Posts Tagged ‘preparer regulation’

Tax Roundup, 9/22/15: A resounding call to document your mileage. And: preparer regulation, IRS service, lots more!

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan


No Walnut STYou know you’re having a bad day in Tax Court when:

After concessions, the remaining issue relating to deductions claimed on petitioner’s Schedule A is whether she is entitled to deduct an additional $1,616 of mileage expense that she claimed as part of her unreimbursed employee business expense deduction. The answer is a resounding no.

I’m pretty sure that the Tax Court judges never read their opinions out loud, so I don’t think it was literally resounding. Still, it’s fun to imagine Judge Marvel calling the court into session, calling out a booming “NO!” and then adjourning.

The “no” may hae been resounding because of a little error the Judge detected in the taxpayer’s evidence. The taxpayer claimed mileage deductions for going between work locations. Travel expenses have to meet the special substantiation requirements of Sec. 274(d), where the taxpayer maintains evidence, such as calendars or mileage logs, to prove the deduction. This taxpayer went through a lot of effort generating a log from her work history. However…

Petitioner testified at length regarding how she prepared the reconstructed log. She testified under oath that she had worked for both ATC and MSN throughout 2007 and carefully explained her work assignments for each employer, including her work assignments for ATC from January through September 2007. Unfortunately for petitioner, the document that ATC provided to her summarizing her work history with ATC shows that she did not start her employment at ATC until October 2007. That document demolished any credibility that petitioner’s reconstructed log and her sworn testimony might otherwise have had. [emphasis added]

The Moral? No matter how much effort goes into reconstructing your unreimbursed work mileage, it doesn’t help you if you didn’t actually have the job.

Cite: Spjute, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-58




Bryan Camp has a long piece in Tax Notes today ($link) arguing that the IRS can and should “cut and paste” its way into a new preparer regulation regime. I won’t argue the legalisms, though I think if the IRS thought it plausible, it would have tried it already.

I will point out that in an article with 101 footnotes, there is no discussion of additional costs to the taxpayers, or whether the benefits exceed those costs. He discusses evidence that “unregulated” preparers make more errors, and he assumes that regulation will fix the problem. That’s not necessarily so. It’s hard to imagine the perfunctory examination and CPE requirements of the old RTRP program would improved preparation. You can make somebody take a test, but you can’t make them competent.

Mr. Camp also ignores the unintended but predictable effects of the inevitably-increased price of preparation on the quality of tax returns received by IRS. If prep price goes up, more taxpayers will do their own returns, almost certainly at a higher error rate than from paid-for preparation. Other taxpayers will drop out of the system rather than pay higher prep costs.

In short, regulation advocates assume regulation will solve the problems of inaccurate returns. That’s unproven but unlikely. It is likely, though, that it will increase taxpayer costs and push customers away from paid preparers, which creates a new set of problems.

Related: Leslie Book, AICPA Defends CPA Turf and Challenges IRS Efforts to Regulate Unenrolled Preparers (Procedurally Taxing)


buzz20140909Robert D. Flach has fresh Buzz today, with links ranging from silly tax proposals to silly home office deductions.

Paul Neiffer, What About Those AFRs? “Periodically I will get a question from a client asking me ‘How much interest they have to charge on a loan to their child or some other related party?’. ”

Kay Bell, Meet Obamacare deadlines or pay the higher tax price. “If you don’t file last year’s return, you won’t be able to claim an advance premium tax credit to help you pay for your 2016 Obamacare coverage.”

William Perez, What Tax Documents to Bring to Your Accountant?


Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Making Sense Of Partnership Book-Ups. A primer on adjusting capital accounts to reflect the price paid when partners enter or leave a partnership.

Russ Fox, We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Phone Calls.

So let’s translate this into reality. In the 2013 fiscal year, 22,363,345 phone calls were attempted to various IRS toll-free lines; 15,609,615 were answered (69.8%). In the 2015 fiscal year, 22,013,468 phone calls were attempted to various IRS toll-free lines; 8,277,064 were answered (37.6%). As for the time on hold allegedly decreasing to 23.5 minutes, perhaps that’s after excluding all the time some of the 7 million people who called but whose calls were dropped or who hung up spent on the phone.

I think the IRS cuts in customer service are a sort of “Washington Monument Strategy” of cutting the most visible and useful aspects of taxpayer service to pressure Congress into providing more funds. I’ll believe the IRS is serious about its customer service issues when the IRS takes its 200 employees who spend all of their time doing Treasury Employee Union work and puts them on the phones.

Robert Wood, Let’s Tax Churches. I’m sure that won’t be controversial…

Peter Reilly, The Tax Code Explained & Why It Matters In This Presidential Race (No, It’s Not 70K Pages)

Jack Townsend, Wyly Brothers Seek Bankruptcy Relief from Disgorgement Order from Offshore Shenanigans




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 866

Martin Sullivan, Donald Buffett? (Tax Analysts Blog). Looking for tax wisdom in all the wrong places.

Renu Zaretsky, Inversions, Schools, and Supermarkets. Today’s TaxVox roundup covers the ground from tax increases in Chicago to tax favors for supermarkets in Baltimore.


Sebastian Johnson, Progressive Era Reform Can Be Anything But Progressive (Tax Justice Blog). “Supermajority requirements and tax and spending limits, two frequently proposed ballot measures, are not designed to promote the well-being of states.”

The point isn’t the well being of the state; it’s the well-being of the citizens.


News from the Profession. Accountant Hiding on the Appalachian Trail Has the Mugshot to Prove It (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). “If you were an accountant accused of making off with about $9 million of your employer’s money, I can think of few places better to hide than the wilderness.”



Tax Roundup, 9/17/15: Senators say preparer reg provision killed ID-theft markup. And: Transporation industry per-diem rates issued.

Thursday, September 17th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150917-1And we’d have gotten away with it, if it hadn’t been for those meddling kids! Tax Notes comes through this morning with confirmation ($ link) that opposition to the preparer regulation provision caused the Senate Finance Committee leadership to postpone the markup of the ID-theft bill scheduled for yesterday.

“I think there’s probably a way in which that [bill] could get back on track,” said Senate Finance Committee member John Thune, R-S.D. The pending legislation’s proposal to grant Treasury and the IRS authority to regulate paid tax return preparers “was probably the principal concern” of some senators, Thune said.

“I think more of it, the whole issue, was whether or not to give the IRS more authority — more power, more people, more resources, all that,” Thune added.

20130121-2Apparently both Chairman Hatch and ranking minority member Wyden favor reviving the preparer regulation power grab, derailed by the courts in 2013. So does the head of the National Association of Enrolled Agents. A petulant Senate staffer blames the CPAs:

A Senate staff member, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Tax Analysts that the “AICPA once supported common-sense efforts to regulate unenrolled paid preparers — an important effort, given that unregulated tax preparers are largely responsible for a wide range of tax filing mistakes that occur at the expense of taxpayers.”

“But now,” the staffer continued, “it seems the group has now lobbied hard in opposition to the bill, ostensibly on the grounds that the bill should be changed to impose limitations on IRS’s authority to require preparers to obtain” preparer tax identification numbers.

I would argue that the AICPA is serving the interests of its members and the general public. I would  also say they are serving the EA’s interest better than their own organization. I think another IRS-approved preparer designation could be fatal to the already-struggling Enrolled Agent brand.

I also hate when people invoke “common sense” when pushing through a bad idea. It’s another way of saying “shut up, peasant.” Unless, of course, it’s “common sense” to give an IRS that is failing at its job while abusing its power more to do.




IRS issues special per-diem rates for the year starting 10/1/15 (Notice 2015-65). The rates include the special transportation industry per-diems the incdental expenses-only rate, and the rates and lists of “high-low” localities.

Andrew Mitchel, Is the IRS Missing Names From Its Quarterly Publication of Expatriates? “It is possible that the IRS is only including the names of individuals who have renounced their U.S. citizenship. Perhaps the IRS is not including the names of individuals who have relinquished and not including the names of former long-term green card holders.”

Robert Wood, IRS Hunts Belize Accounts, Issues John Doe Summons To Citibank, BofA. If you’re tax planning is based on offshore bank secrecy, you should rethink your plans.


Robert D. Flach has issued his 2015 YEAR END TAX PLANNING GUIDE. $3 for pdf, $4.50 in print.

TaxGrrrl, 2016 Tax Rates, Brackets & Exemption Amounts May Result In Lower Bills

Scott Schumacher, Getting to Yes, Sooner (Procedurally Taxing). “Whatever the [Tax] Court can do to encourage pro se petitioners to participate in a settlement conference as early as possible will benefit all parties involved.”

Kay Bell, Ways & Means considers more tax extenders, health care bills




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 861

Roberton Williams, Despite Promises, Jeb Bush’s Tax Plan Wouldn’t Eliminate Marriage Penalties (TaxVox).

How many auditors does the Pope have? Pope Francis Weighs In on Tax Policy (Scott Greenberg, Tax Policy Blog).

Now, Pope Francis has also made a foray into tax policy, calling for churches and religious orders that conduct regular business activities to pay taxes on their income…

However, in the United States, a church that operated a hotel would likely be subject to the Unrelated Business Income Tax, which applies to tax-exempt organizations that conduct business operations that are unrelated to their tax-exempt purpose. So, the Pope would likely be satisfied with current U.S. law, which requires church-operated businesses to pay taxes on their profits (with a few notable exceptions).

Blessed be the 990-T. 


Bob McIntyre, Congress Is Working to Revive Rules That Make Corporate Tax Avoidance Easier (Tax Justice Blog). That’s Tax Justice talk for “working on extender legislation.”

Career Corner. Do Millennial Accountants Golf? (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 9/15/15: Today is a big due date. Also: more on preparer regulation, and Outlaw outlawry!

