Posts Tagged ‘Mitch Maahs’

Tax Roundup, 3/16/16: Coupling heads to the Governor. And: Trainwrecks, brackets, and that dreaded DNA!

Wednesday, March 16th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

coupling20160213Almost Coupled. Both houses of the Iowa General Assembly passed the bill to couple the Iowa tax law to federal tax law for 2015, with the exception of bonus depreciation (HF 2433). The House of Representatives vote was overwhelming, and the Senate was unanimous.

The debates before the votes featured complaints about how school funding is suffering because businesses get the same Section 179 deduction on their Iowa returns as on their federal returns. Yet not one school-funder mentioned any other ideas about finding additional $97.6 million funding lost to the Fiscal 2016 budget. For example:

Iowa credits fy 2017

So apparently school kids are important, but less so than, say, the Geothermal Heat Pump tax credit. (Related: What Iowa considers more important than Sec. 179.)

The bill also repeals the manufacturing supplies sales tax rule set forth by the Department of Revenue that was set to take effect in July. It replaced it with the manufacturing supplies tax exemption passed by the house in 2014, only to die in the Iowa Senate.

In addition to Section 179 coupling, the bill also allows on Iowa 1040s a number of other provisions enacted by Congress in December, including:

Exclusion for IRA contributions to charity
Exclusion of gain from qualified small business stock
Basis adjustment for S corporation charitable contributions
Built-in gain tax five-year recognition period
$250 above-the-line educator expense deduction
Exclusion of home mortgage debt forgiveness
Qualified tuition deduction
Optional sales tax deduction
Conservation easement deductions
Deduction for food inventory contributions

The Des Moines Register coverage of yesterday’s votes makes it appear that the Governor is on board, though he hasn’t said so in so many words. It quotes spokesman Ben Hammes:

“As the chief executive, it is the governor’s job to look at how this bill fits into the bigger budget picture and how it will impact jobs and Iowa taxpayers and he will review it accordingly. The governor is pleased that the Legislature was able to come together and find resolution on these key issues,” Hammes said.

So he doesn’t exactly say he’ll sign. I think he will, but I will feel better when he does.

Unfortunately, the bill only applies to 2015, so we have to do it all again next year.

 

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Hank Stern, More (bad) trainwreck news (InsureBlog):

As we mentioned at the end of January, Open Enrollment v3.0 was pretty much doomed from the start:

“About 6 million people have signed up for health coverage that will take effect on Jan. 1 in the states that use the [404Care].gov enrollment.”

That was way off the (implausibly) predicted 21 million anticipated to sign up. But it’s also only part of the story…

It’s not affordable, and they don’t care.

 

Mitch Maahs, Tax Brackets: Revisiting the Tax on Gambling Winnings just in Time for the NCAA Tourney (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). “Note however that losses may only be deducted to offset gambling winnings, and are only deductible up to the amount of winnings for the year.”

William Perez, New Rules for Deducting Repairs and Maintenance. “The IRS increased the threshold for deducting repairs and maintenance expenses under the safe harbor election from $500 to $2,500.”

TaxGrrrl, FBAR, FATCA Filings Top 1 Million As IRS Increases Scrutiny On Foreign Accounts. “The penalties for noncompliance may, under the law, result in civil penalties, criminal penalties or both: the list of potential penalties that may apply is distressingly long. It’s all very draconian but it’s also very real.”

 

Jack Townsend, Tax Court Holds FBAR Penalty Collected Is Not in the $2,000,000 Threshold for Whistleblower Award under § 7623(b)

Jason Dinesen, What is a 501(c)(3) and What’s the Big Deal? “First of all, the terms not-for-profit and tax-exempt are not interchangeable.”

A. Levar Taylor, Update On The “Late Return” Dischargeability Litigation: 9th Circuit To Hold Oral Argument in Smith Case (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert Wood, What To Provide When IRS Requests Documents

 

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Caleb Newquist, That Time One of Donald Trump’s Companies Got in Trouble for Reporting Ludicrously Deceptive Non-GAAP Results (Going Concern).

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 1042. Timely thoughts of what happens when the power to abuse taxpayers goes to a new abuser-in-chief.

David Brunori, Immigrants Continue to Be Good for Us (Tax Analysts Blog). “In a report, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy says immigrants who entered the country illegally paid roughly $11.6 billion in state and local taxes in 2013.”

Renu Zaretsky, Budget Battles Continue. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers federal proposed budget and Pennsylvania’s no budget, among other news.

 

If you are perplexed by voter choices this year, this may help explain things. 80% of Americans Support Mandatory Labels on “Food Containing DNA” (Ilya Somin)

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Tax Roundup, 11/18/15: A 3% Iowa income tax rate? And: Californians, taxes could be worse!

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

engageiowalogoNew policy group proposes bold Iowa tax reform. In the wake of another Tax Foundation report showing that Iowa’s business tax policy stinks, there is a new proposal to do something about it. Tax Analysts reports ($link):

Iowa’s nine-bracket personal income tax would be flattened to a single rate of about 3 percent under a proposal from a recently formed Iowa policy group.

