Posts Tagged ‘Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan’

Tax Roundup, 4/3/14: Iowa Tax Burden ranks 29th. And: Koskinen doesn’t seem to get it.

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The Tax Foundation yesterday released its annual ranking of “State-Local Tax Burdens.”  Iowa came in at 29th highest.

20140403-1

The Tax Foundation explains:

For each state, we compute this measure of tax burden by totaling the amount of state and local taxes paid by state residents to both their own and other governments and then divide these totals by each state’s total income. We not only make this calculation for the most recent year, but also for earlier years due to the fact that income and tax revenue data are periodically revised by government agencies.

In this annual study, our goal is to move the focus from the tax collector (how much revenue is collected) to the taxpayer (how much income is foregone). 

This ranking differs from the Tax Foundation’s State Business Climate Index, where Iowa ranks a dismal 40th in business tax congeniality.  While the two sets of rankings have different purposes, together they tell us that Iowa’s tax system is very poorly designed.  It collects a middling amount of revenue with a system of very high rates, a boatload of preferences for the well-connected, and baroque complexity.  You could collect the same revenue with a much simpler system with lower rates, and without the inherent corruption of special breaks for special friends of the politicians.  That’s the approach of The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

Corporate welfare watch:

Senator fumes at idea to cancel tax credit (Des Moines Register)

IOWA SPEEDWAY: Governor Signs NASCAR Tax Break Bill (WHOtv.com)

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

Koskinen bemoans IRS funding, but doesn’t commit to taking the obvious step to restore it.  IRS Commissioner John Koskinen gave a little speech yesterday at the National Press Club.  He pointed out how the IRS is being given massive new responsibilities for running Obamacare and implementing FATCA, but faces funding cuts.  What he didn’t point out was that the GOP-controlled house isn’t likely to change that as long as it thinks the IRS is acting as an arm of the other party.  He defended the plodding IRS response to Congressional investigators in the Tea Party matter, and he offered what looks to me like a defense of the new Section 501(c)(4) rules proposed by the prior Commisioner:

While I was not involved in the issuance of this draft proposal, because it happened before I was confirmed as Commissioner, I believe it is extremely important to make this area of regulation as clear as possible. Not only does that help the IRS properly enforce the law, but clearer regulations will also give a better roadmap to applicants, and will help those that already have 501(c)(4) status properly administer their organizations without unnecessary fears of losing their tax-exempt status.

That’s too cute.  The provisions of the proposal mirror the rules overturned by the Supreme Court in Citizens United, including a rule preventing any political activity in the run-up to an election.  These items show that the current rules are an attempt to get around the Supreme Court to restrict political speech.   That’s why they are poison to the Tea Party set.

Either he doesn’t get it, or he pretends not to.  If the Commissioner wants to restore trust, the minimum he needs to do is to withdraw the proposed rules and start over, and to stop slow walking the investigation.  Until he does, it’s futile to expect the GOP-controlled House to give him more funding.  He’s quickly running out of time to do so.

Update: Washington Post gives Koskinen 3 Pinoccios: IRS chief: No ‘targeting’ of tea party groups, just ‘inappropriate criteria’     (Via Instapundit)

 

20140321-3TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): S Is For Student Loans 

Kay Bell, 7 tax tasks to take care of by April 15

Annette Nellen, Filing season and rental activities

William Perez, Tax Reform Act of 2014, Part 3, Deductions

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for 03/28/14, a roundup of tax procedure news, with a much-appreciated mention of the Tax Update post on the recent case on trusts and material participation.

Jim Maule, Tax Court and Eleventh Circuit Disagree on Interpretation of Section 36 Language.  I think the couple got a raw deal, but I’m sure glad the first-time homebuyer credit has gone away.

 

taxanalystslogoCara Griffith, Proceeding Cautiously With a Taxpayer Bill of Rights (Tax Analysts Blog):

The IRS is already struggling with administering our tax system. Perhaps issues of funding and employee training should be addressed before delving into a taxpayer bill of rights.

I disagree.  Rights come before enforcement.  We can start by a sauce-for-the-gander rule that requires the IRS to pay penalties it asserts to taxpayers if the taxpayers win on the contested issue.

 

Renu Zaretsky, Expirations, Compliance and Corporations.  The TaxVox headline roundup talks about Commissioner Koskinen’s speech and the status of the expiring provisions.

 

Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #8: Nevada Corporations.  ”Now, if you’re planning on moving to Nevada incorporating in the Silver State can be a very good idea (as I know). But thinking you’re going to avoid California taxes just because you’re a Nevada corporation is, well, bozo.”

News from the Profession.  Sweatshop Saturdays: Rethinking Where We Work (Going Concern)

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 3/19/14: Are taxes turning Iowa red? And: Statehouse Update!

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Is Iowa really a red state?  According to personal finance site WalletHub, Iowa is a red state.  But didn’t Iowa vote for Obama the last two elections?  Not that kind of red state.  WalletHub’s map has states with the most burdensome taxes as red states, and those with less burdensome taxes as green:

 

WalletHub

From WalletHub:

 WalletHub analyzed how state and local tax rates compare to the national median in the 50 states as well as the District of Columbia.  We compared eight different types of taxation in order to determine:  1) Which states have the highest and lowest tax rates; 2) how those rates compare to the national median; 3) which states offer the most value in terms of low taxation and high cost-of-living adjusted income levels.

WalletHub says Iowans have a tax burden 26% above the national average.  They note, though, that when the rank is adjusted based on our cost of living, Iowa improves 10 places on their rankings.

This is a different measurement than the Tax Foundations well-known Business Tax Climate Indexwhich places Iowa at 11th-worst.  Either way, it’s not a healthy system.  And nothing major is likely to happen to change it anytime soon.  Still, the The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan shows the way!

 

20130117-1Supplies sales tax exemption advances.  The Iowa General Assembly isn’t entirely idle on the tax front.  Sometimes that’s a good thing, as in the House passage yesterday of HF 2443, exempting supplies used in manufacturing from sales tax.  Business inputs in general should not be subject to sales tax, as they are likely to be taxed again when the finished product is sold.

Other than that, there isn’t a lot else to report on the Iowa tax legislative scene.  The speedway tax break remains alive.  The bill to broaden the Iowa capital gain “ten and ten” exclusion hasn’t cleared the committee level.  Silly legislation continues to be introduced, like a 50% state tax credit for payments of principal and interest on student loans (HSB 673).  Let’s encourage crushing student debt burdens!

But sometimes its best when the legislature does nothing.  It’s hard to complain that HF 2770, the bill to pay doctors at their average charge rates with tax credits for “volunteering,” has languished.

 

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

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

The TaxProf notes the Death of Former IRS Commissioner Randoph Thrower; Was Fired for Refusing President’s Request to Audit His Enemies, quoting a New York Times story:

The end came in January 1971, after Mr. Thrower requested a meeting with the president, hoping to warn him personally about the pressure White House staff members had been placing on the IRS to audit the tax returns of certain individuals. Beginning with antiwar leaders and civil rights figures, the list had grown to include journalists and members of Congress, among them every Democratic senator up for re-election in 1970, Mr. Thrower told investigators years later. He was certain the president was unaware of this and would agree that “any suggestion of the introduction of political influence into the IRS” could damage his presidency, he said.

Mr. Thrower received two responses. The first was a memo from the president’s appointments secretary saying a meeting would not be possible; the second was a phone call from John D. Ehrlichman, the president’s domestic affairs adviser, telling him he was fired.

I’ll just note here that Doug Shulman, worst commissioner ever, left on his own terms.

 

David Brunori, Hawaii Tax Credit Craziness (Tax Analysts Blog):

According to some excellent reporting in the Honolulu Civil Beat, the Legislature is considering a slew of tax incentives to promote manufacturing in the state. Yes, there are those (particularly established manufacturers) who would like to promote something other than tourism, hosting of naval bases, and pineapple production. The main proposal (SB 3082) would provide tax credits for employee training and some equipment purchases. The goal is to turn Hawaii into 1960s Pittsburgh or Flint Mich., in their heyday. I have my doubts. 

I don’t think that really plays to Hawaii’s strengths.

 

20120817-1Howard Gleckman, A Terrible Response to the Internet Tax Mess (TaxVox)

Under the plan, the federal government would let retailers collect tax based on the levy where the seller is located, no matter where the purchaser resides. This would apply to all retailers, as long as they had no physical presence in the consumer’s state.

A firm could base its “home jurisdiction” on the state where it has the most employees, the most physical assets, or the state it designates as its principal place of business for federal tax purposes.

Given the nature of online sellers, changing locations to a no-sales-tax state would be fairly easy.

Interesting.  I wonder if a “universal mail order sales tax rate” might ultimately be the answer.  You could set this universal rate at, say, the average national sales tax rate, collect it from all buyers, and remit it to the delivery state through a clearinghouse run by the state revenue agencies.

 

Paul Neiffer, Cash Rents Equals Extra 3.8% on Sale. “However, once you are done farming and are simply renting the ground to other farmers (including relatives), then the rental income will be subject to the tax and even worse, selling the farmland for a large gain will result in extra tax.”

Jana Luttenegger, Filing From Home, and Health Insurance Reporting on W-2s (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): J Is For Jury Duty Pay   

 

Everything is spinning out of control! Suburban Cleveland Councilman Denies Getting in Brawl With Liberty Tax Sign Spinner (Going Concern)

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 1/29/14: E-cigarette panic! And: SOTU, SALY.

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Via e-cigarettepedia.com

Via e-cigarettepedia.com

Jeff Stier, Iowa should tread carefully on e-cigarette rules, on the weird impulse to restrict and tax water vapor:

Restricting the use of e-cigarettes, known as “vaping” for the vapor they emit, would undermine the very goal of this law.

First, it wouldn’t reduce exposure to environmental smoke, better known as second-hand smoke, because there is no smoke. There isn’t even any first-hand smoke.

More important, a ban on vaping in public places would damage public health because it would make e-cigarettes a less convenient alternative to cigarette smoking. It would also send the implicit (and incorrect) message that they are also equally dangerous, not only to the user, but to those exposed to the vapor.

