Posts Tagged ‘Renu Zaretsky’

Tax Roundup, 2/8/16: When your password is a key for thieves. And: More Tax Credits!

Monday, February 8th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20150910-2You need more than one password. Another home tax software company reports that its customers may have had their data stolen. Marketwatch.com reports:

In its letter to affected customers, TaxSlayer said it became aware Jan. 13 that hackers had accessed some of its customers’ accounts. The illegal access took place between Oct.10, 2015, and Dec. 21, 2015.

The letter said an “unauthorized third party may have obtained access to any information you included in a tax return or draft tax return saved on TaxSlayer, including your name and address, your Social Security number, the Social Security numbers of your dependents, and other data contained on your 2014 tax return.”

In its statement, TaxSlayer said it doesn’t believe its own systems were breached. Instead, “user credentials, stolen from other sources, were then used to misrepresent our customers and therefore access our program.”

They’re saying that they got passwords from another site and tried them on TaxSlayer, and they worked. That kind of breach is on the user, not the software company.

Reusing passwords is poor data security hygiene. McAfee Software offers some great tips for good passwords. The tips include a list of things people do that make them vulnerable to data theft, including:

Reuse of passwords across multiple sites: Reusing passwords for email, banking, and social media accounts can lead to identity theft. Two recent breaches revealed a password reuse rate of 31% among victims.

If you use different passwords for your different important accounts, one data breach won’t expose your entire financial life.

Related: TaxSlayer data breach is the 3rd tax software-related security issue so far this filing season (Kay Bell)

 

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Brent Willett, Iowa’s next economic frontier (IowaBiz.com). An unintended but useful followup to my IowaBiz post on Friday on the unwisdom of targeted tax credits, the post boosts a proposed new tax credit that I criticized by name. The post touts a new report promising “Fifty thousand jobs” to Iowa if we just enact a new “Bio-Based Chemicals” tax credit.

The post neatly checks off several items I note in my post:

Might these special favors be better for the economy than some farmer or small business who buys a new tractor or machine? You could make that case, but it would be plausible only if these favors were enacted by a process where the state looked at the vast menu of possible industries to support and carefully evaluated which ones were more persuasive. That never happens. Instead, the credits follow the path of the notorious Iowa film industry credits, where an industry gets some legislators and business boosters excited and builds support — sometimes with “studies” funded by booster groups. There is no evaluation of the opportunity costs, of whether the funds would be better used elsewhere.

No comparison to other industry opportunities? Check. Studies funded by booster groups? Check. Ignoring opportunity costs? Check.

I encourage your to read the Willett post and ponder why a government subsidy is needed if the industry is such a slam-dunk.  Also, consider whether you would get the same article by substituting other industries for bio-chemicals in the post.

 

 

Andrew Mitchel: New Expatriate Record for 2015 – Nearly 4,300 Expatriations:

2015 expatriations

“The escalation of offshore penalties over the last 20 years is likely contributing to the increased incidence of expatriation.”

Related: Record Numbers Renounce Their U.S. Citizenship (Robert Wood)

 

Jason Dinesen, Lots and Lots of Scam E-mails this Year. Jason posts many helpful examples. Be very skeptical of emails you don’t expect, and delete any purporting to come from IRS.

Annette Nellen, Ideas for Retirement Savings Reform. “One overall reform Irecommend is to change the focus of retirement plans from the employer to the employee, making them truly portable from job to job and if in employee or contractor status or both.”

Jim Maule, The Biggest Tax Refund?. Overwithholding will do the trick.

Leslie Book, The Limits of the “One Inspection” of Taxpayers’ Books and Records Rule (Procedurally Taxing). “One limitation on IRS powers is the Code itself, as Section 7605(b) provides that ‘only one inspection of a taxpayer’s books of account shall be made for each taxable year unless ․ the [Treasury] Secretary ․ notifies the taxpayer in writing that an additional inspection is necessary.'”

Robert D. Flach, TAX GUIDE FOR NEW HOMEOWNERS

Russ Fox, It Was Only a 13.33% Kickback. A police chief breaks the tax law.

TaxGrrrl, So About Those Cam Newton ‘Sunday Giveaway’ Game Balls…

 

Only the form of your destructor. What Would Be At Stake In A Trump v. Sanders Election? How About $24 Trillion in Tax Revenue (Tony Nitti).

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 1003Day 1004Day 1005

Scott Greenberg, White House Calls for Targeting the Cadillac Tax by Location:

Why would the White House propose changes that would weaken the Cadillac Tax – a central part of the administration’s most significant policy achievement? In fact, these changes might be necessary to secure the continued existence of the tax. The White House has been fighting a losing battle to defend the Cadillac Tax, and these proposed changes may placate some of the tax’s opponents, particularly employers in states with high healthcare costs.

We must destroy the Cadillac Tax to save the Cadillac Tax!

Renu Zaretsky, Budget Hearings, Saving, and Entertaining (TaxVox). “There is almost always something perfunctory about the last budget of an outgoing president, but this year’s will generate even less interest than usual. In the ultimate insult, the GOP-run congressional budget committees won’t even invite White House officials to describe their fiscal plan.” And lots more in today’s TaxVox headline roundup.

I reject this false choice. Kentucky Can Attract Tourists Who Like Bible More Than Bourbon Without Violating First Amendment  (Peter Reilly)

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/5/16: The IRS isn’t a bank, and a 1099 isn’t what makes income taxable. And: oil companies, money trees.

Friday, February 5th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20151217-1Nice Try. The tax law discourages taxpayers from tapping retirement savings too early with a 10% early withdrawal tax. The tax law also allows an above-the-line deduction for penalties imposed by banks for closing out a CD or savings account before maturity.

They aren’t the same thing.

A Mr. Martin learned that lesson this week in Tax Court. He was 54 years old when he pulled out $55,976.29 from his IRA. He reported the 10% penalty tax, but then he also deducted it on line 30 of his 1040 as a “penalty on early withdrawal of savings.”

I can see the logic, as it does look like, well, a penalty on an early withdrawal of savings. But that’s not how the Tax Court sees it (my emphasis):

Martin argues that the additional tax imposed by section 72(t) is deductible under section 62(a)(9). We disagree. Section 62(a)(9) provides a deduction for an amount “forfeited to a bank, mutual savings bank, savings and loan association, building and loan association, cooperative bank or homestead association as a penalty for premature withdrawal of funds from a time savings account, certificate of deposit, or similar class of deposit.” The section 72(t) additional tax is payable to the federal government, not to a “bank” or similar institution listed in section 62(a)(9). Therefore, it is not deductible under section 62(a)(9). Further, the additional tax imposed by section 72(t) is a federal-income tax. Section 275(a)(1) disallows any deductions for “Federal income taxes” (A deduction for certain other taxes, including State income taxes and some other federal taxes, is allowed by section 164(a).).

There was one other problem with the return. He won $1,000 at a casino, an amount arguably below the threshold for which casinos most report gambling winnings on a W2-G. They reported it anyway. Again, the Tax Court:

The casino reported on an information return its $1,000 payment to Martin. Martin argues that, because he earned entries into the lottery by playing slot machines, his gambling winnings should be subject to the $1,200 reporting threshold. Thus, Martin argues, the casino should not have reported the gambling  winnings of $1,000 because the payment fell below the $1,200 reporting-requirement threshold for gambling winnings from slot machines.

Martin assumes that gambling winnings that are not reportable on information returns are not includible in gross income. At trial he said that the IRS is “trying to separate the taxation from the reporting when it is undeniably one and the same”. Martin does not see, or refuses to see, the distinction between information-reporting requirements and the imposition of income tax. Whether the casino was required to report Martin’s winnings is irrelevant to the question of whether his winnings are includible in his gross income. The Internal Revenue Code does not exclude a payment from income when the payment is not large enough to require the payor to report the payment on an information return.

A lot of people think that when something doesn’t show up on an information return, it’s tax-free. It just doesn’t work that way.

Cite: Martin, T.C. Memo. 2016-15

 

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Obama seeks oil tax, destruction of self-driving car industryCNBC reports:

President Barack Obama will propose a $10-per-barrel charge on oil to fund clean transportation projects as part of his final budget request next week, the White House said Thursday.

Oil companies would pay the fee, which would be gradually introduced over five years. The government would use the revenue to help fund high-speed railways, autonomous cars and other travel systems, aiming to reduce emissions from the nation’s transportation system.

“Oil companies would pay the fee.” Such a kidder, that President. Apparently the oil companies will pay it by planting more carbon-absorbing money trees out behind their refineries.

It’s a credit to misguided persistence that the President is still pursuing high-speed passenger rail, an idea that California is busy proving once again to be ridiculously expensive and impractical. And somehow I’d feel much safer in an autonomous car from Google or Apple than one from the the same government that brings us the IRS.

 

Scott Hodge, New IRS Data: Wealthy Paid 55 Percent of Income Taxes in 2014 (Tax Policy Blog).

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“So while many politicians may argue that the wealthy don’t pay their fair share of income taxes, the data simply does not support that opinion.”

 

Russ Fox, Maryland Suspends Processing Tax Returns from 23 Liberty Tax Service Locations:

For consumers, the advice that Maryland noted in their press release is accurate: “Taxpayers should carefully review their returns for these issues and should be suspicious if a preparer: deducts fees from the taxpayer’s refund to be deposited into the tax preparer’s account; does not sign the tax return; or fails to include the Preparer Taxpayer Identification number “PTIN” on the return.” I’ll add, if you don’t own a business and see business income on your return, there’s a problem.

Indeed.

Kay Bell, Lesson from IRS hardware failure: Be prepared for the unexpected during tax filing season. The hardware went back on line yesterday afternoon. 

TaxGrrrl, Update: IRS Website Back Online, Tax Refunds Unaffected

Peter ReillyIRS And The Tea Party – Scandal Enters A New Millennium. Peter observes The TaxProf’s Day 1000 Tea Party Scandal entry.

Keith Fogg, Discharging Late Filed Returns – A Novel but Unsuccessful Approach. “The case shows the creativity that can come into play in the face of very long odds.”

Robert Wood, Bank Julius Baer Hit With $547M Criminal Tax Evasion Penalty, Two Bankers Plead Guilty

 

Me, Tax credits for a few vs. business deductions for everyone. I take my battle against cronyism and for conforming Iowa tax law to 2015 federal changes to IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record Business Professional’s Blog.

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 1,002. Another supposedly-erased hard drive sought by investigators miraculously reappears.

Megan McArdle, Obamacare’s Cadillac Tax Will Not Survive. The way pieces of the machine keep falling off, you might wonder if it wasn’t very well designed.

Renu Zaretsky, A Budget, Capital, Growth, and TransparencyToday’s TaxVox news roundup covers the Obama oil fee, last night’s Sanders-Clinton debate, and lots more.

News from the Profession. Lying About Your Financial Statements Being Audited Still Frowned Upon (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/4/16. Confirmed: Governor opposes coupling to ALL 2015 changes. And: Are hipsters really flocking downtown?

Thursday, February 4th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

coupling20160129Worst Iowa tax policy decision ever. Governor Branstad doesn’t want to conform Iowa’s tax law to any of the extender provisions passed in December for 2015. A reliable source has confirmed our earlier report that the Governor wants to skip coupling entirely for 2015, and then conform to everything except Section 179 and bonus depreciation in 2016 and beyond.

It’s bad enough that he doesn’t want to conform with the $500,000 federal Section 179 for the first time in years — imposing a big tax increase on small businesses and farmers in every county. But conforming to nothing means a whole host of separate Iowa computations for 2015 returns — and 2015 only. Without spending a lot of time, I come up with these:

Exclusion for IRA contributions to charity
Exclusion of gain from qualified small business stock
Basis adjustment for S corporation charitable contributions
Built-in gain tax five-year recognition period
Educator expense deduction
Exclusion of home mortgage debt forgiveness
Qualified tuition deduction
Conservation easement deductions
Deduction for food inventory contributions

I have asked the Department of Revenue for a complete list of affected provisions, and I will provide it if they send one.

These will have effects on thousands of taxpayers ranging from minor annoyance and more expensive tax compliance to major unexpected Iowa tax expense. To take a common example, the exclusion fo IRA contributions to charity allows taxpayers aged 70 1/2 or older to have their IRAs make contributions to charity directly. This means the contributions bypass their federal 1040s altogether. But for Iowa, the Governor would have the IRA holder include the contribution in taxable income and then, presumably, add it to their itemized deductions — if the taxpayer itemizes in the first place.

Some of these can be very costly. For example, the exclusion of gain for qualifying C corporation stock sales can apply to up to $10 million of capital gain. The exclusion benefits start-up businesses, which Iowa allegedly supports with at least four separate tax credits. Failure to couple would clobber a $10 million 2015 gain with an unexpected $898,000 tax bill.

There is bipartisan support for coupling with all federal provisions other than bonus depreciation for 2015. The Iowa House of Representatives has already passed such a bill on a bipartisan 82-14 vote. But Governor Branstad and Senate Majority Leader Gronstal have apparently reached a little bipartisan deal of their own to keep the Senate from ever voting on 2015 conformity. The Senate tax committee meeting yesterday was cancelled, which I hope means the Senate leadership is getting pressure to back off this stupid policy.

