Posts Tagged ‘maule’

Tax Roundup, 6/1/15: Trusts, but verify. And lots more!

Monday, June 1st, 2015 by Joe Kristan

tack shelterTrust not flaky trusts. There’s a sort of folk belief that the rich and the sophisticated skip out of income taxes through clever use of trusts. That’s not true; trust income is taxed either to the trust owners, their beneficiaries, or to the trusts themselves — and at high effective rates. The 39.6% top rate that kicks in for unmarried individuals at $413,200 applies starting at $12,300 for trusts.

Still, this folk belief creates a market of gullible people who want to be like the sophisticated kids that don’t pay taxes. Where there’s a market, someone will attempt to meet the demand. That can go badly.

It went very badly for two westerners last week. From a Department of Justice press release:

Joseph Ruben Hill aka Joe Hill, 56, and Lucille Kathleen Hill aka Kathy Hill, 58, both of Cheyenne, Wyoming, and Gloria Jean Reeder, 68, of Sedona, Arizona, were convicted on charges of conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstructing a grand jury investigation following a three-week trial. In July 2014, Joe Hill, Kathy Hill and Reeder were indicted for conspiring to defraud the United States by promoting and using a sham trust scheme. Joe Hill and Reeder were also indicted for conspiring to obstruct the grand jury investigation in the District of Wyoming by causing individuals to withhold records required to be produced by federal grand jury subpoenas.

What were they selling?

Essentially, the scheme involved assigning income to the trust by using a bank account in the trust’s name that was opened with a false federal tax identification number. The Hills, Reeder, and many other CCG clients who testified during the trial used the CCG trusts to conceal income and assets from the IRS.

All of their customers can count on thorough and painful IRS exams.




Jana Luttenegger Weiler, Did you miss the last holiday in May? Friday was 529 Day (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). “A recent Forbes article discussing the so-called holiday reported two-thirds of Americans are unfamiliar with 529 Plans.”

Hank Stern, The Flip Side of Halbig/King/Burntwell. “But there’s another side to this, one which has thus far gone unremarked: is there a potential upside to folks whose subsidies go away? (Insureblog)

William Perez, Identity Theft Statistics from the Latest TIGTA Report

Annette Nellen, Should Sales Tax Deduction Be Made Permanent? House Says Yes

Kay Bell, Are we tax sheep? A U.K. collection effort says ‘yes’:

These psychologists, anthropologists and other observers of human nature suggested that a couple of lines be added to tax collection letters:

“The great majority of people in your local area pay their tax on time. Most people with a debt like yours have paid it by now.”

It worked.

I’m sure this approach has its limits, but it contains an important insight: people will pay their taxes if they think other people do. But if they feel other people get away with not paying, they’ll stop. Nobody likes to be a chump.

Jack Townsend, New IRS FBAR Penalty Guidance

Jim Maule, Can Anyone Do Business Without Tax Subsidies? Most of us have to — which is a powerful case against giving special favors to the well-connected and well-lobbied.

Andy GrewalThe Un-Precedented Tax Court: Summary Opinions (Procedurally Taxing). “It’s a bit strange to pretend that a judicial opinion does not exist…”

Peter Reilly, Structuring – First Kent Hovind – Now Dennis Hastert. The IRS has overreached in its structuring seizures, but keeping deposits under $10,000 in order to avoid the reporting rules for large tax transactions is still illegal. Bank personnel are trained to report suspected structuring. If you do it consistently, your chances of getting caught approach 100%.

Robert Wood, 20 Year Old Oral Agreement To Split Lottery Winnings Is Upheld. Still, it’s always better to get things in writing.

TaxGrrrl, Man’s Tax Refund Seized For Parking Tickets On Car He Never Owned. This sort of injustice is inevitable when the tax law is drafted into service for non-tax chores.

Russ Fox, I’m Shocked, Shocked! That a Chicago Attorney may have Committed Tax Evasion Related to Corruption. Eddie Vrdolyak may be involved.




Tony Nitti, Rick Santorum Announces A Second Run For President: A Look At His Tax Plan. Mr. Santorum is slightly more likely to be president than I am.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 753The IRS Scandal, Day 752The IRS Scandal, Day 751. I like this from Day 752: “The job of the IRS should be to collect taxes, fairly and efficiently. Since the income tax was enacted in 1913, however, the IRS has appropriated to itself—sometimes on its own, sometimes with congressional blessing—the right to make political judgments about groups of citizens. That is the central failure revealed by this scandal.”


Scott Drenkard, How Tax Reform Could Help Stabilize the Housing System (Tax Policy Blog):

Removing the impediment to saving baked into the tax code, then, has real impacts on real people. It helps people save for down payments on homes, or to put money toward education. Perhaps, if pared with a reduction in policies meant to artificially reduce down payments, tax reform could be an important component to stabilizing the housing market.

No-down-payment means you’re betting someone else’s money.


Richard Phillips, Martin O’Malley’s Record on Taxes is Progressive (Tax Policy Blog). That means he likes to raise them.

News from the Profession. Madoff Auditor Better at Cooperating Than Auditing, Won’t Serve Time (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)


There will be no leftovers at the putlucks. Indiana Marijuana Church Granted Tax-Exempt Status, Plans ‘Call To Worship’ When Members Will Light Up (TaxProf).



Tax Roundup, 5/20/15: April 15 is on April 18 next year. And: exit > voice.

Wednesday, May 20th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20140805-3It looks like we’ll be working an extra weekend next April. Thanks to the puzzling rules regarding the observance of Emancipation Day in Washington D.C., the deadline for 1040s next year will be April 18 – even though April 15 falls on a Friday. Residents of Massachusetts and Maine get even one more day. From Rev. Rul. 2015-13:

The District of Columbia observes Emancipation Day on Friday, April 15 when April 16 is a Saturday. This makes Monday, April 18, the ordinary due date for filing income tax returns. However, in this situation, Monday, April 18, is the third Monday in April, the date that Massachusetts and Maine observe Patriots’ Day. Because residents of Massachusetts and Maine may elect to hand carry their income tax returns to their local IRS offices, A (a Massachusetts resident) has until the next succeeding day that is not a Saturday, Sunday, or legal holiday to file A’s income tax return. Thus, A has until Tuesday, April 19, to file A’s income tax return.

I suppose I will appreciate the extra time when the deadline comes, but I would really just as soon get it over with.

Kay Bell has more.


Update on Iowa effects of Wynne decision. The Iowa Department of Revenue public information officer responded to my inquiry about the state’s reaction to Monday’s Supreme Court decision requiring states to allow a credit on resident individual returns for taxes paid in other states: “We are in the process of reviewing the decision.”

Not surprising, as it is a new decision. If you have a refund statute of limitations expiring soon, don’t wait on their guidance to file a protective refund claim for income taxes paid in non-Iowa municipalities.


20150504-2Alito on the limits of politicsThe dissent in Wynne said that Maryland resident taxpayers afflicted with a discriminatory double tax on out-of-state income shouldn’t have prevailed becasue they had recourse to the ballot box to protect their interests. Writing for the majority, Justice Alito pointed out that this does little good (my emphasis):

In addition, the notion that the victims of such discrimination have a complete remedy at the polls is fanciful. It is likely that only a distinct minority of a State’s residents earns income out of State. Schemes that discriminate against income earned in other States may be attractive to legislators and a majority of their constituents for precisely this reason. It is even more farfetched to suggest that natural persons with out-of-state income are better able to influence state lawmakers than large corporations headquartered in the State. In short, petitioner’s argument would leave no security where the majority of voters prefer protectionism at the expense of the few who earn income interstate.

This is actually a powerful argument to limit the role of government in the first place. One voter has negligible power to overthrow unfair legislation. In the one-party rule typical of large American cities, political activity for a minority view is futile, Jim Maule notwithstanding.

20140513-1Arnold Kling points out how market institutions, which hold no elections but allow choice, can actually be more empowering for an individual:

Neither my local supermarket nor any of its suppliers has a way for me to exercise voice. They don’t hold elections. They don’t have town-hall meetings where they explain their plans for what will be in the store. By democratic standards, I am powerless in the supermarket.

And yet, I feel much freer in the supermarket than I do with respect to my county, state, or federal government. For each item in the supermarket, I can choose whether to put it into my cart and pay for it or leave it on the shelf. I can walk out of the supermarket at any time and go to a competing grocery.

The exercise of voice, including the right to vote, is not the ultimate expression of freedom. Rather, it is the last refuge of those who suffer under a monopoly.

He argues  that we should be able to choose governing institutions more like we choose other service providers:

In fact, if we had real competitive government, then we would be no more interested in elections and speaking out to government officials than we are in holding elections and town-hall meetings at the supermarket.

He makes this argument more detail in his book Unchecked and Unbalanced). Somehow I don’t think that will go over well with our current officeholders.



Russ Fox, The Real Impact of the Wynne Decision: “However, many states do not give credits for local taxes. Joe Kristan highlighted Iowa today; Kentucky is another state that does not currently offer such tax credits. Under Wynne I believe they’ll be required to offer such credits.”


Taxpayers are required to keep separate track of acquisition debt and home equity debt, to make sure that the deduction on Schedule A does not include interest on debt principal that exceed the statutory maximums ($1 Million for acquisition debt and $100,000 for home equity debt – no limit on grandfathered debt), and to determine what interest deduction to add back on Form 6251 when calculating Alternative Minimum Taxable Income.

I firmly believe that 99.5% of taxpayers do not do this. I do not know of any taxpayer who does.

The clients don’t, but that doesn’t mean preparers shouldn’t watch out for these items. When taxpayers have interest on multiple home loans, or very high home interest deductions, alert preparers have to ask questions to make sure the deductions and AMT are determined correctly.

Annette Nellen, Filing season tax updates

Robert Wood, Floyd Mayweather Gambles, Wins, Pays IRS:




Another ACA Co-op on the ropes? Hank Stern reports at Insureblog that the Kentucky health care cooperative is insolvent. That means it may go the way of Iowa’s short lived and expensive catastrophe Co-Oportunity.


Jeremy Scott, Hawkins Casts Powerful Shadow Over OPR (Tax Analysts Blog):

Hawkins will probably always face at least some criticism because of the overreach of the preparer regime, and some accusations that she was too favorable to the large practitioner groups such as the ABA and the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. But she should more properly be remembered as the person who brought coherence to IRS Circular 230 enforcement and essentially rebuilt OPR from scratch.


In fairness, the preparer regulation overreach was decided above her level.


Scott Sumner, A consumption tax is a wealth tax (Econlog). “For any income tax regime, there is a consumption tax regime of equal progressivity. Unfortunately that equally progressive regime will look much less progressive. This is one of the biggest barriers to tax reform.”

Kyle Pomerleau, What are Flat taxes? (Tax Policy Blog):

When most people hear “Flat Tax,” they usually think a tax system with one, flat tax rate on all income. They also imagine a tax system with little or no deductions or credits. While this is a possible way to design a flat tax, it is not what makes a flat tax a flat tax. The key to a flat tax goes beyond its rates. The key is that it is a consumption tax. You would not call a low-rate tax on all transactions in an economy a flat tax, even though it had one, flat rate.





Howard Gleckman, Are GOP Presidential Candidates Downplaying Tax Cuts Or Hiding The Ball? Referring to Joseph Thorndike, he says: “Joe, who is very much in the watch-what-they-do-not what-they-say (WWTDNWTS) camp, noted that while few GOP presidential hopefuls are talking about tax cuts, many of their proposals are, in fact tax cuts.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 741


Caleb Newquist,  “Just Ask the Guy” Not Always a Futile Fraud Detection Method (Going Concern).  Not foolproof, though.



Tax Roundup, 3/27/15: Scammer targets the Tax Update! And: a Des Moines tax crime sentence.

Friday, March 27th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

No Walnut STEnhancements in scam productivity. The IRS-impersonator-scammer community seems to be seeking improved productivity through automation. A robo-call to my house yesterday threatened us with dire consequences, including being sued, for unpaid taxes if we didn’t immediately call a New York City phone number — presumably with credit card and bank account information so they could loot our savings.

It was, of course, a scam call. The last year has seen the rise of the IRS-impersonation phone scam. My wife took the call, and wisely didn’t fall for it, but she found it convincing enough to call me just to make sure I hadn’t gotten us in tax trouble (trust, but verify!).

The IRS doesn’t do this. They will never call unless they write first. You won’t be in dire tax trouble without knowing about it before they call you. If somebody calls you claiming to be from the IRS, assume it’s a scam. Hang up. Provide no personal information, no credit card numbers, no bank info. If you have any questions at all, call your tax pro before you do anything the phone caller asks.

The scam phone number was 347-809-5928, by the way.

The IRS has put up an information page about phone scams. People who receive these calls are encouraged to report them to the Treasury Tax Inspector General for Tax Administration. I did.

Other information:

TaxGrrrl, TIGTA, IRS Warn Phone Scam Continues As Fraudsters Rake In Millions

Laura Saunders, No, That’s Not the IRS Calling. Just Hang Up.


baudersA Des Moines tax sentence. I missed this when it happened last month, but a Des Moines pharmacist has been sentenced on drug and tax charges arising out of an investigation of illegal sales of painkillers. The Des Moines Register reports that the pharmacist received a two-year sentence in federal prison.

