Posts Tagged ‘Peter Reilly’

Tax Roundup, 4/11/14. Why we extend. And: Tax Doctor, Tax Fairy?

Friday, April 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

4868Some folks just don’t like extensions.  Maybe they want their refund NOW.  Maybe they have never extended their return before, and they think it is somehow against the rules.  Some people believe an extension invites the IRS to come in and audit them.  And some people think they are just so special that they can bring in a complex return missing K-1s on April 10th and the preparers should just drop everything and get them filed somehow.

There isn’t much to do for the last category, except perhaps medication, or a thrashing by a crazed sleep-deprived preparer, but for more sensible folks, a basic understanding of extensions might help.

Extensions aren’t against the rules; the rules specifically provide for them.  Even in simpler times, tax administrators knew that it isn’t always possible for a busy person to put together all of the pieces of a tax return by April 15.

You still should pay up.  While extensions give you more time to file your tax return, they don’t give you extra time to pay.  The tax law asks you to estimate your tax liability and penalizes you  if you don’t have at least 90% of your taxes paid in by the April 15 deadline; the penalty is 1/2 percent per month.

Why bother with an extension if I can’t delay payment?    Probably the most important one is that if you are short of cash, the penalty for late payment on a return that you didn’t bother to extend is 5% per month — ten times the penalty for late payment on an extended return.  It forces you to at least take a stab at guessing your liability, helping you identify what pieces you have to gather to complete your extended return.  It also keeps you in compliance, and once you stop filing on time, it can be a hard habit to break.

But won’t it get me audited?  There’s no evidence that an accurate extended return filed during the extension period is any more likely to be audited than it would be filed on April 15.  The IRS selects returns based on what’s on them, now on whether they are extended.

There’s plenty of evidence that returns with errors are more likely to get extra IRS attention.  A return thrown together at the last minute is more likely to have errors than an extended return done during normal working hours by somebody who’s had some sleep.    For what it’s worth, I have extended my own return every year since 1991 with no IRS examination (knock wood).

Efile logoEfile logoe-file logoHow do I extend?  You file Form 4868 either on paper or electronically, along with any necessary payment, by April 15.  The IRS has more details here. It’s common to pay in enough to also cover your first quarter estimated tax payment with the extension.  It gives you some cushion in case you find more 2013 income while completing your return, and you can apply your return overpayment to your  2014 estimated tax when you do file your 2013 1040.

States have their own rules.  Iowa automatically extends your return without the need to file an extension form if you are at least 90% paid-in by the April 30 due date.  If you need to send them some money to get to 90%, you send it with Form IA 1040-V.

Our series of 2014 Filing Season Tips goes right through April 15.  Check back tomorrow for another one!

Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #3: Be Suspicious!

 

tax fairyBelief in the Tax Fairy peaks at tax time.  The Tax Fairy is that magical sprite who will make all of your taxes go away painlessly while your sucker friends still send checks to the tax man.  It’s amazing what Tax Fairy adherents will believe.  Consider a Californian who worked as a software consultant.  He was put in touch with a “Tax Doctor” (my emphasis):

Early in 2006 petitioner’s friends recommended that he talk to the “Tax Doctor Corporation” (Tax Doctor) operated by a person representing himself to be Dr. Lawrence Murray (Murray). Petitioner spoke with Murray and members of Murray’s staff. Petitioner’s discussions with Murray and his staff consisted mostly of “a bit of a sales pitch”. They explained how they would handle his tax return preparation, what the tax savings would be, and the “structure” they would use.

Murray proposed setting up two corporations and preparing petitioner’s individual and corporate Federal income tax returns. Murray explained to petitioner that one corporation would be “operational” and the other would focus on “management”. Petitioner was unsure at trial which corporation was the operations entity and which was the management entity. Under the agreement with Murray petitioner would pay the Tax Doctor, as a fee for setting up the structure, the amount of the tax savings generated by the use of the structure. 

What could go wrong?

His C.P.A. told him that she was willing to incorporate his business activity but she would not do what the Tax Doctor had proposed because it was very aggressive. Petitioner, despite the advice of his C.P.A., decided to accept the proposal of the Tax Doctor.

I don’t need a CPA, I have a Tax Doctor!

Petitioner filed his 2006 Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, showing taxable income of zero. Nev Edel, one of the corporations the Tax Doctor formed for petitioner, filed a Form 1120, U.S. Corporation Income Tax Return, for the fiscal year ending (FYE) November 30, 2007. Nev Edel reported gross receipts of $285,785, total income of $291,669, and total deductions of $295,214. The largest single deduction was $237,600 for “contracted services”. Smoge Corp., the other corporation the Tax Doctor formed for petitioner, filed a 2006 Form 1120S, U.S. Income Tax Return for an S Corporation. Smoge Corp. reported total income of $186,640 and total deductions of $188,644. The largest single deduction was $172,166 for “contracted services”.

Somehow things went awry.

Murray was prosecuted and convicted in 2010 of Federal crimes associated with the preparation of his own returns and the returns of others.

This presumably led to IRS attention to our consultant’s returns, and a big assessment.  The taxpayer tried to avoid penalties because he relied on the Tax Doctor in good faith.  The Tax Court thought otherwise:

The advice of the C.P.A., who had no financial stake in the outcome of petitioner’s return positions, should have put petitioner on notice that additional scrutiny of Murray’s advice was required.

The moral?  If your tax professional, who does this for a living, says something is bogus, they just might be right.  And there is no Tax Fairy.

Cite: Somogyi, T.C. Summ. Op. 2014-33.

 

20140411-1William Perez, Six Things to Do Before April 15th

Kay Bell, What are ordinary & necessary business expenses? It depends

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 337.  More a boatload than a smidgen today.

That’s OK, you can just send me a gift card. Christopher Bergin, The Gift That Is Lois Lerner (Tax Analysts Blog):

Something bad happened here. And however bad her behavior, the problem isn’t Lerner. The problem is a culture that allows what she did to continue and that probably allows behavior that’s much, much worse.

Andrew Lundeen, What Could Americans Buy with the $4.5 Trillion They Pay in Taxes? (Tax Policy Blog).  A nice gift card, perhaps.

TaxGrrrl, House Committee Votes To Hold Lerner In Contempt, Others Push For Criminal Prosecution

Joseph Thorndike, How Dave Camp’s Failure Might Be Michael Graetz’s Victory (Tax Analysts Blog)

Peter Reilly, Clergy Out In Force To Defend Their Housing Tax Break   

Sports Corner: David Cay Johnston vs. Tax Girl on Twitter: PLACE YOUR BETS (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/8/14: So what do I do with the K-1? And: they also serve who go away!

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

So the K-1 finally showed up from my partnership or S corporation investment.  Now what?

Remember that the K-1 represents your share of the income and expenses of the partnership/S corporation/trust (henceforth “thing”) that issued it.  Different pieces of income and expense are treated differently on your tax return, and the K-1 tells you where your pieces go.  Sort of.  Before you get started plugging in your numbers, you should answer some questions for yourself.

- Do I “materially participate” in this thing? Your level of participation determines the forms you start with in preparing your returns, whether you can deduct losses, and whether your income from the thing is is subject to the Obamacare 3.8% Net Investment Income Tax.  If you spent more than 500 hours working in the thing, that usually means you materially participate; a more complete discussion of material participation is found here.

- Did the thing lose money?  If it lost money, then you have to clear three hurdles to deduct the losses:

1. You have to have basis.  This starts with your investment in the thing.  If you loaned money directly to the thing, you will get basis for the loan.  If you have a partnership, you will get basis for your share of the partnership debt, shown in part L of your K-1.  S corporation shareholders don’t get basis for their share of the corporation’s debt, even if it is guaranteed by hte shareholder.  Your basis is increased for your share of the thing’s income, and it is reduced for losses and distributions.  If you have no basis, you can’t take losses.

2. Your basis has to be “at-risk.”  This normally means that you are out-of-pocket for the investment.  If your basis comes from borrowed funds, you have to be personally on the hook for the debt — but if you borrowed from somebody with an interest in your thing, you might not be “at-risk” even if you will have to pay up if thing defaults.

If your basis comes from a share of the partnership debt, you are normally considered “at-risk” for debt shown on the “Recourse” and “Qualified Nonrecourse financing” lines on part K of your partnership K-1.  Your at-risk amount is computed on Form 6198,

3. You have to materially participate (see above), or have “passive” income from other activities.  If you don’t materially participate, you need to go to Form 8582 to figure how much, if any, of your loss is deductible this year.

 Got that?  Tomorrow we’ll look at what you have to do after you answer these questions.  Come back every day through April 15 for more !

 

Senator Hubert Houser

Senator Hubert Houser

Legislator of the Century.  Yes, the century is young, but it will be hard to beat the accomplishment of Iowa state senator Hubert Houser.  He went home.  From The Des Moines Register:

At issue is the fact that Houser, a Republican from Carson in southwest Iowa, hasn’t resigned. He has simply stopped coming to the Statehouse, saying he isn’t needed as a minority caucus member and doesn’t have a role in any legislation. He says it’s more important for him to spend time on his family’s farm, where he is expanding the livestock facilities.

Houser was not present in the Senate chamber again on Monday.

Secretary of the Senate Michael Marshall said Monday that Houser is still receiving his annual salary of $25,000.

The coverage implies that Sen. Houser is doing a bad thing.  Considering the dubious accomplishments of the ones that do show up, I can’t agree.  We’d be better off if they all went home.  The legislators should get all of their pay on Day 1 of the session, and they should get docked if it goes past a month.

 

Of course they do.  Iowa House panel OKs $2 million tax break for Knoxville Raceway.  (Des Moines Register)

 

RashiaQueen of IRS tax fraud needs a break.  Rashia Wilson, who famously held up big wads of cash on her Facebook page and taunted the feds to come and get her, is less liquid nowadays, according to a report by tampabay.com:

Busted down to a federal prison in Aliceville, Ala., she earns just $5.25 a month, she declares in newly filed court papers. That’s a problem because Wilson, 28, was ordered to pay a token $25 per calendar quarter toward the $3.1 million in restitution that she owes the IRS for filing false tax returns using stolen identities. She needs money to buy vitamins and hygiene items, too, she says. So she’s asking U.S. District Judge James S. Moody Jr. to suspend restitution payments until after her release date: Jan. 5, 2031. 

Then she’ll really get after it, I’m sure.

 

Peter ReillyNo Money For April 15 1040 Balance Due? Don’t Panic!

Tony Nitti, Where Is Your Tax Home When You Work In A Foreign Land?   

Jason Dinesen, Tax Court Case Involving Radio DJ Strikes Close to Home for Me.  ”I used to work in radio. I was the news director at KNOD radio station in Harlan, over in the western part of Iowa.”

I had a brief stint as an unpaid intern for KHAK, a country station in Cedar Rapids, in 1980.  I learned that I have a face for radio and a voice for print.

 

Roger McEowen and Kristine Tidgren, Understand That Easement Agreement Before You Sign It

 

Locust Street, Des Moines

Locust Street, Des Moines

TaxGrrrl, New IRS Commissioner Talks Tax, Scandal and Congress.  She gives him more credit than I do.

Andrew Lundeen, Kyle Pomerleau, Americans Pay More in Taxes than on Food, Clothing, and Housing Combined (Tax Policy Blog)

Renu Zaretsky, Ethics and Fairness, Growth and the Environment, Retirement and Tax Shelters.  The TaxVox headline roundup ponders, among other things, whether we should subsidize wind turbines forever.

Kay Bell, Energy efficient home improvement tax break might be back

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 334

News you can use. How to Cheat on Your Taxes. (David Cay Johnston, via The Taxprof)

News from the Profession.  According to Research, You Are Fat Because Busy Season (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/7/14: Where’s my K-1? And why you should e-file that extension.

Monday, April 7th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

1040 2013The deadline for 2013 1040s is a week from tomorrow, so we may as well start our annual Filing Season Tips feature.  

Many folks arrive here with a search engine query that goes something like “why don’t I have my K-1, should the partnership go to jail?”  A quick reminder of what a K-1 does, and why they often arrive late in the tax season.

K-1s come from partnerships, S corporations and trusts.  Partnerships and S corporation businesses don’t pay the tax on their income.  The income is instead taxed on your 1040.  They have to compute their own taxable income first — as you might imagine, a more complex process than doing the average 1040.  They then have to sort the income into a bunch of different bins so that all the pieces end up on the right spot on the owner 1040s.  The K-1 is best understood as the collection bins for your shares of the various pieces of the business’ income and expense items.

Furthermore, many businesses and trusts that issue K-1s are awaiting K-1s of their own.  Even if they have their own tax information ready, if the business is still waiting on a K-1, it can’t issue yours.

But, but! Aren’t K-1s supposed to be out by January 1?  You’re thinking of 1099s.  K-1s are due with the S corporation returns (March 15) or the partnership returns (April 15), but they can be, and often are, extended to as late as September 15 — legally.

So what to do?  If you don’t have your K-1 yet, try to at least get an idea of what the income will be, and extend your own return accordingly.  It’s always better to extend than to amend.

This is the first 2014 filing season tip — come back for one each day through April 15!

 

Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #6: Just Don’t File

 

e-file logoKristy Maitre, IRS Change in Extension Processing Makes E-Filing That Extension Critical.

The campus could take up to 6 weeks to process a [paper] extension, and it will not show up on the transcript until processed. With that time delay, it is helpful to have the acknowledgement of an e-filed extension.

With the delay in processing of the extensions, remember if you file a return within that 6 week timeframe, it may not show the extension on the module, and your client could get a penalty for filing late if there is a balance due. This will also have an impact on refund returns if they are later picked up for audit, a balance due results, and the extension was not processed properly.

And why, if you do paper file, you shouldn’t bundle extensions for your family or clients to save postage.

TaxGrrrl, Not Ready To File Your Taxes? Don’t Stress Out, File For Extension 

William Perez, Federal Tax Relief for Victims of Washington State Mudslide and Flooding

Jana Luttenegger, DIY Will is a ‘Cautionary Tale’ (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). “As a result, two of Ann’s nieces received property that it appears clearly from the will and attempted amendment was meant for Ann’s brother instead.”

