Posts Tagged ‘Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan’

Tax Roundup, 12/3/14: House voting on extenders today. Are Senate, White House on board?

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130113-3The House will likely pass one-year extender bill today. Will the Senate and White House go along? Multiple reports say that the House of Representatives is expected to approve HR 5771 today, reviving 55 perennially-resurected tax breaks through 2014. The breaks, which include bonus depreciation, the $500,000 Section 179 deduction, and the research credit, all expired at the end of 2013.

While the fate of the bill in the Senate and the White House are not entirely clear, I expect the House bill to pass, given the lack of alternatives.  The Wall Street Journal reports:

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) used a weekly Senate Democratic luncheon Tuesday to push for an alternative that would extend expiring tax breaks through 2015.

But his Republican counterpart on the committee, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, brushed that aside, saying time was running out. Mr. Hatch—on whom Mr. Wyden frequently relies when crafting deals—came out in favor of the short-term fix, saying the only alternative he would support at this point was the one worked out between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) and drew a White House veto threat last week. If the Senate advanced a new version, “there will be no bill” because “the House is going to leave,” Mr. Hatch said.

The full text of Sen. Hatch’s statements can be found here.

The Hill reports that the White House appears ready to go along with the House bill. Given the way the White House threatened a veto of the House-Senate deal that would have extended some of the breaks permanently, I think the lack of a veto threat means the President is likely to sign this version. While there appears to be some unhappiness with the House bill — Senator Grassley is not a fan of the one-year approach —  I expect the lame-duck Senate to pass it anyway. Unfortunately, it’s not clear when the Senate will act.

Congress has for years passed these provisions for one or two years at a time because Congressional budget rules allow them to pretend they are less expensive than they really are. Unfortunately, that often leaves taxpayers uncertain as to what the tax law is for the year until the year is almost over — or, in 2012, until the year was over. That makes it hard to evaluate the economics of important fixed-asset decisions. The abortive House-Senate deal would have ended this game for several key provisions, but the White House chose scoring cheap political points over an improved business tax environment.

Related:

Paul Neiffer, Is an One-Year Extension of Section 179 all we get?!

Howard Gleckman, How To End the Tax Extender Drama: Stop Calling Them Extenders—And Make Congress Pay For Them

Kay Bell, Tax extenders compromise: OK expired breaks for 2014 only

 

20121108-1Peter Reilly, Repair Regs – A Hellish Tax Season And Refunds Of Biblical Magnitude. Peter discusses the need, or not, for massive filing of useless accounting method changes to implement the new “repair regulations.” He also touches on a potential boon for owners of commercial real estate.

Robert D. Flach, TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE 0% TAX RATE

William Perez, What You Need to Know about the Premium Assistance Tax Credit

Russ Fox notes A Rare Piece of Efficiency from the IRS

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2014: #4-IRS Rules on Self-Employment Income Of LLC Members.

 

Robert Wood, What IRS Calls ‘Willful’–Even A Smidgen–Can Mean Penalties Or Jail

TaxGrrrl, Feeling Spendy This Year? ’12 Days Of Christmas’ Slightly More Expensive

 

microsoft-appleSound Advice. David Brunori offers Advice for the New Republican Legislative Majorities (Tax Analysts Blog). It’s full of sound advice, but I especially like this:

Republicans should become the party of virtue, courage, and honesty when it comes to taxes. They should fight crony capitalism, as there is nothing more abhorrent to the free market than the government picking winners and losers. Yet state governments do just that all the time. The proliferation of tax incentives represents horrible tax policy. That politicians can decide economic policy through tax incentives is more akin to a Soviet five-year plan than to Adam Smith’s invisible hand. True conservatives should fight attempts to use tax policy to further economic objectives. Broad-based taxes and low rates will always serve the conservative cause better than the existing nonsensical tax laws. Standing on principle to ensure a broad tax base is hard — and neither party has been able to do it. But it is a stand worth taking.