The tax charges are what I find interesting. The pharmacist apparently went through a lot of work to fool the tax preparer for his small family-owned pharmacy, according to the plea deal:

Prior to providing the monthly credit card statements to the accounting firm, Defendant altered the credit card statement by (1) deleting the personal benefit purchases, and (2) increasing the amounts represented as additional inventory from wholesale distributors. Defendant would then provide the altered credit card statements to the bookkeeper, who entered that information…

He also improperly deducted purchases of sports memorabilia, which he now has to surrender to the Feds as part of his sentence. The federal inmate locator website places him at Leavenworth now. The pharmacy remains open, obviously under new management.

Prior coverage: The crime of deducting Cal Ripken’s bat.


Mortgage Credit season. Iowa Finance Authority Announces Launch of 2015 First-Time Home Buyer Tax Credit:

terrace hill 20150321The program provides eligible home buyers with a tax credit against their federal income tax liability every year for the life of their mortgage. The amount of the tax credit for the 2015 program is set at 50 percent of the mortgage interest paid, up to a maximum of $2,000 per year, for up to 30 years. The remaining mortgage interest may be taken as a deduction from taxable income if the home buyer itemizes.

Eligibility for the Take Credit Program requires home buyers to meet household income and purchase price limitations and meet the definition of a first-time home buyer. The federal income limits vary by county, the limits currently range from $65,300 to $111,300 per year.  A purchase price limit of $250,000 applies statewide with the exception of federally Targeted Areas where the limit is $305,000.

I think the credit is bad policy, but if you qualify, it would be silly not to use it.


William Perez, Personal Exemptions Reduce Taxable Income

Keith Fogg, More Bad News for Late Filers (Tax Procedure Blog). “The First Circuit in Fahey joins the Fifth and the 10th in holding that the hanging paragraph at the end of Bankruptcy Code Section 523 excepts from discharge the tax liability for any year in which the taxpayer files the return late – even by one minute.”

Robert Wood, NY Tax Preparer Indicted On 31 Tax Counts Could Face 3 Years Prison—For Each. That’s a lot of years.

TaxGrrrl, After BBC Sacks Top Gear’s Clarkson, Viewers Say They Won’t Pay Tax. The UK has an awful tax on televisions to fund the (literally) state-owned media. That system turns programming decisions into political ones.




Tax Justice Blog, Thank You for Being a Friend: States Make Golden Years a Golden Ticket. This left-side blog shows its righteous side:

Poorly targeted tax breaks for the elderly are a costly commitment for many states—and long-term demographic changes threaten to make these tax breaks unaffordable since older adults are the fastest growing age demographic in the country. Moreover, while poverty has often been associated with advanced age, a 2014 US Census report found that Americans over 65 are less likely to be poor than people in their prime working years, further exacerbating the mismatch between the tax breaks offered and needs within the population.

Despite these concerns, lawmakers in many states have proposed further tax breaks for the elderly (click here to read an ITEP brief on this topic). Here are five states where senior tax proposals are on the table:

Iowa: State Sen. Roby Smith recently filed legislation (SF 277) that would remove pensions, annuities, and retirement income from the personal income tax base. So far, the legislation has 23 cosponsors and a similar bill is being sponsored in the House. Note that Iowa already allows a $6,000 exclusion ($12,000 for married couples) for retirement income…  

If you want to protect the poor from high taxes, fine. But poverty and age aren’t the same thing.

Prior coverage of SF 277 here.


Jim Maule, Yes, Tax Uncertainty Hurts. ” Tax uncertainty causes economic harm. It also cause other problems, not the least of which is taxpayer anxiety and the opportunity for politicians to grandstand on the issues and to use taxpayer fear as leverage for gathering up campaign contributions.”

Howard Gleckman, The Medicare “Doc Fix” That Isn’t. “The doc fix doesn’t fix much, and what it does repair likely will add hundreds of billions of dollars to the debt in coming years.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 687

Jack Townsend, Two Courts’ Approaches to Taxpayer Culpability in the Son-of-Boss B******t Tax Shelter.


Caleb Newquist, Let’s All Enjoy This Story of a Rich Guy Who Procrastinated on His Taxes and Missed Out on a $1 Million Refund (Going Concern). It tells of somebody who made estimated payments, but never got his act together to file — costing him $1 million. Ouch.



Tax Roundup, 3/25/15: Why the casino may not be the place to invest those millions from that Chinese guy.

Wednesday, March 25th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

In the movies, an American who is entrusted with millions from a Chinese shipping magnate, but blows it at casinos, would face unimaginably dire consequences. In real life, he faces the IRS.

20120511-2That’s the story in a weird Tax Court case decided yesterday. The shipping magnate, a Mr Cheung, had fared poorly as an investor. He met a Mr. Sun from Texas and decided that he might be better at investing. He shipped the money to a C corporation and an e-Trade account owned by Mr. Sun, under a handshake deal with fuzzy terms. Judge Paris explains:

The only part of the arrangement that both Mr. Cheung and Mr. Sun consistently agreed on was the general structure of the investment. Mr. Cheung would transfer sums of money through his shipping companies’ bank accounts to Mr. Sun, who would then invest the money in the United States. Mr. Cheung would decide how much money he wished to send, and Mr. Sun had discretion on which investments to pursue with Mr. Cheung’s money.

The remaining terms of the verbal agreement were not memorialized and are unclear. Specifically, Mr. Sun and Mr. Cheung inconsistently described the investment term, the expected return, and enforcement provisions. Mr. Sun believed the term was a minimum of 5 years and did not give a maximum period, whereas Mr. Cheung believed the term was 7 to 10 years. The expected return is also unclear; Mr. Sun believed the return on investment would be a 50-50 split of the net profit with a minimum 10% gain annually, but the return might not be paid annually. Mr. Cheung believed the return would be 10% to 15%, but was uncertain whether that return was annual or total.

Not the sort of investment arrangement Suze Orman or Dave Ramsey would embrace. Nor would they embrace some of the “investments” described in the Tax Court case.

The funds sent to Mr. Sun’s C corporation went into an “officer loan account” for Mr. Sun. And then… well, again from Judge Paris (emphasis mine):

Mr. Sun would either pay his personal expenses directly from the officer loan account or he would remove money and use it at his discretion. For example, in 2008 Minchem paid $135,874.43 for home automation, $158,517.80 for a new Mercedes Benz, and $49,598.81 for personal real estate tax. In total, Minchem’s officer loan account was debited $4,116,414.43 in 2008 and $1,811,127.65 in 2009 for expenses that Mr. Sun identified as personal during his trial testimony.

Some of the personal expenditures included gambling expenses. In 2008 $4,800,100 was transferred to casinos from the officer loan account and $2,394,550 was returned. In 2009 $1 million was transferred to casinos and $1,300,000 was returned. Thus between 2008 and 2009 Mr. Sun transferred $5,800,100 from the officer loan account to casinos and received back $3,694,550; i.e., over the two years in issue Mr. Sun lost $2,105,550 from gambling from the officer loan account.

20120801-2Judge Paris said that the funds never belonged to the C corporation because it was a mere conduit for the cash; that meant the corporation was not taxable on the amounts.

Mr. Sun didn’t get off so easy. Judge Paris said that the funds became income to Mr. Sun when he began spending them for his own purposes (citations omitted):

Whether funds have been misappropriated is a question of fact, but facts beyond “dominion and control” must be considered. More specifically, an individual misappropriates funds when money has been entrusted to the individual for the sole purpose of investing and the individual instead uses the money for personal activities.

Mr. Sun undisputedly treated as his own money held for Mr. Cheung’s benefit and specifically earmarked for investment purposes. For example, Mr. Sun used some of the funds to purchase a personal automobile and a home automation system. Perhaps the most obvious example of Mr. Sun’s misappropriation of the funds is his gambling activities.

The opinion dismissed the idea that the funds were loans because there was no documentation of any sort of loan agreement or terms. The court said that the amounts weren’t gifts because no Form 3520, where U.S.  taxpayers report large foreign gifts, was filed, and because there was no evidence of an intent to make a gift.

While the Tax Court ruled that Mr. Sun misappropriated the money, it ruled that the IRS failed to prove fraud. That meant the penalties were only 25% of the roughly $4.7 million of additional tax, rather than the 75% under the civil fraud rules.

The Moral? Hard to say. Don’t squander millions of dollars entrusted to you for investment at casinos? You didn’t need the Tax Court to tell you that. Maybe it’s a handy reminder to file Form 3520 if you receive large foreign gifts, lest the IRS get the wrong idea (and lest they hit you with a $10,000 penalty for not filing it). And if you have had bad luck with your investments, maybe index funds are a better way to go than a handshake deal with some guy in Texas.

Cite: Minchem International, Inc., et. al., T.C. Memo 2015-56.


Kyle Pomerleau, U.S. Taxpayers Face the 6th Highest Top Marginal Capital Gains Tax Rate in the OECD (Tax Policy Blog):



The United States currently places a heavy tax burden on saving and investment with its capital gains tax. The U.S.’s top marginal tax rate on capital gains, combined with state rates, far exceeds the average rates faced throughout the industrialized world. Increasing taxes on capital income, as suggested in the president’s recent budget proposal, would further the bias against saving, leading to lower levels of investment and slower economic growth. Lowering taxes on capital gains would have the reverse effect, increasing investment and leading to greater economic growth.

But, but, the rich!


IMG_1388William Perez covers Various Types of Individual Retirement Accounts.

Paul Neiffer, Tax Court Allows $11 Million Horse Loss to Stand. “Now, though this is a victory for the taxpayer in Tax Court, they are still out over $11 million in losses (or more).  I am not sure if it really is an overall win for the taxpayers.”

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): M Is For Municipal Bonds.

Jason Dinesen discusses Recordkeeping Considerations for a Startup Business.

Roger McEowen, USDA Releases Proposed Definition of “Actively Engaged in Farming” That Would Have Little Practical Application. Sounds useful.

Kay Bell, $42 million Montana mansion owner loses property tax fight. Looks like a nice place.

Jim Maule, When Social Security Benefits Aren’t Social Security Benefits: When They Meet Tax. “By reducing social security benefits on account of the state retirement system benefit payments, the Congress causes the portion of the taxpayer’s overall retirement receipts that is treated as taxable pension payments to increase, which in turn not only increases gross income on its own account but generates gross income from a portion of the social security benefits.”

Joni Larson, Proposal to Amend Section 7453 to Provide that the Tax Court Apply the Federal Rules of Evidence (Procedurally Taxing)


Tony Nitti, Ted Cruz To Run For President: Why His Plan For A Flat Tax May Doom His Candidacy:

Whether a move to a much more regressive system than the one currently in place is ultimately in the best interest of the economy and country is irrelevant; the Democrats will seize on the shift in the tax burden and continue to paint Republican candidates as seeking only to placate the rich.

I think Hillary Clinton, or whoever the nominee is, will do that to any Republican opponent, regardless of any actual policy positions. The question is whether they will be able to more successfully deal with the issue than Mr. Romney.

Robert Wood, Taxing Stephen King, Taylor Swift And Phil Mickelson




Renu Zaretsky, Tax Struggles and Tax Sneaks. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup has stories about how Orrin Hatch wants tax reform and John Koskinen wants more money.

David Brunori, Louisiana Tax Reform: Some Smart Guys Worth Listening To (Tax Analysts Blog)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 685.  Today’s post features Media Matters, living proof that the IRS concern over political activity was rather selective.


Career Corner. Confirmed: Golf More Difficult Than CPA Exam (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). But almost as much fun!



Tax Roundup, 3/23/15: ACA is five years old today. How’s that working out?

Monday, March 23rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Productivity wins! All three Iowa teams are out of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament. Back to those 1040s, fans!



President Obama signs the Affordable Care Act. Image via

Five years. The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was signed into law five years ago today. Thanks to many delays — some part of the original law, others done in spite of the law to get past the elections — taxpayers and preparers are just beginning to cope with key portions of the law.

This is the first year for returns with the individual mandate — officially, and creepily, the “Individual Shared Responsibility Provision.” While many taxpayers thought this would only amount to $95, taxpayers hit with the penalty are learning that their refunds will get dinged for up to 1% of their AGI over a relatively low threshold.

This is also the first year that taxpayers have to true up overpayments of the advance premium tax credit.  Many taxpayers who bought policies on the ACA exchanges had their monthly premiums reduced based on their estimates of 2014 earnings. This subsidy is actually a tax credit, and it has to be reconciled at year end with the actual earnings.  Taxpayers with earnings in excess of what they estimated are now learning from their preparers that they need to write checks.

20121120-2The premium tax credit is horribly designed, with a stepped, rather than gradual, phaseout. One additional dollar in income can result in a loss of thousands of dollars in premium tax credits, which then have to be repaid with the tax return. H&R Block reports that most taxpayers who claimed the credit have to repay an average of $530. The IRS has tried to patch over some of the unpleasantness, unilaterally waiving penalties this year for taxpayers who have to repay the credits.

