Posts Tagged ‘Martin Sullivan’

Tax Roundup, 7/8/14: Not in Kansas Anymore edition. And: the latest on bonus depreciation for 2014.

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140409-1What’s the matter with Kansas?  Economist Scott Sumner looks at the controversy over the recent Kansas tax reforms:

The past two years Kansas reduced its state income tax rates. As a result, the top rate of income tax faced by Kansas residents (combined state and federal) rose from 41.45% in 2012 to 48.3% in 2013 and then fell a tad to 48.2% in 2014 (if they don’t itemize.) That’s a pretty tiny drop in the top marginal tax rate in 2014, and a much bigger rise in 2013.


I can’t imagine any serious economist predicting that the Kansas rate cut would boost Kansas GDP by 25% or more. Why did I pick that figure? Because the Kansas state income tax top rate fell from 6.45% in 2012 to 4.8% in 2014, which is roughly a 25% rate cut. In order for that rate cut to boost Kansas tax revenues, you’d have to see Kansas GDP rise by more than 25%. That’s obviously absurd.

The Sumner post is there to refute a straw-man argument made by tax fans:

“Why am I even discussing such crazy ideas? Because Paul Krugman seems to want to convince his readers that lots of supply-siders believe such nonsense…”

Actually, supply-siders do not claim that tax cuts pay for themselves, except in very unusual cases. Kansas is not one of those cases. The Laffer curve effect is typically applied to cases of extremely high marginal tax rates.

kansas flagI have long pushed for a combination of rate cuts for Iowa, combined with comprehensive elimination of deductions and cronyist tax credits.  That would keep the state budget from getting clobbered, while making the tax system much easier and cheaper to run and to comply with.  Kansas couldn’t let go of the loopholes, and in fact added new ones.  Joseph Henchman of the Tax Foundation discusses the Kansas tax changes in Governing.com (my emphasis):

Good tax reform broadens the tax base and lowers rates. That’s what Gov. Brownback wanted to do. But the legislature took out the “broaden-the-base” part. They just passed a tax cut, which can be justifiable if you want to reduce the size of government or expect other revenue sources to go up. But they didn’t cut spending and they don’t expect revenue to grow, so it’s just a hole. With the exemption for pass-through entities, if you’re a wage earner, you’re taxed at the top rate, which is currently 4.9 percent in Kansas. If you’re a partnership, an LLC or any form of recognized business entity with limited liability that’s not a corporation, your income is taxed at zero percent. That’s an incentive to game the tax system without doing anything productive for the economy. They think things like the pass-through exemption will encourage small business, and to be fair, it might. But they are doing it in a way that violates the tax principle of neutrality.

So what would happen if my Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan were enacted in Iowa?  My plan would eliminate corporation taxation and allow S corporation owners to elect to be taxed on distributions, rather than on pass-through income.  Properly structured, it wouldn’t hurt Iowa’s tax revenue, as the rate cuts would be offset by fewer deductions and elimination of tax credit giveaways.  I like to think that without a corporation tax and without a culture of begging for tax credits, Iowa would over time do well, considering that its regulatory and labor environment is already business-friendly.  But I don’t expect miracles, and I would not want the rate cuts to be so deep as to depend on a short-term economic boom to keep the state solvent.

 

20130113-3Richard Borean, House to Consider Bonus Depreciation (Tax Policy Blog). “It turns out that  adding permanent bonus expensing to the Camp Plan would boost GDP, wages, job creation, and federal revenue.”

Bonus depreciation is one of the many perpetually-expiring provisions that get renewed every year or two, after enough lobbyists make their offerings to the congressional fundraising idols.  The congresscritters love enacting proposals temporarily because that way they don’t appear to cost as much as officially-permanent provisions, and because it makes the lobbyists come and visit them regularly to get yet another extender bill passed.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Camp is calling out this game by trying to get some of these provisions extended permanently, officially.  He notes that they really are permanent, and that pretending that they are temporary isn’t fooling anybody.  His opposition in the Senate wants to keep pretending the provisions are temporary, and that the honest step of treating them as permanent is “budget busting.”

None of this helps businesses pricing investment decisions for 2014.  Anyone buying equipment has to guess at the deduction schedule in order to forecast cash flows from the purchase.  Unfortunately, nothing is likely to happen until after the November elections, when a temporary retroactive extension is likely to pass — but might not.

 

Trish McIntire discusses The New Voluntary Tax Preparer Program.  “I’m interested in seeing the numbers of the Filing Season Program come January 2015. Honestly, I don’t think they are going to be as high as the IRS hopes.”

Roberton Williams, IRS Help Line Is Out Of Service (TaxVox) “I needed to double-check an issue concerning withdrawals from my nonagenarian father’s IRA. IRS Publication 590 wasn’t clear so I decided to call the IRS. The experience was illuminating. Not helpful mind you, but illuminating.”

William Perez, What’s Form W-9?  “Independent contractors and other people who work for themselves will often need to give a Form W-9 to their clients. Clients will then use the information on Form W-9 to prepare Form 1099-MISC to report income paid to the independent contractor.”

Jim Maule continues his Tax Myths series with “I’m Getting a Refund and Not Paying Tax.”  He notes “Whether a person has a tax liability cannot be determined simply from the existence of a refund.”

Kay Bell assigns 5 easy tax tasks to take care of in July.

 

20140708-1Brian Mahany, Are FBAR Penalties Unconstitutional? In Many Cases Yes.  “It’s one thing to assess a 50% or 75% penalty but when penalties exceed the total tax owed by a multiple of 50 times like in the Warner case, we believe the penalties are clearly unconstitutional.”

Martin Sullivan, Will States Get a Multibillion-Dollar Windfall From Corporate Tax Reform? (Tax Analysts Blog).  Only if there is actually corporate tax reform.

TaxGrrrl, The Real Cost Of Summer Vacation: Don’t Get Buried In Taxes

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for 6/27/14. (Procedurally Taxing)  Don’t let the date fool you, this roundup of tax procedure news was posted yesterday.

Peter Reilly, City Taxes Trip Up Investment Advisor Restructuring.  Beware New York City.

Jack Townsend, Convicted Politician Did Not Lay a Proper Foundation For Proferred Indirect Testimony of Lack of Intent.  “How does a defendant unwilling to testify as to his intent — thus invoking his Fifth Amendment privilege — introduce indirect evidence of his lack of intent to blunt the Government’s indirect proof of his intent?”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 425

 

Robert D. Flach brings the Tuesday Buzz.  I like this:

Item #10 on the new IRS-issued Taxpayer Bill of Rights is “The Right to a Fair and Just Tax system”.

In order to assure this right to taxpayers the Tax Code would need to be totally rewritten and all current members of Congress would have to be replaced by competent and intelligent legislators who actually give a damn about the American public.

It’s right as far as it goes, but some members of the executive branch would also need to go, starting with the Commissioner.

 

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Tax Roundup, 7/1/14: Where the IRS budget really goes. And: IRS ends automatic expiration of foreign tax ID numbers.

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Dang.  “We do not hold, as the principal dissent alleges, that for-profit corporations and other commercial enterprises can ‘opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.’” — from the majority opinion in yesterday’s Hobby Lobby Supreme Court decision.

Had they allowed a religious exception to the tax law, all the world religions would quickly develop wildly-popular sects with a doctrinal allergy to tax, and, well,  lots of things.

 

Instapundit links to this chart where it looks like IRS spending is out of control

IRS total 20140701 cato

And I think it is — but not in the obvious way.  The Cato Institute, source of the first chart, also provides this:

IRS budget cato 20140701

It shows that almost all of the massive increase in IRS spending is from refundable credits, which are counted as part of IRS spending in the first chart.  But money given away through the Earned Income Tax Credit is not available for auditing taxpayers or buying additional backup tapes.

That, of course, doesn’t excuse the IRS malfeasance in the Tea Party scandal.  It does show that even as Congress has piled more responsibilities on the IRS — especially via Obamacare — it hasn’t provided additional resources.  Now that one party has seen that the IRS has been acting institutionally as its opposition, the agency is unlikely to get significant new resources as long as that party controls one house of Congress — even less so if the GOP takes the Senate, too.

Meanwhile, rather than trying to conciliate and reassure Congressional Republicans, Commissioner Koskinen has been defiant and tone-deaf in his response to the Tea Party and email erasure scandals.  The results for tax administration will not be good.

 

Jeremy Scott, IRS Strategic Plan Highlights Effects of Budget Cuts (Tax Anlaysts Blog):

A crippled tax collector means a damaged tax system. And a damaged tax system only hurts taxpayers and the federal government as a whole. Congress should focus more on punishing those responsible for the various missteps at the IRS and less on gutting the nation’s revenue collection and tax administration system as a whole.

That will require the IRS as a whole to stop acting like a partisan agency.

 

20130419-1IRS does something very sensible.  Credit where credit is due:  the IRS has decided to no longer make non-resident aliens renew their tax ID numbers every five years.   From IR-2014-76:

Under the new policy:

  • An ITIN will expire for any taxpayer who fails to file a federal income tax return for five consecutive tax years.
  • Any ITIN will remain in effect as long as a taxpayer continues to file U.S. tax returns. This includes ITINs issued after Jan. 1, 2013. These taxpayers will no longer face mandatory expiration of their ITINs and the need to reapply starting in 2018, as was the case under the old policy.
  • To ease the burden on taxpayers and give their representatives and other stakeholders time to adjust, the IRS will not begin deactivating unused ITINs until 2016. This grace period will allow anyone with a valid ITIN, regardless of when it was issued, to still file a valid return during the upcoming tax-filing season.
  • A taxpayer whose ITIN has been deactivated and needs to file a U.S. return can reapply using Form W-7. As with any ITIN application, original documents, such as passports, or copies of documents certified by the issuing agency must be submitted with the form.

Very welcome, and long overdue.  Obtaining an ITIN is an inconvenient and burdensome process, involving either mailing passports or national ID cards to the IRS — and trusting them to return the documents — or making the often long trip to a U.S. consulate to apply in person.  For foreign residents with long-term U.S. financial interests, the requirement to renew ITINs every five years was a gratuitous and expensive burden.

(Hat tip: Kristy Maitre).

 

BitcoinRobert Wood, What IRS Calls ‘Willful’ May Surprise You–And Mean Penalties, Even Jail.  The lingering IRS threat to impose fines for “willful” FBAR noncompliance for small amounts is unwise; it seems that they are more concerned with missing a few lawbreakers than in bringing foot-fault violators into compliance.

Jack Townsend, Good Article on the Non-Willfulness Certification for Streamlined and Related Issues

TaxGrrrl, IRS Says Bitcoin Not Reportable On FBAR (For Now)   

 

Paul Neiffer, IRS Releases Final Regulations on ACA Small-Business Tax Credit

Robert D. Flach starts out July with a Buzz!

Kay Bell, Supreme Court finds contraceptive tax costs ‘substantially burdensome’ in its ruling for Hobby Lobby stores

 

 

Martin Sullivan, States Should Cede Some Taxing Power to the Feds (Tax Analysts Bl0g):

Given that states’ corporate taxes are here to stay, we should consider making them as painless and low-cost to businesses as possible. One way to do that is for Congress to exercise its authority under the commerce clause of the Constitution and require states to entirely piggyback their corporate taxes on the federal system.

Canada does this, and it does help, but getting rid of state corporate income taxes would help much more.

Liz Emmanuel, Millionaires’ Tax Clears New Jersey Legislature, Faces Likely Veto (Tax Policy Blog)

Renu Zaretsky,The Tax Man Cometh, But Sometimes Collects Less.  The TaxVox headline roundup covers the formal effective date of FATCA (today), Kansas budget woes, and a link to an interactive tool to track state budgets.

 

Russ Fox, IRS Didn’t Tell a Court About the Missing Lerner Emails

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 418

 

20140508-1I wouldn’t try asking one this question.  What Type of Fruit is a Polar Bear? Petaluma and Interpretive Choice (Andy Grewal, Procedurally Taxing)

Career Corner.  How to Create a CPA Exam Study Schedule That Guarantees Failure (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

News from the Profession.  San Diego CPA convicted in elaborate tax evasion scheme:

A federal jury deliberated for 30 minutes before finding Lloyd Irving Taylor, 71, guilty of all 19 counts against him, including aggravated identity theft, making false statements to a financial institution, evading taxes, corruptly impeding the Internal Revenue Service and making false statements on U.S. passport applications.

According to evidence presented at trial, Taylor, who has been in custody since April 2013, stole the identities of deceased minors, used them as aliases and obtained fraudulent passports and other identification papers.

Oh, that’s illegal?