All true.  There are two explanations for the why politicians have their dresses over their heads over what amount to very small room vaporizers.

First, because people vaping look a little like smokers, and smoking is a great sin these days, they must be sinning, and sin must be stopped.  For the children!

The second explanation is more cynical, so it probably is true.  The state has a nicotine addiction.  Iowa collected $227 million in tobacco taxes in 2013.  If smokers use e-cigarettes to quit, that money dries up.  We can’t have that.

 


EITC error chart
Tax Analysts’ 
headline ($link) on its story about the tax proposals in the State of the Union doesn’t exactly scream Hope and Change:  ”Obama Proposes EITC Expansion in State of the Union, Otherwise Reiterates Old Tax Proposals.”

One hopes that Congress will do something to keep 20-25% of the EITC from being issued “improperly” to grifters before it increases the theft pot.  We can expect the President’s other tax proposals to go nowhere, as they went nowhere when he was in better political shape.  The dead-on-arrival proposals include disallowing more of the Section 199 deduction for f0ssil fuels and tax credits to “build fuel infrastructure” and to subsidize alternative fuels.

His budget also provides for a hodgepodge of other tax incentives.  His revenue-raisers include repealing LIFO inventories, slower depreciation for aircraft, changing grantor trust rules so they are treated the same for income and tax purposes, and limiting the size of retirement accounts — all doomed absent an unlikely comprehensive tax reform.

Related:  Tax Policy is MIA in the State of the Union (Howard Gleckman, TaxVox). “The president perfunctorily restated his support for business tax reform but added no new twist to make his plan any more acceptable to congressional Republicans.”

Good Jobs First, a left-side think tank, has released Show us the Subsidized Jobs, a report on state tax incentives.  Iowa only scores 27%, largely because there is no online disclosure of recipients of the Industrial New Jobs Training program and the Iowa New Jobs Tax Credit.  I would give Iowa zero percent, because these hidden subsidies wouldn’t exist in a well designed tax system.  They should be repealed and replaced by the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

Broadbandits.  Speaking of corporate welfare, SSB 3319 was introduced yestarday in the Iowa Senate.  Among other ways to pay providers for something they will do anyway if customers want it, the bill includes a 3% credit on the cost of “new installation of broadband infrastructure.”  Just one more step away from simplicity and transparency.

 

20111040logoDavid Henderson, Marginal Tax Rates: Singing Taxman to My Class:

Think about the Beatles’ earnings. Late 1963 was when they first started making real money. Then in 1964, they hit it big. Presumably they didn’t spend it all but started investing, figuring that they would get interest and dividends on their investments. They probably did. But those returns would be taxed at the 95% rate. When would they start noticing this? Probably some time in 1965. Thus the 1966 song. 

And we all know what an economic dynamo the UK was then.

Martin Sullivan, The Obama Administration’s Backdoor Bailout of Puerto Rico (Tax Analysts Blog):

But here’s a little secret that the powers that be inside and outside government don’t want you to know: The Obama administration has already provided a multibillion-dollar bailout to Puerto Rico. Nobody in the major media outlets has noticed because the issue is highly technical.

And because Look!  Justin Bieber!

 

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Why You Should Never Hold Real Estate In A Corporation? 

William Perez, Filing Requirements for Tax Year 2013

TaxGrrrl, ‘Same Love’ Grammy Wedding: Married Is Married For Tax Purposes

Leslie Book, Corbalis v Commissioner: Tax Court Holds it Has Jurisdiction to Review Interest Suspension Decisions (Procedurally Taxing)

 

Scott Hodge, President Obama Signs Executive Order to Increase Minimum Wages Paid by Federal Contractors (Tax Policy Blog).  Spending our money to show us how generous he is.

Tax Justice Blog, Has the Tax Code Been Used to Reduce Inequality During the Obama Years? Not Really.   They’ve tried, but it doesn’t work.

Jeremy Scott, BEPS Project Should Include Digital Economy Permanent Establishment (Tax Analysts Blog).   Should companies be taxable in a country because they have a “digital permanent establishment”?  I say they shouldn’t be taxed at all.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 265

Jack Townsend, DOJ Tax AAG Keneally Reports on Swiss Banks Joining DOJ Swiss Bank Program

Kay Bell, Mortgage tax break contributes to fading American dream.

 

Robert D. Flach is a sensible man:

I did not watch the State of the Union address last night.  Instead I watched the wonderful film GAMBIT with Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine on TCM.

I ate a delicious dinner and had pie for dessert, with the TV off.  My view of the whole SOTU thing is well-reflected here.

 

Career Corner: You Can Run But You Can’t Hide. Therefore, Sabotage Your Coworkers (Going Concern)

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 1/24/14: Executive stock spiff proposed for Iowa. And: Haiku!

Friday, January 24th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1Legislators propose to exempt employer stock gains from employee Iowa income tax.   S.F. 2043 would exclude from taxation capital gains from stock received by an “employee-owner” of a company “on account of employment” with the corporation, and acquired while the taxpayer was still employed..  While it isn’t entirely clear from the legislation, it would appear to include long or short-term gains, and would include stock acquired by exercise of options or stock bonus plans.  It’s not clear that it would apply to gains on ESOP shares, which are generally issued to owners or redeemed on retirement, but I suspect it would.

It’s an astonishingly broad exclusion.  Once elected, it would apply to stock gifted by the employee-owner to spouses and lineal descendants.  It wouldn’t apply to many family owned companies, because it requires five shareholders, at least two unrelated under IRC Section 318 attribution.  Interestingly, the bill misstates Sec. 318, saying:

Two persons are considered related when, under section 318 of the Internal Revenue Code, one is a person who owns, directly or indirectly, capital stock that if directly owned would be attributed to the other person, or is the brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin, niece, or nephew of the other person who owns capital stock either directly or indirectly.

No, that would be Section 267 attribution, and only for pass-throughs.  Section 318 only makes a taxpayer related to:

his spouse (other than a spouse who is legally separated from the individual under a decree of divorce or separate maintenance), and

(ii) his children, grandchildren, and parents. 

No siblings, nieces or nephews to be seen.  If they can’t even read the Code, should they really be messing with the state income tax?

If the Iowa income tax is so awful that we need to carve out a special exemption to executive stockholders to get them to come to Iowa, we should fix it for everyone, not just for them.  Does anybody really doubt that Iowa would be more attractive to business with no corporate income tax and a 4% top individual income tax rate than with the current system plus a new executive spiff?  Come on, legislators:  take the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan off the shelf!

Related: Iowa House advances one-time stock gain bill, on a similar bill introduced last year.

 

David Henderson, Steve Moore’s Alternative Maximum Tax (Econlog).  Governor Branstad floated a plan to allow taxpayers to choose between Iowa’s current baroque income tax and a simpler one with lower rates, before abandoning it prior to the opening of the legislative session.   I thought I was being clever by calling an alternative maximum tax.  David reports that Steve Moore came up with both the idea and the name for a proposal he made for the federal tax system in the 1990s.

I still don’t care for it.  In practice we would be computing the tax both ways and paying the lesser amount.  By adding another computation to the process, it would actually make things harder.  The only way it would work would be if it resulted in lower taxes for everyone; then in a few years they could repeal the regular income tax without anyone noticing.

 

20120531-1The 200th edition of the Cavalcade of Risk is up!  This milestone edition of the long-lived roundup of insurance and risk management posts is at Rootfin.  Congratulations to Hank Stern, the evil genius behind the Cavalcade; he participates in this edition with Hacktastic!, on the security troubles of Healthcare.gov, and government’s efforts to hush them up:

See, the problem isn’t the wide-open portal, it’s the folks trying to alert the folks who run it that there is, in fact, a problem. I’m reminded of a certain Middle East river.

More alarming still, though, is that that it’s not just the state folks yelling “burn the witch:” now the FBI has warned Mr Hermansen to zip his lips. That’ll sure make the problem go away.

Your healthcare is in the very best of hands.

 

Jim Maule, How Not to Compute a Casualty Loss Deduction:

The taxpayer claimed a $12,020 casualty loss deduction on account of the loss of the vehicle. The taxpayer computed the deduction by subtracting the $48,000 from $60,020, the original value of the vehicle. However, the first step in computing the amount of a casualty loss deduction is to subtract the insurance recovery from the difference between the value of the property immediately before the casualty and the value of the property immediately after the casualty, unless the taxpayer chooses to use cost of repairs as a substitute measure, though that was not relevant in this case.  Because the taxpayer did not provide evidence of those values, and because the Tax Court was unwilling to assume that the vehicle’s value immediately before the accident was the same as its value when it was new, it upheld the determination of the IRS that the taxpayer was not entitled to a casualty loss deduction.

The IRS often examines casualty loss deductions, so you need to do your legwork on getting the valuations documented before you file.

 

Jason Dinesen, Small Businesses — Review Those Benefit Programs  “When was the last time your small business reviewed the benefit programs your business offers?”

William Perez weighs in on Finding the Right Tax Professional.

Kay Bell, Tax season is tax scam, tax identity theft season. “If you get any unexpected communication in any form that is purportedly from the IRS, especially at the start of tax season, be wary.”  And they will never initiate contact by phone or email.

Paul Neiffer, Cash Does Not Equal Gain.  You can’t make taxable gain go away by using it to pay off loans.

Trish McIntire, Kansas Taxes – Sneaky Changes.

Robert D. Flach brings the Friday Buzz!

 

Kyle Pomerleau, High-Income Taxpayers Could Face a Top Marginal Tax Rate over 50 percent this Tax Season.  Be glad we don’t take it all, serf!  He computes Iowa’s top combined rate at 47.4%.

 

taxanalystslogoChristopher Bergin, Fortress Secrecy – No News Here (Tax Analysts Blog).

Anyone familiar with my writing knows that I have bent over backwards to give the IRS the benefit of the doubt in this black eye some call the “exemption scandal.” I must admit I’m getting a little tired of bending.

