Supreme Court Rules DOMA Unconstitutional (And It Was A Tax Case!)

Nick Kasprak, Joint Filing in the Tax Code (Tax Policy Blog):

Despite the possibility of a penalty, joint tax returns generally provide tax relief, and they’re probably one of the biggest benefits that gay couples can now take advantage of (along with the estate tax exemption, which was at the center of the Supreme Court case).

Joseph Henchman, Supreme Court Decides Same-Sex Marriage Estate Tax Case (Tax Policy Blog)

Robert D. Flach, THE DEATH OF DOMA

Tax Trials, DOMA Doomed by Estate Tax Refund Claim

Linda Beale, Gay Marriage Decisions– As Expected, A Step Towards Full Civil Rights for Gays

 

In other news:

Russ Fox, Loving Appeal to be Heard on September 24th

Jack Townsend, New Taxpayer Advocate Discussion of Problems with IRS OVDI/P Program.  Still shooting jaywalkers.

Paul Neiffer, A Lease Qualifies For Like Kind Treatment But Watch the Fine Print

William McBride, Reducing Tax Avoidance by Reducing Economic Activity: New Zealand’s Failed Experiment with Ending Deferral (Tax Policy Blog)

 

Extortion Watch.  Tennessee Man Indicted for Romney Tax Return Fraud and Extortion Scheme (Department of Justice Press Release)

Legal extortion watch.   Police investigate damage to red light camera.  (Des Moines Register) It’s a tragedy that somebody might have gotten away with not quite coming to a complete stop at an empty intersection.

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/25/2013: IRS says it was evil to lefties, too. And: RRTP > CPA?

Tuesday, June 25th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130419-1The IRS yesterday issued a new internal report showing that the hold-ups on Tea Party exemption applications continued until just now.  Tax Analysts reports ($link):

IRS Principal Deputy Commissioner Daniel Werfel told reporters that when he began his 30-day review of the agency’s mishandling of conservative groups’ exemption applications, he discovered that the exempt organizations unit was still using BOLO lists that included inappropriate or questionable criteria.

“BOLO” is “be on the lookout” lists looking for suspicious signs of political activity via the names of the organization.  These lists included “progressive” as a suspicious word, along with some right-side words, but it it appears that the left-side groups were not singled out for the “special” treatment accorded the Tea Party.

There is still a lot we don’t know about how the IRS treated the 501(c)(4) applications.  Unless we find out about left-side applications left to languish for years, like the Tea Party applications, it still doesn’t appear that IRS was evenhandedly evil.  And “they screwed some of us, too” isn’t exactly a ringing defense of the organization.

IRS, Charting a Path Forward at the IRS: Initial Assessment and Plan of Action

Kay Bell, IRS also was on the lookout for progressive tax-exempt groups

Linda Beale, To All Those Right-Wingers Complaining about IRS Targeting–guess what, they used “progressive” to help screen, too!

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 47

 

You can’t condition your conservation easement on it being deductible, says the Tax Court. (Graev, 140 T.C. No. 17).  $990,000 deduction fails.

Tony Nitti, Tax Court: Leasehold Interest Exchanged For Fee Interest In Real Estate Does Not Qualify For Section 1031 Treatment,  If your leasehold is less than 30 years, don’t expect it qualify in a swap for a fee interest in real estate.

Jana Luttenegger, Emergency Preparedness includes Safeguarding Records (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  “Have you thought about what records could be destroyed if a severe storm damaged your home or business?”

 

Tuesday Buzz from Robert D. FlachIt links to a new post on Robert’s “The Tax Professional” blog, where Robert asserts:

If a CPA were able to earn the designation of RTRP it would clearly identify that individual CPA as being competent and current in 1040 preparation.

False.  The now-dormant RTRP exam was a literacy test that proves tax competency in neither CPAs nor anyone else.  Robert is correct, though, when he says “A CPA is not automatically a 1040 expert, but a specific CPA may be a 1040 expert.”

I do think that CPAs who do tax work tend to be very capable, but so are many non-CPA preparers.  I think the competency curve would look something like this:

20110118-2.png

You should choose your tax preparer not just because of initials; you should find out what kind of work the preparer does.  And check references.

 

Russ Fox, FBAR Deadline Is Now.  If you haven’t sent in your FBAR, Russ shows how to e-file.

