Posts Tagged ‘News from the Profession’

Tax roundup, 8/26/14: Oh, that backup file. You can’t have that one. And lots more!

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

perryheadOh, that email backup?  From Today’s TaxProf IRA scandal roundup, The IRS Scandal, Day 474, comes this dazer:

Department of Justice attorneys for the Internal Revenue Service told Judicial Watch on Friday that Lois Lerner’s emails, indeed all government computer records, are backed up by the federal government in case of a government-wide catastrophe.  The Obama administration attorneys said that this back-up system would be too onerous to search. 

Tremendous.  After telling the court that there just was no way on earth those emails survived, now they say there is a backup, but it’s just too much of a hassle for them to use it to comply with the court’s orders.  I find it hard to imagine the brashest private-sector lawyer saying something like that, at least more than once.

But wait, there’s more:

The IRS filing in federal Judge Emmet Sullivan’s court reveals shocking new information. The IRS destroyed Lerner’s Blackberry AFTER it knew her computer had crashed and after a Congressional inquiry was well underway. As an IRS official declared under the penalty of perjury, the destroyed Blackberry would have contained the same emails (both sent and received) as Lois Lerner’s hard drive. 

Yet Commissioner Koskinen says we should just stop bugging him about this silly abuse of power stuff and give him money instead.  Because we can trust the IRS.

Related: TaxGrrrl, Judicial Watch Claims IRS Attorneys Admit Lois Lerner’s ‘Missing’ Emails Exist;  Russ Fox, Remember Those Missing IRS Emails? They Appear to Exist….

 

Peter Reilly, Home Sweet RV Does Not Always Produce Best Tax Result.  Peter discusses the recreational vehicle tax Catch-22 we noted recently.

harvestPaul Neiffer, How to Sell Your Land and Pay No Tax – MAYBE.  It involves stretching out the payments and keeping your other income down.

Jason Dinesen, More Commentary About Year-Round Proactive Services to Clients.  “Those of us who are good professionals rarely demand the respect we have earned. And then we wonder why clients seemingly don’t respect us, don’t value us, don’t listen to our advice, or jump ship the moment you breathe about a rate increase.”

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Computing Earnings and Profits.  “The primary purpose for computing E&P is to determine whether a distribution represents a taxable dividend, a nontaxable return of shareholder capital, or capital gain to the recipient shareholders.”

 

Leslie Book, A Stolen Check, Mistaken Identity and Prisoners (Procedurally Taxing):

This post considers Hill v US, a case from the Court of Federal Claims involving a prisoner named Mark Hill whose $1182 tax refund was stolen and cashed by another prisoner with the same name after the prison system mistakenly delivered an IRS letter relating to the missing refund check to the wrong Mark Hill. With time on his hands, but no check, the right Mark Hill sought justice in the form of a new check. After getting the runaround from the IRS, the right Mark Hill sued the US to force it to issue a new refund check. For good measure, he also wanted interest and punitive damages.

Turns out the IRS doesn’t get any more helpful if you are behind bars.

 

20140826-1Robert D. Flach serves your fresh Tuesday Buzz, with links about smart giving, educational savings options, and what you can earn working tax season at a national return prep franchise.

That’s a long time.  Cobb County man sentenced to 20 years for ID theft, tax fraud (ajc.com).  The guy is also supposed to pay back $5 million he stole.  Good luck on that.  Sure, the guy should go away for a long time, but the real crime is that the IRS let him steal that much from the taxpayers.

Jeremy Scott, Fracking Taxes Help States Now, but What About the Future?  (Tax Analysts Blog)  “North Dakota has been transformed by its rapidly growing energy sector, but it should be cautious about staking too much of its fiscal future on continually increasing severance taxes.”

 

Andrew Lundeen, Solutions on Inversions and Corporate Tax Reform (Tax Policy Blog).

Steve Warnhoff, Will Congress Let Burger King’s Shareholders Have It Their Way?  (Tax Justice Blog).  If it means we get Tim Horton’s donuts, I’m all for the proposed merger.

 

Renu Zaretsky,  Tax Rates: Growth, Competition, and Debt.  The TaxVox headline roundup ponders the effects of individual rate cuts, the badness of corporate rates in the U.S., and film credits in North Carolina, among other things.

lizard20140826Have a nice day.  1.2 Billion Reasons to Worry: Security firm reports Russian crime ring compromised 1.2 billion usernames and passwords (John Lande, Iowa Banking Law Blog)

News from the Profession.  Extra-Marital Affairs Site Claims Accountants are Kings of Romance Because Their Jobs are Boring (Adrienne GonzalezGoing Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/20/14: Keeping time reports isn’t just for CPAs anymore.

Wednesday, August 20th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2Track your hours now, not when you get audited.  Doing time reports is no fun.  If I had a nickel for every CPA who left public accounting and told me how fun it is to not do time reports, I’d have multiple nickels.

Unfortunately, the tax law might make time sheets necessary for people who don’t charge by the hour.  The passive loss rules disallow losses if you don’t spend enough time on a loss activity to “materially participate.”  Obamacare uses the same rules to impose a 3.8% “Net Investment Income Tax” on “passive” income.

It’s up to the taxpayer to prove they spent enough time to “materially participate,” as a Mr. Graham from Arkansas learned yesterday in Tax Court.

The taxpayer wanted to convince Judge Nega that he met the tax law’s stiff tests to be a “real estate professional,” enabling him to deduct real estate rental losses.  If you are not a “professional,” these losses are automatically passive, and therefore deferred until there is passive income.  To be a real estate professional, the taxpayer has to both:

- Work at least 750 hours in real estate trades or businesses, and

- performs more than one-half of all personal services during the year in real property trades or businesses in which the taxpayer materially participates.

That’s a high bar to clear for a taxpayer with a day job.  Mr. Graham gave it a good try, providing a judge with spreadsheets to show that he did that work.  The judge remained unconvinced:

Mr. Graham did not keep a contemporaneous log or appointment calendar tracking his real estate services. His spreadsheets were created later, apparently in connection with the IRS audit. 

There were other problems:

Furthermore, the entries on the spreadsheets were improbable in that they were excessive, unusually duplicative, and counterfactual in some instances. As all petitioners’ rental properties were single-family homes, reporting 7 hours to install locks or 30 hours to place mulch on a single property (amongst other suspect entries) are overstatements at best. Performing maintenance for a tenant that did not pay rent for an entire year with no record of “past due rent” or any attempt to collect rent (as Mr. Graham would note on entries for other rental properties) seems dubious.

The judge ruled that the taxpayer failed to meet the tests.  Worse, the court upheld a 20% penalty: “We conclude that the exaggerated entries in petitioners’ spreadsheets negate their good faith in claiming deductions for rental real estate losses against their earned income.”

The Moral?  Maintain your time records now.  When the IRS comes calling, it’s too late.  And play it straight; the Tax Court didn’t just fall off the turnip truck.

Cite: Graham, T.C. Summ. Op. 2014-79. 

 

20130426-1Russ Fox, FBAR Filing Follies:

Joe Kristan reported last week that you cannot use Adobe Acrobat to file the FBAR; you must use Adobe Reader. In fact, if you have Adobe Acrobat installed on your computer and use Adobe Reader it won’t work either. Well, I have some mild good news about this.

Mild is right.

 

Peter Reilly, Robert Redford’s New York Tax Trouble Provides Lessons For Planners.  “You dodge non-resident state taxes, either on purpose or by accident, at the peril of missing out on a credit against the tax of your home state.”

Jason Dinesen, S-Corporation Compensation Revisited.  “But what should the salary be? And what if the year has ended and the W-2 deadlines have passed, but the corporate tax return still needs filed?”

Keith Fogg, Postponing Assessment and Collection of the IRC 6672 Liability (Procedurally Taxing).  Issues on the “trust fund” penalty imposed for not remitting withholding.

TaxGrrrl, Flipping Through History: Online Retailers Owe Popularity And Tax Treatment To Mail Order Catalogs:

Online shopping is again changing the way that we look at nexus but for now, more or less the same kinds of principles that ruled in the day of mail order catalogs are still good law. The law remains settled that in states that impose a sales tax, retailers that have established nexus must charge sales tax to customers in that state.

And just like in the old days, states want to extend their reach no matter how flimsy the nexus.

20140729-1Lyman Stone, New Upshot Tool Provides Historical Look at Migration (Tax Policy Blog):

Prominent changes in the data suggest that taxes may have a role in affecting migration, though certainly taxes are just one of many important variables, and probably not even the biggest factor. As always, talking about migration isn’t simple: migration data is challenging to measure and represent, and even more difficult to interpret.

I will be seeing Mr. Stone speak at the Iowa Association of Business and Industry Tax Committee this morning.  I’m geeking out already.

 

Jim Maule, “Give Us a Tax Break and We’ll Do Nice Things.” Not.  It seems the subsidized Yankees parking garages don’t stop with picking taxpayer pockets.

Kay Bell, Is it time for territorial taxation of businesses and individuals?  “Territorial taxation advocates hope that long local journey has at least now started.”

 

Howard Gleckman, Is Treasury About to Curb Tax Inversions on Its Own? (TaxVox).  If the law is whatever the current administration says it is, I look forward to the $20 million estate tax exclusion next time the GOP takes power.

Daniel Shaviro, The Obama Administration’s move towards greater unilateral executive action.  “And the conclusion might either be that one should tread a bit lightly after all, or that we are in big trouble whether one side unilaterally does so or not, given the accelerating breakdown of norms that, as Chait notes, are no less crucial than our express constitutional and legal structure to ‘secur[ing] our republic.’”

20130422-2The best and the brightest in action.  TIGTA: ObamaCare Medical Device Tax Is Raising 25% Less Revenue Than Expected, IRS Administration of Tax Is Rife With Errors (TaxProf)

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 468

 

News from the Profession.  AICPA Celebrates 400,000th Member Just Because (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

I can verify that a Kindle absorbs less coffee than paper.  Do readers absorb less from a Kindle than from paper? (Tyler Cowen)

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/19/14: Will people just quit paying taxes? And how far does your $100 go in Iowa?

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
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.

Some folks are worried that we’ll all suddenly stop paying taxes, according to a Tax Analysts story today (subscriber link only):

Richard Lavoie of the University of Akron School of Law, who studies tax ethics, says voluntary compliance rates have remained relatively high because paying taxes is an accepted social norm. Withholding plays a large role in compliance, but it does not explain everything, according to Lavoie.

Lavoie said the recent controversies surrounding the IRS, such as accusations that the agency targeted conservative groups for political reasons, and other factors such as worsening income inequality have all eroded the public’s trust in a fair tax system. If those pressures continue, it could cause taxpayer attitudes to change virtually overnight, he said. “At some point that all adds up, and what was a stable norm that we collect 83 or so percent of taxes voluntarily could flip,” he said.

I think Mr. Lavoie is identifying things he doesn’t like, such as “income inequality” and the Tea Parties, and dreaming up dreadful consequences.  For example, “Lavoie argued in his 2012 paper that antitax rhetoric such as that espoused by the Tea Party also has the potential to unbalance the tax system.”