According to witnesses who testified, Taylor failed to report $5 million in income during the span of the fraud and owed the IRS about $1.6 million. During his 42 years of working, Taylor had filed a total of seven tax returns, according to trial testimony.

That’s one every six years.  It took awhile, but the IRS eventually notices something was amiss.

At a bond hearing last year, a judge ordered Taylor detained pending trial based on a number of factors, including his international travel on his false passports, the millions of dollars he controlled through dozens of bank accounts and his numerous false statements to banks.

I suppose the man felt invincible, given how long he apparently went without drawing IRS attention.  Eventually that comes around, though he had quite a 42-year run.  But he did get caught, possibly because of better computer matching and more comprehensive bank reporting.  Don’t count on stringing the IRS out for 42 years yourself.

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/17/14: Hiring witnesses to your tax crimes. And: some folks just aren’t into Valentines Day.

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Programming note:  The Tax Update will be on the road the rest of this week, so this is probably the last tax roundup this week.  Unless I change my mind.

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

Sure, the more witnesses to my crime the merrier.  What could go wrong?  Every time I see a case in which an employer gets in trouble for evading payroll taxes by paying employees in cash, I have to wonder how much they thought things through.  Every employee becomes a potential informant, and it’s hard to imaging not having either a disgruntled employee turn you in or a careless one reveal the secret in the wrong place.

The Department of Justice yesterday announced a guilty plea yesterday:

   Sonny Pilcher of Casper, Wyoming, pleaded guilty to tax fraud today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming, the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced.  The sentencing hearing was set for Oct. 28, 2014 before U.S District Judge Alan B. Johnson.

 According to the charging document, Pilcher attempted to obstruct and impede the IRS.  Pilcher did this by claiming a false bad debt expense of $258,000 on his 2008 Form 1040 tax return, and by paying his employees in cash to evade paying employment taxes.  Pilcher faces a statutory maximum sentence of 36 months in prison, a $250,000 fine and may be ordered to pay restitution to the IRS. 

The inclusion of the “bad debt” in the charge is interesting.  You frequently see cases where people claim a non-business bad debt — which is a capital loss — as an ordinary fully-deductible business bad debt.  While you might see a civil penalty in such a case, I have never seen that called a criminal matter.  This presumably was something more serious than an argument over what kind of bad debt it was.

 

20120801-2If you have a full-time job, you probably aren’t a “real estate professional” who can deduct rental losses.  And if that’s so, don’t embarrass yourself in front of a Tax Court judge.  A taxpayer from California made that mistake in a Tax Court case issued yesterday.

Real estate rental losses are normally passive, meaning that they only are deductible to the extent of passive income (there is a special allowance for taxpayers with adjusted gross income under $150,000).  If you are a “real estate professional,” the losses are not automatically passive, but you have to meet two difficult tests to be one:

- You have to work at least 750 hours in the year in a real estate trade or business which you own, and

- your real estate business has to consume more of your time than anything else you do.

If you have a full-time day job, it is nearly impossible to rise to that standard (unless you have a pretty undemanding day job).  That didn’t keep the intrepid Californian who had three rental properties — all single-family houses — from giving it a try, as the Tax Court judge explains (my emphasis):

Even if we assume that petitioner worked 1,760 hours and 1,752 hours in 2009 and 2010, respectively, for Northrop Grumman, we do not accept his activity log coupled with this testimony relating to the rental activities as reliable or credible. A review of the activity log and testimony relating to the rental activities leads us to the conclusion the petitioner did not spend more hours at the real estate activity than at his full-time employment at Northrop Grumman. According to petitioner’s logs he spent almost every spare hour in those years working on the rental properties, including 10 hours on July 4 of each year, 12 and 10 hours on February 14, 2009 and 2010, respectively, and 9 and 10 hours, respectively, on December 25 of each year.

Hey, not everybody is a romantic.  And I’ll keep Christmas in my own way, thank you very much!

Although he managed three rental properties in each year, throughout 2009 alone petitioner’s records reflect that he repaired or worked on the sprinkler systems on any of the given properties on 64 separate occasions, and throughout 2010 he worked on sprinkler systems on 20 separate occasions. In addition, on March 16 and 17, 2009, the records reflect eight hours to prepare and deliver an eviction notice to be filed in court. Coincidentally, on March 15 and 16 of the next year, petitioner’s records reflect that he performed the very same activity for the same exact amount of time. A review of petitioner’s activity logs leads to the conclusion that the logs are inaccurate and exaggerated.

Maybe he just wasn’t very good at sprinkler systems?  Whatever you might think of Tax Court judges, you can be sure that they didn’t get their jobs by being gullible.

Cite: Bogner, T.C. Summ. Op. 2014-53.

 

 

20130114-1Kristy Maitre, Treasury Issues Changes to Circular 230 (Treasury Decision 9668):

Many individuals currently use a Circular 230 disclaimer at the conclusion of every e-mail or other writing.  Often the disclaimers are inserted without regard to whether the disclaimer is necessary or appropriate.

Treasury said they anticipate that the removal of the requirement will eliminate the use of a Circular 230 disclaimer in e-mail and other writings because Section 10.37 rules on written opinions don’t include the disclosure provisions in the covered opinion rules.

Good news.  I always thought the routine disclaimers were futile and I never used them.  They seemed like the email equivalent of a rabbit’s foot — it might make you feel better, but it still was mere superstition.  Yet I bet that we’ll still be getting emails from our fellow practitioners with the Circular 230 disclaimer years from now.

Russ Fox, Soon: No More Circular 230 Notices

 

Jason Dinesen, Iowa Taxes: Filing Separately and Allocating Dependents.  “In general, a typical married couple can allocate the dependency exemptions in whatever manner they choose.”

William Perez, Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

Peter Reilly, Paul Reddam’s KPMG Tax Shelter Stunk In More Ways Than One 

TaxGrrrl, World Cup Mania: Figuring Out FIFA, Soccer & Tax.  So there’s a soccer tournament, I hear.

Robert D. Flach starts Tuesday with a Buzz!

 

20140513-1Martin Sullivan, Big Deal by Low-Tax Medtronic Has Even Bigger Implications (Tax Analysts Blog).  “The main benefit to Medtronic after the inversion will be that the billions of profits it generates outside the United States each year can now be deployed to pay dividends and to buy other U.S. companies without paying U.S. tax.”   Sounds like good corporate stewardship to me.

William McBride, Medtronic Embarks on Self-help Tax Reform (Tax Policy Blog).  “The high U.S. corporate tax rate is causing serious economic distortions, chasing away businesses, investment and jobs. The only way to deal with it effectively is to bring the corporate tax rate down to competitive levels, which is the path chosen by virtually every other country.”

 

Renu Zaretsky,  Tax Freedom, Tax Avoidance.  The TaxVox headline roundup covers the Medtronic inversion and internet taxes.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 404

Kay Bell, IRS says possible Tea Party emails lost in computer crash. “Conspiracy or clowns?”

 

News from the Profession.  Here’s Your Authoritative Guide for Likening Game of Thrones to Public Accounting (Going Concern)

 

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

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cite: Blangiardo, T.C. Memo 2014-110.

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

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

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

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

 

Robert D. Flach brings your fresh Tuesday Buzz!

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Sounds like a buy to me.

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/3/14: The joys of cronyism. And why Warren’s math is off.

Tuesday, June 3rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

 

20120906-1When states “target” tax breaks, the little guy gets caught in the crossfire.  That’s the conclusion of a terrific new study on why special tax favors to special friends of the government hurt state economies and corrode good government.  The paper, by the free-market think-tank Mercatus Institute, is the best distillation of the case against luring businesses with special tax favors.

The study describes how big companies skillfully play state politicians for subsidies.  It shows how Wal-Mart has received at least 260 special tax breaks worth over $1 billion.  It describes the $370 million in North Carolina subsidies to Apple to create a whopping 50 jobs — $7.4 million each.  These come at the expense of small companies who pay full-ride on their tax bill as they lack the lobbyists and clout to play the system.

It discusses how the only way states can make a case for their special breaks is to ignore opportunity costs.  States assume that money spent to lure a well-connected company would otherwise be buried or something, generating no economic activity.  As the study says, “Labor and capital are scarce resources and they are rarely left idle.”  It’s a point Tax Update readers may be familiar with.

The study notes how the subsidies hurt the companies who don’t get the benefits, even if they are not direct competitors of the corporate welfare recipients: “When new companies receive extra money to invest, they raise the price of capital and drive up wages, which imposes an additional cost on unsubsidized companies in the state.”  This refutes the fallacy that “Smith’s tax credit doesn’t cost Jones a cent.”

microsoft-apple

They also point out how targeted tax breaks create a crony culture in statehouses.  The study cites the example of Texas (citations omitted, emphasis added):

As companies direct more of their resources to securing special benefits, they need more people who can lobby or who have other rent-seeking skills.  There is already a whole industry of “location consultants,” some of whom demand a commission of up to 30 percent on the subsidies that they can negotiate with local governments.  Consultant G. Brint Ryan in Texas is a good representative of this industry.  Texas allocates corporate benefits exceeding $19 billion per year, more than any other state.  Ryan realized the profit opportunity in serving as a consultant to companies seeking to obtain these benefits.  He has since secured benefits for ExxonMobil, Samsung, and Wal-Mart, among others.  Ryan also illustrates the importance of having political networks for securing targeted benefits.  In 2012, the Texas legislature set up a commission to evaluate the impact of state investments in development projects.  Ryan, who donated more than $150,000 to the campaign of the state’s lieutenant governor, was appointed to the commission by the lieutenant governor.

The same dynamic is playing out in Iowa, as the economic development bureaucracy has spawned a cottage industry of attorneys and consultants to tap into taxpayer funds.

What should states do?  The report says:

Four policy implications for state governments follow from our analysis:

- Allow for current targeted benefits to expire, and abolish state programs that grant them on a regular basis.

- Make sure that targeted benefits cannot be granted by individual policymakers on an ad hoc or informal basis

- Broadly lower tax rates to encourage company investments and obtain a more efficient allocation of resources.

- Cooperate with other states to form an agreement about dismantling targeted benefits.

Sounds a lot like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

Other coverage:

Joe Carter, How Enterprise Zones Lead to Cronyism

Kenric Ward, Study: Cronyism Increasingly Lucrative for Politicians and Businesses

Related:  Governor’s press conference praises construction of newest great pyramids.

 

20140603-1Tax Justice Blog, State News Quick Hits: Gas Taxes, NJ Budget Woes, Madison Square Gardens’ Sizable Tax Break

 

Jason Dinesen has Yet Another Post About Regulation of Tax Preparers.  “Preparer regulation is a bad idea. ”

Kay Bell, Tax moves to make in June 2014

Robert D. Flach has your fresh Tuesday Buzz!

 

Andrew Lundeen, The Common Misconception about the Lower Rate on Capital Gains and Dividends (Tax Policy Blog):

What is not easily seen is that the $100 that Mr. Buffett earns in dividends has already been taxed at the corporate level. In fact, Mr. Buffett’s $100 didn’t start at $100, it started as $153.85.

To receive his $100 dividend payment, Mr. Buffett must own shares in a corporation, which we will call Company A. Company A earned $153.85 in profits on Mr. Buffett’s behalf. This $153.85 is then subject to the federal corporate tax of 35 percent, or $53.85.

The corporation pays the $53.85 to the federal government on behalf of Mr. Buffett and then passes the remaining $100 to him in the form of a dividend. This is the $100 we discussed earlier, on which, Mr. Buffett pays $23.80 in dividend taxes.

Warren Buffett knows this.  But raising individual rates helps keep down those small guys whose businesses report their taxes on the owner 1040s — and, incidentally, makes it easier for Warren’s insurance business to sell tax-advantaged products.

 

Jeremy Scott, Camp Waves the White Flag (Tax Analysts Blog). “Camp tried to reform the tax system — and failed.”

Martin Sullivan, Corporate Expatriations: More Deals Are Likely (Tax Analysts Blog).  ” It is unlikely that any known or yet-to-be-made-public deals will be slowed by Democrats’ efforts.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 390

 

TaxGrrrl, John Daly Relied On Tax Records To Figure $90 Million Gambling Losses.  “Despite tens of millions of dollars in gambling losses, Daly doesn’t seem to regret his behavior, saying, ‘I had a lot of fun doing it.’”

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/7/14: How to keep from beating up the poor with high marginal rates? And: priorities!

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
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.

Arnold Kling ponders solutions to the hidden high tax rates on the poor in SNEP Solution: Flexible Benefits and Extreme Catastrophic Health Insurance.  The problem arises because many welfare benefits phase out as income rises.  For example, the phase-out of the Earned Income Tax Credit means Iowans who qualify can face a combined federal and state tax rate of over 50% on additional income.  The problem is finding a way to means-test benefits without turning the inevitable reduction of benefits as income rises into a poverty trap.  Some Kling thoughts:

One approach would be to replace all forms of means-tested assistance, including food stamps, housing subsidies, Medicaid, and the EITC, with a single cash benefit. For this purpose, we might also think of unemployment insurance as a means-tested benefit.

