Posts Tagged ‘O Kay Henderson’

Tax Roundup, 3/29/16: How you figure S corporation stock basis. And: Cronyism!

Tuesday, March 29th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

capitol burning 10904Cronyism 95, Taxpayers 1. The bill to provide a refundable tax credit — that is, a subsidy run through tax returns — for “bio-renewable chemical production” flew through the Iowa House of Representatives yesterday. Only Bruce Hunter (D-Des Moines) voted against SF 2300 in the house. He joins three Senate Democrats (Bolkcom, Quirmbach and Dearden) as the only opposition in the General Assembly to a classic bit of central planning through the tax law.

Iowa already has 24 economic development credits, budgeted to cost taxpayers $277 million in the coming fiscal year. Apparently we needed one more.

Rep. Hunter and Sen. Quirmbach cast two of the three votes against the disastrous Film Tax Credit Program. With a $10 million cap, at least this mistake will cost less than the film fiasco.

Other coverage:

O. Kay Henderson, Biochemical tax credit gains legislative approval, headed to governor

Erin Murphy, Renewable chemical tax credit in Iowa advances closer to final approval

 

S-SidewalkBasis: the first hurdle for determining your deductible S corporation lossYesterday we outlined the unholy trinity of rules restricting losses from pass-through activities: Basis, the at-risk rules, and the passive loss rules. Today we’ll talk a little bit more about S corporation stock basis. Tomorrow will talk about how you can use loans to your S corporation to get basis for deductions, and Thursday we will talk about how the rules are a little different for partnerships.

S corporation basis changes every year.

–It starts with your initial investment in your S corporation stock.

-It is increased by your share of taxable income and deductible expenses, as reported in lines 1-12 of the 1120-S K-1.

-It is increased by tax-exempt income (like municipal bond income) and reduced bypermanently non-deductible expenses (like the 50% non-deductible portion of meals and entertainment expenses); these are reported on line 16 of the 1120S K-1.  If you have a business that generates depletion deductions, factor your “excess depletion” from 1120S K-1 line 15c.

– It is increased by capital contributions, which appear nowhere on the 1120S K-1.

– It is reduced by distributions, which are on line 16 of the 1120-S K-1.

If your losses exceed your basis, your losses are limited to your basis.   If you have multiple deduction items, you have to prorate them to fit your basis.

For example, Assume you started 2015 with $3,000 in basis in your S corporation shares.  You have a K-1 line 1 loss of 9,000, line 4 interest income of $2,000, and a charitable contribution passing through on line 12 (code A) of $1,000.

You have $5,000 in basis to deduct your $10,000 in in expenses – the opening $3,000 in basis plus the positive $2,000 interest income.  You pro-rate the $10,000 expenses — you can (potentially) deduct $4,500 of line 1 loss and $500 of charitable contributions.  The remaining deductions carry forward until you increase your basis via contributions, loans, or future income. I say “potentially” because you still have to clear the “at-risk” and “passive loss” hurdles.

Many S corporation tax prep programs generate helpful basis and deductible loss schedules. Not all preparers do this, though, and even when they do, they are only as good as their starting information.  If the preparer doesn’t know what you paid for your stock, the schedules can’t be correct. Ultimately, it’s up to taxpayers to track their own S corporation stock basis.

This is another of our irregular series of 2016 filing season tips, running through the April 18 filing deadline.

For more information on loss limitations from pass-throughs, check out Peter Reilly’s 2014 post Through The Hoops.

 

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TaxGrrrl, Walmart Gets Big Win Over Puerto Rico: No More ‘Walmart Tax’. Puerto Rico’s desperate revenue grabs are a preview of what states like California and Illinois will soon face.

Robert Wood, IRS Admits Audit Chance Is Small — And Dropping Like A Rock. They’re busy with other things.

Stuart Bassin, Sixth Circuit Requires IRS to Disclose Return Information of Non-Parties in Tea Party Exempt Organization Litigation (Procedurally Taxing). “The Government can continue fighting, but that seems to be an uphill battle and a battle which may produce further precedent that the Service will not like.”

Peter Reilly, Estate Denied Discounts For Marketable Security Family Limited Partnership. “This decision makes me nervous about getting discounts for any family limited partnership that consists solely of marketable securities.”

 

Jack TownsendGuest Blog: IRS FOIA Request Unveils Previously Undisclosed Estate Tax National Policy for Offshore Disclosures

Kay Bell, Which 2016 presidential candidate will cut your tax bill?

 

Scott Drenkard, A Very Short Primer on Tax Nexus, Apportionment, and Throwback Rule (Tax Policy Blog). “The best run down of these concepts can be found in our 2015 edition of Location Matters: The State Tax Costs of Doing Business.”

Stuart Gibson, Information Exchange: Bonanza for Tax Administrators, Temptation for Hackers (Tax Analysts Blog). “While many countries outside the U.S. first reacted negatively to this massive information grab, some soon began to realize the value of coordinated information exchange. They realized, as the old saying goes, ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em.'”

Renu Zaretsky, Tax Day is around the corner, and the IRS can take your call! Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the eternal IRS complaints of underfunding, the DOA Obama budget tax proposals, and the subsidies Michigan paid for “Batman v. Superman,” because Michigan has solved all of its problems.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 1055.

