Posts Tagged ‘preparer regulation’

Tax Roundup, 4/9/14: Common K-1 problems. And: if the preparer doesn’t have a brain, give him a diploma!

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

S-SidewalkSo you read yesterday’s post and you’re still preparing your own return?  You’ve answered the questions you need to ask yourself before starting to put numbers from your S corporation/Partnership/Trust (collectively, “thing”) K-1 onto your 1040 schedules?  OK, if you are intrepid enough to be doing your own return here, you are mostly on your own.  Don’t shortcut it.  This is one chore where you really should read the instructions (S corporation, Partnership, Trust), rather than just opening the box and putting pieces together.

There’s no point in me trying to walk through the whole K-1 with you; that’s what the instructions are for.  I will point out a few items on the K-1 (or left out) that frequently cause errors and trigger questions.

On the partnership K-1 the ending capital account is probably not your “basis.” The capital account is frequently useless in measuring basis.  It might be the same as your basis if the “Tax basis” box is checked, but the only sure way to track your basis is to keep your own running basis schedule year-by-year.  S corporation shareholders can find their basis computation schedule here.

Don’t double-count your gains.  The “Unrecaptured Section 1250 gain” in Box 8c of your S corporation K-1  (9c of the partnership return) is a part of the “Net Section 1231 gain” (S corporation box 9, partnership box 10).  The total income is the Section 1231 gain, not the sum of the unrecaptured 1250 and 1231 amounts.  You use the “Unrecaptured 1250 gain” on your Schedule D worksheet to figure out how much of your Section 1231 gain is taxed at a 25% rate, rather than the normal 20% top capital gain rate.

Don’t double count “investment income.”  If you have interest, dividends or capital gains on your K-1, the partnerships is required to tell you how much of that is “investment income” with a code “A” in the “other information” box on the K-1.  You only need that number if you are computing an investment interest expense deduction on Form 4952.  You don’t add it as additional income on your return.

Beware the “net investment income” disclosure, code “Y” in the “other information” section.  The partnership and S corporation instructions for computing this came out late, and this number is likely to be wrong.  If you have to fill out Form 8960 to compute your Obamacare net investment income tax, you shouldn’t count on this number, especially for a K-1 with trade or business income.  Use instead the separate items from the K-1 that are investment income for Form 8960 purposes.

Be careful out there, and come back tomorrow for a new 2014 filing season tip!

 

20140307-1Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #5: Procrastinate.  You mean waiting won’t solve my tax problems?

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Are Those S Corporation Distributions Taxable?

 

William Perez, Tax Freedom Day 2014.  April 21.

Kay Bell, Being DIFferent could prompt a tax audit.  Kay points out things that can attract IRS attention on your 1040.

Jeremy Scott, Audit Electability (Tax Analysts Blog).  “However, a taxpayer’s choice of entity can have broad tax ramifications, including some consequences unintended even by the complicated U.S. tax regime.”

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for 4/4/2014.  (Procedurally Taxing), A good roundup of some recent tax cases, including coverage of the Ohio accounting firm’s unpleasant breakup that we covered last week.

 

20140409-1The IRS Commissionerwho apparently can’t regulate his own employees sufficiently to provide subpoenaed documents to Congress, still wants to regulate tax preparers.

The idea is no more than what the Wizard of Oz told the scarecrow: regulated preparers wouldn’t be any smarter, but they would have a diploma.  An IRS-issued Doctorate in Thinkology doesn’t make an inept preparer competent, any more than granting a CPA or a JD makes somebody a good tax preparer.  I would much sooner have uncredentailed Robert D. Flach do my 1040 than any number of fully-credentialed CPAs and attorneys I know.   All regulation would accomplish would be to raise prices, lining the pockets of the big tax prep franchises while driving many taxpayers to self-prepare or stop filing.

TaxGrrrl, House Committee Gunning For Criminal Charges In IRS Scandal

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 335

 

Roberton Williams, If You Have High Income, Your Taxes Are Going Up (TaxVox)

Tax Justice Blog, “Tax Extenders” Would Mean Even Lower Revenue than the Ryan Plan

Jim Maule, How Shocking is Tax Evasion?

Radio Iowa, Senator Grassley says fouled up tax system is depressing.  He’s depressed?  As a senior taxwriter for most of the last three decades, he’s answerable for a lot of the depression.

 

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

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

Other tax bloggers weigh in:

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

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

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

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

 

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

William Perez, How to Handle Owing the IRS

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Tax Trials, The Tax Education of Lauryn Hill

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

 

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

 20140212-1

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Preparer regulation loses again; DC Circuit upholds Loving decision.

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130121-2The Shulman-era IRS preparer regulation program is dead.  The Appeals Court for the DC Circuit today upheld the DC District decision in Loving, a decision holding that the IRS had no authority to enact its elaborate “Registered Tax Return Preparer” regime.  The winning attorneys at the Institute for Justice issued a press release:

Today, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the IRS had no legal authority to impose a nationwide licensing scheme on tax-return preparers. The decision affirms a January 2013 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg, which struck down the IRS’s new regulations as unlawful. Both courts rejected the agency’s shocking claim that tax-preparer licensure was authorized by an obscure 1884 statute governing the representatives of Civil War soldiers seeking compensation for dead horses.

“This is a major victory for tax preparers—and taxpayers—nationwide,” said Dan Alban of the Institute for Justice, the lead attorney for the three independent tax preparers who filed the suit. “The court found that Congress never gave the IRS the power to license tax preparers, and the IRS cannot give itself that authority.”

It’s great news for taxpayers, who will not have their return prep costs artificially increased by a regulatory scheme written by a former H&R Block CEO.  It’s good news for preparers, who will not have to waste time and effort in futile paperwork that will do nothing to solve the real problems of the tax system — baroque complexity and internal controls so weak that petty grifters steal billions through refund fraud annually.

The court was blunt in dismissing IRS arguments that a Reconstruction-era statute on Civil War claims gave them the authority to invent an elaborate preparer regulation scheme out of thin air:

In our view, at least six considerations foreclose the IRS’s interpretation of the statute.

Put simply, tax-return preparers are not agents. They do not possess legal authority to act on the taxpayer’s behalf. They cannot legally bind the taxpayer by acting on the taxpayer’s behalf. The IRS cites no law suggesting that tax-return preparers have legal authority to act on behalf of taxpayers. Indeed, a tax-return preparer who tried to act on the taxpayer’s behalf would run into trouble with the IRS…

The IRS may not unilaterally expand its authority through such an expansive, atextual, and ahistorical reading of Section 330.

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

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

It’s bad news for the already battered legacy of The Worst Commissioner Ever, who let identity theft balloon while he wasted his time on this pointless exercise.

Congratulations to Dan Alban and the Institute For Justice for their winning work in this case.  I’m glad to have played a small role as an early agitator against preparer regulation and as a participant in an Amicus brief to the D.C. Circuit opposing the rules.

Cite:  Loving, CA-DC No. 13-5061

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/5/2013: Branstad floats optional income tax without federal tax deduction. And: is IRS hiding something?

Thursday, December 5th, 2013 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 Alternative Maximum Tax proposal revived?  Governor Branstad may push an optional income tax with lower rates and no deduction for federal taxes.  This plan looks like an attempt to improve Iowa’s byzantine income tax without provoking the wrath of Iowans for Tax Relief, the Muscatine-based advocacy group that strongly opposes efforts to do away with the deduction.  KJAN.com reports:

Iowa’s income tax rates higher when compared to most other states because Iowa offers a deduction that’s offered in only five other states. That deduction allows Iowans to subtract their federal income tax liability from their income before calculating their state income taxes.  “We don’t want to erode federal deductability,” Branstad says, “and that’s why we’re saying: ‘Give ‘em the option.’” By giving taxpayers the option to file their income taxes under the current system with that major deduction or under a new system with lower and flatter rates, Branstad might avoid the firestorm he faced from his fellow Republicans in the late 1980s when he proposed doing away with that deduction.

The Governor appears to plan to add a new twist to the plan, reports Kathie Obradovich:

Branstad indicated that he wouldn’t allow Iowans to “game the system” by changing their form every year. That means taxpayers who give up the federal deduction would have to stick with the choice even if the other option would result in lower taxes in a given year.

That means the new system would be a one-way street.  It no longer would be an “alternative maximum tax,” where taxpayers would always compute their tax both with and without the federal deduction and choose the lower amount.  That makes it even worse than the version passed by the Iowa House of Representatives last year, which would have allowed taxpayers to make the choice annually.  Unless the new system provides significantly better results in the great majority of circumstances, most taxpayers would want to retain the option to use the federal deduction.  That would stall the (presumably) desired transition to a simpler system.  Both the Branstad plan and the House plan significantly add to the complexity of the tax law.

While Iowa’s high stated tax rates — individual and corporate — don’t help, the ridiculous complexity of Iowa tax law is the real problem.  Iowa has a bunch of penny-ante credits and deductions that don’t apply for federal purposes.  These are too small to make a significant difference to taxpayers but also too small for the Department of Revenue to police.  There are also dozens of special-interest tax credits and deductions that take dollars from the rest of us on behalf of people with connections at the Statehouse.

It’s not in his nature, but the Governor ought to go bold and embrace the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.  It strips the Iowa tax law to a very few deductions and repeals Iowa’s highest-in-the-nation corporation income tax while drastically lowering personal rates.  The Iowa Senate is unlikely to pass the Governor’s half-baked half-measure anyway; why not change the terms of the debate with a plan that actually makes sense?

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

 

taxanalystslogoChristopher BerginTax Analysts v. IRS: What Are They Hiding? (Tax Analysts Blog):

Back in August, I wrote about the lawsuit Tax Analysts had filed against the IRS seeking documents under the Freedom of Information Act. The documents being sought were training materials used to instruct and guide IRS personnel in the IRS exempt organization determinations office in Cincinnati. The big story then, and now, was generated by former EO director in the IRS Tax-Exempt and Government Entities Division Lois Lerner’s admission that the agency had used inappropriate means to determine which organizations qualified for tax-exempt status as social welfare organizations. The organizations singled out for extra scrutiny were mostly, if not entirely, conservative. Tax Analysts felt compelled to seek relief from the courts because we were getting nowhere with the IRS – other than the big stall – even though it had promised expedited treatment on our original request.

Several months later, the big stall continues — to the point that I have to ask myself whether the IRS just made a stupid mistake in targeting those organizations or whether something much worse is going on. 

They are using the “taxpayer confidentiality” excuse for their standard big stall.  Christopher isn’t buying it:

But I’ll say it again: Training materials, really? Why on earth would the IRS try to keep those secret? You’d think the training manuals would all be in a file cabinet somewhere, which hardly would require a search party of 100 lawyers and a scouring for tax return information.

Could it be that this time something is different? Could there be a smoking gun here? I’m not saying there is. I’m just saying it may be time to start asking that question. Because even for the IRS, this is darned peculiar behavior.

