Posts Tagged ‘red-light cameras’

Tax Roundup, 1/22/14: Let’s pay it for Hollywood! And: choosing a preparer.

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

haroldTaking your money and giving it to Hollywood.  Oscar Nominees Cash In On State Tax Subsidies (Howard Gleckman, TaxVox):

Each of the nine movies nominated for this year’s Oscar for best film may already have taken home a pile of tax subsidies. Seven brought back state goodies from the U.S. and two got cash for their work in the U.K.

And, according to data collected by the Manhattan Institute, the winner is….Wolf of Wall Street. The $100 million black comedy about (irony alert) over-the-top greed among sleazy stockbrokers got a 30 percent tax credit for making the movie in New York State.

The Empire State isn’t even the most generous when it comes to doling out tax incentives to filmmakers. In Louisiana, moviemakers not only get a 30 percent credit against overall in-state production costs but also an additional 5 percent payroll credit. Even better, filmmakers with no state tax liability can monetize the credits by selling them to firms that do owe Louisiana tax or even selling them back to the state at 85 percent of their value.

Iowa used to do this, until its film tax credit program collapsed in scandal and disgrace following revelations that filmmakers were charging fancy cars and personal items to Iowa taxpayers under the guise of “economic development.   Further revelations showed that millions of dollars of pretend expenses were used to claim the credit, taking advantage of credulous administration and almost non-existent oversight.

More from Howard Gleckman:

No doubt these credits are good for filmmakers. And I’m sure residents get a kick out of seeing Leonardo DiCaprio shooting a scene in their neighborhood (assuming they are not steamed over the related traffic jam). But is there an economic payoff in return for these substantial lost tax revenues as supporters claim?

Most studies conclude there is not.

It’s amazing that politicians think Hollywood deserves their taxpayers dollars.  Fortunately, Iowa film subsidies now are limited to housing and meal expenses for filmmakers.

 

Jason Dinesen, Deducting Miles Driven for Charity.  “Taxpayers can take a deduction of 14 cents/mile for mileage driven in giving services to a charitable organization, or taxpayers can take a deduction for the actual cost of gas and oil associated with giving services to a charitable organization.”

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: The Sneaky Tax Consequences of Real Estate Repossessions 

 

Choosing a preparer?

Kay Bell, Time to pick the proper tax pro.  She gets one thing wrong about the IRS:  “For years, the agency has been trying to set up a system under which it register and test tax preparers to help ensure that they meet a minimum competency level.”

No, the agency simply wants to expand its control over preparers and help powerful friends in the big tax prep franchises.  The “minimum competency level” stuff is a weak pretext.

Robert D. Flach, IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN – CHOOSING A TAX PREPARER:

Contrary to the popular “urban tax myth”, unfortunately perpetuated by uninformed journalists and bloggers, just because a person has the initials “CPA” after his/her name does not mean that he/she knows his arse from a hole in the ground when it comes to preparing 1040s.  

True.  But a lot of the best prepaers are CPAs.  Not everybody needs a CPA.  Many folks just need somebody who knows a little more than they do to help them put the W-2 income in the right place.  But if you are doing a complex business return — even on a 1040 — a CPA may be your best bet.

That’s not to say only CPAs are competent preparers.  Enrolled Agents can be very good, and there are many very competent unregulated preparers, like Robert.  I think the competence curve between CPAs and unenrolled preparers would look something like this:

competence curve

The more complex your return, the more likely it is that you will want to bring in an Enrolled Agent or a CPA, but if you already have a strong unregulated preparer who is taking care of your tax needs, you’d be foolish to switch.

 

Paul Neiffer, Average is Important for 2013 Tax Filing.  Farm income averaging, that is.  Another example of a provision that would result in frivolous return penalties for anyone but farmers.

Fairmark.com: Share Identification Under Attack

 

20121120-2Tea Party: Resolved: Obamacare Is Now Beyond Rescue.  Oh, wait, that wasn’t the Tea Party.   It was a debate audience on New York’s Upper West Side.  