Back in the day, as the saying goes, I often referred to the IRS as Fortress Secrecy, a term meant to describe the agency’s obsession with hiding as much of its operations as it can get away with. I am not a casual observer, and I have never seen things this bad. Everything the IRS has done in addressing the exemption scandal leads to just one conclusion: that this agency now believes it is accountable to no one other than itself.

Because shut up, peasant.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 260

Howard Gleckman, Fiscal Magic: Paying for New Highways by Cutting Corporate Taxes (TaxVox)

 

Frank Agostino, Jairo G. Cano, and Crystal Loyer.  Guest posters at Procedurally Taxing, including the prolific Tax Court litigator Frank Agostino, discuss how IRS rules against giving false testimony bolstered an IRS man’s own case, in Section 1203 to Bolster a Taxpayer’s Credibility at Trial.

Jack Townsend, Required Records IRS Summons Enforced Again

 

News from the Profession.  Pulling Back the Curtain on Making Partner in a Big 4 Firm. Just sell, baby!

TaxGrrrl has Fun With Taxes: Tax Haiku 2014.

I’ll try it.

Here comes tax season

April 15 arrives swiftly

I need a stiff drink.

OK, I’ll keep the day job.

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 1/13/14: They’re back edition. And: tax fairy doesn’t show up at appeals court.

Monday, January 13th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


20130117-1
The 2014 session of the 85th Iowa General Assembly begins today.
 It doesn’t look like much tax legislation will pass.

The Governor abandoned a plan to allow taxpayers to choose between the current byzantine Iowa income tax and a lower-rate version with fewer deductions and no deduction for federal taxes paid even before the session started.  He instead will focus on lame feel-good initiatives in an election year, reports Omaha.com:

Gov. Terry Branstad is set to unveil his agenda Tuesday during the Condition of the State address. He said his priorities will include expanding broadband Internet access, fighting school bullying and curtailing student loan debt.

The Governor’s opposition will block any tax reform that isn’t sufficiently punitive to the “rich” — which means any reform worthy of the name.  They will try to change some of Iowa’s worst corporate welfare giveaways, reports the Des Moines Register, but the Governor, an inveterate smokestack chaser and ribbon-cutter, can be expected block any restrictions on using your money to lure and subsidize your competitors.

Meanwhile, trial balloons about increasing the gas tax have already deflated.  That means we can expect a quiet session on the tax front, and a continuation of Iowa’s insanely complex and worthless tax system for another year.  But if they change their minds and want to do something useful, it’s always a good time to talk about The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

tax fairyTax Fairy seeker loses appeal.  A South Dakota surgeon who looked across the ocean for the Tax Fairy found only grief — and the grief wasn’t alleviated on appeals.  The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals last week upheld the conviction that led to a five-year sentence for Dr. Edward Picardi.

The doctor used a scheme where he “leased” his medical services to an offshore company he controlled to artificially reduce his income by stashing earnings in offshore accounts.  The scheme was promoted to him by an attorney-CPA who has been acquitted of criminal charges in another employee leasing case.

Other taxpayers have avoided fraud penalties from employee-leasing to offshore entities (see here), but not taxes and penalties.  When the best you can say about a tax plan is that you avoided fraud penalties, it’s not much of a plan.  There is no tax fairy.

Prior coverage here.

 

Kay Bell has Important January tax dates, deadlines

 

Lyman Stone, Should Nebraska Follow the Example of Illinois or Indiana?  “The case of Illinois is a great example of how higher taxes can contribute to a worsening business climate, which leads to less jobs.”

Annette Nellen, Marijuana and the Tax Law.  Despite appearances, there is no evidence the lawmakers are smoking something when they write tax laws.

TaxGrrrl, Top 10 Most Litigated Tax Issues.  Number one is penalties.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 249

Robert D. Flach offers a SPECIAL OFFER FOR ITEMIZERS!

 

TaxTrials, Famous Fridays: Wesley Snipes, A Lesson in Listening to Bad Advice.  Did he ever.

 

The Critical Question: Massages May Feel Nice, But Can You Deduct Them at the Poker Table? (Russ Fox)

News from the Profession: KPMG Upgrades Its Female Interns From Necklaces to Camisoles  (Going Concern)

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 12/16/2013: Ames! And: if you’re explaining, you’re losing.

Monday, December 16th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

It’s a cold day In Ames, Iowa, but it’s toasty warm with 315 or so eager participants in the last session of this year’s ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax Schools!  

20131216-1

The Ames Crowd!

It’s a fun school, with lots of good attendees with great, challenging questions.  I’ve enjoyed working on the Day 1 panel with emcee Roger McEowen and IRS Taxpayer Liason Kristy Maitre

 

20120906-1“In economic development, if you’re explaining, you’re losing.”  An article at WCFcourier.com makes an often-overlooked point about how economic development spiffs that complicate the tax law end up backfiring:

A simpler tax system may top all other requests from the business groups, said Steve Firman, director of government relations for the Greater Cedar Valley Alliance and Chamber.

Firman pointed out that Iowa ranked 40th among states in the Tax Foundation’s 2014 tax climate comparisons because it is tough to explain the complexity of federal deductibility that blurs Iowa’s true tax picture.

Firman, explaining his position, pulled out a line he said he likes to use:

“In economic development, if you’re explaining, you’re losing,” he said.

Iowa’s byzantine tax system, with its dozens of special breaks, requires a lot of explaining.  The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Tax Reform Plan, with low individual rates and no corporate tax, would be a much better sell.

 

William Gale,  The Year in Taxes: From the Fiscal Cliff to Tax Reform Talks (TaxVox):

Although Camp and Baucus do not appear to have reached agreement on how much revenue should be raised or on how to raise it, the two leaders have nonetheless raised some interesting ideas. But the sorry state of tax reform can probably best be summed up by a small business owner who attended the New Jersey stop of a listening tour that the two chairmen held last summer. She urged the two leaders to “get rid of the deductions that don’t affect me.” As long as that attitude prevails, meaningful tax reform will not happen.

The same dynamic is at work in Iowa.

 

TaxGrrrl, Budget Faces Challenge From Senators Wary Of Spending, User Fees To Taxpayers   

William Perez, Use Fundsin a Health Care Flexible Spending Account (Year-End Tax Tips)

Kay Bell, Tax deductible mileage rate drops a half-cent in 2014

Annette Nellen, What’s My Rate? Challenges of Understanding 2013 Federal Taxes

Paul Neiffer, How Many 2013 Tax Brackets

 

IrwinIrwinIrwinirwin.jpgPeter Reilly, Euro Pacific Capital’s Peter Schiff Defends His Tax Protesting Father Irwin Schiff   Peter has a lot of interesting background on tax protester Irwin and his controversial, but much more prudent, son. And: “I can’t blame Peter Schiff for sticking up for his dad.  I would too, if I still had one.”

 

 

Irwin

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 221

Jack Townsend, Article on New Sentencing Guidelines on Unclaimed Deductions and Credits

 

Robert Rizzo

Robert Rizzo

Russ Fox, Former Bell Administrator Pleads Guilty to Tax Fraud; That’s the Least of His Problems:

 In what is (and was) a huge scandal, Mr. Rizzo and his cronies basically used the City of Bell as their own personal piggy bank. He’s going to be going to state prison for 10 to 12 years (his sentencing will be in March). The scandal allegedly included salaries of up to $800,000; gas tax money being used for these salaries; and falsifying city documents to hide the salaries. The city council members from that time period are awaiting trial.ta

Just a humble public servant.

 

News from the Professon:  Grant Thornton Employees Break Out Dynamic Christmas Sweaters for Holiday Party

Jason Dinesen,  North Dakota Taxes, Same-Sex Marriage, And a Really Bizarre Twist 

The party’s over.  Unemployed German couple accused of tax fraud after caught hosting sex parties.   They had a $250, er, cover charge.

 

Share

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

Thursday, December 5th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
If Iowa's income tax were a car, it would look like this.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 210

 

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

TaxGrrrl, Will Congress Drive Up Gas Taxes In 2014?   

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 11/6/13: Relief for the road warrior? And the futile state corporation income tax

Wednesday, November 6th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Flickr image courtesy Tom Hilton under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy Tom Hilton under Creative Commons license

Relief for the traveling employee?  Tax Analysts reports ($link) that the “Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act of 2013″ (S. 1645) was introduced yesterday.  The bill would make the tax lives of employers and employees who cross state lines much easier by preventing states from taxing folks, other than athletes and entertainers, who are in a state for less than 30 days.  From the Tax Analysts:

The bill is “a modernization of everything,” Maureen Riehl, vice president of government affairs for the Council On State Taxation, told Tax Analysts. It is “about supporting the mobility of an economy that has people moving around a lot more often than when the income tax laws went into effect in the states back in the ’30s and ’40s,” she said.

Who would oppose such sensible simplification?

The Federation of Tax Administrators does not share Riehl’s enthusiasm. Deputy Director Verenda Smith said the bill “does not strike an appropriate balance between administrative simplification and necessary tax policies.”

Smith took issue with the safe harbor provision, saying the 30-day threshold “is beyond a level necessary to deal with the vast majority of individuals who would be temporarily in a jurisdiction.”

The states want to tax you on their whim if you sneeze in their jurisdiction.

Still, they should have one more threshold: no state tax if you earn less than some threshold amount in a state, maybe $5,000.  That way they can still pick LeBron’s pocket when he comes to town from his tax-free home in Florida, but a carload of struggling musicians couch-surfing from town to town would be saved the hassle of filing a tax return in every state where they have a gig  – or more likely, saved the need to ignore the filing requirement.

 

Peter Reilly,  Mobile Workforce Act Good Idea But May Need More Limits  ”Over the years I have studied the rules for what invokes state income tax withholding requirement.  It varies substantially from state to state.”