Congress should amend the taxpayer confidentiality rules to keep the IRS from using them as an excuse to hide its own dirty laundry.  It shouldn’t require a federal lawsuit to get the IRS to publicize internal non-taxpayer documents.

 

 

20130121-2Whither the Registered Tax Return Preparer Program?  Robert D. Flach argues that the RTRP designation that was part of the nearly-dead IRS preparer regulation power grab should be administered by the IRS on a voluntary basis.  I disagree.

Robert would like a way to distinguish the better class of “unenrolled” preparers from less-professional seasonal preparers.  I can understand that, but I don’t think that the IRS is the agency that should do this.  It would divert already strained IRS resources to do something the preparer industry could do on its own.  I agree with Jason Dinesen that if preparers want a government designation, they should take the Enrolled Agents exam, which is much more difficult than the RTRP literacy test.  The EA designation is sadly underappreciated in the market, and adding a new IRS-run designation would only make that worse.

 

The IRS reminds us that the “savers credit” can help lower-income taxpayers who contribute to a retirement plan.  This is a non-refundable credit of up to 50% of the amount contributed to IRAs or deferred to a 401(k) plan.  For parents, funding a young adult offspring’s retirement plan contribution is a tax-efficient way to help build a nest egg.

 

Don’t try this with your tax deadlines.   TIGTA: IRS Is Seven Years Past Statutory Deadline for Providing Online Account Access to Taxpayers (TaxProf).  From the TIGTA report:

The RRA 98 required the IRS to develop procedures to allow taxpayers filing returns electronically to review their account online by December 31, 2006. The IRS did not meet this requirement, and we determined that the IRS has not made adequate progress in allowing taxpayers to access tax accounts. Currently, taxpayers cannot review account information electronically.

In fact, the IRS is getting worse, having cut back electronic access for tax professionals.  That makes resolving even a simple IRS notice a tedious multi-week snail-mail slog.

 

Tony Nitti, The Definitive Questions And Answers On The New Net Investment Income Tax [Updated For Final Regulations] 

amazonCara Griffith It’s a Bird, It’s a Plane…It’s Amazon Prime Air? (Tax Analysts Blog).  Sales tax by drone.

Alan Cole, Report: Obamacare Premium Subsidies Will Need Fraud Protection (Tax Policy Blog).  No kidding.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 210

 

Kay Bell, Tax e-filing continues to grow, hitting 122 million in 2013

TaxGrrrl, Will Congress Drive Up Gas Taxes In 2014?   

 

Um, because most commuters drive?  Why Does the Tax Code Favor Commuters that Drive? (Tax Justice Blog)

Going Concern, IRS’ Improved e-File System Is a Total Success Except For Two Jerks Who Foiled It

 

Don’t trust tax collectors, if you’re a tax collector:

The former tax collector of Plainville, who is also former treasurer of the Connecticut Tax Collectors Association, was arrested Monday morning and charged with first degree larceny, after being under investigation for possible embezzlement since June.

Debra Guerrette, of Bristol, was placed on administrative leave from Plainville’s Revenue office in June after Bristol police informed the town Guerrette was involved in a criminal investigation.

After an analysis of the financial records for the Connecticut Tax Collectors Association, and also Guerrette’s financial records, police said she had “misappropriated funds in excess of $50,000” between 2008 and 2013, into her personal account.

Will there be a special assessment of the collectors to make up the difference?

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/19/13: Sub-zero edition! And the dark side of non-recourse debt forgiveness.

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2

Tax Court says you can’t go below zero.  At least not in computing penalties.

A taxpayer filed a return showing no tax, but claiming refundable tax credits that generated a refund of $7,327.  That’s why refundable credits are such a sweet deal — you can get a refund of taxes without ever paying them through withholding or estimated taxes.  They are really a form of welfare.

The IRS issued the refund as claimed, but then thought better of it.  The IRS recomputation was that the taxpayer should have showed a positive tax balance of $144.  That meant the taxpayer was supposed to repay the $7,327 refundable credit plus the $144 tax due, for a total of $7,471.  The IRS assessed the difference, plus a 20% penalty on the $7,471 “underpayment.”  The taxpayer didn’t think refunding the refundable credit counted as an “underpayment, and the case went to Tax Court.

The tax imposes an “accuracy related” penalty on deficiencies, based on how much the taxpayer underpays the “tax required to be shown on the return.”  The IRS said the underpayment was the whole $7,471.  The Tax Court said that refundable credits can’t take the tax below zero for this purpose, so the “underpayment” is only $144 for computing the penalty.

 

This seems wrong.  Refundable credit fraud — especially Earned Income Tax fraud — is a multi-billion-dollar problem.  If there is no monetary penalty for claiming bogus credits, the only deterrent for gaming the system is criminal penalties, and given the limits on the IRS ability to prosecute EITC fraud, it’s an empty threat.

The Tax Court seems to agree:

We note that our conclusion breaks the historical link between the definitions of a deficiency and an underpayment; however, it was Congress that made that break.

If the case holds up on appeal, Congressional action is all that can fix it.

Cite: Rand, 141 T.C. No. 12.

 

Peter Reilly, IRS Letter To Senator Boxer On Short Sales Not Good News For Everybody

I hate to spoil a nice celebration, but I am going to risk it.  The position that the IRS outlined in the ruling is probably good news for most people affected by it.  It may not be good news for everybody, though.  In order to understand why you have to understand the IRS reasoning.  Here is the deal.  When debt is secured by property, it is either recourse or non-recourse…

The effect of that section is to make just about all California home mortgages non-recourse…  There are various exceptions to recognizing debt discharge income, such as the insolvency exception.  These will no longer be available.  

When you give up a house for non-recourse debt, you are considered to sell it for that amount.  That can be a bad thing.   If you don’t qualify for the residential gain exclusion — say, because you haven’t used it as a residence long enough to qualify, or you bought the house to rent — you can have taxable gain, no cash, and no available debt forgiveness exclusion.

 

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

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

 

Alan Cole, High Implicit Marginal Tax Rates Make Life Difficult for the Poor (Tax Policy Blog):

The CBO did a great study on this a year ago. It found that the implicit marginal tax rates on some poor folk are frequently above 50%, and sometimes above 80%. That is to say, that when they figure out how to increase their income by a $100, they lose $50 or more in new taxes or lost benefits. 

That’s exactly the sort perverse effect that results from the increase in Iowa’s earned income tax credit, which by itself can put low income taxpayers in a 50%+ bracket.  Take away other benefits and you can see how it could get to 80% or more.

 

Sioux City Journal, Branstad declines to issue a gas tax veto threat.  Probably because he’d like a higher gas tax, even though he likes being re-elected too much to push for one.

 

Ben Harris,  Sorting Through The Property Tax Burden (TaxVox):

Using self-reported American Community Survey data, we find that residential property taxes tend to be close to $1,000 per year, with a small share of households paying substantially more, especially in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and New Hampshire. In recent years, 48 percent of homeowners paid between $750 and $1,750 in property taxes. About one-third—31 percent—paid less than $750 and 21 percent paid more than $1,750.  Just 3 percent paid more than $4,000, with a miniscule share of homeowners (0.2 percent) paying more than $8,000. 

That seems low, but my clients probably aren’t a representative sample.

 

Jason Dinesen, Missouri Guidance on Same-Sex Marriage

 

Kay Bell, Missouri recognizes same-sex marriages for tax filing only20130121-2TaxGrrrl, Black Market Tax Preparers Continue To Defy IRS :

The solution for tax preparers who didn’t want to register and pay the fee? They simply don’t sign the returns.

And yes, that’s against the rules. But a number of paid tax preparers do it anyway. They are referred to in the business as “black market preparers” or sometimes, “ghost” tax preparers.

And that will happen no matter what regulations the IRS imposes on honest preparers.

 

William Perez, Tax Provisions Expiring at the End of 2013

Tony Nitti, House Republicans Put Tax Reform On Hold To Revel In Obamacare Struggles

I really don’t expect to receive tips from clients–it’s not the norm for tax preparation. I definitely don’t expect to receive $1,458,905 in such gratuities.  

I can’t say I expect that either.  But I would be OK with it!

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 194

Robert D. Flach brings the Tuesday Buzz!

 

The Critical Question: Are Jamaican Credit Unions The Next Tax Haven?  (Brian Mahany)

AOL? Prodigy? Attorney’s License to Practice Law Is Suspended for Failing to Maintain an Email Account  (TaxProf)

 

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Tax Update, 9/25/2013: Preparer regulation has a bad day in court. And the royal consort clarifies the record.

Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 by Joe Kristan


20130121-2
Bad Day for preparer regulation at appeals court? 
Tax Analysts reports ($link) that the judges hearing the IRS appeal of the D.C. District Court’s shutdown of Doug Shulman’s preparer regulation power grab do not appear inclined to reverse it:

The D.C. Circuit during September 24 oral arguments in Loving v. IRS, No. 13-5061 (D.C. Cir. 2013), expressed skepticism that the IRS possesses the statutory authority to implement its tax return preparer program. Stuart J. Bassin of Baker & Hostetler LLP said that the oral arguments did not go well for the government and that it didn’t appear as if the court was “buying what the government was selling.” 

I’ve heard the same thing from two attorneys who attended the session.  Preparers who have followed the story of selective enforcement of tax laws in the Tea Party scandal can’t relish the idea of giving the IRS more control over their practices.  It looks as though we may be spared that, until and unless Congress does something stupid like authorizing such preparer regulation.

Robert D. Flach has more, as does Kay Bell.  I have joined an amicus brief against the preparer regulations in this case.

 

20130925-1Incentives gone wild.  While Iowa’s state-level politicians love taking your money to lure and subsidize your competitors, the politicians in Coralville have taken it to Detroit-like levels, reports IowaWatchdog.org:

The City Council of Coralville has piled up about $280 million in debt in recent years, the highest debt per capita for a city in Iowa.

The $14,511 burden for each of its 19,219 residents is seven times higher than Des Moines or Iowa City. It’s enough to pay for 38 Iowa Hawkeyes football season tickets or three semesters of tuition at the University of Iowa.

Moody’s Investors Service, after having downgraded the city’s debt four times, was, in a recent report, particularly tough on Coralville’s “history of issuing debt of non-essential government purposes, including the construction of a hotel, golf course, performing arts center and brewery, all of which are city owned.”

All in the name of “economic development,” of course.  Or, as the department store ads used to say, the more you spend, the more you save!  Unless you are one of the unlucky owners of the 60% of property in Coralville that isn’t in a tax-priviliged TIF district.

 

Jason Dinesen, IRS Guidance on FICA Refunds for Same-Sex Married Couples   

Jack Townsend,  Government Refusal to Grant Immunity Shifts Burden of Proof to IRS in Tax Court Case.  But he isn’t sure it will do the taxpayer any good.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 139

Tony Nitti,  Understanding The Impact Of Legalized Recreational Marijuana On State Tax Revenue   Well, it might not seem to matter so much.