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 258

William Perez, The Number of Sole Proprietors has been Rising for 30 Years

Tax Justice Blog: CTJ Submits Comments on the Finance Committee Chairman Baucus’ International Tax Reform Proposal.  They have very different, and largely opposite, concerns from the Tax Foundation.

Jack Townsend, Tax Notes Article on IRS 2013 Victories in Offshore Evasion

 

gatsoNext: automated pedestrian jaywalking camera fines, for our own safety:  NYC Cops Allegedly Beat Up Jaywalking Elderly Man, Refused to Tell Son Which Hospital He Was In (Ed Krayewski, Reason.com)

But I thought it was about traffic safety, not money…  Council members: Traffic camera revenue helped keep property taxes down, pay for public safety.

 

The importance of philanthropy: Warren Buffett Offers $1 Billion For Perfect March Madness Bracket  (TaxGrrrl)

 

The Critical Question: A Meat Tax? Seriously?  (Joseph Thorndike, Tax Analysts Blog).

News From the Profession: Guy Who Couldn’t Hack Two Years in Public Accounting Needs Validation He Isn’t a Loser (Going Concern)

It’s Academic!  How Not to Use Your Faculty Laptop (TaxProf)

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/16/2013: Red light cameras, fleeing the country, and suing the IRS.

Friday, August 16th, 2013 by Joe Kristan


gatso
Clive red-light cameras to go live again Monday (Des Moines Register):

The cameras will be turned back on Monday at 12:01 a.m.

In addition to approving the contract the council signed off on language that sets in motion a plan for the program to be dismantled at the end of the current fiscal year, which is June 30, 2014.

After turning them off because they are obnoxious, the Clive city fathers are restarting them with a frank admission that they need the money this year.  So of course it’s about the money, just like in Des Moines, except Clive admits it.

 

TaxProf, IRS Hits Estate of Former Detroit Pistons Owner With $2 Billion Tax Bill.  “The estate tax bill alone — $1.9 billion — would represent more than one-tenth of the $13 billion collected through that tax nationwide in 2010, when taxes on most estates of those who died in 2009, like Davidson, were paid.”

 

passportMatthew Feeney on Renouncing U.S. Citizenship to Escape the IRS (Reason.com):

It’s astonishing that the American government would punish some of the world’s most patriotic people by making them choose between their citizenship and the headache that comes with trying to be compliant with awful laws like FATCA. The requirements imposed by FATCA on foreign financial institutions and the punishments that come with non-compliance mean that sometimes foreign banks don’t let Americans open accounts at all.

It’s only astonishing anymore if you haven’t figured out just how awful our political leadership is.

 

Your web guide to despair.  The IRS has taken live a new web page for Affordable Care Act Tax Provisions for Individuals and Families

 

Peter Reilly,  Charity Begins At Home But Cannot End There.

You have to wonder why more families don’t start exempt organizations.  Well, it may be because, as the PLR explains it does not work – for at least four different reasons…

Peter then provides the reasons, one by one.

Trish McIntire,  Documenting Donations

 

Tony Nitti, IRS (Finally) Consolidates All Late S Election Relief Into One Handy Revenue Procedure 

Kay Bell,  Turning financial failures into tax-saving successes

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 99

Robert D. Flach is ready with your Friday Buzz!

 

Phil Hodgen, I was in Philmont.  I plan to be there next year.

 

News you can use.   How to Blow a 1031 Exchange (Paul Neiffer):

The taxpayer indicated they had rolled the gain into other real estate costing about a $1 million and wondered how the rollover gain would affect the basis of their new real estate investment.  Many of you probably can guess what my next question was.  “Did you receive the cash and then buy the real estate?” To which, the taxpayer said “Yes, we received the cash, but we bought the real estate within 180 days of selling the land”.  

That doesn’t work, as Paul explains.