Austin John, Maryland Soon to Roll Out the Rain Tax (Tax Policy Blog)

Tax Justice Blog, Governor Cuomo, Meet Governor Brown.  “California Shows that Geographically Targeted Tax Incentives Don’t Work.”   Leave out “geographically” and it’s even better.

 

David Henderson, Atkinson and Krugman on Tax Rates (Econlog).

Jeremy Scott, Can the OECD Be Trusted on Base Erosion? (Tax Analysts)

TaxGrrrl, If It Ain’t About Money (Turns Out It Is): Rapper Fat Joe Headed To Prison For Failure To Pay Taxes

 

Breaking News from 2010:  Tax Return Fraud Spiraling Out of Control (Citizens Against Government Waste).  It’s ID theft fraud, of course.  Too bad Commissioner Shulman was busy regulating preparers and holding up 501(c)(4) applications.

Athletic ability has a weak correlation with financial ability.  Bankruptcy Rates Among Professional Athletes Need to Be Addressed (Jen Carrigan at Missouri Tax Guy)

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/4/2013: High School non-musical IRS scandal edition.

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Lois Lerner, IRS, Class of 2013?

Lois Lerner, IRS, Class of 2013?

Sometimes life seems like high school continued.  One of my high school classmates apparently has an unpleasant history with a central figure in the IRS scandal.  Investors.com reports:

Perhaps not surprisingly, the IRS scandal may have its roots in Illinois politics with the 1996 targeting of Illinois conservative Al Salvi by a familiar name, Lois Lerner, then head of the Enforcement Division of the Federal Elections Commission.

That year, Democrat U.S. Rep. Dick Durbin and Republican State Rep. Al Salvi were locked in a battle for the U.S. Senate seat Durbin would eventually win.

As the journal Illinois Review details, Salvi was confronted with an “October surprise,” not one, but two, FEC complaints filed against him — one by Illinois Democrats about the way he reported a loan he made to himself, and another by the Democratic Senatorial Committee about a reported business donation.

Al Salvi, Carmel High School for Boys, Class of 1978

Al Salvi, Carmel High School for Boys, Class of 1978

Mr. Salvi says Ms. Lerner played hardball, reports Illinois Review, demanding that he promise to never run for office again if the FEC dropped their complaint:

During that call, Salvi said, he explained to Lerner exactly what happened — that while the loan to himself was legal, there may be a difference of opinion on how the loan was reported to the FEC. Salvi explained it was a simple matter and said he thought Lerner would suggest an agreeable solution and dismiss the Democratic National Committee’s complaint. 

But that was not Lerner’s reaction. Instead, that’s when she said to Salvi, “Promise me you’ll never run for office again, and we’ll drop the case.”

Salvi said he asked Lerner if she would be willing to put the offer into writing.

We don’t do things that way,” Salvi said Lerner replied.

Salvi queried how then could such an agreement be enforced.

According to Salvi, Lerner replied: “You’ll find out.”

A judge dismissed the FEC complaint after the election, which Mr. Salvi lost to Dick Durbin, who still holds the seat.

If the Salvi account holds up, it certainly doesn’t help the case that Ms. Lerner was just a dedicated civil servant trying to enforce Sec. 501(c)(4) impartially.  In any case, it’s clear just by the job she held at the FEC that she had to be aware of the politics involved in the Tea Party applications while employees under her supervision improperly targeted anti-administration groups.  She has stated that she tried to stop the targeting.

Disclosure: I have an electoral history with Al Salvi, but no FEC intervention was needed.

 

So-called Scandal Watch  There is a mini-backlash against the idea that there is anything scandalous about what the IRS did; Linda Beale and Iowa political commentator Ed Fallon are on that bandwagon.  Testimony yesterday by Russel George, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, is relevant to the issue:

The IRS used inappropriate criteria that identified for review Tea Party  and other organizations applying for tax-exempt status based upon their names or policy positions instead of indications of potential political campaign intervention. Because of ineffective management by IRS officials: 1) inappropriate criteria were developed and stayed in place for a total of more than 18 months, 2) there were substantial delays in processing certain applications, and 3) unnecessary information requests were issued to the organizations.

That seems like plenty of scandal right there, even if the only villain is “ineffective management.”  The behavior towards the Tea Party groups is also consistent with effective but ill-intentioned management.

Martin Sullivan leans to the “no scandal here” school in More than 80% of “Tea Party” Applications Should Have Been Reviewed Anyway (Tax Analysts Blog).  That still doesn’t justify the intrusive nature of the questions asked or the extensive delays.  It’s also like saying it would be OK to, say, frisk everyone at a drug legalization rally, as long as many of them are found to be carrying dope.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 26.