William Perez,  Average Child Tax Credit by State

William McBride,  America Loses another Fortune 500 Company due to High Corporate Taxes (Tax Policy Blog).  A US company, Applie Materials, Inc., acquires a Japanese company, and they move combined headquarters to… Holland:

 The U.S. and Japan have the highest statutory corporate tax rates in the developed world, and by most measures the highest effective corporate tax rates as well. In contrast, the Netherlands has a statutory corporate tax rate of 25 percent, compared to 39 percent in the U.S. and 37 percent in Japan. The Netherlands also has the most generous capital allowances for plant and machinery in the developed world, which is particularly important for these two manufacturing firms. Lastly, unlike the U.S., which taxes foreign earnings on a worldwide basis, the Netherlands uses a territorial tax system, which largely exempts foreign earnings from domestic taxation.

Howard Gleckman, An Upcoming Debate on Whether Private Equity Should Pay Higher Taxes.  (TaxVox) Yes, this country needs nothing more than lower returns to capital.   Just ask the people at Applied Materials.

 

David Brunori, Marriage and Religious Freedom Act Promotes Neither (Tax Analysts Blog):

The tax laws should be neutral when it comes to politics. Personally, I would end all tax exemptions for all political groups — gay, straight, or in between. The IRS rightfully took considerable heat when it singled out conservative groups for scrutiny. But the Marriage and Religious Freedom Act isn’t the answer.

More legislation seldom is, unless it just repeals old legislation.

 

Is there anything tax law can’t do?  Russians Consider Boosting Divorce Tax, Citing ‘Moral And Demographic Decline’ (TaxGrrrl)

 

Tax Justice Blog,  ITEP Analysis: Cuccinelli Tax Plan Mostly Benefits Wealthy Virginians – and Cuccinelli.  When the rich pay most of the taxes, any tax cut will “disproportionately benefit the wealthy.”

Taking a stand: Does the Economy Need Stimulus or Austerity? Yes. (Joseph Thorndike, Tax Analysts Blog)

 

 

20130717-1The Royal Consort clarifies the record.  TBO.com reports that the partner-in-crime of Rashia Wilson, self-proclaimed “Queen of IRS tax fraud,” wants to set the record straight:

He may have been her partner in crime, joining forces to steal millions from federal taxpayers.

He may have spent time at her house and shared “romantic liaisons.”

But Maurice Larry wants people to know he most definitely was not the boyfriend of Rashia Wilson, Tampa’s notorious self-dubbed Queen of Tax Fraud.

Just a good friend with benefits.

Wilson, who became known for her brazen Facebook postings taunting authorities about the millions she was stealing from taxpayers through stolen identity tax refund fraud, was sentenced in July to 21 years in federal prison.

Larry, who spent $100,000 covering a Camaro in chrome, was sentenced Tuesday to 14 1/2 years in federal prison, a sentence he is to serve at the same time as an 8-year, 5-month sentence he received Monday in another tax refund fraud case.

A chrome Camaro?  I suppose it went well with Ms. Wilson’s platinum hairdo.

 

That means they aren’t eating at the right places.  Deloitte Study: Accountants Don’t Have Fire in Their Bellies (Going Concern).

 

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Bloggers on Brief against preparer regulation

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Flickr image courtesy Tim under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy Tim under Creative Commons license

I have joined an “amicus” brief to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on the Loving case against the IRS preparer regulation regime.  Also on the brief are boggers Russ Fox and Jason Dinesen, as well as The Tax Foundation.

The IRS is appealing the district court ruling rejecting their power grab over preparers.  Accounting Today reports:

The brief argues that the IRS violated the APA’s arbitrary and capricious standard in issuing the regulations, for example, by engaging in a flawed cost/benefit analysis under Executive Order 12866 in rejecting alternative approaches. “The IRS ignored the increased costs to consumers of tax-return preparation services in making this analysis,” said the brief.

Jason’s argument:

As an Enrolled Agent, Mr. Dinesen is not directly affected by the regulations. Nevertheless, Mr. Dinesen believes the regulations would have an indirect adverse effect on his business (and on Enrolled Agents generally) because the Registered Tax Return Preparer designation created by the regulations would have the effect of diminishing the value of the Enrolled Agent designation in the market for tax-preparation services, largely because the number of Registered Tax Return Preparers would be substantially greater than the number of Enrolled Agents.

Next to consumers, I think enrolled agents are the folks most harmed by the regulations.  The RTRP designation would make it very difficult for EAs to market their much higher level of credentials.

Russ Fox is also an enrolled agent,  but he raises different points:

As an Enrolled Agent, Mr. Fox is not directly affected by the regulations. Nevertheless, based on his extensive experience in tax practice, he has a number of objections to the regulations. In addition to the defects in the regulations described by the district court, the plaintiffs-appellees, and this brief, Mr. Fox objects to the regulations because the IRS already has ample statutorily authorized tools to apply against incompetent or unscrupulous tax-return preparers; because the regulations will not be effective in eliminating incompetent or unscrupulous tax-return preparers; because they will give a tacit stamp of approval to preparers who are not competent; because they will have the effect of driving many low-volume tax-return preparers out of business, thereby increasing the cost of tax-return preparation services for the clients of those preparers; and because administering the regulations will require scarce IRS resources that could be better used for other purposes, such as combatting identity theft.

He is correct, in my view.

My case:

 Mr. Kristan objects to the regulations because they will reduce options  for consumers of tax-preparation services by driving many low-volume but competent and conscientious tax-return preparers out of business because of the cost of compliance with the regulations; will increase the compliance cost and burden on low-volume tax-return preparers that remain in business; will increase the cost of tax preparation services without increasing the value of those services; will prompt some low-income individuals to resort to tax-return preparers who will evade compliance with the regulations; will prompt some low-income individuals to prepare their own returns, rather than using paid preparers, resulting in less accurate returns; will prompt some low-income individuals to cease filing altogether; will adversely affect Enrolled Agents by diminishing the value of their Enrolled Agent designation; and will likely ultimately be extended to CPAs, attorneys, and Enrolled Agents.

After the revelations regarding the IRS treatment of the administration’s political opponents, why would anyone think it wise to let the IRS regulate preparers?  It makes as much sense as having prosecutors regulate defense attorneys.

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Tax Roundup, May 1, 2013: Brittannia gets behind filmmakers in a big way. Also: IRS power grab takes a new direction.

Wednesday, May 1st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

hh44.jpgNew U.K. film tax credit indictments.  It appears that the Brits are slowly moving towards the Iowa approach of jailing filmmakers instead of subsidizing them.  Ic.Scotland.co.uk reports:

Five people are to be charged in connection with a film industry tax relief fraud which cost the public purse around £125 million, the Crown Prosecution Service said.

The group allegedly abused a tax relief that allows investors in the British film industry to offset losses against other tax liabilities in order to cheat the public revenue.

“Around £125 million” translates to around $194 million.  And in Iowa film producers are serving time for stealing merely single digits of millions.  It just goes to show what you can accomplish with a national effort.

 

Boo.  House bill would give IRS authority to regulate tax pros (Kay Bell)  The power grabbers at IRS and their buddies at the national franchise tax prep firms have been thwarted by the courts.  Now they are using their congresscritter friends to put in the fix.

Kay sadly falls for it:

The quality independent tax professionals are following tax law changes, staying up to date and providing their clients with reliable tax services. Down the  street, however, an inept preparer is undercutting their prices and mucking up the system for all of us — the IRS, tax pros and taxpayers alike.

The IRS can’t regulate anybody into competency.  They can make people pass a “competency” test that really is a literacy test.  They can make people pay for CPE.  But they can’t make anybody competent who wouldn’t be otherwise.    What they can do is drive little preparers out of the business with nagging paperwork, red tape and hassles that the big boys can just assign to their compliance departments, and, when necessary, to their lobbyists.  This reduces the supply of preparers, increasing the cost of preparation for taxpayers.

The real problem with tax errors isn’t preparers; it’s the horrendous tax law and the inept legislators who make it happen.

 

Jacob Sullum on the Burden of Online Sales Taxes (Reason.com):

In a 2011 paper published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, Veronique de Rugy and Adam Thierer recommended “an ‘origin-based’ sourcing rule for any states seeking to impose sales tax collection obligations on interstate vendors.” Under that rule, which mirrors what happens when you buy something while visiting another state, each business collects sales tax on behalf of the state where it is based, no matter where the customer happens to be.

The beauty of this approach is that it treats all retailers equally, eliminates the daunting challenge of dealing with many different taxing authorities, and respects state policy choices while encouraging tax competition between jurisdictions. Evidently the idea makes too much sense for Congress to consider.  

 That would motivate online sellers to locate in low tax jurisdictions, which is why congresscritters from high-tax places will never allow it to happen.

 

Scott Drenkard,  California Considers Soda Tax in 2013, Forgetting Resounding Defeat in 2012 (Tax Policy Blog)

Joseph Thorndike, When Tax Reform Means Soaking the Rich (Tax.com)

Eric Toder,  How to Improve the Tax Subsidy for Home Ownership.  (TaxVox).  Maybe by eliminating it?

Jack Townsend,  John Doe Summons Issued to Wells Fargo for Records of CIBC FirstCaribbean International Bank Correspondent Account

Patrick Temple-West,  FATCA hurts Americans abroad, and more (Tax Break)

 

J.D. Tuccille, If High Cigarette Taxes Fuel a Booming Black Market, What Will High Marijuana Taxes Do?  (Reason.com).

David Brunori, Pancho Villa and Three Hundred Million Joints (Tax.com)

 

News you can use:  How Not to Deduct 85,491 Miles (Russ Fox)

 The Critical Question:  Has Microsoft Excel Ruined the World? (Going Concern)

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Tax Roundup, 4/2/2013: Your corporate welfare is my wise economic development incentive. And what’s a vampire, anyway?

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1Not your corporate welfare.  Just ours.  Iowa Senate taxwriters have been eloquent in criticizing the corporate welfare famously doled out to fertilizer companies over the last year.  It turns out, though, that not all corporate welfare is bad, to them.  Just that proposed by the other party.  The Senate Ways and Means Committee advanced a set of its own welfare programs yesterday, including:

SF 238, which would provide a 30% tax credit (subsidy) “for persons who construct, install, and place in service an electric vehicle facility or a natural gas vehicle facility.”  So if you buy a Chevy Volt, Senate Ways and Means wants to pay 30% of the cost of installing special plug-ins.

SSB 1240, which “increases to $50 million from $45 million the amount of historic preservation and cultural and entertainment district tax credits.”  These are a cash cow for well-connected developers and rehabbers.