Engage Iowa, founded in August by Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett, is calling for changes to the state’s income tax code that it says would improve the state’s business climate and reduce the outflow of high-income taxpayers to states such as Texas and South Dakota.

Like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Planthe Engage Iowa paper does not advocate a tax cut. It attempts to come up with a rate and tax structure that raises the same amount of tax as the current Iowa tax system. The paper presents several proposals, including one that uses a 1 percentage point increase in the state sales tax rate to reduce the income tax rate.

The plan has a lot going for it. Its one glaring weakness is its omission of any corporation tax reform. Iowa has the highest corporation tax rate in the country, but one so full of loopholes and corporate welfare tax credits that it generates a relatively paltry amount of revenue for the state. Iowa’s 49th place corporation tax rating in the Tax Foundation State Business Tax Climate Index is a big reason for Iowa’s perennially poor ranking.

Naturally the high-tax, high-complexity lobby is unimpressed by the plan. From TheGazette.com:

Peter Fisher, research director for the left-leaning Iowa Policy Project in Iowa City, on Monday said he applauded Engage Iowa for pointing out that Iowa’s current income tax system is less progressive than it might seem after deductions and credits are factored in. He said the Engage Iowa policy suggestions also might help eliminate “the perception problem” that Iowa has as a higher top income tax rate than it does in practice.

However, Fisher said the Engage Iowa flat tax seems like others of its kind: It lowers taxes for the wealthier and makes up for it with taxes on the lower end of the income earners.

The tax law is a poor vehicle for income redistribution in general, but the state income tax is an awful vehicle in particular, given the ability of high income earners to leave the state. The focus on “the rich” also skates by the reality of who “the rich” are: primarily employers who run their businesses through pass-through entities and pay their business taxes on their 1040s. Bashing “the rich” bashes employment, especially with zero-tax South Dakota right next door.

 

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Russ Fox, Yes, Two States Rank Lower than California. “It’s not all bad news in the Tax Foundation’s 2016 State Business Tax Climate Index for California. You could always be in New York or New Jersey.”

Robert Wood, Man Gets $21.5M Verdict For Door Injury, But IRS Is Biggest Winner. “Damages for physical injuries are tax free, but punitive damages are taxed. For this reason and others, your taxes might be lower if you settle a lawsuit rather than going to verdict.”

 

Mitch Maahs, Report Highlights IRS Shortcomings Preventing Business ID Theft (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). “In most cases, an ID thief files a business tax return using an Employer Identification Number (EIN) of an active or inactive business without permission to obtain a fraudulent refund, often claiming extensive refundable tax credits.”

Kay Bell, Tornadoes, other wild November weather: Be ready! “Be ready, on the physical and financial and especially tax fronts, for dangerous weather, this week and any time of the year.”

Janet Novack, After Budget Deal’s Surprise Cuts, Can Boomers Really Count On Social Security? It’s always dangerous to count on a fiscally insane scheme for your retirement security.

Jim Maule, The Fallacy of “Job Creating” Tax Breaks, Yet Again. “Job relocation is not job creation.”

 

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Scott Greenberg, Section 179 Really Does Benefit Small Businesses (Tax Policy Blog). “Ideally, all business investments would be given the same treatment as Section 179 and businesses would be able to deduct all investment costs in the year that they occur. But until the U.S. tax code adopts this ideal, Section 179 remains an important provision that allows some businesses to deduct investment costs as they occur.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 923. And all politicians are honest in Chicago. “President Barack Obama’s public comments appearing to prejudge the outcome of Justice Department investigations don’t affect the decisions in those inquiries, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Tuesday.”

Renu Zaretsky, Budgeting, Wooing, and Taxing. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers highway bill politics and Michigan’s entirely unoriginal idea of bribing companies to lure data centers.

Danshera Cords, Unintentionally Undermining Voluntary Compliance: Balancing Accountability and Budget (Procedurally Taxing). Another call to increase the IRS budget. If you want the IRS budget increased, you want Commissioner Koskinen to resign, because it’s not happening otherwise.

 

Career Corner. The Toll of Travel: An Interview With a Former Big 4 Advisory Road Warrior  (Leona May, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/10/15: 9th Circuit offers divorce bonus for rich homeowners. And: a cunning charity deduction plan!

Monday, August 10th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

CA--9 mapThe wages of sin have gone up for west-coast couples who choose to live together without benefit of clergy, and who happen to own expensive west-coast houses. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that unmarried couples can deduct interest on $2.2 million in home mortgage debt on a shared residence — twice the allowance for a married couple.

The appeals court overruled a Tax Court decision involving an unmarried couple, a Mr. Voss and a Mr. Sophy. The court lays out the basic facts:

Voss and Sophy purchased the Beverly Hills home in 2002. They financed the purchase of the Beverly Hills home with a $2,240,000 mortgage, secured by the Beverly Hills property. About a year later, they refinanced the mortgage by obtaining a new loan in the amount of $2,000,000. Voss and Sophy are jointly and severally liable for the refinanced Beverly Hills mortgage, which, like the original mortgage, is secured by the Beverly Hills property. At the same time as they refinanced the Beverly Hills mortgage, Voss and Sophy also obtained a home equity line of credit of $300,000 for the Beverly Hills home. Voss and Sophy are jointly and severally liable for the home equity line of credit as well.