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

e-file logoExtended corporation, partnership and trust returns are due today! E-file is the best way to be sure to timely file. If you can’t, or won’t, e-file, Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested, does the trick; save the postmark.

If you don’t get to the post office before they take their last smoke break for the day, you can go to the Fed-Ex or UPS store and use a designated private delivery service; be sure the shipping method you select is one of the “designated” ones at the link. Make sure the shipping bill shows that you dropped it off today, and make sure it is addressed to the proper IRS service center street address, as the private services can’t use the P.O. box service center addresses.

Third quarter estimated tax payments are also due today for calendar year filers.

Related: Paul Neiffer, September 15 is Worse Than April 15, “Most people who wait to file on September 15 or October 15 are, shall we say, not quite so efficient with their record keeping and thus, it is much tougher for us to get information and to get the tax return done.” Paul is absolutely right.


20130121-2Russ Fox, The NAEA Won’t Like This Post:

I’m a member of the National Association of Enrolled Agents. Generally, I’m supportive of their policies. However, I am not a fan of mandatory preparer regulation. Other than giving the IRS more money and getting rid of the lowest hanging of the bad preparers, preparer regulation won’t accomplish many positives for the general public.

The NAEA’s support of preparer regulation is baffling. The idea of the IRS certifying all preparers strikes me as a deadly threat to the Enrolled Agent brand.

Right now, EAs are the only professionals who have to pass an IRS administered test, one much more rigorous than the one in the abortive Registered Tax Return Preparer plan under the defunct preparer regulations. EAs also have much more serious continuing education rules.

For all this the EA designation is not nearly as well-known as the CPA designation, which isn’t even a tax-specific credential. The RTRP designation threatens to further obscure the EA brand.  Both EAs and RTRPs will be “IRS approved,” and given their failure to establish the EA brand so far, it’s likely to be impossible to get clients to appreciate the superior EA credential.


buzz20150804Buzz! With Robert D. Flach, a fresh tax blog roundup with Robert’s own inimitable style. Topics include this year’s slow-walk of the extenders legislation and the Senate push to regulate preparers.


TaxGrrrl, Congress May Give IRS Authority To Regulate Tax Preparers:

It’s my feeling that the bad guys are the bad guys: forcing you to take ethics courses doesn’t change that. Incompetent and lazy preparers are incompetent and lazy: forcing someone to sit through continuing education courses (likely while text messaging, trust me, I’ve been a speaker at these things) doesn’t make that person smarter or more conscientious. 

It’s another “bootleggers and Baptists” play. Prohibition was supported by do-gooders who naively thought they were making the world a better place, and by bootleggers, who profited from prohibition. Here the Baptist elder is Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen, and the bootleggers are the big national tax prep franchise outfits.


Robert Wood, IRS Offshore Account Penalties Expand, More Banks Sign.

Jim Maule, A New Tax Specialty: Porn:

 According to this report, the Alabama House Ways and Means Committee, trying to deal with a budget shortfall, has approved legislation imposing a 40 percent excise tax on, well, it depends on whose explanation is accepted. Some are calling it a tax on porn.

Well, at least they won’t have trouble recruiting auditors.

Jack Townsend, Another B   S   Tax Shelter Bites the Dust. Fill in the blanks.

Kay Bell, 3 ways to navigate estimated tax penalty safe harbors


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 859

Huaqun Li, Stephen J. Entin, China to Remove Dividend Tax for Long-Term Shareholders (Tax Policy Blog)




Well, they were called the “Outlaws.” David Allen Coe was part of the “Outlaw” country music movement led by Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Hank Williams Jr. Now, like Willie, Mr. Coe has some tax problems. reports:

Country singer David Allan Coe owes the IRS nearly a half-million dollars for taxes due as far back as 1993. The singer pleaded guilty to one count of obstructing the due administration of the IRS on Monday (Sept. 14) and could face three years in prison plus a $250,000 fine.

Coe, known for his hit “Take This Job and Shove It,” owes more than $466,000, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. This includes taxes from 2008 to 2013 when he either failed to file income tax returns or didn’t pay taxes owned. Interest and penalties are part of the figure.

Mr. Coe had a little run-in with the law at a Des Moines area casino a few years back (arrest video here), but the disorderly conduct charges were dismissed. This outlawry promises to be a little more troublesome, but now all he needs is mom, pickup trucks, trains and a drink for a perfect country and western song.



Tax Roundup, 9/14/15: Hatch, Wyden sneak preparer regulation into ID theft bill. And more!

Monday, September 14th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

No Walnut ST“Bipartisanship” means they’re ganging up on you. UtahPolicy reports: Hatch, Wyden Announce Markup of Bipartisan Bill to Prevent Identity Theft and Tax Refund Fraud. In the 20-item summary of the “Chairman’s Mark,” this is buried as item 15 (my emphasis):

In June 2011, the IRS issued final regulations that established a new class of tax practitioners known as “registered tax return preparers” that it sought to regulate for the prepared by these now unregulated tax return preparers. There is substantial evidence indicating that incompetent and unethical tax return preparers are harming both their clients and the government. Most of the tax returns that involve refundable tax credits are prepared by unregulated tax return preparers.

Since 2011, the D.C. District Court (and the D.C. Circuit affirming on appeal) has prevented the IRS from enforcing these regulations on the grounds that the IRS’ authority to regulate practitioners is insufficient to permit regulation of tax return preparers who do not practice or represent taxpayers before an office of the Treasury Department.

The provision provides the Treasury Department and the IRS with the authority to regulate all aspects of Federal tax practice, including paid tax return preparers, and overrides the court decisions described above.

Preparer regulation wouldn't have bothered Rashia.

Preparer regulation wouldn’t have bothered Rashia.

Of course, increasing preparer regulation does absolutely nothing to fight identity theft.  People don’t go to unregulated preparers to arrange to have their identities stolen. Paid preparers aren’t the people who steal identities. That nasty work is done by others. It’s done by organized crime gangs in the old Soviet Union. It’s done by semi-literate street grifters in Florida. It’s done by street gangs. It’s even done by IRS agents.

Fighting ID theft by regulating preparers is like fighting pickpockets by regulating laundromats. Making tax preparers take a competency literacy test won’t touch the ID theft problem. Nor will crooks stop claiming bad refunds because the IRS wants them to take a test.

Fortunately, a powerful senator makes an impassioned argument against giving the IRS more power over preparers:

“Protecting the private information of taxpayers at the Internal Revenue Service should be of highest importance to the agency and Congress. Unfortunately, as we learned this year, highly valuable information housed at the agency is susceptible to cybercriminals.  Since this threat will not end, Congress should take appropriate bipartisan action to implement needed legislative policies that will better protect taxpayers and shield taxpayer dollars from thieves.”

Oh, I’m sorry, that’s Senator Hatch arguing that this incompetent agency should get more power over preparers. Does he even read his own stuff?

The IRS already has tools to deal with bad preparers, as the weekly parade of injunctions and indictments of preparers attests. What the IRS wants is more power and less of that annoying due-process stuff. It’s supported in this by the large tax prep franchise outfits, one of whose executives wrote the rules that the courts struck down. The big tax prep outfits want to increase barriers to entry to grow their own market share. Big companies can spread the cost of regulatory compliance over a large base of business; a sole practitioner has to absorb the cost alone. An IRS paperwork glitch that can ruin a single preparer does nothing to H&R Block. Regulation always favors the big.

The President’s recent report on excessive occupational licensing notes:

There is evidence that licensing requirements raise the price of goods and services, restrict employment opportunities, and make it more difficult for workers to take their skills across State lines. Too often, policymakers do not carefully weigh these costs and benefits when making decisions about whether or how to regulate a profession through licensing.

They certainly aren’t doing so here. They plan to mark up the bill Wednesday morning. Contact your senator and representative to oppose this IRS power grab on behalf of its friends Henry and Richard.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 856Day 857Day 858. Yes, let’s give these people more power over preparers, they’ve shown we can trust them.




Kay Bell, Congress faces a crowded year-end legislative schedule. Not too crowded to find time to help out Henry and Richard.

William Perez, 5 Tips for the 3rd Estimated Tax Payment of 2015. It’s due tomorrow!

Robert D. Flach, MAKE YOUR LIFE EASIER AT TAX TIME BY SAVING ALL COLLEGE INFO NOW. “FYI – beginning with tax year 2016 (for returns to be prepared in 2017) you must have a Form 1098-T in order to claim an education credit or deduction on your Form 1040 (or 1040A).”

Russ Fox, Defalcations Send Randolph Scott to ClubFed. An estate tax attorney decides he needs the money more than the IRS does.

Jason Dinesen, Iowa Society of EAs to Host CPE Extravaganza. October 19 and 20, West Des Moines. “This seminar is open to any tax pro who needs CPE, so CPAs and attorneys are welcome to attend.”

Annette Nellen, Tell me – hot state tax issue of 2015?

Peter Reilly, Jeb Bush Tax Plan Could Disrupt Real Estate And Small Business. “Bush tax plan calls for elimination of business interest deductions.”

Robert Wood, Marijuana Taxes Go Up In Smoke For One Day In Colorado. Isn’t that the point?




Scott Greenberg, Yahoo Spinoff of Alibaba Sheds Light on Problems with the Corporate Tax System (Tax Policy Blog):

These three obstacles – double taxation, legal complexity, and regulatory uncertainty – are present in many areas of corporate tax law, not just Yahoo’s spinoff of Alibaba. And all three significantly hinder American business operations, slowing down economic growth. The ongoing saga of Yahoo is one more example of why fixing the corporate tax code must be a priority of the federal government.  

I would add that Yahoo also ran into a politicized IRS that was under pressure to kill the deal.

