Posts Tagged ‘Martin Sullivan’

Tax Roundup, 10/21/14: Gander gets sauced! And: IRS Commissioner’s prophecy of tax season doom.

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Flickr image by Sage under Creative Commons license

Flickr image by Sage under Creative Commons license

Gander, Meet Sauce. An alert reader points out something wonderful I had missed — a ruling awarding attorney fees and costs of $257,885 to the return preparers who successfully challenged the IRS preparer regulations. It’s a rare and welcome example of the IRS being held accountable for being unreasonable with taxpayers. And the court said the IRS was being unreasonable (all emphasis mine; some citations omitted):

In the present case, the reasonableness of the government’s position can be measured by the familiar guideposts of statutory interpretation: text, legislative history, statutory context, and congressional intent. In each of those dimensions, the interpretation of § 331(a)(1) advocated by the government was deficient. Indeed, on several key points, such as the proper meaning of the word “representatives,” the IRS offered no support whatever for its interpretation. The Court therefore finds that the government’s position was not substantially justified.

Losing the battle over whether its position was justified, the IRS dipped into its seemingly bottomless supply of chutzpah to challenge the amount:

As an initial salvo, the IRS argues that it was unreasonable and excessive for Plaintiffs to request compensation for over 1,700 hours spent advocating an interpretation of the statute that Plaintiffs themselves contend is obvious.

Our position was reasonable! OK, it was so unreasonable that even a cave man could litigate against it!

The Court declines the IRS’s request for across-the-board cuts to Plaintiffs’ award. The choice of a hatchet is particularly inappropriate here for several reasons. First and foremost, Plaintiffs prevailed at every stage of this litigation and achieved the entirety of their requested relief. Degree of success is “the most critical factor” in evaluating the reasonableness of a fee award.  Second, the IRS understates the complexity of this case. To be sure, this Court and the D.C. Circuit both concluded that Plaintiffs’ was the only reasonable interpretation of 31 U.S.C. § 330(a)(1). That conclusion, however, was apparent largely as a result of Plaintiffs’ thorough research and well-reasoned briefs.

Hah.

The only thing that would make it better would be if the IRS were assessed a penalty for taking a frivolous or negligent position. Maybe someday. But congratulations to the plaintiffs and the Institute for Justice for pulling off a legal end-zone dance.

 


Cite: Loving, Civil Action No. 12-385 (DC-District of Columbia)

And if you think that preparers can now do whatever they please, read Tax preparation business owner sentenced for tax fraud:

Charles Lee Harrison has been ordered to federal prison following his conviction of willfully aiding and assisting in the preparation and presentation of a false tax return, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson along with Lucy Cruz, special agent in charge of Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). Harrison, the owner of a tax preparation business in Houston and Navasota, pleaded guilty June 16, 2014.

Today, U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes, who accepted the guilty plea, handed Harrison a 36-month sentence to be immediately followed by one year of supervised release. He was further ordered to pay $396,057 in restitution.

I’m confident Mr. Harrison feels quite regulated at the moment.

 

Oh, Goody. “So we have right now probably the most complicated filing season before us that we’ve had in a long time, if ever. ”

-IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in an interview with Tax Analysts October 17 ($link)

The Commissioner also had an interesting idea for large partnerships ($link):

Our position is the most significant thing we can do to break that bottleneck — and I think it’s supported by a lot of people in the private sector — would be to say we need to amend [the 1982 Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act] and say we can audit a partnership,” Koskinen said. “And when we make an adjustment to the tax quantities, the partnership will absorb that that year,” he said, adding that the reporting would take place on the partnership’s Schedule K-1 for that year and the adjustment would automatically flow through to the partners.

Koskinen added that even though that statutory change would effectively shift the tax liability from those who were partners in the year under audit (and who benefited from the improper tax position) to the current partners, “that happens with mutual funds all the time. . . . People are used to buying and selling investments, recognizing whatever the tax and investment situation is.

Maybe that makes some sense for large partnerships, but it would be horrible for small ones, as anybody buying a partnership interest would also be buying three open years of audit exposure.

 

buzz20140923It’s Tuesday. That means Robert D. Flach is Buzzing with links from around the tax world!

Jason Dinesen, Iowa Tax Filing Deadline is October 31: Claim Your $54 Credit Before Then

Paul Neiffer, Will ACA Require You To Include Health Insurance as Wages. Spoiler: no.

Matt McKinney, Can I force my Iowa corporation to buy my stock? (IowaBiz.com). A common question from minority owners of closely-held corporations.

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2014: #10 – IRA and Qualified Plan Rollovers Are More Treacherous Than You Realize.

TaxGrrrl, Suspected Nazi War Criminals Collected Millions In Social Security Benefits After Fleeing The U.S.

William Perez, Payroll Taxes: A Primer for Employers

Peter Reilly, Taxpayer Barred From Communicating With CPA Still Hit With Late File Penalty. Weird and unjust.

Kay Bell, Jury doesn’t buy ‘vow of poverty’ as excuse for not filing taxes. Well, this tax evasion conviction will help the defendant fulfill the vow.

 

 

20141021-1Martin Sullivan, A Double Bias Against Infrastructure (Tax Analysts Blog)  He doesn’t mention the biggest problem: When most of government spending is just transfers from some taxpayers to others, it squeezes out everything else.

Donald Marron, A “Normal” Budget Isn’t Really Normal (TaxVox): “From 1975 to today, the federal debt swelled from less than 25 percent of GDP to more than 70 percent. I don’t think many people would view that as normal. Or maybe it is normal, but not in a good way.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 530

 

News from the Profession. AICPA Seeks to Better Weed Out Losers, Misfits with Evolved CPA Exam (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). Good thing I passed the exam before this development.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/7/14: Sweet pursuit of Tax Fairy turns sour. And: shut up and get used to FATCA!