The classic approach is the negative income tax. What I would suggest is a modification of the negative income tax, in which recipients are instead given flexdollars. These would be like vouchers or food stamps, in that they can be used only for “merit goods:” food, health care/insurance, housing, and education/training. One way to think of this is that it takes the food stamp concept and broadens it to include the other merit goods.

Flexdollars would start at a high level for households with no income and then fade out at rate of 20 percent of the recipient’s adjusted gross income. This “fade-out” would act as a marginal tax rate on income, so we should be careful not to set the fade-out rate too high.

This would give recipients some power over their benefits, and the ability to choose which ones are more important to them — like normal people do with their earnings.  Unused  flexdollars would go into a savings account, which “could be used for medical emergencies, down payments when buying a home, or to save for retirement.”  This would reduce the incentive for “use it or lose it” spending binges.

Implicit marginal ratesImplicit marginal ratesThis seems like a much more promising approach than the current system with its overlapping benefits and multiple phase-outs that sometimes result in effective marginal rates over 100% for the working poor.   Modifying the income tax to provide a standard deduction up to the amount at which the phase-outs end would complement this system, keeping the income tax from adding a layer of explicit marginal tax rates to the rate implicit in the phase out.

Mr. Kling is a brilliant and underappreciated thinker.  I’m re-reading his Unchecked and Unbalanced, which among other things ponders ways to move decision-making on government services to the household and neighborhood level.

 

O. Kay Henderson, About 91 percent of Iowans e-filed their state income taxes:

A dwindling number of Iowa taxpayers submit paper income tax returns to the State of Iowa. Victoria Daniels of the Iowa Department of Revenue has preliminary results for all but the last three days of the tax season, which ended April 30 for Iowa income taxpayers.

“E-filing is up about 4.1 percent and approximately 91 percent of Iowans, to date, have filed electronically,” Daniels says.

I’ve been a fan of e-filing, but the IRS is doing its best to change my mind.

 

 

20140507-1Paul Neiffer, Payments to Veterinarians Require 1099 (Even If Incorporated)!

Peter Reilly, IRS Cannot Levy Tribal Payments

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 363.  This Washington Post Op-ed linked in today’s scandal roundup gets it right: “The very idea that the administration would protect someone who is hiding behind the fifth when there is not only smoke, but there is actually a clear glow of flames, is insulting.”

Annette Nellen, Taxes and Deficits in the Highway Trust Fund.  “Certainly, if we have more electric cars on the road, which don’t generate anything for the HTF, but still use the roads, a funding mechanism tied only to gasoline purchases is outdated.”

Kay Bell, Home prices, construction outlook up. So are property tax bills

 

Alan Cole, US International Tax System is Fundamentally Unserious (Tax Policy Blog):

The United States is one of the last six remaining countries in the OECD – along with Chile, Ireland, Israel, South Korea, and Mexico – to use a “worldwide” system of corporate taxation. The other twenty-eight countries in the OECD use the much sounder territorial system.

A territorial tax system ends at its country’s borders. In contrast, the United States tries to levy taxes on profits earned in countries other than the United States. The tax system sees an auto assembly plant in Craiova, Romania, built using international funding, staffed by Romanian workers, building a vehicle – the Ford B-Max – that isn’t even sold in the United States – and says “Aha! This is economic activity the United States should be able to tax!”

While it may seem unserious, worldwide taxation is deadly serious to Americans abroad and to U.S. Green Card holders.  Serious, and sometimes catastrophically costly.

 

taxanalystslogoTax Analysts Blog is on an equality kick:

Martin Sullivan, Piketty, Zuckerberg, and a Plan to Tax Wealth That Conservatives Can Support.  “David Miller, a tax attorney at Cadwalader,Wickersham & Taft in New York, has proposed that the federal government tax stock gains of the wealthy whether or not those stocks are sold.”   So they get to deduct losses, too?

David Brunori, Tax Follies in Pursuit of Equality.  “The fact that rich people are rich bugs the heck out of folks on the left.” David points out the folly of a California tax scheme that would try to control CEO compensation by hitting CEOs with punitive California tax rates.  That would make sure no corporate headquarters stay in California.

Joseph Thorndike, Piketty Is Wrong: Americans Don’t Have a ‘Passion for Equality’.  This strikes me as correct.  Patrick Henry said “give me liberty or give me death,” not “Give me liberty or give me equality.”  That contrasts with the “Liberté, égalité, fraternité” of Picketty’s France.

Renu Zaretsky, Retirement, Driving, Greenhouse Gases and Tax Burdens.  The TaxVox tax headline roundup covers a disturbing increase in retirement plan early withdrawal penalties and the Missouri override of its governor’s tax cut veto.

 

Sadly, this may compare favorably with all adults.  According to This FINRA Foundation Quiz, 76% of Millennials Have Absolutely No Clue (Going Concern)

 

Priorities.  From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

George W. Curtis, 77, of Pickett, who practices law in Oshkosh, was charged with willfullly failing to pay taxes he owed for 2007, 2008 and 2009, a period when his law practice generated profits of more than $1 million. Curtis has been designated a “Super Lawyer” several times and has practiced for more than 50 years.

77?  Some people just love the law.  Except maybe not the tax law:

Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Jacobs, the prosecutor, said Curtis testified that his income wasn’t steady, that he had to front many expenses, and that he had higher financial priorities at times than paying taxes. In fact, Curtis did file returns that showed his income, but just didn’t pay.

But the government argued Curtis could have paid. During the period he wasn’t, he was paying his wife’s children’s college tuitions and a wedding, a new Lincoln SUV and buying $17,000 on wine.

You need a nice SUV to transport high-class wine.  Have you ever tried to get your wine home in a tax payment?

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/11/14: The Taxpayer Hotel Edition. And: private-sector Kristy!

Tuesday, March 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Des Moines public officials think a fancy new convention center hotel is just what we need to hang with the cool kids, reports KCCI.com:

A plan to build a four-star hotel next to Hy-Vee Hall and Wells Fargo Arena won’t happen unless Des Moines city leaders can convince the state’s economic development authority to fork over millions in tax incentives for the project.

Des Moines Assistant City Manager Matthew Anderson said this week is a prime example that proves why a hotel is needed next to the Iowa Events Center.

Fans from across the state are coming to downtown Des Moines in droves to cheer on their favorite teams at the boy’s state basketball tournament.

Cindy Curran said there’s something missing. “Accommodations to stay overnight,” said Curran. “A nice hotel with restaurants in there, amenities to go with that.”

wells fargo arena

A casual reader could be forgiven for thinking that there are no hotels within a few blocks of Wells Fargo Arena.  They might think that the Des Moines Marriot Downtown, with its own nice restaurant and bar, had suddenly vanished.  They might think the historic Renaissance Savery Hotel, home of Bos Restaurant, had closed down.  They might think the new Hyatt Place in the Liberty Building had already failed.  And has the historic Hotel Fort Des Moines and its Django Restaurant disappeared after all these years?

Nope, they’re all going strong, and all still connected to Wells Fargo Arena by an enclosed all-weather skywalk system.  In fact, Downtown Des Moines has more restaurants and places to stay than ever.  They need a new competitor, apparently, but one that can’t happen  without $34 million in subsidies tax incentives.

If a business can’t happen without taxpayer subsidies, that’s a sure sign that it shouldn’t happen in the first place.  Convention centers have been a money pit for governments around the country, as the think tank Heartland Institute reports:

As convention planners seek to have large new hotels and related facilities built for their events, taxpayers are often stuck footing the bill for what could be a building that sits empty much of the year.

It’s always easier to support a new business when you invest somebody else’s money.

Related: The Convention Center Shell Game.

 

KristyMaitreIowa’s IRS stakeholder liaison privatizes herself.   From the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation:

CALT is pleased to announce that Kristy Maitre, the former IRS Senior Stakeholder Liaison for the State of Iowa, has joined our staff. Kristy brings 27 years of IRS experience to her role as CALT’s new tax specialist.

Practitioners who have attended our seminars are already familiar with Kristy and her vast breadth of practical knowledge of tax and estate planning. Kristy has taught hundreds of continuing education classes to tax practitioners around the country. At CALT, she will continue to offer training through live seminars, but will expand her reach with frequent webinars and other educational offerings through the CALT website. Stay tuned as CALT will soon unveil more exciting changes enabling us to better serve the tax practitioner community.

Great news for Kristy and ISU-CALT, bad news for IRS service.

 

William Perez, Free Tax Software Available Through IRS Free File

Russ Fox, Regulating Tax Preparers Always Prevents Tax Preparer Fraud (Not True, of Course)

potleafTaxGrrrl, It’s No Toke: Colorado Pulls In Millions In Marijuana Tax Revenue.  I think popular support for pot prohibition, with its attendant violence, prison crowding, and other social costs, will continue to decline.  At some point the lure of revenue will overcome the reflexive instinct of politicians to preserve control over things.

Jason DinesenWhat’s So Bad About More People Preparing Their Own Taxes?  “My goal is to have clients who actually need a professional preparer, or at the very least, people who could prepare their own taxes but who like the comfort provided by having a professional take care of it for them.”

One of these is not like the others  Filing season 2014: Death, taxes, root canals and refunds.  (Kay Bell)

 

Carlton Smith, Tax Court dodges CDP record rule ruling (Procedurally Taxing)

Jim Maule, Cracking the Tax Protest Movement.  “The unfortunate thing about the tax protest movement is that most of the people in it are vulnerable folks who fall for the siren song of the ringleaders, just as those who support special tax breaks, even without benefitting from them, have fallen for the siren songs of those who procure special tax breaks for themselves and their clients.”

 

Joseph Henchman,  Idaho Considering Complicated and Gimmicky Job Creation Tax Credit.  (Tax Policy Blog) The best tax incentive is a simple, low-rate tax system without gimmicky incentives.

taxanalystslogoMartin Sullivan, If the Camp Tax Reform Bill Won’t Pass, Why Is It So Important? (Tax Analysts Blog):

The Camp discussion draft has changed the tax policy landscape like no other single document in the last three decades, for two reasons. First, it has burst the bubble of all the feel-good tax reformers who have been wasting our time promoting unrealistic tax plans. The Camp plan is the ultimate reality check on tax reform. It is far more complicated and painful than marketers of tax reform have told the public to expect. It is unlikely that any realistic tax reform would be any shorter or sweeter than the Camp draft.

The second reason the Camp reform is monumentally important is the extensive and detailed workmanship that went into it.   

I’m not convinced — I think the initial draft of a tax reform plan should be a lot more idealistic.  The cynical, politically-necessary modifications will arrive soon enough on their own, and conceding so many of them up front only invites more.

 

Jeremy Scott, Camp Hits Popular Deductions Hard (Tax Analysts Blog).  “The elimination of the state and local tax deduction is one of the larger revenue raisers in Camp’s plan.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 306

 

Quotable:

When the law interferes with people’s pursuit of their own values, they will try to find a way around. They will evade the law, they will break the law, or they will leave the country. Few of us believe in a moral code that justifies forcing people to give up much of what they produce to finance payments to persons they do not know for purposes they may not approve of. When the law contradicts what most people regard as moral and proper, they will break the law–whether the law is enacted in the name of a noble ideal such as equality or in the naked interest of one group at the expense of another. Only fear of punishment, not a sense of justice and morality, will lead people to obey the law.

Milton Friedman, via David Henderson.

 

News from the Profession: The Profession is Really Reaching For the “I Still Let My Mom Pick Out My Outfits” Demographic (Going Concern)

 

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

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

William Perez, Deducting Work-Related Expenses

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

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

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

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

Kay Bell,  Tax moves to make in March 2014

 

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

 

taxanalystslogoTax Analysts Blog is having a tax reform party:

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

Jeremy Scott, Comparing the Camp and Obama Bank Taxes:

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

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

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

Christopher Bergin, Tax Reform Only a Mother Could Love:

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

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

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

 

National Review, via InstapunditThe IRS Is the Problem:

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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 299

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/25/14: Temporary Permanence Edition. And: Reform week?

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2Some of us just have jobs.  Others have callings.  If you feel you have a calling, it can be very difficult to sway you from your vocation.  Sometimes not even a permanent federal court injunction will do the trick.  

A permanent injunction apparently didn’t stop an Iowan whose calling appears to be to spread the gospel of ESOP.  John L. Henss was already promoting his vision of Employee Stock Ownership Plans when I moved to Iowa as a young CPA in 1985.  By a remarkable coincidence, Iowa had more than its share of tax litigation involving flawed ESOPs over the years (see, for example, here, here and here).