The total average balance of the two mortgages and the line of credit in 2006 and 2007 (the two taxable years at issue) was about $2.7 million — $2,703,568.05 in 2006 and $2,669,135.57 in 2007. 

Between the two owners, the federal tax benefit at stake for the extra deduction over two years was around $56,000, if I read the Tax Court case correctly. The Tax Court ruled against the couple, saying the tax law

…appears to set out a specific allocation of the limitation amounts that must be used by married couples filing separate tax returns, thus implying that co-owners who are not married to one another may choose to allocate the limitation amounts among themselves in some other manner, such as according to percentage of ownership.

The Ninth Circuit found otherwise:

We hold that 26 U.S.C. § 163(h)(3)’s debt limit provisions apply on a per-taxpayer basis to unmarried co-owners of a qualified residence. We infer this conclusion from the text of the statute: By expressly providing that married individuals filing separate returns are entitled to deduct interest on up to $550,000 of home debt each, Congress implied that unmarried co-owners filing separate returns are entitled to deduct interest on up to $1.1 million of home debt each.

The statute is surprisingly unclear on this. It is hard to believe that Congress wanted to give wealthy unmarried couples a special deal, but legislative incompetence is not surprising at all. I expect that the IRS will continue to enforce the $1.1 million limit outside the Ninth Circuit. Still, any cohabiting taxpayers who have lost deductions because of the limit should file protective refund claims for open years; it may eventually take a Supreme Court decision, or additional legislation, to settle the issue.

The moral? For some power couples, matrimony may have a tax cost.

This case also shows that the real beneficiaries of the home mortgage deduction tend to be the very wealthy. As the Tax Foundation explains:

Despite the claims of various industry groups that the home mortgage interest deduction is an important factor promoting broad-based home ownership, IRS data show the bulk of mortgage interest deductions are claimed by a relatively small fraction of Americans with incomes well above average. As a result, it is likely that the deduction primarily encourages larger and more expensive homes among a relatively small share of taxpayers, rather than promoting broad-based home ownership among ordinary Americans.

Better to eliminate the tax break and lower rates for everyone. I won’t hold my breath, because I think the politics are impossible despite the unwisdom of the policy. If there is a national policy argument for subsidizing the purchase of $2 million Hollywood homes for unmarried couples, it must be fabulous.

Cite: Voss, CA-9, Case No. 12-73257.

Update: Additional coverage from TaxProf (Ninth Circuit Gives Unmarried Couples Double The Mortgage Interest Deduction Available To Married Couples.) and Instaupundit (PUNISH THE BOURGEOISIE!)

 

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Robert D. Flach, THE TAX PRACTITIONERS BILL OF RIGHTS. “The National Society of Accountants (the ‘other’ NSA) has developed a ‘Tax Practitioners Bill of Rights’ in response to continued IRS budget cuts and the recent serious decline in IRS ‘customer service’.”

Mitch Maahs, Deadline Days Shuffle for Many Business Tax Returns (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Russ Fox, Criminal Charges Dropped Against Roni Deutch. Ms. Deutch was one of the biggest players in the “pennies on the dollar” industry, as seen on TV! which collapsed in a pile of lawsuits, lost up-front payments, and disappointed tax debtors. “California has dropped the criminal indictments, and instead of paying $34 million she’ll be paying $2.5 million in the civil suit (per her lawyer).”

Kay Bell, Bush brothers’ barbecue and tax banter. “The only thing we Texans take more seriously than our football (high school, college and pro) and politics (equally crazy at local, state and federal levels) is our barbecue.”

Peter Reilly, Bristol Palin At Heart Of IRS Scandal – Who Knew?

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 821Day 822Day 823.

TaxGrrrl, Our Current Tax v. The Flat Tax v. The Fair Tax: What’s The Difference?

Andrew Lundeen, Six Changes Every Tax Reform Plan Should Include (Tax Policy Blog):

  1. Make the Tax Rates competitive for Businesses
  2. Move to a Territorial Tax System
  3. Correctly Define Business Income with Full Expensing
  4. Integrate the Corporate and Individual Tax Systems
  5. Create Universal Savings Accounts
  6. Repeal the Estate Tax

For my clients, 1, 3 and 4 are the big deals.

 

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Renu Zaretsky, Simple Is as Simple Does. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup talks about taxes in debates. Also: shockingly, New Jersey’s film industry is surviving the loss of the 20% production tax credit.

Cara Griffith, A Look at Information Sharing Agreements Between the IRS and States (Tax Analysts Blog)

 

Wanting a charitable deduction in the worst way. The Des Moines Register relates a state auditor report that a University of Northern Iowa clerk took cash deposits and wrote checks to the University to claim as charitable deductions or business expenses:

She allegedly told the adviser that she intended for the check to appear as if it were a donation for tax purposes, saying that she “had always done it that way,” according to the report.