 

Elizabeth Malm, Richard Borean, Map: Share of State Tax Revenues from Corporate Income Tax (Tax Policy Blog)

 20131106-1

Notice that it’s a relatively paltry part of Iowa tax receipts, even in a good year, and even with the highest rate in the nation.  Better to repeal it as part of the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

David Brunori, Feckless Legislators and Corporate Welfare (Tax Analysts Blog)

If I ran a big corporation in Illinois, I would have my lobbyists asking for tax breaks daily. Why not? The tax incentive racket is a profit center for most corporations in Illinois. Is it blackmail? Sure. But it is cold, calculated, rational blackmail.

…if once you have paid him the Dane-geld

You never get rid of the Dane.

 

Tax Justice Blog,  Let’s Face It: Delaware and Other U.S. States Are Tax Havens

 

Paul Neiffer, Crop Insurance Deferral Options.  ”When a crop insurance claim relates directly to a drop in price, those claims cannot be deferred to the next year.”  Paul explains what the choices are if the recovery relates to a yield loss.

Tony Nitti, Shareholder Computes Basis In S Corporation Stock Incorrectly, $1.5 Million Loss Becomes $2 Million Gain

 

Jana Luttenegger, Interactive Form to Assist in Applying for 501(c)(3) Status (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog) 

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

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

William Perez, CBO: Marginal Tax Rates Faced by Low- and Moderate-Income Individuals.  Helping the poor stay that way.

Andrew Mitchel, 2014 Inflation Adjustments for Individuals in the International Tax Arena

Roger McEowen, Inflation Adjusted Amounts for 2014

TaxProf,  The IRS Scandal, Day 181

TaxGrrrl, Bayern Munich Keeps Winning Even As Their Chief Faces Trial For Tax Evasion.

 

Brian Mahany,  More Guidance on Taxation of Same Sex Marriages

Jack Townsend,  Should You Opt Out of OVDI/P?.  He examines Robert Wood’s discussion of opting out of the IRS “amnesty”

Phil Hodgen’s Exit Tax Book: Chapter 7 – Taxation of Deferred Compensation 

 

Joseph Thorndike, Forget Carried Interest–It’s All About Taxing Capital Gains (Tax Analysts Blog).   He’s right when he says “The only issue that really matters is how we tax capital gains.”  Then he goes off the rails in so many ways.  Read Joseph, and then read Steve Landsberg.

 

A Wednesday Buzz from Robert D. Flach!

May you have this problem.  The Tax Treatment of Olympic Gold Medals (TaxProf)

News from the Profession.  Recruiting Season: Salaries and Offers for the Public Accounting Class of 2014 (Going Concern)

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 10/31/13: A scary Iowa tax proposal, just in time for Halloween!

Thursday, October 31st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 

hatchJack Hatch’s income tax plan would raise taxes on all but very small businesses.  

It’s all in the spin.  My headline is just as accurate as the headline in the Des Moines Register on the tax plan announced by Senator Jack Hatch, a Democratic candidate for Iowa Governor.  The Register’s article, though, spins the way the candidate would like: “Jack Hatch’s income tax plan would give break to all but most wealthy Iowans.”  From the article:

Hatch’s plan would get rid of federal deductibility, which allows taxpayers to deduct federal taxes from their state return. His plan would also raise filing thresholds. It would raise the per-child tax credit from $40 to $500. Married couples who are both employed would get a new $1,000 a year tax credit.

And Iowa’s eight rates and brackets, which range from 0.36 percent to 8.98 percent, would be reduced to four.

The top rate would fall slightly to 8.8 percent, although the income at which that rate begins would be raised by 26 percent, according to an analysis of Hatch’s plan by the nonpartisan Legislative Services Agency. The lowest rate would be 3 percent.

Taxes would go up for Iowans who make an adjusted gross income above $200,000, the Legislative Services Agency analysis says. The wealthiest taxpayers would see a small drop in the highest marginal tax rate, but their taxes would go up because they’d lose federal deductibility.

There are two things I hate about this plan and the way it is covered.  First, it makes no mention that a tax on “the wealthy” is really a tax on business.  Most business income is now reported on individual returns:

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

 

And 72% of that is reported by taxpayers with AGI over $200,000:

20131031-2

Cutting through the soak-the-rich stuff, what he’s really proposing is a great big tax increase on business.  How that helps Iowa’s economy isn’t explained — I suppose because it doesn’t.

The other part I hate is the whole idea that hurting “the rich” on behalf of “the middle class” is presumed to be just fine.   Heck, let’s go shoplifting at Wal-Mart, they have plenty of money — and it’s for the middle class!

 

I suppose I couldn’t expect Sen. Hatch to embrace the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.  I suspect it makes too much sense for any politician to embrace it.

 

This would be a good thing for Iowa: The Benefits of Independent Tax Tribunals (Cara Griffith, Tax Analysts Blog):

States are increasingly turning to independent tax tribunals. Most states now have either a judicial-branch tax court or an administrative-level tax tribunal that is independent of the state’s tax authority. Taxpayers and practitioners have pressed states for independent decision-making bodies for several reasons, including that the judges or administrative law judges who write decisions are impartial and knowledgeable in tax issues and that the opinions should more consistently and transparently apply the tax law because they will be published. 

Iowa, unfortunately, has only administrative tribunals and regular courts.  The judges know little about taxes, especially income taxes, and tend to defer to the State, even when it tortures law and logic.

 

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

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

TaxProf, NY Times: The Marginal Tax Rate Mess.  Even the New York Times is noticing the high implicit marginal tax rates on means-tested welfare programs, like the earned income tax credit:

As a result of losing eligibility for means-tested benefits, low-income and middle-income families sometimes experience much higher marginal effective tax rates (sometimes exceeding 90 percent) than those at the top of the income distribution. Phase-outs for any one program may not be large, but participation in several programs creates a cumulative effect. 

They “help the poor,” as long as they stay that way.

 

 

 

 

59pdhyef59pdhyefJoseph Henchman, Remembering the Deceased Iowa Pumpkin Tax You Helped End (Tax Policy Blog).

59pdhyefTaxGrrrl,  Social Security Benefits Will Not Keep Pace With Tax Contributions In 2014 

59pdhyef

Jana Luttenegger, Social Security Benefits to Increase in 2014 (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Robert D. Flach,  HAPPY HALLOWEEN – SOME TREATS FROM THE SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION

Phil Hodgen, Chapter 3 – Paperwork for Expatriates and Covered Expatriates

Kay Bell, Colorado taxpayer group files lawsuit to overturn candy tax

Me, IRA is to startup funding as dynamite is to kindling.  My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record Business Professionals Blog.

 

Christopher Bergin, What’s a UDITPA? (Tax Analysts Blog)

Andrew Lundeen, Scott Hodge,  The Income Tax Code Is More Progressive than It Was 20 Years Ago (Tax policy Blog).  ”The top 1 percent of taxpayers pay a greater share of the income tax burden than the bottom 90 percent combined, which totals more than 120 million taxpayers. In 2010, the top 1 percent of taxpayers—which totals roughly 1.4 million taxpayers—paid about 37 percent of all income taxes.”

Tax Justice Blog, Bruce Bartlett Is Wrong: New Conclusions on the Corporate Income Tax Change Nothing.  Nothing ever changes at TJB!

Government officials defend increased funding for their agencies.  Iowa police chiefs defend traffic cameras (KWWL.com)

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 10/18/13: IRS is back, but the lines may be busy. Happy Fall Friday!

Friday, October 18th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20120924-1

The Tax Court had two weeks to work on it, and they issued no decisions yesterday.  Slackers.

So audits resume, notices come out again, and the IRS can resume giving 20%-accurate answers to taxpayer questions.  Some reports from the re-opening:

Kay Bell, IRS employees are back, but temporary shutdown deal could mean 2014 tax filing season trouble:

But I fear that come Jan. 16, we’ll be back in a federal government shutdown situation that could pop today’s celebratory grand federal facilities’ reopening balloon. 

And while a government shutdown, even a partial one, is a problem for almost every one at any time, it will be major hassle for millions of taxpayers in January.

That’s the month that that federal tax filing season begins.

Yet another reason to dread next tax season.

 

TaxGrrrl, IRS Asks Taxpayers For Patience As They Tackle Shutdown Backlog   

William Perez, The IRS is Open Again.

Howard Gleckman, One Modest Path to a No-Drama Budget Deal (TaxVox)

Tax Justice Blog, Shutdown Ends with Deal Creating Yet Another Budget Panel.  TJB wants them to just get on with another tax increase.

 

20120830-1Joseph Henchman, Elia Peterson, Oregon Changes Tax Structure for Most Businesses (Tax Policy Blog)

Driven by rhetoric about cutting taxes for small businesses but in reality just adding more complexity and non-neutrality to the tax code, these changes make Oregon the third state to adopt a special income tax system for pass-through businesses. Kansas offers a complete exclusion for all pass-through business income, resulting in a non-neutral situation where income from corporate profits is taxed twice, wage income is taxed once, and most small business is not taxed at all. Ohio has enacted a 50 percent exclusion for the first $250,000 of pass-through income, adding complexity to an already non-neutral carveout. Oregon’s is more transparently an effort to tax corporations while reducing tax burdens for some (but not all) pass-through entities.

The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan would repeal the corporate income tax altogether and allow S corporations the option of being treated as C corporations for Iowa purposes.

 

Jack Townsend,  Quiet Disclosures Increasingly on IRS’s Radar Screen.  He notes a Tax Analysts article ($link) that says the IRS is looking closely at taxpayers with foreign accounts who come in from the cold without going through “Offshore Voluntary Compliance Initiative.”

Brian Mahany, Lawyer Indicted For Estate Fraud And Tax Evasion

Keith Fogg, Erroneous Refund Case Reveals the Intersection of Bankruptcy and Tax Procedure (Procedurally Taxing). “The first thing that caught my eye here was the timing of the refund.  It was issued more than 14 years ago. ”

I almost forgot! Robert D. Flach has your Friday Buzz!

 

William McBride, JCT: Corporate Tax Falls Partly on Labor (Tax Policy Blog):

While this is progress, it does not in fact reflect the middle range of the current economic literature. At least since the 1990s, most economists have recognized that the burden of corporate taxes fall mainly on labor in the long run. 