News from the Profession. AICPA and CIMA Putting This New Thing to Members for a Vote (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/11/16: Iowa Sec. 179 coupling advances in both chambers. And: the cost of not filing timely.

Friday, March 11th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1291To the floor. Identical bills coupling Iowa’s tax law to federal changes enacted in December cleared the taxwriting committees in each house of the General Assembly yesterday, the day after the bills were introduced. The bills (SSB 3171 and HSB 642) will be eligible for floor vote next week.

The sudden breakthrough clears the way for thousands of Iowans to complete their tax returns with the full $500,000 maximum Section 179 deduction. Thousands more will get to take other benefits, including the $250 above-the-line deduction for educator expenses, deductions for student loan interest, and charitable distributions by IRAs for older taxpayers.

The Governor seems to be on board, reports O. Kay Henderson:

Republican Governor Terry Branstad is praising the breakthrough.

“It certainly is a significant step in the right direction,” Branstad told reporters this morning. “…I always reserve judgment until I see it in its final form, but it appears from what I’ve heard to be something that resolves some big differences of opinion between the two houses and hopefully will make it possible to move forward with our other priorities.”

The coupling process is unfolding as I predicted February 26, after Governor Branstad reversed his anti-coupling stand. It’s too bad we couldn’t have gotten this far much earlier, without disrupting filing season. Better late than never, though. Unfortunately, the coupling is for one year only, so we can look forward to a repeat show next year.

Other Coverage:

Jason Schultz, A Victory for Iowa Taxpayers (Caffeinated Thoughts)

Des Moines RegisterLegislators reach pact on key budget issues

TheGazette.com, Iowa tax coupling to benefit ‘tens of thousands’

Me, Tax Roundup, 3/10/16: Coupling deal may trade one-year Sec. 179 coupling for reduced manufacturing sales tax exemption.

Complete Tax Update coverage.

 

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File or extend that 1120-S on time! The returns for calendar-year S corporations are due on Tuesday. If you can’t file on time, be sure you extend, because the penalties have gone up. From the IRS online Form 1120-S instructions:

Late filing of return.   A penalty may be charged if the return is filed after the due date (including extensions) or the return doesn’t show all the information required, unless each failure is due to reasonable cause…  For returns on which no tax is due, the penalty is $195 for each month or part of a month (up to 12 months) the return is late or doesn’t include the required information, multiplied by the total number of persons who were shareholders in the corporation during any part of the corporation’s tax year for which the return is due. 

You can also get in trouble for filing, but not sending the K-1:

Failure to furnish information timely.   For each failure to furnish Schedule K-1 to a shareholder when due and each failure to include on Schedule K-1 all the information required to be shown (or the inclusion of incorrect information), a $260 penalty may be imposed with respect to each Schedule K-1 for which a failure occurs. If the requirement to report correct information is intentionally disregarded, each $260 penalty is increased to $520 or, if greater, 10% of the aggregate amount of items required to be reported.

Extending your return gives you until September 15 to get that information out. A 10-person S corporation incurs a $1,950 fine for being one day late, and it increases each month. The extension, filed on Form 7004, is automatic, and can be e-filed.

Rant: I despise the use of fines like this as a government funding method. Dinging a one-day timing violation is like the red-light cameras that ding you for not quite stopping before turning right at an empty intersection. No harm, no foul, but pay up, peasant.

 

Big companies get phished: Snapchat, Seagate among companies duped in tax-fraud scam:

The scam, which involved fake emails purportedly sent by top company officials, convinced the companies involved to send out W-2 tax forms that are ideal for identity theft. For instance, W-2 data can easily be used to file bogus tax returns and claim fraudulent refunds.

The embarrassing breakdowns have prompted employers to apologize and offer free credit monitoring to employees. Such measures, however, won’t necessarily shield unwitting victims from the headaches that typically follow identity theft.

Be careful out there, kids.

 

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William Perez, Tax Planning for Clergy

Kay Bell, Ways & Means chairman promises more Congressional scrutiny of IRS security procedures

Jack Townsend, DOJ Tax Promotes Employment Tax Criminal Prosecutions. Never “borrow” withheld taxes to pay other vendors. It can get very serious in a hurry, even in Iowa.

Keith Fogg, A Different “Angle” on Recovery of Costs and Attorney’s Fees. “As we have discussed before, allowing the government to wait until the time of trial or even after trial to concede a case and thereby avoid attorney’s fees frustrates the purpose of the qualified offer provisions.”

Robert Wood, Guilty Mo’ Money Tax Preparers Could Face 8 Years. Nothing says “professional” like “Mo’ Money.”

TaxGrrrl, Does The IRS Have Your Money? Nearly $1 Billion In Old Tax Refunds Outstanding

Jim Maule, Why Not Sell Losing Lottery Tickets? “The answer is simple. The person buying those tickets and representing that they lost the face value of those tickets would be committing tax fraud.”

Dang. Tax Court Holds That Family Vacations Are Not Deductible As Book-Writing Research (Tony Nitti).

 

Richard Auxier, Is your state’s tax system punching above or below its weight? (TaxVox).

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 1037

 

News from the Profession. CPA Accused of Jamming Cell Phones Just Wanted to Commute in Peace, YOU MONSTERS (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/29/16: Governor wants to couple Sec. 179 for 2015 only. And: Iowa Farm 1040s due April 30.