SF 205, which opens up an existing program to divert withheld employee taxes “to create economic incentives that can be directed towards business.”  The bill “removes the requirement that an employer…be located in an urban renewal area.”  In other words, it makes it just another “incentive” slush fund to pay people to be our friends.

So it’s not a principled opposition to business subsidies.  They just want different ones.

Far better to get the state out of the subsidy business and make the tax system good for everyone — not just those with the pull and the consultants to game the system.  Far better to enact The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

Related:  New Jersey corporate tax breaks surge, but economy lags: study

 

The courts haven’t been kind to the IRS preparer regulation power grab, but some preparers welcome our new preparer regulation overlords.  An example is Three reasons why the IRS will persist in its mission to regulate tax return preparers (Jim Buttonow)

The article takes for granted that the costs the regulations will impose will exceed the benefits:

Knowledgeable  tax return preparers—who are reminded each year through education requirements to  conduct effective due diligence on small businesses—can have a much greater  impact on compliance than IRS auditors.

That makes an unwarranted assumption: that the IRS can create “knowledgeable tax return preparers.”  It can’t.  It can make people fill out paperwork, go through the motions of paying for CPE, and take meaningless open book literacy competency tests, but it can’t make anybody competent.

The IRS has limited resources.  Semi-literate South Florida grifters are stealing billions through fraudulent refunds.  Yet the IRS seems to think its problem is honest preparers.

 

Smoke ‘em if you can afford ‘em. Monday Map: State Cigarette Tax Rates, 2013 (Nick Kasprak, Tax Policy Blog).

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Ben Harris, Hiking Dividend Taxes to Pay for a Corporate Rate Cut (TaxVox):

Finland will lower the corporate rate to 20 percent in 2014, down from the current rate of 24.5 percent (and 26.0 percent in 2011)…

Finland plans to pay for part of the rate cut by boosting the effective investor tax rate on dividends paid by companies listed on the Finnish stock exchange.

Why not instead create a full dividends-paid deduction.  It would eliminate the need for a rate preference for dividend inocme while eliminating the destructive double-tax on corproate earnings.

 

Russ Fox,  Bozo Tax Tip #9: Foreign Trusts

Paul Neiffer,  The Two Week Check List

Missouri Tax Guy,  Residential Energy Tax Credits 2012

William Perez,  Tips for SEP-IRA Contributions

 

Kay Bell, Tax Carnival #115: Final filing crunch 2013

Jeremy Scott, Tim Johnson, Kristi Noem, and the Importance of Moderates to Tax Reform (Tax.com)

The Myth of Crumbling Highways (David Hartgen).  A useful counterpoint to the construction interests lobbying for higher gas taxes.

Peter Reilly, Taxpayer Beats Idaho On Domicile But Loses On Community Property

 

Going Concern had fun yesterday for April Fools day.  This one puzzled me, though: Twilight Remake to Feature Auditors Instead of Vampires.  Isn’t that like saying the Daytona 500 will feature automobiles instead of cars?

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/28/2013: Appeals Court upholds injunction against IRS preparer regs. Also: Indicted for overstating income?

Thursday, March 28th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 

ijlogoWith less than three weeks left in filing season, the US Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has denied the IRS attempt to overturn the injunction against their preparer regulation scheme.  From the Wall Street Journal Total Return blog:

The District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals denied a renewed request by the Internal Revenue Service to suspend a January 18 injunction against the agency’s effort to license tax preparers.

A three-judge panel upheld U.S. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg’s refusal to lift his injunction against the IRS’s licensing program.

This doesn’t mean the IRS has permanently lost its case, but it does mean that the IRS cannot move forward with its power grab unless and until it convinces the appeals court that it has the authority to regulate preparers.

Meanwhile, filing season continues, with no evidence that taxpayers have been harmed by the availability of preparers who haven’t passed an IRS open-book exam on Publication 17.

You would think that an agency short on staff and plagued by identity theft refund fraud would be grateful for the chance to redirect resources from a futile and wasteful regulation program.  Yet they seem to be lobbying the Senate for legislative authorization for their power grab.  Shameful, but not surprising.

Congratulations to the Insitute for Justice for another win for consumers.

 

20130328-1Iowa preparer indicted – for helping clients report too much income.  From KCRG.com (my emphasis):

 Keith Rath, of Shellsburg, was arrested last week by IRS agents after a grand jury indicted him on eight counts of aiding in the preparation and  presentation of a false tax return.

The indictment says that on  eight occasions over the years 2008, 2009 and 2010, Rath helped clients  falsely claim thousands of dollars in business income that he knew they  did not earn.

Mr. Rath has pleaded not guilty.

You might wonder why anyone would claim business income they didn’t earn.  The answer, of course, would be to claim refundable earned income tax credits.  A taxpayer with no “earned income” is ineligible for the credit.  The EITC is “refundable,” which means that when there is the credit exceeds the computed tax, the IRS will send you a check for the difference.  By reporting imaginary Schedule C income, taxpayers can (illegally) increase their refund check.

EIC fraud is a huge problem.  It is estimated that as much as 25% of EIC is improperly awarded, resulting in billions of dollars of fraudulent tax refunds.  The Iowa Senate wants to make the problem even bigger.

 

Elizabeth Malm,  Minneapolis Star Tribune Editorial Board Warns Legislators Against Higher Taxes on High-Income Earners (Tax Policy Blog).  If the Star-Tribune thinks you’ve gone too far in jacking up taxes, you’ve got a problem.

Tony Nitti,  Derek Jeter Flees New York, Tax Savings Soon To Follow .  But they keep telling us that tax migration is a myth.

Just like capital migration.  ‘Legal Enemies of the State’!  (Christopher Bergin, Tax.com):

In Tax Notes this week I wrote about abusive transfer pricing and other techniques being used by multinational corporations and their brilliant  tax advisors to avoid as much tax as possible. That these techniques are technically legal, and, some would say, actually enabled by governments like the United States and groups such as the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), doesn’t necessarily make them right.

In fact, the OECD itself recently issued a report – known as the BEPS report –  on how these techniques create base erosion and profit shifting. The problem is so serious, according to the report, “What is at stake is the integrity of the corporate income tax.”

The “integrity of the corporate income tax” is in the third aisle next to the chastity of the bordello.

 

Peter Reilly,  Tax Court Does Not Buy Vow of Poverty of Prophetess.   Her full title is “Prophetess, Teacher, Pastor and Certified Paralegal,” so she has something to fall back on.

Paul Neiffer,  You Can Always Do An IRA!

Cara Griffith, The Meaning of a Symbolic Vote (Tax.com).  Senate approval of sales tax on internet sales may keep the issue alive.

Tax Trials, Supreme Court to Hear Arguments in DOMA Tax Case

Patrick Temple-West,  TurboTax’s lobbying fight, and more

Jack Townsend,  Random thoughts on Ethics, Tax Opinions and A Tax Lawyer’s Life at a Big Law Firm

Kay Bell,  Don’t fall for these Dirty Dozen tax scams of 2013

 

TaxGrrrl, IRS Apologizes For Star Trek Video As Congress Jumps At Chance To Criticize Spending.  She notes that a trivial expenditure is generating a lot of political preening.  As far as I’m concerned, I’d rather they make videos than a lot of other things they do.

Well, it’s a better use of funds than preparer regulation.  Dear IRS, Please Make More Parody Videos (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/26/2013: Snatching defeat from the jaws of preparer-regulation victory. And: Iowa leads, UK follows on film.

Tuesday, March 26th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130326-1Film tax credit scams are big news in the U.K. right now.  An Irish actress, Aoife Madden, yesterday received a 54-month sentence in her role in scamming a U.K. film tax credit scheme.  Irish Times reports:

The group successfully claimed £1.5 million in film tax breaks after they said they intended to make a film titled Landscape of Lives  with a £19 million budget, funded by Jordanian backers.     

Once they were arrested two years ago, the five hurriedly produced a film called, ironically, Landscape of Lies for just £90,000, which went on to win a Silver Ace award from last year’s Las Vegas Film Festival.     

The film, which starred former EastEnders actor Marc Bannerman and Andrea McClean, told the story of a former British soldier’s attempts to discover the truth behind his friend’s murder in an apparent mugging.     

Before suspicions had been aroused, Madden’s London film company, Evolved Pictures, told revenue and customs that millions had been spent on Hollywood A-list actors and film crew when it lodged a value added tax repayment application for £1.48 million. It received more than £1 million.

Lost in the coverage is Iowa’s pioneering role in film tax credit scams.  A little-known film producer from Minnesota came here and showed the Brits just how it’s done:

Take Iowa. A start-up called Polynation Pictures came looking for backing for a sci-fi flick so lame it would have embarrassed Ed Wood. With a financing scheme worthy of Max Bialystock, the con these folks pulled was nearly as inept as the film they made, but Iowa’s film office was too starry eyed to notice.

The $767,250 production Polynation Pictures proposed eventually came in at $3.7 million. This was achieved in part with preposterous expenses. Producers claimed they paid $1,350 to rent six orange road cones. The use of two 6-foot ladders supposedly cost the company $900 (a bargain, as Polynation claimed to have spent another $900 to rent a single 8-foot ladder). Among production necessities was a new Mercedes. The partners set up an array of separate companies and used them to bill themselves extravagantly for work supposedly done on the picture. These were presented to Iowa as “deferred payments”—to be paid if the movie made money (which the enterprise was sure to do when Iowa handed the tax credits over). The only thing missing was a staged rendition of “Springtime for Hitler.”

Polynation mastermind Wendy Weiner Runge received 10 years for her star turn in the film credit program.

The film credit program was touted as a way to make Iowa a leader in the film world.  And, in a way, it did.

You might be interested in this interview with Ms. Madden about her role in the film, knowing what we know now.  She said this:

This project has been a crazy but wonderful challenge!! I’ve always wanted to produce a feature, and have a number of projects in development, but this was the one I just wanted to lift off the page. I think the biggest challenge was sourcing finance, which is no surprise for an independent film company. We were extremely lucky to find international investors and lobby them to back the project, but this was a lengthy process and has always been a challenge.

A challenge, yes, but I’m not sure they turned out lucky.

 

Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Now that the courts have saved the IRS from itself by shutting down the misguided preparer regulation system, the Senate rides to the rescue to screw everything up again, Accounting Today reports:

The two leaders of the Senate Finance Committee, Chairman Max Baucus, D-Mont., and ranking Republican member Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, have begun developing proposals for reforming the U.S. Tax Code, including giving the Internal Revenue Service the clear statutory authority to regulate tax preparers in case the IRS loses its appeal of a recent court case invalidating its Registered Tax Return Preparer regime.

The IRS can’t answer its phones.  Its pockets are being picked to the tune of billions by semi-literate South Florida grifters.  And the Senate thinks that preparers are the problem?   Preparer regulation is a market-share enhancement program for the national franchise tax prep outfits;  the rules were written by a former H&R Block CEO.  If Senators Baucus and Hatch want to re-enact these anti-competitive and useless rules, it just shows who they really represent.  (Via Going Concern). 