Here in Iowa, smaller employers who want to offer ACA-approved health insurance can’t, in the wake of the failure of the heavily-subsidized CoOportunity health insurance carrier. The IRS will still allow Iowa businesses to claim the convoluted credit for small employers for 2015. It required carriers who had signed up with CoOportunity to scramble to find new coverage, and it required many families who had already reached their out-of-pocket limits to start them over with a new carrier.


Looming over all this is the Supreme Court’s impending decision in King v. Burwell. The IRS decided to allow the premium tax credit in the 34 states using federal exchanges, in spite of statutory language limiting the credits to exchanges created “by the states.” If the court goes with the way the law is drafted, the premium tax credit will be gone for those 34 states, including Iowa. Employers in those states will be suddenly exempt from the “employer mandate” that begins to take effect in 2015. Millions of taxpayers will also be free of the individual mandate penalty because their insurance will no longer be “affordable.”

If you want to celebrate, head over to Insureblog, where they are always updating the latest developments and unintended consequences of the ACA.



20150312-1William Perez, Did You Pay Interest on Student Loans? It May be Tax Deductible

TaxGrrrl, Understanding Your Forms: 1098-T, Tuition Statement

Roger McEowen, Are Payments Made to Settle Patent Violations Deductible? (ISU-CALT)

Kay Bell, Tax returns on hold while IRS asks ‘Who Are You?’

Peter Reilly, Ninth Circuit Rules Against War Tax Resister

Jim Maule, Tax Credit for Purchasing a Residence Requires a Purchase. “Nothing in the opinion explains why the taxpayer thought she had purchased the residence. Nor does it explain why the taxpayer, if not thinking that she had purchased the residence, would claim that she did.”

Peter Hardy, Carolyn Kendall, Between the National Taxpayer Advocate and the Courts: Steering a Middle Course to Define “Willfulness” in Civil Offshore Account Enforcement Cases Part 1 (Procedurally Taxing). “The OVD programs have netted many people who may have inadvertently failed to file FBARs, and who are not wealthy people with substantial accounts.”

In other words, shooting jaywalkers while giving international money launderers a good deal.


Robert Goulder, When All Else Fails, Blame a Tax Pro (Tax Analysts Blog) “OK, the tax code is a disgrace. I get it. But a member of Congress is blaming tax professionals? Really?”

Congress is sort of like the guy who leaves his food plate on the floor, falls asleep, and then blames the dog for eating it.




Joseph Henchman, 10 Remaining States Provide Tax Filing Guidance to Same-Sex Married Taxpayers. “After the IRS decision to allow gay and lesbian married couples to file joint federal tax returns, we noted that a number of states would have to provide guidance because they require two contradictory things: (1) if you file a joint federal return, you must file a joint state return, and (2) same-sex married couples cannot file jointly.”

Renu Zaretsky, Budget Battles and Filing Follies: The Sagas Continue. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup tells of abundant ACA tax filing headaches and more tax nonsense from the only avowedly-socialist senator, Bernie Sanders.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 683Day 682Day 681. “Commissioner John Koskinen, testifying before the House Appropriations subcommittee this week, admitted that nearly a dozen grassroots conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status are still awaiting determination.”

Robert Wood, Report Says Former IRS Employees–Think Lois Lerner–Can Still Peruse Your Tax Returns. Well, that’s reassuring.


Career Corner. Going Concern March Madness: More #BusySeasonProblems (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). Brackets asking important work life questions like Which is the bigger busy season problem? Working Saturdays (#1 seed), or Colleagues who heat up smelly leftovers (16 seed).”

I’ll take the underdog.



Tax Roundup, 3/13/15: Making the ultimate sacrifice to tax administration. And: Tax Sadist Tourism!

Friday, March 13th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

“SPA51928” by Jan Leineberg – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons –

Maybe I should leave my office door open. A tax office official in Finland who died at his desk was not found by his colleagues for two days (BBC, via the TaxProf):

The man in his 60s died last Tuesday while checking tax returns, but no-one realised he was dead until Thursday.

The head of personnel at the office in the Finnish capital, Helsinki, said the man’s closest colleagues had been out at meetings when he died.

He said everyone at the tax office was feeling dreadful – and procedures would have to be reviewed.

Procedures? Like what? I can see the memo now:

To: All Employees

From: Pekka Raanta, HR director

Re: New Procedures

The recent unfortunate incident involving our dear colleague highlights a need for new procedures for preventing a recurrence of the incident. The presence of unauthorized dead in the office poses both safety and administrative issues.

To ensure early deduction of deaths among our colleagues, we will initiate the following MANDATORY daily procedures.

1. The office manager is to begin each day by kicking all employees. The receptionist will kick the office manager. Should they not respond, please complete form HR-6-MORT.

2. At 10 am and 2 pm each day, we will have a roll call. THIS IS IMPORTANT. Please do not answer the roll for an absent colleague, as this could inadvertenly conceal a death.

3. Buddy system. You will be assigned a “death buddy” by the H.R. Department. You and your death buddy will be responsible for continuous respiration monitoring. Should you go on break or to the restroom, IT IS YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO SECURE A SUBSTITUTE. You are also responsible for making mutually satisfactory arrangements to vacation together.

4. ALL EMPLOYEES are required to attend training to enable you to identify dead colleagues. Warning signs such as unusually low productivity and wearing the same outfit for consecutive days will be covered. We realize that it can be difficult to distiguish between the productivity of the dead and the normally-functioning, but there are important signs to look for.

Pihla will complete our colleague’s final time report. Please charge the final two days to “diversity training.” 

I wonder if there is a Purple Heart for tax officials who die at their desks. TaxGrrrl has more on this important story.


Foggy Friday at Principal Park. Opening day looms in the fog, April 17!

Foggy Friday at Principal Park. Opening day looms in the fog, April 17!

Russ Fox reminds us that Corporate Tax Deadline is Monday, March 16th and Form 1042 Filing Deadline is Monday, March 16th. Form 1042 reports most foreign withholding, except for partner withholding.


Jack Townsend, Judge Posner Confronts a Crackpot in a Tax Crimes Case. “The point is, Judge Posner entertains.”

Jim Maule, Moving? Let the IRS Know. “The lesson is undeniable. Taxpayers who move need to send a change of address notice to the IRS.”

Peter Lowy covers the same case as Prof. Maule in Gyorgy v Comm’r Tees Up Important Procedural issues at Procedurally Taxing.


Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

Robert Wood, Fake IRS Agent Scam Targets Public, Even Feds, While Identity Theft Tax Fraud Is Rampant. “Senate testimony shows just how serious fraudsters are at tax time, and just how easy it is for them to get your tax refund.”

Tom Giovanetti,, Blame the IRS and Congress, not software, for tax fraud (The Hill)

Responsibility falls squarely at the feet of the IRS to enforce existing law but ultimately to Congress, as it’s within Congress’s power to reform and simplify programs and restructure administrator incentives to identify and prosecute fraud.

That’s why it’s shameful to see Congress pass the buck and attempt to pin the blame for tax fraud on . . . tax preparation software. That’s right—according to some in Congress, apparently TurboTax is to blame.

Blaming TurboTax for the way the IRS sends billions to thieves every year is like blaming GM for a bank robbery when a Chevy was used as the getaway car.


Peter Reilly, Jury Finds Kent Hovind Guilty Of Contempt Of Court No Verdict On Fraud Charges. More on the sago of the founder of the young earth creationist theme park.


20130316-1Kyle Pomerleau, Irish Business Leader Calls for Income Tax Reform:

It may be surprising to Americans to hear that Ireland has pretty high taxes. We usually hear about Ireland’s tax system in the context of its corporate income tax rate, which sits a low 12.5 percent, half the average rate of the OECD. We are led to believe that Ireland is a low-tax country in general.

In reality, Ireland’s tax code has some of the highest marginal tax rates, especially on income, in the OECD.

I did not know that.


Robert Goulder, Reading Between the Lines (Tax Analysts Blog). “Reading between the lines, we can surmise that conservatives in Congress are now trying to decide which is worse: Camp’s revenue raisers or a federal consumption tax.”

Kay Bell, Old online sales tax bill resurrected in new Senate

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 673. My high school classmate got pushed around by Lois Lerner in her FEC days, and Politico can’t be bothered to care.

Carl Davis, Nine States and Counting Have Raised the Gas Tax Since 2013 (Tax Justice Blog)

G. William Hoagland, Dynamic Scoring Forum: Overblown Concerns? (TaxVox)




Tony Nitti, House Bill Would Provide Tax Deduction For Gym Membership; Shake Weight. I wonder how long it would take to start qualifying gyms specializing in 12-ounce curls to tap into this?

Alberto Mingardi, Greece and tax sadist tourism (EconLog):

The Greek government apparently announced that it wants to hire part timers as “undercover agents to grab out tax evaders”. Tourists, students and housewives could work armed with wireless devices to catch shopkeepers and service providers who do not issue receipts when they sell goods and services.

The application of the concept to tourists potentially opens up a new whole kind of business: sadistic tourism. Syriza regularly portrays Germans as evil people that want to make the poor Greek suffer: why not turning that into a profitable line of activity for the government? Come to Greece. Ouzo, great sea, beautiful landscapes, moussaka, and you’ll have the pleasure to force dirty little shopkeepers to pay their dues to the government!

If the Treasury Employees Union has a travel office, this could be a popular offering.



Tax Roundup, 3/11/15: The $195 pass-through timely-filing incentive. And: taxing your neighbor may just send him your retailers.

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

7004 cornerExtend your corporations! The deadline for corporation returns looms. This year it’s March 16, as the usual March 15 deadline is on a Sunday.

The need to file or extend C corporation returns by Monday should be obvious. A failure to file penalty starts 5% of any underpayment, up to 25%, and 100% of the corporate tax is due by March 15 even when you extend.

Failing to meet an S corporation deadline can be even more expensive. How can that be? After all, S corporations don’t usually pay tax. What’s the big deal?

Blame Congress, which has used S corporation late-filing penalties as pay-fors for tax breaks. Congress has now made the penalty $195 per month, Per K-1. So an S corporation return with ten shareholders that is one day late racks up a $1,950 penalty. A S corporations can have up to 100 shareholders — and more when family members own shared – you can see that the numbers can get big in a hurry.

Missing filing deadlines has other bad consequences. You lose the ability to make automatic accounting method changes for the late year, for example; this can be costly, especially if you have lots of depreciable assets. You also lose the ability to 20130415-1make many other elections that can only be made on a timely-filed return. And, of course, you increase the risk of audit. While extended returns don’t increase audit risk, late filings certainly do.

Extensions can be obtained automatically on Form 7004, which can be filed electronically. If you must paper file, go Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested, to prove timely filing.



David Brunori is, as usual, wise in his post Local Sales Taxes are Poor Revenue Options (Tax Analysts Blog). “I think the biggest problem with local option sales taxes is that they afford politicians the ability to export tax burdens.”

I think it might be more accurate to say that it deludes politicians into thinking they can export tax burdens. Over time, the effect is to export retail into the next jurisdiction that doesn’t impose the local option tax. Anyone who has observed the outward march of retail to the suburbs over the last century or so, and the death of the first generation of malls that sucked the retail out of down at the hands of newer malls, knows retail can move. But I’m sure that the localities that drive out their retailers with a local sales tax will try to bribe them back with TIF financing.


IMG_0603Jack Townsend, TRAC Publishes Statistics on Tax and Tax-Related Prosecutions. “Year after year, April consistently has the greatest number of criminal prosecutions as a result of IRS investigations — two-thirds or more higher than those seen in January.”

I’m pretty sure that’s that’s designed to encourage the rest of us.


William Perez, Deducting Health Insurance Premiums When You’re Self-Employed. The nice thing is that when you qualify, this is an “above-the-line” deduction; you don’t have to itemize.

Paul Neiffer, IRS Provides Guidance on Repair Regulations. “Last week, the IRS actually provided some very good practical Q&A guidance on these Regulations that should provide great comfort to many of our tax preparers and farmers.  I wish that this guidance had been provided several months ago, but it is better late than never.”

Peter Reilly, IRS Busts In Las Vegas Tip Case. “I really think the Service would have been better off if they had settled with Mr. Sabolic rather than setting this precedent and encouraging more tipped employees to drop out of the program.”


Annette Nellen covers Use Tax Lookup Tables, which are handy for those good citizens who actually pay their use taxes on mail-order purchases.

Jana Luttenegger Weiler talks about Financial Literacy at Tax Time (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Jason Dinesen shares his Tax Season Tunes: 2015. He’s a Gordon Lightfoot fan. I’m more Punch Brothers and, of course, Fleeting Suns.

Jim Maule, Tax Courses and Food. “At the risk of seeming crude, the idea of tax law making someone want to eat strikes me as the opposite of reality.” Something to drink, I can definitely see.


Richard Borean, Annual Release of “Facts & Figures: How Does Your State Compare?” (Tax Policy Blog). This is a wonderful resource, putting summary information from all of the states, including rates, per-capita tax burdens, business tax climate rankings, and much other data all in one place.




Robert Wood, Feds Launch Internet Sales Tax Again, So Better Click While You Can. I think he’s against the “Marketplace Fairness” bill.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 671. This is interesting:

In September 2014, during a House Oversight Committee hearing on the Lerner e-mails, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said it’s policy not to use personal e-mail.