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

tax fairy

Isaac Brock visitors: here is a direct link to what you are looking for.

Not so sweet.  A business owner who turned to a man associated with the JoY Foundation “pure trust” scam in pursuit of the Tax Fairy may be regretting his choice of tax advisors after a bad day in Tax Court yesterday.

The taxpayer had an apparently successful S corporation, Specific Enterprises, specializing in cabinet doors.  In 2002, Mr. Joseph Sweet came up with a cunning plan, starting with a liquidation of Specific Enterprises.  Tax Court Judge Nega takes up the story (footnotes and citations omitted, emphasis added):

On December 3, 2002, an entity called RCC Capital Group (RCC) was formed that purported to be a “PRIVATE, NON-STATUTORY, NON-ASSOCIATED, CONTRACTUAL PURE TRUST (CPT)”…

On January 2, 2003, petitioner and RCC entered into an “Asset Purchase Option Contract” (drafted by petitioner) where petitioner purported to grant RCC options to purchase petitioner’s factory building, the land upon which it was located, and equipment. The exercise price for the contract was $1,650,000, and petitioner accepted $21 (presumably the same $21 conveyed to RCC by Brad R. Scott) plus two promissory notes valued at $700,000 and $950,000 in full consideration of the deal. The contract was also contingent upon a separate rental contract, the “Facility Production Contract”, between RCC and Cabinet Door Shop for Cabinet Door Shop’s use of the factory building, land, and equipment… At the behest of petitioner, RCC did not file income tax returns.

Pursuant to the “Facility Production Contract”, dated January 3, 2003, Cabinet Door Shop made total rental payments of $273,000 and $126,000 to RCC for 2003 and 2004, respectively, although RCC did not exercise the option to purchase the factory building, land, and equipment from petitioner until some time around March 10, 2004. After receiving these rental payments RCC made total payments to petitioner in the exact same amounts: $273,000 in 2003 and $126,000 in 2004.

In 2003 as part of a separate transaction Cabinet Door Shop made monthly installment payments to petitioner totaling $80,798 for the sale of inventory.

“Pure trusts” are a hackneyed and worthless tax scheme that retains a following among tax deniers. The IRS naturally didn’t like the way this stuff was reported, assessing tax on the sale of inventory and sticking the taxpayer with the income earned in the “pure trust.”  First, the inventory:

Petitioner has not provided any facts or details that permit a reasonable estimate of his basis in the inventory. Although petitioner provided respondent with his personal tax returns and tax returns for Specific Enterprises one day before trial, these returns are mere admissions; and we are unwilling to attach significance to them in the absence of corroborating evidence as to petitioner’s basis in his assets. The record does not establish the cost basis of the inventory. The record indicates only that Cabinet Door Shop paid $80,798 to petitioner for the inventory…  Because petitioner has not provided any pertinent information that would help us estimate his basis in the inventory, the Cohan rule does not apply. Consequently, the entire amount paid by Cabinet Door Shop for petitioner’s inventory is includable in petitioner’s gross income for the 2003 taxable year.

A self-inflicted wound. Surely the taxpayer had basis in the inventory, but apparently he didn’t take the Tax Court proceeding seriously enough to document it.

The “pure trust” fared no better, with all of the “rental payments” received by the trust taxed to the taxpayer instead.  The IRS also won 25% penalties for non-filing of returns for 2003 and 2004.

It’s interesting that no tax is assessed for 2002, the year the corporation was liquidated — a corporate liquidation would normally have triggered a lot of tax. I assume the omission of 2002 from the case implies that a return was filed, starting the statute of limitations, though the Tax Court decision doesn’t confirm this. Considering the whole thing was done to start a tax avoidance scheme, it would seem strange for the gain to be properly reported.

The Moral: Beware of trust schemes that say they make your taxes go away. They are just Sweet nothings. If the Tax Court wants you to document something, don’t give them the information the day before trial. And there is no Tax Fairy.

Cite: Wheeler, T.C. Memo. 2014-204

 

No-longer-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller

No-longer-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller

Worst Acting Commissioner Ever says FATCA may not be worth it, but it’s here to stayTax Analysts reports ($link) on a speech by Steve Miller, who was Acting IRS Commissioner when the Lois Lerner scandal broke. He says that while the FATCA offshore disclosure bill may not be worth its cost, it shouldn’t go away:

“I can’t even say with conviction that I’m sure, looking strictly on a cost-benefit basis, that FATCA’s . . . benefits are going to outweigh the cost,” Miller told a lunch crowd at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association FATCA Policy Symposium in Washington. “It’s not clear to me that when you look solely at the burden placed on financial institutions and others, versus the amount of revenue that may come into the treasury, that this is going to be a revenue-positive event for the United States.”

And despite the fervent wishes of some in the finance industry, FATCA is here to stay, said Miller, now national director of tax for Alliantgroup. “I don’t see a repeal in the cards,” he said. “FATCA . . . is tied inextricably to offshore evasion work, and that has to be kept in mind as you talk about repeal, as you talk about changes.”

In case you’re wondering, Alliantgroup is a tax consulting company that specializes in tax code complexity exploitation via services like research credit studies.

Miller said he recognized “that the folks in this room are sort of on the wrong end of FATCA implementation and that you’re bearing the cost and not necessarily the benefit of FATCA.”

But Miller added, “The future is an improved global set of rules, [and] I have high hopes that it will create a level playing field that will make it much more expensive and risky to hide assets offshore. And that should be some help at least to compliant financial institutions as people consider where to invest their money into the future.”