 

20140321-3Kay Bell, 3 popular refundable tax credits: Are they worth it?  Good question, and no.

Peter Reilly, Easement Valuations Not So Easy Anymore

Keith Fogg, Reliance on Counsel to Avoid Tax Liability.  (Procedurally Taxing).  Not likely to work.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 333.  Featuring the Washington Post “fact checker” calling shenanigans on IRS Commissioner Koskinen for denying that IRS had “targeted” Tea Party groups.  It’s safe to say Mr. Koskinen has botched his entrance.

Andrew Lundeen, Senate Finance Committee Passes $85 Billion Tax Extenders Bill (Tax Policy Blog)

20121120-2Tax Justice Blog, Five Key Tax Facts About Healthcare Reform.  Ones they like that I despise: “Only two percent of Americans will pay the tax penalty for not having insurance and  “95 percent of the tax increases included to pay for health reform apply solely to businesses or married couples making over $250,000 and single people making over $200,000.”

This attitude is exactly what is awful about the TJB mindset.  No matter how fickle, arbitrary,   unworkable or economically harmful a tax is — and the Obamacare taxes are all of those — we’re supposed to be OK with them as long as they apply only to “the rich.”  Carried to the logical conclusion, it would be just fine to execute the 1-percenters, confiscate their property, and sell their families into slavery — it only affects the rich anyway, and they don’t count.

 

Arnold Kling has a little reminder for folks hung up on inequality, quoting Lawrence Kotlikoff:

The US fiscal gap now stands at an estimated $205 trillion, or 10.3 percent of all future US GDP. Closing this gap is imperative, and requires a fiscal adjustment of an immediate and permanent 37 percent reduction in spending (apart from servicing official debt), an immediate and permanent 57 percent increase in all federal taxes, or some combination of the two. The necessary size of this adjustment increases the longer it is put off.

And remember, the rich guy isn’t picking up the tab.

 

O. Kay Henderson, No traction for increasing state gas tax.  Not happening this year, apparently.

 

haroldJennifer Carr at Tax Analysts has a good summary of the research as to the economic effect of state film tax credits:

The film industry and lawmakers doubtless believe that film credits are a great deal for everyone involved — and that would be fantastic if it were true — but the most credible studies don’t reflect that.

Her article (unfortunately available only to State Tax Notes subscribers) discusses the funky analysis that film credit boosters use to justify the subsidies.  The boosters like to overstate the tourism effects of films and assume fantastical “multiplier” effects of film spending.  They also ignore opportunity costs — assuming that if the taxpayer money was not spent on Hollywood, it would just crawl in a hole and die.

 

Career Corner.  Crime May Not Pay But Whistleblowing Certainly Does (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/26/14: Using Bitcoins regularly will get you a really long Form 8949. And: underpants!

Wednesday, March 26th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


Bitcoin
Bitcoins may act like money, but IRS says they aren’t.  
The IRS yesterday announced how that it will treat Bitcoin “virtual currency” as property, rather than currency, for tax purposes.  Notice 2014-21 lays out the IRS treatment of Bitcoin and similar virtual money.  Some key points:

- As property, gains and losses on Bitcoin are normally capital gains and losses, unless the taxpayer is a dealer in Bitcoins.  That means losses are limited to capital gains plus $3,000 for individuals.  This contrasts with currency transactions, which normally generate ordinary income and loss under Section 988.

Transactions in virtual currency will normally generate gains and losses:

If the fair market value of property received in exchange for virtual currency exceeds the taxpayer’s adjusted basis of the virtual currency, the taxpayer has taxable gain. The taxpayer has a loss if the fair market value of the property received is less than the adjusted basis of the virtual currency.

That makes using Bitcoins a hassle for taxpayers who try to follow the law.  Everytime you buy something with Bitcoin, you will have a capital gain or loss, depending on fluctuations in the Bitcoin market.  Imagine if you had to record a little capital gain or loss based on the currency markets anytime you bought anything with cash.  If you use Bitcoins every day you’ll have a horrifying Form 8949 to report all of your gains and losses.

The basis in virtual currency is its value on date of receipt, if you acquire it in a transaction.  That same value is the amount you use to compute income if you are paid in virtual currency

- They point out the obvious:  ”A taxpayer who receives virtual currency as payment for goods or services must, in computing gross income, include the fair market value of the virtual currency, measured in U.S. dollars, as of the date that the virtual currency was received.” Also, payments in virtual currency are subject to information reporting, same as cash.

Virtual currency “miners” generate ordinary income.  If they do it as a trade or business, it’s subject to self-employment tax.

The TaxProf has more; Accounting Today also has coverage.  Peter Reilly has Bitcoins Not Tax Fairy Dust – Second Life Still A Tax Haven?, wisely noting that the virtual currency isn’t generated by the Tax Fairy.  And TaxGrrrl weighs in with IRS Says Bitcoin, Other Convertible Virtual Currency To Be Taxed Like Stock .

 

Ashlea Ebeling, Supreme Court Says FICA Tax Due On Severance Pay:

What the Supreme Court decision means for employers is that what had long been the case –severance pay is subject to FICA tax—remains the case. And for employees who are laid off, it means that they will continue to get a little less in “take-home” severance because it’s dinged for their share of FICA tax.

It seemed like a reach to say otherwise, but now it’s not even that.

 

 

A hard-working fictional student.

A hard-working fictional student.

O. Kay Henderson, Legislators ponder tax credit for student loan payments.  A truly awful idea.  This credit doesn’t encourage getting higher education; it encourages borrowing to pay for higher education.  As an unintended but obvious consequence, it discourages saving to pay for college — there’s no tax credit for foregoing current consumption to pay for college later.  It’s stunning that lawmakers actually want to encourage more student debt when many students already are entering a brutal job market with crushing loan obligations.

Joseph Henchman has two posts at Tax Policy Blog that should be read together: Wisconsin Approves Income Tax Reduction, Business Tax Reforms and Who Would Pay a Higher Illinois Income Tax?  Not the folks that move to Wisconsin, for sure.

 

Jason Dinesen, More on the 0.9% Medicare Tax and Iowa Tax Returns

Paul Neiffer, Schedule F Reporting Update:

I got some feedback on my previous post on Tax Reform and low Schedule F reporting of income. Several sources of farm income does not show up on a Schedule F. This includes many common sales of farm assets such as breeding stock and equipment. Most of the expenses associated with this income is deducted on Schedule F, however when these assets are sold, none of the gains appears on Schedule F.  Rather, this income is usually reported on Form 4797.

That still doesn’t change the fact that these simple farmers play the cash method like a violin to achieve tax results other businesses can only dream of.

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Demystifying The Deduction Rules For Accrued Liabilities   

William Perez, Identity Theft and Your Income Taxes

Kay Bell, IRS gives Colorado flood victims until Oct. 15 to file 2012 or 2013 tax returns claiming disaster losses

Janet Novack, Gotcha! Tax Court Penalizes IRA Rollover That IRS Publication Says Is Allowed   

 

David Brunori, Hang On to Your Wallets (Tax Analysts Blog)

Howard Gleckman, Dave Camp’s Plan for the Expired Tax Provisions: An Almost-Good Idea (TaxVox)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 321

Tax Justice Blog, State News Quick Hits: To Cut or Not to Cut?

 

Joseph ThorndikeRaising Taxes on the Rich Won’t Balance the Budget — But It’s Still Important (Tax Analysts Blog):

 The modern American fiscal state is predicated on a bargain. During World War II, lawmakers were forced to expand the personal income tax to help pay for the fighting. Over the course of just a few years, they added millions of middle-class Americans to the tax rolls for the first time, transforming the income tax from a rich man’s burden to a middle-class millstone. In return, however, these same lawmakers offered the middle class an implicit (and sometimes nearly explicit) guarantee — rich people would be asked to pony up, too.

Cool story.  Let’s see how that works nowadays:

Top 1 pays more than bottom 90

Chart by Tax Foundation

So now the “rich” aren’t paying their “fair share,” they’re picking up most of the tab.  How does it work if you break it down further?

20131030-2

So not only do “the rich” pay their share of the freight, they pay a lot more than their share of earnings.  And when you take government benefits into account, the whole “fair share” argument is tough to support:

givers and takers

Chart by Tax Foundation

I don’t buy Joseph’s “social contract” thinking.  The whole emphasis on inequality being peddled by the administration is a diversion, an attempt to change the subject from the manifest failures of Obamacare and foreign policy blundering.  No matter how hard they hit “the rich,” or how bad doing so is for the overall economy, there is never a point where the politicians will say the rich are being hit enough.

To the extent “inequality” persists, it’s clearly not a direct function of the tax code or government spending.  Politicians, though, find it useful to encourage the belief that they can spend on whatever pleases the crowd by just by making the rich pay their “fair share” — as if they weren’t already.  It’s the flip side of the widespread belief that the government can just balance the budget by cutting foreign aid.   It’s just an attempt to fool the gullible long enough to win another election.

 

Going Concern, Thrift Shops Issue Specific Guidance on Deduction Amounts for Used Underpants.  I didn’t know there was a deduction for toxic waste.

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/25/14: Shaky foundations can be costly. And: monitors!

Tuesday, March 25th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140325-1Not a firm foundation.  A U.S. District Court case out of Texas last week shows why using a tax-exempt entity can be hazardous to your health.  A Mr. Ziegenhals was “manager, director, trustee, and registered agent” of The Le Tulle Foundation, which was “formed in 1991 as a testamentary trust with the stated purpose of operating ‘exclusively for charitable purposes for the benefit of the citizens of Matagorda County, Texas [and] for no other purposes.’”

The court said an IRS audit found that Mr. Ziegnhals “used funds from the Foundation to obtain personal benefits and pay his expenses unrelated to the purported charitable purposes.”  That triggered a revocation of charitable status and taxes on “self-dealing,”  The total amount of “self-dealing” is alleged as $46,266.21.

What did that cost the alleged self-dealer?  From the decision (my emphasis):

The amount allegedly owed by Ziegenhals – $461,125.44 as of November 29, 2013 — is based on the IRS’s calculations of penalties, statutory additions, and interest that have accrued from his unpaid private foundation excise taxes in 2003 and his unpaid federal income taxes in 2007. See Docket Entry Nos. 42-13, 42-14, 42-15. The current amount owed is much larger than the original unpaid taxes of $46,266.21 from 2003 and $6,829.98 from 2007 because the IRS assessed several statutory taxes and penalties on Ziegenhals as both a self-dealer and foundation manager for each year until he was issued the notice of deficiency in 2009 -- an example of what can happen when someone fails to pay his taxes in the first place and then also does not cooperate in repaying the delinquencies in a timely manner.

For example, the IRS imposed a first tier tax of 5 percent for each act of self-dealing, see 26 U.S.C. § 4941(a)(1), a second tier tax of 200 percent of the amount involved for each act of self-dealing that was not corrected within the taxable period, see § 4941(b)(1), a first tier tax of 2.5 percent against Ziegenhals as the foundation manager, see § 4945(a)(2), and a second tier tax of 50 percent of the amount involved for refusing to agree to corrections, see § 4945(b)(2). In addition, the IRS determined that Ziegenhals’ actions constituted willful and flagrant conduct, and thus imposed a penalty equal to the amount of the private foundation excise taxes pursuant to § 6684. 

I don’t recommend private foundations for taxpayers who lack a huge amount of money.  While it can seem attractive to have something named for you that will outlive you, you need a lot of money to make it worth the hassle.  You have to file very detailed and complicated annual reports with the IRS, with $100 daily penalties for late filing.  Those filings are open to the public.  And if you or your heirs get careless in managing the foundation, the taxes and penalties can explode, as the gentleman from Texas now knows.

It’s much easier to use a donor-advised fund run by a competent charity, like The Community Foundation of Greater Des Moines.  They take care of the filings and hassles, and you get at least as good of a tax benefit as you get from having your own foundation.

Cite: Zeigenhals (USDC SD-TX, 3:11-cv-00464)

 

20120906-1Special interest break approaches the checkered flag.  The bill to extend the special sales tax spiff for the Newton racetrack passed the Iowa Senate yesterday.   The bill lets the track keep sales tax it collects from customers, up to a 5% rate.

The break was first passed when the track opened, with requirement that 25% of the ownership be from Iowa and with a 2016 expiration.  When NASCAR bought the track, that ended the deal.  SF 2341 extends the deal through 2025 and lets NASCAR, owned by a wealthy out-of-state family, keep this special deal that is unavailable for any other tourist and entertainment facilities competing for Iowa dollars (though an athletic facility under construction in Dyersville will have a similar break).  I’m sure they have a good story why they needed to pass this, but I don’t buy it; the track isn’t going anywhere, and NASCAR bought it knowing they didn’t qualify.

Like much bad legislation, it had bipartisan support, passing 36-9.  There is a glimmer of good news.  The total of nine “no” votes is the most I’ve seen for an “economic development” giveaway.  Hats off to Senators Behn (R, Boone), Bowman (D, Jackson), Chapman (R, Dallas), Chelgren (R, Wappelo), Guth (R, Hancock) , Quirmbach (D, Story), Schneider (R, Dallas), Smith (R, Scott) and Whitver (R, Polk).

 

Time for Project Oblivion!  The Des Moines Register reports West Des Moines data center project gets $18 million in incentives:

Iowa’s next major data center prospect seeking state-incentive money is headed to the Iowa Economic Development Authority with a stamp of approval from the West Des Moines City Council.

The council on Monday endorsed “Project Alluvion” as a consent agenda item without any discussion, offering up to $18 million in local incentives to land the major project.

Council documents show Project Alluvion would create at least 84 jobs and a minimum of $255 million in taxable valuation.

“People might say, ‘Geez, giving $18 million for only 84 jobs.’ The jobs are important, but it’s more than the jobs,” Councilman Russ Trimble said after Monday’s meeting. “It’s going to help us build the tax base and keep property taxes down.”