“One of the things we’re doing is making sure everybody understands that you cannot use your e-mail for IRS business,” he said. “That’s been a policy; we need to reinforce that.”

Say what you will about Lois Lerner, she didn’t set up




You don’t say. Improving Deficit Numbers Don’t Make Obama a Deficit Hawk (Jeremy Scott, Tax Analysts Blog) “The CBO’s new baselines will undoubtedly be touted by President Obama as showing that he is keeping his promise to shrink the deficit, but those who think the president is a deficit hawk should note that the smallest deficit projected during this administration ($462 billion in 2017) is still larger than the deficit he inherited ($458 billion in 2008).”

Howard Gleckman, Watch What You Wish For: Dynamic Scoring Creates More Issues for the GOP (TaxVox)

Caleb Newquist, Accounting Programs, Ranked (Going Concern). None of UNI, Iowa State or Iowa are listed in the U.S. News top 10. That makes it obviously wrong.

Kay Bell, Tourists, students to act as tax spies for Greek government. Greece cements its hold on the title of laughingstock of public finance.



Tax Roundup, 3/6/15: Crime Watch Edition. Rashia, still 21.

Friday, March 6th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

It’s the time of the year when exasperated taxpayers and preparers are tempted to say, “bugger all this, I’m going to go for the gusto and cheat on my taxes!” That’s when it’s useful to look in on an old friend of the Tax Update to see how well that’s going.

Rashia says "thanks, Commissioner!"

Rashia says “thanks, Commissioner!”

Let’s look in on Rashia Wilson, who proclaimed herself (on Facebook!) the “Queen of IRS Tax Fraud.” Her reign was cut short by federal identity theft tax refund charges, resulting in a 21-year sentence. And with federal sentences, you have to serve at least 90% of the time.

Ms. Wilson naturally was unhappy with this judicial lèse-majesté, so she appealed, citing procedural irregularities. The trial judge was ordered to reconsider. On further review, the call on the field stands. 21 years.  Robert Wood has more.

Iowa has tax ID fraud too. While South Florida may be the kingdom of tax refund fraud, it has colonies everywhere. Even in Iowa: Cedar Rapids woman charged with filing false tax returns (

The United States Department of Justice says 33-year-old Gwendolyn Murray is charged with twelve counts of filing false claims for tax refunds, seven counts of theft of government property, and two counts of aggravated identity theft.­ The indictment containing the charges was unsealed on Tuesday.

It is alleged that Murray filed 12 fraudulent tax returns in 2012 and 2013 using other people’s names. She received refunds on seven of those tax returns. The court also alleges that Murray stole the identities of two people.

It’s good to prosecute ID thieves, but it’s far better to keep them from thieving. It’s eye-opening that 7 of the 12 alleged attempts allegedly succeeded. Criminals aren’t known for their impulse control or their ability to anticipate long-term consequences. If they see somebody get a bunch of cash just from keying in some numbers on a computer, they’re going to want some of that bling themselves, and they aren’t going to ponder the likelihood of a prison sentence first.  The IRS is pretty much leaving the door unlocked and the cash register open.


Megan McArdle says the culture of “getting a big refund” is part of the problem in Fewer Tax Refunds, Fewer Scams:

If all returns were submitted at the same time, and refunds were held until they could be cross-checked against the IRS’s copies of W-2s and 1099s, then this sort of fraud wouldn’t work very well; the IRS would know it had two returns and could start the process of figuring out which one was fraudulent before it mailed the check. But we love our early refunds, and people often count on getting that check as early as possible.

She offers wise advice:

However, there’s one thing you personally can do to fight tax fraud, and that’s make sure that you don’t give the government more money than you have to. You should never get excited about a tax refund; all it means is that you gave the government a substantial interest-free loan by withholding too much tax throughout the year. You should aim for your refund to be as small as possible — ideally, zero.

A system that sends $21 billion annually to fraudsters — and that number is rising rapidly — can’t continue forever. Part of this will be a technological fix.  My wife can’t buy a dress at Nordstrom in Chicago without triggering phone calls from two credit card companies.  Meanwhile, the IRS happily wires wads of cash to Rashia. One would hope the IRS could learn something from Visa and Discover.

But the IRS is bad at technology, so part of the fix will have to be slower (and ideally, smaller) refunds. This could include lower penalty thresholds for underpayments so that taxpayers will be more willing to risk owing a bit on April 15 — perhaps combined with withholding tables that leave taxpayers owing a bit, rather than getting refunds.


What else can you do to protect yourself? 

  • Be careful with your tax information. Never divulge your bank account or credit card info to strangers over the phone.
  • Assume any unexpected call from a tax agency is a scam.
  • Don’t send copies of 1099s and W-2s as e-mail attachments to your preparer, and don’t email a pdf of your 1040 to a loan officer. That leaves your information exposed.
  • When you transmit confidential information, use strong encryption, or better yet upload it via a secure file transfer site, like the FileDrop system we use at Roth & Company.



20150105-2Peter Reilly, IRS Grossly Unqualified To Make Determinations About Software Related Exempt Applications. The IRS is grossly unqualified for any number of things that Congress gives it to do. Just a very few that come immediately to mind:

– Determining what is “qualified research” for the research credit.

– Determining the energy properties of “green fuels” for the biofuel subsidies.

– Running the nation’s healthcare insurance finance system.

– Policing political speech by tax-exempt organizations.

An outfit that can’t keep two-bit grifters from cashing in billions in tax refunds annually shouldn’t be looking for new things to do.


Kay Bell, Tax identity thief mistakenly sends fake refund to real filer. The police don’t spend their days chasing geniuses.

Jack Townsend, More on Light Sentencing for Offshore Account Tax Crimes.


Russ Fox provides a valuable service with Online Gambling Addresses Updated for 2015. Taxpayers with offshore online gambling accounts are required to report them on the “FBAR” report of foreign financial accounts (Form 114). The FBAR requires a street address for the account, and these can be hard to find for gambling websites.

William Perez offers advice on how to Communicate Effectively with Your Tax Preparer. We aren’t always the best company this time of year. Come prepared, be efficient, and you can leave our office before we do something bizarre. Other than what we do for a living, of course.

Jason Dinesen, Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 3: Big Changes in 1917

Jim Maule, The IRS and the Taxpayer: Both Wrong. “The taxpayer argued that because the distribution from the IRA was less than the his investment in the IRA, it should be treated as a return of investment. The IRS argued that the entire distribution should be included in the taxpayer’s gross income. The Tax Court concluded that both the taxpayer and the IRS were wrong.”




Kyle Pomerleau, The Rubio-Lee Plan Would be Good for Everyone, Especially Low Income Earners (Tax Policy Blog):

If you take all the pieces of the Rubio-Lee tax plan together, it actually produces the largest increase in after-tax income for the lowest income earners, not the highest.

According to our analysis, the bottom decile of taxpayers will see an increase in after-tax income of 44.2 percent, a percentage increase in income nearly four times larger than the top 1 percent’s increase in after-tax income. But the plan doesn’t just increase the after-tax income of the top and the bottom. All taxpayers will see higher after-tax incomes due to this plan.

The Rubio-Lee plan, with its elimination of the double corporate tax and its business rate reductions, is the most promising tax reform plan to surface in a long time. But its opponents can never see wisdom in anything that benefits “the rich,” even when it benefits everyone else.


Renu Zaretsky, Expensive Plans, ACA Developments, and Exercises in Futility. Today’s TaxVox roundup has links to folks hating on Rubio-Lee, Spanish film tax credits, and more.

Patrick Smith, Supreme Court’s Direct Marketing Case May Have Great Significance in Anti-Injunction Act Cases (Procedurally Taxing)



Spring will come!



Cara Griffith, The Use of Big Data in Auditing (Tax Analysts Blog). “For state auditors, big data (like other types of data) could be used to better evaluate and select taxpayers for audit.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, 666


Why would he want a job with less power? Former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson To Run For President. Yes, Of The United States (Tony Nitti)

Culture Corner. A Tax Shelter Board Game Is a Thing That Exists (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).




Tax Roundup, 2/27/15: Bartender beats barrister in Tax Court. And more!

Friday, February 27th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2Bartender or barrister, you need to keep good records.  A Nevada bartender, arguing his own case against an IRS attorney, defeated the IRS in Tax Court yesterday. He did it by keeping records.

The IRS said the taxpayer understated his tip income, and it used a generic tip model to assess additional tax. The bartender argued that the IRS model didn’t reflect what happened at the casino where he worked, and that he had the records to prove it:

Petitioner testified about how his bar was set up and what a shift was like during the years at issue. He stated that his bar had only six stools and that customers would often sit at the stools playing poker for several hours and receive several comped drinks as a result. He testified that the only time his bar would be busy was when there was a big convention and then most of the drink sales tips would be on company credit cards rather than cash. He described the difficult [*15] economic times that Las Vegas faced during the years at issue and how his business had decreased as a result.

Petitioner also testified about the typical tipping behavior of his patrons. Most of his drinks served were comps, and he testified that customers rarely tipped on comp drinks and that if they did they might “throw [him] a buck or two” after several hours of sitting at his bar receiving the comped drinks. Petitioner additionally testified that college kids and foreigners rarely tipped.

And the records:

Petitioner argues that he has met his burden because he complied with the recordkeeping requirements of section 6001 and section 31.6053-4(a)(1), Employment Tax Regs., having kept detailed, contemporaneous daily logs which are substantially accurate. Petitioner routinely recorded the amounts of his cash and charge tips on slips of paper at the end of each shift. Petitioner kept these logs and produced them to respondent and at trial.

20130903-1The IRS tried to nit-pick the records, but Judge Kerrigan was satisfied:

Respondent argues that petitioner was not tipped in exact dollar amounts. Petitioner testified credibly that when he was tipped with change he would put the change in a glass jar to be mixed in with the other tips. When he would periodically cash out the change jar, he would give the change to the cashiers who cashed him out at the end of the shift. He also testified that when he cashed out daily his charged tips receipt, he would give the cashiers any change that was generated by those tips. We find petitioner’s explanation credible and do not find the logs inadequate merely because the amounts are recorded in whole numbers.

I think the important lesson here is that he generated the records every day, and that he was able to produce them to the judge. Contrast that with a recent decision involving a Mrs. Hall, an attorney deducting travel expenses:

Mrs. Hall did not maintain a contemporaneous mileage log. Mr. Katz testified that he based the number of miles driven on discussions with Mrs. Hall. Mr. Katz claimed that he reviewed documentation in order to determine the number of miles driven. The documentation that Mr. Hall and Mrs. Hall offered into evidence to substantiate the number of miles driven consisted of seven parking receipts, an equipment lease, a help wanted advertisement, a phone message slip, and a few other documents. The evidence they submitted does not demonstrate that Mrs. Hall incurred mileage expenses in amounts greater than those respondent allowed in the notice of deficiency.


Sabolic, T.C. Memo 2015-32

Hall, T.C. Memo 2014-171


TaxGrrrl, Opting Out Of The Obamacare Tax: What Happens If You Don’t Pay?. Oddly, the IRS can’t use most of its collection tools to collect the individual mandate. The advance premium clawback is a different story.

Russ Fox, 10 = 2500 ?. “On Monday, I mailed a Tax Organizer to a client here in Las Vegas; she’s about ten miles from where I am. I also mailed a completed tax return to a client in South Carolina. Both will be received today.”

Annette Nellen talks about Taxes Around the World.

Kay Bell, Survey says tax refunds going into savings, paying off debt

Jack Townsend covers Key points of Article on ABA Webcast on Offshore Accounts




Robert Wood, New IRS Scandal Hearings Reveal 32,000 More Emails, Possible Criminal Activity:

But in what was the most disturbing revelation, House Member attendees were told that the IRS had not even asked for the backup tapes when the ‘hard drive crash’ excuse was first used. That contradicted the prior testimony of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. He had testified to the effect that recovery efforts had been thorough, and that the tapes couldn’t be accessed.

Do you believe the Commissioner when he says he needs more money?

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 659.


Don Boudreaux links: Dick Carpenter and Larry Salzman, in this new publication from the Institute for Justice, explain how the I.R.S. helps to fuel in the U.S. the uncivilized banana-republic terror that is civil asset forfeiture. (Cafe Hayek)

Jim Maule, Testing Tax Knowledge.

According to a report on a recent NerdWallet survey, “[m]ost American adults get an ‘F’ in understanding income tax basics.”

It would be fun to require members of Congress and candidates for that office to take this survey, or one like it. I cannot imagine the outcome would be any better than that achieved by the 1,015 survey takers.

Nor can I.


Andrew Lundeen, Corporate Tax Cuts Increase Federal Revenue in the Long Run (Tax Policy Blog):

It’s important to note that this increase in revenue would be in the long run, after the economy has fully adjusted (probably about 10 years in the future). In the early years, federal revenue would fall before investment and growth pick up fully as the economy adjusts to a better tax system.

However, tax policy—all public policy, in fact—should be made with a focus on the long-term.

Unfortunately, politicians buy our votes with our money in the short-term.


Joseph Thorndike, Hey, It Could Happen! The Optimist’s Case for Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog). ” It will result from a transparent, flexible, and bipartisan bill drafting process; from strategic use of congressional staff to test the waters of controversial proposals; from skillful deployment of transition rules and other minor bill changes to win support from rank-and-file members of Congress; and from streamlined or fast-track debate procedures.”