Elaine Maag, Tax Subsidies for Childcare Expenses Target Middle-Income Families, Missing Many Poor Parents. (TaxVox)


News from the Profession. This CPA’s Mugshot Will Haunt Your Dreams. (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).




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

Monday, June 15th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Cite: TD 9725


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

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

The most promising of the steps:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




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

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

Annette Nellen, Tax reform for 2015? Seems unlikely

Kay Bell, Lessons learned from being tax Peeping Toms

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

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

Robert Wood, Beware Tax Cops At Farmers’ Markets


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

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

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


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


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


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



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

Thursday, June 4th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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



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

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


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 756




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

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

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

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

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



Tax Roundup, 5/22/15: IRS to refund RTRP test fees. And: Memorial Day!

Friday, May 22nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan


Memorial Day weekend!. As most offices will be deserted by 3 p.m., let’s get started. And while you are getting ready for the long weekend, remember that late this afternoon is a great time to get embarrassing news out, while nobody’s watching. The politicians know this.

20130121-2IRS to refund RTRP test fees. From an IRS announcement:

The IRS is refunding the fees that return preparers paid for the Registered Tax Return Preparer test. Letters will be mailed to refund recipients on May 28 and checks will be mailed on June 2. Return preparers took the test between November 2011 and January 2013 and paid a fee of $116. About 89,000 tests were paid for and taken, with some preparers taking the test more than once.

Mighty nice of them. But they have an ominous warning:

The IRS remains committed to the principle that all persons who prepare federal tax returns for compensation should be required to pass a test of minimal competency and take annual continuing education training.

In other words, they will continue to try to sneak preparer regulation through the back door. When the people who pass the tax laws have to pass a test of minimal competency, come back to me with your time-wasting paperwork, IRS.


buzz20140923Robert D. Flach rounds up tax happenings in his Friday Buzz!

Mitch Maahs, Tapping into Beer Tax Reform (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog):

As the craft beer industry continues to boom, the margins of many craft breweries have continued to tighten. Representatives of the industry have taken to Congress to seek tax breaks for these small brewers, but the large, multinational beer giants also want a pour from the tax-break tap.

Currently, all brewers pay a federal excise tax, per 31-gallon barrel (about 248 pints), based on the volume the brewer produces or imports. On its first 60,000 barrels brewed or imported, breweries pay $7.00 per barrel. The tax increases to $18.00 for each additional barrel above 60,000.

Excise taxes should work like user fees, paying for costs generated by the beer consumers. That’s not what this tax does.

Let’s shop! Memorial Day sales tax holidays for Texas, Virginia shoppers (Kay Bell)

William Perez talks about 3 Types of Tax Form 5498 (and Why You Got One): “Essentially, Form 5498 provides independent confirmation to the IRS of the amounts you contributed to IRAs and other tax-preferred savings accounts.”





Jack Townsend, GE Gets Slapped Down Again for its B*****t Tax Shelter.

Peter Reilly, Kent Hovind To Be Free In August – Maybe Sooner. His pet velociraptor will be glad to see him.

Kyle Pomerleau, Bernie Sanders’s Financial Transaction Tax Won’t Raise as Much Revenue as He Thinks (Tax Policy Blog):

In the 1980s, Sweden introduced a financial transactions tax. As expected, the tax reduced trade volume: “when the 2% tax was introduced in 1986, 60% of the trading volume of the 11 most actively traded Swedish share classes migrated to London to avoid taxes.”

Of course, the Sanders response to such failure would be to “crack down.”




Renu Zaretsky, Robbing Peter to Pay Paul. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup talks about a push to make bike riders pay for their bike trails, as well as the continuing fiscal turmoil in Kansas.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 743

News from the Profession. 34-Count Indictment Won’t Stop Accountant from Serving His Clients: Lawyer. (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). If he’s convicted, though, that just might stop him.



Tax Roundup, 10/21/14: Gander gets sauced! And: IRS Commissioner’s prophecy of tax season doom.

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Flickr image by Sage under Creative Commons license

Flickr image by Sage under Creative Commons license

Gander, Meet Sauce. An alert reader points out something wonderful I had missed — a ruling awarding attorney fees and costs of $257,885 to the return preparers who successfully challenged the IRS preparer regulations. It’s a rare and welcome example of the IRS being held accountable for being unreasonable with taxpayers. And the court said the IRS was being unreasonable (all emphasis mine; some citations omitted):

In the present case, the reasonableness of the government’s position can be measured by the familiar guideposts of statutory interpretation: text, legislative history, statutory context, and congressional intent. In each of those dimensions, the interpretation of § 331(a)(1) advocated by the government was deficient. Indeed, on several key points, such as the proper meaning of the word “representatives,” the IRS offered no support whatever for its interpretation. The Court therefore finds that the government’s position was not substantially justified.

Losing the battle over whether its position was justified, the IRS dipped into its seemingly bottomless supply of chutzpah to challenge the amount:

As an initial salvo, the IRS argues that it was unreasonable and excessive for Plaintiffs to request compensation for over 1,700 hours spent advocating an interpretation of the statute that Plaintiffs themselves contend is obvious.

Our position was reasonable! OK, it was so unreasonable that even a cave man could litigate against it!

The Court declines the IRS’s request for across-the-board cuts to Plaintiffs’ award. The choice of a hatchet is particularly inappropriate here for several reasons. First and foremost, Plaintiffs prevailed at every stage of this litigation and achieved the entirety of their requested relief. Degree of success is “the most critical factor” in evaluating the reasonableness of a fee award.  Second, the IRS understates the complexity of this case. To be sure, this Court and the D.C. Circuit both concluded that Plaintiffs’ was the only reasonable interpretation of 31 U.S.C. § 330(a)(1). That conclusion, however, was apparent largely as a result of Plaintiffs’ thorough research and well-reasoned briefs.


The only thing that would make it better would be if the IRS were assessed a penalty for taking a frivolous or negligent position. Maybe someday. But congratulations to the plaintiffs and the Institute for Justice for pulling off a legal end-zone dance.


Cite: Loving, Civil Action No. 12-385 (DC-District of Columbia)

And if you think that preparers can now do whatever they please, read Tax preparation business owner sentenced for tax fraud:

Charles Lee Harrison has been ordered to federal prison following his conviction of willfully aiding and assisting in the preparation and presentation of a false tax return, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson along with Lucy Cruz, special agent in charge of Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). Harrison, the owner of a tax preparation business in Houston and Navasota, pleaded guilty June 16, 2014.

Today, U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes, who accepted the guilty plea, handed Harrison a 36-month sentence to be immediately followed by one year of supervised release. He was further ordered to pay $396,057 in restitution.

I’m confident Mr. Harrison feels quite regulated at the moment.


Oh, Goody. “So we have right now probably the most complicated filing season before us that we’ve had in a long time, if ever. ”

-IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in an interview with Tax Analysts October 17 ($link)

The Commissioner also had an interesting idea for large partnerships ($link):

Our position is the most significant thing we can do to break that bottleneck — and I think it’s supported by a lot of people in the private sector — would be to say we need to amend [the 1982 Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act] and say we can audit a partnership,” Koskinen said. “And when we make an adjustment to the tax quantities, the partnership will absorb that that year,” he said, adding that the reporting would take place on the partnership’s Schedule K-1 for that year and the adjustment would automatically flow through to the partners.

Koskinen added that even though that statutory change would effectively shift the tax liability from those who were partners in the year under audit (and who benefited from the improper tax position) to the current partners, “that happens with mutual funds all the time. . . . People are used to buying and selling investments, recognizing whatever the tax and investment situation is.

Maybe that makes some sense for large partnerships, but it would be horrible for small ones, as anybody buying a partnership interest would also be buying three open years of audit exposure.


buzz20140923It’s Tuesday. That means Robert D. Flach is Buzzing with links from around the tax world!

Jason Dinesen, Iowa Tax Filing Deadline is October 31: Claim Your $54 Credit Before Then

Paul Neiffer, Will ACA Require You To Include Health Insurance as Wages. Spoiler: no.

Matt McKinney, Can I force my Iowa corporation to buy my stock? ( A common question from minority owners of closely-held corporations.

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2014: #10 – IRA and Qualified Plan Rollovers Are More Treacherous Than You Realize.

TaxGrrrl, Suspected Nazi War Criminals Collected Millions In Social Security Benefits After Fleeing The U.S.

William Perez, Payroll Taxes: A Primer for Employers

Peter Reilly, Taxpayer Barred From Communicating With CPA Still Hit With Late File Penalty. Weird and unjust.

Kay Bell, Jury doesn’t buy ‘vow of poverty’ as excuse for not filing taxes. Well, this tax evasion conviction will help the defendant fulfill the vow.



20141021-1Martin Sullivan, A Double Bias Against Infrastructure (Tax Analysts Blog)  He doesn’t mention the biggest problem: When most of government spending is just transfers from some taxpayers to others, it squeezes out everything else.

Donald Marron, A “Normal” Budget Isn’t Really Normal (TaxVox): “From 1975 to today, the federal debt swelled from less than 25 percent of GDP to more than 70 percent. I don’t think many people would view that as normal. Or maybe it is normal, but not in a good way.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 530


News from the Profession. AICPA Seeks to Better Weed Out Losers, Misfits with Evolved CPA Exam (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). Good thing I passed the exam before this development.



Tax Roundup, 9/4/14: IOU? No basis for you! And: IRS may say TANSTAAFL.

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120801-2Partner IOUs fail to increase basis.  Just like S corporation shareholders, partners in a partnership can only deduct their share of the entity’s losses to the extent they have basis.  Like S corporation owners, partner basis starts with the basis of property and the amount of cash contributed to the partnership; it is increased by the owner’s share of taxable and tax-exempt income, and is reduced by expenses and distributions.