FATCA has made ordinary personal finance difficult to impossible for Americans abroad. Americans are losing opportunities to work offshore because foreign employers fear FATCA hassles. U.S. citizens who do find work offshore face hassles and headaches just trying to open a bank account. But that’s a small price to pay for “an improved set of global rules,” right?

Of course, a defense of burdensome tax provisions is no surprise coming from an IRS official going out the revolving door to a company whose business depends on helping taxpayers deal with “the burden placed on financial institutions and others.” It makes Glenn Reynold’s Revolving Door Surtax proposal look very tempting.

 

buzz20140909Robert D. Flach has some fresh Tuesday Buzz,  including a link to a discussion of the prospects for tax reform (dismal) and the immediate future for figures in the T.V. show “Real Housewives of New Jersey” (dismal also).

TaxGrrrl has two new guest posts: Steven Chung, The Vehicle Miles Traveled Tax and Dominic Ferszt, The Accidental Tax Invasion. The second post is an excellent summary of the FATCA nightmares Steven Miller says offshore taxpayers should just suck up and get used to.

Kay Bell, Signs of change for sports league tax exempt status

 

Martin Sullivan, Can Multinationals’ Offshore Cash Fund a U.S. Infrastructure Bank? (Tax Analysts Blog). Apparently fixing a tax code debacle may be doable if we create a domestic spending boondoggle.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 516

 

20140729-1Scott Drenkard, North Dakota Democrat Tax Commissioner Candidate Proposes Flat Tax—Big Tax Climate Improvement (Tax Policy Blog). In North Dakota, Tax Commissioner is a statewide elective office.

Imagine an Iowa Democrat proposing what Joseph Astrup proposes:

His plan would flatten and simplify the individual income tax to a single bracket, while lowering the top rate from 3.22 percent to 2.52 percent. The exemption would be raised to $40,000 for singles and $80,000 for married filers.

In fairness, I can’t imagine an Iowa Republican proposing something like this, either. But if an Iowa politician does want to take some inspiration from North Dakota, the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan would be a fine place to start.

 

Tracy Gordon, It’s Not Easy to Escape the Local Pension Vise (TaxVox). Maybe not, but it’s necessary.

Peter Reilly, Tax Court Judge Appreciates Art More Than Your Average Revenue Agent, Which presumably makes a certain art professor appreciate the Tax Court more than the IRS.

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Tax Roundup, 9/30/14: IRS handling of uncollected taxes slammed. And: ISU TaxPlace goes live!

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Priorities.  While allowing billions of false refunds to go to two-bit grifters via ID-theft refund fraud, the IRS also manages to not correctly follow up on billions of unpaid assessed taxes, according to a new report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.  “Of a stratified sample of 250 cases reviewed, there was no evidence that employees completed all of the required research steps for 57 percent of the cases prior to their closing.”

How much money was potentially involved?  A chart from the report:

20140930-1

This is what happens when the tax law is treated as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy, rather than as a simple tax collection and enforcement mechanism. It doesn’t help when successive commissioners are more concerned with expanding the agency’s power and suppressing political opponents than with collecting revenue and properly issuing refunds.

The TaxProf has more.

 

20130114-1TaxPlace goes liveThe ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation has launched TaxPlace:

We are very excited to introduce TaxPlace, a 24-7 resource for tax professionals, especially those preparing farm tax returns. For a limited time, we are offering a yearly subscription for the low introductory price of $150. 

What does that include?

This one-year subscription to TaxPlace entitles you and your staff to one calendar year of unlimited access to all TaxPlace materials and services, including:

A searchable database of timely articles and seminar materials explaining basic, new, and complex tax issues, with a particular emphasis on issues impacting farmers, ranchers, and ag-businesses.

Unlimited replays of recorded seminars and webinars addressing timely and challenging farm and urban tax and estate and business planning concepts.

Access to “Ask a Question,” a personal connection with a professional knowledgeable in farm tax requirements. (“Ask a question” is not a gateway for legal advice and does not substitute for services from a legal or accounting professional.)

Tables, charts, explanations of procedures and forms, and contact information to simplify your interaction with the Internal Revenue Service or state tax departments.

Access to a weekly blog and to future archives of “the Scoop,” a bi-monthly live webinar addressing new tax laws and procedures as they develop and providing attendees with an opportunity to ask questions.

A bargain for $150.

 

TaxGrrrlHow To Get Away With Tax Fraud. No, she hasn’t gone over to the dark side. She is outlining some rookie mistakes made by a Ms. Jackson, who tried to cash a $94 million tax refund check she received. Revenue agents were waiting for her at the grocery store where she tried to cash the check:

Among the basic mistakes TaxGrrrl points out is this:

 Unless you are due a lot of refundable tax credits (more on that later), you’ll want to make sure that your math makes sense. I didn’t see Jackson’s tax return. And I’m not licensed in Georgia. But even I can figure from peeking at the Georgia Department of Revenue’s web site that the highest income tax rate for individuals is 6%. To have paid in $94 million of tax, the amount of her refund claim, you’d have to have earned about $1.56 billion in income – in one year (assuming no carry forward or carry back). That kind of money should have landed Jackson on the newly released Forbes’ 400 Richest Americans list. Spoiler alert: she’s not on the list.

And no, it doesn’t appear that she sandbagged a little too much on her estimated tax payments.  Another basic mistake: real tax thieves prefer direct deposit. But, as a man once said to police here in Des Moines, “You don’t spend your days chasing geniuses, do you?’

 

Peter Reilly, New York Springs Sales Tax Trap On Passive LLC Members. Apparently New York is holding LLC members personally liable for sales taxes owed by the LLC. If the Empire State wants businesses and investors to stay far away, this is a pretty good step. Oddly, S corporation owners don’t have this problem.