If you are affected, or if your clients are (they are), I encourage you to let your Iowa Senator know how you feel.

Related Coverage:

Iowa House passes $500,000 Section 179, but prospects bleak in Senate.

Iowa Governor reportedly opposes 2015 coupling for anything.

Branstad budget omits $500,000 Section 179 deduction for Iowa; no 2015 conformity.

 

20130218-1What do you mean, IBM doesn’t stock the vacuum tubes anymore? IRS Systems Outage Shuts Down Tax Processing (Accounting Today):

The Internal Revenue Service said Wednesday evening its tax-processing systems have suffered a hardware failure and that tax processing could be affected into Thursday.

“The IRS experienced a hardware failure this afternoon affecting a number of tax processing systems, which are currently unavailable,” said the IRS. “Several of our systems are not currently operating, including our modernized e-file system and a number of other related systems. The IRS is currently in the process of making repairs and working to restore normal operations as soon as possible. We anticipate some of the systems will remain unavailable until tomorrow.”

The IRS says it’s confident that it will have the system restored by the weekend and that any refund delays will be minor.

Related: IRS Having One of Those Days (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern); TaxGrrrl, IRS Website Hit With Hardware Failure, Some Refund & Payment Tools Unavailable.

 

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Jason Dinesen, The Iowa Trust Fund Tax Credit is $0 for 2015

Robert Wood, Perfectly Legal Tax Write-off? Lawyer Fees — Even $1,200 An Hour

Russ Fox, A Tale of Three States. “Hawaii, Indiana, and Mississippi are three states where daily fantasy sports (DFS) is being debated. The three states are representative of what is likely to occur in every state.”

Keith Fogg, Verification of Bankruptcy Action in a Collection Due Process Case (Procedurally Taxing). “Because Appeals employees often have very little knowledge of bankruptcy, this case points out the need to pay careful attention in CDP cases that follow bankruptcy actions and challenge verifications where the Appeals employee fails to acknowledge the impact of the bankruptcy case.”

Bob Vineyard, Aetna Not Pulling Plug on Obamacare …. Yet (InsureBlog). Many Iowans get coverage through Aetna’s Coventry unit. But as the company expects to lose $1 billion over two years on Exchange policies, their willingness to continue to provide ACA – compliant policies on the exchange will be sorely tried.

Jack Townsend, Another Taxpayer Guilty Plea for Offshore Account Misbehavior

Peter Reilly, Tax Dependency Exemptions For Noncustodial Parents – It Is All About Form 8332. It really is. Form 8332 provides a way for couples to continue fighting long after the divorce is final.

Jim Maule, “Can a Clone Qualify as a Qualifying Child or Qualifying Relative?”

 

Scott Greenberg, The Tax Benefits of Having an Additional Child (Tax Policy Blog). In case your decision hinges on this.

Renu Zaretsky, Debates, Energy, Credits and PrepToday’s TaxVox roundup covers tonight’s Democratic Debate, energy tax policy, and a shutdown of 26 Liberty Tax franchise operations in Maryland.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 1,001

 

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Is Hip, Cool Des Moines Really Attracting Migrants? (Lyman Stone). I haven’t seen any local media pick this up, but this is a fascinating look at migration and population patterns Downtown and across Polk County. It is inspired by the recent Politico piece on how hip and all we are (emphasis in original):

In fact, throughout the article, there’s an interesting claim made that the population of downtown Des Moines has risen from 1,000 at some unspecified time in the 1990s, to at least over 10,000 as of 2016. In fact, throughout the article, there’s an interesting claim made that the population of downtown Des Moines has risen from 1,000 at some unspecified time in the 1990s, to at least over 10,000 as of 2016.

The claim turns out to be exaggerated, but only a little:

Downtown Des Moines probably did not gain 10,000 residents from the late 1990s to 2016, nor does it seem likely that it had just 1,000 residents at any time in the last few decades. However, that doesn’t mean the essential claims of Woodard’s story are wrong. Au contraire, Des Moines has gained about 10,000 people since 2000, and has about 9,000 more people than we would expect had 1987 growth rates continued. That’s a meaningful acceleration in urban growth, and a significant number have been headed to the very center of the city.

It’s a great read with some surprising observations about how suburban and downtown growth complement each other.

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Tax Roundup, 2/3/2016: Should tax pros cheer tax complexity? And: 1000 Days of TaxProf scandal coverage.

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2016 by Joe Kristan
Remember, nobody else at the firm ever agrees with me.

Remember, nobody else at the firm ever agrees with me.

Am I more important than you? Yesterday’s post, where I left enough clues to enable people to determine which (losing) candidate I supported at the Iowa Caucuses, provoked this comment:

You voted for Rand Paul? Rand Paul who wants to pass a flat tax and put all the tax professionals out of business?

It’s a statement that verifies the darkest suspicions one might have of the tax profession.  Unless, of course, the commenter, who has “CPA” on his post name, is being sarcastic.

There is certainly a case to be made that an income tax like the one we have is the best way to raise revenue. You could make an honest case also that it is wise to use the tax law to achieve non-tax social goals. While I would disagree, such arguments have a long tradition and reasonable intellectual underpinnings. There’s an argument that in a complex economy, we should expect a complex tax system, and the need to hire tax professionals is a collateral cost to achieve a greater benefit.

But that’s not what the commenter is saying. He is saying that ensuring the ability of tax professionals to make a living off the tax system should be a policy goal. If he means more, he leaves it out; that’s the entire comment.

Sometimes taking an argument to its logical conclusion helps shed light on a system. What if we could magically create a tax system that would grow the economy by a million extra well-paying jobs a year, but was so easy to administer and comply with that it would eliminate the jobs of all 674,686 IRS- registered tax professionals? Oh, and it would cure cancer, too. An objective observer would choose the magical system, and would rightly regard any tax preparer who fought against it to preserve his own job as a monster.

The interest of tax preparers, while obviously important to me, can never be the primary concern of tax policy. Otherwise you would argue for ever-more complex taxes and ever-higher rates to make it harder to do without us. Considering the embarrassment of riches our current tax system offers to those of us who feast on complexity, arguing for more is both unconscionable and redundant.

That gets me back to Mr. Paul, who, according to my Twitter feed, will leave the race today. His tax proposal is a version of a consumption tax that, according to the Tax Foundation’s dynamic projections, would both reduce the budget deficit and grow the economy. It is the only plan that would do both. In contrast, the Bernie Sanders plan would do awful things to the economy, but it would sure make tax preparers more valuable. While people I respect support Sanders for reasons I find incomprehensible, none of them do so to make a living off of forced extractions from others.taxplanchart

Everybody who does tax for a living does so knowing that a stroke of the pen could put us out of business. My dentist taunted me with this observation before I even started my first tax job. I have always set my lifestyle and expectations accordingly. While I’ve made a living off the tax law, the world certainly doesn’t owe it to me, or to anyone else.

 

Kyle Pomerleau, Scott Greenberg, How Danish is Bernie Sanders’s Tax Plan? (Tax Policy Blog):

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But it would be great for tax pros!

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 1,000. Thanks to Paul Caron for his persistence in paying attention to the past and continuing IRS abuse of power.

William Perez, 8 Reasons to Ask the IRS for a Tax Extension. Always better to extend than amend.

Peter Reilly, Tax Dependency Exemptions For Noncustodial Parents – It Is All About Form 8332

Robert Wood, Winner Of $1.6 Billion Powerball Jackpot Sued By Prisoner

TaxGrrrl, Congressman’s Son Sentenced To Five Years In Prison On Fraud & Tax Charges. Maybe he’ll meet a Powerball winner.

 

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David Brunori, Paying for Past Sins (Tax Analysts Blog) “The Jindal administration pushed tax cuts without paying for them. It then tried to address the ensuing budget problems with a barrage of gimmicks. For that, the citizens of Louisiana are likely to pay a price.”

Jeremy Scott, Ted Cruz’s Iowa Win Not a Victory for a VAT (Tax Analysts Blog). “Cruz may have a radical tax program, but it hasn’t been a big piece of his campaign.”

Renu Zaretsky, What’s so funny about taxes, love, and solidarity? “Would Americans pay higher taxes with as much love and solidarity for the people of Flint as they donate water? And would my fellow Michigan neighbors pay up, given that state government appointees and representatives caused the problem and then covered it up?” Not to mention the local one-party regime that triggered the crisis in the first place.

News from the Profession. Take the Going Concern Reader Survey (Going Concern).

Kay Bell, North Pole decides to tax marijuana. Maybe that’s why Santa is so jolly.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/29/16: Iowa House passes $500,000 Section 179, but prospects bleak in Senate. And: Iowa may give guy a break.

Friday, January 29th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today visitors: Click here to go directly to the newsletter link on cheaper returns.

coupling20160129Accelerating to a stop. When a household is short of cash, the family usually spends less. Iowa has a different approach. They pick your pocket.

The Iowa House of Representatives yesterday voted 82-14 to retroactively couple with all of the 2015 federal tax law changes except bonus depreciation (HF 2092, formerly HSB 535). This would allow Iowa businesses to deduct up to $500,000 in annual purchases of otherwise-depreciable fixed assets under Section 179. Governor Branstad’s budget would limit the deduction to $25,000 — an unexpected departure from Iowa law for the past several years and a significant tax increase.

You would think that an overwhelming bipartisan vote in favor of the $500,000 version would foreshadow quick passage by the Senate. Alas, no.

I talked to some legislators yesterday when I participated in the Iowa Society of CPAs annual Day on the Hill. It appears that Governor Branstad and Senate Majority Leader Gronstal have a little bipartisan deal of their own to kill Section 179 coupling.

That’s not how Sen. Gronstal explains it. From the Quad City Times:

Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said his majority caucus would consider what the House passed, but he expressed doubt about moving ahead with a concept at variance with the governor given a similar course of action last session for education funded ended with a gubernatorial veto.

“I don’t like doing things that I know will get a certain veto,” Gronstal said. “That doesn’t seem to me to make a lot of sense. The governor doesn’t have this in his budget.”

I came away understanding that the voice of the majority caucus is really the voice of Sen. Gronstal, and that Section 179 coupling will never come up for a vote in the Senate. I assume it is because both the Governor and the Majority Leader want the money for their own priorities: more cronyist tax credits for Gov. Branstad, and more spending for Sen. Gronstal.

That’s a crummy deal for the thousands of small businesses that suddenly will see a big unanticipated tax increase. It also seems like a deal that would be vulnerable to an insiders vs. Main Street challenge. The tax credits that the Governor wants to fund go to a narrow set of taxpayers. For example, in 2014 $42.1 million of refundable research credits went to 16 big taxpayers. That’s almost enough to pay for half of Section 179 coupling $90 million cost by itself.

Here is the complete menu of incentive and economic development tax credits in the Governor’s budget:

Iowa credits fy 2017

The refundable sales tax credit goes largely to the big data center companies Facebook, Microsoft and Google. The Enterprise Zone Housing credit and High Quality Jobs credits are big company credits that you have to through the economic development bureaucracy to cash in on. The rest of the credits are mostly for favored industries who get breaks unavailable to the much larger universe of other businesses that have to pay full freight.

It might still be possible to get the Governor and/or the Majority leader to see things differently. That will require taxpayers and practitioners to convince their legislators that small businesses and farmers shouldn’t have to stand in line behind insiders.

It’s not clear to me what form the extension will take under the Governor’s program. I was unable to confirm whether the Senate will skip 2015 conformity entirely, as outlined in Sen. Anderson’s newsletter. I have inquiries in.

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Des Moines Register, Iowa agrees to review man’s $5,000 tax refund request. Some good news in the story we mentioned yesterday of the retired maintenance man who inadvertently conceded to a $5,000 liability he didn’t owe.

 

It’s serious. You know tax season is truly underway when Robert D. Flach posts his last Buzz roundup before disappearing into his hive to make his artisanal hand-crafted 1040s. Im starting to think Robert isn’t Donald Trump’s biggest fan.

TaxGrrrl live-blogged the GOP debate last night. I just did a drive-by, myself. Literally; I drove past the venue on my way home last night. No, I didn’t have it on the radio.

Robert Wood, What To Do If IRS Form 1099 Reports More Than You Received

Peter Reilly, Tax Foundation Analysis Of Sanders Plan Only Shows Downside. On the plus side, you could worry less about your investments, as you wouldn’t have as many.

Jason Dinesen, Having Negative Taxable Income Doesn’t Mean the Government Pays You Extra

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Scott Greenberg, The Sanders Tax Plan Would Make the U.S. Tax Rate on Capital Gains the Highest in the Developed World (Tax Policy Blog).

Renu Zaretsky, No Trump, No Problem. The TaxVox headline roundup today covers Google’s tax travails, “tampon taxes,” and candidate tax plans.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 995

News from the Profession. Life at EY Involves Food, Technical Difficulties (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/28/16: Iowa Governor reportedly opposes 2015 coupling for anything. And: Ethanol execs accused of payroll tax crimes.