In a Tax Court case yesterday, partners”contributed” IOU from themselves to the partnership, VisionMonitor Software LLC.; the partners then used the amounts of the IOUs as basis for deducting losses.

Unfortunately for the partners, that doesn’t work.  Judge Holmes explains (minor editing by me):

VisionMonitor argues that the notes in this case, like the assumption of debt in Gefen, were necessary to persuade a third party to kick in more funding to a cash-strapped partnership. But unlike the partner in Gefen, neither Mantor nor Smith were guaranteeing a preexisting partnership debt to a third party. And they did not directly assume any of VisionMonitor’s outside liabilities — these notes are their liability to VisionMonitor, not an assumption or guaranty of VisionMonitor’s debt to a third party…  And there’s also no evidence that Mantor or Smith were personally obliged under the VisionMonitor partnership agreement to contribute a fixed amount for a specific, preexisting partnership liability.

Unlike S corporation shareholders, partners can get basis for debt owed by a partnership to third parties — for example, by providing a guarantee to a third-party lender (watch out for the “at-risk” rules).  But the court held that writing an IOU, by itself, doesn’t rise to the level of creating debt basis for the partner:

 Here… the partners each have no adjusted basis in the notes, and until they are paid, the notes are only a contractual obligation to their partnership. Mantor made a payment under his notes only in 2010, and the record has no evidence that Smith ever did. We therefore find that Mantor’s and Smith’s bases in their promissory notes during the 2007 and 2008 tax years were zero and, accordingly, that VisionMonitor’s basis in the contributed notes was also zero.

As it always does, the IRS tried to stick the partners with a 20% “accuracy-related” penalty. Judge Holmes wisely declined, holding that they relied reasonably on oral advice from their tax man, a Mr. Sympson:

We have little problem in finding that VisionMonitor actually relied on Sympson’s advice — his conclusion that the notes were additions to VisionMonitor’s capital (and the capital accounts of Smith and Mantor) was set out on the company’s returns. And we have little trouble in finding that this reliance was in good faith. In a case like this one — where VisionMonitor secured Smith and Mantor’s promises to increase their personal risk alongside their promise to extend their personal credit to the firm’s vendors — advice from a longtime tax adviser that this increased Smith’s and Mantor’s bases would seem reasonable to Mantor.

This is the sort of standard that the Tax Court should apply.  Taxes are hard — that’s why people hire out their tax work.  If they are open with their tax advisor, and they don’t have reason to think the tax advisor is incompetent, they shouldn’t get hammered with penalties just because the advisor makes a mistake. After all, the IRS makes mistakes too.

The Moral: If you want to get basis in your partnership without putting in cash, you need to get third party debt allocated to you in a way that makes you at-risk.  And: when things get complicated, if you are open with your preparer and follow the advice given, IRS penalties are not automatic.

Cite: VisionMonitor Software LLC, T.C. Memo 2014-182.

Related: How much K-1 loss can I deduct? Start with your basis.


TANSTAAFL. (There Aint) No Such Thing As A Free Lunch: IRS Mulls Tax On Employee Meals. (TaxGrrrl)  Just because you can make a theoretical argument that something is taxable doesn’t mean you should tax it.


20130121-2So you think regulation of preparers by IRS will stop fraud?  IRS Employee Accused Of Tax Fraud.  If they can’t keep themselves honest, they aren’t likely to prevent preparer cheating. Of course, preparer regulation isn’t about stopping fraud or improving tax compliance. It’s about grabbing power and helping well-placed friends.  Russ Fox has more.


Jana Luttenegger, Tax Court Ruling on Frequent Flyer Miles as Income (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Kay Bell, Tax differences between home repairs & home improvements.  It can make a big difference when you sell.

Robert D. Flach tells you WHAT TO ASK A TAX PRO

Jack Townsend, Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt – Ramblings


David Brunori, Business Pays a Lot of State and Local Taxes (Tax Analysts Blog):

COST recently released its 12th edition of the report. And it continues to influence the state tax debate as much today as it did in 2002. The new report says that businesses paid $671 billion in state and local taxes in 2013, up about 4 percent over the previous year. But business taxes accounted for 45 percent of all state and local taxes.

I note that the amount of tax paid by “business” is deceptive. Businesses do not pay taxes; people pay taxes. And every dime of the $671 billion was paid by some combination of shareholder, owner, employee, customer, or supplier. Those on the left desperately want the burden to fall on shareholders. But there is growing evidence that in a global economy, the burden falls on employees. 

And if it does fall on shareholders, remember that pension funds are also shareholders.


20140801-2Lyman Stone, Governor Rick Scott Offers Mixed Bag of Tax Proposals for Florida (Tax Policy Blog). “Governor Scott’s tax proposals offer meaningful improvements in some areas like cell phone and corporate income taxes. But on other issues like the property tax cap, it’s not clear whether or how the plan will work; on sales tax holidays, the proposed “tax cut” would actually make the tax code more complicated and distortionary, while creating little or no economic growth.”

Yes.  Next Question?  Is It Time to Repeal The Corporate Income Tax? (Howard Gleckman, TaxVox) “This view acknowledges that roughly 10 million businesses already have engaged in self-help tax reform by organizing themselves as pass-through firms (where owners at taxed as individuals but bypass the corporate tax entirely).”


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 483


News from the Profession.  Ladies Still Need Entire Panels Made Up of Dudes to Talk About Ladies in the Profession (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)  “Don’t worry, ladies, the guys are ON IT.”



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

Monday, August 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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



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

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

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


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

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


2140731-3TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 459

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



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

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

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

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



Tax Roundup, 6/27/14: IRS tries preparer regulation through the back door. And: why was Lerner at IRS?

Friday, June 27th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130121-2IRS tries “voluntary” end run around the law.  The IRS yesterday announced that it doesn’t need no stinking law (IR-2014-75):

The Annual Filing Season Program will allow unenrolled return preparers to obtain a record of completion when they voluntarily complete a required amount of continuing education (CE), including a course in basic tax filing issues and updates, ethics and other federal tax law courses.

“This voluntary program will be a step to help protect taxpayers during the 2015 filing season,” said IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “About 60 percent of tax return preparers operate without any type of oversight or education requirements. Our program will give unenrolled return preparers a way to stay to up-to-date on tax laws and changes, which we believe will improve service to taxpayers.”

Tax return preparers who elect to participate in the program and receive a record of completion from the IRS will be included in a database on that will be available by January 2015 to help taxpayers determine return preparer qualifications.

The database will also contain information about practitioners with recognized credentials and higher levels of qualification and practice rights. These include attorneys, certified public accountants (CPAs), enrolled agents, enrolled retirement plan agents (ERPAs) and enrolled actuaries who are registered with the IRS.

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

So the Commissioner is keeping a little list of his friends.  And if you aren’t on his list of friends, you are on his list of not-friends.  It’s obvious what is going on here.  Through PR and subtle or non-so-subtle IRS preference for those on the Friends List, they will make life unpleasant for the non-friends, encouraging them to submit to “voluntary” CPE, testing, and ultimately, IRS control.  The IRS is trying to achieve its preparer regulation, ruled illegal by the courts, through other means.  This eagerness to take on a new program that nobody wants must mean the IRS is adequately funded, and its cries for more resources can safely be ignored.

Other coverage:

IRS Offers Voluntary Tax Preparer Education Program (Accounting Today)

Adrienne Gonzalez, IRS Goes Ahead With Voluntary Tax Preparer Program Despite AICPA Objection (Going Concern)

Leslie Book, IRS Announces Voluntary Education Program For Return Preparers (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert D. Flach, IT’S JUST STUPID  “This program will do little to ‘encourage education and filing season readiness’. ”



Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Why did Lois Lerner work at the IRS?

This question came to mind in discussing the Lerner emails with a reader, who noted how a Politico piece about the Grassley email chain revealed this week pointed out this high-level IRS leader’s evident lack of tax skills:

Former ex-IRS tax exempt division chief Marcus Owens said the email chain shows Lerner knew very little about tax law, as there would have been nothing wrong with Grassley and his wife attending such an event, so long as the income was reported.

“It is nothing that rises to the level of referral for examination,” Owens said.

It is a mystery.  Her Wikipedia biography shows that she was a cum laude graduate of Northeastern University and the Western New England College of Law.  She worked as a high-level attorney at the Federal Election Commission, but moved to IRS as “Director Rulings and Agreements” in the exempt organizations branch of the IRS.  She rose to Director of Exempt Organizations in 2006.

Her resume, then, is that of a bureaucrat, rather than a tax practitioner or specialist.  She apparently never practiced tax law before moving into her important policy position — important in the tax world, anyway.

This sort of thing may be common in the federal bureaucracy.  It’s likely that she got a raise for the move, or something.  But it seems that while you could take the girl out of the FEC, you couldn’t take the FEC out of the girl.  She took it upon herself to monitor the electoral process with the tools of the tax law.

Megan McArdle explains why that was a bad idea:

This exchange suggests that Lois Lerner not only didn’t have a good, basic grasp of the tax law she was supposed to be administering, but also viewed her job as an extension of her work at the Federal Election Commission.

That’s not what the IRS is for. The IRS is not given power over nonprofit status in order to root out electoral corruption or the appearance of it. It is given power over nonprofit status in order to make sure that the Treasury gets all the revenue to which it’s entitled

Unfortunately, politicians see the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy, and it’s unsurprising that an IRS bureaucrat would see it the same way.