 

Fresh Buzz is available from Robert D. Flach, including links to stories on retiree taxation and Roberts side project, The Tax Professional.

Carl Smith discusses The Congressman James Traficant Memorial Code Section at Procedurally Taxing.  Well, if it’s like most code sections, it will outlast all of us.

 

J.D. Tuccille, Yet More IRS Employees Busted for Stealing Taxpayers’ Identities (Reason.com):

Have I mentioned that people signing for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act are supposed to update the government on any major life changes, including marriage status, employment, finances…? Oh wait, yes I have.

I wonder if that information will be better protected.

Remain calm, all is well.

 

20130111-1Andrew Lundeen, Kyle PomerleauEstonia has the Most Competitive Tax System in the OECD. (Tax Policy Blog). The posts tells of a fascinating feature of the Estonian tax law:

Additionally, Estonia only taxes distributed profits and at a 21 percent tax rate. This means that if a business in Estonia earns $100 and pays that $100 to its shareholders, the business would be required to pay a tax of $21 on the distributed profit. Instead, if that business decides to reinvest that $100, the business would not have to pay tax on that $100.

Compare that to the U.S., where the corporations pay tax on income when it is earned, and potentially another tax if earnings are not distributed.  Still another tax is paid when the earnings are distributed; in Estonia, there is no second tax.

If you were designing a tax system to actually make sense, it would look a lot more like the Estonian setup than the U.S. income tax.  You also wouldn’t have the inversion problem people fret about so.

Martin Sullivan, Can Congress Pass Tax Reform That Would Stop Inversions? (Tax Analysts Blog). “Right now the U.S. tax system favors foreign owned corporations over U.S. owned corporations.”

 

Donald Marron, The $300 billion question: How should we budget for federal lending? (TaxVox)

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 509

 

Liz Malm, Businesses Paid Nearly $671 Billion in State and Local Taxes Last Year (Tax Policy Blog)

 

Career Corner. Let’s Waste Some Chargeable Hours Comparing Chargeable Hour Goals (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/23/14: Lois Lerner interview goes over… not well. And: Inversion action!

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

man-wichLois Lerner’s interview with Politico published yesterday got some reaction. The Tax Prof has a great roundup in The IRS Scandal, Day 502, including these wonderful headlines:

American Thinker:  Politico Does Weepy Story About Poor Lois Lerner

PJ Media:  Politico Disguises A Slobbering Love Letter To Lois Lerner As An Interview

Breitbart:  News Site Seeks Mutually Beneficial Exclusive with Former IRS Exec (Must Love Dogs)

And my favorite:

Daily Caller:  Lois Lerner Compares Herself To Jeffrey Dahmer

So Tea Party-friendly web sites were not won over, apparently.  Some other reaction:

 

Instapundit:

LOIS LERNER TOOK THE FIFTH, but now she’s telling Politico that she did nothing wrong, and that she’s the real victim here. And note the prominent play Politico gives to alleged anti-semitic epithets, and to Lerner’s brownie-baking. So why the media-rehab operation — and that’s what this is — and why now?

But it’s nice to hear that even the Washington revolving-door apparat finds her “untouchable.” Perhaps that’s because nothing much in this story suggests that she didn’t target Tea Party groups for partisan political reasons.

 

David Hirsanyi, Sorry, Politico, But Lois Lerner Is Not A Victim:

 She has already admitted and apologized for the practice of targeting conservatives groups with terms like “Tea Party” or “patriots” in their titles. She claims that it was done in an effort to deal with the surge in applications for tax-exempt status asking for permission to participate in the political process. Yet, she didn’t aim at groups with the “climate change” or “fairness” in their names to mitigate this alleged crush of work she was facing.

Peter Suderman, Unapologetic Lois Lerner Insists She’s Done Nothing Wrong (Reason.com):

Lerner thinks she did nothing wrong, and she won’t apologize. “Regardless of whatever else happens, I know I did the best I could under the circumstances and am not sorry for anything I did,” she said in an interview with the paper.

That’s basically all she says about her role in the scandal. Lerner, who, after reading a statement, exercised her Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination when called to testify before Congress last year, doesn’t really add anything to her defense with the statements in her piece. She declares that she stands by her work—and that’s it.

And James Taranto reports “Politico landed an exclusive interview with Lois Lerner, the former IRS official at the center of the still-unresolved scandal, and to call it a whitewash would be an insult to lime.”

I think we can safely say of this PR stunt, so far, not so good.

Prior Tax Update coverage: Lerner speaks, sort of. And: a federal tax amnesty?

 

No Walnut STTreasury “does something” about inversions.  The moral panic over inversion transactions took its next logical step when the Treasury announced it would issue regulations out of nowhere to “crack down” on corporations trying to escape our awful U.S. corporation income tax. Notice 2014-52 has the technical details.

The Treasury has previously issued such notices, generally describing future regulations, when it is in a hurry to stop some kind of transaction and doesn’t want to wait for the usual regulation comment period to “do something.”

The Wall Street Journal explains the rules in general terms:

The Treasury rules will make it harder for companies that invert to use cash accumulating abroad—a big draw in recent deals. In addition, the government has made it more difficult to complete these overseas mergers.

The tax changes took effect immediately, officials said, and applied to all deals that hadn’t closed by Monday.