Thursday, January 28th, 2016 by Joe Kristan


couplingNo 2015 coupling at all? 
I had been under the impression that Governor Branstad’s budget proposal would not couple Iowa’s tax law for the $500,000 Section 179 limit or bonus depreciation, but would couple otherwise. A newsletter from Northwest Iowa Senate Republican Bill Anderson says I was mistaken:

Last week we learned Governor Branstad’s budget supports updating Iowa tax law to conform with changes in the Internal Revenue Code that resulted from federal legislation enacted during 2015. With three significant exceptions:

1. No tax year 2015 coupling. Meaning most of the changes are effective for federal tax purposes beginning in tax year 2015, the bill will not incorporate recent federal changes until tax year 2016. (Items that may impact you are: deduction for state and local sales taxes, above the line deduction for teacher classroom expenses ($250), above the line deduction for qualified tuition and related expenses, discharge of indebtedness on principal residence excluded from gross income.) The estimated fiscal impact of these changes in total is minimal compared to Section 179.

2. No section 179 expensing for tax year 2015 now or into the future, and

3. No bonus depreciation for now or into the future.

The newsletter also provides some detail of the fiscal impact of coupling:

Estimates project just coupling with Section 179 for one year is an approximate $90 million decrease in FY 2016 budget and a revenue increase in FY 2017 estimated roughly to be more than $20 million

This is a lot of money, but it’s a lot less than the $277.3 million the Governor proposes to spend next year on targeted tax credits. While Section 179 benefits business in every county regardless of whether they hire lobbyists or consultants, the targeted tax credits go to big taxpayers and insiders who know how to work the system. We’ll see which constituency is more important to the General Assembly.

Today is the Iowa Society of CPA’s “Day on the hill.” I will be there pushing for coupling. I will confirm the no-coupling-for 2015 report. I also hope to find out whether Senate Democrats have any interest in Section 179 coupling. The Republican House is expected to pass a bill (HSB 535) with Section 179 coupling (Update, 9:44 am: Full 2015 coupling (except bonus depreciation) passed in the House this morning, 82-14).

Related: Eye on the Legislature 2016.

 

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It’s an awful idea to “borrow” payroll taxes. Iowa Businessmen Indicted for Failing to Pay Employment Taxes (Department of Justice Press Release):

Randy Less, 48, of Hopkinton, Iowa, and Darrell Smith, 59, of Forest City, Iowa, are each charged with multiple counts of willfully failing to truthfully account for, and pay over federal income, social security and Medicare taxes that were withheld from the wages of the employees of Permeate Refining Inc., which was in the business of ethanol production.

According to the allegations in the indictment, Less was the majority owner, a general partner and the general manager of Permeate Refining Inc. in Hopkinton.  In those roles, Less had the responsibility to collect, truthfully account for and pay over to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) federal income, social security and Medicare taxes withheld from the wages of his employees.  From approximately the fourth quarter of 2009 and continuing through the fourth quarter of 2010, Less is alleged to have willfully failed to pay over to the IRS more than $116,000 in withheld taxes.

The indictment further alleges that a company called Algae Energae purchased an ownership interest in Permeate in September 2009.  After that purchase, it is alleged that Smith, a corporate officer and manager of Algae Energae, also had the responsibility to collect, truthfully account for and pay over to the IRS taxes withheld from the wages of Permeate’s employees.  From approximately the first quarter of 2011 and continuing through the third quarter of 2012, both Less and Smith are alleged to have willfully failed to pay over to the IRS more than $307,000 in withheld taxes.

The IRS has resorted increasingly to criminal charges when payroll taxes go unpaid for a long time. While the defendants in this case are presumed innocent unless and until the IRS proves its case in court, the indictment reminds us that failing to remit payroll taxes is serious business. If you find yourself having to choose who to pay, remember that only the tax man has badges and guns, and that their liability doesn’t go away in bankruptcy.

 

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Robert D. Flach, WHO MUST FILE A 2015 TAX RETURN

TaxGrrrl, ‘Bug’ Exposes Uber Driver’s Tax Info, Including Name and Social Security Number

Kay Bell, Uber oops: driver’s tax info exposed on ride share site

Jack Townsend, More on the U.S. as the World’s Tax Haven

 

David Brunori, Most People Lose When Pols Pick Winners and Losers (Tax Analysts Blog). “Tax systems should have as little impact on economic decision-making as possible.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 994

Alan Cole, New CBO Report Shows Declining Share of C Corporations (Tax Policy Blog):

entity filings chart

Some businesses (but not all businesses, just those with a disfavored legal structure) pay a 35% rate at the entity level, followed by taxes of up to 23.8% at the shareholder level. Others, like partnerships and sole proprietorships, have taxes paid by their owners commensurate with their owners’ income in a single layer of taxation. Of course nobody wants to be a C corporation.

And yet certain politicians tell us that we just need to continue the beatings until corporate morale improves.

Renu Zaretsky, When Sharing is Caring… or Scary. Today’s TaxVox roundup covers candidate tax plans, Google and Facebook taxes, and more.

News from the Profession. I Am a Millennial Accountant, and I Hate Accounting (Chris Hooper, Going Concern)

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Tax Roundup, 1/25/16: Four steps to a quicker, cheaper 1040. And: ID theft – prevention vs. punishment.

Monday, January 25th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

1040 corner 2015How to make your tax return cheaper. If you don’t have all of your 1099s, brokerage statements and so on, there’s a good chance you’ll have them by the end of the week (but if you’re waiting on K-1s, forget it). Then you will want to send it all to your tax pro and get it back right away. If you want to get it back quickly, and keep your fee down, the best way is to provide everything your tax pro needs the first time.

Every time we have to ask you a question or track down a document, it slows things down, and the fees start to creep up. Here are a few things taxpayers commonly forget to do or include.

Go through the tax organizer and at least answer the questions. Many taxpayers just return a blank organizer with their 1099s. That’s unwise. The question part is there for a reason. For example, it identifies life events that don’t show up on 1099s or W-2s. Once a client mentioned his wife in a phone conversation. I had improperly prepared returns for him as single for two years. Of course, the “change in marital status” question on the questionnaire had been returned unanswered on his blank organizer both years.

Double-check your estimated tax payments. The standard answer tax pros get from taxpayers who return blank organizers is “I sent in all the payments you said on the dates you said.” And sometimes that’s actually true, but quite often it isn’t. That leads to IRS notices, tax penalties and extra tax pro fees. Go through your check register and bank statements and write down the actual dates and amounts on the organizer — or send copies of the cancelled checks from your statements.

Spend a few minutes culling your information. You don’t want to pay your tax pro to dig through your utility bills, cable provider statements, and junk mail to find your charitable contributions and information returns. Clear out the junk before you bring it in.

Make sure your contact information is current. If we do have to ask you questions, it’s a lot easier if we have your current email address and the right cell phone number.

This is the first of our 2016 filing season tips. Look for these occasionally until April, when they will come thick and fast. 

Related: Robert D. Flach, DON’T BE IN SUCH A HURRY – BUT DON’T WAIT UNTIL THE LAST MINUTE. “I have a strict long-standing rule that all returns that are not literally in my hands, with all the necessary information, by March 19th will be automatically extended!”

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Jim Maule, Will Providing a Driver’s License Number Reduce Tax Return Identity Theft?:

The problem is two-fold. On one side, better systems of identification are necessary, and need to be based on information that is not as easily stolen. Databases need to be secured more carefully than at present. On the other side, identity thieves and those thinking of engaging in that behavior need to be presented with changes in their risk analysis. Not only are better methods required to track them down, they also need to face more severe consequences for their behavior.

I think the penalties in place are already severe enough. The problem is that it is too easy to steal tax refunds. The grifters that go in for identity theft aren’t known for impulse control or careful weighing of benefits and costs. They just know that with the right personal information and a copy of Turbotax, they can make prepaid debit cards rain on their mailboxes. And, of course, the overseas crime syndicates don’t care about the penalties, because they are unlikely to ever face them.

It’s much more important to improve IRS procedures to thwart I.D. theft in the first place. The IRS is finally taking needed steps here, but lots of horses are already out of the barn.

TaxGrrrl, 11 Tips To Protect You From Identity Theft & Related Tax Fraud

 

Russ Fox, An Entity a Day Will Keep the IRS Away, Right? “Here’s a scheme that’s sure to work to avoid remitting payroll taxes to the IRS. Every day (or week or month), I’ll form a new business entity that’s collecting the tax. Once the amount due to the IRS gets large, I’ll just use a new entity. The IRS will never catch on, right?” As Russ explains, wrong.

Kay Bell, Taxpayers want up-front pricing from paid tax preparers.

William Perez, Taxes When Hiring Household Help

Matt McKinney, Anonymous ownership in an Iowa LLC (IowaBiz.com).

Jack Townsend, More on Transparency for Entities Acquiring Valuable Real Estate in Some U.S. Markets

Robert Wood, Trump Is Unapologetically Aggressive On Taxes, Like Buffett And Bono. All the sort of folks who are happy to increase taxes, on other people.

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Kadri Kallas-Zelek, Incorrect Claims for Earned Income Tax Credits Are Likely to Become More Costly (Tax Policy Blog). “The IRS estimates that for the fiscal year 2013, improper payments from EITC amounted to $13.3 to $15.6 billion, or 22 to 26 percent of total EITC payments.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 989Day 990Day 991. Hard drives as doggie treats.

Renu Zaretsky, Snow, Settlements, and Sales Taxes. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers Snowzilla, online sales tax cheats, and Oregon liquor taxes, among other things.

Matt GardnerAdobe Shifts Hundreds of Millions Offshore, Revealing, Like PDF Documents, Its Profits Are Portable Too (Tax Justice Blog). For some reason, this only inspires the Tax Justice folks to do what’s failing more and harder.

 

Career Corner. Let’s Review: Deloitte Demotivation, Denim, Bad Managers (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/21/16: Defying Governor, House conformity bill includes $500,000 Section 179 limit.

Thursday, January 21st, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20151118-1Reason to hope, reasons to despair. The Iowa House Ways and Means Chairman introduced a “code conformity” bill yesterday (HSB 535) that includes the federal $500,000 Section 179 limit. This defies the wishes of Governor Branstad, who says the state can’t afford the expanded deduction. He would only allow a $25,000 deduction for asset purchases that would otherwise have to be capitalized and depreciated.

The bill, as expected, does not adopt bonus depreciation for Iowa.

The Section 179 conformity proposal is is good news. It appears that Ways and Means Republicans sense that their business and farm constituents won’t appreciate a big tax increase, especially in a year that looks like it will be a down year around the state. Now attention will turn to the Senate, where Democratic Majority Leader Gronstal controls what legislation reaches the floor. If he supports the legislation, it is likely to pass. The Governor would probably be able to kill it with a veto, but would he?

That brings up my first reason to despair. Unless the Governor backs down or some compromise is reached, the conformity bill is likely to be delayed. Affected taxpayers will have to wait to file their 2015 Iowa returns until they know what the tax law is; if they guess wrong, they will incur the expense of amending their returns. It compresses the filing season into an ever-narrower window and delays refunds.

The biggest issue is likely to be the budget impact. While I haven’t seen a current figure, last year’s Section 179 conformity bill was estimated to reduce state revenues by $88.5 million.

capitol burning 10904I certainly have a list of possible pay-fors, starting with the newest proposed credit, a $10 million  “renewable biochemical tax credit” (SSB 3001). It is refundable, meaning it isn’t just a tax reduction, but an actual cash subsidy to taxpayers whose credit exceeds their Iowa tax. That easily could happen, as it is based on pounds of qualifying stuff produced. It will only go to taxpayers who “enter into an agreement” with the economic development administration. In other words, for insiders who know where to pull strings.

And here is another reason to despair. It appears this new boondoggle is going to slide right on through. From the Des Moines Register (my emphasis):

More than a dozen lobbyists representing businesses, farm organizations, economic development groups and other expressed support, and there was no opposition. Gov. Terry Branstad has listed renewable chemical manufacturing tax credits as a key item in his 2016 legislative agenda.

Under the bill, the maximum amount of state tax credits available annually to any one business for the production of renewable chemicals would be either $1 million or $500,000, depending how long the company has operated in Iowa.

Even Mark Chelgren (R-Ottumwa), who has in the past voted against corporate welfare tax credits, is on board with this one.

It will be very difficult to get the Governor to go along with the higher Section 179 limits without spending or tax credit cuts to offset the revenue loss. The Governor seems dead set against cutting cronyist tax credits. If the legislature agrees with him, Section 179 has a very difficult fight this session. Failure to adopt the federal Section 179 limit would represent a triumph of a handful of insiders over the businesses and farms in every county that would have their taxes increased to pay for subsidies.

 

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Iowa increases security to prevent tax fraud (thegazette.com):

The Iowa Department of Revenue has upped its security game after seeing more than 10,000 fraudulent tax returns last year.