Moreover, Lerner’s overbroad instincts also seemed to kick into high gear when Republican politicians were involved. Of course, such reports might well be survivor bias — Republicans are complaining about Lerner, while Democrats who also had run-ins with her may be keeping quiet for fear of fueling the fire. At this point, however, the fire is burning merrily on its own. If Democrats who encountered Lerner’s overzealous use of her powers are out there, they’d do well to come forward and tell their stories to reassure Americans that even if her actions were overbroad, they weren’t broadly partisan.

They would have emerged by now.  The stats, as we noted yesterday, demonstrate one-sided enforcement.

It’s unlikely that Ms. Lerner came to the IRS with the idea of using her position to harass the opposition.  She just happened to be in a position to do so when applications from groups she didn’t like — perhaps that she even saw as dangerous and wrong — came across her desk.  It’s possible that she did it entirely on her own.  And that’s the scariest thing — a bureaucracy that moves on its own to squash ungoodthinkers is much more dangerous than a top-down conspiracy.  It may be hard to replace an administration, but it’s almost impossible to replace a bureaucracy.


taxanalystslogoChristopher Bergin, The IRS Has Been Set Up (Tax Analysts Blog):

I don’t know if the IRS has been politicized. Until recently that possibility would have been unthinkable. But the potential of the 501(c)(4) rules to be a setup for the politicization of the IRS is enormous. You simply can’t have the tax collector refereeing the people who provide it with its budget. 

Christopher calls for the repeal of 501(c)(4).

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 414

Johnnie M. Walters, Ex-IRS Chief, Dies at 94 (New York Times):  “Johnnie M. Walters, a commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service under President Richard M. Nixon who left office after refusing to prosecute people on Nixon’s notorious “enemies list,” died on Tuesday at his home in Greenville, S.C. He was 94.”

Funny how nobody is doing that anymore.


Jason Dinesen, I Can’t Do Much to Help You Once the Transaction Is Completed.  “The point is: the time to ask for tax advice about something that will generate a massive tax bill is beforehand, not afterwards.”

Russ Fox, FBAR Deadline Is June 30th, but It’s Not a Midnight Deadline.  “My advice is simple: File the FBAR asap–it at all possible by Saturday.”

TaxGrrrl, Kentucky Fried Hoax: What Happens To The Cash?

Peter Reilly, Kuretski – Was Legal Dream Team Really Trying To Help The Taxpayers?

Jack Townsend, False Statements Crime Element of “Knowingly and Willfully” Requires Proving Knowledge that Making False Statement Is Illegal

Robert D. Flach brings the Friday Buzz!


This happened in 2008.  It's raining again.

This happened in 2008. It’s raining again.


Lyman Stone, Pennsylvania House of Representatives Passes Suspension of Tax Credits (Tax Policy Blog). “Most of these credits amount to narrow carve-outs for favored industries and firms, and thus their elimination would generally be good tax policy as a way to make the tax code more neutral.”

Richard Phillips, Clinton Family Finances Highlight Issues with Taxation of the Wealthy (Tax Justice Blog).

Scott Eastman, Tax Inversions are a Symptom, Corporate Tax Reform is the Cure (Tax Policy Blog).

Howard Gleckman, CRFB’s New Online Budget Simulator (TaxVox).  “Neither Congress nor the White House seem to care much about the budget deficit these days, but if you do, the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget has created an updated online budget simulator that lets you try to get a handle on fiscal policy.”


The new Cavalcade of Risk is up at Worker’s Comp Insider.  Good stuff always at the blog world’s roundup of insurance and risk management — including Hank Stern on a potential diabetes breakthrough.

Oops. U.K. tax system errors mean 3.5 million unexpectedly owe (Kay Bell)



Tax Roundup, 6/25/14: Check your mailbox edition. And: the Commissioner’s real goal.

Wednesday, June 25th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2Ignore them and they will come anyway.  A Chicagoan tried to avoid IRS pursuit by the simple expedient of not picking up his mail.  The Tax Court told him yesterday that doesn’t work:

 On several occasions the U.S. Postal Service (Postal Service) attempted, albeit unsuccessfully, to deliver the 2006-2007 notice of deficiency to petitioner at the address of his Columbus Drive apartment. On at least two occasions the Postal Service left notices of attempted delivery of certified mail at that address. In those notices, the Postal Service informed petitioner that it had certified mail to deliver to him and that he had to sign a receipt for that mail before the Postal Service would deliver it to him.

The taxpayer never got around to doing so. Yet he still wanted to fight the deficiencies in Tax Court:

It is petitioner’s position that he is entitled under section 6330(c)(2)(B) to contest the underlying tax liability for his taxable year 2006. In support of that position, petitioner contends that although respondent mailed to him by certified mail, return receipt requested, the 2006-2007 notice of deficiency that was addressed to his Columbus Drive apartment, he did not receive that notice within the 90-day period during which he could have filed a petition with the Court with respect to that notice. In support of that contention, petitioner relies on his testimony at the partial trial in these cases. 

There’s a 90-day deadline to file with the Tax Court, starting with the receipt of the Notice of Deficiency.  The Tax Court enforces the deadline pretty strictly.  And you can’t extend the deadline just by ignoring your mail:

On the record before us, we hold that petitioner may not decline to retrieve his Postal Service mail, when he was reasonably able and had multiple opportunities to do so, and thereafter successfully contend that he did not receive for purposes of section 6330(c)(2)(B) the 2006-2007 notice of deficiency. On that record, we reject petitioner’s contention that he is entitled under that section to dispute the underlying tax liability for his taxable year 2006.

Nice try.

Cite: Onyango, 142 T.C. No. 24.


Paul Neiffer, Is Low Section 179 Causing Low Equipment Sales?


Mixed message.   From Tax Analysts ($link): “Taxpayers considering the IRS’s new streamlined filing compliance program need to think carefully about whether their actions were truly non-willful, because a certification that proves untrue could expose them to more charges from the Justice Department, Kathryn Keneally, former assistant attorney general for the DOJ Tax Division, said June 24.”

The Treasury just can’t quite get the hang of this.  What taxpayers need is bright-line guidance that lets them come into compliance, at least below a relatively-generous dollar threshold.  Instead they have to come in with their hands up, while the IRS reserves the right to open fire — to second guess their state of mind.  That’s not necessarily very comforting.



Rose Mary Woods checks her e-mail in the Nixon administration.

Rose Mary Woods checks her e-mail in the Nixon administration.

Howard GleckmanThe Real IRS Flap Is About Dark Money, Not Emails (TaxVox):

But get past the shouting and two very important issues remain on the table: The first is the IRS has been terribly managed for years and needs to be fixed. It’s easy to forget, but that’s why Koskinen is there.

The second is that the commissioner appears undeterred in his efforts to rewrite the rules for 501(c)(4) non-profits that are engaged in political activities. That seemingly obscure effort will have an enormous impact on future U.S. elections and the balance of political power in the U.S.

This is chilling.  And Mr. Gleckman seems to think it’s just an effort by a disintersted public servant to impose order on chaos:

Koskinen is under great pressure from liberal and conservative groups and from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle to abandon the effort. Don’t for a minute think that the House’s proposed $300 million cut in the IRS budget, its endless requests for IRS documents on multiple subjects, and even the email hearings themselves are not in part an effort to sink—or at least slow–these regulations.

Yet, Koskinen has refused to blink.

If you think Koskinen isn’t a partisan operative at the IRS, you haven’t been paying attention.   All of the pressure to “reform” the (c)(4)s has come from the left.  And it’s clear from the Tea Party targeting that the IRS can’t be trusted to regulate political actors evenhandedly.  If Mr. Gleckman is right, Koskinen’s mission is not to help the IRS to recover from its scandalous practices, but to institutionalize them.


Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 412.  About 40 links today, primarily on Commissioner Koskinen’s appearance before Congressional investigators and related missing e-mail developments.  It’s hard to imagine how this Commissioner could do a worse job at coming clean and improving IRS relationships with GOP congressional appropriators.

Jonathan Adler, IRS agrees to pay non-profit group $50,000 for unauthorized release of tax return.  But nobody will lose their job, and the $50,000 won’t come out of any individual perpetrator’s pocket.  In fact, the leaker gets to maintain his/her anonymity, and presumably employment too.  And even though it was an illegal, and presumably partisan, disclosure of taxpayer information, the Justice Department isn’t going to investigate.

TaxGrrrl, Lois Lerner And The Case Of The Missing Emails.  “Yes, that’s right: the IRS used the same backup strategy for its important data that I used to record my soap operas in college.”

Russ FoxKoskinen Channels His Inner Nixon. “The IRS continues to look hyper-partisan, and that’s not a good thing for anyone.”

The Hill, Archives official: IRS didn’t follow law on missing emails.   But Commissioner Koskinen says no apologies are in order, so stop bothering him.


No Walnut STAccounting Today, AICPA Says IRS Voluntary Tax Preparer Certification Program Is Unlawful:

The AICPA’s letter emphasizes the following points:

• First, no statute authorizes the proposed program;

• Second, the program will inevitably be viewed as an end-run around Loving v. IRS, (a federal court ruling rejecting an earlier IRS attempt to regulate tax return preparers);

• Third, the IRS has evidently concluded, in developing the proposed program, that it need not comply with the notice and comment requirements of the Administrative Procedure Act. This is incorrect; and

• Finally, the current proposal is arbitrary and capricious because it fails to address the problems presented by unethical tax return preparers, runs counter to evidence presented to the IRS, and will create market confusion.

Not that being illegal will bother them; see above.


Arnold Kling, In Our Hands.  Mr. Kling discusses his idea for replacing all means tested welfare programs like the Earned Income Credit with a universal voucher: “Keep in mind that under current policy, many low-income households face effective marginal tax rates of 100 percent or higher. That is, they are better off with something less than full-time, year-round work.”