The article addresses how the deal might affect pending deals: (I removed the WSJ’s obligatory stock price info):

The new guidelines could impact a number of pending mergers and acquisitions, including Medtronic Inc. s proposed acquisition of Irish medical-device maker Covidien PLC; Salix Pharmaceuticals Ltd.’s acquisition of a division of Italy’s Cosmo Pharmaceuticals SpA; and Mylan Inc.’s  pending deal for Abbott Laboratories overseas generics business. It could also interfere with the merger of fruit grower Chiquita Brands International Inc. and Fyffes PLC.

Less clear is how it would impact Burger King Worldwide Inc. BKW -0.48% ‘s proposed acquisition of Canadian coffee-and-doughnut chain Tim Hortons Inc., THI.T +1.92% a deal that was designed to move the new corporate headquarters to Canada. 

That deal is structured somewhat differently, and experts disagree whether it would be affected by the new government rules. Most agree the rule changes aren’t likely to end inversions altogether.

Of course it won’t. As long as the U.S. has an uncompetitive business tax climate — better only than France and Portugal in the developed world — corporations will be forced to seek self-help, like inversion deals.

Tax Analysts has a story about how the last round of inversion rules created dangers for corporations who aren’t even inverting ($link): “The existing anti-inversion rules under section 7874 create several traps for foreign companies and individuals that could cause transactions to be treated as inversions when no inversion has taken place.”

Unintended consequences result, traps are created for the unwary, and the awful U.S. corporation income tax gets a little worse. Well done, Jack Lew!

The TaxProf has a roundup.  Howard Gleckman asks Does Treasury Have the Legal Authority To Curb Tax Inversions? (TaxVox): “This issue is the subject of heated debate among tax lawyers.”

 

 

buzz20140923Robert D. Flach brings the Tuesday Buzz, including links to posts covering ground from tax holidays to How Does a Sole Proprietor Get Paid?

TaxGrrrl, Back To School 2014: Moving Expenses

Tony Nitti, Tax Court: Anxiety, Depression Are Not Physical Injuries

Russ Fox, They Both Begin With “E”. Embezzlement, evasion. Add another: eventually detected.

Kay Bell, Identity theft tax refund fraud is increasing, but ways to prevent the crime are not likely to be popular

Jason Dinesen, Entrepreneurial Maturity. “In other words, a business owner who has entrepreneurial maturity knows what they don’t know.”

Annette Nellen, Points from your bank. On the “frequent flyer miles” Tax Court case.

Steven Olsen, Summary Opinions for 9/12/14 (Procedurally Taxing). Rounding up recent developments in tax procedure.

Jack Townsend has some Comments on the Warner Sentencing Oral Argument: “The panel was also concerned that, if Warner’s conduct were so bad, why did the Government argue at sentencing for only a sentence of 1 year and 1 day when the Guidelines range was significantly higher.”

 

20140923-1Alan Cole, The U.S. Tax Code is its Worst Competitive Weakness (Tax Policy Blog). “Simply put, while assessments of the U.S. tax code – both at Tax Foundation and elsewhere – are bleak, there is much to be optimistic about in America.”

Martin Sullivan, Should We Give Up On Reagan Style Tax Reform? (Tax Analysts Blog) “The landmark 1986 Tax Reform Act is an inspiration to all would-be tax reformers. But reforms following that basic framework have gotten nowhere in Congress.”

Steve Warnhoff, The Estate Tax Is Not Doing Enough to Mitigate Inequality: State-by-State Figures (Tax Justice Blog). It’s not working, so lets do it more, harder!

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Tax Roundup, 9/16/14: U.S. taxes are worse than the Cubs. And: the last month of extension season has begun!

Tuesday, September 16th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Now to finish off the extended 1040s.  The extension season for business returns ended yesterday. Now it’s time to mop up the remaining extended individual returns — the “GDEs,” as Robert D. Flach calls them.

 

CubsIf the U.S. tax system were a baseball team, it would be worse than the Cubs. That’s the conclusion I draw from the Tax Foundation’s first International Tax Competitiveness Index released yesterday. The U.S. ranked 32nd out of the 34 rated countries, ahead of only Portugal and France. At 66-84 this morning, the Cubs are ahead of four other teams out of the 30 in the major leagues. Small but mighty Estonia is number 1 (in the Index, not in baseball).

Some “key findings” of the study:

The ITCI finds that Estonia has the most competitive tax system in the OECD. Estonia has a relatively low corporate tax rate at 21 percent, no double taxation on dividend income, a nearly flat 21 percent income tax rate, and a property tax that taxes only land (not buildings and structures).

France has the least competitive tax system in the OECD. It has one of the highest corporate tax rates in the OECD at 34.4 percent, high property taxes that include an annual wealth tax, and high, progressive individual taxes that also apply to capital gains and dividend income.

The ITCI finds that the United States has the 32nd most competitive tax system out of the 34 OECD member countries.

The largest factors behind the United States’ score are that the U.S. has the highest corporate tax rate in the developed world and that it is one of the six remaining countries in the OECD with a worldwide system of taxation.

The United States also scores poorly on property taxes due to its estate tax and poorly structured state and local property taxes

Other pitfalls for the United States are its individual taxes with a high top marginal tax rate and the double taxation of capital gains and dividend income.

20140916-1Unlike the Cubs, the U.S. tax system shows little hope for improvement. What changes we’ve seen recently, or are likely to see in the coming year, only make things worse. The implementation of FATCA doubles down on the committment to worldwide taxation, while putting U.S. taxpayers at a disadvantage abroad.  The inversion frenzy is likely to promote legislation to place even more burdens on U.S.-based businesses.  This legislation responds to the failures of worldwide taxation by doing it harder. In baseball terms, it’s the opposite of Moneyball.

 

TaxGrrrl has more with U.S. Ranks Near The Bottom For Tax Competitiveness: We’re #32! “The United States is one of just six OECD countries that imposes a global tax on corporations meaning that its reach extends beyond its own border.”