Mr Lavoie talks about “accusations” of IRS malfeasance and “anti-tax rhetoric” as the dangers — not the well-documented abuses themselves, or the IRS stonewalling of investigations into the abuses, or the former Commissioner’s dishonest response to the scandal, or the current Commissioner’s intransigence, or the President’s “joke” about auditing his opponents.  These damage faith in the IRS much more than anything the Tea Party could come up with.

The article finds some people who get closer to identifying the real problem:

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson in recent remarks also warned that the habit of voluntary compliance may be at risk. Like Koskinen, she cited the IRS’s budget situation, saying that if Congress continues to restrict the agency’s budget, it may lead to a downward spiral in voluntary compliance rates.

While the poor customer service and declining enforcement are related to funding, funding still isn’t the real problem.  The IRS budget would be just fine if the IRS were treated as just a revenue agency.  Instead Congress has made the tax system into the Swiss Army Knife of public policy.  The IRS has a portfolio that ranges from industrial policy to education to retirement security to, famously, health care.  The IRS policy roles can dwarf those of agencies with nominal responsibility for policy areas.  Giving so many jobs to the IRS necessarily makes it less capable of doing its real job, tax collection.

Unfortunately, there’s no sign that anybody is going to take away the agency’s many non-revenue tasks.  And a GOP Congress isn’t about to increase funding for the IRS as long as it seems unapologetic about going after groups opposed to the administration.  To the extent IRS intransigence causes a compliance crash, the agency has only itself to blame.

 

Alan Cole, Lyman Stone, Richard Borean, The Real Value of $100 in Each State (Tax Policy Blog):

 

20140819-1

 

This map makes Iowa look pretty good.  When you consider average incomes compared to the cost of living, Iowa looks even better.

 

Robert D. Flach’s Tuesday Buzz covers inheritance taxes, tax robots, and the large number of people who seem to rely on lottery winnings for retirement funding.

 

20140728-1TaxGrrrl, Investment Opportunity: Possibly Booby-Trapped Property Remains Unsold.  Ed and Elaine Brown forfeited their property after their armed stand-off with the IRS, but the agency can’t find anybody willing to buy it.  There is some fear of booby traps, but I suspect potential buyers would also be a bit concerned about the reaction of Brown supporters.

Peter Reilly, The OID Fraud And Criminal Gullibility:

I have to say that I have some sympathy with the perspective that a reasonable person seeing the refund checks might want to take another look at the scheme.  If they were incapable of understanding the reasoning behind the scheme and what OID actually is, it could be hard to resist.

The OID scheme is absurd.  I realize some people really are gullible enough to believe in it — but only with a leap of faith that is, literally, criminally stupid.

 

Kay Bell, Pot tourism’s potential tax payoff for states with legal weed.  Iowa’s Governor just says no.

Richard Auxler, Do Sales Tax Holidays Ever Make Sense? (TaxVox).  “In some situations, sales tax holidays can make sense. But generally, they’re bad tax policy unless the alternative is large tax cuts with dubious growth assumptions, and not just for a weekend but for the whole year.”

Erica Brady, Final Whistleblower Regulations Create Administrative Review of Rejected and Denied Claims (Procedurally Taxing)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 467

 

News from the Profession: TIL: Ancient Greeks Used Slaves as Auditors So They Could Be Beaten When They Screwed Up (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/18/14: Tax Credits for housing. And for Elvis!

Monday, August 18th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The Des Moines Register is running a series on Jack Hatch, the Democratic nominee for Iowa Governor, focusing on subsidized housing projects he developed.  The stories include Jack Hatch’s record shows no clear conflicts of interest and Review shows Hatch followed public financing rules.

The Register finds no evidence of illegality in Sen. Hatch’s tax credit-driven deals.  That’s unsurprising, as the tax credits are shared with investors, who want clean tax projects and impeccable tax breaks.  As usual with tax incentives, though, the scandal is what is perfectly legal.

The series describes the financing of some projects.  For example:

20140816-1

 

A $6.5 million development with over $8 million in government aid.  A sweet deal, if you are one of the lucky participants of an oversubscribed subsidy program.

While such projects are touted as achieving “affordable housing,” the real beneficiaries are arguably well-connected developers and tax shelter investors.  It’s all legal, and all paid for by the rest of us.

If the real goal is to help the poor, there are better ways than a Rube Goldberg tax credit system running the aid through tax shelter developers and investors.  Arnold Kling’s idea to provide the poor with a universal flexible benefit “to replace all forms of means-tested assistance, including food stamps, housing subsidies, Medicaid, and the EITC, with a single cash benefit,”  is a more promising approach.  It is what a program designed to help the poor, rather than the connected, would look like.

 

Elvis20140818-3Kay Bell, Elvis estate seeks tax breaks for Graceland expansion.  Or what?  Graceland is going to leave Tennessee?  Elvis will leave the building?  But, but, jobs!  Or something.

Robert D. Flach, KEEP COPIES OF YOUR W-2s FOREVER!  Robert explains how he was able to use old W-2s to help a client show that his retirement contributions were “after tax” for New Jersey purposes, preventing a second tax on withdrawal.

Tony Nitti, New Opportunities Exist For S Corporation Shareholders To Deduct Losses

William Perez, Got a Call From the IRS? It’s Probably Not the IRS.  A client of our office got such a scam call last week.  We told them to hang up if they call back.

Jack Townsend, Tidbits on the New Streamlined Procedures

Annette Nellen, Better identity theft efforts – S. 2736

 

20140818-1Jason Dinesen, Why an LPA?  Jason answers the question “Why did I pursue an Iowa “Licensed Public Accountant” designation? LPAs are an obscure lot, in that we only really exist in 3 states (Iowa, Delaware and Minnesota).”

Peter Reilly, IRS Stampedes A Cattle Shelter.  Peter explains why losing a hobby loss case is extra bad.  With a bonus quote from me (Thanks, Peter!).

Tax Trials, Record Your Easement: Tax Court Adjusts Timing & Valuation of New York Facade Easement

 

TaxGrrrl, From AR-15s To Rubber Bullets: How Did Police End Up With Military Gear On American Streets?  Your tax dollars at work.  Amazingly, no tax credits appear to be involved.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 466.  It appears the judge who told the IRS to explain what happened to the Lois Lerner emails isn’t yet satisfied with the IRS response.  More from Russ Fox: Judge Sullivan Not Impressed by the “Dog Ate my Homework” Excuse.

20140818-2Ajay Gupta, Demagoguing the ‘I’ Words. (Tax Analysts Blog) “If an inversion exploits a loophole, then so does every other corporate reorganization that painstakingly adheres to the requirements of the code and regs.”

Steven Rosenthal, Can Obama slow corporate inversions? Yes he can.  Silly rabbit.  The idea isn’t to slow corporate diversions; it’s to demonize them for political fun and profit.  And his idea of reviving the moribund Sec. 385 debt-equity regulations for this purpose shows how much the inversion panic has parted from reality.

 

News from the Profession.  Here’s Further Proof That Accounting Firms Need a Charge Code for “Wasting Time on Internet” (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/11/14: Don’t you dare agree with me edition.

Monday, August 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

microsoft-appleDavid Brunori notes ($link) some odd behavior by Good Jobs First, a left-side outfit that has been on the side of the angels by highlighting the baneful effects of corporate welfare tax incentives.  The American Legislative Exchange Council came out with a report blasting cronyist tax incentives, and rather than embracing the report, Good Jobs First ripped it — because the Koch Brothers are the Devil:

Yet, Good Jobs First slams ALEC because many recipients of tax incentives have close ties to ALEC. But so what? The fact that corporations, including those run by the Koch brothers, provide support to ALEC doesn’t diminish the argument that incentives are terrible.

Weirdly, Good Jobs First primarily blames the recipients of corporate welfare for taking the money, rather than the politicians who give it away:

Moreover, Good Jobs First inexplicably says that ALEC is wrong to blame policymakers rather than the companies that receive incentives. But the blame for those horrible policies rests squarely on the shoulders of lawmakers and governors who perpetuate them. In a world where the government is handing out benefits to anyone who asks, it’s hard to fault the people who line up for the handout. No one has been more critical of tax incentives than I, but I’ve never blamed the corporations. Nor do I blame the army of consultants and lawyers who grease the wheels to make incentives happen. There’s no blame for anyone other than the cowardly politicians from both parties who can’t seem to resist using those nefarious policies.

Precisely correct.  When somebody is handing out free money, it’s hard to turn it down when your competitors are taking all they can.

I have seen smart people I respect do everything short of donning tin-foil hats when talking about the Koch Brothers and their dreadful agenda of influencing the government to leave you alone.  Maybe everyone needs an Emmanuel Goldstein.

Adam Michel, Scott Drenkard, New Report Quantifies “Tax Cronyism” (Tax Policy Blog)

Annette Nellen, What about accountability? California solar energy property.  Green corporate welfare is still corporate welfare.

 

20130121-2Russ Fox, Where Karen Hawkins Disagrees With Me…  The Director of the IRS Office of Preparer Responsibility commented on Russ’ post “The IRS Apparently Thinks They Won the Loving Case.”  Russ replies to the comment:

Ms. Hawkins is technically correct that Judge Boasberg’s order says nothing about the use of an RTRP designation. However, the Order specifically states that the IRS has no authority to create such a regulatory scheme. If there isn’t such a regulation, what’s the use of the designation?

The courts closed the front door to preparer regulation, so the IRS is trying to find an unlocked window.

 

TaxGrrrl, IRS Imposes New Limits On Tax Refunds By Direct Deposit.  “Effective for the 2015 tax season, the IRS will limit the number of refunds electronically deposited into a single financial account (such as a savings or checking account) or prepaid debit card to three.”

This seems like a measure that should have been put in place years ago.  The Worst Commissioner Ever apparently had other priorities.

 

Kay Bell, Actor Robert Redford sues NY tax office over $1.6 million bill.  The actor gets dragged into New York via a pass-through entity in which he had an interest — a topic we mentioned last week.

Renu Zaretsky, August Avoidance: Corporate Taxes and Budget Realities.  The TaxVox headline roundup covers inversions, gridlock, and Kansas.

Peter Reilly, Org Tries Exempt Status Multiple Choice – IRS Answers None Of The Above

 

 

20140811-1Ajay Gupta, The Libertarian Case for BEPS (Tax Analysts Blog)  BEPS stands for “Base Erosion and Profit Shifting.”

Matt Gardiner, Inversions Aside, Don’t Lose Sight of Other Ways Corps. Are Dodging Taxes (Tax Justice Blog).  Don’t worry, Matt.  If I did, my clients would take their business elsewhere.

Robert D. Flach, HEY MR PRESIDENT – DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER!  “If there is something wrong with the Tax Code do not blame the accountant or tax professional.  We have a moral and ethical responsibility to bring to our clients’ attention all the legal deductions, credits, loopholes, techniques, and strategies that are available to reduce their federal and state tax liabilities to the least possible amounts.”

 

Roger McEowen, Federal Court, Contrary To U.S. Supreme Court, Says ACA Individual Mandate Not a Tax.

Jack Townsend, U.S. Forfeits Over $480 Million Stolen by Former Nigerian Dictator.  The headline is misleading — the U.S. received the cash in a forfeiture — they seized it, rather than forfeiting it.