Monday, February 29th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20120906-1One year for you, forever for them. It turns out there’s a catch to Governor Branstad’s change of heart on conforming with the $500,000 federal Section 179 deduction. He only wants it for one year.

O. Kay Henderson reports:

Branstad did not include this recommendation in the plans he submitted to legislators in January. Republicans in the House have voted to make this tax break available to about 177,000 Iowa small business owners and farmers who’re filing their taxes right now and the Republicans in the legislature would like to make it permanent, but Branstad says he’ll only accept a one-year extension.

“We’d lose too much revenue,” Branstad says, “and it would put us in a financial position that we couldn’t sustain it for the long term.”

The Section 179 deduction allows taxpayers to deduct the cost of up to $500,000 of equipment that would otherwise have to be capitalized and depreciated. It is reduced dollar-for-dollar as purchases exceed $2 million, so it only benefits smaller businesses. The Governor would limit the deduction to $25,000, with the phase-out starting at $200,000. With the cost of a combine often in excess of $200,000, the Governor’s plan would increase taxes for many farmers.

The $500,000 has been passed a year or two at a time by Congress, and Iowa has gone along each year since 2010. Congress enacted the $500,000 limit permanently late last year, effective starting in 2015. Many practitioners were surprised when the Governor announced at the beginning of this legislative session that he opposed conforming to the federal limit. The Iowa House overwhelmingly voted for conformity anyway, and it would likely pass in the Senate if Majority Leader Gronstal would allow a vote.

While the Governor says the state can’t afford the $90-95 million cost of Section 179 for smaller businesses, he has plenty of money for tax credits for big companies. Here is what his 2017 budget provides for incentive and economic development tax credits:

Iowa credits fy 2017

So, according to the Governor, while the state can’t afford $90 million for small businesses buying equipment, except maybe for one year, it can afford three times that for big companies and well connected insiders, forever and ever.

People are starting to figure it out, including The Des Moines Register, which ran an editorial yesterday, End subsidy for big companies:

Last year, the state sent checks for $42.1 million to 186 companies under the research activities program, the Iowa Department of Revenue reported.

80% of that went to just eight companies.

Research and development is essential for corporations to compete in a high-tech world. Should taxpayers give big corporations a subsidy for doing this basic business function?

No, concluded a Special Tax Credit Review panel in 2010. Gov. Chet Culver appointed the panel after the film tax credit scandal. The panel recommended eliminating the refundability of the research activities credit for companies with more than $20 million in gross receipts.

“It seems unreasonable for the state to be providing successful, larger corporations refund checks for amounts of the Research Activities Tax Credit over its tax due to the state,” the panel concluded.

Unreasonable, indeed. The panel made other recommendations, including capping tax credits to businesses and providing a five-year sunset on all tax credits, requiring the Legislature to vote to continue them. Lawmakers largely ignored the recommendations.

It’s nice to see someone else remembers the Culver review panel. It found no clear benefit to any tax credit program. But while politicians can issue a press release when a big company gets a $14 million tax credit, nobody gets to cut a ribbon when a farmer buys a new tractor.

Related: Iowa extends Farmer 1040 due date to April 30.

 

Remember when the film credit repeal was going to kill the Iowa film industry? Film, Television Production Thriving in Iowa (KCRG.com). Whenever someone suggests that we kill film credit programs, the economic development people warn that nobody will stay in Iowa if we don’t pay them to.

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Laura Saunders, IRS Says Cyberattacks on Taxpayer Accounts More Extensive Than Previously Reported; Tax data for about 700,000 households might have been stolen (Wall Street Journal). When this first came out, the IRS said 114,000 taxpayers were affected. Then it was 334,000. Are they done yet? The TaxProf has more.

Related: 

Math Is Hard, IRS Edition (Russ Fox). The actual number was more than 700,000. And the unsuccessful attempts didn’t total 10,000; they totaled 500,000!”

IRS: Efforts To Access Taxpayer Accounts Twice As Bad As Originally Thought (TaxGrrrl)

 

Kristine Tidgren, Gifted Assets and Divorce: Nothing is Certain (Ag Docket)

Paul Neiffer, Iowa Farmers Have Until April 30 to File Iowa Tax Returns

Jason Dinesen, Glossary: Iowa Form 126

William Perez, Served Time and Later Found Not Guilty? You Could Be Due a Refund

Annette Nellen, Trailing Nexus – Extra Complexity. “As if it isn’t already difficult enough for a business to know if it has income or sales tax nexus in a state, it might have ‘trailing nexus.'”

Keith Fogg, Private Debt Collection. “Adding non-IRS employees who will contact taxpayers will further confuse taxpayers already receiving calls from scam artist trying to shake them down in the name of the IRS and create other problems as well.”

 

Joseph Thorndike, Forget the Audit: Trump Should Release His Tax Returns Today (Tax Analysts Blog)

Kay Bell, IRS audit doesn’t prevent Trump from releasing taxes

Alan Cole, Why Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz’s Tax Plans Generate More Growth than Donald Trump’s (Tax Policy Blog)

Peter Reilly, Sanders Tax Plan Harder On Millionaires Than Billionaires

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 1024Day 1025Day 1026.

 

Robert Wood, Oscar Academy Sues Over Racy $230,000 Gift Bags. They want more?