You can’t tax the boss without taxing his employees.

 

 

Going Concern: This TaxMasters Video Is of the Devil.  It truly is.

Peter Reilly, Study Shows Taxpayers With Balance Due More Likely To Cheat.   The prospect of writing a check is apparently more of a motivator than the lure of a fraudulent refund.

News from the Profession: Michigan CPA Charged with Murdering Michigan CPA (Going Concern)

 

np2102904

Have a great weekend!

Share

Tax Roundup, 10/10/13: Climate change edition. And great moments in web design!

Thursday, October 10th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Iowa has moved out of the bottom 10 in the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index for 2014.  That’s the good news.  The bad news is that it’s not the result of Iowa’s tax climate improving, but because Connecticut’s got worse.

 

2014 State Business Tax Climate Index

Iowa’s 49th-place rating for Corporation taxes accounts for much of Iowa’s poor showing.  Iowa has the highest stated corporate tax rate, at 12%.  It has a state corporation alternative minimum tax and is full of complexity — yet is so full of loopholes and carve-outs that it generated only around $425 million of Iowa’s $7.8 billion in 2012 tax revenues.  By comparison, Iowa’s (also complex and loophole-ridden) individual income tax generated over $3 billion of that revenue.

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

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

Iowa’s Association of Business and Industry has made improving Iowa’s business tax climate its legislative priority for the upcoming session.  Here’s what I think we need:

- Repeal of the futile Iowa corporation income tax.

- Repeal of every last economic development credit, including the refundable research credit and especially including enterprise zone and similar credits.  No company is so important that it should be receiving cash subsidies in excess of taxes paid to Iowa.

-  Drastic simplification of the Iowa individual tax, including repeal the deduction for federal taxes and of as many special breaks and credits as possible, in exchange for rates of 4% or lower.

In other words, the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.  We can do a lot worse — in fact, we do now.

Related:

Russ FoxThe 2014 State Business Tax Climate Index: Bring Me the Usual Suspects.  ”And for those who think that taxes don’t matter, I’m in Nevada as a result of taxes and California’s miserable business climate.”

TaxGrrrl, Go West, Young Man: Best States For Businesses Are In The West

Joseph Hechman and Scott Drenkard, A Response to Matt Yglesias on the 2014 State Business Tax Climate Index (Tax Policy Blog):

There is however a brief blog post by Slate’s Matt Yglesias that went up this morning, which is along the lines of (1) there’s businesses in California and New York, (2) Tax Foundation criticizes California and New York for their tax policy, so therefore (3) taxes don’t affect business and individual location decisions. Center for Budget and Policy Priorities’ affiliates have already started spreading around Yglesias’s post on Twitter, and we imagine it will show up in other places.

The answer to this is easy. Those high-tax states also have other non-tax qualities—and often legacy investments and industries—that overcome the obstacle of a broken mess of a tax system for many businesses and individuals.

Taxes aren’t everything, but they’re definitely something.

 

 

The Tax Foundation has helped draft a new tax reform proposal for Nebraska. Some thoughts from David Brunori in A Solid, Albeit Mild, Tax Reform Proposal:

The primary plan is relatively straightforward. It is revenue neutral, reduces personal and corporate income tax rates, reduces incentives, expands the sales tax to more services, and simplifies administration. Moreover, belying the assertion that conservatives hate poor people, it doubles the earned income tax credit, greatly increases the personal exemption, and indexes the tax rates. In other words, the plan is consistent with virtually every notion of sound tax policy. It would make the Nebraska tax system fairer, simpler, and more conducive to retaining people and firms.

I think increases in the earned income credit are unwise because their high hidden marginal rates as taxpayers improve their incomes serve to punish emergence from poverty.  Still, the plan would be a big improvement for Nebraska — and for Iowa, for that matter.

 


Tony Nitti, Custom Homebuilders Are Subject To Section 263A And A Primer On The UNICAP Rules.  “Today is the day we discuss Section 263A, among the more dry topics in the driest area of law known to man”  I covered the case Tony writes about here.

Jason Dinesen, Basics of the Iowa Pension Exclusion

Kay Bell, Avoid common mistakes on your extended Oct. 15 tax filing

Paul Neiffer, Watch our for FBAR.  As Paul points out, you don’t have to be even trying to hide anything from the IRS to get clobbered.

 

 

Wikipedia image courtesy Tallent Show under Creative Commons license

Wikipedia image courtesy Tallent Show under Creative Commons license

Jack Townsend, IRS Information on Operations During Government Shutdown 

William Perez, IRS Shut Down, Week 2


Peter Reilly,  Blame It On the Lawyers – Creating Basis Out Of Thin Air Not The Taxpayer’s Fault   

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 154

Howard Gleckman,  It is Never Good When the U.S. Treasury Gets Compared to Brazil (TaxVox)

Tax Justice Blog, Stop the Presses: Apple Has Not Been Cleared on Tax Avoidance Charges.  So they should seek out new taxes to pay?

Keith Fogg, Vince Fumo: Local Political Corruption Meets Tax Procedure (Procedurally Taxing)

 

Going Concern, The Definitive Guide to Accounting as a Second Career.  Maybe I should consider that.

 

Janet Novack, Dumbest Identity Thief Ever? ”He contacts police looking for wallet he lost stuffed with debit cards issued in 13 stolen names.”  Yes, he may be dumb, but what does it say about the IRS that he and other dummies are stealing $5 billion of our money through identity theft fraud annually?

Great moments in web design.  From Instapundit: “HEALTHCARE.GOV NOT ONLY THE WORLD’S WORST WEBSITE, it’s also the world’s most expensive, with a price tag of $634,320,919.”  The Tax Update website cost approximately 1/400,000 of that, and we may have enrolled as many folks in Obamacare as Healthcare.gov has so far.

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 8/27/2013: This isn’t Butte edition. And: you’re not your mom!

Tuesday, August 27th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Flickr image by Ellenm1 under Creative Commons licenseThe Great Iowa RV Roundup.  Iowa has caught on to recreational vehicle owners who have registered their units in Montana to save taxes and fees.  Now the Department of Revenue is giving these Iomontanans a chance to come clean and avoid harsh newly-enacted penalties for misregistration.

From the Des Moines Register:

State officials say the offer would require owners to pay a 5 percent vehicle registration fee, based on the purchase price. They also would pay a penalty of 10 percent of the fee.

So under the terms of the settlement, the owner of a $200,000 motor home registered in Montana would pay a $10,000 fee to properly register it in Iowa. On top of that, a $1,000 penalty would be assessed.

Violators who don’t accept the settlement could face fraud charges, ranging from a simple misdemeanor to a felony. They can also be hit with fines equal to 75 percent of the fee that was evaded. For example, if someone should have paid $25,000 on a plush $500,000 motor home, they could be slapped with total fees and penalties of $43,750.

I think you could buy a passable used camper for $43,750.

 

Richard Borean, Scott Drenkard, Monday Map: Combined State and Local Sales Tax Rates

c7ketyi3

 

Iowa’s just about in the middle.

 

You’re not your Momma.  While mothers love to help out their children, a St. Louis-area man seems to have expected too much of Mom when he filed his tax returns.  Stltoday.com reports:

To reduce his tax liability, he claimed $18.2 million in losses associated with a number of entities, including Morriss Holdings, MIC Aircraft, Tech Aircraft and MIC Real Estate, that were limited liability companies established for his mother. His mother had already claimed the losses for her own benefit in previous years, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

There are some things Mom just can’t do for you.  The man pleaded guilty to tax evasion charges yesterday.

 

Martin Sullivan, New Hampshire’s Value Added Tax (Tax Analysts Blog):

But where New Hampshire really shines is with its Business Enterprise Tax. Like the BPT, the BET applies to all business regardless of legal form. Newly-elected Republican Governor Steve Merrill was the driving force behind original passage of the tax in 1993. The original rate was 0.5 percent. It is now 0.75 percent. The tax base is the sum of: (1) compensation paid to employees; (2) interest paid on debt; and (3) distributions to shareholders and owners. Except for the exclusion of undistributed profits from the tax base, the sum of these components is a firm’s value-added tax.

I still prefer the Tax Update Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

Rapper “Fat Joe” reports to prison to serve a four-month tax crime sentence. (TMZ.com)

TaxProf,  The IRS Scandal, Day 110

Roberton Williams,  Honey, I Shrunk the AMT (But It’s Not Gone) (TaxVox):

So the AMT lives on, complicating the tax returns of more Americans every year. For many, it will come as a nasty surprise: new AMT taxpayers often learn about the bonus tax only when a letter from the IRS tells them they owe extra tax plus interest and possibly penalties. 

The AMT amounts to a big lie.  They pretend to give you a tax break, but then AMT makes it go away.

 

Jeremy Scott, Cruz’s Push to Defund Obamacare Could Derail Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog)

TaxGrrrl, IRS To Michael Jackson’s Estate: Who’s Bad?   A $700 million estate tax battle.

Paul Neiffer,  Installment Sale Update, clarifying the application of the Obamacare Net Investment Income Tax on active farmers.

Kay Bell, Spaniards hot under collar after government taxes the sun 

Me, Charity may begin at home, but not with the down payment.  A “down payment assistance” outfit comes to grief in Tax Court.

 

News you can use.  Open Atheists Already Collect Tax-Free Clergy Housing Allowances  (Peter Reilly)

Career tips: Partners Hate Nothing More Than Employees Skipping Training Because They’re Working, Nursing a Hangover (Going Concern)  It’s a good thing we don’t have national training at our firm!

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 6/14/2013: Resort wear edition. And: Iowa income tax reform, finally?

Friday, June 14th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Today is probably the last post until June 24 as I take a summer hiatus.  It is also the last day of our Traverse City, Michigan seminar.  It’s been a great time, and Traverse City is a beautiful resort town.

