Posts Tagged ‘Peter Reilly’

Tax Roundup, 8/20/15: Can Iowa tax reform happen?

Thursday, August 20th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
If Iowa's income tax were a car, it would look like this.

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

Iowa Tax Reform – doable? I will spend much of today at the Iowa Association of Business and Industry Tax Committee meeting. The topic is Iowa tax reform. Regular readers know that I have strong feelings about the topic. Iowa’s income tax is a mess, and it doesn’t have to be.

Or does it?

There are always forces that push a tax system to complexity. I think any tax system will always have insiders trying to cut special deals for themselves. This leads to higher taxes on everyone else, but the insiders are good at protecting their special deals. Iowa’s dozens of incentive tax credits are classic examples.

Iowa has other factors that help stymie efforts to lower tax rates by eliminating deductions and special tax breaks. On the right side of the aisle, Iowans for Tax Relief has always opposed any tax reform that eliminates the deductibility of federal income taxes. This is almost unknown outside of Iowa, and its repeal is probably essential if we are going to significantly reduce Iowa’s very high 8.98% individual rate.

On the left side of the aisle, the politicians have an unhealthy focus on soaking the rich. With control of the state senate, Iowa Democrats have bottled up all efforts that would reduce Iowa’s high rates because they help “the rich” — better known as “employers.”

I think Iowa may overcome these obstacles. Elimination of corporate tax and much lower individual might persuade insiders to give up special deals, or at least make them not worth fighting for. I think Iowa business is tired of its perpetually poor business tax climate.  Iowans for Tax Relief may soften its stance on federal deductibilty, or legislators may find the arguments for reform more persuasive. And a broad-based tax simplification could have non-partisan appeal, especially if it has a large low-income exemption.

But I think it has to be ambitious. A small plan isn’t going to persuade anybody to give up their special deals, or to modify long-held views. That’s why the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan is a good place to start.


Scott Drenkard, State Sales Tax Holidays in 2015 (Tax Policy Blog):


“Political gimmicks like sales tax holidays distract policymakers and taxpayers from genuine, permanent tax relief. If a state must offer a “holiday” from its tax system, it is a sign that the state’s tax system is uncompetitive. If policymakers want to save money for consumers, then they should cut the sales tax rate year-round.”


Kay Bell, Does your state have unusual, confusing tax laws? Probably.


Victor Fleisher, Stop Universities From Hoarding Money:

Last year, Yale paid about $480 million to private equity fund managers as compensation — about $137 million in annual management fees, and another $343 million in performance fees, also known as carried interest — to manage about $8 billion, one-third of Yale’s endowment.

In contrast, of the $1 billion the endowment contributed to the university’s operating budget, only $170 million was earmarked for tuition assistance, fellowships and prizes. Private equity fund managers also received more than students at four other endowments I researched: Harvard, the University of Texas, Stanford and Princeton.

For some reason, you hear less about inequality in college endowments than you do about income inequality.





Two Headlines from Tax Notes this morning (unfortunately links only work for subscribers):

Tax Community Questions Proposal to End IRS Union Representation

No Evidence of IRS Partisanship Has Been Found, NTEU Says

To me, the second headline pretty much confirms the error of the “tax community” cited in the first one. To read the Lerner emails and conclude that she was “non-partisan” indicates a reading comprehension problem. NTEU, the IRS employee union, gives 96% of of its donations to, er, non-Republicans. Sounds nonpartisan to me…





TaxGrrrl, LLCs, S Corps & PCs: Choosing A Business Entity:

Entity selection is more important than you think. Your choice of entity can affect the number and identity of shareholders and partners, equity structure, control and management, as well what kind of funding you might be eligible to receive.

If you can’t make up your mind, start with the most flexible one — an LLC not taxed as a corporation– so you can change your mind without too much pain and suffering

Peter Reilly, Does Ninth Circuit Mortgage Interest Decision Create Special Rights? Well, it creates an incentive for people with multi-million-dollar houses to get divorces.

Carl Smith, Tax Court Again Refuses to Apply One Part of Equitable Innocent Spouse Relief Rev. Proc. 2013-34 (Procedurally Taxing)

Paul Neiffer, Wo! Paul is seeing lots of 200-bushel corn in Southwest Iowa on his Midwest Crop Tour.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 833



Tax Roundup, 8/17/15: New directions in Iowa tax policy. And lots more!

Monday, August 17th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
If Iowa's income tax were a car, it would look like this.

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

This week may see the start a discussion of the future of Iowa tax policy. The Iowa Association of Business and Industry Tax Committee meets Thursday to discuss proposals for the future of the Iowa income tax.

There’s a lot to talk about. The Tax Foundation puts Iowa among the bottom-ten states in its 2015 Business Tax Climate Index. Iowa has the second worst corporate tax ranking and the highest corporation tax rate of any state. We also have a subpar individual tax ranking. Along with the high rates — and made possible by them — the Iowa income tax is full of special favors for influential and sympathetic interests. This makes the taxes expensive and difficult to comply with and not so good at collecting revenue.

The state legislature has not seriously addressed income tax reform in recent years. There has been no movement against the awful corporation tax that I am aware of. The Republican caucus has pushed an individual “alternative maximum tax,” one with lower rates and a broader base — that would co-exist with the current system. That has an obvious flaw — everyone would compute their tax both ways and pay the lower tax. That makes the system more complex. But all tax reform has been bottled up by the Democrat-controlled Iowa Senate.

What are the ingredients for Iowa tax reform? A good tax reform discussion should consider:

Repeal of the Iowa corporation income tax. The Iowa corporation tax provided $438 million of the the state’s 2014 revenue, out of $7.545 billion. Corporation income taxes discourage in-state growth and are expensive to enforce. The state would be better off without it.

Repeal of all incentive tax credits. The state has many tax credits, some of which are refundable, including the R&D tax credit. Simply eliminating the tax credits would recoup some of the lost revenue from a corporation income tax repeal.

Move the individual income tax to an AGI-based system. Eliminate state itemized deductions and special state deductions and use the savings to lower the rates. Such as system would only retain a few itemized deductions to prevent abuse of taxpayers, principally the deduction for gambling losses.

Don’t be Kansas. That state enacted a poorly conceived tax reform effort a few years ago, and it has been a mess. Ambitions for tax reform have to be reconciled to revenue needs. While I think the state should spend less than it does, we can’t assume it will do so. Tax reformers need to present a plan that is revenue-neutral, or close to it.


Is Iowa’s business tax climate really that bad?

Baby steps towards fixing Iowa’s business tax climate

What an Iowa income tax might look like with a fresh start.

The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan


Jared Walczak, How High Are Property Taxes in Your State? (Tax Policy Blog). With this map:




Iowa still has relatively high property taxes, even after the recent property tax reforms. But we have high income and sales taxes too.


Russ Fox, Two Sets of Returns Aren’t Better than One:

Today I look at the idea of preparing one set of tax returns for clients but using a second set of returns when submitting the returns to the IRS. Of course, those second returns had higher refund amounts with the difference being pocketed by the preparers. After all, what’s a little tax fraud?

This is what Russ might call a Bozo tax offense. It’s not like this sort of thing will go very long without someone noticing.


Jason Dinesen, Glossary: Estimated Tax Payments

Annette Nellen, Innovation box tax reform proposal, A good explanation of a bad idea.

Kay Bell, IRS says free identity theft protection services are tax-free. “That’s very good news for me, since I was part of the huge OPM hack”

TaxGrrrl, IRS Offers Tax Guidance On Free Identity Theft Protection Services

Paul Neiffer is on the road on The ProFarmer Midwest Crop Tour.

Jim Maule, Rebutting Arguments Against Mileage-Based Road Fees. I think an expansion of tolling is more likely, but I don’t think that is very likely either.

Jack Townsend, Ninth Circuit Requires a Filing for Tax Perjury Charge. “Under the facts, Boitana had merely presented the false return to the agent, but that presentation was not a filing.”

Peter Reilly, Let Irwin Schiff Die With His Family Not In Prison:

You don’t have to agree with Irwin Schiff’s views on the federal income tax, to feel sympathy for Peter Schiff’s request that his father be released from prison. Irwin, now 87, has been diagnosed with lung cancer and it seems likely that he will not live to see his July 26, 2017 release date.

I think the government has made its point.


Patrick J. Smith, D.C. Circuit Majority Opinion in Florida Bankers Not Consistent with Supreme Court’s Direct Marketing Decision (Part 1) (Procedurally Taxing):

The weakness of the majority opinion in Florida Bankers, together with the strength of a dissenting opinion filed in the case, as well as the inconsistency of the majority opinion not only with the Supreme Court’s Direct Marketing decision but also with other D.C. Circuit opinions, all make the Florida Bankers case a strong candidate for en banc review. 

The suit challenges the FATCA rules on foreign reporting.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 828Day 829Day 830

Matt Gardner, Latest Inversion Attempt Illustrates U.S. Can’t Compete with a 0 % Corporate Tax Rate (Tax Justice Blog). It could with a zer-percent rate of its own.

Renu Zaretsky, Tax plans and presidential candidates: The future [may or may not be] now. The TaxVox headline roundup talks about presidential candidate tax plans and the bleak outlook for the IRS budget under the current Commissioner.


If you think of government programs as technology, they are hopelessly behind. We regulate communications using the FCC, which is 1930s regulatory technology. We address health care for the elderly with Medicare, which is 50-year-old technology.

In the private sector, when an enterprise becomes technologically obsolete, it falls by the wayside. In government, it gets larger.

Arnold Kling


News from the Profession. Yep, Almost All Accounting Firm Partners Are Still White Guys (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). Well, I still am, anyway, and I don’t see that changing.



Tax Roundup, 8/13/15: IRS makes it hard to extend the W-2 deadline; Iowa makes it easy to extend a farm lease.

Thursday, August 13th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150813-1IRS ends automatic extensions for W-2s. Tax Analysts reports ($link) that IRS will no longer allow automatic extensions for W-2s. Non-automatic extensions will be allowed only in dire circumstances, according to the report:

Under the new rules, the IRS will grant the nonautomatic extension only when the filer demonstrates “extraordinary circumstances or catastrophe,” such as loss of record from fire or natural disaster.

It is an attempt to get wage information in sooner to make it easier to match refund claims to withholding, to help prevent identity theft. It’s a nice thought, but it is nowhere near enough. E-filed W-2s can be filed as late as the end of March – far too late to do much matching before refunds are issued.

Fighting identity theft will require more. It will probably require delays in refunds. It may also require a change in the culture that thinks big tax refunds are a good thing.

It will also require the IRS to raise its game in fraud prevention in its return processing. Russ Fox, Why Rob Banks, Redux:

From Los Angeles comes the news that the California Attorney General’s Office, along with the Long Beach Police and the US Postal Inspection Service did a “takedown” of the “Insane Crip” street gang; 22 members are in custody on charges that include 283 counts of conspiracy, 299 counts of identity theft, and 226 counts of grand theft.”

I doubt there is a lot of sophisticated computer savvy in the Insane Crip ranks. That the IRS is losing billions to street criminals says a lot about how poor the IRS anti-theft systems are.




Kristine Tidgren, Remember the September 1 Lease Termination Notice Deadline (Ag Docket):

Perhaps the most misunderstood portion of Iowa farm lease law is that governing the proper termination of a lease. Iowa law is unique in that under Iowa Code §562.6, a farm lease renews automatically—under the same terms and conditions as the original lease—absent specific action by one or both parties to the lease. The automatic renewal provision applies to both oral and written leases. 

Kristine explains what to do to end a bad lease.


Robert D. Flach, ONE REASON YOU SHOULD KEEP COPIES OF YOUR TAX RETURNS FOREVER. “I recently came across an excellent example of the benefit of keeping copies forever.”

Jason Dinesen, Choosing a Business Entity: Partnership. “A partnership can exist — for both tax and legal purposes — even if there’s no written agreement in place.”

Kay Bell, Don’t miss the tax break for college textbooks. “The American Opportunity Tax Credit, or AOTC, covers expenses for course-related books, supplies and equipment that are not necessarily paid to the educational institution.”