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/22/16: DuPont spurns Iowa, as tax rates would predict. And: What Sec. 179 decoupling will cost Iowa farmers.

Monday, February 22nd, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20160222-1Taxes aren’t everything, but they are a thing. With the merger of DuPont and Dow, Iowa hoped the headquarters of the merged company would be in Central Iowa, home of the big DuPont Pioneer seed operation. It didn’t work out that way. It did work out the way you would think it would, though, if you looked only at tax rates.

First, O. Kay Henderson brings us up to date:

DuPont bought Iowa-based Pioneer Hi-bred International in 1999. Now, as the merger of chemical giants DuPont and Dow continues, company executives have decided the corporate headquarters will be in Wilmington, Delaware.

Iowa officials had offered the company millions if it had picked Johnston, where DuPont Pioneer has been based.

An agricultural unit of the newly-merged company will remain in Johnston. State officials are giving the company $14 million in research activities tax credits and a two million dollar forgiveable loan. It appears up to 500 people will work in the research facilities. More than 2600 people currently work at DuPont Pioneer in Johnston.

In short, the corporate headquarters will be in Delaware, but the company will continue to do seed research here, and collect taxpayer money too. That’s precisely the result one would anticipate based on The Tax Foundation’s Location Matters report on effective state taxes on different activities. The key numbers in choosing between Delaware and Iowa:

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Iowa has one of the worst tax structures for corporate headquarters. Iowa’s 20.4% effective rate on a “mature” corporate headquarters is half-again higher than the rate in Delaware. Iowa’s highest-in-the-nation 12% corporate tax rate has something to do with that, as does its bad habit of subjecting business inputs to sales tax.

Because Iowa subsidizes research activities generously through the refundable research activities credit, its taxes on R&D facilities are significantly lower.

I don’t believe that taxes are the only thing corporations look at in location decisions, but to say they don’t matter defies basic economics and common sense. If you think taxing cigarettes and soda pop affects individual choices, it’s weird to say that taxing corporate headquarters doesn’t affect corporate choices.

20120906-1The DuPont decision is the natural consequence of Iowa’s policy of paying to lure and subsidize new companies, using high taxes from existing businesses. It’s like a guy bringing his wife’s purse to the tavern to buy drinks for the girls. The girls may take his money, but they realize he’ll do the same thing to them that he’s doing to his wife, so the smart ones aren’t going home with him. And any girls he “wins” aren’t likely to be great prizes.

Some of the politicians are figuring this out: Senate GOP Leader says DuPont Pioneer move shows need to eliminate income tax (O. Kay Henderson, again):

Bill Dix of Shell Rock, the Republican leader in the Iowa Senate, suggests this should be a wake-up call for state policymakers.

“Really shines a beacon on the fact that we are a very high-tax state,” Dix says, “one of the highest taxing states in the country.”

The State of Iowa is providing the company $14 million in research tax credits for the retention of up to 500 high-paying “R-and-D” jobs in Johnston. Dix says this corporate decision shows it’s time for a discussion of eliminating the state income tax.

“We tend to have had a policy of looking at what we can do to pick winners and losers and bring certain industries to our state and to some degree that has been successful,” Dix says. “…The states that are growing the fastest are the states that recognize that an income tax is a tax on productivity, hard-work, investment.”

Exactly. Unfortunately, the Governor and his unlikely Democratic allies in the state Senate are doubling down on their commitment to fund targeted tax breaks with high taxes on existing businesses. They are surprising Iowa businesses with a 2015 tax increase by refusing to adopt the increased Federal $500,000 Section 179 deduction and other federal tax breaks renewed in December.

Related: 

Corporate giveaways hurt Iowa (Steve Corbin). While I share his feelings about Iowa’s economic development bureaucracy, they don’t control most research credits.

Taxpayers May Lose Deductions Due to Legislative Inaction (Public News Service)

 

Paul Neiffer, How Much Will Farmers Pay to Iowa For Low Section 179:

Therefore, we would estimate that not coupling with federal Section 179 will cost Iowa Farmers between $40 and $75 million in 2015.  Since Iowa says this will be a permanent non-coupling, Iowa Farmers will face similar costs in the future (although it may get smaller each year due to increased depreciation deductions on amounts not allowed for Section 179).

I’m sure they’ll feel better about that when they think of the $14 million going to DuPont.

 

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Institute for Justice, Victory Over the IRS: IRS Returns N.C. Man’s Entire Life Savings After Seizing It Through Civil Forfeiture. Good. But why did he have to fight so hard when the IRS never said that he had cheated on his taxes?

Rose Heaphy, Internal Revenue Service scam haunts Des Moines woman (KCCI.com). If the caller says he’s from the IRS, he isn’t.

Kay Bell, Driving down your tax bill with auto-related deductions

Jason Dinesen, How is the Iowa Trust Fund Tax Credit Calculated?

Jim Maule, Yes, Damages for Emotional Distress Are Gross Income. “It is time for the distinction to be eliminated, but until and unless that happens, taxpayers are caught by it and must file their returns in compliance with what section 104 provides.”

Kenneth Weil, Will Bankruptcy Get Your Passport Back? (Procedurally Taxing).