20130614-1

 

Co-panelist Paul Neiffer covers Day 1 at Traverse City

 

Will 2014 be the Iowa’s Income Tax Reform Year?  Now that he has signed the property tax reform bill, Governor Branstad signals a shift to income tax reform.  Radio Iowa reports:

“I think it’s very likely we’ll be looking at reducing the income tax further,” Branstad says. “When I became governor, the income tax rate in Iowa was 13 percent. We now have it down to 8.98 percent, plus we have full federal deductability…Remember, the top federal tax is 38.5 percent, so the effective rate in Iowa is only about 5.5 percent. We’d like to see that go lower.”

The top federal rate is actually 39.6%, not including deduction phase-outs, or 43.4% considering the Obamacare Net Investment Income Tax.  That leads to an effective top Iowa rate of somewhere between 5.2% and 5.6%.

The way to income tax reform would be to repeal Iowa’s corporate income tax, its rat’s nest of corporate welfare deductions, and its mess of well-intended but ineffective social welfare tax incentives.  You could get a 0% corporate rate and a 4% individual rate, and an Iowa 1040 that fits on a postcard.  You could get the Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan, in other words.

That would require the Governor to swear off the corporate welfare giveaways so beloved by the Iowa “economic development” bureaucracy, and the associated fertilizer plant ribbon cuttings.  Yet I think 4% individual rate and 0% corporate rate would do a lot more for Iowa’s economy than the dozens of “targeted” economic development tax credits and deductions  — though not so much for Iowa’s middlemen, fixers and economic development officials.

Lyman Stone,  Iowa Approves Property Tax Reductions, New Tax Credits (Tax Policy Blog):

 However, the large reduction in property taxes coupled with a smaller reduction in income taxes will shift the burden of taxation more heavily onto income: a less stable and more distortionary tax. Furthermore, SF 295 creates or expands several new credits, funds, and preferential treatments in the tax code, exacerbating the problem of non-neutrality, and its distortionary effects.

In sum, the law is a mixed bag. The Governor has indicated another look will be taken at the income tax later this year: hopefully the problem of excessive and distortionary credits can be resolved then. And, if not, then Iowa may have to sit tight at 42nd on our State Business Tax Climate Index, maintaining the 4th highest top income tax in the nation, and the highest corporate tax rate.

Indeed.

 

Bleeding Heartland, Five perspectives on Iowa’s new property tax law

 

Michael Giberson looks at Iowa’s (misguided) disaster “price gouging” policies:

Portable toilet price gouging gets mentioned in several Attorney General news releases. It may be the case that the Iowa law is the only one that specifically lists “sanitation supplies” among the good covered.

The same newspaper story mentioned, “soybean price futures have jumped 25 percent and corn futures 10 percent over the past month as crop losses have spread across Illinois, Iowa and Missouri. That means farmers outside the flood zone will get far more for their crops than normal….” The state didn’t have a price gouging law until later that year. But if the price increase happened this year, would farmers in the affected counties be in violation of state law?

Higher prices are nature’s way of directing resources to their most important uses, and restricting their use when supplies are tight.  Price gouging laws mess with Mother Nature.

 

Peter Reilly,  Need Strong Documentation Of Time Spent To Claim Real Estate Losses.  Peter covers the same issues we covered here, and he points out that the same issues of documenting time you spend in an activity become even more important under the Obamacare Net Investment Income Tax.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 36

The IRS is closed today.  The scoop from Kay Bell, who also reminds you Where to mail your estimated tax 1040-ES form due Monday.

Jack Townsend, Quiet Disclosures That Don’t Stay Quiet – Civil E xaminations

Jason Dinesen,  Glossary: DOMA

Howard Gleckman, As Marriage Changes, Should Joint Filing Go The Way of Ozzie And Harriet?

Patrick Temple-West,  REIT status questioned by IRS, and more

TaxGrrrl, Did Spanish Taxing Authorities Target Messi To Send A Message To The World?   A message like “who is Messi?”

David Brunori, The Myth of State Balanced Budgets

Tony Nitti,  Former PwC Partner Falls Victim To ‘Hot Asset’ Rules In Tax Court

Robert D. Flach has your Friday Buzz!

 

Going Concern, Georgia Man Discovers IRS Wasn’t Joking About the Possibility of His Fake Treasury Bond, Fraudulent Tax Return, Bogus Refund Landing Him in Jail

See you after vacation!

Share

Iowa House advances one-time stock gain bill

Friday, April 26th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1When you have high tax rates, you make taxpayers highly-motivated to carve out exemptions for themselves.  That’s how you get things like HF 633, which cleared the Iowa House of Representatives this week.

The bill would allow employee-owners of businesses to make a one-time election to exclude from Iowa taxable income gain from the sale of employer stock.  From the bill (my emphasis):

 (a) An employee-owner is entitled to make one irrevocable lifetime election to exclude the net capital gain from the sale or exchange of capital stock of one qualified corporation which capital stock was acquired by the employee-owner on account of employment by such qualified corporation and while employed by such qualified corporation.

   (b)  The election shall apply to all subsequent sales or exchanges of the elected capital stock, provided it is capital stock in the same qualified corporation and was acquired on account of employment by such qualified corporation and while employed by such qualified corporation.

 

What is “Capital stock?”  From the bill:

“Capital stock” means common or preferred stock, either voting or nonvoting. “Capital stock” does not include stock rights, stock warrants, stock options, or debt securities.

What is a “qualified corporation?”  The bill says that would be:

 (A)  The corporation has been in existence and actively doing business in this state for at least ten years.

   (B)  The corporation has at least five shareholders.

The “ten year” thing would seem to be an attempt to pair up somehow with the ten-year capital gain exclusion for ten-year businesses — but unlike that provision, it lacks a ten-year holding period and material participation requirement.  The “five shareholders” requirement is baffling — and could be easily be avoided by minor share gifts before a sale to create shareholders.

What does it mean to acquire shares “on account” of employment? The bill doesn’t say.  Would exercising options under a stock option plan qualify?  Is it limited to employer stock bonus plan stock?  What if an employee buys stock as an investment?  What about founding owners?  The bill is unclear, and it shouldn’t be.

I am guessing this bill is being driven by the executives at publicly-traded Iowa corporations, and maybe by Hy-Vee executives, who benefit from employee ownership.   While you can’t blame them for trying to carve themselves a break, it would be much better for the rest of us to eliminate this sort of special favor, make the law simpler, and lower rates for everyone.  In other words, The Tax Update Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 4/11/2013: A new Iowa income tax reform proposal. And: new Obama budget, same as the old one.

Thursday, April 11th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1Iowa Senate Republicans advance income tax plan.  TheGazette.com reports:

Sen. Randy Feenstra, R-Hull, said all 24 minority Senate Republicans have signed onto a proposal to significantly lower state personal income tax rates and simplify the Iowa tax code by offering a two-pronged approach that would eliminate federal deductibility and benefit most Iowans.

The Hull Republican said the proposed new tax structure would flatten the current nine income tax brackets into three, elimination of federal deductibility as a competitive impediment, enhance the current standard deduction for all taxpayers and provide an  extra boost for blind, elderly and dependent Iowans, eliminate itemized deduction, increase personal exemption credits, and raise filing thresholds.

So far I have been unable to find the bill (though it being April 11, I’m not going to spend a lot of time looking for it today).  As Senate Republicans have no chance of advancing a bill in the face of majority Democratic opposition, it’s really a gesture.  Still, it’s nice to see that income tax reform remains alive, in spite of the Governor’s indifference this year.  It’s also nice to see that the insistence on keeping the deduction for federal taxes is eroding.  Much better to build it into a lower rate.

If they keep talking taxes, they may finally see that The Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan is the way to go!

Radio Iowa has more.

 

Megan McArdle,  “Tax Breaks for Corporate Jets”: The Non-Issue at the Heart of the Presidential Agenda:

This is a bit weird given that President Obama rides on what is essentially the nicest corporate jet in the world.  To be fair, the President is quite right that companies do not need a tax break to buy corporate jets.  But since they don’t really get a tax break for buying corporate jets, we probably don’t need to spend this much valuable presidential time worrying about this non-problem.  

Anything to make life difficult for a high-tech U.S. manufacturer.   As long as the President continues to beat dead horses like this and the “Buffett Rule,” we know he is not at all serious.

Tony Nitti, Tax Aspects Of The President’s FY 2014 Budget

Howard Gleckman,  The Real 2014 Budget Battle May Be Over Spending, Not Taxes

William McBride,  President Obama’s 2014 Budget Takes another Whack at Savers (Tax Policy Blog)

Paul Neiffer,  Here We Go Again!

 

Cara Griffith, Crafting a Better Mainstreet Fairness Act? (Tax.com)

By enacting it?  How Democrats Will Destroy Progressive Government (Joseph Thorndike, Tax.com):

Sure, Democrats pay lip-service to infrastructure, education, and the like. But for the most part, they are profoundly unwilling  to make a wholistic case for activist, progressive government.

Actually, they probably wouldn’t get very far making the case honestly.

 

TaxProf,  Is the IRS Stalking You on Facebook, Twitter?  Is that how they caught “The Queen of IRS Tax Fraud?

Jason Dinesen,  Same-Sex Marriage, Divorce and Taxes

Me:  How much K-1 loss can I deduct?  Start with your basis.  Part of my 2013 filing season tips series.  My exciting installment on partnership debt basis goes up later this morning.

 

Oh, but it’s for our own good.  IRS Claims It Can Read People’s E-Mails Without Needing a Warrant (Joseph Henchman, Tax Policy Blog).

Jack Townsend,  KPMG Publication on FBAR Filing Requirements for Corporations and Executives

Russ Fox,  Bozo Tax Tip #2: Nevada Corporations

Kay Bell,  Top 10 things you don’t want to hear from your accountant.  How about “I’m calling from Brazil, thanks for the cash!”

He’d have had trouble during tax season.  FYI: The Guy Who Stabbed 14 People At a Texas College Wanted To Be an Accountant When He Grew Up (Going Concern)

Christopher Bergin, Why Transparency Is Like Porn (Tax.com)  No, it’s not about Lululemon.