That’s 214,285.71 per “job.”   So, if we were to move our firm to West Des Moines, that would qualify us for about $7.5 million.  Hey, we use computers — we’re high-tech!  We’d even call it a cool name, like Project Oblivion!  Or Des Moines can pay us to stay, whatever.

Related:  LOCAL CPA FIRM VOWS TO SWALLOW PRIDE, ACCEPT $28 MILLION

 

Joseph Henchman, Wisconsin Approves Income Tax Reduction, Business Tax Reforms (Tax Policy Blog).

 

Kris20140321-3ty Maitre, Changes Coming for IRA Rollovers in 2015. (ISU-CALT)  ” So going forward, advise your client to make only one IRA rollover per tax year, or to be on the safe side one rollover every 366 days.”

Peter Reilly, No Margin For Error When Using IRA Rollover As Bridge Loan   

Kay Bell, IRS offers an easier way to deduct your home office 

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): M Is For Medicare Payments   

Paul Neiffer, One More Reason Why Tax Reform is Going After Cash Method:

 I ran across a posting on the net farm income and loss reported by Schedule F farmers for 2011 and 2012.  During each of these years, the USDA estimated that farmers had net farm income in excess of $120 billion.

However, on schedule Fs reported by individual farmers, they showed a net loss in 2011 of about $7.11 billion and for 2012 a net loss of $5.06 billion. 

Yeah, “simplification” is really why farmers need accrual accounting.  Not paying tax is a lot simpler.

 

Jeremy Scott, Portman’s Disappointing Tax Reform Plan (Tax Analysts Blog).

Len Burman, Profiles in Courage at the IRS (Really) (TaxVox).  It’s a good post, once you get past the manifestly false statement that the current scandals are “fake.”  And you’ll notice that Doug Shulman, unlike the hero of the Burman post, left on his own terms.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 320

 

 

Going ConcernThe Debate Heats Up Over How Many Computer Monitors You Should Have.  The good folks at GC quote some loser who says nobody needs more than one monitor.  Here’s how I feel about the issue:

monitors

Now if the one monitor was, oh, 3′ x 5′, I’d reconsider.

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/24/14: Iowa corporate tax, $409 million; Iowa tax credits, $337 million. And: Bozo no-nos!

Monday, March 24th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


20120906-1
How about a trade: Corporate Income Tax for Corporate Welfare.
  Interesting numbers from The Des Moines Register:

The state awarded $278.5 million in tax credits during the 2013 fiscal year, down 9.3 percent from the year before, according to a new revenue report.

The department estimates that Iowa will have to pay a maximum of $436.9 million for fiscal 2014, and $487.9 million in fiscal 2015. Those numbers are considered the state’s “contingent liabilities.” However, the department expects claims on the awards will be less.

The department expects the state will pay about $337.9 million in fiscal 2014, and $366.8 million for fiscal 2015.

The entire net revenue from Iowa’s corporation income tax for 2013 was $403.6 million, with an estimate for fiscal 2014 of about $409 million.  So the entire Iowa corporate tax system takes about $400 million from corporations and then hands over 75-85% of it to other businesses.   Let’s consider the difference to be a fee for administering this system of taking from the productive and giving to the well-connected.  It’s about a wash.

From the outside, the answer seems obvious: no tax credits, no corporation tax.  Iowa would go from having one of the very worst corporation income taxes — and the one with the highest stated rate — to one of the very best.  The downside is that it would displace a little industry of tax credit middlemen and fixers idle economic development officials.   If that’s a downside…

Related: The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

Chelsea Keenan, Are tax incentives an effective economic development tool? (Cedar Rapids Gazette). “But an October 2013 study published in the Journal of Regional Science that examined the possible benefits to states that offer manufacturers tax incentives receive, and determined there is no measurable gain.”

Lyman Stone, Illinois Speaker Madigan Proposes 3 Percent High-Earner Tax (Tax Policy Good).  Illinois is doing its best to make Iowa look good.

 

20121120-2Jonathan Adler, Was Delaying the Employer Mandate Legal? Did the IRS Even Check? (Volokh Conspiracyvia the TaxProf):

The legal justification for the employer mandate delay offered by the Treasury Department has been exceedingly weak.  Perhaps this is because the Treasury Department never considered whether it had legal authority to delay the employer mandate until after it made the decision to delay it.

More of the results-driven regulation we’ve been talking about.

 

roses in the snowPeter Reilly, Do Some Looking And Thinking Before Signing Form 1040 .  ”I’d like to suggest that you take a deep breath and actually look at your return before you take that final step.”  Excellent advice.

Kay Bell, 4 tax breaks for older filers

William Perez: What to Do if You Get a Call from the IRS Asking for Money.  If they haven’t contacted you by mail, hang up.   It’s a scam.

Kristy Maitre, recently of IRS and now with the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation, tells how to go about Requesting the Transfer an of IRS Audit.  ”Do not simply say that you want to transfer the audit. That will result, in nearly all cases, with a non-transfer.   You must state your case.”

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): L Is For Lost Property

Jack Townsend, Another UBS Depositor Indicted; the Russian Connection

Keith Fogg, What is the scope of a tax lien discharge versus the remaining tax lien (Procedurally Taxing)

 

haroldJoseph Henchman, Kevin Spacey at Annapolis Bar Tonight to Lobby Legislators for Subsidies (Tax Policy Blog):

Kevin Spacey is my favorite actor—I spent my entire recent vacation flight watching his movies—so it’s hard for me to say bad things about him. But he’s also a celebrity with an alleged net worth of $80 million lobbying for tax subsidies from Maryland taxpayers.

Sure, asking folks to subsidize Hollywood millionaires may seem odd, but as an Iowan said during the height of our starry-eyed film credit debacle:

But some benefits can’t just be measured on a dollar-for-dollar basis. The movies provide employment to local actors, construction crews, artists, caterers, drivers and a host of others. They expose non-Iowans to what the state has to offer. More intangible is the benefit of interactions in a state that can be cut off from the trends and centers of power. Not to mention the excitement factor. We’ve relied on caucuses every four years to bring action and celebrities to town. Now, sightings are anytime, any place.

So pay up, peasants!  You might see a star!

 

Renu Zaretsky, Tax Talk in the District, the Midwest, and Abroad.  It’s the TaxVox news roundup.

Tax Justice Blog, Big News in Ohio: Governor’s Unfair Tax Cut Plan Unveiled.  

Annette Nellen,Book recommendation – Geezer Rap

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 319

News from the Profession.  PwC Competing Against Shaving, Toys and Delicious Food for Guinness World Record Award (Going Concern).

 

Sometimes bad examples are the best teachers.  Blogger  Russ Fox provides some with his “Bozo Tax Tips” series for this year, beginning with Bozo Tax Tip #10: Email Your Social Security Number.  Don’t do it!  ”As I tell my clients, email is fast but it’s not secure.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/17/14: Celebrate the corporation due date responsibly! And more.

Monday, March 17th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


daydrinkers
Corporate 2013 returns are due today! Or at least the extensions.  It looks like massive celebrations are in store this year, for some reason, but be sure to get your filing in before you hit the bars.  A late S corporation return results in a stiff penalty: $195 per K-1.  That penalty will be repeated for each additional month the filing is late.

C corporations have their own late filing penalty, 5% of any deficiency.  If you owe but can’t pay, you should still file or extend; then the penalty is only 1/2% of the deficiency.

How should I file or extend?  Glad you asked.  Electronic filing is the best and safest way, because you can get electronic confirmation.  No trip to the post office, no holding on to a postmarked receipt, no worrying about the mail truck going up in flames.

If you prefer not to e-file, then take the trouble to get proof of filing.  The cheapest is to go to the post office and mail your return or extension Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested.  Get a stamped postmark for your package and put it in a safe place.  It also helps to write the certified mail receipt number on top of the return or extension before sealing the envelope for additional proof.

If you lose track of time because of all the festive distractions today, and you find the local post office has closed, you still may be able to get your filing in.  The IRS treats shipping on the due date by a designated private delivery service as a timely filing.  That means your local Fed-Ex office or UPS store might be able to take care of you.  If you do go that route, be sure you use one of the specific services approved by the IRS, and make sure the shipping slip uses today’s date.  You also will need the street address for the IRS service center that your filing is going to, as private delivery services can’t use P.O. Box addresses.

Oh, and apparently green is the official color for corporate return day this year.

Russ Fox, The Other March 17th Deadline: Form 1042s. “The form 1042 series (1042, 1042-S, and 1042-T) is used to report annual withholding for US-source income of foreigners.”

 

20120906-1The revival of the sales tax subsidy for the Iowa Speedway advances in the legislaturereports The Des Moines Register:

The Newton track has received a tax break since it opened in 2006 — a 5 percent rebate of state sales tax collected at the track, totaling about $3.5 million so far. But the law authorizing the tax break required that the facility must be owned at least 25 percent by Iowans.

The purchase by NASCAR, stock-car racing’s sanctioning body, means ownership is 100 percent from outside Iowa. A law change is required to keep the tax-rebate money flowing. Supporters of the tax break say it will help bolster Iowa tourism and spur the state’s economy.

Of course, this favors the track over every other entertainment and tourist venue in Iowa, none of whom get to keep the sales taxes they collect.

 

William Perez, Itemizing Deductions. “If the total of all these itemized deductions is higher than the standard deduction, then a person usually obtains the least amount of tax by itemizing.”

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): H Is For Holding Period

Kay Bell, Dealing with a 1099-K for tax-free residential rental income

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: Refundable Credits  “The term “refundable credit” refers to a tax credit that can produce a tax refund even if your tax liability is $0.”

Peter Reilly, Building Repair Deductions – Thirty Per Cent Of What?  ”All the toilets together perform a discrete and critical function in the operation of the plumbing system” is the best line that I could find in the ninety odd pages of Regulation 1.263(a)-3 “Amounts paid to improve tangible property”commonly known as the “repair regs”.    Peter makes a good effort at explaining a brutally boring set of rules that is actually also important.

Keith Fogg, Confusing Lien and Levy (Procedurally Taxing).  May you never need to know the difference.

Tony Nitti, Online Sportsbook Founder Held Liable for $36 Million In Tax And Penalties

 

20130121-2Annette Nellen, Brick wall hit by IRS in its efforts to regulate all return preparers.  Too bad, so sad.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 312

Alan Cole, Cadillac Tax Confirms: Employers Respond to Tax Changes (Tax Policy Blog). “According to the report, many companies are already making changes in anticipation of the tax, converting to less generous plans.”

Bill Gale, Howard Gleckman, Dave Camp’s Most Valuable Contribution to Tax Reform (TaxVox):

 Still, the 1000-page bill puts his plan out there in all its gory detail. It shows just how tough it is to pull together a reform that cuts rates and trims tax preferences while maintaining today’s revenue and the distribution of burdens.

It will be easier if you worry less about “maintaining today’s distribution of burdens.”  As far as I know, we haven’t achieved some perfect distributional model that should never be messed with.

 

From the Wall Street Journal comes Audit Bait: The Dirty Dozen — Moves That Could Trigger IRS Scrutiny:

  1. Forget to claim reported income.
  2. Take outsize deductions, especially for charitable gifts or travel and entertainment.
  3. Hide offshore accounts.
  4. Claim certain items on small-businesses returns.
  5. Pretend a money-losing pastime is a business.
  6. Use suspiciously round numbers.
  7. File an amended return.
  8. Use a dubious tax preparer.
  9. Be a tax protester.
  10. Provoke a whistleblower.
  11. Fail to claim canceled debt as income.
  12. Fail to file.

Yes, all those things are true.  But if you really want to get examined, you might consider putting your returns claiming refunds on absurd grounds on a website that purports to “crack the code.”  Just a thought, in case you don’t find your life exciting enough. (Hat tip: TaxProf.)

 

News from the Profession. Deloitte Exec Gets Six-Week Vacation Thanks to Wife’s Heavy Foot, Russian Frivolity (Going Concern)

I hear his parents are upset.  32-yr-old Playboy ‘playmate of the year’ in trouble over 90-YEAR-OLD BOYFRIEND (Malaysia Times)

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/13/14: Looming Payday Edition. And: incentives galore!

Thursday, March 13th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130104-1Deduction day looms.   March 15 is the deadline for calendar-year corporate return filings and payments.  It’s also an important deadline for accrual-basis taxpayers for another reason:  compensation accrued at year-end by a calendar-year accrual-basis taxpayer has to be paid by March 15 of the following year to be deductible in the year accrued.

As every first-year accounting student learns, accrual accounting tries to match expenses with the period in which the income is earned.  If a bonus is based on calendar-year sales or profits, it normally can’t be paid until after year-end, when the numbers are sorted out; still, the bonus is related to those sales, so accrual accounting counts the expense against that year’s income.

The tax law has many limits on accrual accounting.  For example, accrued expenses to “related parties,” typically owners and their families, can’t be deducted until the expenses are actually paid.  The tax law gives accrual businesses 2 1/2 months after year-end to pay accrued compensation to non-related employees.  Otherwise, the deduction is deferred until the year in which the employee is paid.

Does the compensation have to be paid by Saturday, or can I wait until Monday?  The tax law provides that when tax returns are due on a weekend, the deadline is extended to the following monday.  That’s why 2013 calendar-year corporation returns  are due March 17, 2014 – March 15 is on Saturday this year.

But the IRS says that doesn’t work for compensation.  Rev. Rul. 83-116 holds that it only applies to “acts required to be performed in connection with the determination, collection, or refund of taxes”  – things like filing returns.  So, according to IRS, the March 15 deadline still stands for payment 0f 2013 accrued compensation.  It’s not clear that the IRS would win in court on this — they have lost on a similar issue — but you don’t want to be the test case.  If you want to deduct 2013 accrued compensation on your 2013 return, pay it by Saturday.

 

 

haroldIncentives!  Coralville Likely on the Hook for Large Chunk of Von Maur Taxes.  Coralville marches to the beat of its own drummer, who apparently is heavily medicated.

Hey, let’s pay $34 million to build a Des Moines Convention Hotel!  Brian Gongol reports “The city financed the hotel to help spur convention business…but now it’s in danger of losing money.”  You don’t say.