Martin Sullivan, REIT Conversions: Good for Wall Street. Not Good for America. (Tax Analysts Blog). REITs are a corporate form that allows some real estate income to be taxed only once. They are a do-it-yourself response to a dysfunctional corporation income tax. It would be good for America if all corporations could move to something more like the REIT model, with a deduction for dividends paid to eliminate the multiplication of tax on corporate income.

 

 

20120511-2Leslie Book, Tax Court Finds Reliance On Advisor In Messy Small Business Setting (Procedurally Taxing), addressing a case we discussed here.  “VisionMonitor is a useful case for practitioners seeking a reliance defense even when advice does not come in the way of a formal opinion, and the advice and corporate formalities reflect less than perfect attention to detail. In other words, this case is representative of the way many small businesses operate.”

Peter Reilly, Grandfather Beats IRS In Tax Court Without Lawyer. “They mystery to me is why when the IRS decided to drop the penalty, they did not drop the case entirely, since, by dropping the penalty, they were indicating that they did not think Mr. Roberts was lying and, given that, it’s pretty clear that he wins.”

Jack Townsend, More on the Warner Sentencing Appeal. Did the Beanie Baby Billionaire get off easy?

 

Jim Maule discusses The Persistence and Danger of Tax and Other Ignorance. It’s fascinating how a man who accurately notes the prevalence of ignorance among voters still thinks policy concocted by politicians elected by these same ignorant voters is better than private solutions .

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 495. I like this point: Why Focus on Ray Rice Instead of Lois Lerner? The relative attention to Rice and Lerner is roughly inverse to their relative importance.

 

np2102904Norton Francis, How Michigan Blocked a $1 Billion Tax Windfall for Corporations (TaxVox). “The case involved the way multistate corporations calculated their state income tax liability from 2008 to 2010. The trouble for Michigan is that, during this time, they had two ways to apportion state income on the books: one, which they thought no longer applied, based on a three-factor formula—the shares of a firm’s property, payroll, and sales present in the state—and the other based only on sales in the state.”

Matt Gardner, New S&P Report Helps Make the Case for Progressive State Taxes (Tax Justice Blog). I link, but I sure don’t endorse.  Using high individual tax rates at the federal level to redistribute income is futile and unwise, but at least it’s plausible. Using state income taxes for that purpose is just absurd.

 

News from the Profession. We Can’t Help But Wonder if This EY Conference Room Cactus Is Trying to Say Something (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

He lost the job after he told his client to get a haircut.  Former Sampson consultant guilty of fraud, conspiracy*

*For those of you who will point out that the guy in the Bible is named “Samson,” just you be quiet.

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/9/14: The $63 Question Edition. And: is there such thing as an influential accountant?

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140321-4Asking the judge the 63-dollar question.  CPA practitioners sue to stop PTIN fees (Journal of Accountancy):

Two CPAs have filed suit in the U.S. district court for the District of Columbia, asking the court to stop the IRS from charging fees for issuing preparer tax identification numbers (PTINs), to obtain refunds of fees paid in the past, and to enjoin the IRS from asking for more information than needed to issue preparer tax identification numbers (PTINs)…

Although the IRS claims that the excess fees are intended to be used to pay the costs of the registration cards sent to each preparer, the costs of forms and other guidance provided to preparers, and the costs of tax compliance and suitability checks, the plaintiffs point out that none of this has been done or should be done. No registration cards have been sent, the IRS does not normally charge to issue other tax forms and instructions, and it has not conducted suitability checks because attorneys and CPAs are not subject to those requirements. In fact, CPAs are subject to their own requirements to prove that they are fit and competent. 

While I think the plaintiffs are correct in saying the $63 fee far exceeds any benefit we get from it, I suspect the attorneys will be the real winners in this suit.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 488

 

AndersenlogoFrancine McKenna, Arthur Ashes:

Arthur Andersen is back from the dead. A group of former partners from the accounting firm is reviving the brand a dozen years after its demise. It’s a display of hubris that attempts to give credence to some revisionist history about Andersen.

Enron was no isolated event. Andersen was implicated in cases involving Sunbeam, WorldCom and others. Its settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over Waste Management was at the time, in early 2001, a rare fraud case against a big accounting firm.

With only four “major” accounting firms left, it’s hard to imagine any of them going the way of Andersen.  It’s also hard to imagine that the Andersen brand will be worth more than, say, the Enron brand.

 

EITC error chartKyle Pomerleau, IRS Releases More Detail on EITC Over-Payments:

One of the major issues with the Earned Income Tax Credit is that is suffers from a high amount of payment error. In any given year, the error can amount to approximately 25% of total payments and cost $14 billion dollars.

It is usually not clear exactly why these errors occur. There are two common stories behind them. The first story is about plain fraud. Taxpayers, or the preparers that help them file taxes, are purposefully misrepresenting their information in order to receive the EITC, or increase their EITC.

The second story is that EITC filers, which are typically lower-income individuals with lower levels of education, are making a high number of mistakes when filing. For instance, they may claim their child as a dependent (which leads to a much larger EITC), but their ex-spouse may have claimed their child as well. The result being that one parent is non-compliant.

Given that the errors result in overpayments of the credit, you have to think fraud is a big part of it.  If the errors were random, you would expect about the same amount of underpayment errors as overpayment errors. Human nature itself plays a role, too; a disappointed taxpayer might keep working the numbers until a happy answer — an overpayment — is reached.  A taxpayer who reaches a happy answer right away is less likely to re-run the numbers.