Peter Reilly, Should enQ Get To Sell Spots In IRS Phone Queue? “Long wait times on calls to the IRS are nothing new.  But now there is something you can do about it – maybe.  Only it will cost you.  And the whole notion has me angry.” Weird and fascinating.

TaxGrrrl, Fraud Allegations At Liberty Tax Franchises Raise Questions

Russ Fox, Where I Became the “Messenger of Doom” (My Final Comments on Turf Rebates). Nice work if you can get it.

Robert WoodCrazy Sounding Tax Deductions That IRS Says Are Legit. “Cosmetic surgery costs are usually non-deductible, but an exotic dancer named Chesty Love tested this rule.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 1017Day 1018Day 1019. I’m featured on Day 1016, and Peter Reilly is spotlighted on Day 1018.

Alan Cole, Which Places Benefit Most from State and Local Tax Deductions? ( Tax Policy Blog). It has a wonderful map where you can find the answer county by county:

 

Map by Tax Foundation.

Len Burman, The GOP Proposed Tax Cuts Would be Unprecedented (updated) (TaxVox)

Career Corner. Bonus Watch ’16: Underachievers. (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). “Good news for the lion’s share of you who are unexceptional: you’re getting paid!”

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Tax Roundup, 9/1/15: If the taxman takes your car, recode your garage door. And: jobs, $211,111 each.

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015 by Joe Kristan
1974 mercedes

A 1974 Mercedes scheduled for IRS auction 8/31/15 at Bama Jammer Storage, Huntsville, AL.

As if having your car seized by the taxman wasn’t bad enough. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, in a report on IRS handling of property seized for tax nonpayment, notes a potential problem if the IRS takes your car:

However, during our discussions with IRS employees involved in the seizure process, we determined that there was no guidance on what actions to take if seized vehicles are equipped with installed navigation or garage door opening systems. Additionally, except for one employee, everyone we spoke with had not considered what actions to take if they seized a vehicle with one of these systems. While we do not have any examples in our case reviews of this situation occurring, it is in the taxpayers’ and Government’s best interest that employees are prepared if seizures involve these types of systems. If these systems are not reset to the original factory settings, there is a risk that the third-party purchaser of the vehicle can gain access to the taxpayer’s personal information or property. For example, the purchaser could use the vehicle navigational equipment to locate a taxpayer’s residence and then use the garage door opener to gain access to the home.

I have to admit, it wouldn’t have occurred to me either. It’s easy to forget that cars are also more and more data systems. Still, computerized data probably wasn’t an issue with the 1974 Mercedes pictured above that was scheduled for auction by the IRS yesterday in Huntsville, Alabama.

 

O. Kay HendersonBranstad defends state tax incentives for new Kum & Go headquarters:

Governor Terry Branstad today called the “Kum & Go” convenience store chain a “great…family-owned”, Iowa-based business and he has no objection to the nearly $19 million in state tax incentives it will get for moving the company headquarters to downtown Des Moines.

The convenience store chain is moving its headquarters about 10 miles from West Des Moines to Downtown Des Moines. It is getting $6.33 for every Iowan for its trouble. I’m sure Kum & Go is a perfectly nice company, and I don’t blame them for taking money the state is giving away, but there are lots of nice employers who don’t get $211,111 in state tax breaks for each new job they create. The unfortunate ones have to pay some of the highest business tax rates in the country to help pay for those who do benefit from tax breaks.

For perspective, check out Jared Walczak, Location Matters: Effective Tax Rates on Corporate Headquarters by State (Tax Policy Blog). “Today we’ll take a look at states’ effective tax rates on new and mature corporate headquarters.”  Have a look:

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For this ranking, Iowa is the fourth worst. Giving millions to one company doesn’t fix it for everyone else.

 

Robert D. Flach has fresh Buzz for us today. Robert buzzes about blog posts he’s found about higher taxes, due dates, and the “Cadillac tax” on high-cost health plans — which seems to be most of them nowadays.

Russ Fox, The Hospital’s Closing; Who Will Notice the Missing Charity Money? Apparently one of the doctors, with unfortunate tax results.

TaxGrrrl asks Which State Has The Highest Property Taxes In America?

Kay Bell, IRS gets so-so rating so far on Yelp. Well, I’d never eat there.

Leslie Book, Legislative Language Directs IRS To Make Self-Prepared EITC Claims More Burdensome (Procedurally Taxing).

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 845. Today the Prof links to Robert Wood’s Court Orders IRS To Reveal White House Requests About Taxpayers. The White House will surely appeal, waiting until the last minute to file for it, and drag the process out as long as possible. This is good news, though: “Finally, though, the court ruled that the IRS cannot hide behind a law used to shield the very misconduct it was enacted to prohibit.”

The stonewalling doesn’t mean there was misconduct. By stonewalling everything, the administration makes it hard to unearth misdeeds; as an added bonus, when a painful and drawn out process finally forces the administration to yeild innocent information, it makes the investigators look silly while sapping their resources.

 

Jeremy Scott, Trump’s Lack of Specifics on Tax Is Hardly Unique (Tax Analysts Blog). ” There are many reasons to dislike Trump and his ill-defined platform (which seems mostly based on nativism and reality-show-style demagoguery), but his lack of policy details at this stage of the game is hardly unique.”