One of the most remarkable cases was the 1992 case of Martin v. Feilen (CA-8, 965 F.2d 660), involving alleged self-dealing and fiduciary breaches among the trustees and administrators of Feilen Meats, an Iowa packer.  Among the defendants was John L. Henss.

Judge Loken authored the decision of the Eighth Circuit on the case, a decision that went badly for Mr. Henss (my emphasis):

Henss was the dominant decision-maker for FMC and the ESOP with respect to all or nearly all the transactions discussed in this opinion. He also holds himself out as an ERISA expert who has structured and provided other services and advice to hundreds of ESOPs. In addition to engaging in the actionable self-dealing we have described, Henss’s trial testimony displayed an appalling insensitivity to the proper role of ESOPs and ESOP fiduciaries. For example, Henss stated repeatedly his view that ESOP fiduciaries are exempt from ERISA’s “prudent man” rule when investing plan assets in an employer’s stock or property.

To summarize, we affirm the district court’s judgment that Henss and Stephen Thielking, and their personal corporations, breached their ERISA fiduciary duties in causing the ESOP to engage in the above-described Transactions Subject to ERISA, and we affirm the district court’s permanent injunction against Stephen Thielking and Stephen K. Thielking, C.P.A., P.C. We modify the permanent injunction against John Henss and John L. Henss C.P.A., P.C., to further enjoin them from acting as a service provider to any ERISA plan. 

So that ended Mr. Henss’ career in the ESOP field, right?  Never underestimate the tenacity of a man with a calling.  His name reappeared in another ESOP case yesterday in Tax Court.  It was a remarkable case, actually, in that a partnership had an Employee Stock Ownership Plan.  But when you have a calling, a lack of a corporation with actual stock won’t stand between you and an ESOP.  But mere tenacity isn’t enough, according to Judge Kerrigan (my emphasis):

Respondent contends that because K.H. Co. was a partnership for tax purposes, it did not have qualifying employer securities. The parties do not dispute that K.H. Co. was a partnership at all relevant times. Indeed, K.H. Co. admits that it filed Forms 1065, U.S. Return of Partnership Income, for tax years ended September 30, 1995 through 2004. Because K.H. Co. was a partnership for tax purposes and did not have any stock, it did not have any qualifying employer securities for purposes of sections 409(l) and 4975(e)(7) and (8) in which the plan could invest. Therefore, petitioner failed to operate as an ESOP pursuant to its terms when K.H. Co. became its employer, sponsor, and administrator. 

But aside from the obvious one, what problems might this ESOP have?  Perhaps the required ESOP stock appraisal, performed for 2000, 2001 and 2002 by none other than John L. Henss.  Apparently “permanent” had already worn off by then.  From the Tax Court:

John L. Henss was chosen to appraise K.H. Co. The administrative record includes appraisals and appraisal summaries for only 2000, 2001, and 2002. Written on “JLH” letterhead, the cover letter of each appraisal states: “At your request, we have prepared an appraisal valuation of KH Company, L.L.C.” The cover letters refer to the “appraised value of common stock of KH Company, L.L.C.” The cover letters are all dated, but none of them are signed.

Mr. Henss’ qualifications are not described in the appraisals. The appraisal summaries state merely: “The undersigned holds himself out to be an appraiser. The undersigned is an accountant who is familiar with the assets being appraised.” Mr. Henss did not sign or date the appraisals or the appraisal summaries. 

     Petitioner claims that Mr. Henss has degrees in English, accounting, and law. Petitioner further claims that Mr. Henss “has been preparing appraisals of stock for employee stock ownership plans for many clients for several years” and that he is the author of a book on ESOPs. Petitioner also contends that Mr. Henss was in all other respects a person who was “independent” as set forth in the statute, the regulations, and the Commissioner’s announcements on the subject.

Section 1.170A-13(c)(5)(i)(A), Income Tax Regs., provides that a qualified appraiser is an individual who includes on the appraisal summary a declaration that he or she holds himself or herself out to the public as an appraiser or performs appraisals regularly. Because there is no signature below the statement on the appraisal summaries that the “undersigned holds himself out to be an appraiser”, the plan failed to meet this requirement. 

Not to mention that he had been enjoined from providing services to ERISA plans — a term that would seem to cover appraisal services.

Whatever the nature of his calling, things haven’t universally gone well in court for clients who have used Mr. Henss.   Perhaps when selecting an ESOP service provider, one might well take federal court injunctions into consideration.

Cite: K.H. Co. LLC Employee Stock Ownership Plan, T.C. Memo 2014-31.

 

taxanalystslogoIt appears the House GOP will release its tax reform plan today.  Tax Analysts Blog is on it:

Martin Sullivan, Can Dynamic Scoring Save Tax Reform? Don’t Count on It

Jeremy Scott, How to Pay for Camp’s Tax Reform Plan

Clint Stretch, The Tax Reform Blame Game

Renu Zaretsky, House GOP Tax Plan Hits This Week; IRS Getting Worked Over But It’s Still Working.  This is a new daily news roundup at TaxVox.

Tax Justice Blog, State Tax Breaks Pile Up.  Government by special favor always has its fans.

 

William Perez, Reporting Unemployment Compensation Benefits

S-SidewalkTony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: 2013 Tax Planning Is Not Finished For S Corporations – How To Purge Problematic Earnings and Profits   

Kay Bell, Most taxpayers support tax preparer competency standards.  I find this a meaningless result, a question posed to people who have given approximately no thought to the issue and who have more developed views of Miley Cyrus than John Koskinen.

Peter Reilly,  New Jersey Gets To Second Guess IRS On Estate Tax Marital Deduction 

TaxGrrrl, Pharrell Williams & The Ultimate Charitable Hat Trick   

 

Liz Malm, Mississippi Lawmakers Consider Firearm Sales Tax Holiday (Tax Policy Blog).  Even for a good cause, sales tax holidays are a bad idea.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 292

Is there nothing the tax law can’t do?  Meanwhile in Canada, You Get a Tax Credit For Not Stinking the Joint Up (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/11/14: Employer mandate “shared responsibility” delayed for some. And: fresh scam!

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20121120-2It’s such a disaster, we’re only going to force some employers to do it right now. The IRS has issued final regulations on the employer health insurance mandate that delay their impact on companies with 50-100 employees until 2016.  The “shared responsibility provisions” — such a creepy name — will still apply to employers with 100 “full-time equivalent” employees in 2015.  The Wall Street Journal reports:

 Under the original 2010 health law, employers with the equivalent of at least 50 full-time workers had to offer coverage or pay a penalty starting at $2,000 a worker beginning in 2014. Last year, the administration delayed the requirement for the first time by moving it to 2015.

The new rules for companies with 50 to 99 workers would cover about 2% of all U.S. businesses, which include 7% of workers, or 7.9 million people, according to 2011 Census figures compiled by the Small Business Administration. The rules for companies with 100 or more workers affect another 2% of businesses, which employ more than 74 million people.

You’ll look in vain in either Sec. 4980H, the “shared responsibility” tax code section, or Sec. 1513 of the Affordable Care Act, which enacted 4980H, for anything that says the provision can take effect later than 2014.  Once again the administration is making it up as it goes in a tacit admission that Obamacare is a half-baked mess.  I hope somebody with 100 employees sues the IRS on equal-protection grounds to enjoin this politically-motivated selective enforcement.   To me it’s another clue that the individual mandate will also be delayed, and ultimately abandoned.

Paul Neiffer, Some ACA Relief for Employers with 50 to 99 Employees

Jason Dinesen, The Affordable Care Act and Small Businesses   

Martin Sullivan, Forget Obamacare for a Minute. Here’s Some Good News About Health Policy (Tax Analysts Blog).  

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

New filing season, same old scams.  Our area IRS Taxpayer Liason says this email is circulating:

Dear Applicant,

An Income Tax repayment is a refund of tax that you’ve overpaid.
Internal Revenue Service  ( IRS ) has received new information about your taxable
income you’ve overpaid too much tax through your job or pension in previous years.

There was a mistake with your tax, which an error occurred on your tax return,
and therefore your income reduced. Your employer also used the wrong tax code.

You are eligible to receive a refund of $2670.48 USD as your recent tax refund.
IRS will send you a repayment. You’ll get the repayment either by cheque in the post or by bank transfer.

Please click here to get your tax refund on your Visa or Mastercard now.

Note : Your refund can be delayed for a variety of reasons. For example submitting
invalid records or applying after the deadline.

Best Wishes,

IRS Tax Refund Service Team
Internal Revenue Service.

Of course it is a scam.  Some obvious clues: a real IRS notice doesn’t have to tell you that it’s dealing in “USD.”  We say “checks” in the US; you get “cheques” in Canada, the UK, or other old Commonwealth countries.  IRS doesn’t do refunds on credit cards.  And, of course, the most important clue:  the IRS will never initiate contact you with an e-mail or phone call.  If an email says it’s from the IRS, it’s not.

 

TaxGrrrl, Understanding Your Tax Forms: The W-2   

 

haroldHooray for Hollywood!  Movie Producer Peter Hoffman Charged With Film Tax Credit Fraud.  It involves Louisiana, which continues its co-dependent relationship with Hollywood with film tax subsidies.  Iowa, sadder but wiser, now prefers producer room and board subsidies to Film Tax Credits.

 

Howard Gleckman, Incoming Senate Finance Chair Wyden Outlines His Tax Agenda (TaxVox):

Speaking in Los Angeles to a conference sponsored jointly by the USC Gould School of Law and the Tax Policy Center, Wyden framed his tax agenda around several key issues:

Narrow the gap between taxation of investment income and ordinary income.

Significantly increase the standard deduction.

Simplify and enhance the refundable Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit.

Revise savings incentives by creating a new investment account for all Americans at birth, shift savings subsidies from high-income taxpayers to low- and moderate-income households, and consolidate and simplify the current tangle of existing tax-preferred savings incentives.

Enhance job training.

Restore Build America Bonds—a short-lived idea that partially replaced tax-exempt state and local bonds with direct federal subsidies. He’d also seek ways to encourage business to funnel overseas earnings into domestic infrastructure investment.

It’s a disappointing agenda from somebody considered a thoughtful center-left voice on tax policy.   Any tax on investment income is best understood as a double-tax, and I don’t think by “narrowing the gap” he means lowering ordinary inocme rates.  His second, third and fourth points are fine, but the “Enhance job training” and “Build America Bond” proposals are just political pinatas to be broken open by insiders.  If you want to see what jobs training dollars really accomplish, I refer you to Iowa’s own CIETC.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 278

checkboxJeremy Scott, Check the Box for Tax Avoidance (Tax Analysts Blog).  

The check-the-box rules allowed multinationals to create entities that were treated one way in a foreign jurisdiction and another by the United States. These entities, so-called hybrids, are at the core of companies like Apple’s tax strategies, and they have been used to bring about obscenely low effective tax rates (2.3 percent on $700 billion in foreign earnings, according to the Obama administration).

I think any corporate above zero is obscenely high.

 

Kyle Pomerleau, Proposal to Exempt Olympians’ Prize Money from Taxation: Good Politics, Wrong Solution (Tax Policy Blog)

Kay Bell, IRS takes a bite out of U.S. Olympic medalists’ winnings

 

Keith Fogg, Holding People Hostage for the Payment of Tax – Writ Ne Exeat Republica (Procedurally Taxing). No, he’s not talking about tax season.

 

News from the Profession: PwC Will Probably Be the First Accounting Firm to Replace Interns With Robots.  (Going Concern).  Makes sense, as they were the first to do so with partners.

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Tax Roundup, 1/14/2014: 4th quarter payment time! And: minimally-effective legislation.

Tuesday, January 14th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Hey, corporations: federal estimated taxes are due for the fourth quarter of 2013 tomorrow, so you will need to set up your EFTPS payment today!  Individual fourth-quarter payments are also due tomorrow.  Kay Bell explains How to avoid estimated tax penalties.

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

Misdirected priorities.  The Iowa Senate will reliably prevent any worthwhile income tax reform this year, while making a futile effort to increase Iowa’s minimum wage.  O. Kay Henderson reports:

Democrats like House Minority Leader Mark Smith of Marshalltown plan to press for an increase in the state’s minimum wage.

“Today, many Iowa parents are working two or three jobs that are low-paying, trying to put food on the table and pay the bills,” Smith said. “…We owe it to Iowa to raise the minimum wage, perhaps a dollar an hour now and more in the future. Our experience in Iowa has shown that raising the minimum wage has little effect on businesses, but gives working Iowans hope for a better future.”