TaxGrrrl, Gun & Ammo Tax Aims At Reducing Violence In Seattle:

It wouldn’t be the only such tax in the country. A similar tax in Cook County, Illinois, was adopted after much controversy in 2012. The hope was that it would slow gun violence. However, according to reports in the Chicago Tribune, gun violence continues to escalate in the city of Chicago with the numbers of persons shot in 2015 so far on pace to top those shot in 2014.

This is the same community that is pricing the poor out of the job market with minimum wage increases.  In both cases, moral preening is substituted for sound policy.


Peter Reilly, Church Attendance Held Against Taxpayer In Maryland Domicile Case. Though I suspect attendance at the Secular Humanist Club down the street would have gotten the same result.




Kyle Pomerleau, Senator Carper Introduces Gas Tax Increase Paired With EITC and Child Tax Credit Expansion (Tax Policy Blog). “Paired with an EITC expansion, however, a gas tax increase becomes distributionally progressive: low-income taxpayers receive a net tax cut while middle and upper-income taxpayers receive a slight tax increase.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 826

Career Corner. Can an Accounting Firm Be a ‘Guilt-Free Zone’? (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 8/12/15: Bad news: blogging doesn’t make your vacation deductible. And more great stuff!

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


Accounting Today visitors: the due date post is here.

Road Trip! I had a great time on vacation last month, but it would have been sweeter if I could figure out a way to deduct it. Maybe if I mentioned it here at the Tax Update Blog? Alas, a Tax Court case this week thwarts my cunning scheme.

The Tax Court takes up the story:

In June 2008 petitioner’s adventure began. Over the next 5-1/2 months, petitioner made his way across the continents of Europe and Africa and even made a foray into the Middle East.

Throughout his journey petitioner updated his blog with anecdotes and pictures from his travels. While petitioner included details about some of the sites he saw, places he stayed, and food he ate, many of his explanations do not give enough details for a reader to find the specific site, lodgings, or restaurant described. For example in petitioner’s Paris blog entry he states: “[W]e hit up The [sic] BEST ice cream in Europe. * * * there are a couple of places that serve it and pricing is much higher at one (the ‘tourist’ one as Jeff put it) than at the other one. We walked past the tourist one, which had a huge crowd and walked down the street about half a block to the other one.” Petitioner does not give any more details about where in Paris the best ice cream in Europe can be found.

Petitioner did keep copies of all his receipts, flight confirmations, lodging confirmations, tour confirmations, rail passes, shuttle confirmations, bank statements, tour vouchers, credit card statements, and other miscellaneous receipts from the trip.

The problem wasn’t so much the recordkeeping, then, but the business plan:

Petitioner realized as he traveled, and even more so after he returned to the United States, that the market was already saturated with international backpacking blogs and that his plan for generating income through affiliate sales from his blog would not be profitable. Petitioner then shifted his focus to writing books about his travels and the insights he gained while traveling.

One way to ease the pain of a bad business plan is to deduct the losses:

Petitioner timely filed his 2008 Federal income tax return (return). He listed “world travel guide” as his principal business on the Schedule C, Profit or Loss From Business, attached to the return. On the Schedule C, petitioner did not report any business gross receipts or gross income. He claimed total expenses of and reported a net business loss of $39,138. As part of his net business loss, petitioner claimed deductions for travel expenses of $19,347, deductible meals and entertainment expenses of $6,314, and other expenses of $5,431.

The IRS threw a wrench in this part of the business plan by disallowing the loss under the Section 183 “hobby loss rules.” These rules disallow losses on business activities not really entered into for profit. The Tax Court reviewed nine factors that are used to distinguish a real business from a hobby, and found against the taxpayer (my emphasis::

Petitioner did not maintain any books or records for the activity. He had no written business plan and no estimate as to when his Web site would be operational, when his books would be published, or when he would begin to earn income from the activity. Although petitioner documented and retained receipts for his travel-related expenses, merely maintaining receipts is not enough to indicate a profit motive…

Furthermore, petitioner did not investigate the activity before embarking on his trip. Petitioner incurred over $39,000 in expenses before doing any research into the activity’s profitability. This is an indication that the activity was not engaged in for profit.

My favorite part of the opinion is this footnote, where the court tells us what a “blog” is:

“Blog” is a truncation of the expression “Web log”, which is a regularly updated Web site or Web page written in an informal or conversational style and typically run by an individual or small group.

So now we know.

The Moral? Travel may be broadening, and fun, but not necessarily deductible. Before spending $39,000 on it, you might want to figure out how to earn it back first.

Cite: Pingel, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-48.




Tony Nitti, Teacher Fails To Qualify As Real Estate Professional: Who Can Pass The “More Than Half” Test?. Tony discusses the case we covered here yesterday.

Paul Neiffer, Don’t Use Your Product When Preparing a Tax Return. I think it depends a lot on the product, but Paul gets more specific in the text: “…it is apparent that you should not be using marijuana when preparing your income tax return.”

Jack Townsend, Two U.S. Return Preparer Enablers Sentenced for Offshore Account Conspiracy.

Russ Fox, There’s Innocent FBAR Violations, and There’s This. But jailing an occasional real tax violator doesn’t justify shooting jaywalkers.


Robert Nadler, Spousal Abuse Continues to Provide a Powerful Basis for Innocent Spouse Relief (Procedurally Taxing).

Robert Wood, Trump, Taxes, Tampons, And Snoop Dogg

TaxGrrrl, Defendants Sentenced For Stealing 9,000 Identities, Including Army Soldiers


David Brunori, Taxing Beer (Tax Analysts Blog):

The lowest excise tax rates are in Wyoming, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Oregon. To put it in context, Tennessee taxes beer at $1.29 a gallon. Wyoming’s tax is $0.02 a gallon. Buy your beer in Cheyenne.

I wonder if Jack Daniels has an effective lobby in the Tennessee statehouse.




Joseph Henchman, Ten Years of the North Carolina Lottery (and Why It’s In Part a Tax) (Tax Policy Blog):

The Lottery was set up ten years ago as a state enterprise to generate revenue for education programs. 50 percent of gross sales are paid out as prizes, 7 percent paid to retailers as a commission, 8 percent to pay for operations (including advertising, which cannot exceed 1 percent of total revenues), and 35 percent to the state for education funding. Additionally, winners pay income tax on their prizes. The odds are not great – table games in casinos have much better odds – but the Lottery has no real competition as it is state-sanctioned.

Think of it as a tax on people who are bad at math.


Howard Gleckman, Clinton Would Tinker With, Not Rewrite, the Tax Code. (TaxVox). And what the tax law really needs is more tinkering, right?

Kay Bell, Is Obamacare headed back to the Supreme Court yet again? I think Justice Roberts has made it clear that he will find a way to protect the mess from all challenges.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 825. Today the Prof links to Peter Reilly’s concession that just maybe Lois Lerner ran a biased shop.


News from the Profession. New Study Validates Old Accountant Joke (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).



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

Monday, August 10th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ninth Circuit found otherwise:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cite: Voss, CA-9, Case No. 12-73257.

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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


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

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

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

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

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



Tax Roundup, 8/7/15: Iowa sales tax takes a holiday, and other brutal assaults on reason.

Friday, August 7th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150807-1Today is the firm field day. Once again my proposal for an all-office open chess tournament failed to win support, so it’s golf again.

The annual Iowa sales tax holiday for clothing and footwear is today and tomorrow. Details from the Iowa Department of Revenue:

-Exemption period: from 12:01 a.m., August 7, 2015, through midnight, August 8, 2015.

-No sales tax, including local option sales tax, will be collected on sales of an article of clothing or footwear having a selling price less than $100.00.

-The exemption does not apply in any way to the price of an item selling for $100.00 or more

-The exemption applies to each article priced under $100.00 regardless of how many items are sold on the same invoice to a customer

“Clothing” means…

-any article of wearing apparel and typical footwear intended to be worn on or about the human body.

“Clothing” does not include…

-watches, watchbands, jewelry, umbrellas, handkerchiefs, sporting equipment, skis, swim fins, roller blades, skates, and any special clothing or footwear designed primarily for athletic activity or protective use and not usually considered appropriate for everyday wear.

Sales tax holidays are a bad policy, for reasons explained well by Joseph Henchman and Liz Malm, including this:

Political gimmicks like sales tax holidays distract policymakers and taxpayers from genuine, permanent tax relief. If a state must offer a “holiday” from its tax system, it is a sign that the state’s tax system is uncompetitive. If policymakers want to save money for consumers, then they should cut the sales tax rate year-round

The Federation of Tax Administrators has a complete list of sales tax holidays for 2015. Mississippi and Louisiana have holidays for firearms purchases September 4-6, so you can dress up in Iowa and drive south to do your weapons shopping in Iowa style.

Related: Kay Bell, 13 state sales tax holidays on tap this weekend


Robert D. Flach brings the Friday Buzz, including a special offer on THE NEW SCHEDULE C NOTEBOOK, his tax Baedeker for the sole proprietor.

William Perez, Changes in Tax Deadlines to Take Effect in 2017 (Plus Deadlines for 2015 and 2016)

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: LLC

Keith Fogg, The Room of Lies (Procedurally Taxing). No, it’s not about debate settings, Congress or the White House Press Briefing Room. It’s about the process the government uses in deciding whether to appeal tax cases.

Robert Wood, Mo’ Indictments For Mo’ Money Taxes, 20 Years Prison Possible. “Indeed, the fallout for innocent taxpayers patronizing a tax preparation shop that is in trouble can be far-reaching.”  Yes, that’s why taxpayers should be wary of a shop that seems to always get bigger refunds than anyone else.

Tony Nitti, If You Hired Mo’ Money Taxes To Prepare Your Return, You Continue To Have Mo’ Problems.  “The most institutionally corrupt organization south of the New England Patriots…”

TaxGrrrl Live-blogged the GOP presidential debate last night. As the political season seems to be fully underway, it’s time to express my joy of the season, best stated by Arnold Kling:

To me, political campaigns are not sacred events, to be eagerly anticipated and avidly followed. They are brutal assaults on reason. I look forward to election season about as much as a gulf coast resident looks forward to hurricane season.

And reason never comes out well in the contest.


Renu Zaretsky, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.” Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers international tax reform, gas taxes, and sales tax holidays.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 820. Lots of reaction to the Senate Finance report on the scandal.

Peter Reilly, IRS Scandal – Blame It All On Lois Lerner And Move On?

Joseph Thorndike, Clinton Should Keep It Simple and Just Propose Repealing the Capital Gains Preference (Tax Analysts). No, no, no. She should keep it simple and propose repealing the capital gain tax.


Career Corner. The “I’m Leaving” Conversation (Green Dot Peon, Going Concern).


Tax Roundup, 8/6/15: Tax Court sinks IRS passive loss attack on boat charter business.

Thursday, August 6th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


20150806-1It can be difficult to win a “passive loss” examination. That’s why taxpayer victories are worth studying. A couple who chartered boats and who incurred losses overcame an IRS passive loss challenge yesterday in Tax Court. Can we learn anything from them?

The taxpayer husband, a Mr. Kline, is an airline pilot who chartered boats and occasionally skippered charter excursions. They had a management agreement with a company called Horizon Charters, LTD. The Tax Court said “Pursuant to the terms of the management agreement Horizon was responsible for marketing the boats, setting charter prices, booking charters, keeping records of all charters, collecting money due from customers, and cleaning and maintaining the boats.”

The passive loss rules treat a loss as “passive” if the taxpayer fails to “materially participate” in the business generating the losses. Passive losses can only be deducted against passive income; net passive losses are deferred until either there is passive income or the business is sold.

The tax law determines losses are “passive” based on the amount of time spent on the activity by the taxpayers. For example, taxpayers who spend 500 hours on an activity are generally treated as non-passive. The taxpayers in the charter boat case argued that they met another test — (1) they spent at least 100 hours on the activity, and (2) they spent more time on the activity than anyone else.