That would be wonderful advice here in Iowa, but our newly re-elected GOP governor has been up to his mustache in crony tax breaks to chase high-profile businesses. Meanwhile Iowa’s home-grown businesses don’t get the big subsidies. They are dragged down by the highest corporation tax rate in the developed world, baroque complexity, and a bottom-ten business tax environment.

A real pro-business tax reform in Iowa might look something like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 573.

 

lizard20140826Leslie BookH&R Block CEO Asks IRS To Make it Harder to Self-Prepare Tax Returns and Why That is Good for the Tax System.  “Yet, as I explain here, I think the changes he proposes would likely be good for the tax system because they could enhance visibility and accountability, principles the IRS should emphasize with issues that tend to have sticky error rates.”

H&R Block has been trying to pad its income for years on the backs of retail taxpayers. Its former CEO authored the illegal tax preparer regulations system the IRS tried to force on the industry — a system that would have run many of Henry and Robert’s competitors out of the buisness. Now they want to force the lowest-income earners through their doors.

I think the right approach to advice from an outfit that so shamelessly promotes its interests at the expense of taxpayers may be to carefully note it, and to do exactly the opposite.

 

Stephen Entin, No Mystery that Investment Slump Hurts Workers, Lowers Productivity and Wages (Tax Policy Blog)

 

News from the Profession. Why Is Everyone in Public Accounting Obsessed with Sports? (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/14/14: Iowa tax credits expected to pay out $361 million this year. And: Fix FBAR!

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Extended 1040s are due tomorrow!

 

20120906-1$521 million for the well-connected and well lobbied. The Des Moines Register reports on a new set of estimates from the Iowa Department of Revenue:

Iowa would have to pay about a half-billion dollars for tax credits during a 12-month period should every recipient come to the table asking for their awards.

The state has a tax credit liability of $462 million for the 2015 fiscal year, which started July 1 and runs until June 30, 2015, according to an Iowa Department of Revenue report.

For the 2016 fiscal year, the state’s tax credit liability is expected to hit $521.2 million.

But it’s not so bad as all that:

The Revenue Department said it only expects $361.4 million worth of tax credits to be claimed in fiscal 2015 and $402.8 million to be claimed in fiscal 2016.

Compare the $361 million in expected tax credit giveaways to expected receipts, net of refunds, from the entire Iowa corporation income tax in fiscal 2015 of $413.5 million. A good chunk of this is actually in the form of cash grants via the Iowa research credit. Iowa persists in giving these away even though a commission tasked with finding out whether they do any good was unable to say they were worth anything.

Iowa couples its regime of special favors for special political friends with high individual rates, and the highest corporation tax rate in the U.S., for those of us lacking lobbyists or state house connections.  Far better to slash individual rates, get rid of the near-worthless corporation income tax, strip out loopholes and deductions, and make everybody’s tax life easier.  It’s time for The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

passportAllison ChristiansPaperwork and Punishment: It’s Time to Fix FBAR (Tax Analysts, Via the TaxProf). A righteous takedown of one of the worst features of an awful tax law:

The FBAR penalty structure is harsh at best and tremendouosly unfair at worst. An FBAR failure or mistake attracts a one-size-fits-all punishment, which rapidly escalates according to a formula that is known only to the IRS. The instructions claim that a taxpayer can avoid penalties by showing a “reasonable cause,” but they also state that a “non-willful” mistake or failure carries a $10,000 penalty, regardless of the amount of money actually at stake…

It cannot be noted without irony that for a regime created to catch hard-core financial criminals, FBAR now criminalizes something we would hardly consider a serious crime — namely a paperwork mistake.

It’s IRS policy to shoot the jaywalkers so they can slap the real international financial criminals on the wrists.  Read the whole thing.

 

Paul Neiffer reminds us that you have Less Than Two Full Days to Get Your Return Filed

It’s a quiet Buzz day at Robert D. Flach’s place. 