Kay Bell, IRS Acting Commissioner Daniel Werfel survives his first Capitol Hill hearing on troubled agency problems

Jeremy Scott, IRS Missteps Will Hurt Tax Administration (Tax Analysts Blog): “As sympathetic as the IRS can seem on one hand, its absurd expenditures on conferences and training videos, along with the appearance of political bias resulting from the exempt organization scandal, have made it almost inconceivable that it will receive more funding anytime soon.”

Clint Stretch, The IRS Exempt Org Debacle: An Easy Fix (Tax Analysts Blog): “Anyone who wants to form a social welfare organization should be allowed to do it.”

Patrick Temple-West,  Republican donors drew IRS scrutiny, and more.  Related Tax Update coverage: Can political contributions really be taxable gifts?

Linda Beale, Another False Media-Generated IRS “Scandal”

 

Jim Maule, Does a Mandatory Compensation Deduction Reduction Make a Credit Mandatory?

Fiduciary Income Tax Blog, Are Self-Settled Special Needs Trusts on the Horizon?

It’s Tuesday, so Robert D. Flach has your Buzz!  Meanwhile, Kay Bell posts Tax Carnival #117: Summer Tax Time

 

Breaking: The Donut Sandwich Is Here, So…Are Weight-Loss Costs Tax Deductible?  (Tony Nitti).

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/30/2013: Galt’s Gulch, NY? And: taxes are unconstitutional, but refunds are just great!

Thursday, May 30th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130530-2David Brunori, Worst Tax Idea of the Year? Cuomo Wins by a Landslide:

An ideal tax system is based on a broad base and low rates. At least that is what the thinking folks believe. An ideal tax system also treats similarly situated people and organizations the same. People concerned about fairness have always thought that. And an ideal tax system minimizes economic distortions. Now politicians of every stripe violate that ideal every day. Personally, I think politicians violate this idea because 1) they arrogantly want to dictate their views on the rest of us, or 2) they want to enrich their friends.

Now the Governor of New York wants to create tax-free zones:

Not everything, everyone, or everywhere in New York will be tax-free. The tax-free communities will be all of the state universities (and curiously a number of private universities) outside New York City. Companies that open shop in these communities will be exempt from sales, income, and property taxes. That’s better than living in New Hampshire. Better still, employees who work for businesses in the new tax free communities will be exempt from paying state income taxes.
So if you are in the community you don’t pay tax. If you are outside, even by six inches, you do.

I agree that this is a terrible idea, as is.  But if Governor Coumo is willing to go further and create libertarian free cities in his state, that would be pretty cool.  Galt’s Gulch, NY could give the Free State Project in neighboring New Hampshire a run for its money.

 

William McBride, CBO: Tax Expenditures in the Eye of the Beholder.  With this handy chart:

 20130530-1

 

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 21

Russ Fox, The Big Questions Remain Unanswered (IRS Scandal Update):

 Why did the IRS scrutinize “conservative” and “tea party” applications?  It’s clear the orders came from Washington.  Who ordered it?  The IRS employees in Cincinnati were most likely just following the orders from Washington.  Someone came up with the idea to have this scrutiny.

It clearly wasn’t just some rogue Ohioans.

NBC News, IRS higher-ups requested info on conservative groups, letters show

Ed Driscoll, The Ohio Players.  A reminder that the IRS scandal includes the illegal disclosure of confidential applications for exempt status by right-side organizations to a left-side 501(c)(3).

Linda Beale, The real IRS scandal.  To her, the real scandal is that anybody is paying attention.

Patrick Temple-West, IRS gets a new risk officer, and more (Tax Break)

 

Peter Reilly raises an interesting argument In Defense of Special Tax Breaks:

Clearly there is value in keeping that Greek Revival facade, but there is no way that the owner of the property can reap that value.  If there is a CVS there, I will go in and buy a bottle of Mountain Dew or get a prescription filled which will help pay the rent that the highest and best use yields the property owner.  Having me look at the facade and imagine the men and women who thought that there was an ancient precedent for the new form of government that they were devising is tough to charge for.

That is why there needs to be some sort of public support for the preservation of historic structures. 