David Henderson discusses a new study indicating that the Senate is pursuing an unwise idea:

- Only 11.3 percent of workers who would gain from the increase live in households officially defined as poor.
– A whopping 63.2 percent of workers who would gain were second or even third earners living in households with incomes equal to twice the poverty line or more.
– Some 42.3 percent of workers who would gain were second or even third earners who live in households that have incomes equal to three times the poverty line or more.

So a minimum wage boost, even on its own terms, isn’t really there to help the poor.  Of course the price of wages can no more be set effectively by decree than any other price.  It will result in either job loss, benefit loss, or increased workloads.  As one of the studies authors notes:

Because, to the extent they are able, employers will offset the higher minimum wage by reducing non-money components of worker compensation. Burkhauser notes that such an effect will not show up in the government data because the data do not measure these non-money parts of the compensation package. But that is small comfort to those who would find themselves with higher-paying but reduced-benefit jobs.

But because that obvious effect is hard for senators to understand, they’ll just pretend it isn’t there.

 

Scott Hodge, The U.S. Has More Individually Owned Businesses than Corporations.  And they earn more income, too:

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That’s why efforts to make “the rich” pay “their fair share” are job killers.

 

Looking to get Medicaid to pay for Grandma’s nursing home?  Be careful.  Roger McEowen reports “Iowa Supreme Court Reaffirms Extensive Reach of Medicaid Recovery in Granting Department’s Claim against Irrevocable Trust“:

This case again warns practitioners of the limitations of income-only irrevocable trusts in protecting assets from Medicaid recovery in Iowa. Even if clients are willing to (1) risk the look-back period, (2) pay potential gift taxes, (3) forfeit control of their assets, and (4) deprive their heirs of a stepped-up basis at death, they still may not achieve asset protection.

And really, “free” care isn’t necessarily all that great.

 

Courts uphold FATCA rules.  Court Rejects Banking Associations’ Challenge to Regulations Addressing Offshore Tax Avoidance.  (Department of Justice Tax Release) “The regulations require U.S. banks to report to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) information about accounts earning more than $10 of interest beginning in 2013 that are held by nonresident aliens of all countries with which the United States has a tax treaty or other information exchange agreement.”

20130419-1Of course not.  The IRS Scandal, Day 250: FBI Says No Criminal Charges in IRS Probe. (TaxProf)  They didn’t even contact the victims until recently, and they have apparently decided that, with respect to the disclosure of confidential information to ProPublica, the left-side reporting outfit, was just one of those things.  I doubt if you or I would get a pass for something like that.  That’s what happens when you have a Justice Department that is more a lookout than a watchdog.

 

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Using ‘Land Banking’ To Minimize Tax On Property Development   

Martin Sullivan, Stop Beating on the IRS.  (Tax Analysts Blog) I think the IRS gives at least as good as it gets.

So true: The IRS Has Better Things To Do than the RTRP Designation (Russ Fox)

William Perez discusses the Taxpayer Advocate’s 2013 Annual Report to Congress

Jason Dinesen, But Seriously — How Do Taxes Work If You’re Married to More than One Person?  Interesting question, but anybody in that situation has more pressing non-tax issues.

TaxGrrrl, Will Overstock Force IRS To Make Up Its Mind About Bitcoin? 

Jeremy Scott, Financial Product Reform Might Not Be Imminent (Tax Analysts Blog)

 

The Critical Question:  Should It Bother Us that Boeing Says It Needs a Tax Incentive to Make Its Planes Safe? (Tax Justice Blog).  It should bother us that they realistically think legislatures are dumb enough to believe that.

Good luck with that.  Monte Jackel Puts Tax Blog Behind Subscriber Firewall, reports the TaxProf, with a $350 annual subscription rate.  I am embarrassed to learn of this blog just now, and I wish him luck.  Meanwhile the Tax Update subscription rate continues to be $0.00 (except for those wonderful folks who pay a nominal monthly charge to get it delivered to their Kindle).  In light of Mr. Jackel’s move, though, I may double that rate.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/7/2014: Koskinen proposes voluntary IRS preparer certification. And: Obamacare, small business incubator?

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

The new IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, would like for IRS to oversee a voluntary preparer certification program if their preparer regulation power grab fails in the courts, reports Accounting Today. But he would still prefer the power grab:

“If you could require certification of preparers and some educational requirements, it would help taxpayers feel some level of confidence that preparers actually know what they’re doing, and the vast majority of them do,” Koskinen said during a conference call with reporters after he was sworn in ceremonially Monday by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew with an audience of many IRS employees in attendance. “My sense is that we should be able to provide that same educational training and that background to preparers. If you can’t require it, offer it, and if you complete the information, you get a certificate that says, ‘I have completed the IRS preparer course.’ I think that could be over time very valuable to preparers, and consumers could ask preparers, ‘Have you gone through the IRS training?’ Whatever happens with the court case, we ought to be able to move forward on that and provide taxpayers with as much assurance as we can that the preparers they are dealing with have met some kind of minimum standards.”

Somebody should point out to him that there already is such a program: the Enrolled Agent Program.  If the IRS runs the now-mothballed Registered Tax Return Preparer literacy test as a voluntary program, it will be a crippling blow to the more rigorous and underappreciated EA designation. Before he worries more about the competence of preparers, Commissioner Koskinen should fix his agency first (my emphasis):

“When I look at the impact of the budget and the implications of further cuts or what happens the next time there’s a sequester, the first thing that happens is the waiting time on a phone call goes up and our service goes down,” he said. “We try to get to 70 or 80 percent, but sometimes it gets as low as 50 or 60, which means at 50 percent that half the people who are calling are getting no answer at all and no satisfaction. It just seems to me that’s intolerable. Taxpayers deserve better, so we need to do whatever we can to provide the services that taxpayers need and expect. They ought to be able to dial the IRS number and get an answer promptly, and they ought to be able to get accurate information.”

Even the shabbiest storefront preparer at least processes more than half of its customers.

 

Why Iowa income tax reform will go nowhere this yearvia the Sioux City Journal:

Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said Senate Democrats would formulate a tax-relief approach geared toward income tax cuts for middle-class Iowans, not the two-tiered plan being pushed by Republicans.

“Nobody in my caucus is going to go along with a scheme that leaves middle-class Iowans carrying more than their share of the tax burden in Iowa so rich people can choose whichever one works the best for them,” Gronstal said.

The idea that the state income tax system is somehow a way to fight The Rich Guy is willfully dumb, with zero-income-tax South Dakota right next door.  Oh, and you know what another word for “the rich” is?  Employers. 

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

 

Megan McCardle poses the question “Will Obamacare Inspire Small-Business Ownership?“:

One theorized benefit of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is that it will unleash a new era of entrepreneurship. Undoubtedly, there are people in the U.S. who wanted to start a business but feared losing their health insurance. Now that they know they can buy it, presumably they’ll be freed to take risks without fearing that they could end up uninsured and uninsurable.

Unfortunately, we just don’t have that much empirical evidence. European nations with more generous social safety nets have lower rates of entrepreneurship than the U.S. does, even though a thought experiment might suggest that generous welfare programs would encourage people to take more risks. Nor did we see a radical unfurling of entrepreneurial energy in Massachusetts after RomneyCare.

She also points out that Obamacare is a kick in the head for businesses that actually succeed:

Meanwhile, of course, the law imposes significant new penalties for growing a company; anyone with more than 50 employees not only has to provide health insurance for their employees, but they also have to meet a substantial regulatory burden to demonstrate that they’re providing affordable coverage. That might discourage people from growing their firms. 

You know, it just might.

 

Russ Fox, Your Mileage Log — Start It Now (2014 Version).  You would not believe how much it helps in an IRS exam.  And doing it retrospectively when the IRS exam notice arrives tends to go badly.

Peter Reilly, Post Divorce Tax Intimacy Can Be Riskier Than Post Divorce Sex   Ewww…

Paul Neiffer, Roger’s Top Ten. “Roger McEowen from Iowa State University and their Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation (CALT) just listed his Top 10 Ag Law and Taxation Developments for 2014.”

William Perez, Resources for Preparing and Filing Form W-2 for Small Businesses

Robert D. Flach tells us WHAT’S NEW FOR NJ STATE TAXES FOR 2013

Kay Bell, Tax Carnival #124: Happy New Tax Year 2014

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Martin Sullivan, Goodbye Baucus, Hello Wyden (Tax Analysts Blog): “On tax reform the current chair of the Senate Finance Committee has been a laggard. Wyden will be a leader.”

Jeremy Scott, A To-Do List for Wyden (Tax Analysts Blog).  Tax Reform, Extenders, and the Tea Party investigation.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 243

 

Joseph Henchman, Parking and Transit Benefits Tax Exclusion Parity Expires Again; Congress Should Consider Permanent Fix.  (Tax Policy Blog).  “The tax code is probably the wrong place to be subsidizing commuters, and the entire provision ought to be eliminated. If Congress wishes to retain it, it ought to consider a non-expiring unified exclusion of all transportation commuting expenses.”

Tax Justice Blog, Corporate Income Tax Repeal Is Not a Serious Proposal.  Stawmen go up in flames.

Ben Harris, Rethinking Homeownership Subsidies (TaxVox).  He wants to revamp them.  I’d prefer to get rid of them.

 

TaxGrrrl, Cracker Barrel Waitress Serves Up Happiness, Gets Tip & More .  $6,000 more.

The Critical Question: Is College That Guy on eBay Who Never Paid For the Crap You Sent Him? (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/10/2013: Penalize everyone edition! And one for me, one from you.

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 

20120511-2IRS: shoot first, let the Tax Court sort it out later.  One of the most annoying features of exams in recent years is the IRS habit of imposing penalties on almost every underpayment, regardless of the cause or the taxpayers’ history of good compliance.  It’s nice to see a case like one in the Tax Court yesterday that held the IRS went too far.

The taxpayer were a married couple with a 50-year unblemished compliance history.  The wife’s employer switched from issuing paper W-2s to downloadable versions for 2010.  She didn’t get the memo, if there was one, and left her wage income off the couple’s 1040.  The IRS computers noticed and issued a notice and penalty; the taxpayers double-checked with their preparer and immediately paid the extra taxes, but they balked at the 20% underpayment penalty.

The Tax Court pointed out (all emphasis mine):

     Petitioners regard their tax situation as fairly complex, as they receive income from multiple sources, including two subchapter S corporations that lease farmland out of State. Petitioners worry about their ability to prepare accurate tax returns; accordingly, for many years, including 2010, petitioners have hired a certified public accountant (C.P.A.) to assist them in the preparation of their returns.

Petitioners are aware of the importance of recordkeeping, and for many years they have maintained a system for keeping track of documents that will be needed to prepare their returns. Thus, when petitioners received in the mail a tax document such as a Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, Form 1098, Mortgage Interest Statement, Form 1099-R, Distributions From Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc., or Schedule K-1, Beneficiary’s Share of Income, Deductions, Credits, etc., they would briefly review it and then place it in a dedicated tax file, along with other tax-relevant documents that they collected throughout the year. In February or March petitioners would meet with their C.P.A. and furnish him with their tax file. Once the return had been prepared, petitioners would again meet with the C.P.A. to review the return.

So the taxpayers had a pretty good system in place to ensure compliance.  Yet the missing W-2 fell through the cracks — partly because their preparer thought the wife had retired.

     Petitioners’ failure to notice the absence of a Form W-2 for Mrs. Andersen was an oversight on their part. However, the oversight was at least partially understandable given both the number of petitioners’ tax documents and the fact that Mrs. Andersen never received from either her employer or her employer’s payroll agent a paper copy of a Form W-2, something that she had previously received throughout her career. Nor had Mrs. Andersen received notification from either of those parties that the payroll agent had discontinued issuing Forms W-2 in paper form in favor of making electronic copies available on the Internet.

Petitioners also failed to notice, when they reviewed their return with Mr. Trader, that Mrs. Andersen’s wages were not included on line 7. But when, as part of the review process, petitioners and Mr. Trader compared the 2010 return with the 2009 return, the parties noted the similarity of the amounts of income and the absence of any anomaly, thereby suggesting that no error had occurred. Indeed, the difference between the amounts of income reported on petitioners’ 2010 and 2009 returns was less than $1,000, or two-thirds of one percent of their 2009 income, a difference that would not ordinarily give rise to any suspicion that income had not been fully reported.