Kay Bell, Federal holiday effects on federal taxes,

Stephen Olson has the Summary Opinions for 10/03/14, rounding up developments in tax procedure at Procedurally Taxing.

 

20121022-1TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 523

Me, The C corporation dilemma and how not to solve it. My latest at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record’s Business Professionals’ Blog. I discuss the C corporation double-tax, and a failed effort to solve the problem with a “midco transaction” in advance of a sale of the business.

 

How is that even possible? District Court Sets The Bar Lower For Accountants Than Attorneys (Peter Reilly)

News from the Profession. Center for Audit Quality Managed to Find Some People Confident in Audits (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 7/30/14: Iowa Illustrated! And: an unhappy take on IRS offshore account enforcement.

Wednesday, July 30th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

iowa-illustrated_Page_01Iowa’s tax system in pictures.  The Tax Foundation yesterday posted “Iowa Illustrated: A Visual Guide to Taxes & the Economy.”  It is a valuable and sobering introduction into Iowa tax policy.  Anybody interested in Iowa’s tax policy mess should start here.

The Tax Foundation summary:

Here are just a few examples of the more than 30 key findings:

  • Iowa relies on federal funding for one-third of its budget
  • Iowa’s sales tax rate has tripled since its creation
  • Iowa’s business taxes rank poorly nationally, and are uncompetitive regionally
  • Iowa has had a net loss of 63,287 people over the last 20 years
  • Effective tax rates in Iowa vary widely across different industries.

By offering a broader perspective of Iowa’s taxes and illustrating some of the lesser-known aspects of Iowa’s business environment, this guide provides the necessary facts for having an honest debate about how to improve the structure of The Hawkeye State’s tax system. 

There’s too much good stuff to summarize, but I will highlight a few items.

This might explain why property tax reform is such a big deal here:

iowa-illustrated_Page_38

 

Raising individual tax rates on “the rich” means taxing employment:

iowa-illustrated_Page_39

 

Despite its highest-in-the-nation corporation tax rate, Iowa’s corporate tax is a sub-par revenue generator:

iowa-illustrated_Page_41

While agriculture is important in Iowa, financial services are a bigger industry:

iowa-illustrated_Page_13

Iowa has a diverse economy, but our tax system still parties like it’s 1983:

iowa-illustrated_Page_40

A lot of the tax receipts go out the back door to the well-connected via tax credits:

iowa-illustrated_Page_42

It’s hard to make a case for the current Iowa tax system.  Maybe the legislature will finally be ready to do something about it next session.  The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan would be a great place to start.

 

Now to our regular programming:

 

20130419-1Jack TownsendTime for an IRS Ass Kicking? Herein of Lack of Honor and a Dumb Decision in OVDI/P and Streamlined:

So, one could ask, why wouldn’t it be an easy decision for the IRS to let taxpayers in OVDI/P who had not yet signed a Form 906 to proceed fully under Streamlined.  Well, it appears, that the IRS wanted to keep all of the income tax, penalties and interest for closed income tax years and penalties for open years that it was not entitled to, while giving a partial benefit of the Streamlined program (the 5% penalty applied to innocents, many of whom should owe no penalty).  Basically, the IRS wanted something that it was not entitled to. 

Bad faith seems to be a part of the IRS culture in dealing with offshore issues.

 

Peter Reilly, Retailer Can Only Deduct Perks When Redeemed  “I suspect that the accrual is probably not what makes or breaks these programs.”

Jim Maule continued his “Tax Myths” series while I was away.   I like his “The Internal Revenue Code Fills 70,000 Pages” post.

 

David Brunori, Lawyers Whining About Taxes (Tax Analysts Blog):

For the record, I don’t like taxes. But if you’re going to have a government, you should pay for it the right way. Sales tax should be paid by consumers on all their purchases. Business inputs should never be subject to sales tax. Everyone who has ever studied or even thought about consumption taxes knows that. So it makes sense that legal services should be taxed. Lawyers don’t like that because, well, people might use less of their services. That would be a tragedy beyond comprehension.