In one instance, Shannon admitted to auditors that a check she had written in lieu of cash for $1,002 was from a construction business account, and a note was made on the check to indicate a business expense. Cash was split evenly between her husband and his brother as a distribution from the company.

However, the report says she did not explain why the check’s memo line indicated it was a donation.

Needless to say, that doesn’t work. The obvious problem here is that for a check over $250, you don’t get a deduction unless you get a letter from the donee saying you got nothing in exchange for the check. Here, it seems that the “donor” got $1,002 in exchange for the $1,002 “donation.” That isn’t worth much as a deduction, if my math is correct.

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/18/15: Bill protecting multi-state employees advances. Also: crowdfunding taxes, poker reporting and lots more!

Thursday, June 18th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

Programming Note: No Tax Roundup tomorrow. See you Monday!

 

20140923-1The House Judiciary Committee advanced three bills: The Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act (H.R. 1643), The Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act of 2015 (H.R. 2315), and The Business Activity Tax Simplification Act (H.R. 2584).  Joseph Henchman provides some explanation in Activity in Congress on Key State Tax Bills (Tax Policy Blog):

The Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act of 2015 (H.R. 2315) limits states from imposing or collecting individual income tax on those who are in the state for less than 30 days. Most states technically require such payments when someone is in the state for even a day, and even withholding to be set up in advance, and we’re increasingly hearing horror stories of states trying to collect these sums. Since all states provide a credit for taxes paid to another state, making people fill out 20 or 30 tax returns for a net national wash is lunacy. Most everyone, except New York officials and state tax administrators, support this legislation…

The Digital Goods and Services Tax Fairness Act (H.R. 1643) establishes national standards for when and how states can tax digital goods and services…

The Business Activity Tax Simplification Act (H.R. 2584) limits state power to impose corporate income taxes and gross receipts taxes to businesses with physical presence in the state for at least 14 days. While that is the historical standard, states have begun shifting to an “economic nexus” standard, imposing taxes on businesses with no connection to the state except that they have sales there. This exporting of tax burdens adds complexity, litigation, compliance costs, and uncertainty. We hear lots of horror stories of states suddenly imposing years’ of back taxes on companies who had no expectation of owing taxes in that state because they have no property or employees there.

Iowa is among the states aggressively going after out-of-state businesses with very weak ties to the state.

The Digital Goods act seems the least controversial, so the most likely to advance. The Mobile Workforce bill — a long overdue effort to save cross-state workers from expensive annual compliance nightmares — passed 23-4, opposed only by three New Yorkers and a Californian. That’s a sign that it could advance. The Business Activity Simplification Act passed only on a party-line vote, which means it is likely doomed for this session of Congress.

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Jason Dinesen, Same-sex Marriage and Paycheck Withholdings – An Unpleasant Surprise on 2014 Tax Returns. “Some of my clients went from getting a refund of several-thousand dollars in prior years to owing several-thousand dollars on their 2014 tax return.”

TaxGrrrl, Crowdfunding As An Investment Tool: Is Trouble Brewing? If the proceeds are a “gift,” they are non-taxable, but it’s not clear that they qualify.

Robert Wood, Amazingly, IRS Collects 30 Year Old Tax Debt Despite 3 Year Statute Of Limitations. This shows how hard it is to shake off liability for unpaid payroll taxes. It reminds us how unwise it is to “borrow” withheld taxes from the IRS.

Russ Fox, Form 8300 and Poker:  “If you’re a business and you receive a payment of $10,000 or more in cash or like funds (this would include casino chips but would not include a cashier’s check), you have a reporting requirement: You must file Form 8300 with the IRS.”

Kay Bell, IRS looks at $600 slots, bingo & keno reporting threshold

Jack Townsend, On Ignorance – Deliberate or Otherwise. Sometimes, when telling clients that they did something that will cost them taxes, I have gotten the feeling the client wished I was a little more ignorant.

Mitch Maahs, National Society of Accountants Proposes a Tax Practitioners Bill of Rights (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). “While this Bill of Rights would represent a vast improvement for tax practitioners and their clients, the gravity of these improvements in customer service, combined with the crippling level of IRS budget cuts, may render the Tax Practitioners Bill of Rights an unattainable goal.”

 

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Joseph Thorndike, First They Taxed Soda; Now They’re Coming for Your Water (Tax Analysts Blog). First they tax pop, and now they want to discourage a healthy and convenient alternative to sugary drinks. What they really want is more money and more power over the people foolish enough to keep electing them.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 77. E-mail stalling figures prominently.

That can’t be true. It was the “Affordable” Care Act. Five Years Later: ACA’s Branded Prescription Drug Fee May Have Contributed to Rising Drug Prices (Scott Greenberg, Tax Policy Blog).

Renu Zaretsky, On Havens and Stalemates. Today’s TaxVox talks about Wal-Mart’s tax structure, an EU tax haven “blacklist,” and a TIGTA report on how budget cuts are affecting IRS enforcement efforts. Also, a lame employment tax credit plan from Hilary Clinton.