I disagree.  As much as I like cool old buildings, giving them special tax treatment means other people subsidize my aesthetic preferences.  What makes that OK, but wrong to make me subsidize a velvet Elvis?   The tax law has enough to do to fund the government; making it the Swiss Army Knife of public policy makes it not very good at anything.

 

Robert D. Flach, DON’T BLAME APPLE!

The fault lies not with APPLE or the members of the 47% or the “wealthy”.  The fault lies with the idiots in Congress who write the tax law. 

Precisely.

 

TaxGrrrl, Copyright Troll Lawyer Pleads Poverty, Asks To Be Let Off The Hook

Tax Justice Blog, State News Quick Hits: Nicolas Cage Lobbies, Massachusetts Raises Revenues and More

 

It’s unconstitutional, except for the part where I cash in.  An case of cognitive dissonance from California via the Central Valley Business Times:

Randy Barker, 59, of Chico, is off to three years and 10 months in federal prison where he can mull over the 16th Amendment to the Constitution, the amendment that established the federal income tax. 

He’s associated with the so-called “Tax Challenger” community, a group that believes that the tax laws are unconstitutional or otherwise invalid. 

According to testimony presented at trial, Mr. Barker filed an income tax return in February 2009 that falsely claimed more than $1.4 million in interest income and falsely claimed that the same amount had been withheld in tax.

So paying tax returns is unconstitutional, but it’s just fine to file returns claiming that the government is sitting on a bunch of your money?  I need to re-read my constitution.

The most interesting part to me:

This combination allowed Mr. Barker to claim a refund of $987,900 in allegedly overpaid income tax.

Evidence showed that, after receiving the refund, Mr. Barker and his wife spent most of the money within weeks by making extensive cash withdrawals and by purchasing a $495,000 house, more than $90,000 in home furnishings, and a truck.

So this guy managed to steal almost $1 million with a laughably stupid tax return.  Sure, he got caught, but that money is gone forever.  I suppose the IRS is just too busy examining prayers to stop cash from flying out the back door.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/29/2013: Why Did Shulman spend so much time at the White House? He has no idea.

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
The tax law - The Ultimate Swiss Army Knife of public policy.  Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

The tax law – The Ultimate Swiss Army Knife of public policy. Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

If you or I went to the White House, we’d remember it always.  I have been inside the Treasury once, and the IRS building once, and I definitely remember it.  But when you are a real mover and shaker like Doug Shulman, it all starts to blur, apparently.

From WashingtonExaminer.com:

Former Internal Revenue Service Commissioner Doug Shulman visited the White House 118 times between 2010 and 2011. Acting Director Steven Miller, who took over at the IRS in November, also made numerous visits to the White House, though variations in the spelling of his name in White House visitor logs makes it difficult to determine exactly how many times.

The frequent trips to the White House under Obama far outnumbered the times other administrations felt the need to meet with the IRS, according to Mark Everson, who led the IRS under former President George W. Bush. Everson said he remembers making only one trip to the White House between 2003 and 2007 and said he felt like he’d “moved to Siberia” because of the isolation.

Funny, I thought the IRS was an “independent agency.”

Shulman said he couldn’t remember why he went to the White House so frequently, though some of the visits were probably about the IRS’ role in implementing Obama’s health care reforms, he told a congressional committee. Logs show Shulman met with two West Wing officials working on health care.

“The IRS has a major role in the money flow,” Shulman explained to Congress.

But while the health care-related visits were explained in the logs, many others included no explanation.

I doubt Shulman met with the President or his aides to plot audits of presidential enemies — though you’d think he’d be able to figure out why he spent so much time there.  Do they still have a bowling alley?

It’s likely that his visits reflect the way the IRS has become a cross-functional super-agency, with bigger responsibilties than most cabinet departments.  That is at least as disturbing as the outrageous Tea Party harassment.

 

Don Boudreaux, Count on It: Power Will Be Abused:

The fundamental question raised by the IRS scandal isn’t whether Obama ordered, or even knew of, the apparent misuse of the taxing power to punish political opponents. Rather, the fundamental question asks about the wisdom of creating in the first place government agencies that can so easily abuse their power in order to play political favorites.

The question answers itself.

 

Linda Beale thinks it’s just fine to harass the Tea Party:

This so-called “scandal” is just another instance of right-wing obstructionism that is willing to sacrifice good government for maintaining or increasing political power.

Um, no.  Even President Obama says that what the IRS did was a bad thing.  It’s a little late to try to pretend that it was just the IRS doing its job.  Unless, of course, you think its job is to obstruct political opposition and coddle organizations congenial to Linda Beale.