This tax season, the agency will use technology to better track fraudsters, validate bank accounts before making direct deposits and share information with the IRS, other states, software providers and banks.

The story says Iowa stopped $11.6 million in fake refund claims last year on 10,600 fraudulent returns.

 

Hank Stern, O’Care in Real Life (InsureBlog):

So, one of my small group clients just lost the last person on his group plan. It had gotten so expensive that no one could really afford to stay on it. Shopping around didn’t help: everything we looked at was at least as expensive for comparable benefits. And the plan was pretty much bare-bones, not a lot of fat to trim.

Tom has been a client – and friend – for almost 30 years. A small business owner, he was proud to be able to offer his employees coverage. Now that’s gone.

He said “If you like your plan, you can keep your plan.” He didn’t say you could afford it.

Kristine Tidgren, Farm Lease Questions Often Arise This Time of Year (Ag Docket)

Robert D. Flach, A VERY IMPORTANT REMINDER. “Don’t listen to a broker, a banker, an insurance salesman, or your Uncle Charlie!   You wouldn’t ask your butcher for a medical opinion, so why would you accept tax advice from your MD?”

Keith Fogg, Public Policy Cases Accepted by the Taxpayer Advocate Service (Procedurally Taxing). “If you have an issue that raises policy issues for a group of taxpayers, you can bring this to the attention of the NTA in hopes that it will make the policy list and open the doors to TAS assistance.”

Paul Neiffer, Top 10 Reasons You Might Need Accrual Accounting. “Although this list is designed to be humorous, the reality is that all farmers should consider using accrual accounting to manage their farm operation.”

Kay Bell, Smooth tax season start? Not for some TaxAct users. “Just a few days before the filing season and Free File opened for business, the tax software manufacturer sent a letter to about 450 customers, notifying them of a data breach.”

Jack Townsend, Should Proof of No Tax Evaded Be Admissible as Defense in Crime Not Requiring Tax Evaded as an Element

 

Tony Nitti, An Ode To Tax Season: How To Bid Farewell To Your Family.

Tax season is here. Tax season is the worst. But don’t just abandon your family for the next three months with no explanation; make them aware of the series of mistakes that were set into motion long ago that led you to this self-imposed hell. And tell them with rhymes! 

That may be why my grown kid is a musician, and the high schooler wants to be one.

 

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David Brunori, Good Government Developments in the Tax World (Tax Analysts Blog). No Iowa items make the list.

David Henderson, The Economics of the Cadillac Health Care Tax, Part IPart II. “But now that I have done a more careful analysis with some plausible numbers, I am seriously undecided.”

Kyle Pomerleau, Senator Hatch To Introduce Corporate Integration Plan (Tax Policy Blog). “Not only does the double tax on equity investment increase the cost of capital, it creates economic distortions. The most obvious one is the distortion towards debt-financed investments.”

Renu Zaretsky, Market Woes and the Price of Breaks. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers stupid things from proposed financial transaction taxes to the ongoing Kansas budget and tax policy disaster.

 

Robert Wood, IRS Wipes Another Hard Drive Defying Court Order…But You Must Keep Tax Records. Darn right, peasant!

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 987.

 

Career Corner. Stop Doing Other People’s Work Because It Saves Time (Leona May, Going Concern). A classic symptom of Senior Accountant’s Disease.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/19/16: Thieves holiday! Filing season underway today.

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

1040 corner 2015It begins. The official start of filing season is today. That means the IRS will begin processing electronic return filings today. That doesn’t mean all that much.

Well, it means something to the people most eager to file 2015 1040s: the identity thieves. They don’t have to wait on real W-2s and other information returns, most of which don’t have to be provided to recipients before February 1. The thieves like to file right away, before the real taxpayers e-file and block them.

It means something to earned income tax credit fraudsters. Claiming a little qualifying income on a phony schedule C is standard operating practice for EITC scams, and you can file in a hurry when you just are making it up.

For most other taxpayers, the opening of filing season is a non-event. They are still waiting on the W-2s, their 1098s for their home mortgage interest, and their 1099s for interest and dividends. Especially dividends, as the big brokerage houses routinely get extensions for issuing their 1099s, and then issue amended ones anyway. And K-1s for partnerships and S corporations often aren’t even ready by the filing deadline.

The information return wait will be longer for many of us this year. This is the first year many businesses are required to issue 1095-Bs and 1095-Cs to report health care coverage to their employees under the Affordable Care Act. These forms are supposed to enable employees to determine their coverage credits and penalties. When it became clear that many employers would be unable to meet the deadline for completing these complex forms, the IRS rolled back their deadlines. The IRS says employees can file their 1040s using “other information” to compute their ACA taxes and credits, but we don’t know yet if people will try.

Don’t be hasty. It is unwise to try to file returns before you have all of your information returns. Especially don’t try to file using your last pay stub instead of your W-2. You’ll probably get it wrong. Worse, if your employer is participating in a new IRS program where W-2s get a unique anti-theft ID number, you’ll delay your refund.

This convicted ID thief likely was a first-day filer.

This convicted ID thief likely was a first-day filer.

It’s better to extend than amend. Whatever benefit you get from filing your return a little sooner, it is lost if you have to file an amended return for a corrected 1099, or for one you didn’t expect that showed up late.

You can file a FAFSA using estimated amounts. One of the biggest causes for taxpayer impatience is the need for tax return information to complete their “Free Application for Federal Student Aid,” which asks for numbers off the 1040. But the FAFSA allows you to use estimates if you haven’t filed your 1040. If you are awaiting a K-1, you’re better off filing your FAFSA based on an estimate than hounding the tax preparer to file a 1040 with incomplete information.

The system should change. Allowing e-filing before any of the information return deadlines almost seems to be a special IRS fraud-filing feature. Given the identity theft epidemic, it’s irresponsible for IRS to be sending billions to grifters before they can cross check returns against third-party information. The third-party filings should have unique identifiers for taxpayers to use to show that they aren’t ID thieves.

The culture should change. Everybody gets excited about a big refund. That just means you gave the government a big interest free loan. Withholding tables should be modified to not generate big refunds, to reduce the pressure for rapid refunds. Penalty thresholds for underpayment should be lowered so that taxpayers accidentally underwithheld aren’t clobbered. People shouldn’t think it’s good to let the Leviathan have their extra cash.

Related: 

TaxGrrrl, Another State Puts Brakes On Tax Refunds, Citing Concerns About Identity Theft;

Accounting Today, IRS Launches Free File for New Season.

Russ Fox, Same as Last Year Doesn’t Work. “Robert Flach has a post today where he notes the information that’s needed to prepare a tax return. I don’t have much to add to his excellent list (though I do need to see your W-2Gs, too).”

 

Enjoying a short Des Moines winter commute.

Enjoying a short Des Moines winter commute.

Gazette.comGeorgia man linked to 2014 UNI data breach charged with tax fraud:

A Georgia man linked to a University of Northern Iowa data breach in 2014 has been charged with tax fraud in federal court.

Bernard Ogie Oretekor, 45, also known as Emmanuel Libs, was charged last week with theft of government property and aggravated identity theft.

How did a Georgia man from Nigeria get past the IRS? It apparently isn’t too hard:

The California indictment shows Oretekor and his co-defendant sent victim’s “phishing” emails to capture their usernames and account passwords. When victims clicked on the link in the phishing emails it sent them to a fraudulent website and when they logged in their usernames and passwords were captured, which allowed the defendants to access the victims’ accounts.

Be smart. I’ve never seen a real email that requires you to “update your information” for your bank, credit card, etc. Don’t click on links from emails you aren’t expecting, and don’t provide information to them. If you really need to check your information, close the email and go to the actual bank or vendor website directly.

 

Robert D. Flach has a wintry Tuesday Buzz! Bartering, bad taxpayer service, and much more.

William Perez, Can Two Taxpayers Claim Head of Household Status at the Same Address?

Robert Wood, Goldman Sachs’ Historic $5 Billion Settlement Has Silver Lining: Tax Deduction

Kay Bell, Lotteries aren’t budget bonanzas for states

Congratulations to a longtime Iowa Business Blogger. 2016 Brings 10th Anniversary of Rush on Business

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 985

Cara Griffith, Why the Minnesota Tax Court Is Making Me Paranoid:

Here’s my concern: In doing regular research, staff at Tax Analysts realized that the Minnesota Tax Court hadn’t published any new opinions to its website in several months. That is odd, so an inquiry was sent to the court to ask if the location of published opinions had changed or if the court had stopped publishing opinions.

The court responded that its website was under construction and that recent tax court decisions could be found on Westlaw. Eventually it added that a paralegal would attend to the request – next week.

That’s sad and lame. And, as Ms. Griffith points out, Westlaw is expensive. Here in Iowa, the Department of Revenue hasn’t put new rulings online since November 5, and now their new ruling website appears to have blown up. Here’s how it looks this morning:

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Oops.

 

Renu Zaretsky, All’s fair in debates and taxes…. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers how taxpayers will feel the Bern, the attempt to subvert Colorado’s taxpayer protections, and much more.

 

News from the Profession. In 2016, The War Rages On for All the Management Accountants (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/15/16: Tax credits and their opportunity costs. And: a turnaround in IRS service!

Friday, January 15th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

haroldReport: Tax credit for me would benefit me. Report: Tax credit would help Iowa biochemical industry (Des Moines Register).

The argument that this industry, above the thousands of industries out there, deserves funding at the expense of other businesses in the state, and that Iowa’s elected officials are just the ones to figure that out, is hard to credit. It might almost be plausible if it came at the end of a careful and systematic process where the state looked at all of the possible industries that would be good for the state to have and then carefully selected finalists based on objective and unbiased review.

That never happens.

Instead, the Bio-renewables credit is following a path blazed by the film industry and other credit recipients. Somebody decides a tax credit would be a good thing. It’s never hard to get the industry that would receive the subsidy on board. Local business boosters climb on because they know of a local business that would benefit. They fund studies to prove that this industry offers extraordinary benefits. Economic development officials join in, because that’s what they do. Politicians like giving away money, and soon you have amazing results.

I don’t fault businesses for using state tax credits. If somebody gives you money, you take it. But that doesn’t make it good policy for the rest of us.

There are two little words that credit boosters never bring up: opportunity costs. The money spent on the favored industry isn’t conjured into existence out of thin air. It is taken from somebody else. This year it’s taken from every Iowa business that uses the $500,000 Section 179 limit, which the Governor says the state can no longer afford. There are businesses in every county that will pay higher taxes if Iowa reduces its Section 179 limit to $25,000. Those businesses lose the opportunity to use funds to grow their own businesses and hire their own employees.

If there is to be any benefit here, it’s that it might actually teach the General Assembly about the opportunity costs of benefiting sympathetic industries. Here, it’s the cost of the lost Section 179 benefit to constituents statewide.

Related:

LOCAL CPA FIRM VOWS TO SWALLOW PRIDE, ACCEPT $28 MILLION

List of Iowa incentive tax credits budgeted for 2017.

 

Service: It’s in our nameA new report from the Government Accountability Office documents the decline in IRS service that we’ve all experienced under Turnaround Artist John Koskinen:

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) provided the lowest level of telephone service during fiscal year 2015 compared to prior years, with only 38 percent of callers who wanted to speak with an IRS assistor able to reach one. This lower level of service occurred despite lower demand from callers seeking live assistance, which has fallen by 6 percent since 2010 to about 51 million callers in 2015. Over the same period, average wait times have almost tripled to over 30 minutes. IRS also struggled to answer correspondence in a timely manner and assistors increasingly either failed to send required correspondence to taxpayers or included inaccurate information in correspondence sent.

The picture they draw isn’t pretty:

 

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When you turn around, it’s important to turn in the right direction.

Related: TaxProf, GAO:  Only 38% Of Taxpayers Who Called IRS Got Through In 2015 (Down From 74% In 2010); Wait Time Increased From 11 To 31 Minutes

 

buzz20150804Robert D. Flach has your Friday Buzz! He covers ground from choosing a tax professional to extenders to a certain presidential candidate.

William Perez, How to Know if You Should Hire a Tax Attorney

Matthew McKinney, Iowa’s open records law – who, what, when, and why? (IowaBiz.com).

Kay Bell, N.J. Gov. Chris Christie kills film & TV tax credits. Good. 

Jack Townsend, Updated FAQs for SFOP and SDOP Streamlined Processes. “The IRS has updated the FAQs for the Streamlined Domestic and Streamlined Foreign Offshore Procedures.”

Leslie Book, State of the Union: Tax Administration a Small But Important Part of the Speech

Robert Wood, Beware: IRS Now Has Six Years To Audit Your Taxes, Up From Three. “The three years is doubled to six if you omitted more than 25% of your income.”

Peter Reilly, Conservation Easement Tax Deductions And Valuation Abuse. “I think this is another instance of what Joe Kristan calls using the Tax Code as the Swiss Utility Knife of public policy.”

 

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Megan McArdle, Gaming of Obamacare Poses a Fatal Threat. “The problem: People signing up during ‘special enrollment’ (the majority of the year that falls outside of the annual open enrollment period) were much sicker, and paying premiums for much less time, than the rest of the exchange population.”