 

News from the Profession. AICPA Lays the Smackdown on Dear Abby (Greg Kyte, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/4/15: Iowa session-end frenzy: What if a young farmer drives his ATV to the laundromat?

Thursday, June 4th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1291Sound tax policy? What’s that? Three minor tax bills advanced in the Iowa General Assembly yesterday in the pre-adjournment frenzy. They are all examples of the pursuit of tax legislation unmoored from consideration of sound tax policy.

ATVs. Iowa farmers don’t have to pay sales tax on equipment used “directly and primarily” in the production of agricultural products. The Iowa Department of Revenue holds that the exemption doesn’t apply to general-purpose all-terrain vehicles used to get around the farm — say, to check on crops or livestock (or, incidentally, to go to the good pheasant-hunting spots). The Iowa Senate passed SF 512 yesterday to exempt ATVs “used primarily in agricultural production” from sales tax.

Too bad this isn’t part of a broader movement to exempt all business inputs from sales tax. To the extent that ATVs are a business input, exempting them from sales tax is good policy. I suspect, though, that everyteenage farm boy will have an ATV used primarily in agriculture.

Young Farmers. HF 624 makes minor changes in the tax credit available for custom farming contracts with beginning farmers. No amount of tax credits will change the fundamental difficulties involved in getting into farming. It’s a capital-intensive business that has been consolidating for over a century into larger and more expensive units. This bill isn’t that big a deal, but “Young Farmer” tax credits have no more policy justification than “Young Factory Owner” credits or “Young Cold Storage Warehouse Operator” credits.

20140611-2To the cleaners. Probably the worst tax policy to advance yesterday was HF 603, which excludes the use “self-pay” washing machines from sales tax. While business inputs should not be subject to sales tax, all final consumer expenditures should be. A broader base enables lower rates for everyone. O. Kay Henderson reports on this break:

Representative Josh Byrnes, a Republican from Osage, has met with a couple from St. Ansgar who sold their laundromats in Iowa and opened coin-operated laundromats in Minnesota, which does not charge the sales tax.

“The other part of this is just economic development in general,” Byrnes says. “We have a company that manufactures self-pay units in Fairfield, Iowa, called Dexter and actually they’re looking at some expansion and growth of their company I believe that this will help them get over that hump and help to further their business as well.”

You can make the same “economic development” argument for pretty much anything manufactured in Iowa, including the home laundry machines historically made by Iowa manufacturers Maytag and Amana. It takes a leap of faith to think this will sell even one additional washing machine.

 

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Joseph Henchman, Illinois Governor Suspends New Film Tax Credits, Makes Other Spending Cuts (Tax Policy Blog):

With the two sides at a stalemate, Rauner announced that he is issuing administrative orders to cut $400 million in spending wherever he can. Including:

  • Immediate suspension of all future incentive offers to companies for business attraction and retention, including EDGE credits and the film tax credit program. Commitments already made will be honored.

Unilateral disarmament in the incentive wars is actually doing a big favor for Illinois taxpayers. Those credits enable the well-connected to pick the pockets of the rest of the taxpayers. It is excellent public policy. I hope Iowa decides it needs to ditch its crony tax credits to compete with Illinois.

 

Jason Dinesen, Are HRAs Always Appropriate for Sole Proprietors? Part 2. “HRAs are often — but not always — a good strategy for sole proprietors. Here are some numbers that lay it out.”

Robert Wood, Another Tax-Exempt Marijuana Church—Green Faith Ministry

Kay Bell, IRS working with tax industry, states to upgrade security

 

Dean Zerbe, Tax Court Decision – Good News For Whistleblowers (Procedurally Taxing). “This decision and the actions of the IRS in this case are not going to make administration of the IRS whistleblower program easier – and could have easily been prevented by the IRS.”

Jack Townsend, Whistleblower Case Apparently Involving Wegelin. “Perhaps most interesting for many readers of this blog is that the underlying criminal prosecution and guilty plea appears to involve Wegelin Bank, the Swiss Bank that met its demise for its U.S. tax cheat enabler activities.”

 

 

Renu Zaretsky, There’s Always Room for Improvement. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the IRS data breach, climate-change tax promises, and charitable tax deduction policy, among other things.

Kelly Davis, Kansas Considers Tax Hikes on the Poor to Address Budget Mess (Tax Justice Blog).

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 756

 

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So tell me again how IRS regulation of preparers will fight fraud? IRS Employee Files Hundreds of Fraudulent Tax Returns:

The former IRS worker, 38-year-old Demetria Michele Brown, stole names, birth dates and social security numbers, and provided false information about wages, deductions, addresses and workplaces in order to obtain the refunds.

The documents were filed from her computer and the money returned by the IRS was sent to bank accounts controlled by Brown, St. Louis newspaper reports.

According to prosecutors, the fraudster carried out the activity from 2008 until 2011 and collected $326,000 / €290,000.

I’m sure it wouldn’t have happened if she had to take an ethics exam.

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/23/15: House report rips Koskinen’s war on taxpayer service.

Thursday, April 23rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

I’ll believe the IRS has a funding crisis when the IRS acts like it has a funding crisis. The House Ways and Means Committee yesterday issued a report ripping Commissioner Koskinen for deliberately cutting customer service to prioritize ACA implementation and to create pressure for a bigger budget. It’s the IRS version of the Washington Monument Strategy — slashing the most visible and popular services first.