While the taxpayers didn’t keep a daily time calendar or log, they were able to convince the court that they reached the 100-hour limit:

During the audit examination respondent’s agent asked petitioners to provide the number of hours they spent in connection with the charter activity. While they did not maintain a contemporaneous log of the time spent, Mr. Kline did maintain copies of email communications with Horizon. Using this correspondence and records of the length and destination of the Kline charters, petitioners were able to develop a log of the time they spent… Though petitioners did not contemporaneously record their time, we find the time entries they provided to be reasonable reconstructions of the hours that they spent in the charter business and consistent with the requirements of section 1.469-5T(f)(4), Temporary Income Tax Regs.

So emails showing regular involvement help. So does having a credible story to explain how you spent your time. But the IRS still had another challenge — they said that Horizon employees spent more time on the activity than the taxpayers, defeating the requirement that the taxpayers spend more time than anyone else. The Tax Court sided with the taxpayer:

However, on the basis of the invoices Horizon sent to petitioners regarding work done on the boats and the testimony of Horizon’s operations manager during the years at issue, we conclude petitioners spent more time in connection with the boats than any individual employed by Horizon.  

The Moral? The taxpayers won without keeping a daily calendar because they were able to reconstruct their time based on other records, and because the Tax Court found them believable. While it would have been easier if they kept a log, failure to keep one isn’t fatal if you have other good ways to show the time you spent.

Cite: Kline, T.C. Memo 2015-144.




Robert D. Flach, FORM 1098-T WILL BE REQUIRED FOR CLAIMING EDUCATION BENEFITS, “My initial response to this new matching requirement concerns the fact that most Form 1098-Ts that I see during the tax season are as useful as tits on a bull.”

Peter Reilly, IRS Says Charitable Trust Not Charitable Enough. “The NIMCRUT is still a fantastic tool in the right circumstances.  Just don’t be too aggressive on the payout.”

Kay Bell, GOP debate(s) and drinking games tonight!


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 819. The big item today is the Senate Finance Committee report (sorry, no free link yet).

Robert Wood, Gross Mismanagement At IRS, Says Senate Report. “IRS was just incompetent, not intentionally bad, says the latest report.” Well, OK, then.


Alan Cole, Of Loopholes and Tax Expenditures (Tax Policy Blog):

For a real-life example of a loophole, consider “mandatory donations” to popular college sports teams in order to get season tickets. This was a clever way of selling tickets (by all means, a “mandatory donation” in exchange for something is a sale) while giving them the appearance of a deductible charitable donation for the purposes of the IRS. This was clearly not an intended effect of the deduction for charitable contributions; therefore, it meets the true definition of a loophole. This loophole was partially rolled back through further legislation, and the President’s most recent budget would eliminate it entirely.

However, the word “loophole” is clearly misused when applied to deliberate, well-known policy provisions. For example, the mortgage interest deduction is no more a loophole in the tax code than Memorial Day sales are a loophole in mattress pricing.

The other issue is whether a so-called loophole was really snuck past clueless legislators by somebody who knew exactly what he was doing.




Renu Zaretsky, Information: Additions, Disclosures, and Theft. Today’s TaxVox roundup covers dynamic scoring of the “extender” bill and the rules requiring disclosure of the revenue effects of tax “incentives.”

David Brunori, Supermajority Requirements for Raising Taxes areTroublesome (Tax Analysts Blog). “Questioning whether a majority of legislators can raise taxes seems undemocratic in the greatest democracy that ever was. Moreover, supermajority requirements put a great deal of power in the hands of the minority.”


News from the Profession. In the Future, Accountants Count Everything (Chris Hooper, Going Concern).


Tax Roundup, 8/4/15: Cash-basis farmers score Tax Court win. Plus Buzz, and more!

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

binStrawberries. An old joke holds that the tax law has a provision that makes it illegal for farmers to pay taxes. Jokes usually express an underlying truth. The ability of most farm enterprises to deduct expenses on a cash basis is a big part of the joke. A fiscally-alert cash-basis farmer can ease the tax pain of a profitable year by buying up to a year’s worth of feed, seed and supplies on December 31, deducting the whole purchase.

The Tax Court last week upheld a broad use of cash-basis deductions by farmers in a case involving a California strawberry grower, Agro-Jal. This cash-basis deduction challenged case differs from what you might see in a typical Iowa crop or livestock operation. The taxpayer packs the strawberries it grows, and it purchased and deducted the packing materials on a cash basis. The IRS said that such supplies are not the sort of feed, seed and materials allowed to farmers as a cash basis deduction.

Judge Holmes looked at the rules and said the IRS got it wrong. The decision largely hinged on a Section that wasn’t directly in play here, Section 464. This section was enacted to fight an early tax shelter based on allowing cash basis farm deductions to off-the-farm investors by preventing “farm syndicates” from using the cash method. Judge Holmes considered the IRS arguments, and then noted (my emphasis, footnotes omitted):

But section 464 does bolster Agro-Jal’s argument indirectly, because the history of section 464 shows that before its enactment anyone in the farming business could immediately deduct prepaid expenses. Seen against this backdrop, section 464 looks like it was aimed at both especially abusive taxpayers — “farming syndicates” — and to certain especially abused expenses — “feed, seed, fertilizer, or other similar farm supplies.”

I understand this to mean that absent some other provision, farmers can, or could, deduct all prepaid expenses. Judge Holmes went on to consider the tax regulation on deductions of materials and supplies, and concluded that the IRS reading was not supported.

There is another wrinkle. The IRS has re-issued the “materials and supplies” regulation as part of its “repair regs” project, and it has changed the language relied on by the taxpayer. Tax Analysts discusses that change ($link):

Sharon Kay of Grant Thornton LLP said that the reference to the old version of the regs may not help other cash method farm taxpayers understand how to apply the new final tangible property regulations on materials and supplies. “That’s the big question,” she said. “What does this case mean, not just looking back, but actually looking forward under the new tangible property regulations?”

Kay noted that throughout the revisions to the tangible property regs, the IRS had made statements, primarily in the various preambles, that it did not intend for the revisions to substantially change the “determination of the treatment of materials and supplies as either non-incidental or incidental.” She said that the holding in Agro-Jal reflects farm taxpayers’ understanding of the law and general practices.

This may mean the IRS could continue to challenge deductions under the new regulations, hoping for a different result. But for Iowa livestock and crop farmers, whose big prepaid deductions are mostly for advance purchases of feed, seed and fertilizer, cash accounting does not seem to be under immediate threat. And it probably wouldn’t have been even if the IRS had won this case.

Paul Neiffer has more: Cash Basis Farmers Allowed to Deduct All Costs!

Cite: Agro-Jal Farming Enterprises, Inc., 145 T.C. No. 5.




It’s summer. The bees are buzzing, and so is Robert D. Flach with a fresh Buzz roundup, including coverage of the new due-date rules.

Robert Wood, Charging $476K For Strippers On Company Card? No Tax Deduction, Jail Instead. That’s a lot of $1 bills.

Peter Reilly, Review Of Julian Block’s Home Seller’s Tax Guide. “The book packs a lot of important information into less than 100 pages.  I think that if I had a real estate office, I would be negotiating with Julian to buy copies in bulk to hand to potential clients as a marketing tool.”

Jim Maule, Another Problem with Targeted Tax Credits. “Once tax credits are handed out, everyone wants in on the gravy train.”

Kay Bell, Cool tax moves to make during August’s hot Dog Days

Jack Townsend, New Legislation Affecting FBAR and Tax Matters (8/1/15).

Mike Feehan, Urban Legends, Insurance File No. XXIV (Insureblog). “My opinion?  Most claims submitted are valid claims.  And systematic denial of valid claims is an urban legend.”


Cara Griffith, New York Attempts to Tax Income From Nonresident Lawyer Based on Bar License (Tax Analysts Blog):

“Thankfully, an administrative law judge for the DTA set the division straight. The ALJ concluded that the division’s argument is meritless, inconsistent with the state tax regulations, and inconsistent with New York judiciary laws. “The Division cannot,” the ALJ said, “assert tax merely based on a New York license.”

This is a case where my “sauce for the gander” proposal would allow taxpayers to collect penalties from the state for making a frivolous argument.

Richard Auxier, Recovery cannot save state budgets from politics (TaxVox). “Since then the economy has improved, state tax revenue are growing, and legislatures have more room to maneuver during budget season. Yet havoc still reigns in many statehouses. In fact, it might be getting worse.”




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 817

Matt Gardner, Innovation Boxes and Patent Boxes: Congress Is Focusing on Corporate Tax Giveaways, Not Corporate Tax Reform. (Tax Justice Blog). The “patent box” would give preferential rates for intellectual property income, which would create a new industry of consultants devoted to making all income I.P. income. Far better to broaden the base and lower rates for everyone.

Kyle Pomerleau, Ways and Means Committee Introduces “Innovation Box” Discussion Draft (Tax Policy Blog). “Simply put, a patent box provides a lower tax rate on income related to intellectual property.”



Most economists, on the other hand, believe that targeted tax incentives may work, but only in the sense that companies get extra cash and say the right things at press conferences. However, the tax breaks often don’t work in the sense of actually boosting state and local economies in any appreciable way. One large high-tech warehouse on the edge of town with 40 workers won’t transform anything. Neither will a dozen.

Billy Hamilton, Tax Analysts ($link)


News from the Profession. Accountant Posts Big Game Hunting Photos, Internet Flips Out (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). I hope my big game trophy shots never make the internet. Oh, wait…



Tax Roundup, 8/3/15: Due date scramble edition, with extendable FBARs!

Monday, August 3rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150803-1Highway bill scrambles business return due dates. A “short term highway funding bill” (HR 22) has switched some tax return filing due dates from what they have been pretty much forever. The bill, signed last week by the President, responds to complaints that K-1s are arriving too late by accelerating the partnership return due date and delaying C corporation due dates — with one bizarre exception.

The changes, which take effect for years beginning after December 31, 2015:

1065 (Partnership) returns: Currently due April 15, or 3 1/2 months after year-end, with a five-month extension. The new due date is March 15 (or 2 1/2 months after year-end), with a six-month extension.

1120 (C corporation) returns: Currently due March 15, or 2 1/2 months after year-end, with a six-month extension available. The new law makes the due date April 15 (or 3 1/2 months after year-end), with a six-month extension. Except, weirdly, for C corporations with a June 30 year-end, which retain the old deadlines through 2025.

FBAR (form 114) reports of foreign financial accounts. These have been due on June 30, with no extension available. They will be due on April 15, but with a six-month extension available.

1041 (estate and trust income tax) returns retain their April 15 due date, but their extension period is shortened from six months to 5 1/2 months.

It’s not entirely clear yet how this will work. I hope the FBARs will be considered automatically extended if the 1040 or other return is extended, to help avoid paperwork foot-faults.

The bill is an empty gesture to 1040 filers who get frustrated waiting on K-1s. They won’t get issued any faster. K-1s aren’t delayed because people are sitting around waiting for the due date. They are delayed because the tax law is hard, businesses can be complex, and it takes time to get the work done. On top of that, everybody is on a calendar year, thanks to Congress, so the professionals are trying to get all the returns completed at the same time.

All this means is that more partnership returns will be extended. It won’t get the K-1s out any sooner. The only way to change that is to simplify the tax law and to once again enable pass-throughs to have tax years ending on dates other than December 31.

Additional coverage:

Robert Wood: Many IRS Tax Return Due Dates Just Changed, FBARs Too

Russ Fox, Deadline Changes for 2016 Tax Returns and 2016 FBAR. “It is unclear whether a separate extension for the FBAR will need to be filed. The reference to Treasury Regulation 1.6081-5 is for the automatic two-month extension of time to file for those residing outside the United States, so it appears those who do so reside will have a June 15th deadline for filing the FBAR (with a four-month extension available until October 15th).”

Kay Bell, Highway bill drives home some new tax laws

Paul Neiffer, Tax Return Due Date Changes and Other Items. “For estates required to file an estate tax return, they will now be required to report to the IRS basis information for all assets included in the estate.”