 

2140731-3TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 459

Instapundit, GANGSTER GOVERNMENT: Inspectors general say Obama aides obstruct investigations.  The majority of the 78 federal inspectors general took the extraordinary step of writing an open letter saying the Administration is blocking their work as a matter of course.  The IRS stonewalling on the Tea Party scandal is part of the pattern.

 

 

News from the Profession. It’s Completely Understandable Someone Might Sign Over 200 Audit Reports By Mistake (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

You mean they didn’t shift to organic carrot juice?  “From Coke to Coors: A Field Study of a Fat Tax and its Unintended Consequences” (Via Maria Koklanaris at Tax Analysts):

Could taxation of calorie-dense foods such as soft drinks be used to reduce obesity? To address this question, a six-month field experiment was conducted in an American city of 62,000 where half of the 113 households recruited into the study faced a 10% tax on calorie-dense foods and beverages and half did not. The tax resulted in a short-term (1-month) decrease in soft drink purchases, but no decrease over a 3-month or 6-month period. Moreover, in beer-purchasing households, this tax led to increased purchases of beer.

I’m sure the politicians who want to run everyone’s diet will angrily demand higher beer taxes in response.

 

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Tax Roundup, 7/11/14: Wilderness edition. And: the hazards of doing it yourself.

Friday, July 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Photo courtesy Philmontscoutranch.org

Photo courtesy Philmontscoutranch.org

Programming note.  The Tax Update goes untended for the next two weeks, as I head to Philmont Scout Ranch with my younger son and others for a 10-day backpacking odyssey.  It’s my first visit to New Mexico and my first extended backpacking trip.  Horses, carabiners, and black powder rifles will be encountered.  Whatever remains of me will be back here July 28.  The lovely and talented folks in the blogroll to the right will keep the tax world under control in the meantime.

 

Accounting Today visitors: if you followed the newsletter link here, you probably are looking for this: July 5, 1944.

 

Does the tax law cause people to do work on rental properties that they really should hire out?   That’s one conclusion you could draw from a Tax Court case yesterday, where a landlord says she chose do herself work that, based on the time she says she spent, should have gone to a contractor.

The tax law says real estate losses are normally “passive,” and when adjusted gross income exceeds $150,000, they are only deductible to the extent of other passive income.  A special rule lets “materially participating real estate professionals” out of the “per-se passive” rules; these taxpayers test whether their real estate activity is passive under the rules that apply to other business activities, based on time spent.

There’s a serious catch.  To qualify as a real estate pro, you have to work at least 750 hours in real estate, and more hours than in anything else you do.  If you have a full-time day job, this doesn’t work.

20140325-1But taxpayers attempting to get to 750 hours might be tempted to do work they would otherwise outsource.  That would be the generous interpretation of these facts in the Tax Court (my emphasis):

Petitioner claimed to have spent a total of 772 hours working on her rental properties in 2009. In support of her assertion, petitioner provided activity logs purporting to document the time she spent on her rental activities. Some of the activities included painting, cleaning apartments, shoveling snow, communicating with tenants on various issues, placing rental ads in the local newspaper, picking up mail, and paying bills. Although some log entries reference a specific apartment or property, many log activities do not specifically identify a particular rental unit. In addition, the number of hours noted on petitioner’s logs appears to be significantly inflated. For example, in one instance petitioner claims to have spent 8 to 12 hours per day for 10 days staining the “deck and siding” of what appears to be one apartment at the Pulaski property.

Some people just are perfectionists.

The log also indicates that [petitioner's husband] helped stain the deck and siding on those dates. In that instance, petitioners together spent between 160 to 240 hours staining the deck and siding of one apartment. There are several other instances in 2009 where petitioner claims to have spent many hours staining and painting decks and front porches of the rental properties. Petitioner’s log for July 2009 indicates that she spent approximately 77 hours over an eight-day period to paint a back porch. Petitioner’s log for November 2009 indicates that she spent more than 105 hours over a 12-day period on the flooring for one apartment and that on one specific day she worked 16 hours.

While a misguided attempt to reach 750 hourse might have motivated this sort of effort, the judge decided that something else was going on:

 Although petitioner claims she acted reasonably and in good faith with respect to her position that she was a real estate professional in the years in issue, we have concluded that petitioner’s records are not accurate or reliable and likely inflated the hours she spent in real estate activities. We have also concluded that the logs relating to her activity as an employee and her self-employment were not accurate.

If you want to document time for showing an activity is non-passive, it is wise to track it in a daily contemporaneous calendar.  It is also wise to not push the limits of believability.

Cite: Materano, T.C. Summ. Op. 2014-64

Material participation hours tests can be found here.

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 428.  It features  from the Wall Street Journal U.S. Judge Orders IRS to Explain How it Lost Lerner’s Emails:

A federal judge on Thursday ordered the Internal Revenue Service to explain how it lost two years’ worth of a former official’s emails, and tapped a magistrate judge to find out whether the documents can be obtained from other sources.

At a hearing in a conservative group’s lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan gave the IRS until Aug. 10 to provide a sworn declaration explaining how the email loss occurred. The IRS previously has said that the emails were lost because the top agency official’s computer crashed in 2011, and backup tapes were routinely reused after six months.

These practices violated federal recordkeeping procedures and, likely, federal law.  In spite of Ms. Lerner’s evident concern about the possibility of  her emails being found, Commissioner Koskinen says it’s silly to think anything more suspicious than a remarkable rash of hard-drive failures is to blame.

 

A new study by the Mercatus Institute says state taxes matter.  A summary says “The study finds that higher state taxes correlate with lower economic performance, even when controlling for various factors.”  It says that higher taxes lower economic growth, affect migration patterns, and reduce business startups. (hat tip: Maria Koklanaris, State Tax Notes ($link‘))

 

Carl O’Donnell, How The $1 Billion Kennedy Family Fortune Defies Death And Taxes.  Most politicians who vote for higher taxes do so assuming they won’t have to pay them. (via the TaxProf)

 

Kyle Pomerleau, Bill to be Introduced that Seeks to Reduce EITC Payment Error (Tax Policy Blog).  Unfortunately, fraud and error are baked into this cake.  You might as well try to take the chocolate out of toll house cookies.

 

20140513-1Jim Maule continues his Tax Myth series with Tips Aren’t Taxed Because They Are Gifts.  “Most people who collect tips are paid very little, rely on the tips to make a living, and are unhappy to learn that tips are included in gross income.”

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: Head of Household   

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

Keith Fogg, Revoking the Release of the Federal Tax Lien and Appointing a Receiver (Procedurally Taxing)

 

TaxGrrrl, Who Should Pay For Schools? Answer Remains Unclear As Cigarette Tax Boost On Hold   Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.  For the children!

Renu Zaretsky,  Games, Spins, Ignorance and Patience.  Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers, among other things,  Highway Trust Fund games, corporate inversions.

Steve Warnhoff, House Poised to Throw $276 Billion “Bonus” at Businesses.  (Tax Justice Blog).  He’d rather throw it at the government.

Kay Bell, LeBron ‘King’ James’ return to Cleveland could be a win-win for fans and the so-called Win Tax

 

20140711-2

 

A new Cavalcade of Risk is up!  R.J. Weiss hosts this edition of the blog world’s venerable roundup of insurance and risk management posts, including Hank Stern on Kidnap & Ransom Insurance.

I’ll bet he does.  Beanie Babies creator defends sentence of probation, no prison time, for tax evasion (Brandon Sun)

News from the Profession.  Just How Many CPA Roommates Can You Fit In a Single Apartment? (Leona May, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 7/9/14: It’s an outrage! Oh, we did it? That’s fine. And: Economic development cyanide!

Wednesday, July 9th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

So the taxpayer wants a tax refund.  He calls an IRS agent, who says she will look into it and call back.  Impatient taxpayer calls the agent back five times and tells her she is being uncooperative, finally telling her to “put her money where her mouth is.”  Taxpayer several days later sends the agent a letter telling her that she could issue the tax refund, but chooses not to, and demands the IRS submit some documents.  The IRS schedules a meeting, and the taxpayer insists on the refund now.  The taxpayer attempts to put a lien on the agent’s property for the balance due.

Naturally the taxpayer finds this doesn’t work, and gets hit with all sorts of penalties for this, right?  No, the taxpayer gets off scot-free.  Can you believe it?

Oops, I misspoke.  I got the names backwards.  The IRS was doing this to the taxpayer, and the courts this week refused to impose penalties on the agency for hounding a 71-year-old lady for back taxes on a failed like-kind exchange.

Sauce for the goose really ought to be sauce for the gander.  The IRS has a lot more resources and a lot more ability to follow the law than the average taxpayer.  Yet while the IRS and the courts routinely slap penalties on inadvertent or naive violations of a complex tax law, the courts rarely hold the powerful IRS to the same standards, and it almost never penalizes the agents for misbehavior towards taxpayers.

Cite: Antioco v. United States; USDC CA-ND, No. 3:13-cv-00924

Stephen Olsen, IRS Not Liftin the Penalties — Fed Circuit Denies Taxpayer’s Reasonable Cause Argument (Procedurally Taxing) The courts stack the deck against the taxpayer a little more.

 

20120906-1Don Boudreaux“Damn! My Neighbor Swallowed Cyanide. I Guess I Gotta Swallow Cyanide, Too.”  He’s talking about the crony subsidy Export-Import Bank, but his apt argument applies just as well to state “economic development” tax credits:

Subsidies and other economic privileges weaken the domestic economy.  They do so because, in order to artificially bolster industries that excel at satisfying politicians, such privileges necessarily transfer resources away from industries that excel at satisfying consumers.  Because Mr Summers (like nearly all economists) apparently accepts this sound argument, he especially should see that subsidies are not the economic equivalent of armaments: an armaments build-up does indeed strengthen the country militarily; subsidies, in contrast, weaken the country economically.

So when foreign governments subsidize industries (for example, through export credits of the sort doled out by the Ex-Im Bank), they themselves weaken their own countries’ economies relative to economies whose governments dispense no subsidies or other special privileges.

Taxing your existing taxpayers to lure and fund their competitors is a bad idea, even if Illinois is doing it too.

 

IRAJason Dinesen, ROBS Transactions – Be Very Careful of Using Retirement Funds to Start a Business.  Jason discusses the unwisdom of having your IRA invest in your business.  It can be a catastrophically expensive source of capital.

William Perez, Wage and Salary Income.   How it’s taxed.

Kay Bell, Pot shop seeks Tax Court relief from cash tax payment penalty.  You have to remit your taxes electronically.  We won’t let you have a bank account to transmit it from.  Understand?

Jim Maule’s Tax Myth series continues with “The IRS Gave Me a Refund.”  ” I suppose that those who are concerned that the federal government or a state government might run out of money before the refund is paid are overjoyed when the refund arrives, but as a realistic, practical matter, simply getting one’s money back isn’t a joyous occasion.”

Peter Reilly, Should You Follow The Clintons And Do Your QPRT Sooner Rather Than Later?

Robert W. Wood, Five Stages Of Grief, IRS Version.  I see clients go through all five stages every April.