 

taxanalystslogoChristopher Bergin, Tax Analysts v. Internal Revenue Service (Tax Analysts Blog):

Here’s the background: On May 21, Tax Analysts sent a FOIA request to the IRS seeking all materials used since 2009 to train IRS personnel in the IRS exempt organizations determinations office in Cincinnati. I’m guessing that there is probably no one who doesn’t know that the IRS is currently under huge scrutiny for how it handles – or mishandles – applications for tax exempt status. This is not just a big story for Tax Analysts but for a lot of news organizations as well. We asked the IRS to expedite the process and it agreed, telling us that our request had “priority” and that it would “make every effort to respond as quickly as possible.” But on June 25, the IRS invoked a 10-day extension period, which extended the deadline to July 10. But in the same letter, the IRS also told us it wouldn’t be meeting that deadline either, and unilaterally extended the response date to August 9.

If the IRS has nothing to hide, it sure has a funny way of showing it.

Going Concern has more:  The IRS Is Being Difficult.  Caleb really, really wants to believe that nobody cares about IRS harassment of the Tea Party.  Yet stories like this keep coming up. 

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/15/2013: Turning on the revenue cameras honestly. And mink cashmere capes!

Thursday, August 15th, 2013 by Joe Kristan


gatso
But I thought it was about safety, not money.  
 The Des Moines Register reports:

The Clive City Council today is likely to reactivate its dormant red-light camera program, but only through June 30, 2014.

In his email, Weaver said it was necessary to reactivate the cameras to ensure the city’s financial health. But tonight’s vote, he wrote, will also set in motion the dismantling next year of the camera contract and of the city ordinance authorizing the use of red-light cameras in Clive.

Give them credit for being honest, at least, rather than insulting our intelligence by saying it’s about safety.

 

Chicago Congressmen’s wife gets 12 months on tax charges.  At the same hearing where her husband, former Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., received a 30-month prison term for using $750,000 in campaign funds to live the good life, Sandri Jackson received a 12-month sentence on related tax charges.  Huffington Post reports:

Jackson’s wife, Sandra, was also sentenced Wednesday. She will serve one year in prison and was ordered to pay $22,000 in restitution, after pleading guilty to a related charge of filing false tax returns. U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who is not related to the Jacksons, allowed the couple to stagger their sentences so their children would have at least one parent at all times. Jackson Jr. will go to prison first, followed by Sandra.

Jackson Jr. pleaded guilty in February to using campaign funds to purchase an array of personal items, including Bruce Lee memorabilia, a $43,000 Rolex watch and a mink cashmere cape.

A mink cashmere cape?  Considering that the Congressman was elected as a Democrat in a district that hasn’t elected a Republican since the last mastodons moved out, I suppose he had to do something with the money.  I’m glad he used it to build a modest and dignified wardrobe.

TaxGrrrl has more.

 

Missed your S corporation deadline?  The IRS has issued a new Revenue Procedure that S-Sidewalkcombines in one place relief late or missed elections related to S corporation status.  From Revenue Procedure 2013-30, which takes effect September 30:

This revenue procedure expands and consolidates relief provisions included in prior revenue procedures that provide a simplified method for taxpayers to request relief for late S corporation elections, ESBT elections, QSST elections, QSub elections, and corporate classification elections intended to be effective on the same date as the S corporation election for the entity.

These relief provisions, which require no user fee, are a great friend to the taxpayer and the practitioner.  Still, it unfortunately continues the “reasonable cause” requirement, usually requiring some advisor to take one for the team.  Fortunately the IRS doesn’t seem to look at the reasonable cause disclosures very closely.

 

Speaking of S corporations:  S Election For Cash Basis C Corporation Fraught With Peril  (Peter Reilly).  The accumulated accrual-to-cash benefit is a built-in gain, taxable to the coproration.  From Peter’s post:

The only scenario I have been able to think of that might make it worthwhile to organize a professional practice as a C corporation is a sole practitioner who has the need to make very large out-of-pocket medical payments – a special school for a disabled child for example.  That would make a medical reimbursement plan worthwhile. 

And as Peter’s post illustrates, C corporations can be like lobster traps: easy to get into, difficult to live in, and painful to get out of. (apologies to Bittker and Eustice).