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner, but he'd probably do a better job than the one who is.

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner, but he’d probably do a better job than the one who is.

Christopher Bergin of Tax Analysts describes the report:

In 14 pages, the report blisters the IRS for treating taxpayers like dirt (my term, not theirs). It’s a shrewd counterpunch in the mouth. But remember, the commissioner picked this fight.

What’s in the 14 pages? A discussion of items that Mr. Koskinen chose to fund, and resources he neglected, at the expense of taxpayer service. Examples from the report include:

Diversion of user fee money to the general budget. The IRS has jacked up the fees to obtain rulings and non-automatic accounting changes to absurd levels. Rather than using those fees to provide services, the funds have been diverted to the general IRS budget.

Continuing to keep hundreds of full-time union operatives on the agency payroll. From the report.

“…the IRS reported that employees used 521,725 hours for union activity in fiscal year 2013, which accounted for an estimated $23.5 million in salary and benefits expenses. In fiscal year 2014, the IRS recorded 491,948 hours of union time, and another $23.5 million in salary and benefits expenses. In that same fiscal year, there were 36 IRS agents who devoted 50 percent or more of their time at work to union activities instead of performing official duties. For the first quarter of fiscal year 2015, the IRS reported 113,294 hours of union time.

The report says that at 15 minutes per call, these employee slots could have fielded 2.5 million taxpayer inquiries. But then the union would have to pay its own employees, and we can’t have that.

The report also notes that the IRS hasn’t exactly shown it would make good use of additional funds, citing its expensive internal system implementation failures. It also slams the IRS for ending the pilot private collection program, while failing to pursue the collections targeted under the pilot program. Of course, the Treasury Employee Union would rather have the work not done at all than to have it done by non-union help.

I agree with Christopher Bergin in attributing the mess to Mr. Koskinen:

Almost from the first day on the job, his reaction to congressional budget cuts has been to deflect responsibility elsewhere. His appearances before Congress have a “who do you think you are” edge to them. And this tax filing season, he upped the ante.

His new strategy went something like this: “You want to cut my budget, fine — then I’ll show you what it will cost.”

He began cutting back on taxpayer service and tax law enforcement,

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

claiming that the IRS lacks sufficient funds to do its job. Never mind that its annual budget is about $11 billion. Then Koskinen started telling his employees the country must get used to the IRS doing “less with less.” That language is code for “taxpayers are going to suffer and Congress will get the blame.”

He then doubled down on the rhetoric by labeling budget cuts a “tax cut for tax cheats.” Personally, I think that remark went too far. It resembles a temper tantrum — or worse.

And you know what? The commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service doesn’t get to throw a public temper tantrum. It’s simply not a part of the job description.

As long as the IRS can afford to keep a battalion of union operatives on its payroll, I’ll remain unconvinced that it really needs a bigger budget. I’m convinced that until Mr. Koskinen resigns, there is no hope for the agency.

Somewhat related: Russ Fox, Don’t Call Us Continues. “If anyone thinks the IRS’s budget will be increased for next year, they’re dreaming.”

The TaxProf has a roundup of coverage.

 

What’s “green” about green energy subsidies. An Indiana man pleads guilty to taking part in a conspiracy to scam the biofuel subsidy system. Prosecutors said the scam raked in over $100 million in refundable biodiesel production credits.

Of course, scams are bad, but the real scandal of the biofuel subsidies is what is legal.

 

William Perez, Tax Incentives for Alternative Energy Systems

 

Jason Dinesen, Tax Season Recap 2015: What a Strange Season, Part 2 (Trends I Noticed)

Peter Reilly, Detective’s Vacation And Sick Time Not Excluded From Taxable Income

Robert Wood, What To Do When IRS Agents Call On You. “This may sound paranoid, but the ramifications of getting flustered and running at the mouth can be extreme.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 714.

 

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Iowa rural broadband bill advances. O. Kay Henderson reports:

The Iowa House has passed a bill that would set up a state-run grant program to expand broadband access in Iowa, although no state money is committed and the program will only get going if the state gets federal tax dollars for it. The bill would set up a new, 10-year-long property tax exemption for companies that extend high-speed broadband service in “unserved or underserved areas” of the state.

Of course. How can you do anything without a tax bill? This item in the article strikes me:

Representative Josh Byrnes, a Republican from Osage, said the bill will hopefully address the “inconsistencies” in broadband speeds.

“I live in a part of Mitchell County where I actually get better connectivity to my barn than I get here at the state capitol,” Byrnes said.

Of course, the state capitol is in the most urban part of the state, which is also a rising tech corridor. If you can get better broadband in a Mitchell County barn, I have doubts about how serious the rural broadband problem really is.

 

TaxGrrrl, Accused Murderer Requests Police Escort To Cash Tax Refund. Jails apparently don’t cash refund checks.

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Tax Roundup, 1/29/15: Iowans, fill ’em up now. And: lessons from the Obama Sec. 529 retreat.

Thursday, January 29th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

dimeFill me up. ‘Overall consensus’ toward 10-cent hike in state gas tax O. Kay Henderson reports:

 Key legislators say a 10-cent increase in the state gas tax has a good chance of passing the legislature in February and going into effect as early as March.