Not that I’m in a hurry to charge sales taxes to my individual clients, but David is right on the policy.

 

20140730-1Howard Gleckman, Are Tax Inversions Really Unpatriotic? (TaxVox)  “Selling war material to an enemy or financing a terrorist organization is unpatriotic—and illegal. Using legal avoidance strategies to reduce taxes may be distasteful or unseemly, but it is not unpatriotic.”

Kay Bell, Defense Department workers, some with top security clearance, owed $730 million in back federal taxes.  So tell me again about corporate tax “deserters.”

 

Annette Nellen, IRS Voluntary Preparer Regulation System – Worthwhile? Legal?

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 447

 

Because Hollywood needs more taxpayer money!  29 Members of Congress Ask California to Boost Film Tax Credits (Joseph Henchman, Tax Policy Blog).  In a just world, this would automatically cost all 29 of these critters their seats.

 

Rebecca Wilkins, Stop the Bleeding from Inversions before the Corporate Tax Dies (Tax Justice Blog).  Darn, I’ll have to stroll into town for a Band-aid.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/16/14: Iowa Alt Max Tax resurfaces. And: Alimony madness.

Friday, May 16th, 2014 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.

The Iowa Alternative Maximum Tax Trial Balloon rises again.  From O. Kay Henderson, ‘Flat tax’ likely on GOP legislators’ agenda in 2015:

The top Republican in the Iowa House says if Republicans win statehouse majorities in the House and the Senate this November, one item on his wish list for 2015 is a “flat” state income tax. House Speaker Kraig Paulsen, a Republican from Hiawatha, spoke early this morning at a breakfast meeting of central Iowa Republicans.

Paulsen and his fellow House Republicans endorsed a “flat” tax proposal last year, but it was not considered in the Democratically-led Iowa Senate. The proposal would have allowed Iowans to continue filing their income taxes under the current system or choose the alternative of a 4.5 percent flat tax on their income, with no deductions.

I call this an “alternative maximum tax” because taxpayers will compute the tax both ways and pay the smaller number.  That contrasts with the alternative minimum tax, where you compute taxes two ways and pay the higher amount.  It has the obvious drawback of adding a new layer of complexity to the current baroque Iowa income tax.

20120906-1The proposal is likely an attempt to enact a lower rate system in a way that doesn’t upset fans of Iowa’s deduction for federal income taxes — particularly the influential Iowans for Tax Relief.  Because the deduction would rarely provide a better result than the alt max tax, support for the old system would wither away, maybe.

I’m probably too much of a tax geek to read the politics correctly, but I’m not convinced adding a new computation to the Iowa 1040 will fire up the electorate.  I think something like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan would be easier to run on.  Eliminate all the crony tax credits and well-intended but futile tax breaks.  Get rid of the job-killing, worst-in-the-nation Iowa corporation income tax.   Drastically lower rates, increase the standard deduction, and limit the role of the income tax to funding the government.   This would get my vote anyway, and it would at least be awkward to argue instead for the current system that sends millions to some of Iowa’s biggest corporations as subsidies on the backs of you, me and small businesses.

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

 

I always thought enforcing the tax rules for alimony would be about the easiest job the IRS could have.  When you pay alimony, you get an above-the-line deduction, but only if you list the name and social security number of the recipient ex-spouse.  Just match the deduction with the income and generate notices when they don’t match.