 

#Tax Justice Blog,  ITEP to Legislators: Business Tax Breaks Don’t Live Up to the Hype.  Of course they don’t.  They only exist to allow politicians to call a press conference or cut a ribbon.  From the post:

Among the reasons ITEP urged lawmakers to be skeptical of these special breaks:

  • Tax incentives often reward companies for hiring decisions or investments they would have made anyway. These “windfall” benefits significantly reduce the cost-effectiveness of every tax incentive.
  • State economies are closely interconnected, so the taxpayer dollars given to companies through incentive programs never remain in-state for very long.
  • Tax incentives require picking winners and losers. Incentive-fueled growth at one business usually comes at the expense of losses at other businesses – including businesses located in the same state.
  • Tax incentives must be paid for somehow, and state economies are likely to suffer if that means skimping on public services like education and infrastructure that are fundamental to a strong economy.

Exactly right.  It’s like taking your wife’s purse to the bar for money to pick up girls.  It’s not a great use of the money, the girls aren’t impressed, and any you get that way aren’t likely to be prizes.

Christopher Bergin, 15 Years of IRS Reform (Tax Analysts Blog):

Certainly, the IRS needs reforming, and has done some pretty bad stuff. That reform can come from within the agency or from lawmakers, but it needs to come from another place as well: a good place, a place of positive change not negative political expedience.

It’s hard to elicit “positive” thoughts for the IRS from legislators when it is clear that the agency was harassing their allies.

 

Kay Bell,  Unemployed? You still could face tax issues.  Unemployment comp is still taxable income.

Robert D. Flach,  DEFENDING THE DEDUCTIONS FOR TAXES AND MORTGAGE INTEREST.

David Shakow, The Taxation of Cloud Computing and Digital Content.   (Tax Analysts, via The TaxProf.  The rise of software-as-a-service creates a lot of challenges for the tax man.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 98.

Cara Griffith, California’s Aggressive Position on Passive Income (Tax Analysts Blog)

 

Jason Dinesen,  Baseball and “Games Behind in the Loss Column”  For us Cubs fans, it’s an exercise in large numbers.

 

TaxGrrrl,  ‘Real Housewives’ Stars Plead Not Guilty As Bethenny Claims: I Don’t Feel Sorry For Them.   In case that matters.

The Critical Question. What’s Getting a PhD in Accounting Really All About? (Going Concern).  As far as I can tell, it’s about learning statistical techniques and writing things nobody will read over a long-enough time that you will forget any useful information you might have imparted to students from your pre-Ph.D career.  More importantly, it’s about restricting the pool of tenure-eligible candidates to maintain the salaries of the guild members.

News you can use.  E- Filing makes tax fraud easier (Myfoxhouston.com)

 

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Tax Roundup, 7/19/2013: You can run a red light edition. And saving the republic, one tail light at a time.

Friday, July 19th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

gatsoThe first central Iowa town to install revenue cameras has turned them off.  The Des Moines Register reports:

 The Clive City Council on Thursday night voted to discontinue the use of red-light cameras to enforce traffic violations.

The council voted 3-2 to reject a contract with Redflex Traffic Systems Inc., which has provided the city red-light camera service since the program began in 2006. The nine cameras positioned along Hickman Road now will no longer be in service.

So carnage on Hickman Road, now, right?  Yeah, right.  But it’s not over yet:

Mayor Scott Cirksena said after the meeting that city staff would work to reach an agreement with the camera provider that could gather a majority vote.

Council members Ted Weaver and Michael McCoy said they would like to see the city wean itself away from using red-light revenue for general fund expenditures. City Manager Dennis Henderson said the city expects the red-light camera program to bring in approximately $700,000 during the current fiscal year, which began July 1

It’s obviously about the money, though you find the pro-forma claims that ticketing people who don’t quite stop when making a right turn on red at an empty intersection makes us all safer, if you read down to paragraph nine.  Let’s hope Des Moines and Polk County follow suit, but don’t hold your breath.

 

 

Of course they do.  Four Cedar Rapids-Metro Area Mayors Support Local Option Sales Tax Extension (KCRG.com). And RAGBRAI riders support free beer extension.