Kyle Pomerleau, Senate Approves Three-Month Highway Trust Fund Extension (Tax Policy Blog).




Congratulations to TaxGrrrl Kelly Phillips Erb. She has ditched tax practice to write on taxes full-time for Well done!

William Perez, Every State’s Sales Tax Holiday for 2015

Jason Dinesen, New Nebraska Guidance on Same-Sex Marriage and Taxes

Matt McKinney, Do equal, 50/50 shareholders owe each other fiduciary duties? (

Annette Nellen, Importance of lease terms for desired results. “If you want a particular tax result, be sure the lease agreement supports that result.”

Jana Luttenegger Weiler, NFL Decides to Give up Tax-Exempt Status (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)


David Brunori, Michigan’s Wrongheaded Approach to Tax Policy. (Tax Analysts Blog):

Advocates of raising corporate taxes are assuming that people will want to stick it to corporate fat-cat shareholders. This is right out of the ‘‘tax the rich and give to the poor’’ playbook. Except in this case, proponents want to tax the rich and give it to construction contractors.

They want to tax the rich to give it to their friends — and that doesn’t mean the poor.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 816




Peter Reilly, Judicial Watch Reveals That They Read Tax Blogs At IRS:

At the time Joe Kristan thought that the IRS was wrong to raise the issue and that Senators were right to call the Service to account about it. And this is the part of the document dump that I found most interesting.  Paul Caron summarized Joe’s post  and that was apparently printed out numerous times at the IRS as there are multiple copies in the document dump.

The IRS reads the Tax Update, so you should too!



Tax Roundup, 6/30/15: It’s FBAR Day! Foreign and gaming account owners, do or die.

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


fincen logoForm 114 or bust. Today is the unextendable deadline to file Form 114, the “FBAR” report of foreign financial accounts. It’s required if you own foreign financial accounts whose value reached $10,000 anytime in 2014. Penalties for failing to file can run to half the value of the account, so if it applies, you want to get it done. The form must be filed electronically.

Foreign financial accounts include bank or brokerage accounts held outside, even in an offshore branch of a U.S. bank. They also include online gaming accounts for sites located outside the U.S. More details on what is included is available at the IRS FBAR page.

You will need the mailing address of the branch where your foreign account is located. Russ Fox has done a great job of finding many street addresses for online gaming sites.

Is the Form 114 filing requirement absurd? Yes. The filing threshold is far too low, and it works to make regulatory violators out of Americans living and working overseas for the crime of committing personal finance abroad. Meanwhile, I would be surprised if any actual criminals are actually caught using Form 114; instead, it’s just used to increase penalties on those whose tax violations are found in other ways. Oh, and to extort money out of people who didn’t realize they were supposed to file the thing. Unfortunately, absurdity is what the IRS is all about.

Speaking of absurd, The Commerce Department BE-10 survey for those owning at least 10% of an offshore business is also due for e-filing today, with penalties into the thousands of dollars for non-filers.

Related: Russ Fox, Does a Nonresident Alien Spouse that Has Elected to be Treated as a US Person Need to File an FBAR?


Arnold Kling reports on what seems to me a very unwise idea: State Nullification of the Federal Income Tax?, involving the idea of “nullifying” the federal income tax by providing a state credit for whatever the federal income tax is, funded by state sales taxes. Arnold points out some of the obvious problems: “For example, if this were enacted, then residents would have no incentive to minimize their tax liability. Go ahead and realize all of your capital gains, because when you pay more Federal taxes, your state sends you a credit.”



Forest fires in Canada give Iowa a spooky sky today.


William Perez, Tax Implications of Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Ruling. “Together, [Jason] Dinesen and I came up with a list of all the tax things we should be concerned about as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (pdf).”

Robert D. Flach brings his Tuesday Buzz, along with the less cheerful news that his Gmail account has been compromised. He ponders whether IRS Commissioner Koskinen is worse than his predecessor, Worst Commissioner Ever Shulman. I still give the prize to Shulman, but Koskinen is making a heck of a case for the honor.

Kay Bell, IRS ‘incompetence’ blamed for lost Lois Lerner emails. That’s certainly plausible, but the incompetence all seems to be on the side of hampering the investigation.

Robert Wood, If Uber, FedEx, Other Workers Are Employees, Who Pays What?

Joni Larson, Failing to Prove the Attorney-Client Privilege Applies (Procedurally Taxing). Some conversations you’d rather not share with the IRS.

Peter Reilly, Mario Biaggi’s Criminal Case Followed By Tax Travails. In some ways the tax decision coming on top of the criminal conviction really makes me think there might have been something to Biaggi’s contention that he was a victim of Giuliani’s ambition.  When you look at the big picture of the transactions, nobody seems to have been getting away with anything from an income tax perspective.”

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Are Donations to a 501(c)(4) Deductible?




Elizabeth Malm, A Quick Primer on Personal Income Taxes (with GIFs!) (Tax Policy Blog). They’re nice, but no dancing cats. A great little post for anybody wanting an overview of state income taxes.

Gene Steuerle, Combined Tax Rates and Creating a 21st Century Social Welfare Budget (TaxVox).

Dalton Lane, Obergefell v. Hodges: Supreme Court Upholds Same-Sex Marriage (Tax Policy Blog):

The Supreme Court’s ruling has definitely simplified the tax system. Whether a same-sex marriage, or a opposite-sex marriage, the tax treatment is the same. Furthermore, same-sex couples will no longer have any difference in filing status between their state income taxes and federal income taxes.

It will make Jason Dinesen’s life easier, for sure.

Caleb Newquist, PwC Walks a Fine Line Between Its People and Clients on Same-Sex Marriage (Going Concern).

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 782


TaxGrrrl, 8 Signs That It’s Time To Get A New Tax Professional. They are all good signs, especially number 8.



Tax Roundup, 6/29/15: Congratulations, newlyweds, here’s your tax bill! And windy subsidies, IRS stonewalling, more.

Monday, June 29th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Welcome to the marriage penalty. The Supreme Court has spread Iowa marriage law nationwide. That means more same-sex couples will tie the knot and learn about the sometimes surprising tax results of matrimony. In general, if only one member of the couple has income, it’s a good tax deal, but not so much for two-earner couples. The weird complexity of the tax law means there are lots of exceptions.

The Tax Foundation has an excellent summary of these issues, Understanding the Marriage Penalty and Marriage Bonus. It includes this wonderful piece of abstract art illustrating how marriage can help and hurt a couple’s federal income tax liability:

Marriage penalty tax foundation chart


The chart has two axes: the percentage of income earned by each spouse, and the income level. Blue is good, red is bad. If combined income is just short of $100,00, it’s all good, but there is lots of room for tax pain at the top and bottom of the income spectrum for married couples.

Other coverage:

Jason Dinesen, Tax Implications of Friday’s Ruling on Same-Sex Marriage:

This ruling should not have an impact on federal tax returns because couples in same-gender marriages have been able to file as married on their federal tax returns since 2013. This ruling affects state tax returns in states that had bans against same-gender marriage.

Jason, an Iowa enrolled agent, was an early expert in same-sex marriage compliance.


TaxProf Blog Op-Ed By David Herzig: The Tax Implications Of Today’s Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Decision (TaxProf) “Same-sex couples will now be able to inherit, file joint state tax returns, possess hospital visitation rights and all other state marriage rights as heterosexual married couples.”

Kay Bell, Marriage equality means tweaks to tax code, tax forms. “Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), the ranking minority member on the Senate Finance Committee, is already working on getting the new nomenclature on the books.”

TaxGrrrl, SCOTUS Legalizes Same Sex Marriage But Questions Remain For Religious Groups & Tax Exempts


Wind turbineWindy Subsidy Signed. Governor Branstad has signed HF 645, which establishes a tax credit for wind energy. The credit is 50% of the similar federal credit, up to $5,000. It takes effect retroactively to 2014, giving a windfall to people who bought qualifying systems already. It will do nothing for the environment, but it will do wonders for companies selling wind energy systems.




Christopher Bergin, Why We Just Sued the IRS – Again (Tax Analysts Blog):

For more than two years the IRS has played its old game of hide the ball regarding requests to release Lois Lerner’s e-mails — e-mails that would teach us a lot about what actually went on during the exempt organization scandal. Many of those requests came from the United States Congress: the elected officials who control the IRS budget. The IRS’s stalling tactics have run the gamut from eye-rollingly comical to downright disturbing.

Through this and and other worrisome developments, one thing is clear: the IRS is now in desperate trouble. Most of that trouble it created itself. It would be unfair to call them the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, because when it comes to shooting itself in the foot the IRS is an expert marksman. The IRS is an agency whose initial reaction to almost anything is secrecy.

The IRS needs a big culture change, one starting with a new Commissioner.




Associated Press, Ex-Rep. Mel Reynolds indicted on tax charges. Can you believe a Chicago politician who would sleep with a 16-year old campaign worker would also cheat on his taxes?


Russ Fox, A Peabody, Massachusetts Tax Preparer Gives an Unwitting Endorsement for EFTPS:

Mr. Ginsberg operated a traditional payroll service. It’s fairly easy to check on your payroll company if you use such a service: Enroll in EFTPS. Using EFTPS you can verify that your payroll company is making the payroll deposits they say they are. That’s a good idea–trust but verify. The DOJ Press release notes:

To cover up his scheme, Ginsberg falsified his clients’ tax returns, which he was hired to prepare, indicating that the clients’ payroll taxes had been paid in full, when they had not. When asked by clients about their mysterious IRS debts, Ginsberg gave them a litany of false excuses, including blaming the IRS and his own staff.

None of those excuses work hold up with EFTPS. Today, payroll tax deposits with the IRS are all made electronically. Is it possible for one to get messed up? Yes, but it’s very unlikely. Indeed, most payroll companies just make sure the deposits are made from your payroll bank account.

If you outsource your payroll tax, insource regular visits to EFTPS to make sure your payments are made.


Peter Reilly, SpongeBob SquarePants In A Tax Case!

Tony Nitti, Sloppy Drafting Saves Obamacare – Supreme Court Upholds Tax Subsidies For All. I think it was more sloppy judging than sloppy drafting that did the trick.

Keith Fogg, Aging Offers in Compromise into Acceptance (Procedurally Taxing).

Jack Townsend, Rand Paul and Expatriates to Sue IRS and Treasury Over FBAR and FATCA. They want both to be declared unconstitutional. Unfortunately, it seems like a anything the IRS wants is constitutional anymore.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 779Day 780Day 781. Still trying to shake out the “lost” emails after 781 days. You’d think they were stalling or something. And efforts to impeach Commissioner Koskinen. It’s not going to happen, but if he had any shame, he would have resigned long ago.

Richard Auxier, Michigan, out of ideas, might ask poor to pick up transportation tab (TaxVox).





The pledge, the brainchild of Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, is a terrible idea for several reasons. First, no leader should promise never to raise taxes because, frankly, there are times when it is necessary. Over 50 Kansas legislators and Brownback, who have signed the pledge, found that out last week. I agree with Norquist philosophically; less government is good. But the pledge only leads to more debt at the federal level and gimmicks in state governments.

David Brunori, Tax Analysts ($link)


Career Corner. EY Employee Has Eaten So Many Hours, He’s Gone on Hunger Strike (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 6/22/15: Iowa shovels more economic development fertilizer. And: Paul flat tax fever!

Monday, June 22nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan


20120906-1It’s getting deep. The giant pile of tax credits for the big Lee County fertilizer plants got a little deeper last week. The Iowa Economic Development Board Friday voted for an additional $21.5 million in tax credits for the project. The Quad City Times compares that appropriation to other state spending:

Iowa’s elected legislators negotiated for five months on Iowa school funding, before reaching a compromise that provided $55 million in one-time money that will only assure the status quo: No one expects improvements.

On Friday, Gov. Terry Branstad’s Iowa Economic Development Board added another $21.5 million in tax credits to the $85 million in state incentives already lavished on a foreign fertilizer company under construction in Lee County.

No legislative vote.