David Brunori, A Bad Law Addressing a Bad Business Tax (Tax Analysts Blog)

Local option business taxes, whether imposed on income, gross receipts, or personal property, are terrible ways to raise revenue. Only 14 states authorize their use, and they raise a paltry sum compared with the property tax or even local option sales and income taxes. Virtually all the public finance experts who have studied the issue denounce their use.

Of course, Iowa has lots of these.


20120606-1Sydni Pierce, Congress, Take Note: More States Are Reforming Antiquated Fuel Taxes This Summer (Tax Justice Blog)

Andrew Lundeen, Obamacare Increases Marginal Tax Rate on Labor by Six Percentage Points (Tax Analysts Blog).   “In the case of the Affordable Care act, Mulligan is talking about implicit marginal tax rates, or ‘the extra taxes paid, and subsidies forgone, as the result of working.'”


Adrienne Gonzalez, Bernie Madoff’s Former Accountant Pleads Guilty But Clueless (Going Concern).  “Prosecutors say that Konigsberg didn’t intend to help defraud Madoff investors, but knowingly used fraudulently backdated trades provided by Mr. Madoff’s firm as he prepared tax returns for some clients’ investment account.”



Tax Roundup, 6/4/14: IRS to ease up on FBAR foot-faulters? And: nanny-state taxes!

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Programming note: The Tax Update will take Thursday and Friday off this week to tend to a family wedding.  We’ll be back as usual Monday.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how much he cares for innocent victims of his FBAR war.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how much he cares for innocent victims of his FBAR war.

Maybe we shouldn’t be shooting jaywalkers?  The IRS may be declaring a cease-fire in its long war on inadvertent foreign account violators.  Tax Analysts reports ($link) that IRS Commissioner Koskinen told a tax conference that it will be modifying its Offshore Voluntary Compliance Initiative:

“We are well aware that there are many U.S. citizens who have resided abroad for many years, perhaps even the vast majority of their lives,” Koskinen told a luncheon audience at the 2014 OECD International Tax Conference in Washington. “We have been considering whether these individuals should have an opportunity to come into compliance that doesn’t involve the type of penalties that are appropriate for U.S.-resident taxpayers who were willfully hiding their investments overseas.”

Gee, you think so?  You really think 25%-300% penalties might not be appropriate for the crime of committing personal finance while living abroad?  What could possibly have given him that idea?

     Koskinen also pointed to taxpayers residing in the United States with offshore accounts “whose prior noncompliance clearly did not constitute willful tax evasion but who, to date, have not had a clear way of coming into compliance that doesn’t involve the threat of substantial penalties.”

“We believe that re-striking this balance between enforcement and voluntary compliance is particularly important at this point in time, given that we are nearing July 1, the effective date of FATCA,” Koskinen said. 

One of the things that made Doug Shulman the Worst Commissioner Ever was his brutal treatment of trivial inadvertent offshore paperwork filing violators.  Hopefully his successor will make coming into compliance voluntarily a transparent, predictable process designed primarily to ensure future compliance.  Something like state programs for non-resident non-filers, where taxpayers pay back taxes, if any, and interest for a limited number of open years would make sense  People are understandably reluctant to come into compliance when it can mean financial ruin.

The IRS has not released any details of this kinder, gentler approach, so curb your enthusiasm for now.

Related: IRS Commissioner Koskinen Announces that Changes — Liberalizations — Are In the Offing for OVDP 2012  (Jack Townsend)  “All in all, this is good news, at least from a hope perspective.”


20140409-1Robert D Flach offers YET ANOTHER POST CALLING FOR A VOLUNTARY TAX PREPARER DESIGNATION.  Robert makes his case for a “voluntary” designation for preparers who meet some standard.

Robert says something I agree with:

  Having the IRS oversee the designation is not the best idea.  I have suggested that the voluntary RTRP-like designation be administered by an independent industry-based organization like an American Institute of Registered Tax Return Preparers (see “It’s Time for Independent Certification for Tax Preparers“).

If the IRS has nothing to do with it, fine.  If it does, it will inevitably do special favors for its “voluntary” friends and make like difficult for others.

Robert is a little like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, looking for a brain.  The movie quickly makes clear that the Scarecrow already has a perfectly good brain; all he lacks is a diploma.  Robert, a perfectly good (if old-fashioned) preparer, doesn’t need a diploma to save his clients from the Wicked Witch.


TaxGrrrl, After TIGTA Report, Expect More Tax Refund Delays,  The IRS is encouraged to expand its refund offset programs.

Paul Neiffer, Portability Revisited. “With the “permanent” changes in the estate tax laws from about 2 years ago, we now have a permanent provision called portability.  This allows for the unused portion of someone’s estate to be “ported” over to the surviving spouse to be used on their final estate tax return.”


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 391



The income tax, the Ultimate Swiss Army Knife of public policy.  Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

The income tax, the Ultimate Swiss Army Knife of public policy. Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

Joseph Thorndike, Democrats Just Love Their Nanny-State Taxes (Tax Analysts Blog):

The Tax Foundation recently spotlighted a Democratic tax proposal that gives substance to the name-calling: the Stop Subsidizing Childhood Obesity Act, introduced last month by Sens. Tom Harkin, and Richard Blumenthal.

According to its champions, the act would protect children from the predations of junk food purveyors. In particular, it would deny manufacturers any sort of tax deduction “for advertising and marketing directed at children to promote the consumption of food of poor nutritional quality.” It would use the resulting revenue to help fund the Department of Agriculture’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.

That all sounds great. Except for the fact that it’s arbitrary, capricious, and an egregious misuse of tax policy.

The tax law – is there anything it can’t do?

Joseph adds, wisely:

Reasonable people can disagree about what qualifies as a loophole. But by almost any definition, the deduction for advertising junk food is not one.

Once you decide the tax law is a public policy Swiss Army Knife, there’s no logical place to stop.


20140411-1Kay Bell, Calories or volume: Which is the better tax on sugary drinks?  Neither.  Some problems just aren’t tax problems.

David Brunori’s righteous anger at taxes on e-cigarettes is now freely available at Tax Analysts Blog: Taxing E-Cigarettes Seems Crazy.  “Yet politicians routinely say that e-cigarettes will lead people to start smoking, or worse — use drugs! Are they daft?”  No, just greedy.


Renu Zaretsky, In the Midwest, Across the Pacific, and Down Under.  Tax Custs in Ohio and a rejected tax boost in Missouri are part of the TaxVox headline roundup today.


Tax Justice Blog, Will Anti-Tax Yogis Sink Tax-Reform in D.C.?.  If that’s what it takes to get the pic-i-nic basket.


This will make the homecoming in 2042 a little less awkward. reports:

The woman who, along with her husband, held police at bay during a nine-month standoff in 2007 over tax evasion has apologized to the community.

Elaine Brown’s apology appeared in Plain Facts, a monthly publication written by Plainfield residents.

She said she and her husband Ed were trying to advance the “cause of justice.” She went on to say they “failed to take into account the impact we were having on others in the town. We failed to realize the fear, anxiety and impact we were causing these good people.

She was unable to apologize in person because she has been detained — until November 2042, according to the Bureau of Prisons inmate locator.  She should be home in time to invite her neighbors to her 102nd birthday party.



Tax Roundup, 5/30/15: Antidumping edition. And: permanent bonus depreciation advances.

Friday, May 30th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20121120-2Iowa Public Radio, Can Employers Dump Workers On Health Exchanges? Yes, For A Price:

The latest tweak from the Internal Revenue Service essentially prohibits employers from giving workers tax-free subsidies to buy policies in the online public marketplaces created by the health law. The New York Times first reported the rule.

But the headline on the story, “I.R.S. Bars Employers From Dumping Workers Into Health Exchanges,” overstates the case. Nothing stops employers from canceling company plans and leaving workers to buy individual policies sold through the exchanges — as long as the companies pay the relevant taxes and penalties, said Christopher Condeluci, a Venable lawyer specializing in benefits and taxes. Those would vary according to a company’s size and circumstances.

The ACA requires employers with more than 50 “full-time equivalent” employees to provide “adequate” coverage.  The IRS says that subsidizing employees to use the ACA exchanges doesn’t work.  This, of course, is the same IRS that arbitrarily and unlawfully just waived the requirement in the first place through 2014, and for those with under 100 employees through 2015.  Some laws are more equal than others.

It’s fascinating that the Administration refers to the practice of sending employees to buy policies on the exchanges as “dumping.”  The exchanges are a centerpiece of Obamacare, touted as an important step in making affordable coverage available for everyone.  Suddenly they are a “dump.”  Obamacare fines individuals for not patronizing that very dump.


20130422-2Permanent bonus depreciation advances in House.  Tax Analysts reports  ($link, my emphasis)):

Camp said the extenders the committee considered had been renewed enough times that most of them have been or soon will have been extended for at least 10 years, the budget window period. “If we’ve extended something for 10 years, let’s call it what it is, [and] that’s permanent policy,” he said. “We shouldn’t have to raise taxes other places in the economy to keep current tax law.”

The costliest bill the committee approved was H.R. 4718, introduced by Ways and Means Committee member Patrick J. Tiberi, R-Ohio. That bill would permanently extend bonus depreciation, allowing businesses to immediately deduct 50 percent of qualified purchased property. The bill, passed on a 23-11 vote, would expand the definition of qualified property to include owner-occupied retail stores. It would lift restrictions to allow for more unused corporate alternative minimum tax credits, which businesses can claim in lieu of bonus depreciation, to be used for capital investment.

Expiring provisions are a lie.  Any extension of an “expiring” provision should be counted as permenent under budget rules, as they pretty much are.