Scott Greenberg, The Cadillac Tax will Now Be Deductible. Here’s What That Means. (Tax Policy Blog)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 981. “Today, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released two new reports regarding serious flaws in the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) audit selection processes. GAO confirmed that these flaws mean the IRS could continue to unfairly target American taxpayers based on their political beliefs and other First Amendment protected views.”

Robert Goulder, India’s Long Journey to a VAT (Tax Analysts Blog)

Renu Zaretsky, Winners, Losers, and Movers. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers last night’s presidential debate, Missouri earnings taxes, and  innovation boxes.

 

Jim Maule, Powerball, Taxes, and Math:

The expectation that widened my eyes is a meme circulating on facebook, and elsewhere, I suppose, that claims splitting the $1.4 billion evenly among all Americans would give each person $4.33 million. Good grief! This is just so wrong. The responses pointing out the error are themselves amusing, with the best one pointing out that it would generate $4.33 per person, enough to buy a calculator.

This meme:

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This explains more about the political process than I care to contemplate.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/12/16: IRS wants to shoot more jaywalkers. And: the benefits of IRS ethics training.

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20120912-1They think it’s expensive because it is. Tax Analysts reports ($link) on a speech given by an IRS international tax deputy commissioner that shows how little the IRS cares about wreaking havoc on the lives of taxpayers who inadvertently fail to comply with the weird and obscure foreign account reporting rules. The talk by David Horton shows that the IRS continues to assume anybody who has failed to file FBAR forms is a bad actor. For example:

The IRS’s 2014 OVDP (Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program) guidance provides transitional rules for non-willful taxpayers who entered the OVDP earlier, but could have been eligible for the streamlined program. [Robert] Panoff wondered why they were incurring lower penalties than similarly situated taxpayers who completed the OVDP. 

Horton explained that these taxpayers are still in the OVDP, so they will get criminal clearance and a closing agreement, while streamlined participants get neither. Criminal clearance and a closing agreement are worth paying for, the thinking goes. A streamlined participant could later get a notice of deficiency for penalties that are assessed as taxes.

So a non-willful failure to file still benefits from “criminal clearance?” That’s a funny thing to need for a non-willful violation, and it shows an “it’s all criminal” mindset. Shoot all the jaywalkers!

The article has this:

Every practitioner hopes to shoehorn his offshore-account-holder clients into the streamlined program. Indeed, the only taxpayers who don’t welcome the streamlined program are recent immigrants who think that 5 percent of a home-country bank balance is a stiff price to pay for a green card.

That’s because it is ridiculously expensive.

Nowhere in the piece is any evidence that they (or the author) are aware that accidental Americans and compliant taxpayers can be financially ruined for failing to meet a requirement unknown to 95% of the populace. There’s certainly no awareness of the fundamental injustice of hitting taxpayers with 5-figure fines for committing personal finance abroad without an FBAR.

There is a crying need for foreign financial reporting reform. Two good first steps:

  1. Increase the FBAR foreign account thresholds to the amounts that apply for reporting foreign financial assets on Form 8938. These don’t begin to apply until the assets exceed $50,000, or $200,000 for taxpayers abroad. Using this threshold for foreign financial account filing would eliminate the vast majority of filings, leaving them only for taxpayers who actually have enough income to justify the hassle.
  2. Provide an automatic and penalty-free option to enable taxpayers to come in out of the cold, as long as they file before they are contacted by the IRS and any unreported tax required is relatively small. This would work much like the programs states have for businesses who want to come into compliance. The states benefit from getting the taxpayers in the system, and the taxpayers get in from the cold without financial ruin.

Unfortunately, the IRS apparently wants to go the other way: “Horton reported that while the IRS is still getting a steady flow of offshore voluntary disclosure program filings every month, that program has to end eventually.” Then it will be a choice to either stay out of compliance and risk financial disaster, or come into compliance and guarantee it.

 

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But preparer regulation will help prevent preparer fraud! From a U.S. Attorney press release:

Yolanda Castro, 48, an employee of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in Fresno, pleaded guilty today to aiding and assisting in the preparation of a false tax return, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

According to court documents, Castro was employed by the IRS for approximately 20 years, including as a tax examiner and contact representative. Between 2007 and 2013, she prepared and filed false federal income tax returns for herself, her family members and others in which she fraudulently claimed tax deductions and credits. For instance, on her own 2008 tax return, Castro claimed a credit for education expenses that she did not incur, and provided the IRS phony textbook receipts to support the claim. Likewise, in tax returns she prepared for herself and others, Castro claimed child care expenses that had not been incurred.

Surely some ethics continuing education would have saved her.

 

Robert D. Flach has a little Buzz for your Tuesday. “Not much BUZZ today – but, as I always say, some BUZZ is better than no BUZZ.”

Russ Fox reminds us that it’s 1099 Time for 2016. “The best way to check whether or not you need to send a 1099 to a vendor is to know this before you pay a vendor’s invoice.”

William Perez, What You Need to Know about Reporting Payments Using Form 1099-MISC

TaxGrrrl, No, You Can’t Actually File Your Tax Return Early (And More Info About Tax Refunds). “Some tax preparers are suggesting in ads and on social media that they can somehow help you skip the line and get you a refund before anyone else. Don’t be fooled.”

Robert Wood, 12 Surprising Items IRS Says You Must Report On Your Taxes. You won’t believe number 2!

Jason Dinesen, Glossary: Social Security Wage Base. “The term Social Security Wage Base refers to the maximum amount of wages or self-employment income on which the 6.2% Social Security tax is based.”

Paul Neiffer, Relief for Older Farmers with IRAs. And not just farmers.

 

Keith Fogg, Improving Payroll Tax Compliance (Procedurally Taxing). “From my perspective working on these cases within the IRS, the failure of employers to pay over the collected taxes usually resulted from poor cash management.”

Renu Zaretsky, New Taxes, Excess Profits, and a Windfall. Lots of cynical posturing by desperate politicians in today’s TaxVox headline roundup.

 


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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 978. The process of running out the clock continues.

Scott Greenberg, Which Tax Extenders are Left? (Tax Policy Blog):

Looking over the list below of remaining tax extenders, none of them seem like “must-pass” policies. As a result, the pressure is off of Congress to renew all of the tax extenders as a package. Instead, Congress should take the time to evaluate the remaining tax extenders one by one, making the good provisions permanent and letting the bad ones expire. Temporary tax policy is bad tax policy, and it’s about time that Congress laid the ritual of tax extenders to rest once and for all.

Let’s hope so.

 

The Critical Question. Would a cuddly mascot make the IRS lovable? (Kay Bell). That would look like a stuffed Cthulhu

The Critical Question II: Accounting Firms Allowing Side Gigs: Good Idea or Independence Mine Field? (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/11/2016: Hide the spoons, hold your wallets. The General Assembly is back.

Monday, January 11th, 2016 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.

Same recipe, same dish. The 2016 session of the 86th General Assembly of Iowa convenes today. As the membership is about the same as last year’s session, we can expect pretty much the same tax policy results. There will be no fundamental reappraisal of Iowa’s dysfunctional income tax this year. If anything, it might get a little worse.

Iowa’s tax system is a rat’s nest of high rates and complexity, full of special-interest loopholes, feel-good spiffs for sympathetic groups, and subsidies for the well-connected. It’s a great deal for the insiders who can work the system, paid for by high rates on those of us without lobbyists and tax credit consultants.

What Iowa needs is an overhaul that lowers the rates significantly, paying for them by simplifying the rules and swearing off subsidies like the notorious Orascom deal and the now-defunct film tax program. In other words, something like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

What Iowa is likely to get is more special interest tax subsidies. In a story about 10 issues likely to spark debate in Iowa Legislature, The Des Moines Register reports:

A host of Iowa business and farm groups are lobbying for state tax credits to attract investment in renewable chemical manufacturing and advanced bio-refining. The goal is to build upon Iowa’s renewable fuels industry. Iowa needs to move swiftly because of competition for businesses looking to invest in the industry, business lobbyists say.

“If we are looking at a game changer for this session, this is it. It is absolutely huge,” said Jay Byers, chief executive officer of the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Legislation to provide renewable chemical manufacturing tax credits was approved by the House last session, but failed to pass the Senate.

20120906-1A “game changer?” New tax credits? The dozens of tax credits we already have haven’t done the trick, so we need more?

Think about it. The idea that the state can constructively direct investment capital assumes that the insiders that make up the Greater Des Moines Partnership and the small town politicians who run the state legislature have some unique insight on what the industries of the future are. If so, they should be investing their own money in these “game changers,” because there’s obviously a great profit opportunity to be had. Instead they want to spend your money, and mine, on it. That tells you something important.

Remember, these are the same people who told us it would be a great idea to subsidize Iowa’s film industry with tax credits (page 6 at the link), and that worked out just great.

The only constructive thing likely to come out of the legislature is a “code conformity” bill that updates Iowa’s 2015 income tax rules for the retroactive passage of the federal “extenders” bill in December. The Department of Revenue cautions taxpayers to not file returns using the extended provisions until the conformity bill is passed. The Section 179 deduction, the educator expense deduction, and tax-free IRA gifts are key provisions that are affected. Last year the code conformity bill was one of the first bills passed, in mid-February.

 

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TaxGrrrl, Taxpayers Get A Breather On Passport Requirement For Domestic Travel As REAL ID Requirement Delayed:

The key date to know is January 22, 2018. That’s the date on which air travelers with a driver’s license or identification card issued by a state that does not meet the requirements of the REAL ID Act (unless that state has been granted an extension to comply with the Act) must present an alternative form of identification acceptable to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in order to fly domestic. Acceptable identification would include a passport or passport card, Global Entry card, U.S. military ID, airline or airport-issued ID, federally recognized tribal-issued photo ID.

Congress last year passed a provision allowing IRS to revoke passports for non-payment of taxes. And of course the IRS never makes mistakes.

 

William Perez, How Soon Can We Begin Filing Tax Returns?

Annette Nellen, PATH and Many Tax Changes – PL 114-113

Kay Bell, 24 top taxpayer problems of 2015. “IRS electronic approach to customer service tops National Taxpayer Advocate’s annual list”

Jack Townsend, Hawaii Businessman Sentenced to 46 Months

Peter Reilly, Poor Return Preparation Kills Facade Easement Tax Deduction. “Often the buildings already have so much restriction on them already that promising not to alter them is a little like me renouncing my super powers

Robert D. Flach has thoughts on FINDING A TAX PROFESSIONAL.

Russ Fox, Fraudster Tries Alchemy; Will Have 20 Years to Think That Over:

Joseph Furando of Montvale, New Jersey thought he had the perfect way of performing alchemy. He took biodiesel fuel that wasn’t eligible for two tax credits and magically turned it into biodiesel fuel that was eligible for the tax credits:

Tax Credits, fraudulent? Unthinkable!

 

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Scott Drenkard, Businesses Love Texas, Except this One Tax that Holds the State Back (Tax Policy Blog)

Renu ZaretskyLooking ahead to 2016 and beyond? It’s blurry. (Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the upcoming State of the Union Address, the Taxpayer Advocate report from last week, and more.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 977

 

Something to look forward to. Winner Of $1.3 Billion Powerball May Face Suits By Friends, Co-Workers, Family (Robert Wood).

Career Corner. Unhappy Accountants: Go Get a 10% Raise (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/6/16: Oh, I meant that other year. And: IRS won’t rule on truck rehab “glider kits.”

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20160106-1Better increase their budget. The IRS provides a special “Identity Protection Personal Identification Number,” or “IP-PIN,” to identity theft victims to help them with future tax filings. The IP-PIN lets them tell the IRS that the return being filed is being filed by the real taxpayers, rather than by some grifter in Tampa (Florida) or St. Petersburg (Russia).

Now, after the IRS has already screwed up things for innocent taxpayers by sending their refunds to thieves, they have added insult to the injury. TaxGrrrl reports IRS Sends IP PIN Letters With Wrong Tax Year, Stresses It Will Not Affect Returns Filed In 2016.

Letters sending out IP PINs for the 2016 filing season (for the 2015 tax year) were mailed out at the end of December 2015 (but dated January 4, 2016) marked with the incorrect year. The letter, also referred to as a CP01A Notice, incorrectly indicates the IP PIN issued is to be used for filing your 2014 tax return when the number is actually to be used for your 2015 tax return. 

The IRS isn’t sending correction letters.

The funny thing: the IRS gets really mad if impatient taxpayers use forms for the wrong year and cross off the year at the top of the form, writing in the right year. Do as we say, not as we do…

Related:

IRS Notice on Your Identity Protection PIN.

Russ Fox, IRS Errs on Identity Theft PIN Letters. “One would think that the IRS proofed important letters and notices before they’re finalized.”