Tax Justice Blog, Film Tax Credit Arms Race Continues: “Saying “no” to Hollywood can be a difficult thing for states, but here are a few examples of lawmakers and other stakeholders questioning the dubious merits of these credits within the last few weeks”.

Good.  Iowa doesn’t seem to have been badly hurt since it turned from subsidizing filmmakers to jailing them.

Related: Robert Wood, Film Taxes Ensnares Beckhams, Bob Geldof, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Annie Lennox & More

 

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): F Is For Foreign Tax Credit.  ”For many taxpayers, it’s more advantageous to claim income taxes you paid or accrued during the year to a foreign country or U.S. possession as a credit than as a deduction.”

William Perez, Chart: Total Refundable Credits from 1990 to 2011.  There are more of them now.

Peter Reilly, Hedge Fund, TEFRA And Community Property Give Woman Tax Nightmare

Russ Fox, The IRS Needs Volunteers for the Taxpayer Advocacy Panel

 

Cara Griffith, States’ Perspectives on Federal Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog)

Joseph Henchman, Nebraska Legislators Approve Inflation Indexing But Drop Major Tax Overhaul (Tax Policy Blog)

Howard Gleckman, Mike Lee’s Tax Plan: An Intriguing Idea That Would Add $2.4 Trillion to the Deficit (TaxVox)

Kay Bell, House panel finally looking at Internet sales tax legislation

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 308

News from the Profession.  Tweeting a Lot About Audit Stuff Can Get You a Job at Deloitte.  (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/7/14: Expanded Iowa 10-and-10 capital gain break advances. And: more rave reviews for Camp plan!

Friday, March 7th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1Expansion of Iowa 10-and-10 gain exclusion advances.  The bill to expand the availability of Iowa’s super-long-term capital gain break cleared its first legislative hurdle this week, as a House Ways and Means subcommittee approved H.F. 2129.

Iowa allows an exclusion from state taxable income of certain capital gains when the taxpayer meets both a 10-year material participation test and a ten-year holding period test.  This exclusion is available for liquidating asset sales and the individual tax on corporate liquidations, but is not available if the taxpayer is selling partnership assets or corporation stock to a third party, or for sales of less than “substantially all” of a business.

H.F. 2129 expands the exclusion “to include the sale of all or substantially all of a stock or equity interest in the business, whether the business is held as  a sole proprietorship, corporation, partnership, joint venture, trust, limited liability company, or other business entity.”

This would be a big change for Iowa entrepreneurs.  Consider how the current law affects a business started by two partners, with one older than the other.  The older partner retires more than ten years and pays full Iowa capital gain tax when he is redeemed out.  A few years later, the younger partner sells the business and retires himself.  The younger guy gets out with no Iowa capital gain tax under current law.  Under H.F. 2129, in contrast the 10-and-10 exemption would be available in both cases.

A “Fiscal Note” prepared by the Legislative Services Agency on the bill provides some statewide numbers:

Using State and federal tax returns of Iowa taxpayers, the Department of Revenue identified 369 tax returns reporting a capital gain for tax year 2012 where the taxpayer had participated in the business for a minimum of 10 years.

The total capital gain identified on those 369 returns that would be eligible under the capital gains exclusion expansion proposed in HF 2129 is $28.0 million.

Is this a good thing?  I think all capital gains should be tax-free, because they represent either a double-tax on the capital invested in them or, worse, a tax on inflation.  Anything that relieves this is arguably a good thing.  Still, it’s a complex carve-out for a limited class of taxpayers, one that creates a lot of errors by taxpayers who take the deduction erroneously or fail to use it when they are eligible; that sort of thing is almost a definition of bad tax policy. The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan would provide a much better approach.

 

O. Kay Henderson, Two tax cuts passed in 2013 showing up in February’s state tax report (Radio Iowa).  The increase in the Iowa Earned Income Tax Credit is properly understood as an increase in a welfare program and a poverty trap,  not a tax cut.

 

20140307-1Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: Passive Activity/Passive Activity Losses   

William Perez, Need to File a 2010 Tax Return? Deadlines and Resources.  Why 2010?  The statute of limitations for 2010 refunds expires April 15, 2014.

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): C Is For Clothing And Costumes.  Good stuff.    Related: Dress for success, but don’t look to the IRS for any fashion help.

Russ Fox, Your Check Might Not be in the Mail:

I used to live in Orange County, California. Earlier this week a US Postal Service caught fire as it was heading toward an airport after leaving the Santa Ana mail sorting center. So if you mailed something on Monday, March 3rd from ZIP Codes starting with 926, 927, 928, 906, 917 and 918, it might have been burnt to a crisp. All the mail the truck was carrying was destroyed (an estimated 120,000 pieces).

Another argument for electronic filing and payment.

Kay Bell, IRS criminal investigators are putting more tax crooks in jail.  If you are cheating on taxes big-time, you are a lot more likely to get caught than you might think.

 

taxanalystslogoThat means it must be a weekday.  More Arrogance and Secrecy From the IRS  (Christopher Bergin, Tax Analysts Blog):

I don’t know if these apparent political decisions were made by Lerner or others either inside or outside the IRS, because trying to get information out of that agency is like trying to get sweat out of a rock. Over the years, it has fought the silliest things. I’m only half kidding when I say that if you asked the IRS to see the kind of staplers it’s using, it would tell you it doesn’t have staplers.

The IRS will go to great lengths not to be scrutinized. And that breeds an atmosphere of no accountability — which leads to arrogance. We have seen that arrogance consistently throughout the congressional investigations of several IRS officials. And where will it lead us? Not to a good place, especially for those of us getting ready to file our yearly income tax returns. A tax collector that treats its “customers” as guilty until proven innocent is a tax collector out of control. That is precisely what the national taxpayer advocate has been warning about. If IRS officials don’t believe they are accountable to Congress, the rest of us don’t stand a chance.

This is part of an excellent and thoughtful post, written more in sorrow than anger by a long-time observer of the agency; you really should read the whole thing.  I’ll add that all of these seemingly endemic problems in IRS should warn us off the Taxpayer Advocate’s awful idea of giving IRS more control over the tax preparers who help taxpayers deal with the out-of-control agency.

 

Jack Townsend, Fifth Amendment and Immunity in Congressional Hearings.  Good discussion of the law, in spite of his calling the Issa investigations a “witch hunt.”  It’s the job of Congress to oversee federal agencies, especially an agency that has already admitted gross misbehavior here.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 302

 

20130113-3More rave reviews for the Camp “Tax Reform” plan:

William McBride, Camp and Obama Gang up on Savers

Kyle Pomerleau, Are Capital Gains and Dividend Income Tax Rates Really Lower Under the Camp Tax Reform Plan?  “If you take into account all the phase-outs of deductions and benefits in the Camp plan, marginal tax rates on capital gains and dividends are higher than current law at certain income levels.”

Tax Justice Blog, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp Proposes Tax Overhaul that Fails to Raise Revenue, Enhance Fairness, or End Offshore Tax Shelters

 

Roberton Williams, A Web Tool to Calculate ACA Tax Penalties  (TaxVox).  ”It is often said the tax is $95, but for many people it will be much more.”

News from the Profession.  Some CPA Exam Candidates Skeptical the Illinois Board of Examiners Can Tell Time (Going Concern)

 

Peter Reilly, Could You Make Tax Protester Theories Work For You?:

If you are willing to entirely discount the quite remote chance of criminal prosecution, it may well be a decent percentage play particularly if you are just about maximizing your current lifestyle rather than accumulating net worth and entirely amoral when it comes to meeting tax obligations…

I still think it is a really terrible idea to enact Hendrickson’s strategy, but that’s just me.

No, it’s not just you, Peter.  And unless your income is generally not subject to third-party reporting like W-2s or 1099s, you will be caught, and then clobbered by back taxes, penalties and interest.

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/6/14: My lips are sealed edition. And: more budget!

Thursday, March 6th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner still isn’t talking.  That would seem to make for a dull hearing of the House Committee investigating the harassment of Tea Party organizations by the IRS, but there was some interest.  From the Wall Street Journal:

A House hearing on the Internal Revenue Service scandal ended in acrimony, as the ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) accused Republicans of a “one-sided investigation” and GOP members walked out.

Chairman Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) ended the hearing after the lone witness, former IRS official Lois Lerner, declined to answer several of his questions, citing her Fifth Amendment privilege.

Yes, everyone is entitled to the protection of the Constitution, but those of us not sitting on a jury are also entitled to draw our own conclusions.  When the key figure in the scandal fears honest testimony will incriminate herself, you can be forgiven for questioning the President’s assertion that there is “not even a smidgen of corruption” involved.

Take it away, GoGos:

 

Althouse, After Lois Lerner re-asserts the 5th, Cummings yells at Issa and Issa cuts the microphone.  “Issa is closing down the meeting, Cummings asserts what he calls a “procedural question” that’s really a political scolding, and Issa cuts the microphone and walks out. It’s pretty unpleasant.”  Video provided.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 301

TaxGrrrl, Former IRS Official Refuses To Testify Again, Lawyer Blasts “Partisan” Hearing.

Kay Bell, Tempers flare at IRS hearing. Reality show, anyone?

Peter Reilly, Lois Lerner Takes The Fifth Again – Political Theater?:

There are two narratives about this whole mess.  One is that there was something of a left wing conspiracy inside the IRS to pick on the political activity of organizations that were not supposed to be mainly political, which hurt those groups in their effort to prevent the President from being re-elected.  My blogging buddy, Joe Kristan, supports that theory having grown up in Chicago, where all sorts of enforcement is politically motivated.The other narrative is that the whole thing is a phony scandal.  I think that I am the only person left who has looked at this without fully making up his mind.

As Peter notes, I think the science is settled.

 

William Perez, Health Savings Accounts Provide a Tax-Deductible Way to Save for Medical Expenses

 

Economic supergenius

Smidgenless.

Andrew Lundeen, Kyle Pomerleau, The Tax Changes in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget (Tax Policy Blog):

He proposes to expand the child tax credit and the EITC, two of the largest family tax benefits. His budget also proposes to alter retirement plans and create an auto-enrollment IRA program. In order to pay for these expansions, his budget will raise taxes on high-income earners through a series of changes to tax expenditures, most notably placing a cap on the value of itemized deductions.

It will never be enough.  The rich guy isn’t buying.

Renu Zaretsky, Obama’s 2015 Budget Hits Capitol Hill (TaxVox)

Tony Nitti, Tax Aspects Of The President’s FY 2015 Budget . “…in simple terms, the President’s proposal would add a(nother) alternative minimum tax calculation to the current individual income tax regime.”

Paul Neiffer, How Much Longer for Section 1031 Exchanges?  “  Most likely, nothing will happen this year, but in 2015, watch out.”

 

Cara Griffith, California Needs a Dose of Sunshine (Tax Policy Blog):

This issue arose after references to two forms were noticed in an FTB multistate audit technique manual

 By not disclosing forms like this, the FTB is enabling its auditors to take inconsistent positions regarding similarly situated taxpayers. If that’s the case, any guidance the FTB puts out on its application of the unitary business principle is meaningless.

When you have to disclose the standards you apply, you risk being held to them.

 

News from the Profession.  The Latest New Jersey CPA Magazine Cover is a Little Freaky (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/27/14: Doomed Tax Reform Frenzy Edition.

Thursday, February 27th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

President Reagan signs PL 99-514, the Tax Reform Act of 1986.
When I think of income tax reform, I think big.  I think of massive elimination of tax deductionPresident Reagan signs PL 99-514, the Tax Reform Act of 1986.s, with great big rate reductions as consolation for taxpayers that lose their breaks.  I look for elimination of alternative ways of tracking income and deductions, with the idea that one way that everyone can understand is better than special breaks for different industries.  I look to eliminate double taxation of income everywhere, including elimination of capital gain taxes and integration of the corporate and individual systems.

By these standards, the tax reform plan put forth by Dave Camp, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is a disappointment.  While it would make many simplifying changes to the tax law while rates, it would leave behind a system that would still be very recognizable to a Rip Van Taxman who fell asleep in 1993.  It prunes tax complexity, but it doesn’t begin to clear the forest.

Still, politics being what it is, trimming the weed sanctuary is probably the best we can expect.  Maybe better than we can expect.

 

Tony Nitti has already posted detailed walk-throughs of the individual and business parts of the proposal, so there’s no point in me repeating his work.  Instead I will list some of the bigger changes proposed, with my commentary.  I don’t expect anything like the Camp plan to be enacted during the current administration, but I think it gives us an idea of the kinds of changes that could happen after 2016, if the stars align.

Individual Rates.  The bill would have a three-bracket tax system: 10%, 25%, and 35%.  The 35% bracket would replace the current 39.6% bracket, and would only apply to income other than “qualifying domestic manufacturing income.”  Lowering rates is fine, but this would retain the stupid difference between manufacturing income and other income embodied in the current Section 199 deduction.  It’s a complex and economically illiterate break for a favored class of income paid for by higher rates on all other income.

Capital gains and dividends would be taxed as ordinary income, but only after a 40% exclusion.  That would be a 21% net rate on 35% taxable income. (Initially I said 14%, math is hard).

Against the forces that have risen on K Street, there is no victory.

Against the power that has risen on K Street, there is no victory.

Deductions would be trimmed back.  The maximum home mortgage interest debt allowed for deductions would be $500,000, instead of the current $1.1 million.  Medical deductions would go away.  Standard deductions would increase to $11,000 for individuals and $22,000 for joint filers.  Many itemized deductions would reduce taxes only at the 25% rate, rather than the 35% top rate.  Charitable deductions would be simplified, but only deductible to the extent they exceed 2% of AGI.  The deduction for state and local taxes would be eliminated.

The increase in the standard deduction is an excellent idea.  I’m fine with reducing the mortgage interest deduction.   The limiting of deductions to the 25% rate is pointless revenue-raising complexity.  The elimination of the medical deduction will be a real burden on people in skilled nursing care; they are the people who generally can take this deduction.  Taxing them while they burn through their assets paying nursing home costs  will only put them into title 19 that much sooner.