 

Patrick Temple-West, Groups test political tax rules, and more (Tax Break)

Martin Sullivan, TIGTA Report Implies a Lot, Proves Little, About Bias at the IRS (Tax Analysts Blog)

TaxProf,  The IRS Scandal, Day 20

 

Jack Townsend covers a developing U.S. – Swiss tax enforcement agreement in Swiss Settlement May Be Near and More Developments on Swiss Agreement with U.S.: “With this development, I am sure that the IRS will be sending a lot of John Doe treaty requests.”

 

Paul Neiffer, More States to Raise Taxes?

Scott Drenkard, Wisconsin Plan Cuts Rates, Broadens Bases, Improves State Business Tax Climate Ranking (Tax Policy Blog).  Iowa should try that sometime.  The Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan is ready to go!

 

Peter Reilly, Tax Reform – Should Partnerships And S Corporations Follow The Same Rules ?

Howard Gleckman, The Challenge of Cutting Deductions to Lower Tax Rates (TaxVox)

TaxGrrrl, Internet Sensation Charles Ramsey Gets Free Food From McDonald’s: Do You Want Taxes To Go With That?  If he takes them up on it, the medical deductions may offset any taxable income.

 

Joseph Thorndike, Krugman Berates a Bush — Unfairly (Tax Analysts Blog)

Jim Maule, Reader Weighs In on Weighing the Code

 

Of course he does.  Nicolas Cage Urges Nevada to Subsidize the Film Industry (Joseph Henchman, Tax Policy Blog)

Let us praise our dedicated civil servants.  IRS employee charged with going on a years-long buying spree with Uncle Sam’s credit card (Kay Bell)

A disgrace to his profession. Las Vegas pimp faces prison after pleading guilty to tax-evasion charge

It’s good to be king.  Princess, maybe not so much. Princess Cristina to be investigated for tax fraud

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/24/2013: Tuition organization credit bill has big sales tax provision. And: Fancy guys, bow ties.

Friday, May 24th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

In its usual last-minute frenzy, the Iowa General Assembly passed a bill (HF 625) to extend the popular School Tuition Organization credit.  The credit is 65% of the amount contributed to organizations that subsidize private elementary and secondary tuition.  When combined with the federal tax deduction for the donation, there is very little out-of-pocket cost for the donations.  The amount of the credit is limited, so it has been oversubscribed in recent years. the bill increases the cap starting in 2013.

The bill has a surprising amendment that passed yesterday: it now creates “affiliate nexus” in Iowa (my emphasis):

   (1) A retailer shall be presumed to be maintaining a place of business in this state, as defined in paragraph “a”, if any person that has substantial nexus in this state, other than a person acting in its capacity as a common carrier, does any of the following:
       (a)  Sells a similar line of products as the retailer and does so under the same or similar business name.
       (b)  Maintains an office, distribution facility, warehouse, storage place, or similar place of business in this state to facilitate the delivery of property or services sold by the retailer to the retailer’s customers.
       (c)  Uses trademarks, service marks, or trade names in this state that are the same or substantially similar to those used by the retailer.
       (d)  Delivers, installs, assembles, or performs maintenance services for the retailer’s customers.
       (e)  Facilitates the retailer’s delivery of property to customers in this state by allowing the retailer’s customers to take delivery of property sold by the retailer at an office, distribution facility, warehouse, storage place, or similar place of business maintained by the person in this state.
       (f)  Conducts any other activities in this state that are significantly associated with the retailer’s ability to establish and maintain a market in this state for the retailer’s sales.
       (2)  The presumption established in this paragraph may be rebutted by a showing of proof that the person’s activities in this state are not significantly associated with the retailer’s ability to establish or maintain a market in this state for the retailer’s sales.

This ratifies the aggressive approach of the Iowa Department of Revenue on intangible nexus, and will likely trigger more audits of out of state companies.  The Supreme Court and Congress really need to either reaffirm the Quill decision or set new rules.

Tax Justice Blog, Tax Credit for Working Poor Survives Iowa Tax Compromise.  Remember, it’s also a thief subsidy.  Just because it’s supposed to go to the “working poor” doesn’t mean it does.

 

Christopher Bergin, The IRS Is Broken, But That’s the Symptom (Tax.com):

The IRS is broken, that’s for sure. But the IRS is a symptom. The “disease” is the tax code. I think that’s absolutely right. And for me, this latest “scandal” concerning the IRS is going to make it impossible to reform our tax code anytime soon.