 

I bet the IRS heard about this guy through the grapevine.  From Star-Telegram.com:

Larry Lake, part owner of Grapevine Drug Mart, and his son, Travis Lake, who managed the drug store, each failed to report income on their federal tax returns, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Larry Lake was sentenced to 14 years in prison and ordered to pay a $550,000 fine as well as taxes, interest and penalties, which equal about $25 million, the release said.

The Texas men may well have gotten in trouble not just from evading taxes, but from the way they did their banking:

From August 2006 to November 2009, Larry Lake and his spouse, Kathy Lake, agreed to structure hundreds of currency deposits into at least 13 bank accounts, according to a federal indictment. The couple created at least two shell companies that were used to open up the accounts involved in the structuring scheme, which amounted to $9.3 million, federal officials said.

“Structuring” involves breaking cash deposits up into amounts under $10,000 to avoid the rules requiring banks to report currency transactions.  But banks are also required to report if it looks suspiciously like somebody is trying to get around the $10,000 reporting rule.  You come into a bank enough times with wads of cash, but never $10,000, and the tellers will remember you.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 71.  A bad day for the “nothing to see here” folks.

Robert W. Wood, IRS Inspector Shellacs Oversight Committee About Tea Party Scandal

 

Kay Bell, Tax reform’s chances are better than 50 percent:

Rep. Dave Camp (R-Mich.), head of the Houses Ways and Means Committee, and Sen. Max Baucus (D-Mont.), leader of the Senate Finance Committee, each put the possibility of tax reform passage at greater than 50 percent.

The gung-ho comments were made during an appearance today at the Economic Club of Washington.

I’d agree, if you are talking about in the time before the sun curls into a cold cinder.  If you are talking about this Congress, I’ll bet the other way.

Kyle Pomerleau, Japan to Lower its Corporate Rate Further? (Tax Policy Blog)

David Cay Johnston, More Tax Dollars There, Not Here (Tax Analysts Blog)

 

Jason Dinesen, Patient-Centered Outcomes Trust Fund Fee – An Exercise in Bureaucratic Futility $100 of cost to compute a $3 tax.

Peter Reilly, Real Estate Pro Status Does Not Mix With Full Time Day Job.   Back from the Civil War, Peter has been busy with new tax posts.  This one explains the difficulty of being a “real estate professional” when you have other work.

 

Sean Raisch,  Medicare Taxes on High Earners (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

William Perez, IRS Update for July 19, 2013.  Sort of a web weekly bulletin of IRS releases.

 

Greg Mankiw, The Changing Distribution of Income:

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Mark Perry points out:  “Yes, the middle class has been disappearing, but they haven’t fallen into the lower class, they’ve risen into the upper class.”

It’s Friday, so it’s Buzz Day at Robert D. Flach’s place!

 

The Critical Question:  Do Low-Income Taxpayers Cheat? (TaxVox)  He has a lot more faith in the good nature of humankind than I do.

 

TaxGrrrl, How To Stay Out Of Jail: Lessons Learned From The ‘Queen Of IRS Tax Fraud':

If you do steal, and you talk about it, don’t do it on Facebook I don’t care what you think you know about privacy settings, when you put something out there on Twitter or on Facebook, it’s not protected. As a taxpayer, that means you should avoid posting personally identifying information like tax ID numbers and your address (the IRS Facebook page won’t allow you to post comments for that reason). And you should certainly avoid posting photos of yourself surrounded by stacks of cash with such gems as:

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Hard to argue with that advice.  Russ Fox has more.

 

Nude drunk guy saves the republic. Police: Drunk naked man broke out car tail lights (press-citizen.com, via The Beanwalker):

According to the complaint, Flaherty broke out the tail lights to three cars and told officers that he was breaking the red in the tail lights because red means danger to the republic.

I’ll have what he’s having.

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Tax Roundup, 7/18/2013: Cincinnati, D.C. edition. And: the Redflex auto dealer tax.