Related: Dave Camp’s Great Bonus Depreciation Flip-Flop (Howard Gleckman, TaxVox);  Negative GDP Growth Illustrates the Need for Bonus Depreciation (Alan Cole, Tax Policy Blog)


Wind turbineOne of these is not like the other.  The Des Moines Register coverage of last night’s Iowa GOP Senate Primary debate has something I never expected to see in a story about a candidate for statewide office:

Whitaker stands out because he doesn’t support the Renewable Fuel Standard, or any tax breaks for any energy source. “If we don’t believe in mandates for health care, we shouldn’t believe in mandates as it relates to energy,” he said.

All other candidates in both parties genuflect to the Renewables Subsidy idol.  In Iowa, ethanol apostasy is rare; more typical is the GOP governor who is all about picking winners and losers, when the winners are an influential local constituency.

Related: Governor’s press conference praises construction of newest great pyramids.


The IRS needs to regulate these people to stamp out fraud.  “Tammy Dickinson, United States Attorney for the Western District of Missouri, announced today that six former employees of the Internal Revenue Service have pleaded guilty to receiving unemployment benefits while they worked at the agency.” (Department of Justice press release)

Robert D. Flach serves up your Friday Buzz.  “Who would have guessed that I would agree with a group of CPAs?”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 386





And now they’ve proved it.  A Minneapolis husband and wife who ran a website called were convicted last week on federal tax charges.” (

Across the road, of course.  Where are all the Chickens?  (Paul Neiffer)

News from the Profession.  This Big 4 Firm Just Ruined Selfies for Everyone (Going Concern)


Tax Roundup, 5/22/14: IRS teams up with Bernie Madoff. And: more on the new e-file ID rules.

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Bernie Madoff

Bernie Madoff

The IRS wants in on Bernie Madoff’s action.  The Tax Court is going to think about it.

Bernard Kessell died in July 2006.  He might have died content believing he was leaving a healthy investment portfolio for his heirs.  After all, just one part of the portfolio had issued its most recent month-end statement showing a value of $3,221,057.  That statement was issued by Bernie Madoff.

Of course Mr. Madoff was arrested in 2008 and is now residing in federal prison on charges arising from the Ponzi scheme that victimized Mr. Kessell and so many others.  The real value of the securities in Mr. Kessell’s Madoff portfolio was zero.

But the IRS isn’t letting that get in the way.  The agency says Mr. Kessell’s estate should pay estate tax on the value that Mr. Kessell died thinking he owned, rather than the zero actual value.  It wants to piggyback on Mr. Madoff’s fraud to tax an estate value that wasn’t there.

The IRS asked the Tax Court for summary judgment that the asset to be taxed was the account itself, not the vaporous underlying assets, and that because Mr. Madoff hadn’t been unmasked, a willing buyer would pay full sticker for the lying value on the Madoff statements.  The Tax Court court wasn’t willing to go along on summary judgement:

We cannot say on the record before us, however, whether that agreement constituted a property interest includible in Decedent’s gross estate separate from, or exclusive of, any interest Decedent had in what purported to be the assets held in the Madoff account. This question is best answered after the parties have had the opportunity to develop the relevant facts at trial. We will therefore deny respondent’s motion on this point.

As to the issue of the value, Judge Kroupa had this to say (citations omitted).:

     Respondent argues that a Ponzi scheme, by its very nature, is not reasonably knowable or foreseeable until it is discovered or it collapses. Respondent notes Mr. Madoff’s particular skill and that his Ponzi scheme was not disclosed until it collapsed in December 2008. Respondent then reasons that Mr. Madoff’s Ponzi scheme was knowable or foreseeable only at the point when it collapsed — when the amount of money flowing out of Madoff Investments was greater than the amount flowing in. For purposes of this motion, at least, we disagree.

Some people had suspected years before Mr. Madoff’s arrest that Madoff Investments’ record of consistently high returns was simply too good to be true. Whether a hypothetical willing buyer and willing seller would have access to this information and to what degree this information would affect the fair market value of the Madoff account or the assets purportedly held in the Madoff account on the date Decedent died are disputed material facts.  Thus, we will deny respondent’s motion on this point as well.

The rule on how assets are valued is in Reg. Sec. 20.2031-1(b):

 The fair market value is the price at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither being under any compulsion to buy or to sell and both having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts.

Most folks would consider the fact that the account was invested in a Ponzi scheme to be one of those relevant facts.  I guess that’s why most of us don’t work at IRS.

Cite: Estate of Bernard Kessel, T.C. Memo. 2014-97.


20130121-2The AICPA doesn’t care for the “voluntary” IRS preparer regulation proposal.  The reports:

That system, the AICPA argues, would create implied government backing for those preparers who comply with the standards, while punishing those who do not.

“The proposed voluntary system would undoubtedly leave the impression among most taxpayers that certain tax return preparers are endorsed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS),” according letter.

Further, nonbinding standards would fail to root out bad actors, according to the group.

“As a practical matter, any voluntary regime constructed would still not address the problems with unethical and fraudulent tax return preparers,” the group contends.

All excellent points.  The AICPA has figured out that the “voluntary” program would eventually be voluntary like United Way contributions were “voluntary” when I was a green staff accountant at a national accounting firm.  They were voluntary, but amazingly, participation in the drive was always 100%.  Maybe the AICPA leaders still remember their staff accountant days.

I would add one more point.  Commissioner Koskinen and Taxpayer Advocate Olson never tire of telling us how underfunded the IRS is.  If so, why are the diverting some of their already inadequate resources to start a new nonessential program?  The obvious answer is they are trying a back door power grab now that the courts have barred the front door.

Going Concern: The AICPA Voiced “Deep Concerns” About the IRS’ Voluntary Tax Preparer Proposal.  “This means war…”

Larry Gibbs, Recent Developments in the IRS Regulation of Return Preparers (Procedurally Taxing).  A long guest post by a former IRS Commissioner about the power grab he never tried.


Russ Fox, New Identification Rules Go Over Like a Lead Balloon:

In this morning’s post, Joe Kristan told his readers to call the IRS. I agree; I urge all tax professionals to speak to or email their IRS Stakeholder Liaison.  

Russ quotes a new post by Jason Dinesen, I Was Wrong: We SHOULD Be Outraged About the New IRS E-File Requirements, which Jason followd up with Questions to Ponder About New IRS E-file Requirements.  I love Question 8: “How many ID thieves use a tax pro?”

Robert D. Flach has a special Thursday Buzz!, which includes Robert’s take on “voluntary” preparer regulation and the new IRS e-file requirements.


20140321-3TaxGrrrl, Still Looking For Your Tax Refund? Errors, 4464C Letters And Other Explanations

Peter Reilly,  Tax Court Threatens To Sanction Courtroom Commando Mac MacPherson.

Kay Bell, NYC arena Madison Square Garden pays no property taxes

Me, IRS Releases Applicable Federal Rates (AFR) for June 2014


William McBride, High U.S. Corporate Tax Rate Chases Away Companies, Jobs and Tax Revenue (Tax  Policy Blog).  If it didn’t, it would be a fascinating case of economic actors failing to respond to incentives.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 378

Renu Zaretsky, Relief, Credits, Cuts, and Roads.  The TaxVox daily headline roundup talks about new tax relief for Minnesotans and the continuing worthlessness of film tax credit programs for everyone but filmmakers.

Cara Griffith, Should Taxpayers Challenge States if They Fail to Enact Rules? (Tax Analysts Blog):

State regulations are often vague or ambiguous, and authorities can use that to their advantage. But states should not be permitted to simply take the position that is in their best interest. They should be required to provide guidance and clarification on the positions they intend to take and, even better, clear-cut examples of how that position will be applied. And if a position will be applied to an entire industry, the state should issue a rule.

States prefer Calvinball rules.


Tax Justice Blog, Junk Economics: New Report Spotlights Numerous Problems with Anti-Tax Economic Model.  I suspect the biggest problem is that TJB doesn’t care for any model that doesn’t justify infinitely-high tax rates.


Des Moines, sometimes you are just adorable:

adorable des moines

Des Moines has started posting commute travel times, just like a big city.  On a bad day, it could be as much as 2 minutes to downtown from here.



Tax Roundup, 5/13/14: UPS Ground grounds late filer. And: how “voluntary” would “voluntary” preparer regulation be?

Tuesday, May 13th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

UPS 2nd-dayUPS Grounded.  E-filing is the best way to make sure your filing is timely, but sometimes it’s just not available.  If you do an old-fashioned paper filing, you can rely on the “mailbox rule,” which says that a tax filing postmarked by the deadline is considered filed on-time.  The mailbox rule used to only apply to returns sent via the U.S. Postal Service, but the IRS expanded it to private carriers like UPS and Federal Express. The availability of private delivery services for timely last-minute filing has been a boon to procrastinators.  Few post offices stay open late anymore to receive last-minute tax filings, but there are 24-hour FedEx and UPS stores.  Unfortunately, the IRS rules on private delivery services are tricky, and they tripped up one taxpayer in Tax Court yesterday. The IRS lists qualifying private delivery services in Notice 2004-83.  The notice identifies specific services for DHL, UPS and FedEx that qualify for the mailbox rule.  The UPS services that qualify:

UPS Next Day Air, UPS Next Day Air Saver, UPS 2nd Day Air, UPS 2nd Day Air A.M., UPS Worldwide Express Plus, and UPS Worldwide Express.

The taxpayer in yesterday’s case sent his package via UPS Ground, and while sent before the 90-day deadline for Tax Court filings, it arrived after the deadline.  The Tax Court said that didn’t work:

 UPS Ground has not been designated by the Commissioner as a private delivery service. Notice 2004-83, supra. Thus, the timely mailing/timely filing rule of section 7502 does not apply to “UPS Ground” service… In so holding we acknowledge that the result may appear harsh, notwithstanding the fact that petitioner had nearly 90 days to file his petition but waited until the last moment to do so. However, the Court cannot rely on general equitable principles to expand the statutorily prescribed time for filing a petition.