No deliberation by elected officials.

Not even a hint of how this new pile of Iowa taxpayer money will help Iowans. Representatives of the parent firm Orascom, of Egypt, said the $21.5 million in tax credits will add 11 jobs to the 180 expected at the plant.

This latest giveaway brings local, state and federal taxpayer investment to $500 million in the $1.9 billion project. That’s right, taxpayers are covering 25 percent of Orascom’s project.

So almost $2 million per “job.” And that assumes they wouldn’t have completed the project without a little more cash from the state, which is improbable. That’s $21.5 million from those of us without connections at the state to fertilize an already richly-subsidized project. We can be confident that some wee portion of that $21.5 million will go to attorneys and consultants who pulled the strings to make it happen.

The state board also wasted $8 million in tax credits on ribbon cutting opportunities in Sioux City involving a convention center and hotel — which experience nationwide shows will be a fiscal nightmare. Because who better to allocate investment capital than politicians who are spending other people’s money?

Iowa’s cronyist tax credit boondoggle is long overdue for the scrapyard. It lures and subsidizes the influential and the well-lobbied at the expense of their less well-connected competitors and their employees. It’s time for something like the Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan to improve Iowa’s abysmal business tax climate for everyone — not just the cronies.




Russ Fox, Arbitrage Is Legal, But You Better Pay the Taxes. It looks at the tax troubles of a recently-indicted Tennessee politician.

Annette Nellen, Uber, Lyft and others – worker classification in the 21st Century. I used Uber over the weekend visiting my son in Chicago, and it’s pretty slick. It’s also here in Des Moines. A few weekends ago, my other son was playing music in the Court Avenue entertainment district on the street and an Uber driver stopped, got out a guitar, and started jamming with them. That doesn’t sound like an employee to me.

Kay Bell, Tax gift for Father’s Day: help paying for child care

Jason Dinesen, Iowa Adoption Credit and Special-Needs Adoptions

Peter Reilly, Joan Farr Claims IRS Denial Of Exempt Status Is Example Of Persecution Of Christians




Presidential Candidate Rand Paul has proposed a 14.5% flat tax. I haven’t had a chance to study it, but its base-broadening, rate-lowering approach is promising. The Tax Policy Blog looks at the plan in The Economic Effects of Rand Paul’s Tax Reform Plan (Andrew Lundeen, Michael Schuyler) and No, Senator Paul’s Plan Will Not ‘Blow a $15 Trillion Hole in the Federal Budget’ (Kyle Pomerleau). The second one is in response to Bob McIntyre’s post in Tax Justice Blog, Rand Paul’s Tax Plan Would Blow a $15 Trillion Hole in the Federal Budget.

Howard Gleckman, Rand Paul’s Tax Cut Isn’t Quite What It Seems (TaxVox)


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 771Day 772Day 773, Day 774.

News from the Profession. Ex-BDO CEO’s Quest to Get Firm to Pony Up for His Legal Bills Not Going So Well (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)




Tax Roundup, 6/17/15: Revenues: every business should have them! And: tax abuse of accidental Americans.

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


dontwalk4A picture of a bad deduction. Early in my career a practitioner confided to me that every 1040 should have a Schedule C, the 1040 report of business income, so that taxpayers could write-off personal expenses. That’s never been the actual tax law, but too many taxpayers believe otherwise.

The actual tax law is that you can’t deduct as business expenses costs without an intent to actually make money. Iowa has been independently enforcing this rule, known informally as the “hobby loss” rule. A newly-released protest resolution has an example of a Schedule C business that may not have been conducted with adequate vigor:

The Business Activity Questionnaire you completed indicated that you spent 8-10 hours per year on the business. That is less than one hour per month. This hardly seems reasonable to have for a successful business. An average photoshoot can last longer than 1 hour including let up and tear down and then most photographers spend additional time editing or developing the photos.

What made the state suspicious? From the protest response (my emphasis)

There is no evidence that the taxpayer has ever been successful in this business. With the exception of 2014, there is no record indicating that you filed a sales tax return or a schedule C showing any receipts since your permit was issued. 

One of the most important parts of a real business is revenue. You could look it up. If you have none, it may be hard to convince the revenue agent you are serious.

You receive some income from other sources, and the losses you report from this activity does lower your income, in some years enough to make you exempt from tax. 

That can be a clincher. If you have “business losses” that never end, but they save you taxes on other income, that’s a likely sign that your real “business” is reducing your taxes.

Cite: Iowa Document Reference 15201018


20140815-2William Perez, People Unaware of Their American Citizenship are Being Fined for Not Filing US Tax Returns:

“[The] typical [client I’m] seeing now,” reveals Virginia LaTorre Jeker, a tax attorney in Dubai, is “someone who [was] either born in the US and left as young child, or who has [an] American parent from whom they have acquired citizenship.

The individual will always have another nationality, typically from a Middle Eastern country which they consider as their true home. Most times, these individuals will never have filed a US tax return since they were unaware they had any US tax obligations.”

If you think this sounds insane, you are right. No other country does anything like this.

Robert Wood, FBARs For Foreign Accounts Are Due June 30. Should You File For The First Time? “You don’t want to ignore a filing obligation now that you know about FBARs. But one should consider where you are going long term with your issues, how quickly you plan to act, and whether you have good and accurate information to file now.”


Kay Bell, U.K. pays a record amount for tax cheat tips

Jim Maule, How Does a Politician Fix a Tax Law The Politician Doesn’t Understand? Well, they’re obviously perfectly willing to enact tax laws they don’t understand in the first place. Yet for all the demonstrated incompetence of politicians, Prof. Maule wants to put more things under their control.

TaxGrrrl, Banks Quick To Turn Over ‘Abandoned’ Assets To Revenue-Hungry States:

Originally accounts were typically considered abandoned only if they went untouched for decades. But revenue-hungry states have been dramatically shortening that “dormancy” period to get their hands on this booty. 

Because the state politicians want the money don’t trust the private sector to take care of their customers, and they are looking out for you!

Peter Reilly, Campaigning For Bishopric Not A Valid Exempt Purpose – Kent Hovind Update. It’s not? I guess I can skip my mitre-measuring session.




Robert D. Flach, FOUR REASONS TO REMOVE THE EITC FROM THE TAX CODE: “Probably the most important reason – Tax credits, especially refundable credits, are a magnet for tax fraud.” That’s exactly right.

Rachel Rubenstein, Reflections on the General State of Tax-related Identity Theft (Procedurally Taxing). “From 2004 to 2013, the NTA identified tax-related identity theft as one of the “‘Most Serious Problems” faced by taxpayers in nearly every annual report submitted to Congress here.”

David Brunori, The Revolt of the Corporations (Tax Analysts Blog). “The message is clear: Businesses have options and will move to sunnier tax climates.”

Howard Gleckman, The House GOP’s Internal Battle Over Online Sales Taxes (TaxVox).

Tony Nitti, Donald Trump Announces Bid For Presidency: What Is His Tax Plan? And who cares?




Alan Cole, IGM Panel: Real Income Growth is Understated (Tax Policy Blog):

The IGM Forum, a University of Chicago project that surveys academic economists on issues, last month found that economists broadly agree that real median income numbers understate real growth in standards of living.

I think that has to be true. Don Boudreaux likes to compare items in old Sears catalogs with their modern counterparts to show how much better — and cheaper, in terms of hours of work needed to pay for them — the modern goods are:

The list is long of consumer goods that ordinary Americans today can easily afford but that were unavailable commercially to even the wealthiest Americans in the 1950s. This list includes digital cameras, lightweight waterproof sportswear, high-definition televisions, recorded Hollywood movies to play at home, MP3 players, personal computers, cellphones, soft contact lenses, and GPS devices.

We take for granted everyday things, like the internet, flight, automobiles, paved roads between cities, that the richest men of 200 years ago did without.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 769

News from the Profession. Counteroffers Rarely Work for Employees Jumping Ship (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 6/16/15: Extreme tax preparer business development tactic fails. And: Florida man, meet Tax Whiz.

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


lizard20140826Sadly, there’s plenty of tax work to go around. But not enough for Maria Colvard of Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, it seems. The operator of Tax Max LLC, a tax prep service, Ms. Chambers appears to taken competition to a new level. From a Department of Justice press release (my emphasis):

According to U.S. Attorney Peter Smith, between February and May 2013, Colvard convinced an employee at Tax Max LLC, a tax preparation service owned by Colvard in Chambersburg and Hanover, Pennsylvania, to claim to be a criminal investigator with the Internal Revenue Service to shut down the rival business, known as Christina’s Tax Service, also located in Chambersburg.  The employee, Merarys Paulino, then claimed to be an IRS agent and demanded money from Christina’s Tax Service as well as its client list. Paulino previously entered a guilty plea to impersonating an IRS agent and cooperated in the prosecution of Colvard.

It’s foolproof! What could go wrong? Well, other than that a tax professional would be the least likely person in the world to believe an IRS criminal investigator would just show up without a written notice and demand cash and a client list on the spot. In Pennsylvania, as in Iowa, law enforcement folks don’t spend their days chasing geniuses.

Ms. Colvard was convicted of two counts of extortion and one count of “aiding the impersonation of an employee of the United States” after a four-day trial.


Jason Dinesen, Choosing a Business Entity: Basic Terminology

Robert Wood, FedEx Settles Independent Contractor Mislabeling Case For $228 Million

Hank Stern, On “Losing” Subsidies. “The fact of the matter is, should SCOTUS insist that the law be applied as it was written, then folks in states using the site were never eligible to receive subsidies in the first place.”

Peter Reilly, Exchange Facilitator Does Not Beat Missouri Use Tax On Learjet. “What they learned was that a transaction that qualifies for tax deferral under federal tax principles does not necessarily avoid sales and use tax.”

Kathryn Sedo, Counsel for Ibrahim Explain Last Week’s Important Circuit Court Opinion on Filing Status (Procedurally Taxing). “The question before the 8th Circuit in Isaak Ibrahim v. Commissioner was whether the term ‘separate return’ as used in section 6013(b) is defined as return with the filing status ‘married, filing separately’ or a tax return with any other filing status other than ‘married, filing jointly.'”

Kay Bell, Houston, we could have more flood problems. “OK, how did I wake up today in my Austin house but in South Florida?”


2008 flood 1


Greg Mankiw, considering arguments made by Export-Import Bank supporters, says:

Other countries give similar subsidies to their firms. So what? If other nations engage in corporate welfare, that is no reason for the United States to follow suit in the name of a level playing field.  We don’t need to import other nations’ bad policies.

Substitute “states” for “countries” and “nations” and it is an accurate summary of the foolishness of the state tax credit “incentive” game played by Iowa economic development officials and politicians.

Jeremy Scott, Can the United States Kill BEPS? (Tax Analysts Blog). ” The United States will probably never go along with BEPS the way the rest of the world has gone along with FATCA, but in the end that probably won’t matter. The EU, India, and China will be perfectly happy to find a way to preserve their tax base without U.S. help.”  “BEPS,” by the way, stands for “Base erosion and profit shifting,” the predictable and natural response of taxpayers to pocket-picking tax authorities.

Kayla Kitson, Four Reasons to Expand and Reform the Earned Income Tax Credit (Tax Justice Blog). I don’t buy it. With 25% of its cost going to ineligible people — and no small part of that to thieves — it is at best very inefficient. The post doesn’t even mention the poverty trap created by the way the credit phases out as incomes rise.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 768. “The court filing, provided to The Daily Caller, claims the IRS received new Lerner emails from the Treasury Department’s inspector general (TIGTA) but can’t fork over the emails to Judicial Watch, a nonprofit group suing to get the emails. Why? Because the IRS is busy making sure that none of the emails are duplicates  – you know, so as not to waste anyone’s time.”

Renu Zaretsky, Raising or Cutting Taxes: Go Big or Go Home. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers presidential candidate tax pledges, as well as tax developments in Kansas, Texas, Florida, New Mexico and Massachusetts.