 

Career Corner. Donald Trump’s Accountants Should Quit (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

It’s a good day.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/22/15: IRS to refund RTRP test fees. And: Memorial Day!

Friday, May 22nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

Memorial Day weekend!. As most offices will be deserted by 3 p.m., let’s get started. And while you are getting ready for the long weekend, remember that late this afternoon is a great time to get embarrassing news out, while nobody’s watching. The politicians know this.

20130121-2IRS to refund RTRP test fees. From an IRS announcement:

The IRS is refunding the fees that return preparers paid for the Registered Tax Return Preparer test. Letters will be mailed to refund recipients on May 28 and checks will be mailed on June 2. Return preparers took the test between November 2011 and January 2013 and paid a fee of $116. About 89,000 tests were paid for and taken, with some preparers taking the test more than once.

Mighty nice of them. But they have an ominous warning:

The IRS remains committed to the principle that all persons who prepare federal tax returns for compensation should be required to pass a test of minimal competency and take annual continuing education training.

In other words, they will continue to try to sneak preparer regulation through the back door. When the people who pass the tax laws have to pass a test of minimal competency, come back to me with your time-wasting paperwork, IRS.

 

buzz20140923Robert D. Flach rounds up tax happenings in his Friday Buzz!

Mitch Maahs, Tapping into Beer Tax Reform (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog):

As the craft beer industry continues to boom, the margins of many craft breweries have continued to tighten. Representatives of the industry have taken to Congress to seek tax breaks for these small brewers, but the large, multinational beer giants also want a pour from the tax-break tap.

Currently, all brewers pay a federal excise tax, per 31-gallon barrel (about 248 pints), based on the volume the brewer produces or imports. On its first 60,000 barrels brewed or imported, breweries pay $7.00 per barrel. The tax increases to $18.00 for each additional barrel above 60,000.

Excise taxes should work like user fees, paying for costs generated by the beer consumers. That’s not what this tax does.

Let’s shop! Memorial Day sales tax holidays for Texas, Virginia shoppers (Kay Bell)

William Perez talks about 3 Types of Tax Form 5498 (and Why You Got One): “Essentially, Form 5498 provides independent confirmation to the IRS of the amounts you contributed to IRAs and other tax-preferred savings accounts.”

 

 

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Jack Townsend, GE Gets Slapped Down Again for its B*****t Tax Shelter.

Peter Reilly, Kent Hovind To Be Free In August – Maybe Sooner. His pet velociraptor will be glad to see him.

Kyle Pomerleau, Bernie Sanders’s Financial Transaction Tax Won’t Raise as Much Revenue as He Thinks (Tax Policy Blog):

In the 1980s, Sweden introduced a financial transactions tax. As expected, the tax reduced trade volume: “when the 2% tax was introduced in 1986, 60% of the trading volume of the 11 most actively traded Swedish share classes migrated to London to avoid taxes.”

Of course, the Sanders response to such failure would be to “crack down.”

 

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Renu Zaretsky, Robbing Peter to Pay Paul. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup talks about a push to make bike riders pay for their bike trails, as well as the continuing fiscal turmoil in Kansas.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 743

News from the Profession. 34-Count Indictment Won’t Stop Accountant from Serving His Clients: Lawyer. (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). If he’s convicted, though, that just might stop him.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/20/2015: What’s with the accounting method changes? And: foot kissing + tax evasion = double trouble.

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

3115-2009If your business return seems extra thick this year, it could be a result of an “accounting method change” application — Form 3115 — buried in it.

The tax law requires taxpayers to get IRS permission to change a “method of accounting.” Without getting into all of the tedious details, and with great oversimplification, a “method of accounting” occurs when the way you account for something on your tax return affects the timing of income or expense, but not the total amount over time. In other words, it’s temporary vs. permanent differences.

Of course timing is everything in tax planning, and the IRS doesn’t want you to change accounting methods willy-nilly. The IRS doesn’t have the time to consider every accounting method change, though, so it publishes a long list of “automatic” method changes annually. This year’s list is in Rev. Proc. 2015-14.

This year will see more Forms 3115 than usual as a result of the so-called “repair regulations” that are effective for 2014 returns. These rules distinguish between “repair” expenses, which can be deducted, and “improvements,” which have to be capitalized and depreciated.

20140925-2The repair regulations have provisions that let taxpayers treat their building components — HVAC, roofs, elevators, etc — as separate items under these rules. Their effect is to permit deductions for some costs that may have been trapped in the depreciable cost of the building. That makes the automatic method change under these rules (Rev. Proc. 2014-17) a good deal, as it can provide a catch-up deduction for prior capitalized costs. Many returns will also include a method change (Rev. Proc. 2014-16) to reflect updated rules for deducting or capitalizing “materials and supplies.”