This information systems problem is apparently too much for the IRS.  Peter Reilly reports:

According to the TIGTA report there were 567,887 Forms 1040 for 2010 that had alimony deductions.  The total claimed was $10 Billion.  When they compared the corresponding returns that should have recorded the income, there were discrepancies on 266,190 returns including 122,870 returns that had no alimony income at all reported.  There were nearly 25,000 returns where the income recognized was greater than the deduction claimed which produced a bit of an offset ($75 million).  On net, deductions exceeded income by $2.3 billion.  In her piece “Alimony Tax Gap is $1.7 BillionAshlea Ebeling goes into more details on the report, so I’m going to get a little more into what I see as the big picture here.

While I’ve never been a huge fan of the IRS, over my career I had developed a grudging respect for the organization’s competence and professionalism.  That’s been mostly drawn down over the last few years.

 

taxanalystslogoChristopher Bergin, A Warning About the IRS That We Should Heed (Tax Analysts Blog):

As I wrote almost a year ago, the IRS is in trouble. Punishing it will do no more good than ignoring what has happened over the last year. The former seems to be the plan of House Republicans; the latter appears to be the White House plan. We need to fix it, and that is harder than either of the above two approaches.

This is correct.  Unfortunately, the IRS became a partisan organization in the Tea Party scandal, and it’s proposed 501(c)(4) regulations only make that official.  The impasse won’t be broken until the IRS does something to reassure Republican congresscritters.  Withdrawing the proposed rules is probably a necessary start.

 

Kay Bell, Johnny Football’s Texas residency can cut his NFL income tax.

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

On the whole, these high-inward migration states tend to have lower tax burdens. North Carolina and Idaho have periodically had higher than average tax burdens, but most, like Tennessee and Nevada, have consistently low tax burdens. Again, this doesn’t conclusively prove that taxes drive migration, as no doubt other living costs are lower in these states too: but it does suggest that taxes cannot be discounted out of hand.

 

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: Asset

TaxGrrrl, Tesla Continues To Roll Out Tax Strategies For Consumers .  An auto company with a marketing pitch built around tax credits seems like a bad thing to me.

Stop by Robert D. Flach’s Place for a solid Friday morning Buzz!

 

20140516-1

 

Howard Gleckman, Are Multinationals Getting Tired of Waiting for Corporate Tax Reform? (TaxVox).  They seem to be taking a do-it-yourself approach more and more.

Tax Justice Blog, States Can Make Tax Systems Fairer By Expanding or Enacting EITC.  I think this is wrong, at least the way the earned income tax credit works now.  Arnold Kling has a much-more promising proposal that would replace the EITC and other means-tested welfare programs.

Kyle Pomerleau, Flawed Buffett Rule Reintroduced in Senate (Tax Justice Blog).  Of course, that’s the only kind.

 

Cara Griffith, In Search of a Little Guidance (Tax Analysts Blog). “If informal guidance is the only guidance available to practitioners and taxpayers, can they rely on it?”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 372.  Guess what?  It wasn’t just a few rogues in Cincinnati.

 

News from the Profession.  Alleged “Touch It For a Buck” Creeper CPA Got His License Revoked For Felony Creepiness (Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/1/14: Iowa remains on top! Oh, that’s bad.

Thursday, May 1st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The Iowa House of Representatives has adjourned for the year.  That makes it official: Iowa will continue to have the highest corporation income tax rate in the U.S. for another year, as shown on this map from The Tax Foundation:

2014 Corporate Income Tax Rates

The U.S has the highest corporation tax rate of all OECD countries, so that means right here in Iowa we have the highest corporation income tax rate in the entire developed world.  That’s true even taking into account Iowa’s 50% deduction for federal corporation tax.  Whoopee.  That must mean that Iowa receives just gushers of corporate cash, right?

Wrong.  The Iowa corporation tax generated $403.6 million net revenue in calendar 2013, amounting to about 5.3% of state tax revenues.  The individual income tax, by contrast, generated $3.45 billion net revenue in the same period. (Figures available here.)

The net is so low because the corporation tax, like the Iowa income tax, is riddled with special credits and deductions for the well-connected and well-lobbied.  Some of the biggest corporations in Iowa pay no tax and, in fact, actually get multi-million dollar checks out of the Department of Revenue.