“I think the overall consensus is to go 10 cents now…We’re so far behind that we need to implement it right away,” Senator Tod Bowman, a Democrat from Maquoketa who is chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, said this morning.

At the opening of this session of the General Assembly, I guessed that there would be no gas tax boost. It’s looking more likely every day that I was wrong. I asked a few legislators and lobbyists about it when I attended the Iowa ABI Legislative Reception, and they all said a 10-cent gas tax boost was a done deal.

That would test my alternative forecast – that if there was a gas tax boost, it meant Governor Branstad will not run for a seventh term.

 

csi logoAlan Cole, President’s Plan to Tax 529s Was Not a Distraction (Tax Policy Blog):

While the issue was, perhaps, a distraction from the administration’s priorities on community college, it was not at all a distraction from the administration’s priorities on tax policy. It is deeply philosophically consistent with virtually every tax policy proposal, proposed or enacted, from the administration.

The administration’s proposals all tend to follow a particular blueprint for tax policy: simply put, that when Americans save by investing in some kind of asset, that they should be taxed at ordinary income rates on both the initial value of the asset and all the future returns on the asset. (For example, with 529 plans, the initial investment is taxed, and the Obama Administration’s proposal is to tax the returns as well.) This view is mistaken, in that a financial asset’s value is precisely in its future returns. The value of the financial asset, then, is taxed twice. 

The difference here is that the administration has dressed up its tax grabs by saying only “the rich” would have to pay. That’s never really true, but it was so obviously wrong here that even the President’s allies couldn’t support it with a straight face.

 

IRAJoseph Thorndike, What Obama’s 529 Flip-Flop Says About Your Roth IRA (Tax Analysts Blog):

The bursting of the 529 trial balloon should serve as an object lesson for anyone hoping to rein in other tax preferences. In particular, proposals to scale back Roth IRAs – popular among liberal analysts – seem hopeless in the extreme.

I think the dumbest thing was pairing the elimination of a tool to enable people to save for education costs with the unwise “free” community college proposal. That was pretty much saying those who want to pay their own way through college without government grants are chumps.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 630. It has become an issue in the hearings for the Attorney General nominee.

 

Jason Dinesen, What I’m Asking My Clients Regarding the ACA. Pretty much what we are asking our clients.

TaxGrrrl, Form 3115 Adds Confusion & Cost – But May Be Required For 2015. “Since there’s no user fee – and virtually no risk – I tend to agree with those who suggest that businesses owning real and/or tangible property err on the side of caution and file form 3115 to obtain automatic consent.”

Robert Wood, Missing A Form 1099? Why You Shouldn’t Ask For It “Nevertheless, if you don’t receive a Form 1099 you expect, don’t ask for it. Just report the income.”

Tony Nitti, Super Bowl XLIX Tax Tale Of The Tape: Who Ya’ Got? Meh. My football rooting interest ended in Seattle. But for socially-awkward tax nerds (but I repeat myself) who are going to Super Bowl gatherings, Tony has a lifeline.

 

20140512-1Peter Reilly, Don’t Use The IRS To Address Koch Political Spending. Whether it’s Tom Steyer, George Soros, or the Brothers Who Must Not Be Named, the government has no business telling them what causes they can fund.

Russ Fox, Caesars Wins Round One: Chicago, not Delaware. Caesars Entertainment’s bankruptcy litigation, that is.

Carl Smith, Unpublished CDP Orders Dwarf Post-trial Bench Opinions in Uncounted Tax Court Rulings (Procedurally Taxing). Insight on what Tax Court judges do that those of us who don’t do that sort of litigation for a living don’t see.

Jack Townsend, Unreported Offshore Accounts Remains on IRS Dirty Dozen” List

Kay Bell, Illinois shoppers to start paying state sales tax on Amazon purchases on Feb. 1; federal online tax bill still stalled

 

Tax Trials: Georgia Tax Tribunal Rules that Electric Utility’s Machinery and Equipment Used in Transmission and Distribution System Not Exempt from Georgia Sales & Use Tax. Bad tax policy all over. Business inputs should not be subject to sales tax.

Cara Griffith, Tax Appeal Reform May Be a Possibility in Washington State (Tax Analysts Blog)

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David Brunori, Regressive Taxes Are Neither New Nor Good (Tax Analysts Blog): “States should also broaden the sales tax base to tax things rich folks buy, while lowering the tax rates on the things the poor consume the most. But the rich will remain rich.”

Steven Rosenthal, Is Obama Closing Retirement Savings Loopholes or Just Curbing Congress’ Generosity? (TaxVox). How about another choice – he’s just looking to increase taxes on “the rich” any way he can get away with?

Richard Phillips, Congress Should Pass the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act to Combat International Tax Avoidance. (Tax Justice Blog). I have a better idea: a less onerous tax system that would make international tax avoidance less attractive.

 

Career Corner. The Public Accountant’s Definitive Guide to Disclosure of Past Convictions (Adrienne Gonzalez, 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, 5/7/14: How to keep from beating up the poor with high marginal rates? And: priorities!

Wednesday, May 7th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
The EITC as a poverty trap: phaseouts of the benefit impose stiff marginal tax rates on the working poor.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Peter Reilly, IRS Cannot Levy Tribal Payments

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

taxanalystslogoTax Analysts Blog is on an equality kick:

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Priorities.  From the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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