Thursday, July 18th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

chief counsel shieldI didn’t know the IRS Chief Counsel worked out of Cincinnati.  The “nothing to see here” apologists for the IRS harassment of right-wing exempt organizations have always said that nothing wrong happened, and it was the work of rogue employees in the Cincinnati hinterlands anyway.  Perhaps not.  Tax Analysts reports ($link):

Embattled IRS official Lois Lerner directed a multilayered review of Tea  Party groups’ exemption applications that reached all the way to the IRS chief counsel’s office and led to lengthy delays in processing the applications, according to testimony from an IRS attorney released July 17 by House committees investigating the matter.

Carter Hull, a “Washinton IRS tax law specialist,” says the IRS Chief Counsel’s office was involved:

     Hull testified that at the August 2011 meeting, officials from the chief counsel’s office told him they needed updated information on the applications and suggested that a template letter be developed for future processing of applications. He said he told the officials that a template was impractical given the differences in the various applications.

     Hull told investigators that in his 48 years working at the IRS, he had never been asked to send a case he was working to Lerner’s senior adviser or to the chief counsel’s office before he received the request to elevate the Tea Party cases.

Mr. Hull is scheduled to testify at Congressional hearings today.  Nothing to see here, move along.

Wall Street Journal, The IRS Goes to Washington.

 

It’s OK, she’s a witch anyway.  Failed Republican Senate Candidate Christine O’Donnell may have been one of the candidates for political office whose tax records were breached, based on a Washington Times story.  The report says Ms. O’Donnell has been contacted by the Treasury telling her that a Delaware state official improperly accessed her federal tax records.   During her campaign for Senate, she was hit with a false federal tax lien on the day she announced her candidacy.

There has been no prosecution for the illegal access:

Treasury officials have refused to give Mr. Grassley any specifics on the cases or to describe the disposition of Ms. O’Donnell’s case, claiming even people who improperly access tax records have an assumption of privacy under federal tax laws.

That will be news to Dennis Lerner, a former IRS agent who this week received a three-year probation sentence for improperly disclosing confidential tax information.

Instapundit has more.

Christopher Bergin, IRS: Victim, Football, Both? (Tax Analysts Blog)


 

gatsoClive reconsidering its revenue camera auto-dealer tax.  The Des Moines Register reports that the future of the Des Moines suburb’s contract with red-light camera operator Redflex is in doubt, now that City Councilman Michael McCoy has joined another member of the five-person council in opposing the cameras.

Most of the cameras are along a strip of Hickman Road that has some car dealerships.  Guess what happens?

McCoy said businesses have raised concerns about the program to him. He said car dealerships are incurring fees when customers test drive their vehicles — the program mails tickets based on license plates. “That doesn’t seem like a way to be business friendly and invite new business into our community,” McCoy said.

But what good are customers if the local municipality can’t pick their pockets?

 

Tax Justice Blog, Are Special Tax Breaks Worthwhile? Rhode Island Intends to Find Out:

Rhode Island is about to put seventeen of its “economic development” tax breaks under the microscope, thanks to a new law (PDF) signed by Governor Chafee last week.  This reform is a welcome step forward in a national landscape where states often do nothing at all to figure out whether narrow tax breaks are really helping their economies.

After Iowa’s film tax program collapsed in disgrace and scandal, a blue ribbon commission was unable to identify any definite benefit to Iowa’s dozens of targeted corporate welfare tax breaks.  Yet Iowa continues to pass them out like Tootsie Rolls at a parade.

 

Cara Griffith, Break Out the Champagne (Tax Analysts Blog).  State revenues are up.

Jack Townsend, Interview of Swiss Bank Whistleblower

Kay Bell, Werfel does his own tax returns, Lerner still under fire and other tidbits from House hearing on IRS small business audits

Me: Long live the Queen! 21 years for the “Queen of IRS Tax Fraud”

 

Mitch Maahs, Deducting Job Search Expenses (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

William Perez, Same-Sex Spouses and Small Business: What’s Changed?

 

‘Merica!  U.S. Tax System Ranks 94th in the World (Andrew Lundeen, Tax Policy Blog)

Career Corner.  If All Else Fails, You Can Still Become an Internal Auditor (Going Concern)

News you can use.  Get Ready To Shop: State Sales Tax Holidays Are Back! (TaxGrrrl)

Reports: he’s not happy any more. Reports: Happy’s Pizza founder, others indicted for fraud, tax evasion (theoaklandpress.com)

 

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The city needs to pick your pockets for four more years to be sure you are safe.