 

ice truck“Glider kit” guidance grounded. The IRS will decline to issue rulings on whether the excise tax on over-the-road tractors applies when a new cab, chassis, frame and axle — a “glider kit” is applied to an old engine and power train. Tax Analysts reports ($link):

Section 4052(f)(1) provides that if a modification to the chassis or body doesn’t exceed 75 percent of the retail price of a comparable new chassis or body, then it won’t incur the section 4051 tax. The IRS decided that it will not rule on whether a modification using a glider kit qualifies for the 75 percent exception under section 4052(f)(1).

A more recent legal memorandum (ILM 201403014) makes clear that the IRS has evolved its thinking on the issue, determining that when an outfitter combines an old engine and transmission with a new cab, chassis frame, and axles, the excise tax applies and the exception isn’t applicable. It also explains that taxpayers must include a 4 percent markup in the price of the refurbished truck for purposes of computing the tax, minus the value of used components if they’re customer provided.

The article adds:

The Iowa Motor Truck Association, in an alert (http://goo.gl/IXnYaS) issued to its members following the release of ILM 201403014, also warned that “the memo probably indicates that IRS auditors will now be more aggressive about glider-kit transactions, and that at least some transactions that have been regarded as exempt may turn out not to be.”

This is obviously a big deal to dealers and their customers. It’s terrible that the IRS is making this sort of policy by internal memos rather than through published guidance, leaving taxpayers hanging.

 

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

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

Megan McArdle has some wise thoughts on the tax law in Why We Fear the IRS (my emphasis):

Legal complexity does not accumulate linearly; it accumulates exponentially. When you have one law on the books, and you add a second, the new law may (or may not) have some unexpected interaction with the old law. This would be one complexity point for regulators to manage. But with each new law, the number of potential interactions grows quickly, until it passes the ability of any layman to grasp it (and eventually, surpasses the professionals as well, which is why they’re increasingly specialized in narrow areas). We are long past that point with the tax code.

That’s a point universally ignored by politicians who use the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy. A Swiss Army Knife the size of a railcar is interesting, but it’s not much good as a knife.

Her post also covers important ground on why the tax law has gotten so bad. Recommended.

 

Paul Neiffer, Is Section 179 a Ticking Tax Time Bomb?. The ability to deduct up to $500,000 in new equipment may have unintended consequences:

On the face, this sounds like a great tax deduction for farmers, however, with continued low commodity prices, might this be a ticking tax time bomb for many farmers.  This is due to a farmer having to liquidate some farm equipment due to the bank requiring additional liquidity be put into the farm operation or perhaps the farmer has lost some ground and no longer needs the equipment.   This sale of equipment causes the Section 179 to be “recaptured” as ordinary income and since the farmer probably does not have sufficient liquidity to prepay additional farm expenses, causes the farmer to be in a high tax bracket.  This leads to a large tax bill which then requires the farmer to sell additional equipment or grain to cover the tax bill.  This is especially harsh when the equipment was financed 100%.

In theory, the tax savings from the original deduction should be available to cover that tax bill, but if you are having to liquidate to pay the bank, the savings have already been spent on other things.

 

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Robert D. Flach, THE PATH ACT OF 2015 AND TAX PLANNING FOR 2016

William Perez, What Is the Alternative Minimum Tax? “Essentially, this is a tax based on a person’s adjusted gross income if they aren’t itemizers.”

Kay Bell, Seattle gun & ammo taxes drive gun seller out of town.  The criminals, they get to stay.

Jason Dinesen, What is Form 1023-EZ? “Form 1023-EZ is a new IRS form used by some not-for-profits to apply for tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(3) organization.”

Jim Maule, Is This Proposed Tax Necessary or Even Sensible?:

Several days ago, in a New York Times editorial, Max Frankel proposed “a relatively simple new tax – officially called a user fee – “ based on “the grandeur of each lofty view” from the apartments being built in very tall luxury skyscrapers along the southern edge of Central Park. He suggested it could informally be called a “window tax” and he suggested various dollar amounts for windows and doors based on height, the existence or absence of obstructions, and the nature of what can be seen.

Gee, what could go wrong? A little history shows some problems with Mr. Frankel’s proposal:

The window tax was a property tax based on the number of windows in a house. It was a significant social, cultural, and architectural force in England, France and Scotland during the 18th and 19th centuries. To avoid the tax some houses from the period can be seen to have bricked-up window-spaces (ready to be glazed or reglazed at a later date).

Prof. Maule rightly criticizes the proposal.

 

Robert Wood, As Offshore Banks Agree To U.S. Tax Evasion Deal, Account Holders Must Deal With IRS. Betting on foreign bank secrecy is a bet against the odds.

Keith Fogg, Fulfilling the Requirements of Section 6751 When the IRS Imposes a Penalty (Procedurally Taxing). “In Legg v. Commissioner, the Tax Court issued a division opinion concerning this little known provision that serves as a gatekeeper to the assertion of many penalties.”

Peter Reilly, Tax Court Sorts Out Basis On Russian Fast Food Merger. “The IRS can argue that what you said you did – the form – is not what actually happened – the substance.  You can’t generally do that yourself, because you got to choose the form, so you are stuck with it.”

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Renu Zaretsky, The Case of Tax Scams, Private Debt Collectors, and Wishful Thinking (TaxVox). “There is one way Congress could make tax compliance and collection easier and tax avoidance harder, while improving the public’s perception of the IRS. It could simplify the tax code. Unfortunately, that’s a call Congress has not chosen to make.”

Stephen J. Entin, Michael Schuyler, Are Dividend Taxes Harmless? Don’t Bet On It!

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 972

 

Career Corner. New Year’s Resolutions That Will Make Busy Season Less Awful (Leona May, Going Concern). It’s hard to argue with “Stop stealing co-workers’ lunches”

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/29/15: No year-end basis, no S corporation loss. And: ACA 1095 deadlines extended.

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

S-SidewalkBasis or bust. With the re-enactment of bonus depreciation for 2015, some S corporations find themselves with taxable losses for 2015. That won’t do much for the 2015 tax returns of S corporation shareholders who have no basis in their stock at year-end. While they also have to get by the “at-risk” and “passive loss” limits, they don’t even get to those problems without basis.

A taxpayer’s initial basis in an S corporation is the amount paid for the stock. It is increased by capital contributions and by undistributed income of the S corporation. It is reduced by distributions of S corporation earnings and by S corporation losses. If there have been 2015 distributions, they count before the losses do.

A shareholder with no stock basis can still get deductions by loaning money to the S corporation by year-end. The loan has to meet the at-risk rules (it can’t be funded by another shareholder or by the corporation, for example), but if it meets those requirements, it can create basis for S corporation losses. But don’t do anything hokey like making a loan on December 31 and having the corporation repay it on January 3.

It’s a trap! Well, it doesn’t have to be, but remember that any losses you take against a loan reduce the basis of the loan. That means that if the loan is repaid before the losses are restored by S corporation income, the repayment will be taxable gain to the extent of the unrestored losses.

This is another installment of our 2015 year-end planning tips series running through December 31. Collect them all!

 

1095-C cornerIRS delays due dates for 1095-B and 1095-C reporting2015 is the first year many employers are required to file a new form documenting insurance coverage, or offers of coverage, for their employees. Apparently many employers are still scrambling to figure out how to comply with the complex rules, because yesterday the IRS announced (Notice 2016-4) a delay in the deadlines for providing these forms to employees and to the IRS. A summary:

2016-4 deadlines

Employers are encouraged to file under the old deadlines if they can, but they now have a blanket extension, with no need to file any extension request.

While the IRS will be processing forms starting January 16, this announcement tells us that millions of taxpayers will lack the forms they need to properly report their ACA tax credits or penalties for inadequate coverage. The IRS says that employees can rely upon “other information received” from employers or insurers, and do not have to amend returns if the 1095s they receive later show that their original amounts are incorrect. What could possibly go wrong with this? Aside from rampant errors and outright fraud, I mean.

We are now approaching six years since the enactment of the ACA, and it’s still a mess.

Related: Russ Fox, IRS: We’ll Trust You on Health Insurance for 2015 Because… “We won’t have delays regarding filing returns because taxpayers haven’t received Forms 1095-B or 1095-C as long as they’re aware of their health insurance coverage. That’s a very good thing for all.”

 

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If you are trying to lose weight added by holiday treats, go to Robert D. Flach’s place for a “slender” Tuesday Buzz!

TaxGrrrl, 12 Days Of Charitable Giving 2015: Red Paw Emergency Relief Team

Robert Wood, House Oversight Probes Hillary Speech Fees To Clinton Foundation. The assignment of income rules only apply to little people.

Leslie Book, PATH, CDP Venue and Berglund v Commissioner, A Recent Tax Court Case Where Venue Matters (Procedurally Taxing)

Jason DinesenFrom the Archives: Taxation of Emotional Distress Payments

Kay Bell, 10 tax-saving things to do by December 31

Jana Luttenegger WeilerLast Minute Tax Extenders – 2015 Edition (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

William Perez, Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015

Annette Nellen, Top Ten Items of Tax Policy Interest for 2015 – #6 and #7. Includes coverage of the return due date changes enacted this year.

Me, Forget April 15. Well, don’t, actually, but Dec. 31 matters more. My latest at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record Business Professionals’ Blog.

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 964.

Renu Zaretsky, Bans, Subsidies, Searches, and Bubbles. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers new EITC restrictions and Nevada’s corporate welfare cornucopia for Tesla, among other morsels.

Stephen Entin, Disentangling CAP Arguments against Tax Cuts for Capital Formation: Part 4 (Tax Policy Blog). “Most major tax bills of the last thirty years have provided serious tax reductions or refundable credits (resulting in negative taxes) for lower income families. These are extraordinarily expensive, but do next to nothing to promote capital formation to raise productivity, wages, and employment.”

 

Caleb Newquist, Opening Day of Tax Season Less Than a Month Away (Going Concern). “Anyone with a PTIN is due to report on January 4.” Haven’t renewed your PTIN yet? Get on it!

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/21/15: Winter’s here, along with a new tax law. Fixed-asset planning time!

Monday, December 21st, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20151211-1It’s the darkest day of the year, but with the signing of the Extender Bill, H.R. 2029, we are no longer in the dark for year-end fixed asset tax planning. The “PATH” act has some important fixed-asset provisions:

A permanent (and inflation-indexed) $500,000 annual limit for Section 179 deductions. This provision lets qualifying taxpayers deduct currently fixed asset costs that would otherwise have to be capitalized and depreciated over multiple years.

“Bonus Depreciation” is extended through 2019. This provision allows taxpayers to deduct 50% of the cost of depreciable property in the first depreciable year, with the remaining cost depreciated over the property’s normal tax life. Unlike Section 179, it cannot be taken for used property, but unlike Section 179, it can be used to generate net operating losses.

-15-year depreciation is made permanent for “Qualified Leasehold Improvement Property , Qualified Restaurant Buildings and Improvements, and Qualified Retail Improvements. These rules enable taxpayers to depreciate these items over 15 years, rather than the usual 39 year life for commercial buildings.

In theory, this provides a great opportunity to knock down your 2015 tax bill with last-minute purchases of fixed assets. But there’s a catch. It’s not enough to buy and pay for new fixed assets to deduct them this year. They also have to be “placed in service” by year end. From the IRS publication on depreciation:

You place property in service when it is ready and available for a specific use, whether in a business activity, an income-producing activity, a tax-exempt activity, or a personal activity. Even if you are not using the property, it is in service when it is ready and available for its specific use.

Example 1.

Donald Steep bought a machine for his business. The machine was delivered last year. However, it was not installed and operational until this year. It is considered placed in service this year. If the machine had been ready and available for use when it was delivered, it would be considered placed in service last year even if it was not actually used until this year.

It’s not enough to have a new machine in crates on the loading dock. It has to be set up and ready to go. If you are buying a farm building, having it in pieces waiting for assembly doesn’t get you there.

That’s why year-end purchase of vehicles and farm equipment are popular. Once they arrive, they are pretty much ready to go. But you have to actually take delivery. “On order” isn’t enough. And remember that there are limits on the amount of Section 179 deduction and depreciation for passenger vehicles.

This is the first installment of our 2015 year-end planning tips series

 

6th avenue 1910

 

Russ Fox, Once Again, the IRS Doesn’t Start by Calling You:

My mother received a phone call on Saturday morning at 6 am from “Agent Smith” of the IRS demanding immediate payment of her taxes or she would find herself “thrown in jail.” Yes, the scamsters are still out there.

Now imagine you’re a senior citizen, and you get a phone call waking you up telling you to pay the IRS or you’ll find yourself in prison. It doesn’t take a genius to know that these scamsters can intimidate their victims.

Remember, if the caller demanding payment and saying the police are coming says he’s from IRS, he’s not from IRS.

Tony Nitti, Tax Court: Luring Pigs To Untimely Demise With Kool-Aid Counts As Material Participation. Sooey!

Robert D. Flach, THERE IS STILL TIME TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF A “QCD” FOR 2015!

 

Paul Neiffer, Wind Energy Credits Extended and Phased-Out

Annette Nellen is counting down the “Top Ten Items of Tax Policy Interest for 2015.” #1 is non-tax bills used to change the tax law; #2 is IRS Funding Challenges. Anybody who is serious about improving IRS funding should be demanding the resignation of Commissioner Koskinen. Nobody’s going to trust him with extra funding.