 

News you can use.  Make Your Own Bubble in 10 Easy Steps (Bryan Caplan)

 

Share

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

Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

20130402-1

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

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

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

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

 

Russ Fox,  Bozo Tax Tip #9: Foreign Trusts

Paul Neiffer,  The Two Week Check List

Missouri Tax Guy,  Residential Energy Tax Credits 2012

William Perez,  Tips for SEP-IRA Contributions

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 3/15/13: Corporate return day! And: Can you audit a myth?

Friday, March 15th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Calendar-year corporation returns are due today! They are easy to extend on Form 7004 if you can’t finish them today.  If you don’t extend an S corporation return and you file late, the penalty starts at $195 for each late K-1, and $195 each for every additional month the return is late.

 

If Iowa's tax law were a car, it would look like this.

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

Joseph Henchman,  Iowa House Passes Alternative Maximum Tax: Income Tax Option Clear of Carveouts (Tax Policy Blog).  Joseph has some good things to say about the Iowa alternative tax that passed the house this week (HF 478):

I’ve never filled out an Iowa income tax form but it looks like one of the harder state tax returns. Iowa allows you to deduct what you pay in federal income tax, which is nice but is that much more calculation work (and probably drives up tax rates). There are lines for the lump-sum tax, the minimum tax, the K-12 textbook credit, the school district surtax, the motor fuel tax credit, and the earned income tax credit. I’m sure each one of these has their explanations of necessity but together it sounds like a lot of paperwork, record-keeping, and Tax Filing Day frustration.

Hence, I’m impressed by a bill passed yesterday (House File 478)  by the Iowa House which would offer an alternative to all Iowa taxpayers: a 4.5 percent tax on all income above about $15,000, which no further deductions or exemptions. It’s not perfect: our friend Joe Kristan pointed out that a credit for taxes paid to another state and a deduction for federal interest are probably constitutionally required, and offsetting deductions to certain kinds of income (allowing gambling losses if you tax gambling winnings) is good policy. But as Joe said, the bill “is a welcome step towards improving Iowa’s income tax.”

I’m hoping it’s a step towards the Tax Update Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

 

It’s a myth, so they’re cracking down on it!

Huffington Post, The Millionaire Migration Myth: Don’t Fall for This Anti-Tax Scare Tactic.

Bloomberg News, States Crack Down on Top Earners Who Flee as Levies Rise: Taxes

If they feel have to “crack down” on something, maybe there’s something to that myth.

 

The Ultimate Swiss Army Knife. Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

The Ultimate Swiss Army Knife. Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

Janet Novack,  Blame Congress, As Well As H&R Block And IRS, For College Tax Credit Mess. Oh, I do!  From the article:

Far be it from me to let either the Internal Revenue Service or tax prep giant H&R Block off the hook for the current mess which has delayed refunds for more than 600,000 taxpayers claiming college tax credits by up to eight weeks. In addition to their operational missteps, both did a poor job (at least  initially) of communicating with taxpayers who desperately need those refunds to pay tuition or other bills.

But let’s put some of the blame where it rightly belongs: on the Washington politicians. For more than two decades, Congress has been expanding  “tax expenditures” with little regard for how complicated such provisions might be for taxpayers to use and for the IRS to administer,  let alone for whether they do enough good to justify their cost and the economic distortions they create.  A new 1065-page Congressional Research Service compendium lists 250 different tax expenditures. Happy reading.

Every little break like this diverts IRS resources from actually collecting income taxes and makes the income tax a little less effective and useful.  Yet Congress still sees the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy.

 

Jim Maule,  Tax Depreciation: Do the Math:

No matter how well a student in the basic tax course masters the depreciation deduction to the extent it is studied, that student knows that the total depreciation with respect to a property cannot exceed its cost. All of the students would find themselves bewildered by the proposition that depreciation deductions on a property that cost $34,799 would total $56,000.

So was the Tax Court.

 

Tony Nitti,  Golfer Sergio Garcia Comes Up Short In Tax Court, But Is The Decision A Victory For Other Athletes? He won on his endorsement royalty income, so while he may not have had an undisputed win, he did OK, like a PGA golfer who gets second-place prize money.

 

William Perez,  Delays in Issuing Tax Refunds Related to Education Tax Credits

Going Concern,  IRS Won’t Be Sorry If You Never Get Around to Claiming Your Refund.  Over $900 million in 2009 refunds will be out of reach of their rightful recipients after April 15, when the 3-year window for claiming them expires.

Trish McIntire, Don’t Lose Your 2009 Refund

 

Paul Neiffer,  Will Large Farmers Be Able to Use Cash Method in the Future?!  Farmers should get the same tax rules and breaks everyone else does, no less and no more.

Kay Bell,  Will a relationship neutral tax code save traditional marriage?.  Not every problem is a tax problem.

Howard Gleckman, The Ideological Chasm Between the House and Senate Budgets

William McBride, Dave Camp Floats a Rewrite of Small Business Tax Rules (Tax Policy Blog)

 

Jack Townsend, U.S. Taxpayer Pleads to FBAR and Tax Perjury Violation

Brian Mahany, IRS Agent May Be Headed To Prison For Info Leak – Whistleblower Protection

Brian Strahle, State Tax Revenues:  Corporate Income Tax Not That Important?

Oh, Goody.  Applying for Obamacare Subsidies Will Be as Complicated as Doing Your Taxes (Megan McArdle)

 

Argo pay your taxes.  It turns out Iowa isn’t the only government whose film tax credits attract scammers.  From London comes this via Boston.com:

In some ways ‘‘A Landscape of Lies’’ was a typical indie film, with a tiny budget, a B-list cast and an award from an American film festival.           

What made it special is that it was created solely to cover up a huge tax fraud.

In fact, officials say, the project was a sham, set up to claim almost 1.5 million pounds in goods and services tax for work that had not been done, as well as 1.3 million pounds under a government program that allows filmmakers to claim back up to 25 percent of their expenditure as tax relief.

No word on whether Leo Bloom prepared the fraudulent returns.

 

News you can use: Polish Up Your Guccis. (Christopher Bergin, Tax.com).

Will there be tax reform? I think there has to be. But I don’t think it will look like theTax Reform Act of 1986 because, in short, it’s not 1986, and we don’t have the same problems or even the same tax system. That doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of lessons to be learned from the ’86 experience. But I don’t think tax reform will happen soon. And a few of the reasons I think that come right out of “Gucci Gulch.”

I have a copy of Showdown at Gucci Gulch, the book about how the 1986 tax reforms were enacted.  I haven’t brought myself to open it; it seems too much like reading about my job.

 

TaxGrrrl,  Arrest of Dancing Mascot Puts Liberty Tax Wavers In The Spotlight

He should have hidden the cash across the pond.  Opening statements underway in Beavers tax evasion trial (WGNtv.com)

Share

Tax Roundup, 3/14/2013: Iowa house passes Alt Max Tax. Also: a jobs tax credit mulligan.

Thursday, March 14th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 

20130117-1The Iowa House of Representatives approved an Alternative Maximum Tax yesterday.  It won’t get anywhere in the Iowa Senate.  But that’s probably not the point.

The 4.5% tax on AGI, with no credits and no deduction for federal income taxes, would be an alternative to the current multi-rate, high-loophole system.  Taxpayers could choose which way to file.

Of course, taxpayers would compute their taxes both ways and pay the lower amount — making it an Alternative Maximum Tax.  With the Alternative Minimum Tax, taxpayers compute their tax two ways and pay the higher amount.  It would add one more complication to an already complex system.  And, as I have noted, AGI is a flawed measure of taxable income.

The bill has just about no chance in the Iowa Senate, absent some incriminating photos of Democratic senators falling into Republican hands.  Bill opponents made dreary but predictable soak-the-rich arguments against the bill:

Democrats, however, criticized the bill for affecting just a fraction of Iowa taxpayers or for providing far more benefits to high-income earners.

Citing the Department of Revenue data, they noted about 5,000 income earners making more than $500,000 stand to save as much from the flat tax – around $90 million – as the 326,000 earners making less than $90,000 a year.

They aren’t saying that the lower earners don’t benefit.  They are just saying that the high earners benefit too much.  Of course, it means the high income earners pay a lot more tax than the lower earners right now.  It’s a silly argument — even sillier if you consider that state taxes are an awful tool for income redistribution.   My analysis indicates the bill would benefit most filers, not just the “rich.”

I don’t believe the Alt Max Tax was seriously intended to become law.  I think it was designed to try to keep the cause of income tax reform alive in a year that the Governor has no interest in it.  It may also be a trial balloon to see if a proposal that lacks federal tax deductibility would draw fatal fire from the powerful lobbying group Iowans for Tax Relief.  So far, no.  While the bill (formerly HF 3, now HF 478) is flawed, maybe it advances the debate.  Maybe next year, they’ll take up something like The Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

IRS extends certification rule, making Work Opportunity Credits available for all of 2012.  Congress retroactively extended the Work Opportunity Credit to 2012 at the beginning of 2013.  Unfortunately, one of the qualifications for taking the credit is to certify that an employee qualifies for the credit within 28 days of hiring.  That made the credit useless for most of 2012.

The IRS has now given employers until April 29, 2013 to file the necessary paperwork with the local Job Service offices.  Notice 2013-14 has the details.  Accounting Today has more.

 

If they can’t keep their own in line, how well would they do at regulating preparers?  Jury convicts former IRS worker of tax fraud (philly.com)

 

Andrew Lundeen, Deficits Per Person Expected to Fall, Then Rise over Budget Window (Tax Policy Blog).  With charts:

20130314-4

 

Cara Griffith, Will Tax Free Shopping Be a Way of the Past in Oregon? (Tax.com)

TaxGrrrl, Ask the taxgirl: Paying For Kindergarten

Phil Hodgen,  Apartment security deposits and Form 8938.  Is a security deposit a foreign financial asset?

Jack Townsend,  Statutes of Limitations for FBAR Noncompliance Related to Tax Noncompliance

Patrick Temple-West,  Senate Democrats propose new taxes, and more (Tax Break)

Paul Neiffer,  When Congress Says “Simplified” Watch Out!.  “WARNING – THIS IS MY LONGEST POST EVER”

Kay Bell, Cap tax deductions, says former Reagan economic adviser

Daniel Shaviro,  Corporate tax reform?