Renu Zaretsky, The Internet, Drug Profits, and Sacrifice. The TaxVox headline roundup covers the uncertain tax effects of the “net neutrality” power grab.

Kristine Tidgren, Iowa Fuel Excise Tax Set to Increase 10 Cents on Sunday (ISU-CALT)

Matt Gardner, Is the Starz Network Series “Spartacus” a Jobs Creator? (Tax Justice Blog). I’m sure it helped create lots of work for film tax credit middlemen and fixers.


I bet the judge gave him a stern talking-to. Bow Man Sentenced for Fraud, Tax Evasion.(Concord Patch).

Caleb Newquist, Actually, Everyone Knows That Having Two Monitors Is Super Boss. (Going Concern).

Only two?




Tax Roundup, 2/13/15: Gas tax advances, tax system declines.

Friday, February 13th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today visitors: click here for the post on the updated auto depreciation limits.


IMG_1284It looks more likely that I was wrong in predicting no gas tax increase. Subcommittees in both the House and Senate Ways and Means committees approved a 10-cent per gallon increase this week, advancing the increase to the full committes. reports:

A group of top lawmakers from both parties and Gov. Terry Branstad have proposed the 10-cent gas tax increase, which is expected to generate more than $200 million annually.

Supporters say the gas tax is the most fair and equitable way to generate funds for road construction.

At least it looks like my backup bet — that a gas tax increase would indicate that Governor Branstad won’t run for another term — is looking better.


taxanalystslogoChristopher Bergin, Reform What? (Tax Analysts Blog). It has a great teaser line: “Yes, it sure is fun thinking about tax reform. And doing nothing about it could be fun as well. We might get to watch this colossal structure collapse soon.”

Christopher goes on to explain:

But all this talk has me thinking about other things, too. Which tax system will we reform – or at least start with? Should it be the one most of us are struggling to comply with -– the one that about half of us “regular” taxpayers still have to pay taxes under? You know, the one with deductions for charitable contributions that we’d make anyway — the one that discriminates between people who own a house and rent a house. The one that’s so confusing, many of us just turn our taxes over to a paid preparer or a paid-for program to figure out. Let’s not forget that if you’re doing well under this tax system, you win a prize: the alternative minimum tax (which is sort of a booby prize).

Or maybe we should start by reforming the IRS, which has become so broke and inept that it can’t afford to help your grandmother find the line on her Form 1040 for the dependents she can no longer claim. That’s the agency that is also supposed to enforce the law so that none of us “regular” taxpayers are the true suckers in all this. (How’s that working out for you?)

Lots of that sort of cheerful stuff. In some ways the system is already collapsing before our eyes. A system that wires $21 billion annually to thieves — and it’s getting worse quickly — isn’t built to last.


Des Moines Register, 16 companies claim 82 percent of Iowa’s R&D tax credits. “In all, 265 companies claimed about $51 million in credits for research and development last year, the report shows. Of that, 16 companies claimed $42.1 million.”

My coverage of the story from yesterday is here: The Federal $21 billion thief subsidy; the Iowa $37 million corporation subsidy.


William Perez, If You Drive for Uber, Lyft or Sidecar, These Tax Tips are Just for You

20150105-2Kay Bell, IRS drops some features in latest app upgrade

Jim Maule, Self-Employment Income Not Offset by NOL Carryforward

Carl Smith, The Eight Circuit Gives Both Sides a Hard Time on What is a “Separate Return” for Section 6013(b) Purposes (Procedurally Taxing). ” Does the limit on changing from a “separate return” to an MFJ return after filing a Tax Court petition only apply where a taxpayer initially filed an MFS return (as the taxpayer argues), or does it also apply where a taxpayer initially filed a “single” or HOH return (as the government argues)?”

Robert Wood, Nine Habits of Exceptionally Tax-Averse People. Numbers 5 and 6 are key.

TaxGrrrl, Are You Insured? Obamacare Deadline Quickly Approaching

Tony Nitti, Republicans, Democrats Agree On Tax Issue; Winter Storm Warning Issued For Hell. Tony, gang truces are more common than you’d think.

Jack Townsend, Structuring 20150119-1Forfeitures Again in the News (my emphasis):

After taking considerable heat on which we reported before, the IRS has hunkered back to a policy that generally (that’s a fuzz word) will allow seizure only where the IRS has proof of illegal income.  So, under the new law, generally the innocents (meaning those without illegal income) can intentionally violate the structuring law without being subject forfeiture and presumably without being subject to structuring prosecution. It seems to me that Congress should change the law rather than have the IRS not enforce the law as Congress wrote it or to signal to citizens that they can violate the law with impunity so long as they do use illegal funds.

I think Jack gives too much credit to the IRS, as if they have only been taking money when there was “intentional” structuring. The news reports have shown there are plenty of reasons to make deposits before you have $10,000 on hand, including insurance policy restrictions and the common sense idea that you don’t leave too much cash sitting around. But IRS didn’t inquire as to whether there was any actual intent to keep deposits low; they just took the money.

While the IRS has plenty to answer for in its seizure policy, I agree that Congress is just as guilty, passing laws allowing asset seizures without barely a nod at due process and without a hearing.




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 645

Amber Erickson of Tax Justice Blog boldly makes The Case for Keeping the Medical Device Tax,

Health insurance providers, pharmaceutical companies, and the medical device industry are all expected to gain from the ACA by earning greater profits as more people enter the healthcare marketplace. The tax is intended to reciprocate those benefits by tacking on a small flat rate to a firm’s revenue.

But that tax is only on the medical deveisces, not “health insurance providers,” the big winner, and not on pharmaceuticals. It really isn’t on the device industry; it is on the people who need them.


Eric Cedarwell, Senator Bernie Sanders’s New Deal for America (Tax Policy Blog).

 Inspired by Roosevelt’s New Deal in many regards, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) recently outlined his vision for America, featuring expansionary government spending policies. A major federal jobs program, a hike in the minimum wage to at least $15, expansion of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, increased regulation of Wall Street, and protectionist trade policies are examples of initiatives Sanders emphasized. However, Sen. Sanders provided little information on how he might finance his vision.

In other words, a reprise of the policies that put the “great” in the Great Depression.

Howard Gleckman, Lawmakers Talk Tax Reform But Keep Pushing New Tax Subsidies (TaxVox). Of course they do.


Caleb Newquist, When Is the Right Time to Start Your Own Accounting Firm? (Going Concern). December 19, 1990 worked for us. I think it was about 8:30 am.


Tax Roundup, 2/9/15: New York questions its tax incentives. And: where’s the ‘no anthrax’ sign?

Monday, February 9th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

New York FlagNew York Comptroller: nobody tracks whether the state’s corporate welfare tax incentives do any good. Tax Analysts’ Jennifer DePaul reports ($link):

It’s unclear whether the $1.3 billion in incentives and credits doled out annually by New York is creating jobs, a February 5 report by State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli concluded.

The ESDC, which administers more than 50 economic development programs, provides little public information on taxpayer-funded investments in its initiatives, the report said.

“ESDC makes no public assessment of whether its disparate programs work effectively together, whether such initiatives have succeeded or failed at creating good jobs for New Yorkers, or whether its investments are reasonable in relation to jobs created and retained,” the report said.

Naturally the politicians disagree:

On February 5 Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) told reporters that he disagreed with the comptroller “fundamentally and on his concept of economic development” and said New York has lost its effectiveness to attract businesses over the past decade.

“We’ve come a long way in the past four years in terms of reversing that and bringing jobs back to New York,” Cuomo said. “To the extent that the comptroller thinks we should go back to the old way where we saw New York losing jobs, I couldn’t disagree more strongly.”

To politicians, the only job creation that matters is the kind that lets them hold issue press releases, hold press conferences, and cut ribbons.

For a brief shining moment in the Iowa’s Culver administration, the film tax credit fiasco made our politicians look at the Iowa’s tax credit programs. A panel of state officials issued a report finding no clear evidence that the tax credits do any good. So Iowa replaced them all and lowered individual and corporate tax rates with the savings.

Actually, no. They just continued enacting new credits. I can dream, though.

Link: The Comptroller Report.


dirtyThe Journal of Taxation has a summary of this year’s IRS “Dirty Dozen” tax scams. Number 1 with a bullet are phone call scams from people saying they are IRS agents. Just remember, if the caller claims to be from the IRS, he (or she) isn’t, unless you have been in touch with a specific agent by mail already.


Puzzling over the tangible property regulations and the 3115 requirements? The ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation wants to help solve the puzzles. They have scheduled a webinar on on the regs February 18Roger McEowen and Paul Neiffer will host. Registration info available here.


Russ Fox celebrates 10 — the tenth anniversary of his excellent Taxable Talk. Congratulations, Russ!

William Perez, How Is Interest Income Taxed and Reported?

Annette Nellen discusses the new IRS Directory of preparers and Annual Filing Season Program (AFSP). Another useless effort by the supposedly impoverished agency.

IMG_1271Leslie Book, Preparers and Due Diligence (Procedurally Taxing)

Kay Bell, Additions to the tax law name roll of [dis]honor? We at Roth & Company would like to claim rights to the name “Roth IRA,” but alas, we had nothing to do with it.

Jason Dinesen, I Like Mowing My Lawn and Shoveling Snow; Do You Like Preparing Your Tax Return?

I see no value in hiring someone else to mow my lawn or shovel my snow.

The same principle holds true for people who choose to prepare their own taxes. If they know what they’re doing and they enjoy doing it, then I encourage people to do it themselves because they won’t see value in the work of a tax professional.

I see no value in hiring someone else to do my lawn and driveway either. That’s what the teen-ager is for.

TaxGrrrl, Brady Passes On Super Bowl Prize As Butler Hauls In Truck & Tax Bill

Jim Maule, So Who Gets Taxed on the Super Bowl Truck?

Peter Reilly, Oil Rig Manager Does Not Qualify As Foreign Resident

Robert Wood, On-Demand Workers: It’s Tax Time, You’re Self-Employed, Audits Are Inevitable

Me, IRS issues 2015 vehicle depreciation limits, updates 2014 limits for Extension of Bonus depreciation




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 641. Judicial Watch says it has received emails showing the IRS Office of Chief Counsel delayed the investigation into the Tea Party scandal.

The tax law is obese. So the supergenius behind Obamacare, Jonathan Gruber, has floated the idea of taxing folks based on body weightArnold Kling is comments wisely: ” I know that many of my progressive friends would be disgusted by the obesity, but that does not make it a public policy problem.”

That’s right, not every problem is a tax problem. Or even the government’s problem.

David Henderson has more: Jonathan Gruber on Sin Taxes (Econlog)


Kyle Pomerleau, Worldwide Taxation is Very Rare (Tax Policy Blog):

At the beginning of the 20th century, 33 countries had a worldwide tax system. That number slowly dropped to 24 countries by the 1980s. By the 2000s, the number of countries switching to territorial systems accelerated, with more than 10 countries switching in 10 short years. Nearly all developed countries have moved to the superior territorial tax system. Today there are only 6 countries that tax corporations on their worldwide income. The President’s proposal would double-down on the U.S.’s current system and push the United States further out of line with the rest of the developed world.

The U.S. is even more of an outlier on worldwide taxation of individual income, with only Eritrea joining us in taxing citizens abroad.

Tracy Gordon, Go Team: Score 1 for Obama on Ending Tax Subsidies for College Sports (TaxVox).

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 2/5: State of the States (Tax Justice Blog).


Career Corner. Let’s Discuss: The Worst of Eating in the Audit Room (Marty, Going Concern)

Brian Gongol says “You’re not allowed to carry a bag of anthrax spores through a mall.” My bad. It won’t happen again.



Tax Roundup, 2/2/15: Film trial sequel ends badly for a main character. And: Iowa conformity bills advance.

Monday, February 2nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan
Dennis Brouse

Dennis Brouse

They got him for the trailer. The filmmaker who got more transferable tax credits under the Iowa film tax credit program than anyone else was convicted Friday of first degree fraud with respect to the program. From the Des Moines Register:

Dennis Brouse, 64, could face up to 10 years in prison at a sentencing hearing scheduled for March 23. Brouse owned Changing Horses Productions, a company that received $9 million in tax credits from the scandal-ridden Iowa Film Office. Brouse starred in the company’s main series, “Saddle Up With Dennis Brouse.”

Prosecutors claim Brouse bought a 38-foot camper trailer from an elderly couple, Wayne and Shirley Weese, for $10,500 in cash. But prosecutors charged that Brouse claimed the trailer cost twice that much in a statement for tax credits that he turned in to the state.

The State Auditor’s Report on the program reported that Changing Horses claimed 50% tax credits for many other doubtful items. For example, they claimed a $1 million value for a “sponsorship” awarded to a feed company that had refused to sign a document with that value on the grounds that it was “grossly overvalued.” This enabled the company to get tax credits that likely were more than 100% of the money spent in Iowa by the filmmaker.

Mr. Brouse had a prior conviction on charges related to the film program overturned, and his attorney says he will appeal this conviction.

While Iowa’s film credit program was spectacularly mismanaged, it was only one extreme example of the unwisdom of the state legislature attempting to manage Iowa’s economy via the tax law.


Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

Iowa conformity bills advance The bill to update Iowa’s income tax to reflect the December federal “extenders” bill cleared both the House and Senate taxwriting committees. I think than means the bills won’t be delayed, and we can get on with Iowa’s tax season. Both bills conform for pretty much everything in the federal tax law, including the increased Section 179 deduction, but do not conform to federal bonus depreciation.


Dahls checks outThe central Iowa grocery chain was broken up Friday in a bankruptcy liquidation. Seven stores will re-open under another name.

Perhaps the greatest victims of the failure are longtime Dahls employees who owned the company through their Employee Stock Ownership Plan. They get nothing, or close to it.

Iowa passed a special break for sales of companies to ESOPs in 2012. Proponents pointed to the employee ownership of Dahl’s major competitor, Hy-Vee, in support of the bill.

The Dahls example shows a dark side of employee ownership — the way it concentrates a large portion of employee retirement assets in a single vulnerable asset.


Jason Dinesen, Do I Have to Have Form 1095-A Before I Can File? “Yes, you need the Form 1095-A if you got premiums through an insurance exchange.”

William Perez, Need More Time? How to File for a Tax Extension with the IRS

20150105-1Jim Maule, When Is A Building Placed in Service? “Because the taxpayer presented undisputed evidence that certificates of occupancy had been issued, that the buildings were substantially complete, and that the buildings were fully functionally to house the shelving and merchandise, they had been placed in service within the required time period.”

Jana Luttenegger Weiler, Sharing Financial Responsibility at Tax Time (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). “Whatever your situation, it is important to keep good records so that someone else can pick up where you left off, if needed.

Kay Bell, Is Belichick’s coaching style like tax avoidance or tax evasion?

Paul Neiffer, $500,000 Permanent Section 179 Could be Coming Soon! “The House Ways and Means Committee is expected to vote on seven expired tax provisions on February 4, including making permanent Section 179 expensing at the $500,000 level.” Given the politics involved, I’m not holding my breath.

Robert Wood: Receipts Rule IRS Keeps Quiet: They’re Optional. Well, sometimes they aren’t optional, and they always help.

TaxGrrrl, Salaries, Ads & Security: What’s The Real Cost Of Super Bowl XLIX?

Russ Fox, This Never Works…:

Patrick White is the owner of R & L Construction in Yonkers, New York. He liked his home and he liked to gamble. There’s nothing wrong with that. He took payroll taxes withheld from his business and used that money for his homes and for gambling. There’s a lot wrong with that, especially when it totals $3,758,000. Mr. White pleaded guilty to one count of failing to pay over payroll taxes to the government. He’ll be sentenced in May.

Russ throws in some good advice about using EFTPS.

Robert D. Flach regales us with THE TWELVE DAYS OF TAX SEASON

Stephen Olsen, “Summary Opinions for 1/6/15-1/23/15” (Procedurally Taxing). News from the tax procedure world.


IMG_0543Christopher Bergin, Robin Hood and Other Fables (Tax Analysts Blog):

When it comes to taxation, President Obama has his own particular points of view. He may use terms such as “middle-class economy” or say things like “the rich can pay a little more,” but at the core he views the tax system as either a mechanism that helps the rich hang on to their ill-gotten gains or as a “honey pot” to fund his political ideas and base. It’s all politics. And that’s why we will see no progress – regarding the gas tax, taxation of businesses, or any other kind of real tax reform – until there has been a change in administrations.

In fact, the major lesson we’ve learned from this latest episode is that when it comes to of tax reform, the Obama administration has the “tinnyist” of tin ears. Whether the merry men and women at the White House believe that section 529 tuition savings plans benefit the ”rich,” they should know that when American voters actually recognize and identify with a tax break by its code section number (in this case, 529), be careful — very, very careful. You usually can’t sneak a fast one into the tax code when taxpayers know the section by number.

Hard to argue with this.


Arnold Kling, 529: Popular != Good Policy. “529 plans subsidize affluent people for doing what they would have done anyway–send their kids to exclusive, high-priced colleges.” Maybe, but it still is better than rewarding borrowing by subsidizing it.

Howard Gleckman, Obama’s Failure to Kill 529 Plans May Say Less About Tax Reform Than You Think (TaxVox). “But the survival of these education subsidies does not mean that a rate-cuts-for-base-broadening swap will never be possible.”




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 634

Matt Gardner, Facebook’s Record-Setting Stock-Option Tax Break (Tax Justice Blog). 595 words on the evils of the deduction for stock option compensation without one word noting that every dollar of “phantom” deduction for the issuing corporation is also a dollar of “phantom” income to the employees — and usually at higher rates than the corporation pays.

Scott Drenkard, Gov. Kasich’s Plan May Be A Tax Cut, But It’s Still Poor Policy. (Tax Policy Blog) “Unfortunately, the plan which is set to be announced next Monday by Governor Kasich isn’t going to address any of these problems and will probably make them worse.”


Career Corner. You Should Take a Nap This Afternoon Because Science (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)



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

Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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



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

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

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


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

Russ Fox, One Good Crime Deserved Another:

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

Russ offers some pretty good reasons why not.


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

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



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

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

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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 629

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



Tax Roundup, 1/26/15: Is Iowa 2014 tax season in jeopordy? And: how “trust fund tax” encourages trusts.

Monday, January 26th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today visitors: Here is the accounting method post mentioned by “in the blogs.”


20130117-1Uh-oh. Is there a holdup on passing the annual “conformity” bill at the statehouse? This from Republican State Senator Bill Anderson in the Sioux City Journal is a bad sign:

Senate Democrats are playing politics with the issue. The Department of Revenue is recommending accountants tell clients to delay filing their taxes until a decision is made. Senate Democrats’ indecisiveness to pass legislation in a timely manner creates uncertainty for taxpayers and tax professionals, preventing them from filing returns.

I had not heard there was any difficulty here. I hope it’s not serious, but I will be watching it more closely now.

This is another example of why Iowa should have a “floating conformity” rule. I don’t understand why they can’t say they will automatically adopt federal extender changes. If they want to leave out bonus depreciation, that could be done with language excluding that from the automatic conformity. We shouldn’t have to go into February without knowing what the state tax law is for the prior year.


Janet Novack, Obama Attack On “Trust Fund Loophole” Could Increase Tax Advantage Of Trusts. “Without step-up, there would, for example, be an even greater tax advantage to putting assets that are likely to explode in value—such as founders’ stock in a hot start-up—into an irrevocable trust for children or grandchildren.”


Kay Bell, Capital gains gain in income reporting, but tax hike unlikely

Jack Townsend, Fifth Circuit Rejects Attempt on Direct Appeal to Withdraw Guilty Plea in False Claims Conspiracy Case

Jim Maule, No Agreement? No Alimony Deduction. In divorce, paperwork is everything.

Robert Wood, 10 Crazy Sounding Tax Deductions IRS Says Are Legit. My favorite is “free beer.”

20130607-2Anthony Nitti, IRS Futher Limits Deductions For State-Legal Marijuana Facilities:

Most notably, Section 280E provides that “no deduction is allowed for any amount incurred in a business that consists of trafficking in controlled substances.” Because marijuana finds itself on Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, the IRS has the ammunition necessary to deny the deductions of any facility that sells the drug.

And it does. Regularly.

I hope nobody really believes this actually prevents any drug crimes. What it does is add a crushing tax debt that helps ensure that anybody who gets involved in drug traffic can never reform and become a productive member of society.


Robert Goulder, Should the Mayor of London Pay U.S. Taxes? (Tax Analysts Blog):

True, there are tax treaty protections at play and foreign tax credits available. But the point of the story isn’t double taxation; it’s jurisdictional overreach. Many will argue that a citizenship-based tax regime is unfair and heavy-handed.

The U.S. is the only country that does it. Oh, Eritrea, too.

Stephen Olsen, The Gift that Keeps on Taking–Does Section 6324(b) Limit Gift Tax to the Value of the Gift or Can the IRS Take More? (Procedurally Taxing)


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

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

Alan Cole, The IRS Has Too Many Responsibilities (Tax Policy Blog):

On one hand, the IRS’s basic responsibilities have gotten less onerous over the years. More and more taxpayers file electronically, which means that everything just zips straight into the IRS’s computer system with little need for human oversight. This should mean that the IRS really doesn’t need to grow, and if anything it could stand to shrink.

But on the other hand, the IRS has been overloaded with all sorts of additional responsibilities. It’s acting as an extension of the Department of Health and Human Services in enforcing the Affordable Care Act. It’s acting as an extension of the Federal Election Commission and regulating political speech (an authority it has perhaps not used so well.) It’s acting as an extension of the Department of Energy with its residential energy credits, and it’s acting as an extension of the Department of Education in offering deductions and credits for teachers and students. It has to figure out who has health insurance and who has children and where the children live. It even has to try to get data from foreign banks, due to the complexity of our worldwide system of taxation. The more arbitrary things find their way into the tax code, the more verification systems the IRS has to put in place.

These are only a few of the non-revenue responsibilities dumped on the IRS that uses the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy. Beyond the bottle opener and the screwdriver, every gadget you add makes it harder to use it as a knife, and now we have a Swiss Army Knife the size of a railcar.


20140919-2Gretchen Tegeler, Benefits and Costs of DARTing Forward  (, on the troubling financial structure behind Des Moines’ public tansportaiton:

Despite a nearly 20 percent increase in ridership over this period, there has been no associated increase in fare-based revenue.  If more millennials are riding the bus, why aren’t we seeing an increase in operating revenue?  The absence of growth in operating revenue suggests that all of the recent improvements in service and ridership have been funded by non-users, i.e. from increases in property taxes.  Are we okay with this model? How far should we go with it?

Maybe if they had to rely more on farebox revenue, they would spend less on things like the downtown Palace of Transit.



TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 627

Glenn Reynolds, Middle-class Savings Like Blood in the Water. Paying for “free” college and student loan subsidies by taking money out of the pockets of those who save for college sets up a strange incentive structure.

Megan McArdle, Uncle Sam Is Coming After Your Savings. They need it to buy you “free” stuff.


Career Corner. The Public Accountant’s Definitive Guide to Disclosure of Past Convictions (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 1/9/15: Senators: preparers aren’t doing a good enough job on the tax law we’ve butchered.

Friday, January 9th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Senator Wyden

Senators get behind IRS preparer regulation power grab. Accounting Today reports:

Two Democrats on the Senate Finance Committee have introduced legislation to regulate paid tax preparers in response to the federal court decision that found the Internal Revenue Service had exceeded its statutory authority in regulating preparers.

Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Senator Ben Cardin, D-Md., unveiled legislation Thursday that provides the Treasury Department and the IRS explicit authority to regulate paid tax return preparers. Wyden chaired the committee until control of the Senate changed after last November’s elections.

They call their yet unnumbered bill the “Taxpayer Protection and Preparer Proficiency Act of 2015.” A better name would be “A Bill to Boost the Revenue of the Major Franchise Tax Preparation Outfits.”

Whatever idealistic motives might be behind this bill (though I don’t give senators the benefit of the doubt for a second), the effect will be to protect and enhance the market share of the national tax prep firms. It was no coincidence that the overturned IRS preparer regulation program was drafted by a former H&R Block executive who came out the other side of the revolving door as a Treasury employee.

Regulation always favors the big. The national firms can spread the costs of compliance over a much bigger base of work, while a sole practitioner has to be her own regulation compliance department. A paperwork hangup or computer burp in the preparer regulation database can wreck a year’s business for a sole practitioner, but wouldn’t stop H&R Block or Liberty Tax for a moment.

It is argued that such regulation is needed to protect us from incompetents by imposing a “competency test.” As the test administered under the abortive IRS regulation program was more a literacy test than a competency test, this is hard to credit.  And anybody who has practiced in a regulated profession like accounting or law knows that while you can make someone pass a test, you can’t make him competent.

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

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

The list of bills introduced this week in Congress in today’s Tax Notes shows what the real tax prep problem is: Congresscritters like Senator Wyden. In addition to his preparer bill, the Senator introduced a bill:

To amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide a tax incentive to individuals teaching in elementary and secondary schools located in rural or high unemployment areas and to individuals who achieve certification from the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards, and for other purposes. 

This is just one more example of legislators using the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy. As the knife gets more unwieldy with every new gadget added to it, the tax law gets a little less better at collecting revenue with every new program added to it. Picture a Swiss Army Knife the size of a railcar.


And it’s not like Congress isn’t already doing enough for the national tax prep outfits, as Megan McArdle explains in Latest Tax Season Headache? Obamacare:

There’s been a lot of talk about the “hidden taxes” in the Affordable Care Act, but here’s one I hadn’t thought of before or seen mentioned anywhere: the sudden need for folks with simple tax returns to avail themselves of the services of a paid professional. If you have no income outside a modest salary, and not much in the way of potential deductions such as huge mortgage interest or state tax bills, then there was really no reason to use a tax preparer. Even the mathematically challenged should, with the aid of a calculator, be able to fill out their 1040EZ forms just fine. But Obamacare has introduced a significant level of complexity into the taxes of lower-middle-class wage earners.

That’s true. And a lot of folks who have used preparers will find their costs going up to pay for the extra work that will be required.