 

Howard Gleckman,  Congress Has Not Passed A 2014 Budget, and Probably Won’t (TaxVox).  Why do that, when Henry and Robert have other chores for them?

Joseph Henchman,  Senate Votes on Tax Proposals, Including State Taxation of Internet Commerce.  (Tax Policy Blog) Amazon taxes seem inevitable.  Otherwise Wal-Mart can’t compete with a guy selling things from his basement on the Internet.

Brian Strahle,  The Marketplace Fairness Act:  Is It Really Fair?

Kay Bell,  Online sales tax a step closer with Senate budget amendment

Thanks, you’ve helped enough already.  A New Proposal to Promote American Manufacturing (Martin Sullivan, Tax.com).

 

Jack Townsend, Supreme Court Will Decide Whether B____t Tax Shelters with Basis Overstatements Draw the 40% Penalty

Tony Nitti,  What Are Your Odds Of Being Audited By The IRS?

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2013): N Is For Notice Of Deficiency

Missouri Tax Guy,  Social Security Benefits, are they taxable?

Patrick Temple-West, Proposals to tax trades spark financial firm lobbying, and more (Tax Break)

Peter Reilly,  Has Scalia Already Thrown In The Towel On Same Sex Marriage ?

Dan Meyer, “Where No Tax Rate Has Gone Before…”

Trish McIntire,  That Reminder – 2013. “Your Failure to Plan Is Not My Emergency!”  The tax preparer April battle cry.

 

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Tax Roundup, February 25, 2013: And the award for the dumbest economic development tax credit goes to…

Monday, February 25th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

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Field of bad dreams.  TheFiscalTimes.com says Iowa is the ninth worst state for taxes:

The Hawkeye State gets a black eye for being the second worst state for corporate taxes, with a 12 percent rate. It also ranks 37th in property taxes, 33rd in individual income taxes and 34th in unemployment insurance taxes.

 They accompany the article with this photo of the “Field of Dreams” — an unwitting illustration of the problems of Iowa tax policy.  The Governor last year signed a proposal giving a special sales tax exemption to a private athletic complex being built around the field, made slightly famous in the Kevin Costner movie.  It’s special carve-outs like this that make for high rates and complicated taxes all around.

 

Speaking of movie-related scams, Instapundit Glenn Reynolds writes in the Wall Street Journal The Hollywood Tax Story They Won’t Tell at the Oscars.  Here he talks about how it worked out in Michigan:

State leaders ballyhooed the plan as a way of moving from old-style industry to new.           

Despite tens of millions of dollars in state investment, the promised 3,000-plus jobs didn’t appear. As the Detroit Free Press reported last year, the studio employed only 15-20 people. That isn’t boffo. That’s a bust. The studio has defaulted on interest payments on state-issued bonds, and the guarantors—the state’s already stressed pension funds—may wind up holding the bag. “In retrospect, it was a mistake,” conceded Robert Kleine, the former state treasurer who signed off on the plans in 2010.

He doesn’t neglect Iowa’s film fiasco:

Iowa ended its motion-picture subsidies in 2010, after officials misused $26 million in state money, leading to criminal charges. According to a 2008 investigation by Iowa Auditor David Vaudt, 80% of tax credits issued under the state’s film-subsidy program had been issued improperly (to production companies that weren’t even spending the money in Iowa, for example).

 

Two film credit recipients are now serving 10-year sentences on theft charges arising from the program.  That’s fine, but I really want to see a groveling public apology from the Governor who signed the program into law, the “economic development officials” who turned the keys to the state treasury over to a former Walgreens photo desk clerk in charge of the program, and to the legislators — all but three out of 150 — who voted the moronic program into existence.

 

 

Sequestration panic at the IRS.  Politico adds IRS cuts to the least of things we’re supposed to freak out about in the face of the tiny impending sequestration spending cuts:
“At a minimum, it’s probably going to take longer for people to get through on the phone; it’s going to take longer for refunds to be processed,” said Floyd Williams, a senior tax counsel at Public Strategies Washington.

Williams, who worked for the IRS for nearly two decades and directed the agency’s legislative affairs office for 16 years, says the sequester could also be a boon to those who purposely commit fraud, or accidentally fill out returns incorrectly.

Good thing the IRS can redirect the employees who had been assigned to the preparer regulation program to do something useful, now that the courts have shut down that futile enterprise.  The IRS can’t stand their good fortune, though; Tax Analysts reports ($link) that the IRS is appealing the court decision.

It would be even better if Congress stopped using the IRS as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy.  Given the agency’s new mandate to take care of our health insurance, their performance at the job of actually collecting taxes is only going to get worse.


Preparers gone bad.  Accounting Today rounds up the week in preparer fraud, including a guy in New Mexico who, while serving time for identity theft-related charges, has been hit with 56 counts of fraud and embezzlement.  That would be overachieving in underachieving.

 

Hak Ghun will travel.  To Club Fed. From DurangoHerald.com:

Durango man pleaded guilty to tax evasion this week in federal court in New Mexico.

Hak Ghun, 62, is facing 12 to 18 months in prison after signing a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He also will be required to pay $249,567 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

The man was accused of embezzling from a company that had received investments from the Navajo Nation. For those who don’t get the old TV show reference, here you go.


 

Paul Neiffer,  Safe to File After March 1

If a fire is worth fighting, it’s worth fighting in style.  But the firefighter still can’t deduct the Benz.  My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record blog for entrepreneurs.

Janet Novack,  The Forbes 2013 Tax Guide

Peter Reilly, Don’t Be Fooled By E-Mail ‘From IRS’ – But Don’t Ignore Their Snailmail

Jim Maule,  Tax Law Provision Enforceable Even if Unwise.  That would be most of them.  For example…

Tax Effects of the Health Care Act (Missouri Tax Guy)

Patrick Temple-West, Payroll tax’s return hits retailers, and more (Tax Break)


These guys are what I call real public servants.  Vigilantes fighting revenue-driven traffic enforcement (The Telegraph, London).

Breaking:  Women Are Not Men: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Today’s Going Concern employment tip: Accountant on Probation for Embezzlement Still More Employable Than the Average Non-Accountant (Temporarily)

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/13/2013: The President wants more taxes. Because they’re doing such a good job with what they get now.

Wednesday, February 13th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

State of the union:  raise taxes more.  It will never be enough.  If you think we don’t have a spending problem, or think we can solve it through “closing loopholes,” check out three charts gathered by Veronique de Rugy:

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The President proposes nothing serious.

Breaking news from yesterday: Look for a Call to End Oil “Subsidies” in Tonight’s State of the Union (Andrew Lundeen, Tax Policy Blog)

Howard Gleckman, Obama’s State of the Union and the Great Deficit Smackdown (TaxVox)

 

How H&R Block guy got to write preparer regs.  Civil Service! Tim Carney reports:

In 2009, the Obama administration hired Mark Ernst, the previous CEO of tax prep giant H&R Block, as IRS deputy commissioner. Ernst became a “co-leader” (in the words of an IRS spokesman) in drafting new regulations for tax preparers.

This seems to clash with President Obama’s executive order barring appointees from working on regulations directly affecting their former employers.

But thanks to a fine legal distinction, these rules didn’t cover Ernst. “Mark Ernst is a civil servant at the IRS; he is not a political appointee,” an IRS spokesman wrote me. “The Presidential Executive order on Ethics Commitments by Executive Branch Personnel only applies to political appointees.”

Nobody here but us chickens.

 

Jason Dinesen has a new installment about his client whose identity was stolen in the ID theft epidemic that really got rolling while the IRS was busy regulating preparers.  “If you hired the best comedy writers and satirists in Hollywood, they couldn’t come up with a more farcical script about government ineptness.”

Speaking of government competence:

Not only will most farmers have to file after March 1, 2013 due to a delay in tax forms by the IRS, we  now have an announcement that almost all form 1099s issued by the USDA for Natural Resources Conservation Services payments in 2012 are either wrong or were never issued.

via Paul Neiffer.

 

David Brunori, If You Hate or Love Excise Taxes Read this New Report:

A new working paper  recently released by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University… finds that contrary to conventional wisdom, sin taxes are often not used to correct externalities but rather for general fund spending. My take on that is politicians don’t really care about externalities. They would like to raise money from people whose activities they despise. The report also found that the goal of “sin taxes” has changed from correcting market failures to protecting consumers from their own choices. That is, people are too stupid to run their own lives and they need help. Finally, the report finds that sin taxes are regressive, i.e., they punish the poor. Unfortunately, my liberal friends never get exercised over this issue. Maybe it’s as the great PJ O’Rourke surmised, liberals hate poor people. 

If they would just not wear those icky Wal-Mart clothes and watch their weight, like they tell them to… (Tax.com)

 

Peter Reilly,Even Real Estate Salesman Has Trouble With Passive Loss Exception

Even accepting that he spent 520 hours working on his own properties, he still lost.  Two of the properties were short-term vacation rentals and one was being readied for sale.  The time spent on those properties could not be grouped with the time spent on properties dedicated to long term rentals.

As Peter notes, this becomes an even more important tax issue with the new 3.8% tax on “passive” income this year.

 

Kay Bell,  When will you get your tax refund? Whenever

Trish McIntire, Child Tax Credit Delays

TaxGrrrl, Spammers Target Taxpayers Expecting Tax Refunds.  If you get an email about your refund from the IRS, it’s not from the IRS.

Jack Townsend, Another Bull**** Tax Shelter Bites the Dust

Roger McEowen, Another Court Issues Ruling on Tax Impact of Demutualization.

Tax Trials,  Second Circuit: Co-Op Owner Is Entitled to Casualty Loss

Patrick Temple-West, Navigating between tax avoidance and evasion, and more

Gene Steurle, Desperately Needed: A Strong Treasury Department (TaxVox)

Robert Goulder, La Bella Italia: Fast Cars & Loose Taxes (Tax.com)

Jim Maule, When Spending Cuts Meet Asteroids: The Value of Taxes.  Taxes and spending can never be too high because, you know, asteroids!

The Critical Question.  Minnesota’s Sexiest Accountant Contest: Cute or Creepy? (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/11/2013: Suing the driver of the getaway car for not going fast enough.

Monday, February 11th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

When a convicted criminal feels he has been ill-used by an accomplice, the normal recourse tends to involve unpleasant events in the prison gallery.  Lawyers are rarely consulted.  But when international tax cheating is involved, it apparently works differently.