While I am sympathetic with the policy reasons for not allowing a deduction for state and local taxes, those reasons don’t apply to taxes arising from pass-through business income.  State taxes are a cost of doing business for those folks, and should be deductible accordingly.

Alternative Minimum Tax would go away.  About time.

Corporate rates.  The proposal replaces the current multi-rate corporate tax with a flat 25% rate.  Excellent idea, as far as it goes, but it is flawed by the 35% individual top rate; it provides a motivation to game income between the individual and corporate system.

The proposal eliminates a number of energy credits while retaining the research credit.  I think that it would be better to get rid of the research credit and lower rates.  I think the IRS is no more capable of identifying and rewarding research than it is of fairly administering political distinctions.  Unfortunately, the credit seems to be a sacred cow among taxwriters.

Incredibly, the Camp corporate system gets rid of the Section 199 deduction while retaining a similar concept for individual rates.  Here it doesn’t get rid of pointless and economically foolish complexity; it just moves it around in the code.

LIFO inventories go away under the proposal.  As this comes up every proposal, it’s going to happen sometime.

Carried interests become taxable as ordinary income.  This is more complexity, apparently a sop to populist rhetoric.

Pass-throughs would be tweaked.  S corporation elections would be easier to make, and could be delayed until return time.  Built-in gains would only be taxable in the first five years after an S corporation election, instead of ten years.  Basis adjustments on partnership interest transactions would be mandatory, instead of elective.

Fixed assets would have mixed treatment.  While the Secti0n 179 deduction would permanently go to $250,000, depreciation would go to a system more like the pre-1986 ACRS system than the current MACRS system.

20120702-2Cash basis accounting would be more widely available, and fully available to Farmers and sole proprietors.  This is a step in the wrong direction.  Advocates of cash accounting say that it provides “simplicity,” implying that poor farmers just can’t handle inventory accounting.  Meanwhile these “poor” bumpkins play this system like a fiddle, manipulating cash method accounting to achieve results that are only available through fraud to the rest of us.  Modern farm operations with GPS, custom planting and nutrient plans, and multi-million dollar asset bases are as able to handle accrual accounting as any other business of similar size.

There’s plenty more to the plan, but you get the idea.  I find it disappointing that they don’t replace the current system of C and S corporations with a single system with full dividend deductibility.  I find the treatment of preferences and tax credit subsidies half-hearted.  I think there should be fewer deductions, fewer credits, and a much bigger standard deduction.  That’s why I’d never get elected to anything, I suppose.

The TaxProf rounds up coverage of the proposal.  Other coverage:

Peter Reilly, The Only Comment On Camp Tax Proposal You Need To Read – And Some Others

Paul Neiffer, Tax Reform – Part ?????!!!!!  “Since this is a mid-term election year, it has little chance of passing this year, but it is important to note possible changes that Congress is pondering.”

Annette Nellen, Congressman Camp’s Tax Reform Act of 2014 Discussion Draft

Leslie Book, Quick Thoughts on Procedural Aspects of Camp’s Tax Code Overhaul Proposal and the Spate of Important Interest Cases (Procedurally Taxing)

Joseph Thorndike, Democrats and Tax Reform: Can’t Do It With ‘Em, Can’t Do It Without ‘Em (Tax Analysts Blog).  ”If you’re a left-leaning populist, what’s not to like?  Well, at least one big thing: The bill doesn’t raise taxes.”

TaxGrrrl, Camp’s Tax Proposal: The First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All The Lawyers 

Kyle Pomerleau, Andrew Lundeen, The Basics of Chairman Camp’s Tax Reform Plan (Tax Policy Blog).  ”We’ll have more analysis on the plan soon – it will take us days to get through the 979 pages of legislative text – but in the meantime, here are the basics.”  They note that the plan uses tax benefit phase-outs based on income — a bad idea that creates hidden tax brackets.

Renu Zaretsky, Tax Reform: one foot in front of the other (TaxVox)

 

Other Things:

William Perez, Last Year’s State Tax Refund Might Be Taxable

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: Depreciation 

Trish McIntire, Brokerage Statements.  ”Actually, my problem is clients who don’t bring in the whole statement.”

 

Jack Townsend, Wow! Ty Warner Is Ty Warner is Not Quite the Innocent Abroad 

Janet Novack, Senate Offshore Tax Cheating Report Skewers Credit Suisse And U.S. Justice Department 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 294.  I note that Lois Lerner won’t testify without being immunized from prosecution.  ”Not a smidgeon” of wrongdoing, indeed.

 

Finally, Seven People Who Have a Worse Busy Season Than You, from Going Concern.  That’ll cheer you right up.

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/25/14: Temporary Permanence Edition. And: Reform week?

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2Some of us just have jobs.  Others have callings.  If you feel you have a calling, it can be very difficult to sway you from your vocation.  Sometimes not even a permanent federal court injunction will do the trick.  

A permanent injunction apparently didn’t stop an Iowan whose calling appears to be to spread the gospel of ESOP.  John L. Henss was already promoting his vision of Employee Stock Ownership Plans when I moved to Iowa as a young CPA in 1985.  By a remarkable coincidence, Iowa had more than its share of tax litigation involving flawed ESOPs over the years (see, for example, here, here and here).

One of the most remarkable cases was the 1992 case of Martin v. Feilen (CA-8, 965 F.2d 660), involving alleged self-dealing and fiduciary breaches among the trustees and administrators of Feilen Meats, an Iowa packer.  Among the defendants was John L. Henss.

Judge Loken authored the decision of the Eighth Circuit on the case, a decision that went badly for Mr. Henss (my emphasis):

Henss was the dominant decision-maker for FMC and the ESOP with respect to all or nearly all the transactions discussed in this opinion. He also holds himself out as an ERISA expert who has structured and provided other services and advice to hundreds of ESOPs. In addition to engaging in the actionable self-dealing we have described, Henss’s trial testimony displayed an appalling insensitivity to the proper role of ESOPs and ESOP fiduciaries. For example, Henss stated repeatedly his view that ESOP fiduciaries are exempt from ERISA’s “prudent man” rule when investing plan assets in an employer’s stock or property.

To summarize, we affirm the district court’s judgment that Henss and Stephen Thielking, and their personal corporations, breached their ERISA fiduciary duties in causing the ESOP to engage in the above-described Transactions Subject to ERISA, and we affirm the district court’s permanent injunction against Stephen Thielking and Stephen K. Thielking, C.P.A., P.C. We modify the permanent injunction against John Henss and John L. Henss C.P.A., P.C., to further enjoin them from acting as a service provider to any ERISA plan. 

So that ended Mr. Henss’ career in the ESOP field, right?  Never underestimate the tenacity of a man with a calling.  His name reappeared in another ESOP case yesterday in Tax Court.  It was a remarkable case, actually, in that a partnership had an Employee Stock Ownership Plan.  But when you have a calling, a lack of a corporation with actual stock won’t stand between you and an ESOP.  But mere tenacity isn’t enough, according to Judge Kerrigan (my emphasis):

Respondent contends that because K.H. Co. was a partnership for tax purposes, it did not have qualifying employer securities. The parties do not dispute that K.H. Co. was a partnership at all relevant times. Indeed, K.H. Co. admits that it filed Forms 1065, U.S. Return of Partnership Income, for tax years ended September 30, 1995 through 2004. Because K.H. Co. was a partnership for tax purposes and did not have any stock, it did not have any qualifying employer securities for purposes of sections 409(l) and 4975(e)(7) and (8) in which the plan could invest. Therefore, petitioner failed to operate as an ESOP pursuant to its terms when K.H. Co. became its employer, sponsor, and administrator. 

But aside from the obvious one, what problems might this ESOP have?  Perhaps the required ESOP stock appraisal, performed for 2000, 2001 and 2002 by none other than John L. Henss.  Apparently “permanent” had already worn off by then.  From the Tax Court:

John L. Henss was chosen to appraise K.H. Co. The administrative record includes appraisals and appraisal summaries for only 2000, 2001, and 2002. Written on “JLH” letterhead, the cover letter of each appraisal states: “At your request, we have prepared an appraisal valuation of KH Company, L.L.C.” The cover letters refer to the “appraised value of common stock of KH Company, L.L.C.” The cover letters are all dated, but none of them are signed.

Mr. Henss’ qualifications are not described in the appraisals. The appraisal summaries state merely: “The undersigned holds himself out to be an appraiser. The undersigned is an accountant who is familiar with the assets being appraised.” Mr. Henss did not sign or date the appraisals or the appraisal summaries. 

     Petitioner claims that Mr. Henss has degrees in English, accounting, and law. Petitioner further claims that Mr. Henss “has been preparing appraisals of stock for employee stock ownership plans for many clients for several years” and that he is the author of a book on ESOPs. Petitioner also contends that Mr. Henss was in all other respects a person who was “independent” as set forth in the statute, the regulations, and the Commissioner’s announcements on the subject.

Section 1.170A-13(c)(5)(i)(A), Income Tax Regs., provides that a qualified appraiser is an individual who includes on the appraisal summary a declaration that he or she holds himself or herself out to the public as an appraiser or performs appraisals regularly. Because there is no signature below the statement on the appraisal summaries that the “undersigned holds himself out to be an appraiser”, the plan failed to meet this requirement. 

Not to mention that he had been enjoined from providing services to ERISA plans — a term that would seem to cover appraisal services.

Whatever the nature of his calling, things haven’t universally gone well in court for clients who have used Mr. Henss.   Perhaps when selecting an ESOP service provider, one might well take federal court injunctions into consideration.

Cite: K.H. Co. LLC Employee Stock Ownership Plan, T.C. Memo 2014-31.

 

taxanalystslogoIt appears the House GOP will release its tax reform plan today.  Tax Analysts Blog is on it:

Martin Sullivan, Can Dynamic Scoring Save Tax Reform? Don’t Count on It

Jeremy Scott, How to Pay for Camp’s Tax Reform Plan

Clint Stretch, The Tax Reform Blame Game

Renu Zaretsky, House GOP Tax Plan Hits This Week; IRS Getting Worked Over But It’s Still Working.  This is a new daily news roundup at TaxVox.

Tax Justice Blog, State Tax Breaks Pile Up.  Government by special favor always has its fans.

 

William Perez, Reporting Unemployment Compensation Benefits

S-SidewalkTony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: 2013 Tax Planning Is Not Finished For S Corporations – How To Purge Problematic Earnings and Profits   

Kay Bell, Most taxpayers support tax preparer competency standards.  I find this a meaningless result, a question posed to people who have given approximately no thought to the issue and who have more developed views of Miley Cyrus than John Koskinen.

Peter Reilly,  New Jersey Gets To Second Guess IRS On Estate Tax Marital Deduction 

TaxGrrrl, Pharrell Williams & The Ultimate Charitable Hat Trick   

 

Liz Malm, Mississippi Lawmakers Consider Firearm Sales Tax Holiday (Tax Policy Blog).  Even for a good cause, sales tax holidays are a bad idea.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 292

Is there nothing the tax law can’t do?  Meanwhile in Canada, You Get a Tax Credit For Not Stinking the Joint Up (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/24/14: WSJ highlights tax season ID theft. And: Shock! Film Tax Credit Corruption!

Monday, February 24th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
The "Chromaro" purchased with ID-theft frauds by a Florida thief.

The “Chromaro” purchased with ID-theft frauds by a Florida thief.

The Wall Street Journal covers identity theft today: “Identity Theft Triggers a Surge in Tax Fraud”   It seems to be designed to tell what a great job the authorities are doing to fight the problem.  It’s nice that they’re stepping up the efforts, but the time to do that was four years ago, when the problem started exploding.  But the IRS was too busy with its attempt to regulate practitioners to be bothered with keeping billions from going out the door to two-bit grifters.  The article refers delicately to the grifters:

The scam, which involves repeatedly filing fake tax returns electronically and receiving refunds within days, is so enticing it is attracting suspects not typically associated with white-collar crime. On Friday, two members of an alleged crack-dealing gang in Miami were indicted on charges they also ran a tax-refund scam on the side. Suspects typically steal lists of names and Social Security numbers. Then they file large numbers of electronic returns claiming refunds, and can start getting money before investigators spot the fraud.

The story notes that stealing from the taxpayers is only part of the damage caused:

The crime creates two victims—the U.S. Treasury and individual taxpayers, who only learn of the fraud when they try to file their legitimate returns. Those taxpayers are stuck with the hassle of proving to the IRS that the previous document was a phony claim.

And the process can drag over years, as an ID-theft victim who works with Jason Dinesen would attest.   It’s a disgrace that the IRS has done so poorly at preventing ID theft, and it is doubly disgraceful that they don’t do a better job helping the victims of IRS negligence.

For your part, don’t help the ID thieves.  Never disclose your social security number.  Keep your tax information secure.  Don’t transmit your social security number in an unencrypted email.  If you want to transmit tax documents electronically, don’t send them as an email attachment.  Use a secure file transfer site, like our FileDrop site.

 

haroldDon’t let the door hit you.  ‘House of Cards’ threatens to leave if Maryland comes up short on tax credits (Washington Post, via Politico):

A few weeks before Season 2 of “House of Cards” debuted online, the show’s production company sent Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley a letter with this warning: Give us millions more dollars in tax credits, or we will “break down our stage, sets and offices and set up in another state.”

That’s the problem with paying people to be your friend.  The price only goes up. In California, the film credit scam industry may be losing a friend, according to Capital Public Radio: Calderon Indicted On Fraud, Bribery Charges:

The Department of Justice announced Friday that State Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) is facing 24 federal charges including bribery, wire fraud and money laundering. U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte said Calderon solicited and accepted $100,000.

“Ron Calderon, we allege, took the bribes in return for official acts. Such as, supporting legislation to those that would be favorable to those that paid him bribes and opposing legislation that would harmful to them. The indictment further alleges that Calderon attempted to convince other public officials to do the same.”

~Andre Birotte, U.S. Attorney

The legislation centered on a potential film tax credit and regulation of medical billing. Calderon is accused of accepting cash, trips, dinners and jobs for his children.