Florida man meets Tax Whiz. A Florida man filed a tax return prepared by the “Tax Whiz” claiming the American Opportunity Tax Credit. The result was a $1,853 overpayment that the IRS applied to outstanding child support liabilities. The IRS later determined that he didn’t qualify for the credit because he had no qualifying educational expenses. The IRS wanted its $1,843 back.

The man argued that Tax Whiz claimed the credit unbeknownst to him, so he shouldn’t have to pay it back. The Tax Court wasn’t buying:

By his own admission petitioner did not review the return in question. Reliance on a tax return preparer cannot absolve a taxpayer from the responsibility to file an accurate return. See Metra Chem Corp. v. Commissioner, 88 T.C. 654, 662 (1987) (“As a general rule, the duty of filing accurate returns cannot be avoided by placing responsibility on a tax return preparer.”). Even if Tax Whiz may have claimed the credit without his knowledge, petitioner is still responsible for the resulting deficiency.

The moral? Not a surprising result.  You are responsible for what goes on your return, no matter how much, or how little, you pay your preparer. More surprising is that the taxpayer’s first and middle name is listed as “William Billy.”  I’ve never seen that one.

Cite: Devy, T.C. Memo 2015-110.




Tax Roundup, 6/15/15: IRS declines to make estate tax easy for surviving spouses. And: New ID theft measures!

Monday, June 15th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Due Today: Second Quarter estimated tax payments; returns for U.S. citizens living abroad.


Funeral home signIRS declines to make the estate tax portability election easy. There’s no such thing as a joint estate tax return. That means if one spouse has all of the assets, the other spouse’s lifetime estate tax exemption — $5,430,000 for 2015 deaths — can be lost.

Congress changed the tax law to allow a surviving spouse to inherit the deceased spouse’s unused estate tax exemption, for use on when the surviving spouse files an estate tax return. unfortunately, this treatment is not automatic. It is only available if a Form 706 estate tax return is filed for the first spouse to die. The IRS on Friday issued final regulations rejecting any short-cuts in this process.

There are many problems with this approach. The most obvious is the lottery winner problem. A couple might be living in a trailer, and when the first spouse dies, there seems to be no point in filing an estate tax return when their combined assets are a small fraction of the amount triggering estate tax. Then the surviving spouse wins the Powerball, and suddenly the first spouse’s estate tax exemption becomes very valuable — but it’s lost, because no return was filed.

The IRS rejected allowing any pro-forma or short-cut estate tax returns for such situations:

The Treasury Department and the IRS have concluded that, on balance, a timely filed, complete, and properly prepared estate tax return affords the most efficient and administrable method of obtaining the information necessary to compute and verify the DSUE amount, and the alleged benefits to taxpayers from an abbreviated form is far outweighed by the anticipated administrative difficulties in administering the estate tax. In

The IRS did say it would be generous in allowing “Section 9100” late-filing relief for taxpayers who die with assets below the exclusion amount, but they did not provide any sort of automatic election. The result is a trap for the unwary executors of small estates.

Cite: TD 9725


20130419-1IRS announces ID-theft refund fraud measuresThe IRS last week announced (IR-2015-87) steps it promised in March to fight refund fraud in cooperation with tax preparers and software makers:

The agreement — reached after the project was originally announced March 19 — includes identifying new steps to validate taxpayer and tax return information at the time of filing. The effort will increase information sharing between industry and governments. There will be standardized sharing of suspected identity fraud information and analytics from the tax industry to identify fraud schemes and locate indicators of fraud patterns. And there will be continued collaborative efforts going forward.

The most promising of the steps:

Taxpayer authentication. The industry and government groups identified numerous new data elements that can be shared at the time of filing to help authenticate a taxpayer and detect identity theft refund fraud. The data will be submitted to the IRS and states with the tax return transmission for the 2016 filing season. Some of these issues include, but are not limited to:

-Reviewing the transmission of the tax return, including the improper and or repetitive use of Internet Protocol numbers, the Internet ‘address’ from which the return is originating.

-Reviewing computer device identification data tied to the return’s origin.

-Reviewing the time it takes to complete a tax return, so computer mechanized fraud can be detected.

-Capturing metadata in the computer transaction that will allow review for identity theft related fraud.

These are important because they might actually prevent fraudulent refunds from being issued. Measures to help identify fraud after it happens don’t do much, especially when the fraud occurs abroad. Catching the fraudulent returns before the refunds are issued is the only way to really deal with the problem, and the only way to keep innocent taxpayers whose identification has been stolen from having to go through the annoying and sometimes lengthy process of recovering their overpayments.

The sad thing – I see nothing here that couldn’t have been done five years ago, when ID theft refund fraud was already becoming a problem. But the Worst Commissioner Ever was too busy trying to impose preparer regulations on behalf of the big franchise tax prep outfits to pay attention. Priorities.




Bob Vineyard, Best Kept Secrets About Obamacare (Insureblog). “About half of those living in Kentucky and classified as poor were not aware of the basics of Obamacare.”

TaxGrrrl, Spain’s King Felipe Strips Sister Of Royal Title As Tax Evasion Charges Proceed. What good is being regal if things like this happen?

Annette Nellen, Tax reform for 2015? Seems unlikely

Kay Bell, Lessons learned from being tax Peeping Toms

Jason Dinesen, Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 10: Filing Statuses Arrive in 1948

Peter Reilly, Why Is Multi-State Tax Compliance So Hard? “Don’t get me wrong.  I believe that the prudent thing is to try to be in pretty good, if not perfect, compliance.  Just don’t expect anybody to make it really easy any time soon.”

Robert Wood, Beware Tax Cops At Farmers’ Markets


20120816-1Joseph Henchman, State of the States: Special Session Edition and Kansas Approves Tax Increase Package, Likely Will Be Back for More (Tax Policy Blog). Mr. Henchman rounds up end-of-session tax moves from around the country. Kansas may have made the biggest changes, including a small retreat from its exemption of pass-throughs from the income tax:

Kansas in 2012 completely exempted the income from such individuals, who now total over 330,000 exempt entities. Efforts to repeal this unusual and non-neutral total exclusion of pass-through income earned a veto threat from Governor Brownback. The guaranteed payments provision is estimated to generate approximately $20 million per year.

Taxing guaranteed payments will hardly plug the fiscal hole created by the blanket pass-through exemption. Joseph concludes: “But overall, it is a grab bag of ideas that does little to address the problems underlying Kansas’s tax and budgetary instability. Absent more fundamental changes, legislators will likely have to return in coming years to address budget gaps.”


Norton Francis, How Would the Kansas Senate Close the State’s Budget Gap? Mostly by Taxing Poor People (TaxVox)


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 765The IRS Scandal, Day 766The IRS Scandal, Day 767


Career Corner. Reminder: Parents Meddling in Your Careers Will Not Help You (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 6/9/15: A Cedar Rapids ID thief pleads guilty. And: Packing the patent box.

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

lizard20140826What are the chances of the government recovering any of the fraudulent refunds? WQAD reports on an Iowan who jumped on the ID theft refund fraud gravy train:

A 35-year-old Iowa woman was convicted after she used another person’s identity to file a phony tax return and then cash the $6,000 refund check issued by the IRS.

Gwendolyn Murray, of Cedar Rapids, was initially charged March 3, 2015, with 12 counts of filing false claims for tax refunds, seven counts of theft of government property and two counts of aggravated identity theft. She was accused of preparing fraudulent tax returns between 2008 and 2013, from which she received seven refund checks, according to court documents.

The total amount allegedly stolen is unavailable in public records, and the defendant pleaded guilty to only one count. Whatever the amount, the defendant’s need for a public defender doesn’t make recovery of the stolen funds seem likely.


Image by Theroadislong under Creative Commons license, via Wikipedia.

Image by Theroadislong under Creative Commons license, via Wikipedia.

Martin Sullivan, Patent Box: Good Intentions Gone Bad (Tax Analysts Blog):

Now several prominent members of Congress want to provide another tax break for research. At first glance, this seems like a very good idea since the usual objections to tax breaks don’t apply. And most regular people understand that the competitiveness of our nation — or in politics-speak, the availability of high-paying jobs — depends on technology.

The new tax break is called a patent box. (The “box” referred to here is the box checked on tax forms in Europe where this idea originated.) The general idea is that income from technology pays tax at a substantially lower rate than other income. So if under tax reform we could get the corporate rate down to 28 percent, patent box income would be taxed at a 14 percent rate.

The problem with this approach is that no one knows even a halfway good way of identifying “income from technology.”

It’s a ridiculous idea. In a real sense every bit of income is “income from technology.” The technology of animal husbandry and plant cultivation has been around for awhile, but it was a big step up from the Acheulean Hand Axe, which was cutting edge technology (literally) in its day.

The patent box is as arbitrary and nonsensical as the Section 199 deduction for “domestic production income.” Yet Section 199 became and remains part of the tax law, so being absurd won’t necessarily stop it.


Hank Stern, Obama Tax Breakage:

And second, why is it a given that “employer sponsored” health plans are the bee’s knees? As we’ve previously blogged, employers don’t tell us what groceries or house to buy: they pay us our wages and we’re free to make our own choices. Why should health insurance be any different?

The historical accidents that led to employer health as a tax-advantaged fringe benefit are reasonably well-known, but it’s a lot harder to answer why it should be that way.


buzz20141017It’s Tuesday, so it’s Buzz Day! At Robert D. Flach’s, you can rummage through the tax implications of garage sales and see just how much Robert likes “reality TV.”

TaxGrrrl, Hastert, Hovind & FIFA Matters Shed Light On Dangers Of Structuring

Russ Fox, Neymar Wins Championship but Faces Tax Evasion Investigation. Soccer just isn’t getting great press off the field the last week or so.

Robert Wood, Moving To Avoid California Taxes? Be Careful. “Don’t just get a post office box in Nevada. That doesn’t work and you will end up with bills for taxes, interest and penalties or worse.”

Keith Fogg, Update on Dischargeability of Late Filed Tax Returns. It can be hard to get bankruptcy discharge on tax debts if you don’t stay current with your filings.

Kay Bell, The tax costs of maintaining private coastal properties. “It’s time that we faced the reality that we can’t beat Mother Nature, at least not along the coastline. And we need to stop using our tax dollars to subsidize this destined-to-fail effort.”

William Perez, 4 Tips for the 1st Estimated Tax Payment of 2015. The second payment is due June 15.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 761. “Judicial Watch announced that Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted a Judicial Watch request to issue an order requiring the IRS to provide answers by June 12, 2015, on the status of the Lois Lerner emails the IRS had previously declared lost.”




Joseph Thorndike, Carly Fiorina Answers the $59 M Question: Why Should Candidates Release Their Tax Returns? (Tax Analysts Blog). “For many, that disclosure will be unpleasant. But I suspect most candidates have learned a lesson from the Romney debacle: Tax disclosure can hurt, but nondisclosure can be deadly.”

Howard Gleckman, Obama-Era Tax Reform: RIP: “Many Democrats, who have embraced income inequality as their 2016 campaign theme, are likely to back more targeted middle-income tax breaks, not fewer. Their agenda will be tax deform, not tax reform.”


Cameron Williamson, Connecticut Legislature Sends Corporate Tax Hike to Governor. (Tax Policy Blog). This is a step backwards for Connecticut tax policy.

Jared Walczak, Nevada Approves New Tax on Business Gross Receipts (Tax Foundation). A big step backwards for Nevada tax policy. At least it’s paired with a giant step forwards in education policy.


Peter Reilly dives deep into the case of the creationist theme park operator and his seemingly miraculous impending release from prison: The Juror Who Freed Kent Hovind Steps Forward



Tax Roundup, 6/8/15: Hush money edition. And: IRA invests in IRA owner’s business, disaster ensues.

Monday, June 8th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
"Dennis Hastert 109th pictorial photo" by United States Congress - Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

“Dennis Hastert 109th pictorial photo” by United States Congress – Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The TaxProf and I are cited in a New York Times article on the tax implications of former House Speaker Hastert’s hush money scandal: If Hastert Was Extorted, He Could Deduct Some Losses From His Taxes.