So the mistake was one a reasonable human would make.  But the IRS thinks no mistake is reasonable, apparently.  Fortunately the Tax Court held otherwise:

Clearly, petitioners made a mistake. But we think it was an honest mistake and not of a type that should justify the imposition of the accuracy-related penalty. In short, we think that petitioners’ diligent efforts to keep track of their tax information, hiring a C.P.A. to prepare their tax return, reviewing their return with the C.P.A. when it was completed, and prompt payment of the deficiency upon receipt of the notice of deficiency, together with the other facts and circumstances discussed above, represent a good-faith attempt to assess their proper tax liability. Accordingly, we hold that petitioners have carried their burden with respect to the reasonable cause and good faith exception under section 6664(c)(1) and that petitioners are therefore not liable for the accuracy-related penalty under section 6662(a).

So: good records, full cooperation with a reliable preparer, and prompt payment of any underpaid taxes on discovery of the underpayment were key.  It’s ridiculous that it took a trip to Tax Court to get what seems like the only appropriate and fair result.  The IRS should stop being so trigger-happy with penalties.  Maybe a sauce for the gander rule, where the IRS and IRS personnel are as liable for penalties on incorrect assessments as taxpayers are for those on underpayments, would get them to see reason.

Cite: Andersen, T.C. Summ. Op. 2013-100

 

Kyle Pomerleau, CBO Report Confirms that the Federal Government Redistributes a Substantial Amount of Income  (Tax Policy Blog, my emphasis):

They also break down taxes paid and spending received by income quintile. When looked at this way, the redistribution becomes very clear. According to their analysis, those in the lowest quintile received $22,000 in spending minus taxes. In contrast, taxes exceeded spending by $56,000 in the highest quintile.

Source: Congressional Budget Office

Source: Congressional Budget Office

 

When private think tanks like the Tax Foundation issue this sort of report, people favoring higher taxes on “the rich” dismiss it.  CBO numbers are harder to credibly attack as partisan.

But we can always find a dark side.   CBO Finds Growing U.S. Income Inequality (Roberton Williams, TaxVox)

 

William Perez, Selling Losing Investments as Part of a Year-End Tax Strategy.

Tony Nitti, IRS Addresses Deductibility Of Organizational And Startup Costs Upon Partnership Technical Termination.  By saying no.

TaxGrrrl, Tax Scammers Continue To Dial Up Trouble For America’s Seniors.  This is a big problem.  Unless they have contacted you by mail first, the tax folks aren’t going to phone you.  Just hang up.

Paul Neiffer, How $12,000 Becomes $6,000 or less.  By putting it in farmland, if crop prices stay where they are.

 

Stephen Olsen,  IRS says Hom Gonna Getcha on FBAR too.  “The Swiss government and banks are folding like a bunch of cheap patio chairs.”

Phil Hodgen, Voluntary Disclosure and Frozen Swiss Bank Accounts

Brian Mahany,  How To Respond When Your Foreign Bank Asks About Your IRS Compliance

Jeremy Scott, Will FATCA Ever Go Into Effect? (Tax Analysts Blog) “FATCA should be put into effect as soon as possible, and the administration should stop bending separation of powers rules by using delays to functionally repeal unpleasant parts of statutes.”

Nah, just repeal the whole mess.

 

 

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Winter Carnival!  Tax Carnival #123: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Tax Time (Kay Bell)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 215

Um, no, was there one?  Remember the Tax Reform Act of 1995? (Clint Stretch, Tax Analysts Blog“What is certain is that the 1995 hope of creating a tax system that genuinely favors savings and investment is dead.”

It’s always a good Tuesday for a Robert D. Flach Buzz!

 

We hardly knew ye.  Farewell to Feel-Good Tax Reform (Martin Sullivan, Tax Analysts Blog)

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Tax Roundup, 11/5/13: IRS makes audits even more fun. And: the 400!.

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20080306-2.jpg

It’s not the same people every year.  High Income, Low Taxes and Never a Bad Year (James B. Stewart, New York Times, via the TaxProf.  A New York Times columnist comes through with all of the cliches about “the rich” in one column.

 Plenty of people did get hit in 2009, including people at the very top. But all things are relative. The fortunate 400 people with the highest adjusted gross incomes still made, on average, $202 million each in 2009, according to Internal Revenue Service data. And this doesn’t even count income that doesn’t show up as adjusted gross income, such as tax-exempt interest.

Yet the top 400 paid an average federal income tax rate of less than 20 percent, far lower than the top rate of 35 percent then in effect.

They also paid a lower rate than the top 1 percent, which were people with adjusted gross incomes in 2009 of at least $344,000. These affluent but hardly superrich taxpayers paid on average just over 24 percent of their adjusted gross income in federal income tax. Even the top 0.01 percent, people earning at least $1.4 million, paid 24 percent.        

You’d get the impression that this is the same top 400 every year, paying low taxes as they go.  That’s a wrong impression.

Most people who have spectacular incomes do so only once, usually because they sell their business or take it public.  That normally is how you hit that top 400.  Yet the “never a bad year” line implies that they have this kind of income year after year.

That income is capital gains, which are taxed at a lower rate.  That’s no mystery or conspiracy, that’s just math.

Furthermore, those capital gains are often one of two taxes on the income.  C corporation income is taxed twice — first on the corporation tax return, and again when retained earnings are distributed as dividends or recovered as capital gains.  And to the extent the capital gains reflect inflation, they are aren’t a tax on income at all; they are a confiscation of principal.

Mr. Stewart is rehashing numbers from 2009, when the top federal rate on capital gains was 15%.  It was increased for 2013 to 23.8%, nearly a 60% increase.   Yet because ordinary income rates went up too, the Famous 400 will always have lower rates, and Mr. Stewart will be able to write the same lame column five years from now.

Of course, many economists think that capital gain rates were too high even before the rate increase.  But maybe that’s true only unless it really matters.


20130419-1The IRS has figured out a way to make audits even more fun!  Tax Analysts reports ($link) “The IRS Large Business and International Division on November 4 released mandatory, stringent new procedures for enforcing information document requests (IDRs) and issuing summonses, allowing examiners almost no discretion even at the manager level.”

The new procedure requires the IRS to issue a summons on a tight deadline when an “information document request” (IDR) isn’t promptly met:

If the IDR response remains incomplete by the delinquency notice deadline, the examiner is required — again without exception — to issue a pre-summons letter within 14 calendar days of the delinquency notice deadline. The pre-summons letter sets another new deadline, which can’t be more than 10 calendar days away unless the director of field operations grants approval.

Former IRS official Larry Langdon warns:

Taxpayers who may have trouble meeting proposed deadlines in a draft IDR “need to immediately escalate that draft IDR before it goes final, because in effect if it goes final, they’re stuck with those dates,” Langdon said. At that point, he added, no amount of negotiation will stop the new enforcement process from proceeding.

Lovely.  Of course the IRS won’t stop conducting audits during busy season, or during client reporting deadline periods, but that’s just too bad, apparently.

Link: LB&I-04-1113-009.

 

Paul Neiffer,  Everything You Want to Know About Net Investment Income Tax (or Not)

If you have 1,000 acres of good farmland, it only takes $250 per acre cash rent to put you over the threshold.  Then, after a few years of cash renting, the farmer elects to sell his farmland.  In this case, almost all of the gain will be both subject to the 3.8% net investment income tax and the 20% maximum federal tax plus state income taxes.

But that year the farmer will be “rich,” so he’s fair game, right?

 

Jason Dinesen, Nebraska Tax Guidance for Same-Sex Married Couples   

William Perez, Estate and Gift Tax Figures for 2014

 

Russ Fox, The Wrong Kind of Education Leads to ClubFed

 A California tax preparer decided he wanted to increase refunds for his clients. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that–I want my clients to get the maximum possible refund allowed under the law. It appears that Kenyon Williams forgot those last three words; he was found guilty of two counts of wire fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft earlier today.

That “under the law” thing gets in the way of so many great ideas…

 

TaxGrrrl, Saying ‘I Do’ To Tax Planning   What the tax-savvy bride is wearing, and when.

Andrew Lundeen, Scott Hodge, Individuals Receive 91 Percent of Tax Expenditures (Tax Policy Blog):

20131105-1

 

Tax Justice Blog, More Illinois Companies Trying to Extort Tax Breaks.  Given Illinois’ newly-increased taxes, it’s partly self-defense, but you can bet they’re shaking down Iowa too.

Donald Marron, Time to Fix the Budget Process (TaxVox)

 

tack shelterJeremy Scott, What the Daugerdas Verdict Means for Tax Shelter Promotion (Tax Analysts Blog):

While it might have secured a few convictions, and even jail time, in the KPMG and Daugerdas cases, it also lost face, along with time and resources, for its relatively modest success. Instead of spending many years to secure partial convictions on a few practitioners, perhaps the government’s time would be better spent attacking tax shelter transactions on the front end, at the exam and regulatory drafting levels.

If tax planning and compliance get you prosecuted, you’ll have a hard time getting people to perform tax planning and compliance.

 

Phil Hodgen’s Exit Tax Book: Chapter 6 – Taxation of Specified Tax-Deferred Accounts

Jack Townsend,  India Signs OECD Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters.  Bank secrecy isn’t.

 

Peter Reilly,  SPLC Calls Family Research Council Hate Group – Should IRS Take Action?  I think SPLC has done quite enough for the FRC already, thank you.  Peter wisely notes “The IRS teaming up with the FBI to identify hate groups does not sound like a confidence inspiring plan to me.”

Carnival Time at Kay Bell’s Place!  Tax Carnival #122: Return to Standard Tax Time

 

Things you didn’t learn in Geography Class: Ireland Is a Bagel (Martin Sullivan, Tax Analysts Blog)

 

News From the Profession: Guess Which Big 4 Firm Allegedly Just Punked Its Rejectees (Going Concern).  When I was interviewing out of school, I knew one visit went badly when they sent me a bill for my hotel room.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/29/13: The case against the research credit. And no tax break for bike-shares.

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
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Flickr image courtesy Windy_ under Creative Commons license

Martin Sullivan, ‘Extortion’ and the Research Credit (Tax Analysts Blog) is the first prominent tax commentator I’ve seen who sees the research credit the much the way I do (my emphasis):

The problem is not with the theory of the credit but with its execution. I have been around a while and have researched the research credit since its inception in 1981. My take is that the essential problem of the credit has only grown worse: It is impossible to find a practical definition of subsidy-worthy research in the 21st century. It is less clear than ever where corporate research ends and other innovation-inducing functions like design and software development, begin. There is little empirical work regarding why, in this modern economy in which investment spending defies categorization, some business-building activity should be subsidized and others not. This inability to target incentives to where they should go means scarce resources are inappropriately and arbitrarily assigned to certain activities, certain businesses, and certain industries while others are left in the cold. What was intended as an incentive for productive activity by clever scientists and engineers turns out to be an incentive for totally unproductive activity by clever lawyers, accountants and lobbyists.

So true — though the accountants do use clever engineers to help turn stuff businesses do anyway into “research.”  I’m convinced that the credit is almost entirely harvested by businesses doing what they would do anyway.

Repeal of the research credit could fund a reduction of approximately 1 percentage point in the corporate tax rate. The benefits of the credit as it works in practice are questionable. In contrast, a reduction in the corporate rate would undoubtedly be a big plus for America’s competitiveness.

That’s right.  The IRS is institutionally incapable of distinguishing between worthwhile “research” and other spending.  If the IRS can’t competently police a tax spiff, get rid of the spiff and lower the rates for everyone.

 

Andrew Lundeen, Scott Hodge,  About Half of Tax Returns Report Less than $30,000 (Tax Policy Blog)

The median taxpayer earns roughly $33,000. This means that half of the 145 million tax filers (about 72 million or so) earn less than $33,000 and half earn more. While only about 14 percent of taxpayers earn more than $100,000, they pay the vast majority of all income taxes in America today.

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Compare that with who pays:

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In other words, The bottom half of the distribution’s income tax burden is actually negative.

 

TaxGrrrl,  10 Things You Need To Know About Getting Married & Taxes

Kay Bell, A clearer look at maximizing medical tax deductions

Paul Neiffer,  Setup Your Deferred Payment Contracts Now:

The election is on a contract by contract basis so it is important to have at least a couple contracts in the $20-30,000 range to allow for the correct amount of adjustments to income.  If you have only one contract for $150,000, that may not give you the best flexibility.   

It’s one of those sweet tax planning tools that would be bizarre and subject to penalties for most of us, but is just Tuesday for farmers.

 

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Flickr image courtesy Galpalval under Creative Commons license

Robert W. Wood, Bike Share Programs Are Not Tax-Free, Says The IRS  (Via the TaxProf).  The IRS says bikes borrowed from rent-a-bike stands, like those in downtown Des Moines, can’t be a reimbursed as a “qualified transportation fringe benefit.”  In contrast, expenses of personally-owned bikes qualify.

 

Phil Hodgen is running a series on the tax effects of expatriating.  He’s gotten ahead of me, so I’ll start at the beginning and add a link every day, starting with  Chapter 1 – A Quick Overview of the Exit Tax.