I think film tax credits, and all incentive tax credits, are fundamentally corrupt, as they provide better treatment for the well-connected at the expense of everyone else. In Iowa, though, they were able to rely on credulous legislators, without resorting to bribes.

Russ Fox, California State Senator Ron Calderon Indicted on Bribery & Tax Charges.  ”Mr. Calderon is facing a maximum of 396 years at ClubFed if found guilty on all charges.”

 

premier.gov.ru [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

premier.gov.ru [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

A victim of politically motivated tax prosecution goes free in Ukraine: Freed Ukrainian ex-PM Tymoshenko rallies protesters (CBC).  She had been imprisoned on politically-convenient tax charges by the toppled would-be dictators there.   With the complexity of the tax law, it is way too easy to indict somebody.  That’s why IRS partisanship is so dangerous.

And yes, it can (and has) happened here.

 

 

 

William Perez has the scoop on Reporting Investment Income and Expenses

Jana Luttenegger, Taxing Olympic Winnings.  (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog) Not a problem for the hockey team.

Kay Bell is right when she says Report all your income even if you don’t get a 1099.  The 1099 is a useful reminder, but income doesn’t become tax free if you don’t get one.

TaxGrrrl, IRS Processing Returns, Refunds Faster Than In 2013.

Roberton Williams notes An Updated Marriage Bonus and Penalty Calculator at TaxVox.

 

 

William McBride, Empirical Evidence on Taxes and Growth: A Response to CBPP (Tax Policy Blog).  The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has never met a tax increase it doesn’t like, as if there never is a point that giving the mule more to carry slows it down. The McBride post mentions an often-overlooked aspect of our government spending:

The thing is in reality the federal government spends only a small fraction of its budget on public investments, such as roads and airports, and instead spends most of the budget on transfer payments, such as social security and healthcare. Transfer payments are unproductive and even harmful to economic growth, according to most studies. So in practice, income taxes mainly go to transfer payments, and this deal is a clear economic loser, according to the IMF and most academic economists. 

Some folks, like Jim Maule, act like any complaint about the level of government spending and taxes means you are against roads, courts and public order — when most of what the government does is takes money from some people and gives it to other people.

 

Jack Townsend, U.S. Authorities Focus on Swiss Insurance Products Used to Hide U.S. Taxpayer Assets and Income

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 291

The Critical Question.  Sylvia Dion CPA Asks – Where Are The Women? (Peter Reilly)

Going Concern, The Ten Stages of Busy Season.  ”You begin to hate every single human being in your office”

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Tax Roundup, 2/12/14: Lawless and Unregulated edition. And: Lincoln!

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130121-2As we reported yesterday, the IRS preparer-regulation power grab failed in the D.C. Court of Appeals.  The three-judge panel unanimously ruled that “The IRS may not unilaterally expand its authority through such an expansive, atextual, and ahistorical reading” of the law.

One grumpy IRS person told us that we would regret it, that Congress will pass a worse IRS-run preparer regulation regime.  While it’s possible, I don’t think Congress is in any mood to give the IRS more power right now (see TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 279).

It’s a victory for taxpayers, for preparers, and for the rule of law.  One hope it is a good omen for future court decisions on the on-the-fly rewrites of the Obamacare effective dates.

My endzone dance is here.  The Tax Prof has a roundup of coverage, as well as a guest op-ed: Johnson: The D.C. Circuit Rejects the IRS’s Regulation of Tax Return Preparerswhich says “At bottom, Loving stands for the proposition that exigency does not excuse illegality.” 

Other tax bloggers weigh in:

Russ Fox, DC Court of Appeals Rules Against IRS: Loving Decision Upheld.  ”The real problem is the huge complexity of the Tax Code, and the biggest villain here is Congress. Rather than regulating tax professionals, we need to regulate (gut) the Tax Code itself.”

Leslie Book, Initial Reactions to the Government’s Loss in Loving (Procedurally Taxing):  ”The government may seek to get Supreme Court review of the matter, or may work with Congress to get specific legislative authority. I offer no views on the odds of the government seeking cert, but its sound beating in two opinions leaves the possibility of obtaining cert and a victory in the Supreme Court seemingly small.”

Joseph Henchman, Big Win for Taxpayers: IRS Loses Effort to Expand Power Over Tax Preparers (Tax Policy Blog).  ”In May 2013, we filed a brief opposing an IRS appeal of a court decision striking down their regulation of small tax preparers.”  That’s the brief I joined, along with fellow tax bloggers Russ Fox and Jason Dinesen.

Trish McIntire, The IRS Lost!  “I don’t know if there can be any more appeals (not a lawyer) but I bet there will be a tax preparer bill in Congress soon.”

 

20130419-1Paul Neiffer, When Farmers Barter.  While bartering is taxable, Paul muses: “Some of these barter transactions are properly reported, however, my educated guess is that much higher percentage is not.”

William Perez, How to Handle Owing the IRS

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Allocation of Partnership Liabilities ”Admit it. Nobody really understands what’s going on in this remote corner of the K-1; typically, most tax preparers just apply the tried-and-true “same as last year” approach to allocating liabilities, and trust that it won’t matter in the end.”  Oh, it does, it does.

Jana Luttenegger, “Extensive Wait Times” Ahead with the IRS (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  And it’s not like they were brief before.

Kay Bell, The pros and cons of tax refunds.  While logically you don’t want to let the taxman sit on your money, clients always seem happiest with a fat refund.  That leads many tax advisors to sandbag a bit on payments.

TaxGrrrl, Yes, Olympic Wins Are Taxable (And Should Stay That Way) 

 

Peter Reilly, Pilot To Black Panther To Pastor Calls For Financial Transparency In Churches 

 

Jack Townsend, Corporate Corruption Case Charged With Swiss Bank Accounts to Hide the Loot 

Tax Trials, The Tax Education of Lauryn Hill

Annette Nellen links to the Video of IRS Commissioner Koskinan on the filing season.

 

The Iowa Department of Revenue has a Facebook page!  It’s a good idea, and they actually answer questions, like this:

 20140212-1

It’s great that they are answering disgruntled taxpayers for everyone to see.  Best thing is that it’s available to anybody, not just Facebookers.  You don’t have to bring yourself to “like” the Department of Revenue to read it.

 

David Brunori, Tax Breaks for Lawyers — No Joke (Tax Analysts Blog):

I read recently in the Kansas City Business Journal that Missouri gave a big law firm $2.8 million in tax incentives to move to Kansas City. I thought there must be some kind of mistake. Certainly, no politician would agree to give citizens’ hard-earned money to lawyers. And certainly, they would not give citizen money to big-firm, wealthy lawyers. But once again, reality trumps good tax policy. The Missouri Department of Economic Development gave the nearly $3 million to attract the international law firm Sedgwick LLP to downtown Kansas City. 

Must be a rough neighborhood if that’s considered an improvement.  Or, more likely, Missouri has completely lost its mind.

 

Tax Justice Blog, The States Taking on Real Tax Reform in 2014.  One blog’s “real tax reform” is another blog’s march to madness.

News from the Profession: Big 4 Dude Says Dudes at His Firm Rewarded For Treating Non-Dudes Like Dudes (Going Concern)

 

LincolnToday is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.  He was born 205 years ago today in Kentucky, before anybody thought of an income tax.  His presidency saw the first U.S. federal income tax, passed to finance the Civil War.  The Revenue Act of 1861, Section 49, imposed a flat 3% levy “upon the annual income of every person residing in the United States, whether such income is derived from any kind of property, or from any profession, trade, employment, or vocation carried on in the United States or elsewhere, or from any other source whatever” over $800.  It was replaced by a progressive levy in 1862, with a 3% rote on income over $600, with a 5% rate kicking in at $10,000.

The tax expired under its own terms in 1866, after Lincoln’s death.  Lincoln never came back, but the income tax returned to stay in March 1913.

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/10/14: The New Mexico double-dip edition. And: we got it right. We’ll fix that!

Monday, February 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

bureauofprisonsTwo bites at the apple were two too many for a New Mexico man.  Evading $25 million in federal taxes is bad enough, but illegally collecting $225,000 in farm subsidies on top of that seems like piling on.  From a Department of Justice Press Release:

Bill Melot, a farmer from Hobbs, N.M., was sentenced to serve 14 years in prison today to be followed by three years of supervised release for tax evasion, program fraud and other crimes, the Justice Department, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of Inspector General announced today.  Melot was also ordered to pay $18,469,998 in restitution to the IRS and $226,526 to the USDA. 

Melot was previously convicted of tax evasion, failure to file tax returns, making false statements to the USDA and impeding the IRS following a four-day jury trial in Albuquerque, N.M.  According to court documents and evidence presented at trial and at sentencing, Melot has not filed a personal income tax return since 1986, and owes the IRS more than $25 million in federal taxes and more than $7 million in taxes to the state of Texas.  In addition, Melot has improperly collected more than $225,000 in federal farm subsidies from the USDA by furnishing false information to the agency.  

He had been sentenced to only five years, but the appeals court decided he needed some more time before putting in another crop.

For a little farmer, Mr. Melot got around:

  Additionally, Melot maintained a bank account with Nordfinanz Zurich, a Swiss financial institution, which he set up in Nassau, Bahamas, in 1992, and failed to report the account to the U.S. Treasury Department as required by law.

If the government’s sentencing memorandum is to believed, Mr. Melot isn’t down with this whole paying taxes thing, filing a blizzard of “baseless” motions and attempting to conceal assets.  For example:

Defendant’s disregard for this Court commenced immediately… Within 24 hours of his release, between August 21 to August 24, 2009, Defendant and his immediate family were observed purchasing 19 money orders for $1000 each at a Moneygram counter, which is located at the Walmart in Hobbs, New Mexico.

a. Each money order was for $1,000.
b. Each money order listed “Bill Melot” in the memo line. The money orders also each listed Defendant’s home address, 2805 E. Rose Road.
c. Each money order was payable to Mueller, Inc., a Ballinger, Texas company, which builds outdoor sheds.

Videos from Walmart showed Defendant wearing the same clothing that he wore when he was released from custody. The money orders, along with an additional $5,260.94 in cash, were used to pay off the balance due on a metallic shed for Defendant’s farm, which he claimed not to own in his statement to Pretrial Services. The purchase of this barn flatly contradicted Defendant’s earlier claim of near indigence

The appeals panel seems to have believed the prosecution, as Mr. Melot got the full sentence requested.

Russ Fox has more at Really Big Tax Evasion Leads to Really Long Sentence at ClubFed.

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

Oops.  It appears the Iowa legislature accidentally repealed the state sales tax on heavy equipment purchases in 1998, reports Siouxcityjournal.com:

The inadvertent change – which slipped by the department, the legislative code editors, and lawmakers and their staffs in the vetting process — didn’t come to light until last summer, when an attorney contacted the department about the Iowa Code section. At that time, legal staff at the department and the Iowa Attorney General’s office determined that the 2008 action had “rendered that tax obsolete,” Daniels said.

“It was not the department’s intention, nor do we believe that it was the Legislature’s intention, to remove that tax or repeal that tax,” said Daniels, whose agency has asked lawmakers in Senate Study Bill 3117 to restore the sales tax on heavy equipment retroactive to July 1, 2008. 

Sound tax policy tells the legislature to expand the exemption, rather than repeal it.  The heavy equipment will normally be used in business, and business inputs shouldn’t be subject to sales taxes.  It just shows that the General Assembly can occasionally get it right, but will immediately take corrective action when it finds out.

 

 

William Perez offers An Overview of the Income, Deductions, Tax and Payment Sections of the Tax Return

Kay Bell comes through with 6 steps to help you become the best tax client. She omits step number seven: pay your preparer promptly.  No matter how good you are with the first six steps, omitting step seven disqualifies you from the “best” list.

TaxGrrrl, Delayed Tax Refunds, The EITC & How We’re Getting It Wrong   

 And despite its original intent, if the idea is to encourage taxpayers to work more, the current iteration of the EITC fails miserably. As you earn more, your benefits go down, not up. At some point, the incentive to work more is mitigated by the specter of a lesser credit.

It’s a poverty trap.

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.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 277

Sounds like a good reason to me.  Broken Tax Code Offered as Reason for Reform (Annette Nellen)

Peter Reilly, Benefit Of Clergy – Why Special Tax Treatment For Ministers Needs To Go.  Constitutional Does Not Equal Sound Tax Policy”

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for 02/07/2014 (Procedurally Taxing).  It’s a roundup of tax procedure cases and posts.

Jack Townsend, Germany Moves Against Offshore Bank Evaders 

An unwarranted meattax approach: Scientist Proposes Discouraging Meat Consumption with New Tax (Joseph Henchman, Tax Policy Blog).

Flicker image courtesy Michael Coghlan under Creative Commons license.

Flicker image courtesy Michael Coghlan under Creative Commons license.

 

Career Corner.  No Shirt, No Shoes, No Accounting Degree, No Probl– Actually, Small Problem (Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/5/14: Tax Credits do it all! And: advice from a champion.

Wednesday, February 5th, 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.

Tax Credits! Is there nothing they can’t do?  Bill offering tax credits to rehab abandoned public buildings advances (Jason Noble, Des Moines Register):

House Study Bill 540 adds abandoned public buildings to the list of properties eligible for tax breaks under the state’s Redevelopment Tax Credits program, meaning businesses or nonprofits could obtain state aid for such projects as they currently can on renovations of industrial or commercial properties.

It’s an idea that Gov. Terry Branstad highlighted in his Condition of the State Address last month, and appears to have bipartisan support.

This is a back-door appropriation to help out school districts and local governments, but running it through tax return hides it from those pesky taxpayers who foot the bill.  As with Congress, the Iowa General Assembly sees the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy.

 

20121120-2Arnold Kling exposes the vastness of the Right Wing Conspiracy:

The Congressional Budget Office, a Koch-funded organization known to be affiliated with the Tea Party, writes,

CBO estimates that the ACA will reduce the total number of hours worked, on net, by about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent during the period from 2017 to 2024, almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor—given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive.