 


buzz20140909TaxGrrrl, 
Back To School 2014: Expired Educator Expenses & Unreimbursed Employee Expenses

Jason Dinesen ponders What Responsibilities Do Tax Preparers Have in Assessing ACA Penalties?  “Just because we think a law is stupid doesn’t mean we don’t deal with it.” If we didn’t, we would have very little to do.

Peter Reilly, Joan Rivers Made Tax History

Robert D. Flach brings your early-in-the-week Buzz! Today he returns to the hive withmore news of the anti-PTIN fee lawsuit, among other topics.

 

Martin Sullivan, How Much Do Converted and Nontraditional REITs Cost the U.S. Treasury? (Tax Analysts Blog)

Howard Gleckman, Treasury’s Lew Says Anti-Inversion Decision Will Come Soon, But Offers No Hints About What Or When.  While we don’t know what the decision will be, we can be confident that it will leave the real problems — high rates and worldwide taxation of U.S. taxpayers — untouched.

 

Accounting Today has issued its annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in Tax and Accounting.  Somehow I missed the cut again, though I follow a few on Twitter. I hope I can make the “100 most influential accountants in Polk County” list, but I may have to do some lobbying.

Congratulations to TaxProf Paul Caron and Going Concern’s Caleb Newquist, but the omission of Caleb’s crony Adrienne Gonzalez is a crime that cries out for justice.

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/5/14: Personal goodwill is the word. And: more inversion diversion!

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2Word.  Tax Court reduces estate value of stock by executive’s “personal goodwill.”  The courts have recognized that the value of a business depend on the contacts and reputation of a key executive — “personal goodwill.”  That concept has enabled business owners to sell their goodwill separately from other business assets — handy in avoiding the double tax inherent in C corporations.

Yesterday the Tax Court applied “personal goodwill” in valuing stock in a decedent’s estate.  Franklin Z. Adell died in 2006 owning all of the stock of STN.Com, a satellite uplink company.  The company had one customer: The Word Network, a religious broadcaster set up as a non-profit and run by Mr. Adell’s son, Kevin.

The arrangement proved profitable to STN.Com, which generated nearly $16 million in revenues in 2006.  That enabled company executives to travel in style, according to the Tax Court (footnotes omitted):

In addition to rent and compensation, STN.Com made several miscellaneous payments that were primarily for the personal benefit of Mr. Adell and Kevin. STN.Com leased luxury cars, including Bentleys and Rolls-Royces, used for personal and work purposes by Mr. Adell, Kevin, and its other employees. STN.Com also helped Mr. Adell and Kevin purchase and maintain real estate. For example, STN.Com gave money to Mr. Adell and Kevin to purchase a condominium in Los Angeles, California, and guaranteed the mortgage. STN.Com purchased high-end furnishings for the condominium and for Mr. Adell’s home in Michigan and paid all expenses, including the mortgage, interest, and insurance, related to Kevin’s second home in Florida. In 2002 STN.Com paid $300,000 toward Kevin’s home in Florida. From July 2002 through June 2003 STN.Com paid between $300,000 and $400,000 of Kevin’s personal legal fees for litigation involving a dispute with a home contractor. In 2006 Mr. Adell paid a $6 million judgment entered against Kevin using funds from Mr. Adell’s salary at STN.Com.

The estate filed a tax return showing a date-of-death value of $9.3 million.  The IRS thought that number was slightly low, coming up with a value of $93.3 million.  By the time of the trial, the IRS number had come down to $26,341,030, and the estate was arguing for a $4.3 million value.  The trial came down to a duel of expert witness appraisers.

The main difference between the appraisals was the  treatment of “personal goodwill” by the estate’s expert, a Mr. Risius.  From the Tax Court decision:

Mr. Risius also adjusted STN.Com’s operating expenses to include an economic charge for Kevin’s personal goodwill. Mr. Risius explained that the adjustment was appropriate because the success of STN.Com depended heavily on Kevin’s personal relationships with the board of directors of The Word. Moreover, Kevin did not have a noncompete agreement with STN.Com, and as a result a potential buyer would acquire STN.Com only to the extent that the company retained Kevin. The economic charge for Kevin’s personal goodwill ranged from 37.2% to 43.4% of sales over the historical period and from 43.7% to 44.1% of sales over the projection period.

The IRS expert, Mr. Burns, admitted the importance of the son’s personal involvement, but took a different approach:

Instead of applying an economic charge for Kevin’s personal goodwill similar to the one found in Mr. Risius’ first valuation report, Mr. Burns concluded that a hypothetical investor would anticipate retaining Kevin as an officer of STN.Com and would need to compensate Kevin at an acceptable rate of 8.1% of sales. Mr. Burns noted that his assumed compensation level for Kevin of nearly $1.3 million in 2006 was significantly higher than Mr. Risius’ estimate of $528,000 in his first valuation report.

20140321-4Tax Court Judge Paris found the estate’s approach more persuasive:

Kevin’s goodwill was personally owned independent of STN.Com. STN.Com’s success was heavily dependent on The Word because of their symbiotic relationship. To launch The Word, it was Kevin who contacted religious leaders in the Detroit area and Rev. Jackson in Chicago. Along with his notable contacts and his father, he went to Los Angeles to meet with DirecTV representatives about broadcasting The Word. His meeting was successful and it eventually led to the national broadcasting of The Word on cable television. Kevin was the face of the operation because he was the individual soliciting content and pursuing broadcast opportunities.

Yes, that Rev. Jackson.

     Further, Kevin did not transfer his goodwill to STN.Com through a covenant not to compete or other agreement. Kevin was free to leave STN.Com and use his relationships to directly compete against his previous employer. If Kevin quit, STN.Com could not exclusively use the relationships that Kevin cultivated; thus, the value of those relationships should not be attributed to STN.Com.