Jack Townsend, Does Our Criminal Justice System Find Truth Well And What is the Tolerance for Error?  “The question is whether our traditional criminal justice system for finding truth by triers of fact — usually juries but sometimes judges — really do it well and how much confidence can we have that they do it well.”

 

Jeremy Scott, Revenue Divide Will Likely Derail Conference Committee (Tax Analysts Blog)

TaxProf,  The IRS Scandal, Day 173

Tax Justice Blog, PricewaterhouseCoopers Report Quietly Confirms Low Effective Tax Rates for Corporations But Directs Attention to Irrelevant Figures

Linda Beale,  Carried Interest — a tax privilege for the rich whose end time has come.  Except it’s not just for “the rich,” and it would do more harm than good.

 

Keith Fogg, Vince Fumo: IRS Finding of Jeopardy (Procedurally Taxing)  “As mentioned in a previous post, the Service recently invoked the rarely used jeopardy assessment procedure against former state Senator Vince Fumo in connection with the activities leading to his criminal conviction.”

Robert D. Flach says it’s TIME FOR YEAR-END PLANNING.

 

News from the Profession:  “Is the CFO’s quitting time after 3 pm?” Coming to an Auditor’s Questionnaire Near You (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/22/13: Birthday edition! And an unappealing appeal.

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013 by Joe Kristan

The Internal Revenue Code of 1986 celebrates its 27th birthday today.

President Reagan signs PL 99-514, the Tax Reform Act of 1986.

The authors of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 felt so good about their work amending the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 that they gave it a new name.  And it had some wonderful features compared to what we have now:

- Top marginal rate of 28%, with no stupid phase-outs of itemized deductions or exemptions.

- No capital gain-ordinary income rate differential – tolerable with low marginal rates, and a great simplifier of tax planning.

- It eliminated a whole bunch of complexity, including investment tax credits, and it simplified the life of preparers everywhere by making miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to a 2% of AGI floor, saving us the pain of telling clients they can’t deduct the Swimsuit Issue as an investment expense.

Sure, it had more complexity than I’d care for.  The complicated passive loss rules came in then, on top of existing complicated at-risk rules.  Phase-outs of the passive loss rules imposed hidden marginal tax brackets that helped inspire many awful imitations, like the phase-outs reenacted this year of itemized deductions and personal exemptions.   The 1986 Act brought us inventory capitalization rules, and it left in place the alternative minimum tax.  But at the time, it looked like a good start at much better tax policy.  Now it looks like a high-water mark.

 

Martin SullivanTax Policy In a Knowledge Based Economy (Tax Analysts Blog):

The skeptical accounting profession rarely allows worker training, brand-building, software, and business restructuring to be capitalized, but in so doing it is unwittingly keeping the most important sources of value out of view of managers and stockholders.

Actually, smart managers and investors know about these things, but financial statements aren’t very good at measuring them.

 

20120801-2Tax Court leaps back to work, releasing seven new cases on its first day back after the shutdown.  They include a Judge Holmes case illustrating how good news on the estate tax return can mean bad news on a later income tax return; that case will get its own post this week.

 

TaxGrrrl, Losing Your Identity In Five Easy Steps. Step One: Go To The Doctor.  “And it can all start out with something as simple as handing out your Social Security number at the doctor’s office”

Jason Dinesen, Incorporate Your Life? Not So Fast  “…simply having a business entity DOES NOT make everything in your life tax deductible.”

William Perez, Payment Plan Options. “The IRS will automatically grant a payment plan if your balance owed is under $50,000 and the monthly payments will fully pay the outstanding balance in 72 months or less.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 166

Jack Townsend,  Ex Top UBS Banker Arrested; Likely to be Extradited

Kay Bell, Amazon tax now out in Illinois, coming Nov. 1 to Wisconsin

 

Not only is it the birthday of The Code, it’s Buzz Day at Robert D. Flach’s place!

The Critical Question (Really): Is Obamacare in a Death Spiral? (Megan McArdle): “Another week has passed, which apparently means that it’s time for another terrifying article from Sharon LaFraniere, Ian Austen and Robert Pear on the federal health-care exchanges.”

 

SuccessDetermined Iowa City man may be first in state to buy insurance via glitch-plagued public exchange (Des Moines Register):

Voss said Monday that he tried more than 100 times before finally being able to sign onto healthcare.gov, type in his personal information, compare insurance plans, and purchase a policy. 

I wonder if Amazon.com ever tried that?

 

20121226-1Speaking of train wrecks,  McCoy gives up on train funds (Des Moines Register).  An Iowa legislator gives up on spending $310 million to build a money-losing, slower and more expensive competitor to the Megabus.  Now he can concentrate on getting that downtown zeppelin port that is so critical to the economic future of Des Moines.

 

The Cougars of Madison County. No, Francesca Johnson isn’t back on the prowl.

 

Hey, I said I’m sorry!  That you want to put me in jail.  A New Mexico man convicted of tax crimes and of collecting fraudulent farm payments maybe should have left well enough alone, if you can think a five-year prison sentence is well-enough.  But Billy Melot appealed, with potentially dire consequences.  DailyJournal.net reports:

A southern New Mexico farmer and businessman could face more time in prison because a federal appeals court on Monday tossed out his five-year sentence for failing to pay more than $25 million in federal taxes and fraudulently collecting farm subsidies.

However, the court said a federal district court judge erred in calculating Melot’s sentence by concluding that he had accepted responsibility for his crimes. Judges have the discretion of imposing a less severe sentence when they make that determination.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, the court said, Melot had potentially faced more than 20 years in prison.

The appeals court opinion noted that if Mr. Melot accepted responsibility, he had a funny way of showing it:

Since his conviction, Melot has tenaciously opposed the Government’s efforts to collect the restitution he was ordered to pay by the district court, attempting to thwart the collection of more than $18 million in outstanding income tax assessments and more than $6.5 million in outstanding excise tax assessments. In 2012, a federal magistrate judge issued a certification of criminal contempt against him in the ancillary collection proceedings, finding he “actively and intentionally participated in a scheme to fraudulently create a third party interest in his properties with the intention of defrauding the Court, sabotaging the orderly administration of justice and delaying the United States’ lawful efforts to recover the judgment as ordered by the Court.”

Mr. Melot is 61 years old.  If his sentence is stretched to 20 years, he won’t have much time to enjoy any money he keeps away from the feds.

 

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Tax Update, 10/8/13: One week left! What to do if the K-1 never comes. And: money for Harold Hill!

Tuesday, October 8th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130311-1Extended 1040s are due one week from today.  There is no second extension available.

I know, the timing might not be good.  But if it hasn’t been good enough to get your tax information together since January, it will probably never be good.   If you don’t scrape up every loss at the slots or every item you dropped off at Goodwill, it doesn’t matter.

You probably aren’t waiting on K-1s anymore.  Tax returns for partnerships, S corporations and Trusts with income reportable on 1040s  were due September 16.  You should have all of your information in hand, and it’s just a matter of spending an hour or two getting it together and to your waiting preparer.  If you are still “working on it,” you’re either overdoing it or not really working on it.

If you don’t have all of your information — if, for example, you are still missing a K-1 — get ready to file as best you can without it.  If it’s a small K-1, you probably can just ignore it.  If it’s a big one, then talk to your preparer.  If it will only generate a passive loss that you can’t use, just go ahead and file without it by October 15, as it won’t affect the amount of your 2012 tax.  If you believe the K-1 will show taxable income when it is finally released, you should talk it over with your preparer.  Use any information you have to take a shot at what the tax will be.

Big or small, income or loss, be sure to file Form 8082 with your return to tell the IRS that you are filing using numbers that aren’t on a K-1.  It helps protect you from penalties.

In any case, don’t ignore the K-1, or pretend it will be zero when you know better.  That doesn’t work.  File by the extended due date.  You’ll get much better results by filing on time and amending if necessary than by filing late.  The penalties for late payment if you owe on an amended return — if any — won’t exceed 1/2% of the underpayment per month.  The penalties on a late-filed return run to 5% per month.

 

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Harold Hill gets a check.  The Iowa Film Tax Credit is repealed, but it is still stimulating the economy for Iowa attorneys and small-time filmmakers.  The Des Moines Register reports that the state has agreed to pay $225,000 to a Rhode Island man miffed that Iowa stopped the film credit gravy train:

The settlement is with financers of the movie “2001 Maniacs: Field of Screams,” which is available on Netflix.

The settlement will partially resolve a lawsuit brought by Anthony Gudas of Providence, R.I., who said his company, Tax Credit Finance, invested money in four film projects based on contracts with the state where tax credits were never paid.

The lawsuit for the three other film projects continues.

The film credit program caused a brief frenzy of production activity before it collapsed following revelations of taxpayer funds buying luxury cars for filmmakers.  A state audit showed that about 80% of the $36 million in credits issued by the program were improper and that oversight was almost non-existent.  Seven film figures ultimately copped pleas or were convicted at trial for cheating on the program, with two filmmakers earning 10-year prison terms.

And the three remaining lawsuits?  From the Register story:

Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Thompson in December said for three of the films, producers had not submitted documentation the state needed for the projects to qualify for the credits.  And, in the fourth, state officials said the producer, Harel Goldstein of California, had created false invoices. Goldstein later pled guilty to felony fraud and forgery charges in connection to the invoices.

So the program was looted; “But some benefits can’t just be measured on a dollar-for-dollar basis.” Don’t you wish we were giving more money to Hollywood?

 

Grover’s coming to town.   Tax opponent Grover Norquist to speak in Iowa Wednesday.  (Des Moines Register). I won’t be able to attend, but it should be interesting.

 

Wikipedia image courtesy Tallent Show under Creative Commons license

Wikipedia image courtesy Tallent Show under Creative Commons license

TaxGrrrl, The View From The Trenches: What The Shutdown Has Meant So Far For Taxpayers:

My advice to taxpayers: pretend things are normal. Yes, that feels nearly impossible. But to the extent possible, file as usual and make payments as usual. But don’t get too complacent: all of those meetings, calls and audits will be rescheduled eventually: it’s a delay, not a complete reprieve.

Sound advice.

William Perez, IRS Shut Down, Week 2

 

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: Medical Dependent 

 

Kay Bell, Tax Carnival #121: TaxtoberFest 2013.  Looks delicious!

 

20131003-1Andrew Lundeen,  Obamacare Raises Marginal Tax Rates above 50 Percent.  Not just for “the rich,” either.

Megan McArdle,  Republicans Didn’t Sabotage Health Exchanges, Obama Did.  “In short, the administration passed a law with an unrealistically aggressive implementation schedule. And because of the way it passed it, it had no way to finesse that deadline.”  But it would be horrible blackmail for Congress to delay it for a year.

 

 

 

Clint Stretch, Tax Reform Is on Furlough (Tax Analysts Blog).   “As long as Congress is fighting over a continuing resolution and the debt limit, there is no oxygen in the room for other initiatives. Members will be stuck on their talking points, and constituents won’t be thinking about tax reform.”

Robert W. Wood, Bitcoin Is Biggest Loser In Silk Road Meltdown—IRS Wins Big

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 152

Jeremy Scott, It Isn’t Time to Bury the Income Tax Just Yet (Tax Analysts Blog)

Tax Justice Blog,  State News Quick Hits: Brownback Under Fire, and More

 

The Critical Question: Should Small Business Have Veto Power Over Corporate Tax Reform? (Martin Sullivan, Tax Analysts Blog)

Robert D. Flach has his Tuesday Buzz on!

 

Note: There will be no Tax Roundup tomorrow.  See you Thursday!

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Tax Roundup, 9/17/2013: Public pensions, floods and flamingos.

Tuesday, September 17th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 Monday Map: Funded Ratio of State Public Pension Plans (Joseph Henchman, Richard Borean, Tax Policy Blog).  It looks at the funding of state pension plans using the 3.2% 15-year Treasury Bond rate to discount pension obligations.  This is a conservative rate, but a lot closer to reality than the 8% rate still used in some states.

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Iowa’s pension obligations are only 43/% funded under this standard — and that’s better than most states.  Public defined benefit plans are a menace and, ultimately, a lie.

Related  Defined benefit badminton

 

Glenn Reynolds,  Clean up the IRS:

 Emails recovered by the House Ways and Means Committee demonstrate that the targeting of Tea Party groups — and of voter-integrity groups — was orchestrated from the top of the agency. Rather than being conducted by a few rogue employees in the Cincinnati office of the IRS, the Tea Party targeting was regarded by Lerner as something “very dangerous” politically, and she observed that “Cincy should probably NOT have these cases.”