 

20140508-1Kyle Pomerleau, Bonus Depreciation is a Bonus, but Full Expensing is Ideal (Tax Policy Blog)  “An Ideal tax code would allow the full $100 cost of the oven to be deducted in the year in which it was purchased.”

Howard Gleckman, New TPC Analysis: What Dave Camp’s Tax Reform Plan Would Really Mean (TaxVox)

Kelly Davis, Tax Policy and the Race for the Governor’s Mansion: Kansas Edition (Tax Justice Blog).  “This Kansas gubernatorial election is shaping up to be a referendum on Governor Sam Brownback’s tax cuts and supply-side economics generally.”

Jeremy Scott, Could EU Probe Signal the End of Sweetheart Tax Deals? (Tax Analysts Blog)  “U.S. tax rules are clearly complicit in multinationals’ ability to lower their tax burden, but the European Union is now examining whether its member states are inappropriately aiding some companies through so-called sweetheart transfer pricing arrangements.”

Accounting Today has your Tax Fraud Blotter.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 426

News from the Profession:  Consultant Shares Secrets For Milking the Most Out of CPA Firm Staff (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern).

 

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

Tuesday, July 1st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

 

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

IRS total 20140701 cato

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

IRS budget cato 20140701

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Under the new policy:

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

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

(Hat tip: Kristy Maitre).

 

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

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

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

 

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

Robert D. Flach starts out July with a Buzz!

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 418

 

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

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

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

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

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

Oh, that’s illegal?

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

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

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, June 30, 2014: FBAR due date edition. And: links from all over.

Monday, June 30th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130426-1Remember, today is the deadline for electronically-filing Form 114, the “FBAR” disclosure of foreign financial accounts totalling over $10,000 at any time during 2013.  The penalties for failure to file are ferocious — up to 50% of the account balance.

 

Roger McEowen, Valuing Minority Interests in Closely-Held Businesses – The Business Judgment Rule, Fiduciary Duties and Reasonable Expections. ” Clearly, the decisions point out that a well-drafted buy-sell agreement can go far in protecting the rights of minority shareholders in closely-held corporations.”

Laura Saunders, The Hazards of Offshore-Account Disclosure: Here’s What Taxpayers Need to Consider Before They Confess (Via the TaxProf).

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 417

Noah Rothman, ‘Phony scandals’ and an election year ‘demon’: Lois Lerner’s unconvincing defenders (Hot Air).

The Hill, IRS staredown not going away.

 

Elaine Maag, Misguided Expansion of the Child Tax Credit (TaxVox).  The Maag version, with phaseouts at higher incomes and their accompanying poverty-trap high marginal tax rates, would be worse.

Kay Bell, Congress wants to consolidate the many education tax breaks

Jack Townsend, Sentencing Tales Told in Spreadsheet. “I offer today three spreadsheets offered in two sentencing proceedings from prominent convictions of Beanie Babies founder, Ty Warner, and of lawyer/tax shelter promoter, Paul Daugerdas.”

20130530-2Cara Griffith, Live Free and Be Censored: What’s New Hampshire Hiding? ($link).  A disturbing case of the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration trying to control the content of a blog covering New Hampshire taxes.  From the article:

The New Hampshire DRA has crossed the line into tyranny by attempting to suppress information regarding how it administers the state’s tax system. The tax community shouldn’t stand by while the DRA shrouds itself in secrecy and threatens to punish those who exercise their First Amendment rights.

It looks like the Free State Project has some work to do.

 

Jordan Yohiro, Business Tax Incentives in Nebraska: Is There a Better Way? (Tax Policy Blog)  Hmm.  How about a low-rate, simple system that is easy for everyone to understand and inexpensive to obey?

 

20140411-1Robert D. Flach takes to the pixels of Accounting Today to explain why There Are So Many Things Wrong with the Annual Filing Season Program.  “The announcement of the “Annual Filing Season Program” is a clear indication that the IRS should not be the organization to offer and maintain a voluntary tax preparer designation.”

 

Well, that’s a relief.  Marion Barry Doesn’t Want To Tax Your Yogurt  (TaxGrrl)  ” The question posed to Barry was about a proposed tax on yoga.”

News from the Profession.  Retire From EY, Receive a Free Scrapbook of Career Highlights (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

 

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

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

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

The Department of Justice yesterday announced a guilty plea yesterday:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cite: Bogner, T.C. Summ. Op. 2014-53.

 

 

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

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

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

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

Russ Fox, Soon: No More Circular 230 Notices

 

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

William Perez, Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

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

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

Robert D. Flach starts Tuesday with a Buzz!

 

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

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

 

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 404

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

 

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/9/14: The great Illinois privatized tax shakedown. And lots more!

Monday, June 9th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The wedding was beautiful, and great fun.  Introducing the new married couple.

 

Illinois sealGreat moments in state taxation.  Tax Analysts has a disturbing story ($link) about how an Illinois law firm is using the “qui tam” recovery procedures of the state’s False Claims Act against out-of-state taxpayers.  In a “qui tam” proceeding, an outside party, known as a “relator,” can file a lawsuit alleging fraud against the state and then share in the recovery — up to 25%, according to the story.

And they actually may be hurting state tax collection efforts, according to the story:

“The cases have clearly interfered with the administration and enforcement of tax law and may have even ultimately cost the state money, though it’s impossible to quantify how much,” said Mark Dyckman, the Illinois Department of Revenue’s deputy general counsel for sales tax litigation.

The story says the firm involved “is responsible for 99 percent of the qui tam tax litigation in Illinois.”

The story says Illinois may encouraged the suits initially, apparently thinking it could get some easy money out of the deal.  In other states where the firm tried the same thing, state Attorneys General won dismissals of the initial suits, discouraging further efforts.  The firm is also incentivized by the ability of a relator to share in outsized false claim penalties:

Second, while the treble damages for back taxes under false claims acts naturally attract the most attention, [taxpayer attorney Jordan] Goodman said the civil penalty — generally $5,000 to $10,000 per false claim under the federal law and $5,500 to $11,000 per false claim under the Illinois statute — can be just as oppressive, depending on what counts as a false claim. If each monthly sales tax return is a false claim carrying a $10,000 penalty, and 12 returns are filed in one year, that’s a $120,000 penalty. If every failure to collect taxes on shipping and handling is a false claim, and the business averages 10 sales into the state per month for 120 false claims, that’s a $1.2 million penalty for the year, which can turn into $12 million for the 10-year period covered by the false claims act.

Wikipedia image of Tams

Wikipedia image of Tams

The story says that one tactic used by the Illinois law firm is to make out-of-state purchases over the internet, and then to file suits if no sales tax is collected.  As the law covering remote sales remains unclear, it’s difficult to consider these items “false claims.”  That’s especially true in suits in which the taxpayer either was following published guidance or an audit settlement with Illinois.

These cases have apparently been going on since 2002, and the legislature and the state have yet to stop what would appear to be a purely abusive and parasitic practice.  If there ever was a case for universal application of a “sauce for the gander” rule, in which a losing plaintiff had to pay the same amount of penalties asserted against the winning defendant, this would be it.

 

Alligator bait.  The New Orleans Advocate reports on a Film tax credit promoter sentenced to 70 months.  It’s remarkable what high quality entrepreneurs these state tax giveaways attract.

 

20130114-1The ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Education is setting up a “Tax Place” feature on its website.  They seek your input.

Paul Neiffer reminds us that FBAR Filing Deadline is Near

Peter Reilly, CPA Faces Prison For Letting Client Deduct Personal Expenses.  It makes you want to carefully consider the work you want to take on.

Russ Fox, Back to the Past: Poker Sites and FBARs. Poker Sites Are Again Reportable Foreign Financial Accounts.  More incomprehensible foreign tax enforcement.

 

Cara Griffith, Protecting Confidentiality When Information Is Exchanged Between Tax Authorities  (Tax Analysts Blog)

TaxGrrrl, As NBA Finals Continue, Tax Incentives Lure 76ers Into New Jersey   

 

 

20140321-3TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 396

Kyle Pomerleau, CTJ and U.S. PIRG Mislead with New Report on Corporate Taxes (Tax Policy Blog):  “USPIRG also doesn’t mention that their ideal corporate tax code has been tried in other countries with negative results. New Zealand attempted ending deferral as USPIRG suggested. The results were devastating to their economy.

Tax Justice Blog, Tax Foundation’s Dubious Attempt to Debunk Widely Known Truths about Corporate Tax Avoidance Is Smoke and Mirrors.  Never let the facts get in the way of what is “widely known.”

 

Howard Gleckman, Are Domestic Partnerships A Way For Heterosexual Couples To Avoid The Marriage Tax Penalty?   (TaxVox) This sort of thing makes makes me question the usefulness of “nudge” strategies to use the tax code to encourage behavior.  There are always perverse unintended consequences.

 

News from the Profession.  Public Accounting Firms, Ranked by CEO Hotness (Going Concern).  A tallest midget competition.

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Tax Roundup, 5/23/14: We’re sorry. Can we have our funding now?

Friday, May 23rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

The IRS wants its budget back.  The agency has withdrawn the proposed regs that would institutionalize its mistreatment of Tea Party groups.  Accounting Today reports:

The announcement Thursday came in response to the unprecedented number of comments—over 150,000—the IRS received on the proposed rules, which were supposed to govern the types of political activity that would be permissible for groups to maintain tax-exempt status as “social welfare” organizations under Section 501(c)4 of the Tax Code (see Treasury and IRS Issue Guidance for 501(c)4 Tax-Exempt Social Welfare Organizations). The issue has roiled the IRS since last year, when the former director of the IRS’s Exempt Organizations unit, Lois Lerner, admitted that the IRS had used terms such as “Tea Party” and “Patriot” to screen applications from conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status. Those revelations led to the departures of Lerner and a number of other high-ranking officials at the IRS, along with a series of contentious hearings, subpoenas and contempt of Congress charges against Lerner.

The new commissioner, John Koskinen, indicated back in February that the proposed regulations are not likely to be finalized anytime soon and would be subject to heavy revision in response to the thousands of comments the agency received (see IRS Commissioner Koskinen Says Proposed Tax-Exempt Rules Won’t Be Finalized Soon). Republican lawmakers in Congress introduced legislation in February to block the proposed regulations (see Congress Considers Legislation to Block IRS’s Proposed 501(c)4 Regulations).

I suspect it will be a loooong time before they come out with a new set of proposed regulations — comparable to the wait for the final regulations on self-employment taxation of LLC members, which have been “proposed” now since 1997.  This is probably a necessary first step for the IRS to get its full funding restored, given how much it has done lately to demonstrate that it is institutionally opposed to the GOP.  Maybe it would help also to demonstrate some fiscal discipline by dropping its costly pursuit of preparer regulation by “voluntary” means.

 

Related: TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 379

 

Jim Maule, No Deduction If Entitled to Reimbursement.  “It is a long-established principle of federal income tax law that a taxpayer is not permitted to deduct an otherwise deductible expense to the extent that the taxpayer is entitled to reimbursement from the taxpayer’s employer.”