A group of clients of Swiss bank UBS who claim that bad things happened to them as a result of their Swiss accounts sued UBS.  Seventh Circuit appeals judge Posner was distinctly unsympathetic (my emphasis):

The plaintiffs are tax cheats, and it is very odd, to say the least, for tax cheats to seek to recover their penalties (let alone interest, which might simply compensate the IRS for the time value of money rightfully belonging to it rather than to the taxpayers) from the source, in this case UBS, of the income concealed from the IRS. One might have expected the plaintiffs to try to show that they had forgotten they had accounts with UBS (though that would be preposterous, for these were significant investments for each of the plaintiffs). Or that UBS had told them that income earned in those accounts was somehow tax exempt and moreover that the accounts themselves were somehow not foreign bank accounts within the meaning of the tax code and so the plaintiffs didn’t have to acknowledge having accounts with UBS. They don’t make any of these feeble arguments. They do argue, as we’ll see, that UBS was obligated to give them accurate tax advice and failed to do so, but not that it gave them inaccurate, as distinct from no, advice.

While the IRS offshore compliance programs have abused many innocent Americans who have foot-fault violations, that doesn’t appear to be the case here.  A U.S. resident who set up a Swiss bank account probably didn’t do so to ensure tax compliance.

At worst, UBS, as we’re about to see, violated an agreement with the IRS designed to prevent the kind of evasion that the plaintiffs engaged in. That might conceivably make UBS an aider or abettor of the plaintiffs’s tax evasion and so make this case a distant relative to Everet v. Williams (Ex. 1725), better known as The Highwayman’s Case and eventually reported under that name in 9 L.Q. Rev. 197 (1893). A highwayman had sued his partner in crime for an accounting of the illegal profits of their criminal activity. The court refused to adjudicate the case, and both parties were hanged. Minus the hanging and with certain exceptions (such as contribution and indemnity) irrelevant to this case, the principle enunciated in The Highwayman’s Case applies to accomplices in civil wrongdoing, as noted in our recent decision in Schlueter v. Latek, 683 F.3d 350, 355-56 (7th Cir. 2012). In The Highwayman’s Case one accomplice was seeking a bigger share of the profit from the crime from the other one; here one accomplice is seeking a smaller share of the costs of the crime from the other one. The principle is the same; the law leaves the quarreling accomplices where it finds them.

The moral?  Your banker isn’t your tax advisor, and when you are cheating, you are on your own.  At least in Judge Posner’s court.

More coverage: TaxProf, Posner:  Tax Cheats Suing UBS for Not Stopping Them From Cheating Like Suing Parents for Not Raising Them to be Honest

 

Overwhelming?  A Tax Analysts story on the fallout from the Loving decision overturning the IRS preparer regulation program reports:

“There is overwhelming support for registration” among EAs, said Frank Degen, president of the National Association of Enrolled Agents. While preparers are watching to see what an appeals court will do — as the IRS said it would file an appeal soon — “most practitioners are just interested in cranking out those 1040s right now,” Degen said.

I’d want to see some polling showing that “overwhelming” support.  The preparer regulation program strikes me as potentially fatal for the Enrolled Agent brand.  EA’s, who have to pass a much stricter test and more stringent continuing education requirements than the registered preparers would have to, already have difficulty marketing their additional qualification.  The IRS blessing of a competing bargain brand could easily bury the EA designation.  At the very least, I see no overwhelming support for the preparer registration program from EA-bloggers Jason Dinesen and Russ Fox.

 

To your health!  Compliance with ObamaCare Estimated to Take 127.6 Million Hours (Kyle Pomerleau, Tax Policy Blog).

Martin Sullivan, State of the Union: Stasis or Progress on Taxes? (Tax.com).  My bet is on stasis.

Doom.  What You Should Know About the Budget Outlook (William Gale, TaxVox).:

Even if seemingly everything goes right – in economic terms and in political terms – we are still on the edge of dangerously high debt and deficit levels with little room to spare.

Nah, we’re over the edge:

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Jana Luttenegger,  Social Media and Other Digital “Assets” After Death. (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)  If I die, please take me out of my high school reunion Facebook group.

William Perez,  IRS Announces Start Dates For Processing Some Tax Returns.  Y0u can file a return with depreciation starting today, and one with education credits starting Thursday.

Claudia Hill, Can This Tax Filing Season Be Saved? (Via @janetnovack’s Twitter Feed).

Paul Neiffer, Crop Insurance Proceeds on Feed Consumed by Livestock

And then pay your bill timely.  4 ways to be a better tax client (Kay Bell)

Patrick Temple-West, Higher payroll tax pinches those with the least to spare, and more

Jack Townsend, A Tax Curmudgeon Offers Ideas on Tax Compliance

Tax Trials,  IRS Releases Schedule UTP Statistics for 2011.  1,783 taxpayers filed forms disclosing Uncertain Tax Positions for 2011.  Seems low.

Peter Reilly,  Is IRS Persecuting Kent Hovind For Creationism ?  His tax planning shows little evidence of intelligent design, anyway.

Proposed by a guy wearing wing-tips, no doubt.  Lawmaker Proposes Sneaker Tax, Retailers Opposed (TaxGrrrl)

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Tax Roundup, 2/5/2013: Iowa conformity bill clears Senate. Also: the uses of GPS navigation!

Tuesday, February 5th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1The Iowa Senate approved the Iowa tax code conformity bill, SF 106, yesterday.  The bill was approved 48-0, which is a good sign that it will pass quickly — enabling Iowans to get on with filing their 2012 business returns.

The bill updates Iowa’s income tax for the Fiscal Cliff tax bill changes passed last month by Congress.    Key items updated to match federal rules include:

- Conforming with the $500,000 federal Section 179 deduction limit for 2012 and 2013.

- Allowing the optional deduction for state and local sales taxes for 2012 and 2013.

- Conforming to federal research credit rule changes

- Continuing the IRA charitable distribution exclusion

- Adopting the federal “above the line” deductions for college tuition and for out-of-pocket expenses of educators.

The bill does not adopt federal bonus depreciation for 2012 and 2013.  The bill does not show up yet on the calendars for the House Ways and Means Committee or for House floor debate, so it may not get to the Governor this week.  Update, 9:00 am: An e-mail from the House floor manager for the bill says the House may take it up as soon as tomorrow.

 

More boffo reviews for the shutdown of the IRS preparer regulation program! 

The Weekly Standard raves:

It’s hard to choose just one IRS knee-slapper, but here goes. The agency insists IJ’s “suggestion that the return preparer program is the product of a tainted lobbying effort is belied by support for the program from the Taxpayer Advocate, the Electronic Tax Administration Advisory Committee, numerous consumer advocacy groups, and comments from individual practitioners.”
The ETAAC is an IRS-administered panel whose members include lawyers and CPAs—who weren’t subject to the regulations—and people with connections to H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt, big businesses happy to help the government force the little guys out of the industry.

Protecting the taxpayers has never been the point.

The Wall Street Journal weighs in:

Rather than continuing to fight in court, the agency would do better to cashier the rules on legal and economic grounds. They are a classic example of big business harnessing government power to aid the powerful at the expense of small-business competitors. Meantime, won’t someone in Congress tell the IRS to stop exceeding its legal authority?

Sadly, no.

Meanwhile, the IRS has re-opened its PTIN registration system. It appears the IRS will still charge for them, though it’s not clear why anymore.

 

Nick Kasprak, Weekly Map: Sources of State and Local Tax Revenue: Sales, Excise, and Gross Receipts Tax:

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Leave Gennifer Flowers Alone!  Clinton woman pleads guilty to false tax returns.  Clinton, Iowa, that is.  From the Clinton Herald:

Regina Jimenez, 60, of Clinton pleaded guilty to two counts of filing
false tax returns. She faces up to three years of prison, a fine of up
to $1 million and costs of prosecution on each count.

According to court documents, Jimenez operated AA Accounting & Tax
Services, Inc. in Clinton from approximately 2007 through 2011. Jimenez
used the business to facilitate the theft of more than $200,000 from a
client who believed that Jimenez would use the money to pay the client’s
taxes.

There’s never a good reason to have your tax preparer pay your income taxes for you.  If your preparer tries to get cash from you “to give to the IRS,” ask many questions.

 

Paul Neiffer, Hedging Versus Speculation:

Remember, if the farmer purchases a corn call option as part of this hedging strategy, this no longer qualifies as a hedge (even though is a normal strategy of selling actuals and buying the “board”, for tax purposes, it is not a hedge)  and is considered speculation.  In many cases, the tax treatment can be harsh since if the option produces income, the IRS will treat it as ordinary and if it produces a loss, it will be considered a capital loss (the worst of both).

 

Because partnership tax isn’t screwed up enough?    Why the IRS Should be Taxing the Profits of Private Equity Funds as Ordinary Income (Steven Rosenthal, TaxVox).

Robert D. Flach, tax man of La Mancha New Jersey Pennsylvania, chases his favorite windmill: BEFORE I GO – MY “CRUSADE”

Windmills everywhere!  Carl Levin Continues to Play the Role of Don Quixote (Jeremy Scott, Tax.com)

Patrick Temple-West,  Democrats target corporate tax breaks, and more

TaxGrrrl, Guess What Turned 100 This Weekend?

Kay Bell,  Happy 100th birthday federal income tax

Brian Strahle,  The Maryland Wynne Case is Decided, Will The State Appeal Further?  A possible refund for Maryland residents with taxes in other states.

Brian Mahany,  OVDI – It’s Not Just For Unreported Foreign Accounts

 

Why you should spring for a good GPS unit.  You might get lost otherwise, like a star-crossed couple in my home town of West Des Moines.  The Des Moines Register reports:

The incident occurred at about 2:12 a.m. Friday, when a car pulled into a police station driveway at 250 Mills Civic Parkway marked for “Authorized Personnel,” according to a police report.

Police said the car passed two patrol cars and drove up a private drive before turning around when it reached a garage. An officer in one of the patrol cars then turned on his top lights and stopped the car.

The driver told officers they were trying get to Beach Girls, an adult entertainment venue at 6220 Raccoon River Dr., West Des Moines, according to the report.

The two officers reported that both the driver and passenger had bloodshot, watery eyes and that the vehicle smelled of marijuana.

If they mistook the West Des Moines cop shop for a strip club, either they already had enough fun for the night, or strip joints have changed a lot since my bachelor days.

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/4/2013: District Court declines to stay decision stopping IRS preparer rules. And ___ Anniversary!

Monday, February 4th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130121-2Not surprisingly, the judge who ordered the IRS to shut down its preparer regulation program declined to stay his order.  The IRS asked James Boasberg, the U.S. District Court Judge who ordered the IRS to stop its preparer regulation program, to stay his order pending an appeal.  The judge declined:

As the factors beyond likelihood of success do not decisively tilt in favor of the IRS — indeed, they tip somewhat against — the Court sees no basis to lift its injunction pending appeal. Nor does the Court believe it warranted to suspend the injunction for fourteen days to permit the IRS to seek a stay in the Court of Appeals. This would only lead to more confusion for preparers and their clients as the tax season gets underway. While nothing in this decision prevents the IRS from seeking such relief there, the Court sees no benefit of a brief stay while it does so.