 

It was the profanity. One of them said “dam.”  Judge puts gag order on attorneys in Beavers case (Chicago Tribune)

Tony Nitti,  District Court Rules That TurboTax Can Continue Making Fun Of H&R Block In Its Commercials (Again)

Going Concern, A CPA’s Guide to a Successful Observance of St. Patrick’s DayI prefer to observe it from a safe distance.

 

When you are running a big criminal tax conspiracy, never hit “reply all”.  From Bloomberg News:

Everybody knows the danger of sending things inadvertently in an e-mail. Beda Singenberger’s case shows you also have to be pretty careful when you mail things the old-fashioned way.

Over an 11-year period, federal prosecutors charge, Swiss financial adviser Singenberger helped 60 people in the U.S. hide $184 million in secret offshore accounts bearing colorful names like Real Cool Investments Ltd. and Wanderlust Foundation.

Then, according to a prosecutor, Singenberger inadvertently mailed a list of his U.S. clients, including their names and incriminating details, which somehow wound up in the hands of federal authorities.

Via the TaxProf.

 

Corporate returns are due tomorrow.  That means you have to queue up your extension or balance due payments on EFTPS today!

Share

Tax Roundup, 3/7/2013: Consultant says Iowa should do more of what he consults about. Also: how not to file a lawyer’s tax return.

Thursday, March 7th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

http://www.rothcpa.com/misc/20090604-1.JPGAnswering the wrong questions.  The Iowa Chamber Alliance asked a consulting firm that makes money playing the corporate location incentives game whether Iowa should sweeten its corporate location incentives.  Guess how they answered it.

From an Iowa Chamber Alliance press release:

“Iowa has a solid base of state - level economic development incentives tools upon which to build. However, to become more competitive, Iowa may wish to increase the funding level and flexibility of some of the State’s key incentive programs” states Darin Buelow, a Principal with Deloitte Consulting LLP.

It’s hard to imagine the study coming to a different conclusion considering what they were looking for:

At the request of the Iowa Chamber Alliance (ICA), Deloitte Consulting (Deloitte) benchmarked incentives programs in Iowa and in five alternate states, focusing on a high-level analysis of state-level incentive programs, their value, and overall effectiveness in attracting investors.

In other words, they were to look at whether Iowa has more and better giveaways than its neighbors.

I looked for the study in vain for any analysis of the value of Iowa’s tax credits to the economy vs. alternative uses for the funds — like lowering the tax rates of the rest of us who pay for them.  There is no mention of opportunity cost.”  In looking at the “value” of the programs, it makes unsupported conclusions like this one about the “High Quality Jobs Program:”

Considered effective and competitive in providing benefits to mitigate corporate income tax, refunding sales tax for construction and providing a supplemental refundable research credit.

Considered effective by whom?  On what basis?  It doesn’t say.

The study says Iowa should enrich its data center corporate welfare — where the rest of us subsidize the infrastructure of Microsoft and Apple.  They also recomment Iowa “consider allowing sale, refund or transfer” of tax credits.

A few years ago, after the film tax credit disaster, Governor Culver tasked a panel with reviewing the effectiveness of Iowa’s dozens of tax credits.  Their report failed to come up with a clear benefit for any of Iowa’s tax credits.  The panel also had this to say about transferable tax credits: (my emphasis)

Transferability of tax credits complicates the projection of revenues and the tracking of credits, creates uncertainty about when credits will be claimed because the purchasing entity may utilize a different fiscal year than the entity awarded the credit, and siphons resources from awarded entities through brokerage fees… Once tax credits are transferred, it creates limited recourse for the State to recover funds claimed in instances where the business awarded the original credit does not fulfill the contracted obligations or if the credit was awarded in error.  Additionally, transferability has also resulted in abuses in some tax credit programs.

It would be better Iowa to not “compete” in taxing its current taxpayers to lure and subsidize their competitors.  Instead Iowa should enact a tax system good enough that we don’t have to pay people to be our friends.   The Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan would be better for Iowa businesses than any number of pocket-picking tax credits.

 

Poor legal move.  From Bloomberglaw.com:

Former Kirkland & Ellis LP senior partner Theodore Freedman pleaded guilty to fraud in connection with the filing of false tax forms.

Freedman changed his plea yesterday from not guilty to guilty of four counts of tax fraud. U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts in Manhattan accepted the plea and set sentencing for Sept. 17. Freedman’s lawyers reached a plea agreement with U.S. attorneys.

Indicted in July 2011, Freedman misrepresented his income as a partner at the law firm by about $2 million, the U.S. said. He also claimed more than $500,000 in expenses for a sole proprietorship that didn’t exist, the government said.

It’s hard to imagine how he thought this would work.  K-1s get matched against tax returns, at least occasionally.  The IRS matching system is cumbersome and inefficient, but it works well enough that you can’t habitually ignore K-1s with six-figure income.  Furthermore, claiming big bogus Schedule C losses like that is practically an engraved invitation for the IRS to visit your return.

Related:  Former Kirkland & Ellis Partner Pleads to Tax Crimes (Jack Townsend)

 

The Colonel knows why your business might have to file returns in other states.  My new post at IowaBiz.com, The Des Moines Business Record blog for entrepreneurs.

William McBride, The Carried Interest Debate: Funding Government for 3.1 Hours (Tax Policy Blog).

Patrick Temple-West,  Cadbury gets tax bill in India, and more (Tax Break).

Daniel Shaviro,  Skepticism about “fundamental tax reform”

Angie Picardo,  Grads – Filing for First the Time (Missouri Tax Guy guest-post)

Brian Strahle,  D.C. Combined Reporting – Transition Rules for 3/15 and 4/15!

Janet Novack,  New IRS Data: Rich Got Richer, But Paid Lower Tax Rate As Stocks Gained

William Perez,  Child Tax Credit for 2012

 

There’s a new Cavalcade of Risk up at Health Business BlogIt’s always worth the ride at the blog world’s roundup of insurance and risk management!

 

Is that an argument for or against intelligent design?  The Sequester: ‘Designed to be Stupid’ (Cara Griffith, Tax.com).

Because they aren’t in a position to speak for themselves: Ellen DeGeneres Speaks Out For Spanish-American War Widowers (Peter Reilly). 

The Critical Question: Why Is Amy Poehler Going To Hell? And What Does Taylor Swift Have To Do With It? (TaxGrrrl)

 

 

Programming note: This site was pretty much shut down part of yesterday afternoon.  Our valiant hosting service says it was a comment spam attack on the pre-2012 archived posts.  Sorry about that.

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 2/26/2013: A map of state tax futility. And why bankers don’t like OREOs.

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Close enough to zero. Monday Map: Corporate Income Tax Revenue as a Percentage of All State/Local Tax Revenue (Nick Kasprak, Tax Policy Blog):

20130226-2

 

 

IRS Field Attorney Advice: Bank must capitalize indirect costs of holding ”OREO” property under inventory capitalizetion rules.  From FAA  20123201F (my emphasis)

Section 263A applies to property that is acquired for resale. If § 263A applies, the taxpayer must capitalize both the direct costs of acquiring the property and the property’s allocable share of indirect costs.

In this case, X clearly acquires OREO in foreclosure (or in lieu of foreclosure) with an intent to resell the property. Bank regulators restrict the holding period for OREO and expect banks to exercise good faith efforts to sell the property. As required by applicable state and federal policies and regulations, it is our understanding that X advertises its OREO properties for sale, including those properties which it rents out. X’s Year6 Annual Report confirms that assets acquired through (or in lieu of) foreclosure are held for sale. In addition, OREO is acquired and held in the ordinary course of X’s trade or business. X’s Year6 Annual Report acknowledges as much when it states that X may foreclose on and take title to properties securing loans “during the ordinary course of business.” X engages in OREO transactions with frequency, regularity, and according to an “OREO disposition strategy.” (Year6 Annual Report, p.17). Thus, the OREO held by X constitutes property held by the taxpayer primarily for sale to customers in the ordinary course of its trade or business.

“OREO” is “other real estate owned,” for you non-bankers.  Bankers don’t care to hold much of that.

 

Joseph Henchman,  Nebraska Governor Withdraws Tax Reform Proposal; Legislature Look to Commission to Develop Alternatives (Tax Policy Blog).  But they aren’t giving up on tax reform.  So should Iowa.  The Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan is tanned, rested and ready!

Paul Neiffer,  Must Have W2 Wages to Deduct DPAD.  A hidden tax trap for the Schedule F farmer.

 

Great minds think alike:

TaxGrrrl,  How Will Your State Be Impacted By Sequestration?

Kay Bell,  How would your state fare under sequestration?

 

TaxProf,  3d Circuit Denies CARDS Tax Shelter.  Another turn-of-the-century tax shelter fails.

Elaine Maag, Education Tax Credits Rival Pell Grant Program in Size: Reforms Proposed (TaxVox).  The more you subsidize it, the more it costs.

Jeremy Scott, Taxing the Rich, Thenardier-Style (Tax.com):

But the influence of Les Miserables doesn’t just extend to the silver screen and stage. President Obama seems to be taking tax policy advice from the musical’s comical antagonist, Thenardier.

Well, that would explain many things.

Trish McIntire,  Referrals – A Double Edged Sword.

Peter Reilly,  What Were They Thinking ?   Another example of the unwisdom of failing to remit payroll taxes.

Linda Beale,  Private equity and real estate managers get a “costly and unjust [tax] perk”.  Not really, but some people really hate carried interests.

Me: Identity theft tax fraud: women’s work?

 

Put the champaign back on ice.  The Income Tax is NOT Turning 100 – Yet. (Joseph Thorndike, Tax.com).

One less metal home in town.  Demise of Another Lustron House.  (IowaBiz.com) These are funky steel houses, not mobile homes.  They don’t build ‘em like that anymore.

 

Share