The Moral?  If you use a private delivery service, make sure you use one that qualifies.  If you are filing with an IRS service center, be sure to use the correct street address, as the private delivery services can’t deliver to the service center post-office box addresses.

Cite: Sanders, T.C. Summ. Op. 2014-47



Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

TaxProfThe IRS Scandal, Day 369.  This edition links to the TaxProf’s own USA Today piece, The Media Ignore IRS Scandal:

Today’s news media are largely ignoring the IRS scandal, and it is impossible to have confidence in the current investigations by the FBI, Justice Department, and House committee. I am not suggesting that the current scandal in the end will rise to the level of Watergate. But the allegations are serious, and fair-minded Americans of both parties should agree that a thorough investigation needs to be undertaken to either debunk them or confirm them. Step one should be to give Lois Lerner full immunity from prosecution in exchange for her testimony. And then let the chips fall where they may.

True all around.   Journalists don’t care to investigate their own team.


Leslie BookABA Tax Section Procedural Highlights and Cohen APA Teaser:

Even without legislation, OPR Director Karen Hawkins stated that IRS will take a narrow interpretation of Loving insofar as it relates to its ability to regulate practitioners. As to the policy relating to regulating preparers, Director Hawkins announced that IRS will soon begin a voluntary testing and education plan that will provide some benefits to preparers who opt in to a regulatory regime.

What does it take to teach some people?  You got whipped, IRS.  The courts ruled that you grossly overreached.  How do you find a “narrow interpretation” of that?  It sounds to me like they will make their new program “voluntary” in the same way the national accounting firm I used to work at made United Way contributions “voluntary” —  they always had 100% participation.


Russ Fox, Florida Doctor Does Much Wrong on her Way to ClubFed:

She (and allegedly her husband) created nominee accounts at UBS and other foreign banks; of course, that income didn’t find its way to her tax return. Her half of the sale of the medical schools also didn’t find its way to the tax return. Those nominee accounts were at foreign banks; she didn’t file a Report of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBAR). And the money was used for conspicuous consumption: an airplane and three homes.

If you cheat on your taxes, it’s not wise to call attention to your wealth.


Wikipedia image

Wikipedia image

Jack Townsend, When is Booker Variance Too Much? Per DOJ, Certainly in the Ty Warner Case.  “What I draw from the sentence is that, when the hypothetical client is in the criminal cross-hairs asks the hypothetical reasonably welleducated and experienced criminal tax attorney with good judgement whether he [the client] will be treated as well as Ty Warner, the right answer is likely to be: ‘You’re not rich enough to get that quality of justice.’ “


Janet Novack, Prosecutor: Beanie Babies Billionaire Tax Cheat Didn’t Deserve `Get-Out-Of-Jail’ Card 


TaxGrrrl: What If Congressional Elections Were Run Like The NFL Draft?.  Well, a large percentage of football players are broke within three years of being drafted.  I’d favor that for congresscritters.

Kay Bell, IRS getting sneakier in tracking tax cheats.  ” If you’re bragging on Facebook about buying a Ferrari but reporting only $30,000 in annual income on your Form 1040, your social media comments will probably prompt the IRS to take an interest in you.”


It’s Tuesday Buzz-time!  At the Robert D. Flach emporium.


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

CBPP’s new report says that “State taxes have a negligible impact on Americans’ interstate moves,” and so falls pretty comfortably in the “taxes don’t affect migration” camp.What we’ve consistently argued at the Tax Foundation is that taxes matter on the margin, but that they’re just one of many factors. After reviewing Mazerov’s main arguments, this theme will be apparent: that his analysis doesn’t address the effect of taxes on the margin.

Any practitioner has dealt with cases where taxes do make a difference where people choose to live.  It’s painfully obvious when you live in a high-rate state with a zero-rate state (South Dakota) next door.  And to assume taxes don’t matter is to assume incentives don’t matter, which is like assuming gravity doesn’t hold things down.

Renu Zaretsky, Pizza, Expats and Drugs.  The TaxVox headline roundup covers today’s expected senate vote on extenders, take and bake pizza, and the high costs of FATCA for foreign companies who hire Americans abroad.


That’s clupeida roseus to you, Judge. States’ Failed Tax Policies Have Some Governors Throwing Red Herrings (Tax Justice Blog). 

Career Corner.  Helicopter Parents are Hitting Alumni Groups on LinkedIn to Find Junior a Job Now (Going Concern)


Tax Roundup, 4/25/14: Why the move to tax return selfies? And: Iowa’s unhappy high ranking.

Friday, April 25th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Supply and demand curves

Supply and demand curves

IRS stats show more people are preparing their own returns, reports Tax Analysts ($link):

The IRS’s latest data, released April 11, show electronic filing from paid tax professionals fell 0.3 percent from the same time last year. That follows a 1.8 percent drop in April 2013, and a 1.7 percent drop in April 2012. By contrast, the IRS said, self-prepared e-filing of returns rose 4.5 percent through April 11 compared with last year, 3.1 percent in April 2013, and 5 percent in April 2012.

It seems like an odd trend.  It’s not like the tax law is getting any easier.  One possibility raised in the story is that it’s those wacky youngsters:

 Self-preparation may be a response to a younger generation’s ease with computers and software, said [retired Enrolled Agent Sandra] Martin. “That’s more of a permanent reason why people aren’t using preparers,” she said.

She also raises a much less logical possibility:

Martin said the IRS’s inability to regulate return preparers makes matters worse. Taxpayers are not only uncertain about the qualifications of their preparers, she said; some are afraid, haunted by stories of fraudulent preparers ripping off return filers and deciding the do-it-yourself path may be safest.

I think the failed IRS preparer regulation power grab is a big part of the cause, but not for the reasons cited by Ms. Martin.  As Dan Alban, slayer of the preparer regulations, testified before the U.S. Senate taxwriting committee:

In fact, IRS data released last summer shows a dramatic drop in the number of tax preparers in recent years — a sudden loss of more than 200,000 preparers from 2010 to 2012 — following the recent imposition of a series of burdensome IRS regulations on preparers (the e – file mandate and the Return Preparer Initiative, which included both the PTIN registration requirement and RTRP licensing)

If your preparer gets out of the business, maybe you will stop using a preparer.  With fewer preparers, the law of supply and demand predicts that costs will rise.  As costs rise, consumers seek substitutes.  It’s what I predicted back in 2010:

Rather than pay the increased costs, some taxpayers will stop getting help on their returns altogether and either self-prepare or drop out of the system. These dropouts certainly won’t see improved service, though the regulators will never admit responsibility for that.

Supply and demand: it’s not just a good idea, it’s the law!


Supply and Demand

Lyman Stone, Joseph Henchman, Richard BoreanTop State Income Tax Rates in 2014 (Tax Policy Blog):


The colors on the map get darker as the rates get higher.  You’ll notice that Iowa’s 8.98% top rate gives it quite the purple tan.  It’s misleading, in that the effective rate is closer to 6% taking deductiblility of federal taxes into account; that would give Iowa a more lovely lavender tint, like Missouri and Louisiana.  Yet Iowa refuses to build the federal deductibility into lower rates.  The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan would address that.


Christopher BerginThe IRS and the Tax System: Integrity and Fairness for Whom? (Tax Analysts Blog):

The IRS’s mission statement couldn’t be clearer:

    Provide America’s taxpayers top quality service by helping them understand and meet their tax responsibilities and enforce the law with integrity and fairness to all.

If some of the tax cops aren’t playing by the rules – and getting bonuses for it – how does that provide us taxpayers “top quality service” and help us understand and meet our tax responsibilities? The two most important words in this mission statement are “integrity” and “fairness.” The one thing largely missing from our tax code is fairness. And the one thing now beginning to disappear from the agency charged with administering that tax code is integrity.   

Nah.  Compliance is for the peons, not the overlords.


Howard GleckmanLen Burman’s Brief for a Health Care VAT:

Len, the director of Tax Policy Center (and, thus, my boss), argues that a dedicated—and fully transparent–health care VAT would increase public support for efforts to slow the growth of medical costs. That’s because the VAT would rise, for all to see, with increases in government health spending.

I have another idea: let’s sever the link between employment and healthcare, authorize interstate sales of high-deductible health insurance, and have people pay for routine care out-of-pocket.  We don’t have to resort to a VAT to keep prices down for, say, beer and groceries — or for non-covered health costs, like LASIX procedures.  Removing the layers between consumer and payment just might work for other health costs too.  Seeing increase in your spending from your own pocketbook is a lot better motivator to reduce costs than watching government budget numbers.


Gene Steurle, Dave Camp’s Tax Reform Could Kill Community Foundations:

The proposal would effectively eliminate most donor advised funds (DAFs), the major source of revenues to community foundations, so they could no longer provide long-term support for local and regional charitable activities. Instead, those funds would need to pay out all their assets over a period of five years.

Iowa has a special tax credit for gifts to community foundations, which is often oversubscribed.



20140411-1Kay Bell, Doctors are target of an income tax fraud scheme; the rest of us need to watch out for a new e-file phishing attempt

TaxGrrrl, Payback Is Forever: Tax Refund Offset Law Remains On The Books 

Or anybody else.  Piketty’s Tax Hikes Won’t Help the Middle Class (Megan McArdle)

Tax Justice Blog, Trend Toward Higher Gas Taxes Continues in the States

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 351

Robert D. Flach brings the Friday Buzz!


Going Concern, Now We’re Creatively Interpreting Sarbanes-Oxley to Include Fish.  Well, the whole thing has always been fishy.

Keith Fogg, Collection of Restitution Payments by the IRS (Procedurally Taxing)



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.



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:


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.



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