Automatic method changes are a good thing; if you have a method change that isn’t automatic, special IRS permission is required, and it doesn’t come cheap. But even an automatic change isn’t free, especially if your preparer has to go through old repair records to determine the catch-up deduction. But if you have significant depreciable real property, it’s probably worth the effort.

 

Russ Fox, Former Mayor (and Current CPA) Learns of Tax Fraud, Joins the Conspiracy

Now, let’s assume you’re a tax professional and you learn that a company is withholding payroll taxes and not paying them to the IRS. Would you:
(a) Tell them that the taxes aren’t being paid, that’s violating the law, and you need to fix this (which could include setting up payment plans with the IRS and Minnesota, or just paying the withheld funds);
(b) Tell them that if they don’t start remitting the withheld funds that he would need to quit the engagement; or
(c) Join the conspiracy. 

An accountant from Stillwater, Minnesota — who happened to also be the Mayor — chose poorly.

 

20121120-2Hank Stern, Counting down the ObamaTax:

Many (most?) folks believe that the tax is a mere $95 this year and, for some people, this may well be the case. But it’s actually just a minimum; the actual rate (this year) is 1% of income:

TurboTax, an online tax service, estimated that the average penalty for lacking health insurance in 2014 will be $301.”

A common misconception.

Robert Wood, Beware Obamacare When Filing Taxes This Year. A roundup of the individual mandate penalty and the net investment income tax.

 

Annette Nellen, Due diligence for preparing 1040s for 2014:

What’s new for due diligence for 2014 individual tax returns?  Virtual currency, Affordable Care Act, FBAR, Airbnb rentals, for sure.  Also, the typical charitable contributions, mortgage interest and 1099-K review.  The biggest new item for 2014 will the new line asking if the individual had health coverage for the year.

More work doesn’t come free. The post lists to a longer article about preparer “due diligence” this tax season.

 

Tim Todd, Tax Court Adopts Functional Test to Define “Bank”. “In sum, the Tax Court held that Moneygram satisfied neither the Staunton functional test nor the § 581 test because it failed to receive deposits, make loans, and was not regarded as a bank by any state or federal regulator. Consequently, Moneygram was not entitled to the reported bad debt deductions of the partial or wholly worthless asset-backed securities.”

Jason Dinesen, A Brief History of Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 2: Taxes in 1913.

 

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Understanding Partnership Distributions, Part 1. “As you will see, the regime governing partnership distributions is drastically different from the one governing corporate distributions.”

TaxGrrrl, Fun With Taxes: Tax Haiku 2015. How about this:

 insure worker health?

Better not reimburse it

That is expensive.

 Kay Bell, Martin Luther King Jr. Day lessons via “Selma” & “Glory”

Mitch Maahs, IRS Announces New Standard Mileage Rates (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

 

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Robert D. Flach, BO SOTU PLANS TO INCREASE TAX ON THE “WEALTHY”. ” BO’s tax proposals, both to help the middle class and punish the wealthy, will never pass in the Republican controlled Congress.”

Matt Gardner, President Obama Takes on the Capital Gains Tax Inequity with New Proposals. By making it worse, of course, though not to hear Mr. Gardner tell it.

Renu Zaretsky, To Build a Better Tax Code, You Could Follow the Money.  The TaxVox headline roundup is heavy on the President’s proposals.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 621. This edition cites Stephen Moore’s Op-ed: “Congress needs to hold the IRS accountable and demand the firing of Mr. Kostiken because he has he admitted openly he can’t do his job.”  Unfortunately, the President who hired him thinks he is doing his job, which is to be a partisan scandal goalie.

 

The headline that wins the internet: Foot Kissing Chiropractor Sentenced for Bribing IRS Agent (Jack Townsend)

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/29/14: Why AMT matters in year-end planning. And: Laffering it up.

Monday, December 29th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today visitors! Click here to find the capital gains planning item from “In the Blogs.”

IMG_1944How AMT can make prepaying state and local taxes a false move. Prepaying state and local taxes is a venerable year-end tax planning move. It can also be a costly one, thanks to the Alternative Minimum Tax. If you are in AMT this year — perhaps thanks to a big non-recurring capital gain — but you won’t be next year, prepaying your state and local taxes might result in your taxes actually being much higher over the two-year period.

An example involving a fictional Iowa married couple shows how this works. The couple has one earner with $150,000 in self-employment earnings in 2014 and 2015. In 2014 the couple generates $300,000 in a one-time capital gain.

If the couple prepays their 2014 state tax on the capital gain, they get a federal tax benefit of precisely zero in 2014; the capital gain causes them to be in AMT whatever they do because the capital gain rates are the same for AMT and regular tax.

In 2015, the couple has no AMT on their $150,000 of self-employment income. Nor do they have AMT even after paying both their 2014 Iowa balance due and their 2015 Iowa estimates. My projection software comes up with these numbers (yes, oversimplified, but the concepts hold):

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This shows that prepaying the taxes would be a $6,043 mistake for the couple.

There are cases where prepaying state taxes makes sense. There are also cases where AMT makes doing so a blunder. Make sure you run the numbers before you mail that check.