Accordingly, Mr. Risius properly adjusted STN.Com’s operating expenses to include an economic charge of $8 million to $12 million for Kevin’s personal goodwill at an amount high enough to account for the significant value of Kevin’s relationships. Mr. Burns, on the other hand, not only failed to apply an economic charge for Kevin’s personal goodwill but also gave too low an estimate of acceptable compensation for Kevin, i.e., $1.3 million in 2006. This was especially so because Kevin had stepped into the position of Mr. Adell, who had previously made between over $2 million and $7 million of compensation in each of the five years before his death.

The court went with the $9.3 million value on the original tax return: “…the Court concludes that Mr. Risius’ first valuation report on the STN.Com stock included with the original estate tax return was the most creditable because it properly accounted for Kevin’s personal goodwill and appropriately used the discounted cashflow analysis of the income approach to value the STN.Com stock.”

The moral?  Appraisers working with closely-held businesses need to look closely at important customer and vendor relationships and determine whether they actually belong to the corporation, or if they instead belong separately to executives.  The case also is more support for taxpayers wanting to sell personal goodwill separately from corporate assets.

Cite: Estate of Franklin Z. Adell T.C. Memo 2014-155.

 

20140805-2Robert D. Flach offers fresh Tuesday Buzz! Robert has also started a new monthly newsletter, The Tax Professional.  “The purpose of THE TAX PROFESSIONAL is to discuss and debate issues of interest and importance to the profession of preparing income tax returns – such as certification and credentials, dealing with the IRS and state tax agencies, due diligence requirements, ethics and obligations, regulation, representation, tax law complexity, etc.”  While I often disagree with Robert, he’s a smart and entertaining guy, and both his blog and the newsletter are worth regular visits.

 

Kay Bell, August to-do list: Vacation, shopping, school and taxes

 

Peter Reilly, Homeowner Association IRS Ruling Highlights Schizophrenic Nature Of Associations.  “Unless they have vast reserves earning significant investment income, homeowners associations can avoid any significant tax liability by filing Form 1120H, which allows the organization to exclude assessments.  Despite that option, some homeowners associations go to the trouble of applying to be 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations.”

Annette Nellen, Marijuana businesses and ethical issues for tax practitioners.  Can you get in trouble for helping a pot store pay its taxes?

 

Frank Agostino, a veteran Tax Court litigator, guests posts in Procedurally Taxing with Procedural Challenges to Penalties: Section 6751(b)(1)’s Signed Supervisory Approval Requirement.  “In view of the fact that the IRS (and the Tax Court) have so strictly adhered to the Code’s substantiation requirements, one is hopeful that a similar strict compliance standard will be applied when interpreting a statutory provision clearly intended to protect taxpayer’s procedural due process rights.”

Jack Townsend, Williams Yet Again – Court Bows Deeply to Government Claims of Expansive Discretion for FBAR Willful Penalty 

 

 

nra-blue-eagleThe current diversionary panic about corporate inversions has reached its illogical conclusion, reports J.D. Tucille at Reason.com: With Loyalty Oath Demand, Crusade Against Corporate Inversion Gets Even Creepier.

Leave it to Jonathan Alter to jump the already laughably overblown “problem” of corporations seeking friendlier tax jurisdictions elsewhere right past parody. Forget any discussion of why businesses are relocating. At the Daily Beast, Alter wants potential “corporate deserters” to take…wait, I have to check this again…yep…loyalty oaths

The post quotes Mr. Alter’s argument:

For those companies less able to act as Americans or recognize their real interests, there are two ways to make this work. The president should issue an executive order that says any company that wants to keep its federal contracts must sign a new-fangled [non-desertion agreement]…

But other companies with few or no federal contracts might be tempted to desert anyway.

That’s where the rest of us come in. Under my scheme, companies that sign non-desertion agreements would embed a tiny American flag or some other Good Housekeeping-type seal in their corporate insignia for all to see, just as companies during the Great Depression that agreed to Franklin Roosevelt’s recovery plan hung an emblem of a blue eagle in their windows with the legend, “We Do Our Part.”

Mr. Tucille observes:

To make it clear where this all goes, the National Recovery Administration once boasted, “The Fascist Principles are very similar to those we have been evolving here in America.” Its head, Hugh Johnson, noted about the adoption or rejection of the blue eagle symbol and its code, “Those who are not with us are against us.”

There’s a good book about this sort of thing.

Corporations have entirely legitimate purposes other than funneling cash to the IRS.  They have to make payroll, supply desired and needed goods to customers, and provide a return to their owners.  They have no more obligation to pay un-owed taxes than you, me, or Mr. Alter.  Unless Mr. Alter declines to itemize and forgoes his personal exemption in the name of economic patriotism, no blue eagle for him either.

 

20140805-1Kyle Pomerleau, Everything You Need to Know About Corporate Inversions (Tax Policy Blog). “The most obvious benefit is that most countries do not have a worldwide corporate income tax system. The United States taxes income earned by U.S. corporations no matter where they earn that income, domestically or abroad.”

Martin Sullivan, Don’t Count on Tax Reform to Stop Inversions (Tax Analysts Blog)

Rebecca Wilkins, Wall Street a Major Player in Current Wave of Corporate Inversions (Tax Justice Blog).  Maybe because investors like companies that don’t incur unnecessary expenses.

 

Renu Zaretsky, Online Taxes: Searches, Storage, and Sales.  The daily TaxVox headline roundup covers, among other things, an insane attempt to tax websites that link to Spanish newspaper association stories.  “Note to Spanish tax authorities: buena suerte.”

 

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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:

20130412-1

 

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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