Friday, October 26th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

The Des Moines Register looks at a year of red light revenue cameras:

City leaders today say the cameras must stay in place four more years before enough data can be collected to draw conclusions on the program’s impact and whether more cameras should be installed.

In the 12 months before the cameras went up, 25 accidents occurred in the lanes covered by devices. In the camera’s first year of operation, 21 accidents occurred.

The article says that the 9,196 red light cameras generated more than $540,000 in revenue.  Even assuming the cameras were responsible for preventing four accidents in a period that included the most snow-free winter in years, that means they cost motorists $135,000 per accident prevented.  That’s a lot more than a typical accident costs, even if both cars are totaled.  From a cost-effectiveness measure, it’s a disaster.  But if it were about anything but municipal revenue, the cameras would never have set up.  If it were about anything other than municipal revenue, actual  safety measures, like longer yellow cycles, would have been used.

 

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Des Moines revenue cameras: $32,305 per accident ‘prevented’

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Des Moines’ red light cameras cost motorists at least $32,000 per accident “prevented” in the last six months of 2011, according to a lame statistics release by the Des Moines Police yesterday reported by the Des Moines Register:

Des Moines police reported Tuesday the use of red light cameras in Des Moines from July through December last year reduced accidents at five major intersections by an average of some 33 percent, compared to the same six-month period at the same locations over the previous four years.

The cameras at these intersections resulted in 4,473 $65 tickets, costing drivers $290,745 — all to prevent 9 accidents — and that assumes that the entire reduction in accidents is attributable to the revenue cameras. Considering that this winter so far has been mild and almost snow-free, while the prior three winters were anything but, that’s a shaky assumption. It would be worthwhile to know what the city-wide accident statistics were for the same period. In real life, the cost per accident “prevented” may be much higher.
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Police and city officials are defensive about this tax on normally harmless behavior, like not quite stopping before making a right turn at an empty intersection or not quite beating the yellow light before it turns red. That’s why they feel the need to justify it, even with this batch of cherry-picked statistics.
A more complete disclosure would include the nature of the accidents “prevented.” We know of one high-speed wreck the cameras didn’t prevent. It would also be worthwhile to compare these intersections to a control group of other intersections where revenue cameras weren’t installed, but other means, like extended yellows and all-red phases, were tried. But as these alternatives pick no pockets, the police and the city aren’t interested.
UPDATES:
Extensive, two-year study finds red-light cameras don

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Revenue cameras lose in West Des Moines election

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011 by Joe Kristan

While Des Moines and suburban Clive have installed red light cameras, they are being soundly defeated today in West Des Moines.
How do I know that before the first vote is cast?

Because all three at-large candidates for the West Des Moines City Council oppose the nasty things.
Here’s how well the cameras prevent accidents at the downtown intersection that has them.

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Revenue cameras raise $39,000 for Des Moines, $27,000 for Gatso

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011 by Joe Kristan

The Des Moines red-light camera racket announced its take for its first month. The key point:

The City of Des Moines pays the vendor of the red light cameras $27 from each $65 red light ticket. It pays the vendor $25 from each speeding ticket.

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Not a word about how many accidents were created or saved. But remember, it’s about safety, not revenue.
UPDATE: Pushback at baniowacams.com

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Making Des Moines safer, one collision at a time

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011 by Joe Kristan

20110506-1.jpgIt’s about safety, not money, right?

A mobile speed camera in use for about a week is out of commission after a traffic accident.
Des Moines police said an 18-year-old driver lost control about 4 p.m. Friday in the 1500 block of Beaver Avenue and sideswiped the white Ford Explorer that carries the camera.
The teen, who was not identified, then hit a tree. He was cited for failure to maintain control.
The mobile unit was turned on earlier this month. Officials have said it’s intended to improve safety for drivers.