Kay Bell, Summer travel time is prime tax time

Peter Reilly, American Atheists Denied Standing To Challenge Church Tax Breaks.

Robert D. Flach come’s through with the week’s third Buzz!

 

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Christopher Bergin, The Punishment of Credit Suisse Is Not Enough (Tax Analysts Blog). “People need to start going to jail for these types of abuses.”  No, our tax authorities prefer to shoot jaywalkers so we can gently chastise the international money-launderers.

Jack Townsend, Credit Suisse Update – The Aftermath for Credit Suisse #1.  The Federal Tax Crimes blog rounds up coverage of the Credit Suisse plea.

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for 5/16/14 (Procedurally Taxing). The most interesting item to me in this roundup of tax procedure posts is “IRS is doing limited audits on Section 409A plans, and Winston and Straw has some coverage here.”  The horrible Section 409A rules haven’t triggered many audits.  That may be ending, and 20% penalties, plus income taxes, on funds never received will then be on the way as a result of foot-fault violations of the insanely-complex rules governing non-qualified deferred compensation plan distributions.

 

Joseph Henchman, IRS Considering Change in Tax Treatment of Travel Loyalty Points (Tax Policy Blog). What could go wrong?

Len Burman, Why Not Ditch the Medical Device Excise Tax and Boost Cigarette Taxes? You know, if we really wanted to promote public health, we should consider promoting e-cigarettes to get people off the real thing.  Instead, the government wants to tax and restrict them just like real coffin nails.

 

Adam Weinstein, Why Our Political System’s Screwed, in One Very Basic Chart:

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Via Nick Gillespie.

 

News from the Profession: Ex-KPMG Partner Who Gave Insider Tips to His Former Golf Buddy Is Going to Talk About Ethics Before He Goes to Prison (Going Concern)

 

Have a great Memorial Day Weekend!

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/19/14: The Roth dilemma. And: risks in enlisting the bookkeeper in your tax crimes.

Monday, May 19th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

IRAIs it better to get a tax benefit now and pay taxes later on retirement income, or vice-versa?  Bloomberg econobogger Megan McArdle ponders the question in To Roth, or Not to Roth:

In theory, the calculation is easy: Figure out whether your tax rate is likely to be higher now or in the future. If you’re young, the answer is likely to be “future”; if you’re in your peak earnings years, you’re probably looking at a lower tax rate when you’re retired.

But while the theory is simple, in practice, things are considerably more complicated. Personal finance is less about math than psychology . . . and tax policy, in this case. What will the tax rate on your income be when you retire — higher or lower than your current tax rate?

“Roth” IRAs and 401(k)s offer no current tax reduction, but if the account is left untapped long enough, there is never an income tax on the earnings.  It’s not always a tough choice.  Many young people face a marginal income tax rate of zero.  To the extent a low-earning young taxpayer benefits from a 401(k) plan or saves in an IRA, you might as well go with a Roth version, as there is little or no current benefit anyway.

As you climb the income ladder, it quickly becomes a more difficult decision.  When my company first had a Roth option, I opted in for a year.  Then it occurred to me that I was making a bet on much higher tax rates in the future at much lower income levels.  That seemed like a losing bet (but see this) and I switched back to the traditional 401(k) with current tax savings.

Megan also notes a real, if hard to quantify, problem with betting on future benefits (my emphasis):

We’re running some substantial deficits, and we’ve made some big promises to retirees. Those obligations will have to be paid for somehow, and by “somehow,” I mean “With higher taxes on someone.” What are the chances that you’ll be that someone? Pretty high, if you save a lot for retirement.

That makes a Roth sound like a pretty good bet. But unfortunately, the same logic that suggests higher income taxes in the future also suggests that a hungry-eyed Congress might settle on all those fat tax-free retirement accounts as a way to balance the books. What Congress giveth, Congress can taketh away. Can you really count on that income being tax-free when it’s finally time to collect it?

If you think no politician would be so brazen, just remember:  “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.

 

20121120-2Good thing the ACA solved the problem of the uninsured.  Report: 230,000 Iowans still lack health care coverage (Des Moines Register).  Good thing we destroyed the health insurance industry and imposed a whole series of punitive and complicated taxes.

 

Russ Fox, Deadlines for Us, But Not for Them (Part 2), “Later this week it will be seven months since my reply was received. Another nine-week hold has been put on collection activities as the IRS admits that there is correspondence waiting to be reviewed. If we go nine more weeks it will be over nine months since I responded.”

Another reason for a sauce-for-the-gander rule, applying the same rules to the IRS that they apply to us.

Robert D. Flach has a similar state-level example from New Jersey in THE DFBs!

We are told (highlight is mine) -
“New Jersey wrongly notified about 2,000 taxpayers that they underpaid their 2013 taxes, but the state won’t notify them about the error unless the taxpayer asks, possibly causing taxpayers to send the state money that wasn’t owed.”

Tar and feathers.

 

20140507-1Peter Reilly, Real Estate Dealer Or Investor – Can’t Switch At Drop Of Hat.  ” One of the more challenging questions in income taxation of real estate transactions is whether a taxpayer is a dealer or an investor.”  Investors get capital gains, dealers don’t.

TaxGrrrl, Tax Extenders Bill Stalled In Senate.  The latest move in the dance to the inevitable last-minute re-extension of the perpetually-expiring tax breaks.

 

Jack Townsend, Booker Variances are More Common in Tax Crimes. Why? And Do They Disproportionately Benefit the Rich?   He discusses variations from federal sentencing guidelines, including the shockingly-light sentence given Beanie Babies tycoon Ty Warner.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 375

William McBride, Top 10 things to Know about Investment and Tax Policy.  (Tax Policy Blog).

Number 2: “Investment in the U.S. has yet to fully recover from the recession and remains near a record low.”

Number 10: “Of the ways to change tax policy to improve investment, expensing generally provides the greatest “bang-for-the-buck” because it applies strictly to new investment.”

 

Renu Zaretsky, Tax Mistakes, Collections, and Breaks.  Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers a proposal to revive the use of private collectors in federal tax collection and “Affordable Care Act subsidy mistakes now could mean huge tax confusion later.”

Annette Nellen asks What’s missing from Camp’s tax reform proposal?  She has suggestions.

 

20120517-1The new Cavalcade of Risk is up at Waterwayfinancialgroup.com.  The venerable roundup of insurance and risk-management posts includes Hank Stern on the possible perils of ride share. There is risk in letting other people use your car, as anyone who has seen Animal House knows, and those risks may not be covered under your car policy.

 

 

News from the Profession.  Another EY Associate Taking a Stab at Reality TV (Going Concern)

Honor among fraudsters.  Owners of a nostalgia-themed restaurant chain in Pennsylvania and New Jersey went up the river on tax charges last year.  Now comes word that the inside accountant who (allegedly) helped them cheat on taxes also (allegedly) helped himself.  From Philly.com:

An indictment unsealed today charges 58-year-old William J. Frio, of Springfield Township, with conspiracy, filing false returns, loan fraud, and aggravated structuring of financial transactions.

Prosecutors say Frio, who has been providing accounting services to Nifty Fifty’s since 1986, conspired with the popular chain’s owners in a scheme that used skimmed cash to help themselves and associates avoid paying taxes.

He also allegedly used his role as Nifty Fifty’s accountant to embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars from the organization.

Aside from the obvious risk of going to jail, there are other complications that arise when businesses cheat on their taxes.  Unless your business is tiny, you need some help from your accounting staff.  When your bookkeeper is willing to defraud the government, don’t be shocked if he isn’t perfectly honest with you.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/16/14: Iowa Alt Max Tax resurfaces. And: Alimony madness.

Friday, May 16th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
If Iowa's income tax were a car, it would look like this.

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

The Iowa Alternative Maximum Tax Trial Balloon rises again.  From O. Kay Henderson, ‘Flat tax’ likely on GOP legislators’ agenda in 2015:

The top Republican in the Iowa House says if Republicans win statehouse majorities in the House and the Senate this November, one item on his wish list for 2015 is a “flat” state income tax. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha, spoke early this morning at a breakfast meeting of central Iowa Republicans.

Paulsen and his fellow House Republicans endorsed a “flat” tax proposal last year, but it was not considered in the Democratically-led Iowa Senate. The proposal would have allowed Iowans to continue filing their income taxes under the current system or choose the alternative of a 4.5 percent flat tax on their income, with no deductions.

I call this an “alternative maximum tax” because taxpayers will compute the tax both ways and pay the smaller number.  That contrasts with the alternative minimum tax, where you compute taxes two ways and pay the higher amount.  It has the obvious drawback of adding a new layer of complexity to the current baroque Iowa income tax.

20120906-1The proposal is likely an attempt to enact a lower rate system in a way that doesn’t upset fans of Iowa’s deduction for federal income taxes — particularly the influential Iowans for Tax Relief.  Because the deduction would rarely provide a better result than the alt max tax, support for the old system would wither away, maybe.

I’m probably too much of a tax geek to read the politics correctly, but I’m not convinced adding a new computation to the Iowa 1040 will fire up the electorate.  I think something like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan would be easier to run on.  Eliminate all the crony tax credits and well-intended but futile tax breaks.  Get rid of the job-killing, worst-in-the-nation Iowa corporation income tax.   Drastically lower rates, increase the standard deduction, and limit the role of the income tax to funding the government.   This would get my vote anyway, and it would at least be awkward to argue instead for the current system that sends millions to some of Iowa’s biggest corporations as subsidies on the backs of you, me and small businesses.

Related: The Iowa flat tax proposal: a good deal for middle class and up, but not for lower incomes.

 

I always thought enforcing the tax rules for alimony would be about the easiest job the IRS could have.  When you pay alimony, you get an above-the-line deduction, but only if you list the name and social security number of the recipient ex-spouse.  Just match the deduction with the income and generate notices when they don’t match.

This information systems problem is apparently too much for the IRS.  Peter Reilly reports:

According to the TIGTA report there were 567,887 Forms 1040 for 2010 that had alimony deductions.  The total claimed was $10 Billion.  When they compared the corresponding returns that should have recorded the income, there were discrepancies on 266,190 returns including 122,870 returns that had no alimony income at all reported.  There were nearly 25,000 returns where the income recognized was greater than the deduction claimed which produced a bit of an offset ($75 million).  On net, deductions exceeded income by $2.3 billion.  In her piece “Alimony Tax Gap is $1.7 BillionAshlea Ebeling goes into more details on the report, so I’m going to get a little more into what I see as the big picture here.

While I’ve never been a huge fan of the IRS, over my career I had developed a grudging respect for the organization’s competence and professionalism.  That’s been mostly drawn down over the last few years.

 

taxanalystslogoChristopher Bergin, A Warning About the IRS That We Should Heed (Tax Analysts Blog):

As I wrote almost a year ago, the IRS is in trouble. Punishing it will do no more good than ignoring what has happened over the last year. The former seems to be the plan of House Republicans; the latter appears to be the White House plan. We need to fix it, and that is harder than either of the above two approaches.

This is correct.  Unfortunately, the IRS became a partisan organization in the Tea Party scandal, and it’s proposed 501(c)(4) regulations only make that official.  The impasse won’t be broken until the IRS does something to reassure Republican congresscritters.  Withdrawing the proposed rules is probably a necessary start.