A conspiracy so vast…

 

James Schneider, guest-posting at Econlog, discusses why we pay our taxes in  The Sucker Tax:

Imagine a state of anarchy (a lack of government not a house full of boys). An evil genius announces that he will impose a sucker tax. Everyone will be taxed ten dollars, and the proceeds will be redistributed back to all the citizens in equal shares without reference to who paid the tax. In a certain sense, this tax maximizes unfairness. It serves no other purpose than to punish people in direct proportion to how much of the tax they paid. To make tax compliers feel even more ridiculous, the evil genius announces that he will make no effort to punish “tax cheats.” A fair outcome of the game requires that there be no suckers. This will occur if everyone evades the tax. However, it will also occur if everyone pays the tax. Under this scenario, you probably wouldn’t pay the tax (even if you believed in fairness) because you would assume that no one else was going to pay the tax.

Now imagine that the evil genius announces that unless everyone pays the tax one person will be punished.

Read the whole thing.  I especially like this: “Compliance does not mean consent.”

 

20121220-3TaxGrrrl, Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Surviving The Winter With Some Tax Help From Uncle Sam

Paul Neiffer considers One Possible Section 179 Strategy. A reader asks Paul, “Should I wait to buy section 179 property until the date 179 property is raised from $25,000 to whatever?”  He has a way for farmers to plan around the uncertainty.

William Perez, Filing Form 1040A May Help Parents Qualify for the Simplified Needs Test.  For college financial aid.

Jason Dinesen asks, Why Doesn’t the IRS Push the EA Designation?:

The IRS already oversees the EA program. There’s no new infrastructure to put in place. No new exams to create. The infrastructure and exams already exist.

Yet throughout the IRS’s ill-fated attempts at creating the “Registered Tax Return Preparer” designation, the IRS rarely mentioned the EA program, except as a side note of “CPAs, EAs and attorneys are exempt from the RTRP testing.”

I think it’s because it would be inconvenient to their efforts to regulate all preparers.

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Peter ReillyThe Dog That Did Not Bark – IRS Issues Adverse 501(c)(4) Rulings To Deafening Silence:

An interesting question about the whole scandal narrative is how it would look if it turned out that many of the groups that the IRS “targeted”  were in fact inappropriately claiming 501(c)(4) status.  Tea Party Patriots Inc, for example, spends a lot of energy talking about how all those intrusive questions were harassment, but what if it turns that, in fact, all those phone calls that TPP Inc made telling people that November 2012 was the last chance to stop Obamacare from turning the country into a cradle to grave welfare state could be viewed as political? 

I think Peter is missing the point.  The issue isn’t whether every right-wing group qualified under the standards historically used for 501(c)(4) outfits.  It’s whether the rules were selectively enforced against right-side applicants —  as seems to be the case.   After all, it wouldn’t be OK to examine 1040s of only Republicans even if it turned out some of them were tax cheats.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 272

 

David Brunori, Casino Taxes for Horses or Children? (Tax Analysts Blog):

Horse racing has been a dying sport since Nathan Detroit bet on a horse named Paul Revere in Guys and Dolls. In Pennsylvania, the schools are broke. So naturally, when governments need money, they turn to a moribund pastime to pay the bills. 

For the children!

 

William McBride, New CBO Projections Understate the Average Corporate Tax Rate. “Particularly, the CBO is using as their corporate tax base measure domestic economic profits from the BEA, which includes both C and S corporations, even though S corporations are pass-through entities not subject to the corporate tax.”  Well, that’s just nuts.

Tax Justice Blog, Gas Tax Remains High on Many States’ Agendas for 2014

 

Joseph Thorndike, Debt Limit Debates Are Good for Theater, Not For Policy Reform. (Tax Analysts Blog)

Jack Townsesnd, TRAC Posts Statistics on Criminal Tax Enforcement Related to IRS Referrals   ”[A] surge in IRS criminal investigations referred under Obama has fueled an increase in the number of cases prosecuted.”

 

Answering the Critical Question: What Kids Peeing in the Pool Can Teach Us About Tax Compliance (Leslie Book, Procedurally Taxing)

News from the Profession: McGladrey Interns Are Busy Learning Their Colleagues Are Boring, How to Use an Ice Cream Truck (Going Concern)

 

Nice Work, Champ.  It’s funny how hard it can be for some people to heed their own good advice.  Take this North Carolina man:

Prosecutors said Larry Hill, who coined himself “the people’s champ” for his efforts to keep local children out of trouble, didn’t live by his own message and that his case represented “disturbing hypocrisy.”

In a YouTube clip posted in November 2012, Hill says, “I want all my young people to think before you act. Trouble is too easy to get into, and once you get into trouble, you’ll be all by yourself.”

Federal Judge Earl Britt sentenced Hill to 100 months in prison for conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and 18 months for filing false tax returns.

If it’s any comfort, Mr. Hill will have plenty of company where he’s going.  But he will have to get used to a more spartan existence:

The judge agreed to the lower sentence of 100 months but said Hill deserved the “most severe punishment to reflect the seriousness of the offense,” pointing out that Hill used much of the money to buy himself expensive jewelry and cars, including a Maserati. The judge also noted that Hill was on supervised release from an insurance fraud prison term when he committed the tax fraud.

That doesn’t make his advice any less sound:

He should follow it sometime.  Russ Fox has more on Mr. Hill.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/21/14: Weaponizing the IRS. And: whither Section 179?

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

The new, “weaponized” IRS is a focus of Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, in a USA Today Column:

Since then, of course, the new “weaponized IRS” has, in fact, come to be seen as illegitimate by many more Americans. I suspect that, over time, this loss of moral legitimacy will cause many to base their tax strategies on what they think they can get away with, not on what they’re entitled to. And when they hear of someone being audited, many Americans will ask not “what did he do wrong?” but “who in government did he offend?”

This is particularly true since the Obama administration is currently changing IRS rules to muzzle Tea Partiers.

While I don’t think it’s that bad yet, it’s headed that way if things don’t change.  And, as Glenn points out, it’s not changing:

Meanwhile, the person chosen to “investigate” the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party groups in 2010-2012 is Barbara Bosserman, a “long-time Obama campaign donor.” So the IRS’s credibility is in no danger of being rebuilt any time soon.

I think this is a terrible and shortsighted mistake by the Administration.  So much of its agenda, especially Obamacare, depends on effective IRS administration, but as the recent budget agreement proved, the GOP isn’t going to fund the IRS when it thinks that’s the same as funding the opposition.

The USA Today piece makes broader points about the effect of the loss of faith in civil servants as apolitical technocrats; read the whole thing.

Via the TaxProf.

Andrew Lundeen at Tax Policy Blog has two new posts on tax reform.  In Tax Reform Should Simplify the Code and Grow the Economy, he says:

We need to eliminate the biases in the code against savings and investment, so individuals have the incentive to add back to the economy, and businesses have the capital to buy new machines, structures, and equipment – all the things that give workers the ability to be more productive and earn higher wages. And we need a tax code that is simple and understandable, so taxpayers know exactly what they pay and why. 

Max Baucus

Max Baucus

We’ve been going the wrong way now for 27 years.  In Responses to Senator Baucus’s Staff Discussion Drafts, he curbs his enthusiasm for the tax reform options offered by outgoing Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus:

Generally speaking, we found that the tax reform proposals in these drafts go in the wrong direction. Our modeling shows that they damage economic growth, hurt investment, and, in many instances, violate the principles of sound tax policy: simplicity, transparency, neutrality, and stability.

The post links to a point-by-point examination of the Baucus proposals.

 

 

TaxProf, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the IRS:

This past year, much ado was made about the so-called “IRS-Gate” and concerns that the Obama administration may have used the agency to target Tea Party and other right wing groups. … [W]hat often is not stated during the Martin Luther King Holiday weekend is that King, early in his leadership of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), was routinely subjected to IRS audits of his individual accounts, SCLC accounts as well as accounts of his lawyers, first starting during the administration of President Dwight Eisenhower and continuing through the Kennedy administration.

If you audit me, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine…

Kay Bell, IRS abuse of power, now and in MLK’s day. “Overall, the IRS is paying for its operational indiscretions by receiving less money and more restrictions on how it does spend what funds it has.”

 

Paul Neiffer, Section 179 Update (or Not):

 Here are my official updated odds on when we might know what the actual 2014 Section 179 amounts will be:

By Memorial Day 10 Billion to 1

By Labor Day 10 Million to 1

By the November Mid-Term elections 500 to 1

Between the November Mid-Term Elections and December 15, 2014 25 to 1

After December 15, 2014 and before January 1, 2015 1 to 1

After December 31, 2014 5 to 1

I give about 5 to 1 odds in favor of the current Sec. 179 deduction being extended to $500,000 for 2014, and I think that Paul is right that it is most likely to occur during the lame-duck session.  I think odds are about 50-50 on an extension of 50% bonus depreciation. It’s too bad the Feds have closed Intrade, as this would be a betting market I would like to follow.

 

HelmsleyTaxTrials, Leona Helmsley, Angry Employees Strike Back:

Their mistreatment of employees and squabbles over bills are the stuff of legend and left prosecutors rife with eager witnesses when it came time for trial.

Helmsley was just as arrogant about her taxes, famously telling her housekeeper: “We don’t pay taxes, only the little people pay taxes.”  Helmsley participated in several schemes to avoid paying millions of dollar in income and sales taxes.  

Sometimes that sort of thing comes back and bites you; read the post to see how it bit Helmsley.

 

William Perez on an important topic: Tips for Securely Sending Tax Documents To Your Accountant.  First, don’t send anything with your Social Security Number in an unencrypted email.  Like many firms, Roth & Company offers a secure upload platform to send sensitive information.  If your tax firm has one, use it.  They are the safest way to transmit confidential information and files.

 

Phil Hodgen wonders whether there is a Delay in approving renunciations at State Department?  It’s harder to shoot jaywalkers when they are running away.

Missouri Tax Guy goes back to basics with An Introduction to the Double-Entry Bookkeeping System.  Just remember, Debits are on the door side.

Andrew Mitchel has posted a New Resource Page: 2013 Developments in U.S. International Tax

 

Kay Bell, $4 billion more tax breaks for Boeing from Washington State. Taxing you to give money to folks with good lobbyists.

Jim Maule is appropriately annoyed by the use of the term “IRS Code.”  It’s the Internal Revenue Code, and it’s written by Congress, not the IRS.  Remember that when you vote.

Keith Fogg, Qualified Offers – Is it meaningless to offer what you think a case is worth? (Procedurally Taxing)

Jack Townsend, The New Provision for Tax Restitution and Ex Post Facto

 

The Critical Question: Is Kent Hovind A Tax Protester?  It doesn’t seem like a more promising career path for him than his forays into evolutionary biology.

TaxGrrrl, Hot Tub Tax Machine: News Anchor Takes Plea In Scandal.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/7/2014: Koskinen proposes voluntary IRS preparer certification. And: Obamacare, small business incubator?

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

The new IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, would like for IRS to oversee a voluntary preparer certification program if their preparer regulation power grab fails in the courts, reports Accounting Today. But he would still prefer the power grab:

“If you could require certification of preparers and some educational requirements, it would help taxpayers feel some level of confidence that preparers actually know what they’re doing, and the vast majority of them do,” Koskinen said during a conference call with reporters after he was sworn in ceremonially Monday by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew with an audience of many IRS employees in attendance. “My sense is that we should be able to provide that same educational training and that background to preparers. If you can’t require it, offer it, and if you complete the information, you get a certificate that says, ‘I have completed the IRS preparer course.’ I think that could be over time very valuable to preparers, and consumers could ask preparers, ‘Have you gone through the IRS training?’ Whatever happens with the court case, we ought to be able to move forward on that and provide taxpayers with as much assurance as we can that the preparers they are dealing with have met some kind of minimum standards.”

Somebody should point out to him that there already is such a program: the Enrolled Agent Program.  If the IRS runs the now-mothballed Registered Tax Return Preparer literacy test as a voluntary program, it will be a crippling blow to the more rigorous and underappreciated EA designation. Before he worries more about the competence of preparers, Commissioner Koskinen should fix his agency first (my emphasis):

“When I look at the impact of the budget and the implications of further cuts or what happens the next time there’s a sequester, the first thing that happens is the waiting time on a phone call goes up and our service goes down,” he said. “We try to get to 70 or 80 percent, but sometimes it gets as low as 50 or 60, which means at 50 percent that half the people who are calling are getting no answer at all and no satisfaction. It just seems to me that’s intolerable. Taxpayers deserve better, so we need to do whatever we can to provide the services that taxpayers need and expect. They ought to be able to dial the IRS number and get an answer promptly, and they ought to be able to get accurate information.”

Even the shabbiest storefront preparer at least processes more than half of its customers.

 

Why Iowa income tax reform will go nowhere this yearvia the Sioux City Journal:

Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said Senate Democrats would formulate a tax-relief approach geared toward income tax cuts for middle-class Iowans, not the two-tiered plan being pushed by Republicans.

“Nobody in my caucus is going to go along with a scheme that leaves middle-class Iowans carrying more than their share of the tax burden in Iowa so rich people can choose whichever one works the best for them,” Gronstal said.

The idea that the state income tax system is somehow a way to fight The Rich Guy is willfully dumb, with zero-income-tax South Dakota right next door.  Oh, and you know what another word for “the rich” is?  Employers. 

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

 

Megan McCardle poses the question “Will Obamacare Inspire Small-Business Ownership?“:

One theorized benefit of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is that it will unleash a new era of entrepreneurship. Undoubtedly, there are people in the U.S. who wanted to start a business but feared losing their health insurance. Now that they know they can buy it, presumably they’ll be freed to take risks without fearing that they could end up uninsured and uninsurable.

Unfortunately, we just don’t have that much empirical evidence. European nations with more generous social safety nets have lower rates of entrepreneurship than the U.S. does, even though a thought experiment might suggest that generous welfare programs would encourage people to take more risks. Nor did we see a radical unfurling of entrepreneurial energy in Massachusetts after RomneyCare.