More difficult, but more necessary.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 15

Kay Bell, IRS places Lois Lerner on administrative leave in latest fallout from Tea Party tax exemption review snafu

Joseph Henchman, Congress Asks Organizations Targeted by the IRS to Come Forward and Tell Their Story

 

Tax Trials, See You on Tuesday: IRS Furloughs Impact Certain Filing Deadlines & Services

Linda Beale, Does Apple’s Cook Cook the (U.S. tax) Books?

Jack Townsend, IRS Reminders for Foreign Income Reporting

Robert D Flach is Buzzing!

The Critical Question: Could State Taxes Cause Dwight Howard To Flee L.A. For Houston? (Anthony Nitti)

 

Breaking news from my neighborhood: Woman Allegedly Brandishing Knife ‘Welcomes’ New Neighbor.  How my neighbors are living out the pages of The Onion.

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News you can use:  Apparently It Doesn’t Take Much for an Accountant to Get Kidnapped and Beaten These Days… (Going Concern)

Always trust tax advice from rappers. Fat Joe Blames His Tax Evasion Problems On ‘Fancy Guys In Bow Ties’

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/23/2013: Iowa property taxes improve, income tax gets worse. Plus: more Apple bites.

Thursday, May 23rd, 2013 by Joe Kristan
If Iowa's income tax were a car, it would look like this.

If Iowa’s income tax were a car, it would look like this.

The Iowa General Assembly nears the end of its annual rampage.  While it finally did something to improve a bad commercial property tax system, it managed to make an already awful income tax a little worse.

The Iowa Senate cleared a property tax plan (SF 295) yesterday to reduce commercial property assessments by 10%, with additional property tax credits for smaller businesses.  Unfortunately, the price was to more than double Iowa’s version of the fraud-plagued Earned Income Tax Credit and, it appears, to clutter up the 1040 with additional petty tax credits — those these provisions are apparently part of a separate bill.

As if that weren’t enough abuse to the income tax, the Senate also increased Iowa’s tax credit corporate welfare budget by $50 million  (HF 620) by increasing the amount of tax credits that the economic development bureacracy can hand out.  They sweetened the corporate welfare pot by enabling the diversion of employee withholding to local crony capitalist slush funds economic development funds.

Another bill, HF 625, increased the popular school tuition credit, a poor substitute for true school choice.

While the politicians will pat themselves vigorously on the back, the net result isn’t very exciting.  Yes, lower rates for commercial property are needed.  But now Iowa’s dysfunctional income tax is larded with even more corrupt special interest favors, which will make it that much harder to ever enact a system that makes sense for taxpayers without lobbyists and connections.

Related:

David Brunori, Soviets Run Mississippi, Planned Economies and All (Tax Analysts Bl0g)

The Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 14

Going Concern, Lois Lerner Knows What You People Are Thinking

 

Andrew Lundeen, Apple’s Appearance before the Senate Clarifies the Need for Comprehensive Tax Reform (Tax Policy Blog):

Our average combined rate of 39.1 percent is the highest in the industrialized world. In an increasingly globalized world, this matters more today than it did the last time we reformed the code in 1986. Today the U.S. has to compete with countries around the globe who are constantly improving their tax codes. When the U.S. fails to do so itself, American consumers, workers, and shareholders lose out.

Kyle Pomerleau, Another Perspective on the Apple Hearing (Tax Policy Blog):

Politicians created the current corporate tax system and the current system is broken. If you are going to set out a menu of options for corporations to reduce their tax burden, don’t be surprised or upset that corporations take advantage of them.

Indeed.

 

Linda Beale, Citizen for Tax Justice’s Bob McIntyre on Apple’s offshore profit-hoarding.

 

Robert D. Flach, A KIND OF CATCH-22  On the compliance burden of the fraud-ridden Earned Income Tax Credit.

Tax Trials, See You on Tuesday: IRS Furloughs Impact Certain Filing Deadlines & Services

Kay Bell, IRS offices will be closed Friday, May 24. Plan accordingly

Jack Townsend, Tax Perjury and FBAR Charges Related to Illegal Income Fake Art Case

 

Cara Griffith, A Missed Opportunity in Texas (Tax Analysts Blog)  An attempt to enact an independent tax court in Texas fails:

“The importance of an independent tax tribunal is well documented in the pages of tax journals and even mainstream media outlets.” 