So where do things stand?  The IRS will be allowed to continue to administer the Registered Tax Return Preparer test and issue PTINs, but it cannot require RTRP tests or CPE, or collect fees for them.  Whether the IRS will continue testing on a voluntary basis, or whether there will be takers, remains to be seen.

More coverage from TaxGrrrl: IRS Loses Big In Court (Again), Tax Season Chugs Along; and Russ Fox: IRS Loses Again to Institute for Justice.

 

You surely didn’t miss the 100th anniversary of the 16th Amendment yesterday.  They had a football game and everything to observe it.  The 16th Amendment, which gave rise to the current income tax, was ratified by Delaware on February 3, 1913, making it official.  And yes, it is official.  While some tax protesters insist that the 16th Amendment was never properly ratified, all the federal judges say otherwise — not to mention the folks at IRS, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Bureau of Prisons.  So, in any way that matters, it’s official.  Still, I can’t bring myself to say “Happy” anniversary.

More from Richard Morrison:  100 Years of the Federal Income Tax (Tax Policy Blog)

 

Iowa’s oldest judge, age 90, steps downRuth Klotz, a Polk County Probate Judge, remains respected by the lawyers I know who practiced in her court.   Happy Retirement, Judge Klotz!

 

Paul Neiffer,  Many States Are Delaying Farmer Filing Deadline

Jack Townsend, UBS Depositors Fail on Pleadings in Civil Case Against UBS

Kay Bell, Tips are taxable income

TaxGrrrl, Pay Taxes On Your Super Bowl XLVII Winnings? You Can Bet On It

Trish McIntire,  Gambling 1099MISCs.  They don’t make your winnings taxable, they just let the IRS in on the secret.

Patrick Temple-West,  Early payouts of dividends, bonuses spur a windfall, and more (Tax Break)

Martin Sullivan, Is Aggressive Tax Avoidance Moral? (Tax.com).  Strange question.  If you are paid to maximize shareholder returns, is it moral to do less than your best to do so?

Rudy Penner,  The Risks of Dumbing Down Fiscal Goals (TaxVox).  It’s hard to think they could get any dumber than they are now.

 

Jim Maule,  Looking Again at Tax and Political Ignorance:

The study’s conclusion is disheartening. The authors conclude that incumbents can get themselves elected by associating themselves with good news for which they ought not take credit because they are not responsible, support policies that generate good news for their districts even if they are bad for the nation, and to use rhetoric to distract voters from the incumbents’ histories.

Perhaps this will lead the good Professor to reconsider his preference for government solutions over market outcomes.

Linda Beale,  Red state tax “reform” and “economic growth”

Robert D. Flach, JUST ONE MORE THING, HE SAID COLUMBO-LIKE

 

The Critical Question: The Devil Wears Prada, But Does Her Boyfriend Pay Taxes? (Robert Goulder, Tax.com).

What this country needs is a good 25-cent sneaker.  Illinois Proposes 25-Cent Sneaker Tax (TaxProf)

It’s the little things.  The mark of a true craftsman is attention to detail.  Two Ohioans’ alleged failure to mind the details has led to trouble.  From the Columbus Dispatch:

Roma L. Sims, 34, and Samantha C. Towns, 30, were arrested on Thursday and charged with aggravated identity theft, conspiracy and wire fraud for using the identities to file tax returns and rake in $1.3 million.

But they misspelled several cities when they listed return addresses: Louieville and Pittsburg, according to the criminal complaint. Those geographic goofs caught the attention of investigators.

So did misspelling some of the occupations they listed on the phony tax returns.

I bet they thought those spelling drills in grade school were pointless.

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/1/2013: What’s Iowa’s 2012 tax law? And you thought 50 years was bad? How about 351?

Friday, February 1st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1Iowa legislature goes 0-for-January.  The Iowa General Assembly has been completed the first three weeks of its 2013 session without settling what Iowa’s tax law is for last year.  The legislation needed to update Iowa’s 2012 tax law for the retroactive federal changes enacted in the Fiscal Cliff bill at the beginning of this year hasn’t cleared either house of the legislature.  The Senate Ways and Means Committee at least moved its bill (SF 106) out of committee Wednesday, while House Ways and Means hasn’t even done that much with its bill (HF 110)

Many Iowans were affected by the retroactive changes, including educators and people who made energy-saving home improvements.  Almost all businesses are affected by the Federal extension of $500,000 Section 179 expensing of depreciable property for 2012.  Yet these taxpayers can’t complete their Iowa 2012 tax returns until the legislature decides what parts of the federal changes to accept.

The silliest part: we pretty much know what the bill will look like.  It’s almost certain that it will adopt federal Section 179 rules and the other “extender” rules, without adopting federal “bonus depreciation.”  That means there’s no reason to dawdle.  But dawdle they do.

50 years for Wasendorf.  The Wasll Street Journal reports:

Russell Wasendorf Sr., was sentenced to the maximum 50 years in jail after admitting to orchestrating a fraud at his futures brokerage and misleading regulators for almost 20 years.

Mr. Wasendorf, 64 years old, pleaded guilty last September to the fraud at Peregrine Financial Group Inc. that federal prosecutors said had cost clients $215.5 million and masked a business that never was profitable.  He also was ordered to pay the full amount of missing funds in restitution.

Mr. Wasendorf got away with it by forging paper bank statements for the regulators and auditors.  The scam blew up when Peregrine was forced to move to electronic account verification.  Sadly, the chances of full restitution being paid to his victims are less than the chances he will walk out of prison at the end of his sentence.

 

But it could be worse.  Florida woman faces potential 351 years in prison for tax fraud (CPA Practice Advisor)

 

Kay Bell, Congressman wants answers from IRS regarding tax preparer registration

 

TaxGrrrl,  Wrong Side Of An Audit: Memo Argues IRS Inflated Numbers, Exaggerated Figures.  My favorite part (my emphasis):

The IRS also claimed that it would suffer unspecified “costs associated with . . . finding other positions for the 167 Service employees currently working on the return preparer project.” [Institute for Justice attorney Dan] Alban noted, in response, that just over two weeks ago, the IRS complained about understaffing, since “[o]verall full-time staffing has declined by more than 8% over the last two years, and staffing for key enforcement occupations fell nearly 6% in the past year.” You’d think that the IRS would welcome, not rue, the idea of having nearly 200 employees available for other tasks – like answering the phone (at current staff levels, they only do that about 70% of the time).

The preparer regulation program has always seemed a frivolous use of IRS resources when tax complexity and identity-theft fraud are making the tax law almost impossible to administer.

That time already?  It’s Time for Independent Certification for Tax Preparers (Robert D. Flach in Accounting Today)




David Cay Johnston, Tax To Defend a Tax Haven (Tax.com)

Ben Harris,  Deficits After ATRA (TaxVox)

Patrick Temple-West,  U.S. is preparing more tax-evasion cases, and more.  Bad news for Swiss bank account holders who haven’t come forward.



Jim Maule,  Another “Flat Tax” Proposal That Falls Flat.  The professor slays more straw men.

I hate extra apostrophes.  Careful Tax Update readers know that I have a terrible habit of inserting extra apostrophes, creating an unintended possessive.  I know the rules, but my fingers betray me when typing.  Fortunately I can easily change a blog post to turn “it’s” to “its.”  Not everybody is so fortunate.

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Unless, of course, Steven owns “Steven’s” building.
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Tax Roundup, 1/31/2013: Happy IRA mulligan day! And on brief, the Tax Update!

Thursday, January 31st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20111109-1Today is the last day to make a charitable IRA rollover for 2012.  Yes, 2012 is over, but taxpayers who are required to make IRA minimum annual distributions may still have one 2012 transaction left in them.

- Taxpayers who are born before July 1, 1942 who took cash from an IRA in December 2012 can contribute up to $100,000 to a charity today and have it excluded from their 2012 income.

- Taxpayers who have failed to take their required minimum 2012 distribution can avoid the 50% penalty for failing to take their distribution by arranging for the IRA to transfer the minimum amount, up to $100,000, to a charity today.

These opportunities are part of the retroactive extension of the rule allowing up to $100,000 to be transferred from an IRA directly to a charity without including the amount in the IRA owner’s income.  This avoids the 50% of AGI charitable contribution limit.  It also avoids other potentially unpleasant consequences of having the IRA income above-the-line, like making your Social Security taxable.

 

On brief, the Tax Update Blog.  The Institute for Justice, the victorious legal team behind the shutdown of the preparer regulation program, has filed a brief opposing a stay in the injunction against the program.  Making their case airtight, they cite the Tax Update, along with tax bloggers Kelly Phillips Erb (TaxGrrrl), Robert D. Flach  and Jason Dinesen.  From Footnote 18 of the brief:

For an example of the disruption routinely caused by the IRS’s misadministration of the RTRP regulations, see Alban Decl., Ex. 3 (the comments from preparers are illustrative and reference previous examples of similar disruptions); see also Joe Kristan, IRS quietly delays CPE requirement under new preparer regulation scheme , Tax Update Blog (January 8, 2013), http://rothcpa.com/2013/01/irs-quietly-delays-cpe-requirement-under-new-preparer-regulationscheme/ (describing IRS message as “a quiet admission of failure”).

With the Tax Update Blog on their side, who can be against them?

 

What does a poor college student have that could be lucrative to a thief? A Social Security number.  From the Memphis Business Journal:

With tax season bearing down, the IRS has a warning about a new refund scam aimed at college students, seniors and church members.

The Internal Revenue Service said Tuesday the scam tries to get students to give their personal identification and file tax returns claiming fraudulent refunds. It has sent misleading and bogus refund claims using the American Opportunity Education Tax Credit on college campuses throughout the Southeast.

Be very cautious about giving anybody but your employer, your bank, a medical provider or the IRS your Social Security number.  And never give it to a scammer.

 

David Brunori, Stifling Lefty — Political Correctness in the Tax Debates (Tax.com):

So the pro tax people managed to shut Mickelson up. Rather than engaging  in a discussion about why it is okay to take his money, they stifled him.

Shut up, they explained.

 

Paul Neiffer points out that now that penalties are waived for farmers who file after March 1, they may not want to file by their usual deadline:  File Your Return After March 1 Not Before!

 

Have you mailed your 1099s and W-2s?  Today is the deadline for sending them to recipients.  Russ Fox has the scoop.

TaxGrrrl, Ask the taxgirl: Tax ID Numbers and 1099s

Kay Bell,  Tax e-filing and Free File is now available for most taxpayers

Trish McIntire,  Freebies.  Don’t ask for them.