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Insolvency and Canceled Debt: Make Sure You Can Prove It!

Jim Maule, Winning Back Your Tax Payments. “A reader made me aware of a recent suggestion that every taxpayer who files a timely and honest tax return, along with timely payment, be entered into a lottery.” It a way, that’s already true.

Leslie Book, Extenders Bill Gives IRS Additional Powers to Impose Penalties on Preparers and Disallow Refundable Credits (Procedurally Taxing). “Under the new law,  the accuracy-related penalty can be applied to any part of a reduced refundable credit subject to deficiency procedures.”

Peter Reilly, Bernie Sanders And The 90% Income Tax Rate That He Does Not Call For. ” Bernie Sanders wants us to have an economy like it was in the sixties and early seventies, when a summer of hard work could pay a year’s tuition and there were plenty of factory jobs that would support a family.” Maybe Bernie should reconsider his nostalgia.

Robert Wood, New Law Says Money For Wrongful Convictions Is Tax Free

TaxGrrrl, 12 Days Of Charitable Giving 2015: Wounded Warrior Project

Kay Bell gets into the holiday spirit with Christmas gifts for tax and financial geeks

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 954Day 955Day 956. Coverage of the limits on IRS power included in the extender and omnibus legislation.

Alex Tabarrok, Subsidies Increase Tuition, Part XIV (Marginal Revolution):

Remarkably, so much of the subsidy is translated into higher tuition that enrollment doesn’t increase! What does happen is that students take on more debt, which many of them can’t pay.

So naturally the Extenders bill made the American Opportunity Tax Credit permanent.

Jared Walczak, The Opening Salvo of 2016’s Soda Tax Battle (Tax Policy Blog). “Soda taxes are poised to be on the agenda in many cities in 2016, an effort spearheaded by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg.” I propose a tax on people who can’t mind their own business.

Renu Zaretsky, Promises, Hopes, and Complaints. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers Hillary promises, Nevada trolling for ribbon-cuttings with taxpayer money, and Apple’s CEO tax code thoughts: “He wants changes to the US tax code, which ‘was made for the Industrial Age, not the Digital Age… It’s backwards. It’s awful for America.'”

 

News from the Profession. Let’s Help Deloitte Global CEO Punit Renjen With His First Tweet (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/18/15: 2016 standard mileage rates are out. And: Extender bill clears House.

Friday, December 18th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today newsletter visitors: The post about fines and penalties is here.

54 cents

54 cents. The IRS yesterday released the new standard mileage rates for 2016:

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2016, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:

  • 54 cents per mile for business miles driven, down from 57.5 cents for 2015
  • 19 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes, down from 23 cents for 2015
  • 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations

The business mileage rate decreased 3.5 cents per mile and the medical, and moving expense rates decrease 4 cents per mile from the 2015 rates. The charitable rate is based on statute.

Gas has come down. Blame the speculators!

Related: William Perez, How to Deduct Car and Truck Expenses on Your TaxesKay Bell, Business mileage deduction rate to drop in 2016Russ Fox, 2016 Standard Mileage Rates Released

 

Extender bill moves to Senate. The House of Representatives yesterday approved the permanent extender bill, H.R. 2029, on a 318-109 vote. The bill moves to the Senate. The Hill reports:

In the Senate, support for the tax measure is more bipartisan than it is in the House. Senate Finance Committee ranking member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) joined with the Republican chairmen of the House and Senate tax-writing committees in announcing the deal.

The Senate’s third-ranking Democrat, Charles Schumer (N.Y.), released a statement Wednesday praising the fact that the bill would cement a tax benefit for mass transit commuters in a win for his state.

The Extender bill will be considered as part of a package in the Seanate, reports Tax Analysts ($link):

House GOP leaders worked throughout the day to build support for passage of an omnibus appropriations bill for fiscal 2016. The $1.1 trillion spending measure, which is also an amendment to H.R. 2029, is scheduled for a vote on December 18. Lawmakers expect that both the tax and spending measures will be combined into one bill and move to the Senate later that day, where it is expected to pass with bipartisan support. 

The Hill reports the Senate vote may happen as soon as today.

Related: Scott Greenberg, The Twelve Most Important Provisions in the Latest Tax Bill (Tax Policy Blog). #1 on the list is the permanent $500,000 Section 179 ceiling.

 

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Fresh Friday Buzz! From Robert D. Flach.

Gretchen Tegeler, Change is difficult, as failed suburban services merger showed (IowaBiz.com).  “First, never assume anything when it comes to change, even if it seems like reasonable change. Always expect active opposition.”

Jim Maule, You Mean That Tax Refund Isn’t for Me? Really?. Judge Judy deals with a tax refund spent by an ex-girlfriend.

Peter Reilly, Venus Flytraps And Elusive Gator On Golf Course Not Worth Millions In Tax Deductions. A conservation easement goes very bad.

Robert Wood, Supermodel Bar Refaeli’s Alleged Tax Evasion On Gifts: Must You Report Yours? Gifts aren’t taxable income in the U.S., but the IRS doesn’t have to believe that money you receive is actually a gift, rather than compensation. It even has a form to report large gifts from overseas (Form 3520) so they can second guess whether amounts really are “gifts.” Large fines apply if you don’t file the form for years you receive such gifts.

TaxGrrrl, Tax Preparer For Mike ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino Pleads Guilty To Tax Fraud Conspiracy.

 

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Renu Zaretsky, Will they or won’t they? Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers prospects for the extender bill, among other things.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 953

Richard Phillips, Tax Wars: 3 Lessons about Tax Policy from the Star Wars Universe (Tax Policy Blog). “The Star Wars universe has problems with corporate tax enforcement and shell companies.”

News from the Profession. Big 4 Firms Still Getting Used to This Whole Regulation Thing (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/2/15: A defender of tax credits makes his case. Also: escalating the war on offshore taxpayers.

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

20120906-1Bribe them and they will come. The Atlantic asks Why Are There So Many Data Centers in Iowa?. “When I’ve asked data center operations managers, the answer has varied from approximately forty characteristics to a blunt four: ‘Networks, land, power, and taxes'” By “taxes,” that generally means “tax incentives,” or special breaks unavailable to the rest of us.

In a post at IowaBiz.com, Brent Willett makes an unabashed argument for more of the same in Economic development has an image problem (IowaBiz.com). It’s an interesting piece. Its premise is that people think that special tax deals to lure companies are shady, but that we would feel otherwise if incentive boosters just made a better case.

For an attempt to make the case that incentives are a good thing, the post is  short of actual evidence. It instead makes flat assertions that incentives are necessary and proper, and are obviously good because everybody does them. For example (emphasis in original):

Incentives play a fundamental role in securing job- and wealth-creation projects for communities in every corner of this country and in many countries of the world. This is pure, unadulterated fact.

If it were pure unadulterated fact, you might think that it would be easy to marshal some data that says so. Yet in the only attempt ever made by Iowa to quantify the value of its dozens of tax credit giveaways, by a blue-ribbon committee appointed in the wake of the Iowa Film Tax Credit fiasco, failed to identify a single tax credit that clearly was worth more than it cost.

The two magic words omitted by defenders of tax credits are “opportunity cost.” They point to projects that receive tax credits, assert they would not have happened anyway, and ignore the idea that the money used for the credits would have been used elsewhere. They also ignore the cost to all businesses of the tax law complexity and high rates that inevitably accompany special interest tax breaks.

It’s not just accidental that tax incentives have a bad image. They are like a guy who takes his wife’s purse to the bar to buy drinks for the girls. The girls might accept the free drinks (development success!), but it doesn’t help the person who foots the bill. Nor is it impressive, and any of the girls won over by this tactic aren’t likely to be real prizes. In any case, his image is unlikely to be helped by a better explanation when his wife finds out.

Related: Local CPA Firm vows to swallow pride, accept $28 million

 

Best done by not giving them in the first place. States Can Avoid the Fiscal Risks Tax Incentives Create, Pew Report Says (LexisNexis Legal Newsroom).

Jim Maule, Tax Credit Giveaways Don’t Deserve Credit, “If the Michigan tax credit had done what it was promised to do, the increased tax revenues should have more than offset the cost of the credit. But that hasn’t happened, as evidenced by the budget deficits that were spiraling out of control on account of the tax credit giveaway.”

 

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Andrew Mitchel, The Escalation of Offshore Penalties Over the Last 20 Years. An excellent summary of the unconscionable increase in foot-fault penalties for paperwork violations of foreign reporting rules. He describes the same “violations” taking place in 1995 and now.

In 1995, the individual was only required to file two forms (the FBAR and Form 5471) and would be subject to penalties totaling $2,000. In 2011, the same individual was required to file six forms (the FBAR, Forms 3520, 3520-A, 5471, 8865, 8938) and would be subject to penalties totaling $70,000.

Read the whole thing.

Peter Reilly, IRS Trying To Make It Harder To Qualify As Real Estate Pro. An excellent, in-depth discussion of a taxpayer victory in the eternal IRS war against deducting real estate losses.

William Perez, Tips for Green Card Holders and Immigrants Who are Filing a US Tax Return

Kay Bell, Charitable donation tax deduction rules apply on Giving Tuesday and year-round. A good summary of rules on year-end charitable giving.

Amanda Klopp, A Snow Holiday? Not if the IRS Can Help It. (Procedurally Taaxing).

TaxGrrrl, Congress Moves Towards Granting IRS Authority To License Tax Preparers. “Representatives Diane Black (R-TN) and Pat Meehan (R-PA) have introduced H.R. 4141, the Tax Return Preparer Competency Act.”  When taxwriters demonstrate competency, then they can complain about preparers.

Russ Fox, My Love/Hate Relationship with the FTB. “Yet for all the excellence in how the FTB communicates some of the FTB’s practices leave a lot to be desired.”

Robert D. Flach, NEW JERSEY LLC FAQ

Tony Nitti, Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2015: #6 – More Bad News For The Marijuana Industry.

 

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Jeremy Scott, Congress Gives Up on Paying for Extenders . . . And That’s Fine (Tax Analysts Blog). “Taking a few of the most popular extenders off the table by making them permanent would only help with a limited legislative calendar, which could give some juice to tax reform efforts or at least end the silly end-of-the-year, Mock Turtle-like dance Congress has performed for most of the last 30 years.”

Renu Zaretsky, The Case of the Mislabeled ABLE Account (TaxVox). “Here’s the catch: There’s a good chance that by the time she reaches 18 the value of her account will exceed $102,000. If her nest egg tops that amount, the state would suspend her SSI benefits until her account fell below that threshold.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 937.

Richard Phillips, Congress Should Embrace the International Consensus to Crack Down on Corporate Tax Avoidance (Tax Justice Blog). Um, no.

News from the Profession. Tax Nerds Set Record Straight on Tax Code vs. NFL Rulebook Complexity (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/30/15: Solar-powered tax fairies, and other signs and wonders.

Monday, November 30th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
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Flickr image courtesy Ashley Van Haeften under Creative Commons license

Tax Fairy signs and wonders. The time is always right for a revival for the Cult of the Tax Fairy, the wonderful mythical being that can make your taxes go away with a wave of her wand, for an entirely reasonable up-front fee. These revivals are often accompanied by signs and wonders, several of which appear in request for a federal injunction filed earlier this month with respect to a solar energy operation. Being alert for these signs and wonders can save would-be Tax Fairy believers from a bad experience when the IRS folds up the revival tent.

The injunction request complaint deals with tax benefits alleged for “solar thermal lenses.” As I understand it, the basic technology is familiar to every little kid who has used a magnifying glass to burn things, but on a bigger scale. The real technical magic lies in the tax breaks.

We’ll discuss the tax breaks are described in the injunction request, which we should remember are the government’s allegations. The defendants may dispute the allegations, which have not been proven in court. The alleged facts do include signs and wonders often seen in Tax Fairy revival tents, though, and may be of instruction to those not wanting to be burned by Tax Fairy false prophets.

Tax benefits as a multiple of the cash paid. Real tax benefits rarely exceed the amount paid out for them. A deduction by definition provides a tax benefit of less than the amount paid — the tax rate times the amount of the expense. A tax credit could in theory provide more than a 100% benefit when combined with a deduction — the Iowa school tuition tax credit can come very close — but even that is a rare creature. By leveraging through borrowings, the up-front payment can be minimized, but real borrowings have to be repaid.

According to the government’s injunction request, the defendants sell solar lenses at a stated price of $3,500. But only $105 is due on the down payment, with $945 due the following year, after the tax fairy has magically provided tax savings from the investors. $3,500 in benefits for $105 would be a sweet deal.