Iowa has nothing like an independent tax appeals process.

Me, Playing with fire: Using an IRA to finance your business.  My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record blog for entrepreneurs.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/21/2013: thief subsidy edition. And why the IRS scandal is so depressing.

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1Iowa’s elected leadership has come up with a deal to bring down Iowa’s high commercial property taxes in exchange for an increase in Iowa’s earned income tax credit.  The Democrats who control the Senate have long been pushing for an increase in the EITC, and this seemed like an obvious compromise from early in the session.  There will be much rejoicing if the deal gets completed, as appears likely; property tax reform has been the Governor’s highest legislative priority.

It’s too bad that the cost of a sensible property tax is a big increase in a program that is a poverty trap for honest taxpayers and a pinata for thieves.  The phase-outs of the EITC result in shockingly-high marginal tax rates on each additional dollar earned by relatively low-income taxpayers.

The EITC  is refundable, which means it is really a welfare program run through tax returns.  About 25% of the EITC is claimed “improperly,” which is a nice way to say it’s stolen.  The annual cost of the Iowa EITC boost is estimated at $35 million, so the price of fixing a broken commercial property tax regime is an $8 million annual thief subsidy.  So while the politicians celebrate their great compromise, Iowa’s petty thieves also have occasion to raise a glass, filled by you.

 

TaxProf,  Supreme Court Unanimously Reverses Third Circuit, Says PPL Can Claim Foreign Tax Credit for U.K. Windfall Tax and Avi-Yonah and Christians on Yesterday’s PPL Decision.

 

Jeremy Scott, Rand Paul’s Claim of “Written Policy” Seems Like GOP Overreach

It is unlikely that Republicans will find Paul’s smoking gun, but the IRS scandal is almost certainly the result of political bias on some level.  It is hard to believe that a group of officials would innocently pick terms like “Tea Party,” “patriot,” and “9/12” to single out organizations for additional scrutiny.  It would be incredible to find such disinterested tone-deafness even in the most politically insulated of civil servants (and the IRS is far from insulated).

I doubt the White House left fingerprints on IRS efforts to harass political opponents (though it didn’t lift a finger to stop it).   That leads to an even more depressing possibility: that the IRS went out its way to beat up on the President’s opponents on its own.  Nobody blew the whistle.  That means IRS management is so corrupt and political that it would go after the administration’s political opponents with only a wink and a nudge.  And anybody who doesn’t think this was politically-motivated is kidding themselves.

James Taranto puts it well:

And the IRS scandal was a subversion of democracy on a massive scale. The most fearsome and coercive arm of the administrative state embarked on a systematic effort to suppress citizen dissent against the party in power. Thomas Friedman is famous for musing that he wishes America could  be China for a day. It turns out we’ve been China for a while.

 

No-longer-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller

No-longer-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller

Megan McArdle, Yes, What Happened at the IRS is a Scandal

Russ Fox, The IRS Scandal Reaches the White House

TaxGrrrl, IRS Hearing Marks End Of Their Worst.Week.Ever But Congress Signals More Hearings Are On The Way

Kay Bell, House and Senate committee hearings on IRS screening of Tea Party tax-exempt applications set for May 21 & 22

ViralRead, Report: Head of IRS Employees Union Met With President Obama the Day Before Tea Party Targeting Began

The Other McCain, Portrait of a Thug: IRS Union Boss

 

Peter Reilly, Bank Cannot Issue 1099-C And Subsequently Try To Collect

Jason Dinesen, Same-Sex Marriage, Community Property, And Multi-State Income — Part 3

Fiduciary Income Tax Blog, Passive Income: Good or Bad?

 

Paul Neiffer,  A Farmland REIT is Now Publicly Traded

Stephanie Fitch, 5 Questions Congress Should Ask Obama Commerce Nominee Penny Pritzker

William Perez,  IRS Offices to be Closed on May 24

Linda Beale, How Apple avoids US taxes with shell games

 

Going Concern,  Last Year Was a Very Unfortunate One to Be Wealthy and French, Even By French Standards.  When marginal rates exceed 100%, you know a country is off the rails.

Robert D. Flach has a new Tuesday Buzz up!

The Critical Question: NFL Linebacker James Harrison Spends More On Massage Than You Did On Your House. But Can He Deduct It?  (Tony Nitti)

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/14/2013: Worst Acting Commissioner Ever? And a career tip.