 

Kay Bell, Johnny Football’s Texas residency can cut his NFL income tax.

Lyman Stone, The Facts on Interstate Migration: Part Five (Tax Policy Blog):

On the whole, these high-inward migration states tend to have lower tax burdens. North Carolina and Idaho have periodically had higher than average tax burdens, but most, like Tennessee and Nevada, have consistently low tax burdens. Again, this doesn’t conclusively prove that taxes drive migration, as no doubt other living costs are lower in these states too: but it does suggest that taxes cannot be discounted out of hand.

 

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: Asset

TaxGrrrl, Tesla Continues To Roll Out Tax Strategies For Consumers .  An auto company with a marketing pitch built around tax credits seems like a bad thing to me.

Stop by Robert D. Flach’s Place for a solid Friday morning Buzz!

 

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Howard Gleckman, Are Multinationals Getting Tired of Waiting for Corporate Tax Reform? (TaxVox).  They seem to be taking a do-it-yourself approach more and more.

Tax Justice Blog, States Can Make Tax Systems Fairer By Expanding or Enacting EITC.  I think this is wrong, at least the way the earned income tax credit works now.  Arnold Kling has a much-more promising proposal that would replace the EITC and other means-tested welfare programs.

Kyle Pomerleau, Flawed Buffett Rule Reintroduced in Senate (Tax Justice Blog).  Of course, that’s the only kind.

 

Cara Griffith, In Search of a Little Guidance (Tax Analysts Blog). “If informal guidance is the only guidance available to practitioners and taxpayers, can they rely on it?”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 372.  Guess what?  It wasn’t just a few rogues in Cincinnati.

 

News from the Profession.  Alleged “Touch It For a Buck” Creeper CPA Got His License Revoked For Felony Creepiness (Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/14/14: Earned income credits, still busted. And: extenders advance.

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
The EITC as a poverty trap: phaseouts of the benefit impose stiff marginal tax rates on the working poor.

The EITC as a poverty trap: phaseouts of the benefit impose stiff marginal tax rates on the working poor.

Nope.  Still busted.  From WashingtonExaminer.com comes an update on what some call America’s most successful anti-poverty program:

The Treasury Department has released its latest report  on the fight against widespread fraud in the Earned Income Tax Credit program. The problem is, fraud is still winning. And there’s not even much of a fight.

“The Internal Revenue Service continues to make little progress in reducing improper payments of Earned Income Tax Credits,” a press release from Treasury’s inspector general for Tax Administration says. “The IRS estimates that 22 to 26 percent of EITC payments were issued improperly in Fiscal Year 2013. The dollar value of these improper payments was estimated to be between $13.3 billion and $15.6 billion.”

Wait.  Didn’t the President sign a bill in 2010 to fix all this?

The new report found that the IRS is simply ignoring the requirements of a law called the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act, signed by President Obama in 2010, which requires the IRS to set fraud-control targets and keep improper payments below ten percent of all Earned Income Tax Credit payouts.

Whatever the EITC does to help the working poor, it is a boon to the Grifter-American community.  Fraudulent EITC claims are a staple of ID theft fraud and low-tech tax cheating in general.

It’s worth noting that the high rate of improper EITC payouts has not gone down in spite of the ever-increasing IRS requirements for preparers who issue returns claiming the credits.  This should give pause to folks who think IRS preparer regulations will stop fraud, though it won’t.

It’s also notable that Iowa recently increased its piggyback EITC to 15% of the federal credit — increasing the annual cost of the credit by an estimated $35 million.  Assuming Iowans are just as honest as other Americans, that means about $8 million of additional stimulus to the Iowa grifter economy.

Finally, the phase-out of the EITC functions as a hidden high marginal tax rate on the program’s intended beneficiaries, the working poor.  The effective marginal rate in Iowa exceeds 50% at some income levels.  Combined with other income-based phase-outs, the EITC becomes a poverty trap.

 

Related: Arnold Kling,  SNEP and the EITC. “My priors, which I think are supported by the research cited by Salam, is that trying to use a program like the EITC for social engineering is a mug’s game.”

 

 

Extenders advance in Senate.  Tax Analysts reports ($link)

Legislation that would extend for two years nearly all the tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013 cleared a procedural hurdle in the Senate May 13.

Senators voted 96 to 3 to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to H.R. 3474, a bill to exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate employees with healthcare coverage through the Veterans Benefits Administration or through the military healthcare program TRICARE.

The bill is the legislative vehicle for the tax extenders. It will be amended to include the text of the Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act of 2014 (S. 2260) and likely that of the Tax Technical Corrections Act of 2014 (S. 2261), both of which the Senate Finance Committee passed April 3 via voice vote.

The bill that passes will probably look much like the Senate bill.  The House has advanced bills to make some of the perpetually-expiring provisions permanent, but the President, pretending that they won’t get passed every year anyway, says permanent extension is fiscally irresponsible.

Among the provisions to be extended yet again, mostly through 2015, are the research credit, new markets credits, wind and biofuel credits, bonus depreciation, and increased Sec. 179 deductions.  The five-year built-in gain tax recognition period is also extended through 2015.

Related: TaxGrrrl, Senate Moves Forward To Extend Tax Breaks For 2014

 

20120906-1O. Kay HendersonKnoxville Raceway ceremony for state tax break of up to $2 million:

Governor Terry Branstad went to Knoxville today to sign a bill into law that gives the Knoxville Raceway a state tax break to help finance improvements at the track.

“This is a great facility,” Branstad told Radio Iowa during a telephone interview right after the event. “Last year, in 2013, they attracted 211,000 visitors, so it’s a big tourism attraction and it’s a good investment and it’s great for the state to partner with the community for a project of this magnitude.”

Here’s how that partnership works: the racetrack will charge sales tax to its customers, and keep the money.  Only two other businesses are special enough to get this sweet deal.  Tough luck for the rest of us who don’t have the good connections and lobbyists.

 

Walnut st flowersJana Luttenegger, Updated E-Filing Requirements for Tax Preparers (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  “The handbook is not exactly clear.

Jason Dinesen, Things Tax Preparers Say: S-Corporation Compensation.  “But too many business owners — and their accountants — treat S-corps like a magic wand that can just make taxes disappear completely.”

Kay Bell, IRS fight to regulate tax preparers officially over…for now

Peter Reilly, Can Somebody Explain Tax Shelters To Thomas Piketty?  In the unlikely event that the Piketty recommendations are ever enacted, Peter notes that “there will be a renaissance of shelter activity.”  Peter provides a “Cliff Notes” summary of this year’s big forgettable book I’ll never read, which I appreciate.  Also: Peter uses the tax-law-as-Swiss Army Knife analogy that I am so fond of.

Robert D. Flach, STILL MORE CLIENTS SCREWED BY THE TAX CODE.  “The list of taxpayers screwed by our current Tax Code is not a short one.  Today I add taxpayers with gambling winnings.”

 

20130110-2Howard Gleckman, How “Dead Men” Fiscal Policy Is Paralyzing Government (TaxVox).  He reviews a new book, Dead Men Ruling, by Gene Steurle:

“We are left with a budget for a declining nation,” Gene writes, “that invests ever-less in our future…and a broken government that presides over archaic, inefficient, and inequitable spending and tax programs.”

All this has happened due to a confluence of two unhappy trends: The first is what the late conservative writer Jude Wanniski memorably described almost four decades ago as the “Two-Santa Theory.”

The Santas are the two parties, each of whom pick our pockets to fill our stockings.

 

Alan Cole, The Simple Case for Tax Neutrality (Tax Policy Blog).  “When states give preferential rates of sales tax to certain goods, the most visible result is the legal bonanza that follows from trying to re-categorize goods into the preferred groupings. ”

David Brunori, Repealing the Property Tax Is an Asinine Idea (Tax Analysts Blog). “Public finance experts are almost unanimous in their belief that the property tax is the ideal way to fund local government services… Most importantly, the property tax ensures local political control.”

William McBride, What is Investment and How Do We Get More of It? (Tax Policy Blog).  “Full expensing for all investment, according to our analysis, would increase the capital stock by 16 percent and grow GDP by more than 5 percent.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 370

News from the Profession.  AICPA Tackling the Important Issue of Male CPAs Wanting It All (Going Concern). 

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/9/14: Worst-ever edition. And: It’s Scandal Day 365!

Friday, May 9th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

I was grumpy yesterday when I noticed Tax Analysts correspondent @Meg_Shreve’s live-tweeting of a speech by Doug Shulman, the Worst IRS Commissioner Ever.  So I tweet-grumpted, adding “#worstcommissionerever (fixed)” to one of her posts — the “(fixed)” as a perhaps inadequate attempt to inform the Twitterverse that the tag was my addition, not hers (apologies to Meg Shreve).  That earned this response:

 

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Ah, where to begin?  How about with identity theft?  Doug Shulman took office with a reputation as an information systems maven.  He then presided over an historic IT debacle.  Tax refund fraud — fundamentally a systems failure —  has let two-bit grifters like Rashia Wilson steal tens of billions of dollars in fraudulent refunds over the years.

This problem has been ramping up for years, and only now, with Shulman gone, is the IRS beginning to take effective action to prevent it.  My wife can’t go shopping in Chicago without me getting a call from the credit card company warning me of a suspicious transaction, but Doug Shulman’s IRS could send 655 refunds to the same apartment in Lithuania without batting an eye.

Rashia says "thanks, Commissioner!"

Rashia says “thanks, Commissioner!”

While the theft of taxpayer billions is outrageous enough, the inept treatment of ID theft victims makes it even worse.  Only after Doug Shulman left did the IRS even begin to get this right.

The Worst Commissioner Ever was just too darned busy to stop ID theft.  He was busy trying to increase IRS power over preparers with a useless, expensive and unilateral preparer regulation regime.  He reversed the longstanding IRS position that the agency had no such regulatory power, only to be unceremoniously slapped down by the courts.   In the meantime, the prospect of the regulations drove thousands of preparers out of the business, increasing taxpayer costs and driving many taxpayers to self-prepare — and surely causing some to fall out of the system altogether.  The IRS wasted enormous resources on this futile power grab — resources that might have been better-devoted, to, oh, maybe the fight against identity theft.

 

He was also busy shooting jaywalkers.  International tax enforcement is considered Doug Shulman’s greatest success — but there was no reason the pursuit of wealthy international money-launderers had to also terrorize American expatriates whose offenses were to commit everyday personal finance.  Many folks have been hit with ridiculous penalties for not filing FBAR reports that they had no idea existed.  These folks are often people who married overseas or moved out of the U.S. as children, but were presumptively treated as international money-launderers when they tried to come into the system, and were hit with enormous penalties — often when little or no tax had been avoided.

It’s hard to imagine that an agency that can find ways to simply wave away the ACA employer mandate couldn’t find a way to allow expats and individuals without criminal intent to come into the international reporting system without risking financial disaster.  The states that allow non-resident non-filers to come in by paying five years of back taxes provide an obvious model.

 

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how big is legacy is.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how big is legacy is.