 

In case you missed it over the holidays, central Iowa’s only SHOP marketplace insurance provider was taken over by Iowa’s insurance regulators last week.  Read about it here.

 

Younkers ruins 20140610William Perez offers A First Look at ABLE Savings Accounts. These accounts, included in this month’s “extender” bill, allow Section 529-like benefits for accounts set up to pay disability costs.

Robert D. Flach, THE CLOCK IS TICKING. For 2014 Qualified Charitable Distributions from IRAs.

Mitch Maahs, Summary of the Tax Extenders in the Tax Increase Prevention Act (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Kay Bell, Look out for phishing scam from fake Treasury Secretary

Jack Townsend, Tax Return Preparers Convicted of Conspiracy and Failure to File FBARs. They chose badly.

Cara Griffith, Crowdfunding and State Taxation (Tax Analysts Blog). Is Kickstarter funding taxable income or taxable sales?

Tim Todd, 4th Cir. Rejects Conservation Easement with Substitution Provision

Peter Reilly, Phantom Mares And Real Trucks Don’t Make For A Winning Horse Loss Tax Case. Plus, it’s really hard to find good phantom breeding studs.

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Renu Zaretsky, Will Tax Reforming Be Forgot and Never Brought to Mind? This TaxVox headline roundup covers the Kansas struggles with careless tax reform, among other things.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 599

 

Stephen MooreThe Laffer Curve turns 40: the legacy of a controversial idea:

To punctuate his point, he grabbed a pen and a cloth cocktail napkin and drew a chart showing that when tax rates get too high, they penalize work and investment and can actually lead to revenue losses for the government. Four years later, that napkin became immortalized as “the Laffer Curve”…

Laffer Curve, via Wikipedia

Laffer Curve, via Wikipedia

The idea that tax rates can become so high that they actually reduce net revenue shouldn’t be controversial. If you have a 100% tax rate on an activity, you will avoid that activity, or at least letting the government know about it. Of course, a zero rate will also generate no tax revenue. The revenue-maximizing rate is somewhere in between.

Unfortunately, some people on the right have taken this point and jumped to the conclusion that tax cuts will always cause such increased taxable activity that tax revenues will increase. That’s as much a fallacy as left-side assumptions that increasing taxes can never be economically-harmful or revenue-reducing.

The real issues should be identifying the point at which the harms to economic activity and to revenues occur. It seems likely that the economically-damaging rate is lower than the revenue-maximizing rate, as Megan McArdle discusses here. These points have to differ for different kinds of tax. A 30% income tax rate might not be very destructive to economic activity, but a 30% sales tax would hurt, and a 30% gross receipts tax would be ruinous. The results also differ for state and federal taxes, given how much easier it is for activity to to move between states than between countries.

All this, of course, ignores the obvious question of how much revenue the government needs in the first place. I would argue that a well-run government limited to its proper sphere wouldn’t have to ask these questions all the time.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/22/14: Remembering tax reform.

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

19861022President Reagan signed the Tax Reform Act of 1986 28 years ago today. In hindsight, the tax law that resulted seems like a beacon of simplicity, with its 28% top rates and its lack of a capital gain differential.

Looking hard at the 1986 Act, we can see some warning signs. It enacted a temporary research credit, setting the stage for the semi-annual parade of expiring provisions. It included the current alternative minimum tax, which adds huge complexity to individual compliance. It had some benefits that phased out based on income, such as passive losses for active renters and for some IRA contributors. But at the time those could be seen as flaws to be fixed. Instead, they were weeds that would be cultivated.

I count 47 “major” post-tax reform tax laws in the Tax Policy Center list. Every one of them has done its part to undo tax reform. Most of them are represented on my souvenir bookshelf, which has tax law summaries going back to 1984. The left half of the top shelf takes us from 1984 through the 1986 reforms. The rest of it is tax reform’s undoing.

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While each law did its little damage to the tax law, I look at President Bush’s signing of the 1990 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act as the moment when things really began to unravel. OBRA increased in the top rate to 31%, uncoupled the capital gain rate from the ordinary income rate, and enacted the foul phaseouts of itemized deductions and the standard deduction that dishonestly increased the top effective rate over the top stated rate.

Three Presidents and dozens of bills later, we have individual rates over 40%, considering phaseouts and the Obamacare surtaxes. We have dozens of regularly expiring provisions that require lobbyists to pay homage to the taxwriters every year or two. We have unprecedented complexity that forces even smart taxpayers with simple financial lives to pay to get their returns done. And we have land mines all over the tax law, including foreign reporting provisions that can impose $10,000 penalties on taxpayers who have paid all of their taxes.

It’s all a depressing story. Still, 1986 did happen. Top rates came down from 50% to 28%. The base was broadened and rates reduced. It happened once, so maybe it can happen again.

 

The internet ate my first shot at this post, so just a very quick roundup today.