Kay Bell, IRS contacts tax preparers about filing mistakes; Thousands warned of Schedule C business income & child tax credit errors. Funny, I thought preparers weren’t regulated at all.

Jason Dinesen, The IRS’s Preparer Directory Will Be Bad News for Enrolled Agents. EAs have less lobbying clout than CPAs or the national tax prep outfits, and it shows.


Paul Neiffer, Should I File By March 1? “Therefore, if your tax for 2013 was very low and your tax for this year will be very high, talk this over with your tax advisor to see if it makes sense to pay an estimated tax payment on January 15 and wait until April 15 to make the final payment.”

Remember, only farmers get this break, and many are finding that the need to wait on K-1s from other investments makes filing a correct March 1 return impossible.

William Perez, Tips for a Tax-Efficient Divorce, Plus a List of What to Do First. From what I’ve seen, it’s even more tax-efficient to stay married.

In spite of the cold, we can count on Robert D. Flach for a fresh Friday Buzz roundup of news from around the tax blog world.


20130130-4Tim Worstall, Tax Avoidance And Tax Evasion Are To The Benefit Of Us All, picking up on David Henderson’s post that we mentioned earlier this week:

The crucial point is really how one views the activities of government. And there’s two views that seem to be held. One that I regard as hopelessly naive and simplistic, the second something very much closer to reality. That first is that all of the things that government does for us are beneficial to us and that limiting what it does do harms us all. The second is that some parts of what government does are things which both must be done and can only be done by government, but that a rather large part of what it attempts to do shouldn’t be done at all, whether by government or not.

I think this point is correct, though I’m sure Jim Maule would disagree with vigor. I also agree with this point that he quotes: “Government maximizes revenues; it does not levy revenues only to produce genuine public goods.” I also believe tax avoidance and evasion can serve as a check on overreach, but I suspect it only works in pretty bad situations.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 610

Renu Zaretsky, Taxes: To Be Considered, Rejected, or Collected. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the upcoming federal budget proposal, Cadillac taxes on health plans, and an “impossible dream” bill that purports to both abolish the imcome tax and balance the budget.


IMG_2535Cara Griffith, Mississippi Needs a Dose of Transparency (Tax Analysts Blog). “The Mississippi Department of Revenue does not publish opinions and decisions resulting from its audit appeals process, even though it may use those opinions and decisions as precedent.”

I notice Iowa hasn’t published any new rulings in two months now.

Liz Malm, Taxplainer: The State and Local Tax Impact of the Keystone Pipeline. “According to the analysis, property taxes collected during construction would amount to just under $4 million and would be spread out over seven counties in the three impacted states. ”

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 1/8: All Eyes on the Governors (Tax Justice Blog)


Career Corner. Make the Best of Busy Season, You Big Babies (Amber Setter, Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 12/26/14: Bad SHOP-ing day: Iowa SHOP health insurance provider goes into receivership.

Friday, December 26th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

cooportunity logoSmall businesses wanting to provide health insurance coverage for their employees got a lump of coal in their stocking Christmas Eve with the announcement that CoOportunity Health, Inc. was placed in receivership by the Iowa Insurance Division. The Omaha World Herald reports:

CoOportunity Health, the two-year-old Iowa health insurance cooperative set up with federal loans under the Affordable Care Act, is running out of money and may be liquidated, which raises questions for other health insurance cooperatives nationally.

The company’s 120,000 individual and group customers, most of them in Nebraska and the rest in Iowa, are still covered if they signed up before Dec. 15 and should continue paying premiums to keep coverage in effect, said Nick Gerhart, Iowa’s insurance commissioner.

When the insurance division takes over an insurer, their policies remain in force while the insurer is either reorganized, sold or liquidated. But that doesn’t apply to brand-new enrollees. From the Herald:

But he recommended that policyholders switch to other insurance companies during open enrollment, which ends Feb. 15. People who enroll in new health plans by Jan. 15 would have that coverage in place by Feb. 1.

People who signed up for the first time with CoOportunity after Dec. 15 will not have coverage and should find other insurers, he said. CoOportunity, one of 24 health insurance cooperatives set up under the federal health care law, cannot sell or renew policies.

CoOportunity provided coverage on both the individual marketplace and the “SHOP” marketplace for small businesses. A FAQ (.doc format) from the Iowa Insurance Division on the takeover has this for small businesses looking for coverage:

If I want to remain in the marketplace and change insurance companies, where do I go?

Contact your agent or broker or go to

In central Iowa the website isn’t much help. In our coverage area, CoOportunity was the only SHOP provider, as far as I can tell. I have entered sample information in the SHOP marketplace for our 50309 zip code, and I get this result:

shop plans 20141224

This makes life complicated for small businesses that don’t currently have “grandfathered” coverage. The “marketplace reforms” of the ACA have a long list of requirements for qualifying coverage. If you provide coverage that fails to meet these rules, you incur an insane penalty of $100 per day, per employee. You need to make sure your broker knows if you don’t qualify for a grandfathered plan.

This also causes problems for employers wishing to take the 50% tax credit for providing employee coverage, as the credit is only available for plans purchased through the SHOP.

Roth & Company considered a plan offered by CoOportunity at our renewal last fall. It was slightly cheaper than our current plan (for which we had a 30%+ premium increase), but we stuck with our grandfathered plan, thinking the disruption to our employees wasn’t worth the minor savings. Bullet dodged.

More coverage:

Des Moines Register, CoOportunity Health falters, taken over by state.

Bob Vineyard, Another One Bites the Dust (InsureBlog).


Peter Reilly, Tax Court Rules Wounded Warrior Can Take His Time With The Trash – Merry Christmas. Peter discusses a wonderful Tax Court case from earlier this week that treats a disabled veteran as “materially participating” in maintaining three rental properties as a real estate professional. His handicaps, which make his caretaking a slow process, actually helped him achieve better tax results, as Peter explains.

TaxGrrrl offers A Christmas Day Look At Santa’s Tax Bill.

Kay Bell, Merry Christmas 2014

Paul Neiffer, Merry Christmas – 2014

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: You Won a Home! Now What? Part 3 of the Series

Jim Maule, Enact Tax Laws But Break Them?:

Even if Representative Michael Grimm eventually gives in to the calls for his resignation or is removed in some way from holding office, his failure to step down as part of the plea is an affront to hard-working Americans who do their best to comply with the tax law.

Heck, it’s even an affront to lazy Americans.


buzz20141017Robert Wood, IRS Hid Conservative Targeting Until After 2012 Presidential Election. Smidgen Corrupt?

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions. It’s the Procedurally Taxing roundup of recent tax procedure developments.

Many folks are taking today off, but Robert D. Flach is Buzzing away with his usual good stuff from around the tax world.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 596


William McBride, Japan Plans to Cut Corporate Tax Rate, Leaving U.S. Further Behind (Tax Policy Blog):

Japan currently has a corporate tax rate of 37 percent, the second highest in the developed world after the U.S., which has a corporate tax rate of 39.1 percent (federal plus state). With this cut, Japan would be roughly tied with France for the second highest corporate tax rate in developed world, at 34.4 percent.

Iowa has the highest corporate rate in the U.S., which makes us Number 1 in a not-good way.

Howard Gleckman, House GOP Leadership Would Require Dynamic Scoring of Some Tax Bills. Will It Matter?


Scott Sumner, The French experiment: Laffer >>>>>>> Piketty. (Econlog). France imposed a 75% top rate. Mr. Sumner observes:

Even if you are not a devout supply-sider (and I am a moderate supply-sider, who believes tax increases usually lead to more revenue) it would be hard to deny that this particular tax increase cost revenue, after accounting for the impact of French economic growth.

There are people who seriously insist that a 75%-90% top tax rate would be a good thing. France is Exhibit A.


The Cavalcade no longer moves on. The Cavalcade of Risk, the long-running roundup of insurance and risk-management posts is ending. It’s guiding light, Hank Stern, posts the final edition, which includes his own contribution Green Mountain State Blues, on the demise of their attempt at single-payer coverage in one state.




Tax Roundup, 12/19/14: What to do when capital gain tax is voluntary. And: no signature yet.

Friday, December 19th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Programming note: The Tax Update will be taking a long weekend. Back Wednesday.

The President hasn’t signed the extender bill yet. Everyone says he will sign HR 5771, but a lot of taxpayers will feel better when its official.  You can frantically refresh the “Signed Legislation” page to watch for it.


Flickr Image courtesy donjd2 under Creative Commons License.

Flickr Image courtesy donjd2 under Creative Commons License.

So you cashed out some stock market gains this year. That makes it a good year to cash out your losers too. Capital losses can be deducted on individual returns to the extent of capital gains, plus $3,000.  That means if you have some unrealized losses on other investments, paying tax is optional to that extent.

If you don’t want to volunteer to pay those extra capital gain taxes, here are some tips for deducting your investment losses:

The loss has to be realized in a taxable account. Selling a loser in an IRA or 401(k) plan doesn’t give you a deductible loss.

-Be sure the trades are executed no later than December 31. For long positions, the trade date controls.

-If you have a loss on a short sale, the settlement date has to be no later than December 31.

-You can’t buy the same stock within either 30 days before the sale or 30 days afterwards. If you do, the “wash sale” rules disallow your loss. The IRS says this rule applies even if your loss is in a taxable account and your gain is in a non-taxable IRA.

Related: Topic 409 – Capital Gains and Losses (


20120906-1Robert Wood, Ranking Facebook, Boris Johnson, Google On Taxes (Diplomatically Please). Well, Boris Johnson is the only one who doesn’t collect corporate welfare from me via the State of Iowa.

Kay Bell, Good news: the 2015 tax-filing season will start on timeBad news: It will be pretty miserable for IRS and taxpayers. Whee.

Jack Townsend, The Rub Between Restitution Assessed as a Tax and a Deficiency

Jim Maule, Code Size Claim Shrinks But Not Enough. The code is bad enough. There’s no need to exaggerate.

Peter Reilly, First Circuit Loss For Transgender Prisoner May Have Positive Tax Implications For Others. Peter can find tax implications in places I wouldn’t have thought to look.

Robert D. Flach gets us Buzzing into the big holiday week.


20120702-2Kristopher Hauswirth has been pondering the Farm Bill:

Commodity producers with the resources and/or level of sophistication to confidently optimize their farm bill decisions least need the safety net. While the smallest and/or least sophisticated producers will have to stumble into positive outcomes, if they benefit at all.

The greatest beneficiaries of this law are the people who have serve no public interest in benefitting from a program of this nature. They are the people and entities that create the system, unlock the riddle, and administer the program: lobbyists, lawmakers, attorneys, accountants, and government agencies.

So it’s pretty much like the tax law, then.


William McBride, New Research Shows Multinational Corporations Have No Tax Advantage Over Domestics (Tax Policy Blog). “The study calls into question policy makers’ emphasis on international “profit shifting,” including the elaborate efforts by the OECD and rich-country governments to crack down on MNCs exclusively.”

William Gale, Magical Thinking on Tax Reform (TaxVox). “Tax reform is important but policy makers and the public should not be misled about its true trade-offs. Unfortunately, the benefits of reform are more modest than its backers sometimes claim and its costs are often higher.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 589




Clint Stretch, Did Next Year’s Holiday Gift Shopping Just Get Easier? (Tax Analysts Blog). “President Obama’s move to normalize relations with Cuba may add Cuban cigars and Cuban rum to next year’s holiday gift possibilities.”

Sebastian Johnson, What to Buy the Discerning Policy Wonk in Your Life: The ITEP/CTJ Holiday Gift-Giving Guide. The Tax Shelter Coloring Book!

Career Corner. Be Social, Don’t Skip the Party, and Other Redundant Holiday Party Advice (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). “Now, let’s talk about alcohol. Just because you can get blitzed on Fireball shots doesn’t mean you should.”



Tax Roundup, 12/11/14: Cromnibus cuts IRS budget, delays extender vote. And: Mileage goes to 57.5 cents.

Thursday, December 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The “Cromnibus” train-wreck spending bill process seems to be holding up everything else, including the extender vote. The 55 Lazarus provisions awaiting revival are on hold while Congress struggles to avert a government “shutdown” at midnight tonight.

Flicker image courtesy Michael Coghlan under Creative Commons license.

Flicker image courtesy Michael Coghlan under Creative Commons license.

Outgoing Senate Majority Leader Reid has said that the Senate will finish the Cromnibus before voting on the extender bill, HR 5771. The house-passed bill would extend dozens of tax breaks that expired at the end of 2013 retroactively through the end of this month. Business provisions in the bill include the $500,000 Section 179 deduction, 50% bonus depreciation, the R&D credit, and the 5-year built-in gain period for S corporations. The provision allowing IRA charitable donations is among the individual breaks at stake.

There is no indication that the Senate will fail to eventually pass HR 5771, or that the President will veto it, but politics are uncertain, and I’ll feel better about things when they do pass it. It appears the hope they would finish up today is wishful thinking, though; this Wall Street Journal story says the House is expected to pass a two-day funding bill today to give the Senate extra time to approve the spending bill.