Mr. Hastert has been indicted on charges of “structuring” deposits to avoid reporting rules as part of a plan to pay for silence from “Individual A” for alleged sexual contact pre-Congress. From the article:

While extortion payments would be taxable for Individual A, they would actually be partly deductible for Mr. Hastert, said Paul Caron, a tax law professor at Pepperdine University. It’s right there in I.R.S. Publication 17, Chapter 25: You get to deduct losses because of theft, to the extent those losses exceed 10 percent of your adjusted gross income. Blackmail and extortion count as theft.

But to claim the deduction, Mr. Hastert would have to convince the I.R.S. or a court he had been extorted, which could be difficult.

”Sometimes judges will find a way to disallow deductions for what they find unsavory behavior,” said Joe Kristan, a tax accountant with the Roth C.P.A. firm. He noted a case in which a divided Ninth Circuit panel denied a tax deduction for extortion to a man who said he paid hush money to his mistress.

For the record, I have no personal experience in deducting extortion and hush money payments.

Related: Jack Townsend, Article on Structuring to Avoid Bank Currency Reporting Requirements, on the structuring charges of the Hastert case.


No Walnut STTaxpayer’s IRA-owned corporation leads to tax disaster. The Eighth Circuit appeals court has upheld horrendous tax penalties against a taxpayer who had an IRA capitalize his business as an investor.

A Mr. Ellis rolled his 401(k) plan into an IRA, which invested about $310,000 in CST, a C corporation. CST started an auto dealership and employed Mr. Ellis as General Manager. That led to unfortunate tax results. From the court opinion (my emphasis):

The tax court properly found that Mr. Ellis engaged in a prohibited transaction by directing CST to pay him a salary in 2005. The record establishes that Mr. Ellis caused his IRA to invest a substantial majority of its value in CST with the understanding that he would receive compensation for his services as general manager. By directing CST to pay him wages from funds that the company received almost exclusively from his IRA, Mr. Ellis engaged in the indirect transfer of the income and assets of the IRA for his own benefit and indirectly dealt with such income and assets for his own interest or his own account. See 26 U.S.C. § 4975(c)(1)(D), (E); 29 C.F.R. § 2509.75-2(c) (“[I]f a transaction between a party in interest and a plan would be a prohibited transaction, then such a transaction between a party in interest and such corporation . . . will ordinarily be a prohibited transaction if the plan may, by itself, require the corporation . . . to engage in such transaction.”)

While the investment itself wasn’t ruled a prohibited transaction, things got messy once the IRA-owned corporation started paying Mr. Ellis a salary — an “indirect transfer” occurred.

The consequences? The prohibited transaction terminated the IRA. That means the whole value of the IRA became taxable income, with no cash made available to cover the taxes. With penalties, the bill will exceed $160,000.

The Moral? Direct business investments from IRAs are dynamite. If you must use retirement plan funds for a business start-up, it may be wiser to take a taxable withdrawal and use the after-tax funds to make the investment. If there is any way to fund it without retirement plan funds, that would be wiser still.

Cite: Ellis, CA-8, No. 14-1310 

Prior coverage here.


20150528-1Margaret Van Houten, Legislature Passes Bill Affecting Iowa Trusts and Estates (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  “Beginning on July 1, 2016, a step grandchild will no longer be subject to Iowa Inheritance Tax.  Currently, direct ancestors and descendants, including stepchildren, were exempt from the tax, while step grandchildren were grouped with other individuals, such as siblings, nieces and nephews and unrelated individuals and were subject to the tax.”

TaxGrrrl, The Not So Skinny On National Doughnut Day. That’s every day!

Jason Dinesen, Breakeven Analysis for Small Businesses — Service Providers and Not-for-Profits

Annette Nellen, More on marijuana businesses and tax ethics. “Despite state actions, the production, sale and use of marijuana is a crime under federal law. Thus, for licensed practitioners, there is concern about ethical violations of helping someone commit a crime.”

Kay Bell, H&R Block explores virtual tax preparation.

Peter Reilly, A New York Day Is Like A New York Minute At Least For Taxes:

In the case of John and Janine Zanetti, the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division agreed with the Commissioner of Taxation and Finance that a New York day can be less than 24 hours.  The point of the decision was to determine whether the Zanettis had spent enough time in New York to be considered statutory residents for the year 2006.


Jim Maule asks Is the Federal Income Tax Progressive? He focuses on the “low” federal effective rate on the “Top .001%.” Of course, the reason people get to those rates is normally because of a one-time event, typically the sale of a corporation, that is taxed at long-term capital gain rates. Such taxpayers are normally at that income level only once in their life. Of course, Prof. Maule ignores the built-in double tax hidden in these figures.

Leslie Book, DC Circuit Criticizes Government in Case Alleging an Israel Special Policy for Tax Exemptions (Procedurally Taxing). “As IRS has increased responsibility beyond its paramount mission of collecting revenues, the historical reasons for the discretion IRS has exercised have lessened.”

Robert Wood, Are On Demand Workers Independent Contractors In Name Only?

Tony Nitti, Put It On The Card! Congressman Proposes To Make Credit Card Debt Forgiveness Tax Free

Russ Fox, Another Las Vegas Preparer Gets In Trouble Over the Foreign Earned Income Exclusion. “I’d say it was something in the water but Las Vegas is in a desert.”




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 758Day 759Day 760. The IRS treatment of the Tea Partiers is compared and contrasted with that of the Clinton Foundation.


Arnold Kling, Payroll Taxes in Europe. ” I find it hard to reconcile Germany’s relatively low unemployment rate with this high payroll tax rate.”

David Henderson responds:

I don’t find it hard to reconcile the two. The reason: Germany has had high payroll tax rates for a long time–for decades, actually. So real wages have had a long time to adjust.

I understand this as saying the total employment cost is about the same, but the employee gets less of it.


Kyle Pomerleau, CRS Outlines Four Important Aspects of the EITC. “The EITC enjoys bipartisan support among lawmakers. This is due to the fact it both reduces poverty among families with children and has a positive impact on the labor force for certain individuals. Yet, the EITC is not without its flaws. It’s benefit phase-out has a negative impact on the labor force and it suffers from high error rate and overpayment.”

Richard Auxier, Choose your tax system: progressive vs. regressive (TaxVox). A critique of the “Fair Tax” and other national sales tax proposals.


News from the Profession. Pope Figured The Lord’s Work Could Use a Good Auditor (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)




Tax Roundup, 6/5/15: Iowa adds deductions to 1041s. And: the dangers of unmonitored payroll services.

Friday, June 5th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1Federal 706 costs good for Iowa 1041. The Iowa General Assembly yesterday eased restrictions on administrative deductions for fiduciaries. Iowa uses federal taxable income, with modifications, as its tax bases. Both houses passed HF 661, which provides a modification to this tax base:

On the Iowa fiduciary income tax return, subtract the amount of administrative expenses that were not taken or allowed as a deduction in calculating net income for federal fiduciary income tax purposes.

If I understand this correctly, this means fiduciaries can now deduct on Iowa 1041s expenses that executors have opted to deduct on the federal estate tax return; executors get to choose to deduct estate administration costs on either the Federal 706 or the Federal 1041, but not both. This bill makes some sense, as there is no Iowa estate tax; any deductions taken on the federal Form 706 estate return would otherwise provide no Iowa benefit.

It also appears to allow the deduction of any “administrative” expenses that would otherwise be disallowed under the 2% of AGI floor. The explanation to the bill doesn’t add much, so we will have to see if this is how the Department of Revenue reads the bill.

The bill passed both houses unanimously, so it seems likely the Governor will sign it. It is to take effect for “tax years ending on or after July 1, 2015 — so it will apply to the current calendar year.


EFTPSPEO operator gets 12 years after looting client payroll taxes. A Kentucky man will go away for a long time for an ambitious list of crimes that include stealing payroll taxes from clients. Wilbur Huff ran a professional employer organization. Such organizations take over employer payroll tax functions for their clients. PEOs file and pay the payroll taxes under their own tax ID number. This differs from traditional payroll tax services, which remit taxes under client tax ID numbers and provide prepared returns for the clients to submit.

From a Department of Justice Press release (my emphasis):

From 2008 to 2010, HUFF controlled O2HR, a professional employer organization (“PEO”) located in Tampa, Florida.  Like other PEOs, O2HR was paid to manage the payroll, tax, and workers’ compensation insurance obligations of its client companies.  However, instead of paying $53 million in taxes that O2HR’s clients owed the IRS, and instead of paying $5 million to Providence Property and Casualty Insurance Company (“Providence P&C”) – an Oklahoma-based insurance company – for workers’ compensation coverage expenses for O2HR clients, HUFF stole the money that his client companies had paid O2HR for those purposes.  Among other things, HUFF diverted millions of dollars from O2HR to fund his investments in unrelated business ventures, and to pay his family members’ personal expenses.  The expenses included mortgages on HUFF’s homes, rent payments for his children’s apartments, staff and equipment for HUFF’s farm, designer clothing, jewelry, and luxury cars.

Taxpayers using traditional payroll tax services can make sure their payroll taxes are actually paid to the IRS by logging into EFTPS, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System. This doesn’t work for PEOs. That turned out very badly for Mr. Huff’s clients, who still have to pay the IRS the payroll taxes that went for the fancy cars and clothes.


buzz20140909Robert D. Flach has your Friday Buzz! It’s the place to go whether you Love Lucy or you love reading about tax administration.

Peter Reilly, Structuring Seems Like A Crime You Can Commit By Accident

 Imagine that you go to the bank every four days and deposit $12,000.  The bank will file currency transaction reports that let the Treasury Department know that.  That notion annoys you, so you start going every three days and deposit $9,000. No more currency transaction reports, but before long there will be suspicious activity reports.  If the reason you made the switch was to stop the currency transaction reports, you have committed the crime of structuring, even if there is nothing illegal about the source of the funds or the use of them and you are paying all your taxes.  

The crime of avoiding paperwork.

Kay Bell, Weather claims, estimated taxes and more June tax tasks

Jack Townsend, Two More Banks Obtain NPAs Under DOJ Swiss Bank Program

Robert Wood, Obama’s Immigration Action Means Tax Refunds For Illegals, Says IRS

TaxGrrrl, IRS, TIGTA Talk Tech, Identity Theft & Security At Congressional Hearing.




Cara Griffith, Is the IRS Protecting Taxpayer Information or State Tax Authorities? (Tax Analysts Blog). “Although the IRS indicated it would make changes to improve the oversight of federal taxpayer information, it still seems information is shared between the IRS and state tax authorities as a matter of course and without a true determination (before information is shared) about whether a state tax authority has a secure system in place to protect the information received.”

Scott Drenkard, Why Do So Many Businesses Incorporate in Delaware? (Tax Policy Blog). “Delaware’s attractiveness for incorporation is driven by many things: favorable incorporation regulations, rules limiting corporate liability, and a second-to-none corporate court system (the Court of Chancery) with judges that are corporate law experts.”

Howard Gleckman, How Many Americans Get Government Assistance? All of Us. But some of us pay more than others for it.

Robert Goulder, Global Tax Harmonization and Other Impossible Things (Tax Analysts Blog)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 757 “The IRS responded to a Republican request for an investigation into the Clinton Foundation’s tax-exempt status with a one-page form letter that starts with ‘Dear Sir or Madam.'”


Career Corner. ICYMI: AICPA Will Squeeze Excel Into the CPA Exam This Decade (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).  In my day we had pencils — no calculators, no slide rules, no nothing. Spoiled kids won’t get off my lawn.



Tax Roundup, 6/3/15: Oh, THAT million-dollar rent payment. And: the IRS data breach is on management, not budget.

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan


Flickr image courtesy John Snape under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy John Snape under Creative Commons license

Pay me now, tax me now. A real estate operator agreed to build and lease a building to a tenant, a plasma collection center. The 10-year lease had a provision allowing the tenant to buy down monthly payments by reimbursing the landlord development costs. In 2008, the tenant chose to pay $1 million to the landlord under this lease clause.