She also points out that Obamacare is a kick in the head for businesses that actually succeed:

Meanwhile, of course, the law imposes significant new penalties for growing a company; anyone with more than 50 employees not only has to provide health insurance for their employees, but they also have to meet a substantial regulatory burden to demonstrate that they’re providing affordable coverage. That might discourage people from growing their firms. 

You know, it just might.

 

Russ Fox, Your Mileage Log — Start It Now (2014 Version).  You would not believe how much it helps in an IRS exam.  And doing it retrospectively when the IRS exam notice arrives tends to go badly.

Peter Reilly, Post Divorce Tax Intimacy Can Be Riskier Than Post Divorce Sex   Ewww…

Paul Neiffer, Roger’s Top Ten. “Roger McEowen from Iowa State University and their Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation (CALT) just listed his Top 10 Ag Law and Taxation Developments for 2014.”

William Perez, Resources for Preparing and Filing Form W-2 for Small Businesses

Robert D. Flach tells us WHAT’S NEW FOR NJ STATE TAXES FOR 2013

Kay Bell, Tax Carnival #124: Happy New Tax Year 2014

20120829-1

 

Martin Sullivan, Goodbye Baucus, Hello Wyden (Tax Analysts Blog): ”On tax reform the current chair of the Senate Finance Committee has been a laggard. Wyden will be a leader.”

Jeremy Scott, A To-Do List for Wyden (Tax Analysts Blog).  Tax Reform, Extenders, and the Tea Party investigation.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 243

 

Joseph Henchman, Parking and Transit Benefits Tax Exclusion Parity Expires Again; Congress Should Consider Permanent Fix.  (Tax Policy Blog).  ”The tax code is probably the wrong place to be subsidizing commuters, and the entire provision ought to be eliminated. If Congress wishes to retain it, it ought to consider a non-expiring unified exclusion of all transportation commuting expenses.”

Tax Justice Blog, Corporate Income Tax Repeal Is Not a Serious Proposal.  Stawmen go up in flames.

Ben Harris, Rethinking Homeownership Subsidies (TaxVox).  He wants to revamp them.  I’d prefer to get rid of them.

 

TaxGrrrl, Cracker Barrel Waitress Serves Up Happiness, Gets Tip & More .  $6,000 more.

The Critical Question: Is College That Guy on eBay Who Never Paid For the Crap You Sent Him? (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/6/2014: Start this year’s year-end planning now! And lots more.

Monday, January 6th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140106-1I’m back.  It was good to take a little time off after year-end planning season and before the 2013 return season starts.  But now that it’s 12 below with howling winds, I might as well be at the office.

It was sort of a busman’s holiday, though, as I got an early start on my 2014 year-end tax planning.   While December year-end planning is important, it’s asking a lot of one month to do the work of all 12.  You can do some important tax planning in January that will pay off all year long.  For example:

- You can fund your 2014 Individual Retirement Account right now.  If you are married, you can also fund your spousal IRA.  The maximum contribution is $5,500, or $6,500 if you will reach at least age 50 by December 31, 2014.

- You can fund your 2014 Health Savings Account today too.  The HSA limit for taxpayers with a high-deductible plan and family coverage is $6,550 this year; for a single plan, the limit is $3,300.  You need to have a qualifying high-deductible insurance policy, but if you do, you can deduct your contribution and withdraw funds for tax-deductible expenses tax-free.  If you leave the funds in, they accumulate tax-free and can be withdrawn tax-free later for qualifying health costs.  If you stay too healthy to use the funds on medical care, withdrawals are taxed much like IRA withdrawals.

Using spousal IRAs and an HSA, a 50-year old with family coverage can tuck away a combined $19,550 right now and have it earn interest or dividends tax free right away — 15 1/2 months sooner than if you wait until April 15, 2015, the last day you can make these contributions.  And by saving it now, you won’t be tempted to spend it later in the year.

A few other things that you can do right away to get some of your 2014 year-end planning out of the way:

- If you care about estate planning, nothing keeps you from making the $14,000 maximum 2014 exempt gift to your preferred family donees right now.

- Make sure you’ve maxed out your 2014 401(k) deferral with your HR people — or at the very least, be sure you are deferring as much as you can get your employer to match.

- If you are an Iowan with kids, you can make a 2014 College Savings Iowa contribution that you can deduct on your 2014 Iowa 1040.  The maximum deductible contribution is $3,098 per donor, per beneficiary, so a married couple with two kids can put away $12,392 right now.  The Iowa tax benefit works like an 8.98% bonus to you for putting money in your college savings pocket.

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 242: Lois Lerner Is 2013 Tax Person of the Year.  The TaxProf provides access to a Tax Analysts piece that says:

     While many of the Service’s problems were not necessarily its own fault, the exempt organization scandal was an almost entirely self-inflicted wound. No one personifies that scandal more than Lois Lerner.

Lerner ignited a political and media firestorm when she confessed in May that the exempt organizations unit of the IRS Tax-Exempt and Government Entities Division inappropriately handled many Tea Party groups’ exemption applications.

The now former exempt organizations director’s admission and subsequent refusal to testify before Congress contributed to her becoming the public face of the scandal. Although Lerner does not bear sole responsibility for the IRS’s missteps in processing conservative groups’ exemption applications, the publicity of her role in one of the year’s biggest news stories earns her the distinction of being Tax Notes’ 2013 Person of the Year. 

And in spite of much wishful thinking, it is a scandal.

It’s worth noting that Tax Analysts gives an honorable mention to Dan Alban, the Institute for Justice attorney behind the District Court defeat for the IRS preparer regulation power grab.

 

1040 2013William Perez, How Soon Can a Person File Their 2013 Tax Return?: “The Internal Revenue Service plans to begin processing personal tax returns on Friday, January 31, 2014, for the tax year 2013 (IR-2013-100).”  But don’t even try to get it done until you have your W-2s and 1099s all in hand.

Jana Luttenegger, Reinstating Tax-Exempt Organizations  (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). She explains new IRS procedures for organizations that have lost their exemption by failing to file annual reports with the IRS.

Kay BellSocial Security taxable earnings cap in 2014 is $117,000. Thousands have already hit that tax limit.

Jason Dinesen, Small Business Planning: Got Your Financial Statements and Budget Done Yet?

Paul Neiffer, Remember Your Simplified Home Office Deduction

TaxGrrrl, What You Need To Know About Taxes In 2014: Expired Tax Breaks, Obamacare Penalties & More.

Russ Fox, 1099 Time.  A look at who has to issue information returns, and who gets them.

 

Robert D. Flach poses AN ETHICAL, AND PERHAPS LEGAL, DILEMMA:

Beginning with the 2014 Form 1040, am I legally, or ethically, required to assess my client a penalty for not having health insurance coverage?  Or can I, as I do with the penalty for underpayment of estimated tax, ignore the issue and leave it to the IRS to determine if a penalty is appropriate?  Will I face a potential preparer penalty if I ignore the issue?

It’s a good question.  I suspect they plan to make us ask the question, under the same sort of rules that make preparers unpaid social workers for the earned income tax credit.  I don’t expect to ever have to ask the question, though, as I think this dilemma will resolve itself by an indefinite delay, and eventual repeal, of the individual mandate as Obamacare falls apart.

 

David Brunori, State Tax Reform Advice for 2014 – Think About Spending (Tax Analysts Blog). Sometimes I think that’s all they think about.  But hear David out:

But in thinking about tax reform efforts in the past year, I am more convinced than ever that our refusal to rethink the size of government makes fixing problems with the tax code impossible. Here is what we know. Cutting government programs is difficult because each program has a constituency that will fight like a gladiator to protect its access to public money. So when the topic of tax reform comes up, conservatives and liberals vow to find a fix that will neither raise nor decrease spending. But we also know that politicians – the majority anyway – generally hate raising taxes. This reflects the fact that most of their constituents hate the idea of paying more taxes. But the costs of government continue to increase. And that leads to worse tax policy as states look to gimmicks, excises, gambling, and other junk ways of collecting revenue. It also ensures that some horrible tax policies are never fixed.

If the government dialed back spending to population-and-inflation adjusted 1990 numbers, I don’t think mass famines would result.

Scott Hodge, Despite Rising Inequality, Tax Code is at Most Progressive in Decades (Tax Policy Blog). I’m not sure “despite” is the right word here.

Annette Nellen, Continued bonus depreciation or tax reform?

Cara Griffith, Cyclists: The Next Great Source of Tax Revenue? (Tax Analysts Blog):

 While I strongly believe taxes should not be used to encourage or discourage behavior, the effect of requiring cyclists to register their bikes is not the big problem with these types of proposals. The real problem is that they don’t raise any revenue. Dowell’s suggestion that a bike registration fee would raise some $10 million for the city of Chicago is a pipe dream. Almost every cent would be used simply to administer the program.

From the interests of the bureaucrats proposing the program, just funding new patronage jobs is a perfectly acceptable result.

Howard Gleckman, Time To Park The Commuter Tax Subsidy (TaxVox)

Peter Reilly, Are IRS Property Seizures The Stuff Of Reality TV?   Now there’s some grim viewing.

The ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation has a shiny new look at its website.

Tony Nitti, Yes Virginia, There Is A Tax Extender Bill In Congress.

The Critical Question: If You Won the Lottery Tomorrow, Would You Still Go to Work? (Going Concern).  Only to clean out my desk, and laugh.

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/27/2013: Should you prepay your taxes for the deduction?

Friday, December 27th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20111040logoIs it worth paying taxes early to get a deduction early?   Many more taxpayers will have to ask that question this year for the unfortunate reason that the increase in the top regular rate to 39.6% makes their regular tax higher than the alternative minimum tax.  While it’s cold consolation, you can use your deduction for state tax payments when you aren’t subject to AMT.

First you have to make sure you can use the deduction at all.  You can’t use a deduction for taxes paid on your federal return if you don’t itemize, or if you are subject to AMT.  If you pass these tests, then you should ponder if you are going to be in a much higher bracket next year.  Assuming that you are in the same bracket for both years, and that no change in the tax law will affect your deduction, it’s a time-value-of-money question.

The charts below show the tax benefit of prepaying $1,000 of state and local taxes at the federal tax brackets. The first bracket shown is the top Iowa rate, to enable Iowans to determine the value of prepaying federal taxes.  It shows the present value at several key payment dates:

 

January 15: Federal fourth quarter 2013 payments are due

January 31: due date of Iowa fourth quarter estimated taxes.

March 1: due date of first Iowa property tax installment.

April 15: due date of most state individual tax returns.

April 30: due date of Iowa individual tax returns.

September 1: due date of second Iowa property tax installment.

pv tax prepayment3

If the benefit is in green, prepayment makes sense.  If it is red, the time value lost by paying early exceeds the benefit of accelerating the deduction by a year, assuming that the benefit will arrive on April 15.

This chart is only accurate assuming all of its underlying assumptions are met, so use it with caution.   It does illustrate that prepaying January taxes usually makes sense, but prepaying September taxes seldom does.

Come back tomorrow for another installment of our 2013 year-end tax tips series!

 

Howard Gleckman, Finance Chairman In-Waiting Ron Wyden Is A Tax Reformer (TaxVox):

The 64-year-old Wyden, who has a history of proposing creative, ambitious, and sometimes controversial ideas, initially sponsored a tax code overhaul in 2010 with former GOP senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. After Gregg retired, Wyden found another GOP cosponsor in Dan Coates of Indiana. Wyden-Coates follows the broad outline of the original Wyden-Gregg plan.

For individuals, it would set three rates—15-25-35. The top bracket would kick in at $140,000 for couples filing jointly. It would repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax, nearly triple the standard deduction, and create a 35 percent exclusion for long-term capital gains and dividends (equal to a rate of 22.75 percent for top-bracket taxpayers). It would eliminate the tax advantages of many employee benefits–but not employer-sponsored health insurance–and simplify tax-preferred savings.

While the plan would preserve most other individual tax preferences, the very large standard deduction would sharply limit the number of taxpayers who take them (even today, fewer than one-third itemize).

Wyden-Coates would cut the corporate rate to 24 percent from 35 percent.

I can think of a better tax reform, but Wyden-Coates would be a huge improvement over what we have.

 

taxanalystslogoCara Griffith, Enabling an Informed Debate (Tax Analysts Blog):

A transparent tax system, in which there are no “secret tax laws,” is a better tax system in that taxpayers more clearly understand the laws they are required to comply with, tax officials can more easily administer the law, and both sides can engage in a more informed debate about tax policy.

I would add that the transparency should extend to subsidies, like Economic development tax credits, that are run through state tax returns.

 

Jason Dinesen, Capital Losses and Tax Planning 

Kay Bell,  Valuing your tax-deductible donations of household goods

Jim Maule, How to Lose a Charitable Contribution Deduction.  If you leave an anonymous gold coin or jewelry piece in a Salvation Army kettle, it does no good on your 1040.

TaxGrrrl, 12 Days Of Charitable Giving: Ride For Reading   “Our featured charity, Ride for Reading, delivers books to children in underserved communities… by bicycle!”

 

 

TaxProf, Court: Home Depot Cannot Use Out-of-State IP Affiliate to Shift Income From Arizona,  Don’t expect state courts to uphold tricks that reduce state revenue.

Arnold Kling describes Two Views of Obamacare, and explains how it is far from a “market approach.”

 

20120514-1The flip side of the “Facebook stock option loophole”: Mark Zuckerberg’s $2 Billion Tax Bill (TaxProf).  People who complain about the deduction for stock option compensation never mention that the same amount is income to the option holders, usually at higher rates.

 

 

Memory Lane beckons at Robert D. Flach’s place with 2013: THE YEAR IN TAXES – PART ONE:

Perhaps tied for the top tax story of the year (with the death of DOMA, which I will discuss later) is the David-versus-Goliath victory of three independent tax return preparers who felt the cost of the IRS mandatory RTRP tax preparer regulation regime, especially the annual CPE requirement, was “prohibitive” for their small practices and joined with the Institute for Justice to challenge the licensing program in federal court in Loving v IRS.

Go, David!

 

The Critical Question: Did Tenth Circuit Help KPMG Weasel Out Of Liability To Buy.com Founder?  (Peter Reilly)

 

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