The IRS faces a 3.1% funding cut in the bill. That’s a tribute to the tone-deaf and confrontational attitude of IRS Commissioner Koskinen, who has responded to the Tea Party scandals pretty much by saying “give us more money!” Given the increased responsibilities given the IRS by Congress, cutting their budget seems strange. Yet as long as the Commissioner keeps antagonizing his funders, and keeps finding money to fund his “voluntary” preparer regulation program to get around the Loving decision, he can expect similar appropriation success.

Related: Paul Neiffer, Tax Extender Bill May Be Punted to Weekend


Mileage rate goes to 57.5 centsWith gas prices falling, the standard IRS mileage rate is naturally going… up. The IRS yesterday released (Notice 2014-79) the 2015 standard mileage rates:

– 57.5 cents per mile for business miles. This is 56 cents for 2014.

– 14 cents per mile for charity miles, same as in 2014.

– 23 cents per mile for medical and moving miles. This rate is 23.5 cents for 2014.

Related: William Perez, How to Deduct Car and Truck Expenses on Your Taxes


20130819-1Peter Reilly, Iowa Corporation Not Liable For California Corporate Tax From Ownership Of LLC Interest. It discusses a California court ruling that mere ownership of a California LLC interest isn’t enough to make the corporate owner subject to California’s $800 minimum franchise tax. If it holds up, it will be good news for many taxpayers dinged by this stupid fee.

Jim Maule, Do-It-Yourself Tax Preparation? Better? Paid preparers didn’t do an impressive job handling the GAO’s secret shoppers.

Kay Bell, Mortgages offer nice tax breaks, but in limited parts of the U.S.


The new Cavalcade of Risk is up! at  Always good stuff in the venerable roundup of insurance and risk-management blog posts; this edition features Hank Stern’s take on the “creepy” ACA site.


Bryan Caplan, The Inanity of the Welfare State:

While taxes are highly progressive, transfers have an upside-down U-shape.  Households in the middle quintile get the most money.  The richest households actually get more money than the poorest.  Think about how many times you’ve heard about government’s great mission to “help the poor.”  Could there be any clearer evidence that such claims are mythology?

Eye-opening. Read the whole thing.



Robert Wood, Obama Justice Department Was Involved In IRS Targeting, Lerner Emails Reveal

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 581


EITC error chartAlan Cole, Treasury Report: Improper Payments Remain a Problem in EITC, Child Credit (Tax Policy Blog)

David Brunori, Mississippi’s Very Good Idea to Help its Poor (Tax Analysts Blog). It’s an earned income tax credit. Given the massive EITC fraud and error rate, I’m not convinced.

Tax Justice Blog, Update on the Push for Dynamic Scoring: Will Ryan Purge Congress’s Scorekeepers?

Joseph Thorndike, Wall Street Journal Prefers Ignorance to Expertise (Tax Analysts Blog). It’s about the CBO.




Robert Goulder, Taxing Diverted Profits: The Empire Strikes Back (Tax Analysts Blog).  “The message is this: Once people realize what a functional territorial regime looks like, they suddenly become less enamored with the concept. One of several reasons why U.S. tax reform won’t be easy.”

Chris Sanchirico, A Repatriation Tax Holiday for US Multinationals? Four Contagious Illusions (TaxVox)


News from the Profession. The AICPA Can’t Figure Out Why Record Numbers of Accounting Grads Aren’t Taking the CPA Exam (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 12/9/14: Just because your manager steals your payroll taxes doesn’t get you out of them. And: Rashia!

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

No news on extenders yet. 


EFTPSDouble the pain: Idaho business manager steals payroll taxes, but IRS still wants them. An implement dealer in Idaho hired a manager to run day-to-day operations. He learned the hard way that while you can delegate your payroll tax function, you can’t escape it.

The taxpayer, a Mr. Shore, hired Mr. Lewis to run Bear River Equipment, Inc. (BRE), a McCormick Tractors dealership. Mr. Lewis had managed the dealership before Mr. Shore acquired it, so it seemed a sensible hiring decision.

Things started to go wrong quickly. Mr. Lewis failed to remit payroll taxes in his first year running the dealership. Mr. Shore kept up with the business by phone and made quarterly visits, according to a U.S. District Court judge, and he also reviewed financial results. This process enabled him to note unpaid taxes in 2005, the first year of operations, and he had Mr. Lewis get them caught up.  As owner, Mr. Shore had checkbook authority, but he let Mr. Lewis take care of it for him.

The judge explains how things went very wrong (my emphasis):

In August 2007, Shore received notice from an Internal Revenue Service Agent that there were some serious issues with BRE’s employment taxes for 2006 and 2007. This notice was the first time Shore became aware that BRE’s 2006 and 2007 payroll taxes had not been paid. Shore subsequently learned that Lewis had been embezzling from BRE, failing to pay creditors or pay BRE’s taxes, and stealing BRE’s assets. Upon discovering Lewis’ fraud, Shore fired Lewis and took over management of BRE.

Not a good hire, in hindsight. It proved fatal to the business:

Shore ultimately decided to close BRE because he believed he could not pay all of the liabilities and contribute sufficient working capital to keep the company going. Before closing the company, however, Shore allowed more than $120,000 from BRE’s checking accounts to be paid to unsecured creditors other than the United States.

Via Wikimedia Commons

Via Wikimedia Commons

As it turns out, that was a false move. The tax man gets really, really upset when payroll taxes aren’t remitted to the IRS. The business was incorporated, which protects owners from most liabilities incurred inside the corporation. The tax law, though, allows the IRS to collect payroll taxes from “responsible persons,” regardless of the existence of the corporation, if there is a “willful” failure to remit. The court held that Mr. Shore was a “responsible person” even though he didn’t run the business day-to-day:

…despite delegating his authority to Lewis and permitting him to run BRE’s daily affairs, Shore remained a “responsible person” because he had effective control of the corporation and the effective power to direct the corporation’s business choices, including the withholding and payment of trust fund taxes.

It’s not enough to be “responsible.” The tax law requires “willful” nonpayment of employment taxes to assess them against a responsible person. The $120,000 payment was a bad fact, according to the court:

Here it is undisputed that Shore learned of BRE’s unpaid tax liability in August 2007. It is also undisputed that BRE paid more than $120,000 to unsecured creditors after Shore learned of BRE’s tax liability. Shores’ failure to remedy the payroll tax deficiencies upon learning of their existence in August 2007, while subsequently allowing corporate payments to be made elsewhere, including to unsecured creditors, constitutes “willful” conduct under § 6672.

The Moral? There are a number of lessons to be drawn here. One is basic accounting controls. It appears that the manager had far too much control over the accounting function and bank accounts, enabling him to loot the company, and the payroll tax account, before the owner caught on.

Even with poor accounting controls, though, the owner could have detected the non-payment of payroll taxes. These are supposed to be remitted under the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS). Users of EFTPS can log into their payroll tax account and monitor their payments. Had Mr. Lewis done so, he might have detected the failure to make payments that ultimately ballooned into a million-dollar payroll tax deficiency.

Cite: Shore v. U.S., DC-ID, No 1:13-cv-00220


Gas Tax Fever: Branstad Weighs Proposed Gas Tax ( “On Monday Governor Branstad said he would keep an open mind on raising the tax if a bipartisan plan came to his desk and he’s hopeful lawmakers can come to some agreement this coming year.”


Mason City Sundog Morning. It’s cold here today.

Peter Reilly, Chief Counsel Advice Provides Timely Warning About 1099 Filing Requirements. “A recently released memo from the IRS Chief Counsel – CCA 201447025 – drives home for me the point that there is probably a lot of exposure out there from not filing 1099s.”

Robert D. Flach has your Tuesday Buzz, with a typically rich set of tax links, including one to Prof. Maule’s thoughts on being nice to siblings.

Jason Dinesen, 5 Things About EAs: We’ve Been Around Since 1884

Paul Neiffer, Are We Getting Section 179 Fatigue? “After purchasing a lot of equipment over the last 4 years to take advantage of Section 179, I am not sure how much capital is still available to purchase even more equipment to get the Section 179 deduction.”

Kay Bell, Attention older IRA owners, your RMD is due by Dec. 31

Michael Schuyler, The Government’s Tax-Transfer System Is Extremely Progressive (Tax Policy Blog):

In November, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released the latest annual edition of its report on the distribution of household income and federal taxes, with data for 2011. The CBO study confirms that the federal tax system is progressive. It further shows that government transfers to households are also progressive.

It appears that way:

transfer-tax ratios

Chart from Tax Policy Blog


Jeremy Scott, The New GOP Congress and the Congressional Budget Office (Tax Analysts Blog). “If Republicans accept the premise that shaking up congressional staff would make it look like they are rigging the process in favor of their proposals, that undermines the logic behind their priorities to begin with.”

Isabel Sawhill, The Lee-Rubio Family-Friendly Tax Is a Disappointment (TaxVox)

Martin Sullivan, Rand Paul Puts Chokehold on Cigarette Taxes — He’s Got a Point (Tax Analysts Blog).:

But there are still 42 million smokers in the United States. Nicotine is extremely addictive. These folks should elicit our compassion, not our contempt. And if we are going to fine them for their sins, the revenues should not inure to our benefit.

State governments are loathe to give up their nicotine fix.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 579


Rashia says "thanks, Commissioner!"

Rashia says “thanks, Commissioner!”

Rashia gets time off. The self-proclaimed “Queen of IRS Tax Fraud” will return from exile a little sooner, thanks to an appeals court decision yesterday. From Tampa Bay Online:

A federal appeals court has thrown out Wilson’s two sentences, ruling that senior U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. made procedural errors that may have increased her total prison term by more than 3 1/2 years.

Her convictions stand and Moody retains discretion. But he must recalculate the formula he used to determine punishment and he must resentence Wilson, now 29, at a future hearing.

Ms. Wilson is unlikely to be coming home right away. She is serving a 21-year sentence on charges related to identity theft refund fraud. She got in trouble after taunting the IRS on her Facebook, which also included photos of her posing with wads of stolen cash.  The article explains the background for the sentencing reduction:

The original sentencing was especially complex because Wilson was indicted twice in 2012. In one case, she pleaded guilty to possessing guns, illegal for a felon. In another, she admitted to netting more than $3 million through aggravated identity theft and wire fraud.

When using social media, sometimes it pays to be discreet.



Tax Roundup, 11/17/14: Sundog weather is shorts weather!

Monday, November 17th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

It’s 7F outside here in Mason City, Iowa. Warm enough for shorts, it seems.


This gentleman was scraping his windows outside North Iowa Area Community College, where I am part of the Day 1 panel of the  Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax School. I wonder what this guy wears in the summer.

It’s cozy and warm here in the conference room, where 165 attendees are beginning two days of the finest continuing education available today in Cerro Gordo County. There are two sessions left after today, in Denison and Ames; the Ames school will be webcast.  Register today!


Just links today.

Russ Fox, The Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Upcoming Tax Season:

If you’re a tax professional here’s a warning: The 2015 Tax Season will be one you’re almost certain to remember for all the wrong reasons. If you’re a client of a tax professional be forewarned: Your tax professional will be even more grouchy than usual next year. Why? The upcoming tax season will likely be the worst in 30 years.

There are four reasons for this: tax extenders, budget issues the IRS faces, the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare), and the new property capitalization/repair regulations.

Are we excited yet?


Mason City Sundog Morning. It's cold here today.

Mason City Sundog Morning. It’s cold here today.

Robert D. Flach, IT AIN’T FAIR – SELECTIVE INFLATION ADJUSTMENTS. “If it is appropriate to index some tax items for inflation why shouldn’t ALL deductions, credits, thresholds, etc. be indexed for inflation?”

Paul Neiffer, Direct Deposit Limits. “In an effort to combat fraud and identity theft, new IRS procedures effective January 2015 will limit the number of refunds electronically deposited into a single financial account or pre-paid debit card to three.”

Jim Maule, Soda Sales Shifting? “Does anyone seriously think that the soda tax will reduce the number of obese people in Berkeley, or raise enough revenue to make the cost of administering and complying with the tax worthwhile?”

I’ll believe it’s about health when these people tax their own “unhealthy” habits, like double caramel lattes.

Kay Bell, Navajo lawmakers approve 2% sales tax on snacks, sodas

TaxGrrrl, NFL Flagged With Another Challenge To Tax-Exempt Status Because Of Redskins

Annette Nellen, The Election, 114th Congress and Fate of Tax Reform

Keith Fogg, TIGTA Report on ACS Details the Impact of Shrinking Budget on Tax Collection Efforts (Procedurally Taxing)


20131112TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 557

Robert Goulder, The Ghost of Captain Renault (Tax Analysts Blog). “What? There’s corporate tax avoidance going on in Luxembourg? You don’t say?”

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 11/14: Here Comes the Judge (Tax Justice Blog). Kansas school funding and Maryland’s attempted double-taxation are on the docket.

Stephen Entin, Tax Policy Is Child’s Play (Tax Policy Blog). “The enactment of tax reductions or regulatory changes that make it possible to profitably employ more capital is like landing on a ladder… Enacting adverse policies that force a reduction in the amount of capital that people are willing to maintain is like hitting a chute.”

Renu Zaretsky asks How Quickly Can Lame Ducks Move Before the Holidays?  The Tax Vox headline roundup is heavy on gas tax talk and extenders.