Getting a $1 million payment can complicate your tax planning. Tax Court Judge Ruwe explains the simple approach used by the landlord on the joint return he filed:

Petitioners jointly filed a Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, for 2008. On one of the Schedules E attached to the return petitioners reported rents received of $1,151,493 in connection with the plasma collection center rental. Among the deductions that petitioners claimed on this Schedule E was a $1 million “contribution to construct” expense.

The IRS disagreed, saying that the taxpayer should have reported the amount as rent without the “contribution to construct” deduction.

When it got to Tax Court, the taxpayer dropped the deduction argument and instead argued, first, that the $1 million payment wasn’t income in the first place, but an expense reimbursement. The Tax Court said that the use of the payment to buy down rent payments was fatal to that argument.

The taxpayer then argued that the rental income should be spread over 10 years under the “rent levelling” rules of Section 467. This often-overlooked section was enacted to prevent games like tenants front-loading rent deductions via prepayments to tax-indifferent landlords. Judge Ruwe provides some background (some citations omitted):

Congress enacted section 467 to prevent lessors and lessees from mismatching the reporting of rental income and expenses.  Section 467 provides accrual methods for allocating rents pursuant to a “section 467 rental agreement”. In order to qualify as a section 467 rental agreement, an agreement must have: (1) increasing/decreasing rents or deferred/prepaid rents and (2) aggregate rental payments exceeding $250,000.  Both parties agree that the lease in this case qualifies as a section 467 rental agreement.

The court held that the lease didn’t “allocate” the $1 million payment across the ten-year lease term:

Petitioners argue that they should be permitted to use the constant rental accrual method provided in section 467(b)(2) in order to spread their rental income to other years. However, this method is inapplicable because it was intended to allow the Commissioner to rectify tax avoidance situations, and the regulations provide that this method “may not be used in the absence of a determination by the Commissioner”.

That’s a tool for the IRS, not for you, silly taxpayer!

dimeThe court also held that the rent was not “prepaid rent” that could be deferred over the lease term:

In applying this regulation to the facts of this case we first find that the lease in question does not “specifically allocate” fixed rent to any rental period within the meaning of section 1.467-1(c)(2)(ii)(A), Income Tax Regs. However, the lease does provide for a fixed amount of rent payable during the rental period (i.e., rent payable pursuant to the terms of the lease). Accordingly, in the absence of a “specific” allocation in the rental agreement, the amount of rent payable in 2008 must be allocated to petitioners’ 2008 rental period pursuant to section 1.467-1(c)(2)(ii)(B), Income Tax Regs., which provides that “the amount of fixed rent allocated to a rental period is the amount of fixed rent payable during that rental period.” Therefore, petitioners are required to include as gross income the entire $1 million lump-sum payment made pursuant to the terms of the lease for the year of receipt, 2008.

The Moral? Heads they win, tails you lose, when you aren’t extremely careful drafting a funky lease. Section 467 is obscure and, I suspect, frequently overlooked. It usually doesn’t matter, as most leases don’t get fancy. When they do, though — especially when you see big payment variances — you need to pay attention. The tax results may surprise.


TaxProf, TIGTA: IRS Ignored Recommended Security Upgrades That Would Have Prevented Last Week’s Hack Of 100,000 Taxpayer Accounts. Prof. Caron quotes the Washington Post:

A government watchdog told lawmakers Tuesday that the Internal Revenue Service has failed to put in place dozens of security upgrades to fight cyberattacks, improvements he said would have made it “much more difficult” for hackers to gain access to the personal information of 104,000 taxpayers in the spring.

“It would have been much more difficult if they had implemented all of the recommendations we made,” J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, told the Senate Finance Committee at a hearing on the data breach, which the IRS says was part of an elaborate scheme to claim fraudulent tax refunds.

Identity theft has been a neglected problem at the IRS for years. Billions of dollars have been lost both to petty Florida grifters and to “a worldwide criminal syndicate” taking advantage of IRS laxity. Yet the last two commissioners (and, sadly, the Taxpayer Advocate) have spent more effort trying to set up a preparer regulation scheme that would do nothing to stop fraud — but would increase IRS power and the market share of the big franchise preparers. Priorities.

And it’s not a matter of a pinched budget. Ask Commissioner Koskinen (via Tax Analysts, $link): “Koskinen acknowledged before the Finance Committee that the Get Transcript security breach was not a matter of resources, and thus budget, but of management.”



Russ Fox, The BEA Responds, or Making IRS Customer Service Look Normal (Bad). Russ reports that BEA has extended the deadline for its mandatory “survey” of foreign business ownership to June 30 for most filers.

Peter Reilly, Failure To File Texas Franchise Tax Form Voids Lawsuit. Sometimes ignoring a state tax filing can bite you in a surprising place.

TaxGrrrl, IRS Changes Position On Identity Theft, Will Provide Copies Of Returns To Victims. “Thanks to an inquiry from Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), IRS will now provide victims of identity theft with copies of the fraudulent tax returns filed using their personal and financial information.”

Robert Wood, If You Handle Cash, IRS Can Seize First, Ask Questions Later. “Even if your bank/cash efforts come from 100% legal money, the IRS says it still  [c]an seize it.”

IJim Maule, Where’s the Promised Trickle-Over? Another example of the illusory nature of the benefits of publicly-funded pro sports venues.

Keith Fogg, Tax Court Continues to Take the Same “Angle” on Attorney’s Fees When IRS Concedes the Case. “I continue to find this line of cases to contradict the purpose of the statute.  Particularly for those of us representing low-income taxpayers where the amount of tax at issue is low but the amount of time spent to prepare a case for trial not inconsequential, this loophole is swallowing the rule.”

Jack Townsend, Third Circuit Reverses Variance to One Day from Guidelines Range of 63 to 78 Months. Apparently one day isn’t close enough to 63 months.

Tony Nitti, Will Caitlyn Jenner’s Gender Reassignment Costs Be Tax Deductible?



David Brunori, Amazon Does the Right Thing (Tax Analysts Blog):

Shakopee was prepared to provide direct incentives to Amazon. But Amazon told Shakopee it didn’t want them. That’s right — Amazon said no to the tax incentives being offered.

Good. Why?

I would like to think Amazon is being a good corporate citizen, but I really like the idea that it may have backed off because of potential political opposition to the incentives. Only politicians can stop the scourge of incentives. So if political hassles lead to fewer tax incentives, let’s have more political hassles.


Megan Scarboro, New Hampshire Considering Cuts to Corporate Tax Rate (Tax Policy Blog):

While New Hampshire generally has a good tax code, a tax cut for businesses could improve the state’s economic climate.

Because the state has no tax on wage income or general sales, New Hampshire is ranks 7th overall in our State Business Tax Climate Index, but a notable weakness is that high corporate rates drive a ranking of 48th in the corporate tax rate component.

In case you are wondering, Iowa is #50.

Jeremy Scott, Republican Support for Brownback’s Tax Plan Begins to Erode (Tax Analysts Blog).


Howard Gleckman, What’s Up With the No Climate Tax Pledge?

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 755


Career Corner. Study: Faking Long Hours Is Just As Good As Working Long Hours (Greg Kyte, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 6/2/15: See what the thief filed to claim your refund. And: a crowded Irish address files 580 1040s!

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20111040logoIt seems only fair. In a policy change, the IRS will enable identity theft victims to see copies of fraudulent returns filed in their names, reports Tax Analysts ($link).

Tax-related identity theft victims will soon be able to obtain IRS copies of the fraudulent tax returns used to steal their identity, thanks in part to a push by Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.

“Once we have a procedure in place, we will issue an announcement informing tax-related identity theft victims of the process for receiving a redacted copy of the fraudulent return,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a May 28 letter that acknowledged Ayotte as the impetus for the change in the tax agency’s identity theft policy.

The redactions will deal with other taxpayers included on the stolen return. I am guessing could include pretend spouses and dependents used by the ID thief.

This is good news for taxpayers, as it may help them resolve otherwise inexplicable problems with their IRS accounts. It also promises to help shed light on how the thefts occur and, perhaps, help practitioners suggest measures to fight the fraud. It’s also long overdue. It’s not as if thieves can reasonably expect confidentiality for their crimes.


20130316-1The luck of the IRisSh. The tax agency still seems to be way behind the ID thieves. This report from the Irish Times is hardly reassuring: 

An address in Kilkenny topped a table of addresses used for multiple potentially fraudulent tax return applications submitted to the Internal Revenue Service in 2012, a study by the US treasury has found.

The address in Kilkenny was used for 580 returns in 2012, which led to “refunds” totalling $218,974 being issued, according to the study by the treasury inspector general for tax administration in the United States.

The IRS likes to claim that budget constraints are behind its abject failure to control the identity theft refund fraud epidemic. The inability to flag hundreds of refunds claimed from the same offshore address — which would seem like an easy enough programming problem to solve — indicates the problems are deeper than lean budgets.

 An address in Kaunas, Lithuania, was used for 525 applications that prompted the payment of $156,274, while an address in Miami, Florida, came third on the list, with 417 applications leading to the payment of $221,806. 

Somehow this doesn’t tell me the IRS needs to expand its responsibilities — but Congress and the President clearly feel otherwise.


Will there finally be real steps to fight the problem? Tax Analysts also reports ($link) that the IRS, in cooperation with states and software vendors, will require additional information to process e-filings:

Central to the announcement is a greatly enhanced public-private effort to combat fraud through increased information sharing.

Another upshot is that industry and government will need to process returns differently starting with the 2016 filing season, said Alabama Department of Revenue Commissioner Julie Magee. On the front end, tax return preparation software providers will need to provide multifactor authentication steps when a taxpayer logs in or returns to a site, she said.

The changes also will require vendors to increase by a few dozen data points the amount of information collected from the taxpayer or the return and sent in a standardized format to the IRS and state revenue departments, Magee said.

The story says the details will be announced sometime this month to enable vendors to prepare for next season. We will cover the announcement when it is made.




Robert D. Flach has a fresh Tuesday Buzz roundup, covering topics as diverse as extenders and “I Love Lucy.

William Perez, The Key Benefits of Health Savings Accounts. Tax deductible contributions, tax-free accumulation, and tax-free withdrawals for qualified medical expenses.

Robert Wood, IRS Says If You’re Willful, FBAR Penalties Hit 100%, $10,000 If You’re Not

Peter Reilly, Conservation Easements – Tax Court Lets Owner Sell Them Or Give Them But Not Both

Jason Dinesen, History of Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 9: After Poe v. Seaborn. “Finally in 1948, Congress acted. For the first time, filing statuses were created and we moved closer to the tax system we know today.”

Kay Bell, Ohio becomes 25th state in which Amazon collects sales tax

Me, How states try to tax the visiting employee. My new post at, the Des Moines Business Record Business Professionals Blog.




Alan Cole, Oregon to Experiment with Mileage-Based Tax (Tax Policy Blog):

Oregon will become the first state to implement a per-mile tax on driving. The tax is voluntary – an alternative to the state’s fuel tax. Drivers will get the choice of paying one or another. Should they choose the mileage-based tax, they will be charged 1.5 cents per mile, but get a credit to offset the taxes they pay on gas.

States have difficulty increasing gas taxes. Energy-efficient cars and electric (coal powered!) vehicles also are affecting gas tax revenues. The post doesn’t expain how the state will measure mileage; privacy issues promise to be a big obstacle for mileage taxes, but if this can be overcome, expect more states to follow Oregon.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 754

Martin Sullivan, How Grover Norquist’s Pledge Can Hurt the Conservative Cause (Tax Analysts Blog). “First, the pledge’s hard and fast prohibition on tax hikes can prevent signers from agreeing to compromises that would result in outcomes most conservatives would consider highly favorable.”


Scott Sumner asks Why are interest expenses tax deductible? (Econlog).

The cost of equity (dividends, etc.) is not tax deductible, while interest is deductible. But why?

Good question. I respond with another — why aren’t dividends deductible? That would prevent double taxation of corporate income while making sure corporations can’t be used as incorporated investment portfolios.