Chris Sanchirico,  Camp’s Investment Tax Plan: Implications for Lower Rates on Capital Gains? (TaxVox)

Tax Foundation, New Report: Cell Phone Taxes Exceed 20% in Several States

Margaret Van Houten and Jodie Clark McDougal,  Iowa Trust Industry Breathes a Sigh of Relief after the Supreme Court’s Reversal in Trimble

Cara Griffith, Kentucky DOR’s Disregard of Transparency (Tax.com)

Jack Townsend,  Another UBS Depositor Pleads

Patrick Temple-West,  India sees end to Vodafone tax dispute, and more

 

News you can use. IRS: No One Is Too Old, Too Poor Or Too Sympathetic To Avoid Prosecution  (Brian Mahany)

How to catch a dinosaur.  Not Income Tax Evasion – Structuring – That’s How They Got Kent Hovind (Peter Reilly)

Robert D. Flach goes into blog hibernation for the remainder of tax season:  SO LONG, FAREWELL, AUF WIEDERSEHEN, GOOD NIGHT!

These are a few of my favorite things…  Guns and Tax Returns. (Christopher Bergin, Tax.com).

 

Today’s morale builder: Les Misérables-Inspired Video Reminds You That Busy Season Kills Your Dreams (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/28/2013: Should Iowa rebate its budget surplus? And PTIN limbo.

Monday, January 28th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1Iowa is collecting more tax money than it is spending.  Iowa House Republicans propose to give the money back as a one-time tax credit.  The Des Moines Register reports:

The proposal would capture the state’s estimated $800 million budget surplus, divide it equally among the state’s income tax payers and issue an income tax credit to every taxpayer for his or her share. Senate Republicans said last week the credit amounts to $375 for individuals or $750 for couples who file jointly.

That means, for example, if a married couple’s state income tax liability was $1,000, they would receive a $750 tax credit, reducing the amount they were actually required to pay to $250. If a payer’s burden was less than $375, he would receive a credit equal only to his actual bill.

It’s a simple plan that treats the surplus as a non-recurring event.  Unfortunately, there is nothing simple about Iowa’s tax law otherwise.  I’d prefer to see it returned as part of a tax reform plan.

House Democrats prefer to spend the money, and the Governor wants some of it to fund his education reform plan.  ISU economist David Swenson says the money should be run through the government:

Drawing on a statistical model that predicts economic impacts, he said  $780 million in government spending could support roughly 2,000 more jobs than the same amount of spending by households.

Yes, the magical power of the government to transform your money into jobs.  If we just gave the government infinite money, we’d get infinite jobs.   If that worked, you’d think we’d have more jobs than ever, considering that Federal and state governments are spending more money than ever.

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Link: Text of HF 1.

 

Tax Notes, Preparers in Limbo as IRS Shutters PTIN System After Loving Decision ($link):

     Tax return preparers who just recently were rushing to get their preparer tax identification numbers from the IRS before it starts accepting 2012 tax returns on January 30 are in limbo after a federal district court enjoined the Service from enforcing requirements under the registered tax return preparer (RTRP) designation.

     The IRS’s online PTIN system appears to be unavailable. People familiar with the system are uncertain why the IRS took it offline and what its unavailability means for the hundreds of thousands of potential PTIN registrants.

     “From a practical point of view, [the IRS] has already shut the [PTIN] system down,” said Dan Alban of the Institute for Justice and the lead attorney for the plaintiffs in Loving v. IRS, No. 1:12-cv-00385 (D.D.C. 2013)  “Whether they are legally required to do so is the question.”

Well done, IRS!  Preparers are required to have a PTIN.  The IRS apparently tied it’s PTIN software to the preparer regulation system overturned earlier this month.  Another triumph for tax administration.

TaxProf,  What’s FATCA Got To Do With It? Tina Turner Renounces U.S. Citizenship.  It’s always easier for the wealthy to avoid the ridiculous paperwork the tax law imposes on Americans abroad.  It’s the little jaywalkers that get shot to ensure the serious money-launderers get slapped on the wrist.

Andrew Mitchel has posted two videos explaining Form 5471.  Think that sounds dull?  If you fail to report your interest in a foreign corporation, the $10,000 fine will make it interesting.

Martin Sullivan, UK Conservative Policies in Trouble (Tax.com)

Brian Mahany, Tiger Woods and Tax Migration – The Wealthy Flee High Tax States (tax planning post)

Patrick Temple-West,  Republican governors open new front in tax debate, and more

Paul Neiffer,  AMT Causes a Few More Capital Gains Tax Rates!

Robert Goulder, The Pepperdine Papers: Advice for Obama’s Second Term (Tax.com)

Kay Bell, Deducting sales tax on your new car … or boat or airplane or home

Jim Maule,  Tax Planning: A Chore That Never Sleeps.  I think it works better if it does.

Trish McIntire,  Who Do You Believe?.  If your tax advisor contradicts your bar buddy on a tax issue, go with the tax advisor.

Dan Meyer, Will Tax Benefits Later Cost You Now?

Robert D. Flach,  THE RESIDENTIAL ENERGY CREDIT IS BACK FOR 2012 (AND 2013)!

Joseph Henchman,  Municipal Bankruptcies Since 1988. (Tax Policy Blog).  He lists about 43.

Russ Fox,  Cash and Carry Doesn’t Work for Strip Club Owner.  I don’t think it’s allowed for the patrons either.

Worth a try.  Shop Till Your Taxes Drop  (TaxGrrrl)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/24/2013: Tax increases for everyone, anyone? And more bad news for tax season!

Thursday, January 24th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 

Tax Foundation graphic.

TaxProf,  NY Times: it Is Time to Raise Taxes on Everybody — Including the Middle ClassPaul Caron links to a New York Times Op-ed:

To make ends meet, both parties agree, spending must be drastically cut. Under the White House budget proposal, discretionary spending on everything except the military is projected to shrink to its smallest share of the economy since the Eisenhower administration by the beginning of the next decade. Though he has resisted Republican demands to slash entitlements, President Obama remains willing to look for further savings from Medicare.

This is not, however, the only option we have. There is an alternative: raising more money from all taxpayers, including the middle class.

Nobody wants to talk about this. … Yet Americans would benefit from a discussion of this possibility.

It’s not true that “both parties agree” that spending must be drastically cut.  It’s not clear that either party, as a whole, admits it, and at least one party remains in firm denial.  The President’s campaign was all about spending money and sending the bill to the rich guy.  Still, it’s nice that finally somebody at the New York Times admits that the rich guy isn’t buying.  He can’t.

 

Janet Novack,  As IRS Tax Filing Season Begins, Bad News For Honest Taxpayers.  She20130121-2 speaks with Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson.  The article has some depressing truth:

Customer service at the Internal Revenue Service is dismal and deteriorating. (Only 68% of telephone callers who wanted to talk to a human at the IRS last tax filing season eached one, and then only after an average 17 minute wait.)  The epidemic of identity theft refund fraud hasn’t yet been contained.  Hope for a major reform that might simplify the tax code is waning.

The article also has some serious nonsense about last week’s ruling shutting down the IRS preparer regulation power grab:

“If the injunction stands, the taxpayers of the United States will be grievously harmed,” IRS National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson told Forbes. “The practical effect of not having some kind of consumer protection for taxpayers going to return preparers is enormous. And I say that seeing all the return preparer fraud, and the return preparer negligence, and the return preparer inadvertent mistakes that happen.”

Enormous?  More like what we did forever until two years ago.  If anybody has evidence that last year’s tax preparers were significantly more accomplished and accurate than they were before the regulations, they haven’t shared it.  And the idea that the RTRP literacy competency test and minimal CPE requirement would have changed that is silly.

Ms. Olson believes that depriving consumers of choices in preparers is in their interest because the diminished choices would be better.  That flies in the face of all we know about regulation.  The net result would be higher prices, driving more taxpayers to do their returns and driving some on the margins out of the system altogether, while sending more business to the big franchise tax prep outfits.

 

Robert D. Flach, TAX RETURN PREPARER REGULATION, LICENSURE, AND/OR CERTIFICATION.  Robert’s magnum opus on how tax preparers should be regulated.

While I agree that having the Internal Revenue Service regulate tax preparers is not the best option – it is without a doubt a far superior option to having Congress legislate regulation.  My opinion of the intelligence, competence, and ability, or rather lack of intelligence, competence, and ability, of the current members of Congress is well known.
The optimal source of tax preparer regulation/licensure/certification, whether mandatory or voluntary, would be an independent industry-based organization, not unlike the AICPA or ABA, such as the National Institute of Registered Tax Return Preparers that I have proposed.

Robert also calls me out:

As I have asked in response to Joe’s assertion, would you want a “casual” electrician wiring your kitchen, or a “casual” dentist filling a cavity, or a “casual” architect designing your home?

If I do, what business is it of anybody else?  If I want to pay a talented handyman neighbor or cousin to install a ceiling fan for me, why is it anybody’s business?  Why should he be not allowed to take my money just because he doesn’t have an electrician card from the Bureau of Electrical and Mortuary Science?  As TaxGrrrl noted yesterday, occupational licensing is taking over the economy, and that’s not a good thing.

 

TaxGrrrl, With A Week To Go, IRS Talks Opening Day and Refunds

 

Cara Griffith, Have State Income Taxes Run Their Course? (Tax.com)

The corporate income tax is inefficient and a not sufficiently stable source of revenue for states. It should be eliminated. The individual income tax is likewise not a particularly stable source of revenue for states, and while counterintuitive, progressive tax systems do not work well at the state-level. Income redistribution, to the extent that it should be a goal at all, should not be undertaken at the state-level. So  in a perfect world, yes, the state individual income tax should be eliminated as well.

Christopher Bergin agrees.

 

Good. Another bid to ban traffic enforcement cameras in Iowa. (O. Kay Henderson, via The Beanwalker).  Traffic cameras are your local government’s most sincere way of showing their contempt for you.

 

Trish McIntire,  Form 8332 and Fairness.  How the IRS enables bitter ex-spouses.

Paul Neiffer,  Why Imputed Interest Matters For 2013 (And Beyond)

Kaye A. Thomas,  Another Demutualization Case

Robert W. Wood, Golfer Phil Mickelson Is Not Alone In Fleeing Taxes (Via Kerry Kerstetter)

Peter Reilly, Why Phil Mickelson’s Remark Was Really Dumb

Brian Mahany, Is FATCA In Trouble? Unfortunately, NO

Joseph Henchman,  CBPP’s Misleading Chart on Debt Stabilization (Tax Policy Blog).  A study in cherry-picking.

Jen Carrigan, Should Capital Gains Be Taxed Differently? (Guest post at The Missouri Taxguy blog).

Patrick Temple-West,  Firms keep stockpiles of ‘foreign’ cash in U.S., and more

Tax Trials,  District Court Decision Prevents IRS from Regulating Certain Tax Return Preparers

Kay Bell,  Fiscal cliff tax provision could help stem fraudulent refund claims by prisoners

 

News you can use:  Passing the CPA Exam While Billing Over 2500 Hours in a Year Is Way Harder Than Having a Baby(Going Concern).  Also less useful and not as smart.

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