Yes, because nothing is safer than parking alongside a busy roadway. Try it yourself sometime!
Related: Des Moines readies revenue cameras
Flickr image courtesy foto footprints under Creative Commons license

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Des Moines readies revenue cameras

Friday, May 6th, 2011 by Joe Kristan

20110506-1.jpgDes Moines city officials are preparing to implement their new random tax on motorists, reports the Des Moines Register:

Des Moines police have identified five accident- prone intersections where traffic cameras are being installed to crack down on motorists who run red lights.

Of course, it’s not about traffic safety.

However, only three of the intersections selected for the cameras ranked among the 10 most dangerous in the city, records show.

If it were about traffic safety, they would simply extend yellow-light times. It’s about giving more money to the city council to spend. How do we know?

In 2009, the City Council approved an ordinance that allows the cameras. Police and other city officials have stressed the plan is about safety, not money.

When they have to say it’s not about money, it’s about the money.

Police officials have previously estimated each camera could bring in $100,000 a year. Updated revenue estimates have not been finalized, Scott said.

It’s about taking $100 from your pocket if you commit the heinous crime of not quite stopping before turning red at an empty downtown intersection at night or on Sunday. It’s also about lining the pockets of the out-of-state contractor that will run the cameras.
They will also add a speed-camera on I-235. It will sure help get the glut of empty downtown office space rented when the business owners who make lease decisions get their red-light camera and speed-camera tickets in the mail.
UPDATE, 5/10: Jim Maule weighs in on how red-light loot has triggered a Philadelphia fight.
More about red-light cameras here.
Related: How much does the Des Moines City Council hate its voters?
Flickr image courtesy foto footprints under Creative Commons license

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Red-light cameras are for (electoral) losers

Monday, November 22nd, 2010 by Joe Kristan

From Dallasnews.com:

Democrats were not the only losers on Election Day. Traffic cameras designed to catch red-light runners also took a ballot box beating as they were voted down in Houston and at least four other cities nationwide.

Are they paying attention in Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, and Clive?
Via Instapundit.

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Selling Downtown Des Moines, one traffic ticket at a time.

Monday, July 26th, 2010 by Joe Kristan

20100726-1.jpgThe next few years may be tough for downtown Des Moines. Many thousands of square feet of downtown space will become vacant as Wellmark and Aviva move into new space, while struggling Wells Fargo lays off employees by the hundreds.
Well, relax. The Des Moines city council has a cunning plan to make Downtown an attractive place to commute to. How? By setting up speeding cameras on I-235! Just to make downtown even more attractive, they will also set up red-light cameras. Nothing makes somebody want to commute downtown like a $65 ticket for going 66 on an empty highway after working late during tax season, or a $65 ticket for not quite stopping when turning right on red at an empty intersection on the way to that $65 speeding ticket.
Of course, the police say it’s not about the money — it’s about safety. If they were serious about that, they would use the one tried-and-true way to make intersections safer: extending yellow-light times. But that doesn’t raise any revenue, so look for the abominable cameras to show up next year.

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Cedar Rapids hates its citizens

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010 by Joe Kristan

From Radio Iowa:

The grace period for drivers caught on camera running a red light in Cedar Rapids ended Sunday, and they will now be looking at a fine of up to $100. Cedar Rapids police spokesperson, Cristy Hamblin says they been sending out warnings to drivers for the last 30 days to prepare drivers.

Is it about safety? Don’t be silly:

Hamblin says they will be able to view the violation and then decide if they want to pay the ticket or appeal. Hamblin says they have seven more cameras that will be going up. The cameras are expected to bring in around $750,000. Red light cameras are also in use in Sioux City, Council Bluffs, Clive and Davenport.

So if you have to write a $100 check because you didn’t quite stop before turning right on red at an empty intersection in Cedar Rapids, be sure to send a thank you next time you vote.

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Via The Beanwalker.

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Des Moines revenue-camera decision looms

Friday, July 24th, 2009 by Joe Kristan

Why traffic cameras are a crock.
Related: How much does the Des Moines City Council hate its voters?

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When they say it’s not about the money, it’s about the money

Saturday, March 14th, 2009 by Joe Kristan

And the Clive red-light cameras are all about the money.

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