Then there is the scandal.  When Tea Party groups complained about absurd and abusive IRS information requests, sympathetic Congresscritters asked Doug Shulman if the IRS was targeting Tea Party groups.  The Worst Commissioner Ever testified before Congress that the IRS was doing nothing of the sort:

“There’s absolutely no targeting. This is the kind of back and forth that happens to people” who apply for tax-exempt status, Shulman said.

That statement, of course, became inoperative when the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reported that the IRS was, in fact, picking on the Tea Party groups.  Subsequent revelations have shown that it was exactly a partisan attempt to fight anti-administration groups.  So Doug Shulman either was too lazy and ineffective to know what his own agency was doing, or he knew, or he didn’t care.  He destroyed the credibility of the agency as a nonpartisan enclave of competent technicians.

Now the party controlling the House of Representatives is on notice that the agency wants to see it lose.  That agency can hardly expect generous appropriations as long as that perception remains (and the new Commissioner has done nothing reassuring on that score).   This will damage the agency’s effectiveness for years — all because The Worst Commissioner Ever was unwilling or unable to run a professional, non-partisan agency.

This is a record of administrative ineptitude and negligence that is unbeaten.  No IRS commissioner has so squandered agency resources and reputation.  If another Commissioner has even come close, I’d sure like to know who it was.

 

Meanwhile, the TaxProf has reached a milestone: The IRS Scandal, Day 365.  The biggest item in this edition is the report that the IRS had not destroyed Tea Party donor lists — after saying it had — and that the IRS has audited 10% of Tea Party donors.  This is a staggering audit rate, if true, and is a tremendous scandal in itself if the IRS doesn’t come up with a good explanation.

TaxGrrrl, House Finds Lerner, Central Figure In Tax Exempt Scandal, In Contempt Of Congress

 

20140509-2Jana Luttenegger, Deadline Approaching to Avoid Losing Tax Exempt Status (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). Get those 990-series reports filed!

Trish McIntire, EFTPS – Inquiry PIN.  “The Inquiry PIN will allow taxpayers to check and make sure that their federal tax deposits have been made and catch a problem before it becomes a major issue.”  This should be used by all employers.

Peter Reilly, Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Owner Scores Touchdown In Tax Court.  “It may seem odd to look at a case that ends up with a charitable deduction dis-allowance of nearly $4 million as a victory, but when you consider how taxpayers generally fare in easement cases it really is.”

Leslie Book, Tax Court Jurisdiction to Determine its Jurisdiction: Foreign Taxes and Credits (Procedurally Taxing)

Mindy Herzfeld, International Tax Trending (Tax Analysts Blog)

 

Richard Borean, Tax Freedom Day Arrives in Final Two States: Connecticut and New Jersey (Tax Policy Blog)

Howard Gleckman, Taxing Employer-Sponsored Insurance Would Hike Social Security Benefits But Boost Federal Coffers (TaxVox)

 

Kay Bell, IRS employee arrested after inadvertently following Obama daughters’ motorcade onto White House grounds.  Oops.

Tax Justice Blog, Déjà vu: Oklahoma Enacts Tax Cut Voters Don’t Want.  I’m not sure about the “don’t want” part.

Robert D. Flach has your Friday morning Buzz!

 

News from the Profession.  Deloitte CEO Prefers Traditional Photo Op Over Selfie  (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/8/14: No, Virginian, there is no travel expense Santa Claus. And more!

Thursday, May 8th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120801-2News Flash: Tax Court Judges didn’t just fall off the turnip truck.  That insight might have occurred to a Virginian after yesterday’s Tax Court decision denying $64,775 in 2010  “car and truck expenses” for a “mobile advertising business” that grossed $7,200 in revenue.

The Virginian worked full-time for Verizon while traveling up a storm — 129,550 miles in 2010, by his own account.  Special Trial Judge Dean questioned The Virginian’s work ethic (my emphasis):

The number of hours petitioner worked for Verizon and purportedly drove for his mobile advertising business simply strains credulity. Petitioner’s monthly mileage for 2010 ranged from 7,419 miles to 17,864 miles. Petitioner testified that he drove at approximately 60 miles per hour. If it is possible that he could average 60 miles per hour in the month that he drove 17,864 miles, he spent at least 300 hours on the road that month or almost 10 hours a day. All this while working full time for Verizon.

The judge also has doubts about the business model:

Furthermore, petitioner’s extensive driving does not appear to be ordinary and necessary to his mobile advertising business. Petitioner claims that he drove all over the United States to post fliers and to advertise his own mobile advertising business, even though most of his clients were local clients except one online refinancing company. All the while, petitioner had very little income in relation to the excessive costs he incurred driving to put up flyers. Furthermore, the advertising for his own business appeared to be fruitless, as he never made a profit in any of the six years he engaged in the business, despite incurring great costs traveling to advertise mobile advertising business.

20140508-2But ultimately none of that mattered, because The Virginian failed to cross the initial threshold for deducting any sort of travel expenses — Section 274:

Notwithstanding whether petitioner’s excessive driving was ordinary and necessary for his mobile advertising business, he simply did not satisfy the strict substantiation requirements of section 274(d) for claiming car and truck expenses… Petitioner had no backup receipts and no beginning and ending mileage for the automobile he allegedly used. 

Section 274(d) requires taxpayers to document travel expenses “by adequate records or sufficient evidence”

-the amount of expense,

-the time and place of the travel, and

-the business purpose of the trip.

For travel, that means receipts where possible (e.g., hotels), and contemporaneous calendars or logs documenting mileage.  Without that, your work ethic and business model doesn’t even come into play.

Cite: Abelitis, T.C. Summ. Op. 2014-44.

 

20130114-1Roger McEowen, IRS Says Agents Acting Under Power of Attorney Subject to FBAR Reporting.  “The agent (along with the principal) is subject to the FBAR filing requirements if the POA gives the agent signature authority over a foreign account that exceeds the dollar threshold.” 

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 364.  Big day tomorrow.

TaxGrrrl, UPDATED: Timeline Of IRS Tax Exempt Organization Scandal.  It started with a planted question to try to blunt the impact of the impending TIGTA report that pointed out the targeting.

Kay Bell,  Lois Lerner held in contempt of Congress, ramping up next phase of midterm election year political posturing.  Yes, posturing is occurring — that’s what politicians do.  But Sam Ervin’s posturing — and he did his share — didn’t make Watergate less a scandal.

 

Cara Griffith, Transparency Versus Disclosure of Taxpayer Information (Tax Analysts Blog)  “…the disclosure of documents that contain taxpayer information, whether required by state law or the result of litigation, does not encourage transparency in tax administration.”  I agree; unfortunately, the IRS hides behind dubious assertions of confidentiality to cover up its own questionable behavior.

 

Jason Dinesen, Hold the Phone on the IRS E-file Outrage Machine.  No, don’t.  It’s still outrageous.

20140508-1Peter Reilly, Nonrecognition On Divorce Transfers Hurts Receiving Spouse .  It did in this case, when the recipient spouse had to pay tax.   Taxpayers receiving property in divorce receive the other spouse’s basis, and the other spouse doesn’t have a taxable sale.  But it’s still good policy.  Property settlements are contentious enough without hitting somebody giving up property with income tax on that dubious privilege.  Also, if the IRS got a cut, there would be less marital property to split in the first place.

Alan Cole, Failing by its Own Standard: What DC’s Insurance Tax Tells Us About its Obamacare Exchange (Tax Policy Blog)

Tax Justice Blog, What’s the Matter with Kansas (and Missouri, and …). “An anti-tax, Republican super majority in the Missouri Legislature claimed victory yesterday in a year-long battle with Gov. Jay Nixon over taxes by voting to override Nixon’s veto of a $620 million income tax cut.”

Do tell.  California Legislative Analyst’s Office Raises Concerns with Film Tax Credits (Lyman Stone, Tax Policy Blog).

Renu Zaretsky rounds up tax headlines for TaxVox with Contempt, Audits, Health Care, and Highways.

Janet Novack, Mansion Tax Kills Some Million Dollar Home Sales, Study Concludes.  Taxes always matter.

Jack Townsend, Another Foreign Account Sentencing.

 

Quotable:

The practice of regularly renewing the extenders package is unfortunate and should be stopped. It distorts the budget process, encourages legislative rent seeking, and invites highly particularistic legislative provisions that are better characterized as windfalls and wasteful government spending rather than well-targeted tax incentives.

Victor Fleischer,  Tax Legislation in the Contemporary U.S. Congress (Via the Taxprof)

News from the Profession: Grant Thornton Tries to Motivate With the Human Centipede, or Something (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/6/14. Welcome back, loyal client. IRS says I have to verify that you aren’t a shape-shifting alien.

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


e-file logo
It’s not enough that you’ve done business with me forever.  I need some ID.  
The invaluable Russ Fox yesterday threw light on new requirements for electronic filing from the IRS.  These requirements, found in their new Publication 1345, were issued with no public comment period or consultation with practitioners, as far as I can tell, and they sure look that way.

Let’s start with clients who come into our office – a minority of my clients, by the way, as most of my clients either mail in tax information or send it electronically.  Words are from Publication 1345, but emphasis is mine:

The ERO must inspect a valid government picture identification; compare picture to applicant; and record the name, social security number, address and date of birth. Verify that the name, social security number, address, date of birth and other personal information on record are consistent with the information provided through record checks with the applicable agency or institution or through credit bureaus or similar databases.

So I have clients I have been working with since 1985.  When retired gentleman comes in, a little slower than last year, with his cane, but still as charming as ever, I have to say “hold it right there, partner.  You may look like the client I’ve been working with for 28 years, but you might be a clever shape-shifting alien scum looking to defraud our government.  I need to see some picture ID.  Then excuse me while I call the credit bureau.”

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

Oh, but it isn’t that bad:

For in-person transactions, the record checks with the applicable agency or institution or through credit bureaus or similar databases are optional.

Oh, I only have to run credit checks on my long-time clients who don’t come into the office.  Gee, that’s mighty kind of you, IRS.

Examples of government picture identification (ID) include a driver’s license, employer ID, school ID, state ID, military ID, national ID, voter ID, visa or passport.

“National ID?”  I guess that must be next in the IRS off-plan business plan.

You’re thinking, “calm down, Joe.  Surely you are overreacting.  The IRS doesn’t really want you to card your longtime clients, right?”  Well, wrong:

If there is a multi-year business relationship, you should identify and authenticate the taxpayer.

You may think they are longtime clients, but you don’t know if you’ve been fooled by imposters all along!

Of course, this is all a reaction to the identity theft epidemic that the IRS has allowed to spread virtually unchecked for years.  The IRS, an agency too clueless to notice that 655 refunds are going to the same apartment in Lithuania, is now responding to the riot it incited by firing at the bystandersqea0hm77.  It is creating an enormous new and uncompensated burden on preparers and their clients that will do nothing to eliminate ID theft.

Rashia didn't use these bundles of cash at a CPA office.

Rashia didn’t use these bundles of cash to pay preparers.

Why won’t this work?  Most ID thieves work like Rashia Wilson, the self-proclaimed “Queen of IRS Tax Fraud.”  She used store-bought software to claim millions in tax refunds belonging to other people whose identities she had stolen.  ID thieves don’t walk into legitimate tax shops and pay to have fraudulent refunds claimed.  