Tuesday, May 14th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 

Acting Commissioner Steven T. Miller

Acting Commissioner Steven T. Miller

Steven Miller, acting head of the IRS since Doug Shulman left office, apparently hasn’t been any more honest than The Worst Commissioner Ever about IRS harassment of right-side political groups.  AP reports:

Miller was first informed on May, 3, 2012, that applications for tax-exempt status by tea party groups were inappropriately singled out for extra scrutiny,    the IRS said Monday.

At least twice after the briefing, Miller wrote letters to members of Congress to explain the process of reviewing applications for tax-exempt status without disclosing that tea party groups had been targeted.

We’re supposed to tell the truth when we file our returns.  It’s not asking too much for them to return the favor.

Not just harassment, but leaking confidential information.  IRS Office That Targeted Tea Party Also Disclosed Confidential Docs From Conservative Groups (ProPublica.org)

No, too late.  White House: Too early to talk about firing IRS employees  (Examiner.com)

So it’s the Supreme Court’s Fault?  Pelosi: IRS Scandal “An Opportunity” To Scrutinize 501(c)(4)s And “Overturn Citizens United”  All right, then.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 5

Russ Fox, Drip, Drip, Drip: The IRS Scandal Continues to Grow

Jeremy Scott, Lerner’s Admission and Apology Ring Hollow (Tax Analysts):

 The incompetence boggles the mind. It’s also bewildering how the Service could sit in front of GOP lawmakers and chastise them for underfunding tax enforcement when employees were using some of those supposedly precious funds to conduct a politically charged vendetta against conservative exempt organizations.

I think the perpetrators were quite competent in doing what they set out to do.  The only incompetence was in getting caught.  But he’s absolutely right that the agency’s poor-mouthing, including next week’s furloughs, will no longer convince anybody.

 

TaxGrrrl,  Congress And The President Want You To Get Mad At IRS Over Tax Exempt Targets (Just Not At Them):

It’s clear that those at the top knew something (it has been reported that Shulman was alerted to the issue in 2012) and that it wasn’t the work of a handful of rogue operatives. It was a plan. And then IRS lied about it. And they should be held accountable.

But it still disturbs me that no one in Washington really seemed to care until the behavior went public.

Many of us didn’t believe the IRS would really do something so outrageous.  I had seen some of the questions that IRS was asking Tea Party outfits, and they seemed out of line, but I figured the IRS was being an equal-opportunity annoyance.  That they did it politically is what is triggering the outrage.

 

Howard Gleckman,  The IRS Was Wrong to Single Out Tea Parties, But Many Political Groups Should Not be Tax-Exempt.  Yes, let’s change the subject.

Going Concern, Here Are Some of Things People Are Saying About the IRS Scandal,  An excellent roundup of the state of play, but with too much emphasis on the “incompetence” slant and not enough on “evil.”

Patrick Temple-West, IRS targeted groups critical of government, and more (Tax Break)

Kay Bell, Rubio demands resignation of nonexistent IRS commissioner; Obama vows to ‘find out exactly what happened’.  He can get some sleuthing tips from O.J.

Linda Beale,  More on the IRS’s “targeting of conservative groups”.  She tries to play down the issue.  It shows how slim are the pickings for those who don’t want to think this is a big deal.

 

In other news:

Tax.com has moved.  For reasons that elude me, Tax Analysts has apparently given up the handy Tax.com domain and moved their excellent group blog to a tab on their home page, Tax.org.  I think that’s a mistake, but it’s worth going out of your way to find it.

Martin Sullivan, Do U.S. Multinationals Have It Tough? (Tax Analysts).

Russ Fox, Leisure Suit Larry Goes to Tax Court

Peter Reilly,  Electing To Capitalize Expenses Can Pay Off On Sale

Kyle Pomerleau,  Another Year, another Obamacare Tax (Tax Policy Blog)

Jack Townsend,  The Dangers of the Unrecorded Interview by Criminal Agents — FBI or IRS

It’s Tuesday, so it’s Buzz Day at Robert D. Flach’s place.

 

Career Advice.  Protip: Threatening to Kill Your Colleagues, Even in the Midst of a Brutal Busy Season, Is Never Cool (Going Concern).  OK, I take it back.  Mistakes were made. There was no threat intended in my overzealous pursuit of tax return excellence.  It was just an administrative shortcut.  OK, incompetent, but not evil.  I vow to find out exactly what happened.  If I threatened anyone, it was outrageous.

 

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