There’s nothing good about this system.  It’s brutal for small corporations without the lobbyists and pull to land big breaks.  Meanwhile, big corporations use their resources to skip around the tax, or even to profit from it.  The high rates and complexity drives away corporations who don’t want to play the influence game, while luring those who play it like a fiddle.  Far better to wipe out the tax and the accompanying subsidies with something like The Tax Update Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan!

Related: David Brunori, I Will Ask Again, Why Are We Taxing Corporate Income? (Tax Analysts Blog). “There is an increasingly influential school of thought that says the tax is borne by labor in the form of lower wages.”

 

Peter Reilly, Alimony That Does Not Look Like Alimony.  “So if an agreement says that the payments are to be treated as alimony for tax purposes, that really means nothing.  What matters is whether the requirements are met…”

 


20130114-1Roger McEowen, 
Analyzing Hedging under Obamacare’s Net Investment Income Tax Final Regulations.  “… a sole proprietor farmer’s income from hedging activity, or hedging income of a farming entity structured as pass-through entity is not subject to the NIIT, because the farmer or entity is engaged in the trade or business of farming and not the trade or business of trading in commodities.” 

William Perez, Tax Reform Act of 2014, Part 7, IRS Administrative Proposals Impacting Individuals.

Annette Nellen, How sales tax exemptions can waste one’s time.  “Recent litigation in Missouri over whether converting frozen dough into baked goods is “processing,” such that the electricity used is exempt from sales tax, shows the time and money that can be wasted with pointless rules.”

TaxGrrrl, Considering The Death Penalty: Your Tax Dollars At Work.  It should give pause to those who think the government should be the provider of health care when it can’t even kill somebody well.

Um, to save hundreds of millions of shareholder dollars?  Why Does Pfizer Want to Renounce Its Citizenship? (Tax Justice Blog). 

 

20121004-1Renu Zaretsky, Competition and Tax Reform: A Thorn in Everybody’s Side.  The TaxVox headline roundup.

Kay Bell, Amazon begins collecting sales tax from Florida buyers May 1; Will the online retailing giant lose even more customers?

Stephen Olsen, Did Donald Rumsfeld Just Invalidate His Return?  (Procedurally Taxing) “…he just wanted to be able to understand how his tax bill was computed.  Overall, not an unreasonable position, but perhaps a pipedream.”

Jack Townsend, Another Credit Swiss Related Bank Enabler Pleads Guilty

 

taxanalystslogoCara Griffith, The Problem With Outcome-Based Jurisprudence (Tax Analysts Blog).  ” It is not for the court to worry about how the state will fashion a remedy. Its task is to interpret and enforce the state’s laws and strike down those that are unconstitutional.”

 

The newest Cavalcade of Risk is up!  The roundup of insurance and risk management posts is hosted this time by Rebecca Shafer.  Our old friend Hank Stern contributes with bad news on the ACA computer security front: My Bleeding (404Care.gov) Heart

 

TaxProf,  The IRS Scandal, Day 357.  For a “phony scandal,” it’s awfully persistent.

 

The soft bigotry of low expectations.  IRS Commish Reminds Senator That Hill Staffers Have Worse Tax Compliance Than IRS Employees (Going Concern)

 

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

Friday, April 25th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


Supply and demand curves

Supply and demand curves

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

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

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

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

She also raises a much less logical possibility:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Supply and Demand

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

20140425-1

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 351

Robert D. Flach brings the Friday Buzz!

 

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

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

 

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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)

 

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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)

 

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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)

 

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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.

 

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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)

 

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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.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 210

 

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

TaxGrrrl, Will Congress Drive Up Gas Taxes In 2014?   

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/6/13: 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)

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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)

 

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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)

 

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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!

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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.

 

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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!

 

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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.

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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!

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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.

 

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