 

20141003-2Tony Nitti, IRS Sheds Light On The Use Of The Recurring Item Exception

 

Mitch Maahs, IRS Revises Offshore Voluntary Compliance Programs (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Kay Bell, NY tax scammers copying fake IRS tax call template

Peter Reilly, IRS Collection Action Can Be Delayed For A Long Time

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 531

David Brunori, Tax Ballot Predictions (Tax Analysts Blog)

Tracy Gordon, Bertha and the French Professor: Lessons for Public Private Partnerships (TaxVox)

Richard Borean, Tax Foundation Awards for Outstanding Achievement in State Tax Reform in 2014 (Tax Policy Blog). No Iowans — no surprise.

 

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Tax Roundup, 7/18/2013: Cincinnati, D.C. edition. And: the Redflex auto dealer tax.

Thursday, July 18th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

chief counsel shieldI didn’t know the IRS Chief Counsel worked out of Cincinnati.  The “nothing to see here” apologists for the IRS harassment of right-wing exempt organizations have always said that nothing wrong happened, and it was the work of rogue employees in the Cincinnati hinterlands anyway.  Perhaps not.  Tax Analysts reports ($link):

Embattled IRS official Lois Lerner directed a multilayered review of Tea  Party groups’ exemption applications that reached all the way to the IRS chief counsel’s office and led to lengthy delays in processing the applications, according to testimony from an IRS attorney released July 17 by House committees investigating the matter.

Carter Hull, a “Washinton IRS tax law specialist,” says the IRS Chief Counsel’s office was involved:

     Hull testified that at the August 2011 meeting, officials from the chief counsel’s office told him they needed updated information on the applications and suggested that a template letter be developed for future processing of applications. He said he told the officials that a template was impractical given the differences in the various applications.

     Hull told investigators that in his 48 years working at the IRS, he had never been asked to send a case he was working to Lerner’s senior adviser or to the chief counsel’s office before he received the request to elevate the Tea Party cases.

Mr. Hull is scheduled to testify at Congressional hearings today.  Nothing to see here, move along.

Wall Street Journal, The IRS Goes to Washington.

 

It’s OK, she’s a witch anyway.  Failed Republican Senate Candidate Christine O’Donnell may have been one of the candidates for political office whose tax records were breached, based on a Washington Times story.  The report says Ms. O’Donnell has been contacted by the Treasury telling her that a Delaware state official improperly accessed her federal tax records.   During her campaign for Senate, she was hit with a false federal tax lien on the day she announced her candidacy.

There has been no prosecution for the illegal access:

Treasury officials have refused to give Mr. Grassley any specifics on the cases or to describe the disposition of Ms. O’Donnell’s case, claiming even people who improperly access tax records have an assumption of privacy under federal tax laws.

That will be news to Dennis Lerner, a former IRS agent who this week received a three-year probation sentence for improperly disclosing confidential tax information.

Instapundit has more.

Christopher Bergin, IRS: Victim, Football, Both? (Tax Analysts Blog)


 

gatsoClive reconsidering its revenue camera auto-dealer tax.  The Des Moines Register reports that the future of the Des Moines suburb’s contract with red-light camera operator Redflex is in doubt, now that City Councilman Michael McCoy has joined another member of the five-person council in opposing the cameras.

Most of the cameras are along a strip of Hickman Road that has some car dealerships.  Guess what happens?

McCoy said businesses have raised concerns about the program to him. He said car dealerships are incurring fees when customers test drive their vehicles — the program mails tickets based on license plates. “That doesn’t seem like a way to be business friendly and invite new business into our community,” McCoy said.

But what good are customers if the local municipality can’t pick their pockets?

 

Tax Justice Blog, Are Special Tax Breaks Worthwhile? Rhode Island Intends to Find Out:

Rhode Island is about to put seventeen of its “economic development” tax breaks under the microscope, thanks to a new law (PDF) signed by Governor Chafee last week.  This reform is a welcome step forward in a national landscape where states often do nothing at all to figure out whether narrow tax breaks are really helping their economies.

After Iowa’s film tax program collapsed in disgrace and scandal, a blue ribbon commission was unable to identify any definite benefit to Iowa’s dozens of targeted corporate welfare tax breaks.  Yet Iowa continues to pass them out like Tootsie Rolls at a parade.

 

Cara Griffith, Break Out the Champagne (Tax Analysts Blog).  State revenues are up.

Jack Townsend, Interview of Swiss Bank Whistleblower

Kay Bell, Werfel does his own tax returns, Lerner still under fire and other tidbits from House hearing on IRS small business audits

Me: Long live the Queen! 21 years for the “Queen of IRS Tax Fraud”

 

Mitch Maahs, Deducting Job Search Expenses (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

William Perez, Same-Sex Spouses and Small Business: What’s Changed?

 

‘Merica!  U.S. Tax System Ranks 94th in the World (Andrew Lundeen, Tax Policy Blog)

Career Corner.  If All Else Fails, You Can Still Become an Internal Auditor (Going Concern)

News you can use.  Get Ready To Shop: State Sales Tax Holidays Are Back! (TaxGrrrl)

Reports: he’s not happy any more. Reports: Happy’s Pizza founder, others indicted for fraud, tax evasion (theoaklandpress.com)

 

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