The emails also reveal Lerner’s concerns that the Democrats might lose their Senate majority, and her hopes that the Federal Election Commission might “save the day” by interfering with right-leaning grassroots activity. The IRS also shared information with the FEC, something not permitted by statute, raising questions about just how politicized both agencies were.

Ms. Lerner, of course, is a former FEC staffer who may have used her position there to try to run politicians she didn’t like out of the business.  So much for the “Rogue agents in Cincinnati” story.

 

Joseph Henchman,  Detroit Free Press Explains Why Detroit Went Bankrupt.  They list a lot of mistakes, but this one jumps out:

Outrageously high payments to incentivize economic development deals, with extensive bureaucracy slowing down approvals of everything.

I’m not at all convinced that Iowa can do this any better.

 

Martin Sullivan, U.S. Tax Exceptionalism (Tax Analysts Blog):

A new study from the OECD shows how the world is cutting corporate taxes and raising consumption taxes. By refusing to budge in this direction, the United States is becoming less competitive…

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For economists this is a no-brainer. The corporate tax–with its arbitrary and excessive burden on the profits of certain businesses–is our most damaging tax. A broad-based consumption tax, like a VAT — which unlike the income tax is not inherently biased against saving and investment — causes the least harm to the economy.

Economists do favor consumption taxes, but there are two potentially insurmountable obstacles to a U.S. VAT.  It would not be “progressive” enough for liberals, and conservatives and libertarians will suspect that it will just be on top of income taxes, rather than a replacement for them.

 

Tony Nitti, IRS Provides Tax Relief To Victims Of Colorado Storms

Kay Bell, Deadly flooding devastates Colorado

William Perez, Missing a Tax Document for 2012?

TaxGrrrl,  Are You Ready For Some (Charity) Football? Defense, Donations & Deductions 

Leslie Book, IRS Issues New Guidance on Requests for Equitable Relief (Procedurally Taxing)

 

TaxProf, Michael Jackson’s Estate Raises Novel Issue of Valuation of Celebrity Images

Russ Fox,   California Is #1…For Highest Marginal Tax Rates for S-Corps

 

Jeremy Scott, The Faltering Financial Transaction Tax and the Future of Wall Street (Tax Analysts Blog):

Whether a tax on transactions is better than a tax on activities or a direct levy on banks isn’t really important. What is important is that the financial sector, which bears a disproportionate share of the blame for the deep recession that is still affecting employment and growth, share in the costs of insuring against future bailouts and be forced to restructure itself to better insulate the rest of the economy from excessive risk.

How about we stop bailing them out instead?

 

Peter Reilly,  Occupy Wall Street Anniversary Focuses On Robin Hood Tax.   That’s “a financial transaction tax of 0.5% that will raise hundreds of billions of dollars a year that puts people before profit and helps stabilize the financial markets.”  Yeah, right.

I think Robin Hanson gets the real motivation for such a tax:

So somehow, conveniently, we just wouldn’t find that their unequal wealth evoked as much deeply felt important-social-issue-in-need-of-discussing moral concern in us. Because, I hypothesize, in reality those feelings only arise as a cover to excuse our grabbing, when such grabs seem worth the bother.

 

It’s Tuesday, so it’s Buzz Day at Robert D. Flach’s Place.  This edition includes a link to Jim Maule’s 20-part series on partnership tax.

 

Why I favor pink flamingos.  From KCCI.com:

Police say a rare copper sculpture from the front yard of a Des Moines home last week has been found cut into pieces at an area scrap metal yard.

The Des Moines Register reports that the abstract sculpture by the French artist Dominique Mercy had been valued at nearly $8,000.

Police say it was stolen sometime early Friday. Police found the sculpture at a scrap yard on Monday, but it had already been ruined.

The sculpture weighed between 40 and 50 pounds and was taken from the pedestal it sat on.

It must have been pretty abstract if the scrapyard couldn’t figure out that it was art, instead of scrap.
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Tax Roundup, 8/27/2013: This isn’t Butte edition. And: you’re not your mom!

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Flickr image by Ellenm1 under Creative Commons licenseThe Great Iowa RV Roundup.  Iowa has caught on to recreational vehicle owners who have registered their units in Montana to save taxes and fees.  Now the Department of Revenue is giving these Iomontanans a chance to come clean and avoid harsh newly-enacted penalties for misregistration.

From the Des Moines Register:

State officials say the offer would require owners to pay a 5 percent vehicle registration fee, based on the purchase price. They also would pay a penalty of 10 percent of the fee.

So under the terms of the settlement, the owner of a $200,000 motor home registered in Montana would pay a $10,000 fee to properly register it in Iowa. On top of that, a $1,000 penalty would be assessed.

Violators who don’t accept the settlement could face fraud charges, ranging from a simple misdemeanor to a felony. They can also be hit with fines equal to 75 percent of the fee that was evaded. For example, if someone should have paid $25,000 on a plush $500,000 motor home, they could be slapped with total fees and penalties of $43,750.

I think you could buy a passable used camper for $43,750.

 

Richard Borean, Scott Drenkard, Monday Map: Combined State and Local Sales Tax Rates

c7ketyi3

 

Iowa’s just about in the middle.

 

You’re not your Momma.  While mothers love to help out their children, a St. Louis-area man seems to have expected too much of Mom when he filed his tax returns.  Stltoday.com reports:

To reduce his tax liability, he claimed $18.2 million in losses associated with a number of entities, including Morriss Holdings, MIC Aircraft, Tech Aircraft and MIC Real Estate, that were limited liability companies established for his mother. His mother had already claimed the losses for her own benefit in previous years, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

There are some things Mom just can’t do for you.  The man pleaded guilty to tax evasion charges yesterday.

 

Martin Sullivan, New Hampshire’s Value Added Tax (Tax Analysts Blog):

But where New Hampshire really shines is with its Business Enterprise Tax. Like the BPT, the BET applies to all business regardless of legal form. Newly-elected Republican Governor Steve Merrill was the driving force behind original passage of the tax in 1993. The original rate was 0.5 percent. It is now 0.75 percent. The tax base is the sum of: (1) compensation paid to employees; (2) interest paid on debt; and (3) distributions to shareholders and owners. Except for the exclusion of undistributed profits from the tax base, the sum of these components is a firm’s value-added tax.

I still prefer the Tax Update Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

Rapper “Fat Joe” reports to prison to serve a four-month tax crime sentence. (TMZ.com)

TaxProf,  The IRS Scandal, Day 110

Roberton Williams,  Honey, I Shrunk the AMT (But It’s Not Gone) (TaxVox):

So the AMT lives on, complicating the tax returns of more Americans every year. For many, it will come as a nasty surprise: new AMT taxpayers often learn about the bonus tax only when a letter from the IRS tells them they owe extra tax plus interest and possibly penalties. 

The AMT amounts to a big lie.  They pretend to give you a tax break, but then AMT makes it go away.

 

Jeremy Scott, Cruz’s Push to Defund Obamacare Could Derail Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog)

TaxGrrrl, IRS To Michael Jackson’s Estate: Who’s Bad?   A $700 million estate tax battle.

Paul Neiffer,  Installment Sale Update, clarifying the application of the Obamacare Net Investment Income Tax on active farmers.

Kay Bell, Spaniards hot under collar after government taxes the sun 

Me, Charity may begin at home, but not with the down payment.  A “down payment assistance” outfit comes to grief in Tax Court.

 

News you can use.  Open Atheists Already Collect Tax-Free Clergy Housing Allowances  (Peter Reilly)

Career tips: Partners Hate Nothing More Than Employees Skipping Training Because They’re Working, Nursing a Hangover (Going Concern)  It’s a good thing we don’t have national training at our firm!

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/19/2013: You may already be a Californian! And the amazing tax secrets of Jeff Bezos.

Monday, August 19th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130819-1California is so short of cash, they aren’t just looking under their sofa cushions for spare change.  They’re looking under yours, too. Paul Neiffer reports that California is Out of Control!

In Swart Enterprises, Inc. v. Franchise Tax Board, the taxpayer was an Iowa  corporation with a farming activities in Kansas and Nebraska.  They also had various passive business investments including an .02% interest in a California LLC (Cypress) that acquired, held, leased and disposed of capital equipment in various states.  This LLC had 435 members of which 384 members were out-of-state.

The Franchise Tax Board asserted that Swart had enough business activity through their .02% interest in the Cypress LLC to require the filing of a California LLC tax return.  Normally LLC’s filed as a partnership do not owe any state tax, however, California charges $800 simply for the privilege of filing a return.  In addition, based upon the gross revenue of the LLC an additional fee is owed.  Since Swart was a corporation, that particular fee would not apply, but they would owe the $800 filing fee plus interest and penalties plus paying a person to prepare the tax return.

 That’s one of the dangers of investing in a partnership.  You buy the chance to pay state taxes in any state where the partnership does business.  In most states it may not matter because it the tax may round down to zero, but even a whiff of California can cost you $800.

Russ Fox has more at California Goes After Flow-Throughs with Passive Investments in California.

 

Stephen J. Dunn, Fraudulent Tax Returns?:

The IRS most commonly learns of alleged fraud in a tax return from an insider—a disgruntled former employee, spouse, or romantic interest of the taxpayer.  In one case, the taxpayer’s estranged daughter came to the taxpayer and asked him for a job.  The taxpayer hired her, and eventually placed her in charge of a business.  But the daughter mismanaged the business, and the taxpayer closed it.  The prodigal daughter became enraged, and reported her father to the Internal Revenue Service. 

Business tax fraud is hard to do without accomplices.  Each “helper” is one more chance for the IRS, one more potential informer.  Payroll fraud, where you pay employees “in cash,” with no taxes, may be the worst, as it gives every employee an opportunity to snitch.

 

Is the concept of “deadweight loss” a right-wing conspiracy?  “I am sorry, but this is absurd” (Tyler Cowen).  

Deadweight loss” is economic loss from tax, as  Megan McArdle explains here.  Mr. Cowan says it exists, even if fellow economist Charles Manski doesn’t care for it:

Manski also ignores that a belief in deadweight loss is fully compatible with the view that government spending may bring economic benefits.  In fact you often cannot understand the benefits of (some) government spending without first grasping the deadweight loss concept.

If you don’t think taxes have a cost, then there’s no helping you.

 

Kay Bell,  Employers in 17 states could face higher unemployment taxes

 

Missouri Tax Guy,  DOMAs Death, There Are Questions.  “It’s been nearly two months since the United States Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, but there are still many things we don’t know when it comes to how this affects the taxes of couples in same-gender marriages.”

 

Jack Townsend,  Simon’s Last Hurrah / Fizzle?  “So I am not sure what lessons it teaches except as a variation of the old saying, ‘Bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered.’”

Phil Hodgen, Email and Encryption.  An interesting discussion of the problem of preserving email confidentiality in a world of hackers and NSA snooping.

TaxGrrrl, Death & Taxes: Elvis Presley Topped Charts And Tax Brackets  

Janet Novack,  IRS Agent Faked Pastor’s Letter To Claim Charity Deduction 

Russ Fox, IRS Scandal Update

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 101

 

Martin Sullivan, A Dark Cloud Over Silicon Valley (Tax Analysts Blog)

 Nobody in Washington D.C. has a wish to make enemies with tech companies that are the crown jewels of the American economy. Nobody is deliberately targeting them. But there is a basic dynamic of corporate tax reform that will be hard even for the tech sector to overcome: those who are the biggest winners under the current system have the most to lose from tax reform.

Of course.

 

Alan Cole, The Standard Deduction Undermines Itemized Deductions (Tax Policy Blog):

The standard deduction makes a lot of sense, though, if you believe itemized deductions are arbitrary and confusing. In that case, the standard deduction restores some fairness and reduces paperwork, bringing the tax code more in line with our Principles of Sound Tax Policy – particularly, neutrality and simplicity.

The standard deduction is an interesting half-step towards eliminating itemized deductions, suggesting that America is actually quite ambivalent about them.

There’s something to be said for eliminating itemizing.  It adds a lot of complexity, especially with AMT and phaseouts.  If a deduction is really needed, move it above the line and make it available to everyone.

 

Robert D. Flach, WHAT CONGRESS SHOULD DO, BUT PROBABLY WON’T.  “I have recommended limiting the mortgage interest deduction to acquisition debt on a principal primary residence.”

Me, Walnut Street is back! For lunch, anyway and Because your safety is the most important thing.

 

Tax Justice Blog,  Washington Post Owner Jeff Bezos Does Not Believe in Taxes:

As an organization that follows tax policy, we went looking for the track record on taxes and, as it turns out, Bezos and his company have consistently demonstrated a contempt for taxes and an aggressive interest in avoiding them.  

Sounds suspiciously like almost every client ever.

 

 

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