 

Oddly, none of this applies to paper filings.  If the IRS is really serious about these rules, they can expect preparers  to sabotage the e-file process in self-defense by charging for the non-trivial new time and hassle of e-filing.  While preparers are required to e-file unless otherwise directed, taxpayers are allowed to choose paper.  Nothing says we can’t inform them of that right.  If even 10% of taxpayers respond by choosing to revert to paper, it will badly strain IRS facilities.  If 20% revert to paper, it will be a debacle for the agency.  And they’ll richly deserve it.

 

Other Coverage:

Russ Fox follows up with A Better Idea on Identity Theft. “The IRS should check each tax return’s address to verify it matches the address on file for the taxpayer.”  What a radical thought.

Robert D. Flach notes the Russ Fox post in today’s Buzz and adds, “Thankfully I am not an ERO – and after reading this I never will be!”

 

Flickr image by Christian under Creative Commons license.

Flickr image by Christian under Creative Commons license.

Kay Bell, 5 tax tips for Cinco de Mayo

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Determining A Shareholder’s Basis In S Corporation Stock and Debt

TaxGrrrl, She’s Just Not That Into You: 11 Reasons Your Tax Pro Wants To Call It Off .  ” You need to tell your tax professional the truth. No matter how ugly it is.”

Keith Fogg, When One Spouse Files Bankruptcy How Should the Court Split the Refund Resulting from a Joint Return between the Estate of the Debtor Spouse and the non-Debtor Spouse (Procedurally Taxing)

Jason Dinesen, Tax Refunds and “Not Owing Tax”, Part 2 . “So if you get a refund, it’s possible that you “didn’t owe taxes,” but only if your “total tax” before refundable credits equaled zero.”

Margaret Van Houten, Anti Money Laundering Initiatives and Lawyers: What We Need to Know (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  “Unfortunately, however, not all well-intended actions are effective.”

 

20140506-1TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 362.  What the IRS was busy with while the ID-theft fraud epidemic was getting rolling.

Howard Gleckman, Special Tax Penalties on Donald Sterling are a Personal Foul (TaxVox).  Not every foul has to be a tax issue.

Mindy Herzfeld, International Tax Trending (Tax Analysts Blog)

I reject this false choice.  Investment, GDP Slow in First Quarter: Bad Weather or Bad Tax Policy? (Stephen J. Entin, Tax Policy Blog)

 

News from the Profession.  BREAKING: CPA Exam Candidate Passes AUD  (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup: April 30, 2014: Force of nature edition. And: Extenders move in U.S. House.

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Iowa 1040s are due today!  If you are 90% paid in, they extend automatically with no filing.  If you need more time and need to pay in something, use IA 1040-V.

 

20130113-3House votes to make permanent six “expiring” provisions.  The House Ways and Means Committee voted to permanently extend six of the perpetually-expiring tax breaks that Congress renews every year or two.  They include:

  • A simplified version of the research credit
  • The five-year built-in gain tax recognition period for S corporations
  • The $500,000 Section 179 deduction limit
  • A provision reducing the net basis reduction for S corporation donations of appreciated property to the basis of the property.

The committee also voted for two international extenders.

The votes were mostly along party lines, which means they are unlikely to be passed in this form by the Democratic-controlled Senate. The Senate Finance Committee has already approved its own temporary extender package, and my guess is the final extenders package will look like the Finance Committee bill.

Tax Analysts reports ($link) that the committee isn’t done with extenders, but it isn’t clear when it will look at Bonus Depreciation.

The “no” votes for the House package objected to the lack of offsets to the revenue “lost” by the package.   I’m less upset.  While I oppose the research credit on principle, these provisions are permanent anyway; the whole “extender” process is a sham, conducted only to pretend that the tax breaks aren’t permanent so they “cost” less under Congressional accounting rules.  It’s the sort of thing that would be a felony in the private sector, but just another day for our leaders.  At least the House bill drops the pretense that these things won’t get passed every time they expire.

 

Additional coverage available at Accounting Today.

Related:

Tax Justice Blog, Rep. Dave Camp’s Latest Tax Gambit Is “Fiscally Irresponsible and Fundamentally Hypocritical”

Clint Stretch, Dreams of Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog)

 

 

20130117-1No gas tax boost this year.  Sioux City Journal reports that a last-gasp attempt to boost Iowa gasoline taxes died last night as the General Assembly continues its pre-adjournment frenzy.

 

David Brunori, Sad Pragmatism and Tax Incentives (Tax Analysts Blog).  “If tax incentives are an unavoidable reality, we should make them as transparent and accountable as possible.”  True, but that doesn’t excuse the politicians who take your money and give it to their special friends.

 

The Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation has released its 2014 summer seminar schedule.  It includes a slate of webinars on topics from Ethics to ACA mandates.  There will also be two big out-of-town events, in West Baden Springs, Indiana, and West Yellowstone, Montana.  I’m not able to participate this year, but they are a hoot and a great learning experience.

 

TaxGrrl, Widow Loses House Over $6.30 Tax Bill.  “A Pennsylvania woman has lost her home for little more than the cost of a Starbucks Frappuccino.”  The law in all its majesty.

Kay Bell, File IRS Form 1040X to correct old tax mistakes

Peter Reilly, Graduation Contingency Kills Alimony Deduction.  It’s very easy to screw up an alimony deduction with bells and whistles, as Peter explains.

 

20120531-1Jason Dinesen, Preparer Regulation and Judging Preparers Based on Size of Refund.  “Anyone who’s worked in this business has experienced the irate client who thinks the preparer screwed up because their refund was less than their friend/co-worker/hair dresser, etc.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 356

Jack Townsend, U.S. Congressman Indicted for Tax Related Crime

Joseph Thorndike, Airlines Say Ticket Taxes Would Be More Visible if They Were Better Hidden (Tax Analysts Blog)

Alan Cole, What Gift Cards Can Teach Us About Tax Policy (Tax Policy Blog)

Renu Zaretsky, Funding Tax Breaks, the IRS, and Public Pensions, Safety, and Schools.  The TaxVox headline roundup.

 

News from the Profession.  EY Is Tackling the Important Issue of Dudes’ Need for Flexibility (Going Concern)

 

Clear error is a standard used by appellate courts to review some lower court decisions.  A Tax Court case decided by Judge Paris dealing with horse losses yesterday involved purported destruction of records by an old girlfriend.  Here’s where the clear error comes in:

The wrath of a former girlfriend may be a formidable force, but it is not analogous to a hurricane-like natural disaster, and it does not constitute a reasonable cause outside petitioner’s control.

I’ve met Judge Paris, and I strongly suspect she’s never dealt with a bitter former girlfriend. Anyone who has would never have written such a thing.  But as she pointed out that the petitioner provided no evidence that such destruction occurred, so you oughta know that the case probably still is on solid ground.

 

Cite: Roberts, T.C. Memo 2014-74.  Additional coverage from Paul Neiffer, Partial Taxpayer Victory on Horse Farm Case

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/23/14: The Tax Fairy isn’t named “VEBA.” And: frivolous IRS notices!

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

tax fairyThe Tax Fairy, that fickle goddess of painless massive tax reduction, is often sought in the misty fens of the welfare benefit sections of the tax law.  A U.S. District Court in California has deprived the Tax Fairy’s believers of one guide for their hunt.

CPA Ramesh Sarva and Kenneth Elliot led Tax Fairy seekers to Section 419, which provides for VEBAs — “Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association” plans.  Properly operated, VEBAs enable employers to make deductible contributions to a plan that buys insurance for employees.

A company associated with Mr. Sarva and Mr. Elliot, Sea Nine, told employers that they could use VEBAs to get around the tax law rules against deducting most life insurance premiums.  Their customers deducted contributions to VEBAs and used them to buy whole-life insurance policies with high cash value accumulation on the business owners’ lives.  The owners then borrowed the cash values.  The purported result was a deduction, followed by tax-free access to the deducted cash via borrowing cash values.

Tax Fairy guides can always find willing customers: “…small business owners with high net worth (often doctors with small but lucrative medical practices),” according to the IRS complaint. It has not gone well for the Tax Fairy adherents:

Sarva has successfully marketed at least 33 separate VEBAs plans to a variety of small business owners.  All of these participants have been or are currently being audited by the IRS.  13 of these participant audits have been completed and have resulted in total tax adjustments of $3,500,519.

In other words, it doesn’t work.  The IRS warned people off of such plans as early as 1995, and the scheme was firmly shot down by a U.S. Court of Appeals in 2002 in the Neonatology Assoc. P.A. case.  In fact, Neonatology  was a Sea Nine client.  Undaunted, Sea Nine kept selling the idea, selling the plans through “a network of affiliated third parties” including “independent certified publica accountants (“CPA”) and financial planners.”   At least they did until yesterday, when they consented to a permanent injunction yesterday against further Tax Fairy hunts.

Sea Nine had clients all over the place; the complaint lists clients in California, Florida, Alabama, and Hawaii, all with big IRS exam adjustments.

A side note: This is another example of why preparer regulation will be little use in keeping practitioners on the straight and narrow.  The defendant was a CPA and as such faced much stricter credentialing than anything contemplated by the IRS.  Yet he continued to sell these plans for years after it should have been obvious that they didn’t work.

The Moral?  There is no Tax Fairy, and just because somebody has gotten away with something for a long time doesn’t mean they’ve found her.  Also: you can make somebody take a test.  You can make them somebody take CPE.  But you can’t make a bumbler competent or a scammer honest.

 

20130419-1Russ FoxIRS Prematurely Asking for Money:

A few years ago, the IRS routinely sent notices to taxpayers who filed tax returns prior to April 15th but didn’t pay their taxes until April 15th. After complaints from taxpayers and tax professionals, the IRS supposedly stopped this practice. Unfortunately, they’ve started it up again.

Another illustration of why we need a “sauce for the gander” rule that would require the IRS to pay a penalty to taxpayers when it takes such frivolous positions, same as a frivolous taxpayer would pay to IRS.

 

TaxProf, TIGTA: IRS Gave $1 Million in Cash Bonuses to 1,100 Employees Who Owe Back Taxes.  Trust me, they won’t do that for you.

Lyman Stone, More Film Tax Incentives Not a Solution for California (Tax Policy Bl0g).  No, not for California, but certainly for its filmmakers, fixers and middlemen.

Howard Gleckman, Should Congress Curb Donor Advised Funds?  They are a much more convenient and cost-effective than their alternative, private foundations, so Congress can be expected to put a stop to that.

 

Jim Maule, When It’s Too Late to Change One’s (Tax) Story

Kay Bell, Rough roads ahead as Highway Trust Fund runs out of money

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 349

Joseph Thorndike, It’s Good to Be the (Ex) President. But It Wasn’t Always. (Tax Analysts Blog).  “Until 1959, retiring chief executives got precisely nothing in the way of retirement benefits: no Secret Service protection, no administrative support, and certainly no money.”

News from the Profession.  McGladrey’s Latest PCAOB Inspection Reveals McGladrey Is Not Grant Thornton (Going Concern)

 

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