Pretend loans. The remaining $2,450 is supposedly payable over 30-35 years. Most importantly, “the customer is not personally liable for the remaining $2,450. There is no provision for remedy in case a customer defaults, other than ‘repossession’ of the lens…”

This reminds me of cattle shelters of the early 1980s, when a $1,000 cow would be “sold” to Tax Fairy believers for, say, $5,000, or more, with $1,000 down and the rest in super-easy payments. The investors would claim depreciation of the cattle for the state price, but the loan was a wink and a nudge, with no real expectation of repayment. The solar lens shelter described by the injunction complaint would work the same way, promising $3,500 worth of tax benefits for $105 down.

tax fairyCasual Business operations. You can only deduct business expenses for a real business trying to make money. As described in the injunction request, at least, the don’t seem to be trying too hard. The lenses are described as “solar energy” property to generate a tax benefit, yet:

…neither the lenses, nor any other equipment on the installation, are (or have been) generating electricity, heating or cooling a structure, providing hot water for use in a structure, or providing solar process heat.

Also:

47. Defendants’ “lenses” consist of thin sheets of plastic. 
48. There are some lenses mounted on towers at the Installation in Millard County.
49. The thin plastic lenses that have been mounted have been exposed to desert conditions. Many are broken and dangling out of their frames. The ground near the Installation is littered with shards of plastic from lenses which have broken and fallen.
50. In this state, the lenses cannot capture or direct sunlight such that it could be used for any purpose that Congress intended to encourage through tax deductions or credits.
51. The vast majority of lenses purportedly sold – if they even exist – have not been  mounted. Defendants claim the lenses are in storage.

So many signs and wonders. We’ll just note that there is no deduction for an asset unless it’s “placed in service,” which is not the same thing as “placed in storage.”

Tax benefits are all that make the deal profitable. The injunction request says that the investors will get a small annual payment for the use of the lenses, but that the IRS says doesn’t actually get paid. The promotional material instead focuses on the ability to “zero out” taxes, according to the complaint.

Implausibility. Really, if somebody has a revolutionary technology, what’s more likely: that they would find venture capital to ramp it up and syndicate the tax benefits to large investors, or that they would finance it $105 at a time via multi-level marketing?

The web site for at least one defendant company remains up, so you can check it out for yourself.  But when pondering the signs and wonders touted by someone with something to sell, always keep one scientific fact in mind: there is no tax fairy.

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Paul Neiffer, Happy Thanksgiving and CRP reporting:

Roger McEowen of the Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation just posted a brief on whether you need to file a Form 8275 with your tax return if you are reporting CRP payments and not paying self-employment tax on the rents received.  The Morehouse appeal was finalized last year in favor of the taxpayer.  However, the IRS recently issued a non-acquiescence and asserts that it will assess self-employment tax on any CRP payments where the taxpayer is not receiving social security benefits even if they are passive landlord.  Even though they did not appeal the Court’s decision, they still disagree with the Court (typical IRS).

Roger does a good job of breaking down the details of the issue and provides guidance on whether you need to file the form or not. 

I agree with Roger that the IRS is wrong in imposing self-employment tax on non-farmers. I am more willing to disclose than Roger, and I think preparers should discuss disclosure with clients.

 

Russ Fox, De Minimis Rule Change Is Better than I First Thought. “Normally when you read something that’s from the IRS, you expect to find ‘gotchas.'”

William Perez, Year-End Tax Planning Tips for Investors

Robert D. Flach, FINE WHINE! “Forced ethics CPE will not reduce tax fraud!”

Kay Bell, Hunters’ game plan: donating meat to feed the hungry

Peter Reilly, Hobby Lobby Owners Win First Round In $3 Million Tax Refund Case

 

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Take the Money and Run? The Tax Consequences of Winning a Home in a Giveaway, Part 2

 

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Alan Cole, Universal Savings Accounts Introduced in Congress (Tax Policy Blog). “The bill, sponsored by Senator Jeff Flake and Representative Dave Brat, would allow Americans age 18 or older to open an account to which they could contribute $5,500 of after-tax money. The money could be invested in bonds and equities, and grow tax free.”

Renu Zaretsky, On Highways and Tax Bases. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers efforts to pass an elusive permanent highway funding bill, among other things.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 931Day 932,Day 934Day 935. Day 934 is probably the best of this holiday weekend’s crop, with discussion of the systematic weakening of inspectors general by the administration. “Last year, 47 of the nation’s 73 federal IGs signed an open letter decrying the Obama administration’s stonewalling of their investigations.”

Robert Wood, Wesley Snipes Sues IRS Over Abusive $17.5M Tax Bill, False Promise Of ‘Fresh Start’. Mr. Snipes has not previously shown good skill with the tax law, and I don’t think he’s starting now.

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/18/15: A 3% Iowa income tax rate? And: Californians, taxes could be worse!

Wednesday, November 18th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

engageiowalogoNew policy group proposes bold Iowa tax reform. In the wake of another Tax Foundation report showing that Iowa’s business tax policy stinks, there is a new proposal to do something about it. Tax Analysts reports ($link):

Iowa’s nine-bracket personal income tax would be flattened to a single rate of about 3 percent under a proposal from a recently formed Iowa policy group.

Engage Iowa, founded in August by Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett, is calling for changes to the state’s income tax code that it says would improve the state’s business climate and reduce the outflow of high-income taxpayers to states such as Texas and South Dakota.

Like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Planthe Engage Iowa paper does not advocate a tax cut. It attempts to come up with a rate and tax structure that raises the same amount of tax as the current Iowa tax system. The paper presents several proposals, including one that uses a 1 percentage point increase in the state sales tax rate to reduce the income tax rate.

The plan has a lot going for it. Its one glaring weakness is its omission of any corporation tax reform. Iowa has the highest corporation tax rate in the country, but one so full of loopholes and corporate welfare tax credits that it generates a relatively paltry amount of revenue for the state. Iowa’s 49th place corporation tax rating in the Tax Foundation State Business Tax Climate Index is a big reason for Iowa’s perennially poor ranking.

Naturally the high-tax, high-complexity lobby is unimpressed by the plan. From TheGazette.com:

Peter Fisher, research director for the left-leaning Iowa Policy Project in Iowa City, on Monday said he applauded Engage Iowa for pointing out that Iowa’s current income tax system is less progressive than it might seem after deductions and credits are factored in. He said the Engage Iowa policy suggestions also might help eliminate “the perception problem” that Iowa has as a higher top income tax rate than it does in practice.

However, Fisher said the Engage Iowa flat tax seems like others of its kind: It lowers taxes for the wealthier and makes up for it with taxes on the lower end of the income earners.

The tax law is a poor vehicle for income redistribution in general, but the state income tax is an awful vehicle in particular, given the ability of high income earners to leave the state. The focus on “the rich” also skates by the reality of who “the rich” are: primarily employers who run their businesses through pass-through entities and pay their business taxes on their 1040s. Bashing “the rich” bashes employment, especially with zero-tax South Dakota right next door.

 

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Russ Fox, Yes, Two States Rank Lower than California. “It’s not all bad news in the Tax Foundation’s 2016 State Business Tax Climate Index for California. You could always be in New York or New Jersey.”

Robert Wood, Man Gets $21.5M Verdict For Door Injury, But IRS Is Biggest Winner. “Damages for physical injuries are tax free, but punitive damages are taxed. For this reason and others, your taxes might be lower if you settle a lawsuit rather than going to verdict.”

 

Mitch Maahs, Report Highlights IRS Shortcomings Preventing Business ID Theft (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). “In most cases, an ID thief files a business tax return using an Employer Identification Number (EIN) of an active or inactive business without permission to obtain a fraudulent refund, often claiming extensive refundable tax credits.”

Kay Bell, Tornadoes, other wild November weather: Be ready! “Be ready, on the physical and financial and especially tax fronts, for dangerous weather, this week and any time of the year.”

Janet Novack, After Budget Deal’s Surprise Cuts, Can Boomers Really Count On Social Security? It’s always dangerous to count on a fiscally insane scheme for your retirement security.

Jim Maule, The Fallacy of “Job Creating” Tax Breaks, Yet Again. “Job relocation is not job creation.”

 

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Scott Greenberg, Section 179 Really Does Benefit Small Businesses (Tax Policy Blog). “Ideally, all business investments would be given the same treatment as Section 179 and businesses would be able to deduct all investment costs in the year that they occur. But until the U.S. tax code adopts this ideal, Section 179 remains an important provision that allows some businesses to deduct investment costs as they occur.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 923. And all politicians are honest in Chicago. “President Barack Obama’s public comments appearing to prejudge the outcome of Justice Department investigations don’t affect the decisions in those inquiries, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said Tuesday.”

Renu Zaretsky, Budgeting, Wooing, and Taxing. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers highway bill politics and Michigan’s entirely unoriginal idea of bribing companies to lure data centers.

Danshera Cords, Unintentionally Undermining Voluntary Compliance: Balancing Accountability and Budget (Procedurally Taxing). Another call to increase the IRS budget. If you want the IRS budget increased, you want Commissioner Koskinen to resign, because it’s not happening otherwise.

 

Career Corner. The Toll of Travel: An Interview With a Former Big 4 Advisory Road Warrior  (Leona May, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/12/15: W-2 trumps uncertain memory. And: more debate reaction.

Thursday, November 12th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Day 4: Ottumwa! The big first week of The  ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax Schools concludes for the Day 1 teaching team of me, Kristy Maitre and Roger McEowen at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa today. The Day 2 team of Paul Neiffer, Dave Repp and Patty Fulton will finish up in Red Oak this morning.

It’s been some driving this week:

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If you missed us, there are still four two-day schools left. We hit Mason City next Monday; Maquoketa November 23; Denison December 7; and Ames December 14. The Ames session is available as a webinar. Register today!

 

Sure enough. Few of us (generally only tax preparers) double-check the income reported on our W-2s. We take the employer’s word for it. So does the IRS. That’s the lesson a Californian learned this week in Tax Court.

The taxpayer faced some extra hurdles in filing his 2010 tax returns, according to the Tax Court:

Petitioner was arrested the second week of January of 2011 and was incarcerated until June 2012. Petitioner’s motorhome and van were seized, and he lost all of his records after his arrest and incarceration.

Petitioner did not file a timely return for 2010. On April 1, 2013, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) prepared a substitute for return for 2010 under section 6020(b). The IRS issued a notice of deficiency for 2010 dated July 8, 2013.

Considering the circumstances, you can understand the non-filing, even while realizing he still needed to. But he was nagged by doubts (my emphasis).

As indicated, petitioner conceded all of the income determined in the notice of deficiency with the exception of wage income of $3,767 from Audio Visual Projection Services, Inc., and $404 from Swank Audio Visuals, LLC. These employers issued petitioner 2010 Forms W-2 for the respective amounts. Petitioner explained that because all of his records were lost and his employers often paid him late or not at all, he does not know whether he was paid for all of the work that he performed in 2010.

It’s an interesting defense. He didn’t say he wasn’t paid; he just wasn’t sure. But the court was sure enough (citations omitted, my emphasis):

In unreported income cases, the Commissioner must base the deficiency on some substantive evidence that the taxpayer received the unreported income.  If the Commissioner introduces some evidence that the taxpayer received unreported income, the burden shifts to the taxpayer. The Forms W-2 from Audio Visual Projection Services, Inc., and from Swank Audio Visuals, LLC, are sufficient evidence to shift the burden of proof to petitioner.

We also note that section 6201(d) provides that in any court proceeding, where a taxpayer asserts a reasonable dispute with respect to any item of income reported on an information return and the taxpayer has fully cooperated with the Secretary, the Secretary has the burden of producing reasonable and probative information concerning the deficiency in addition to the information on the return. The key term in the foregoing sentence is “a reasonable dispute.” This Court has concluded that a taxpayer does not raise a reasonable dispute for purposes of section 6201(d) merely by testifying that he is uncertain, cannot remember, or does not know.

Adding insult to uncertain memory, the Tax Court upheld penalties for late filing; being in jail is apparently no excuse.

Cite: McDougall, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-65.

 

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TaxGrrrl bravely live-blogged the GOP debate this week. A handy place to check out what they had to say on taxes.

Kyle Pomerleau, Senator Ted Cruz’s Comment About His Border-Adjusted Tax, Explained (Tax Policy Blog).

Jenice Johnson, Candidates Tax Cuts Unequivocally Skew Toward the Wealthy (Tax Justice Blog). It’s just math. The wealthy pay pretty much all of the taxes, so they will “reap” any tax cuts.

Scott Greenberg, Carson Calls for Eliminating the Mortgage Interest and Charitable Deductions (Tax Policy Blog).

 

Paul Neiffer, When Will We Know Section 179 Amount?. My intrepid tax school colleague ponders the likelihood and timing of the “extender” bill for this year.

Tri-state sales tax webinar! The Iowa Department of Revenue will have a free webinar covering “Sales and Use Tax Basics” for Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska. It’s easy to get nexus for sales tax. There are plenty of Iowa businesses that need to take care of sales taxes elsewhere.

Ying Sa, My IRS is little (IowaBiz.com). “Many immigrant-owned small businesses begin with a focus on just selling. The rest, such as an income statement, balance sheet and tax compliance, is sometimes unknown to them.”

Insureblog, Worse Insurance, Higher Cost. “The fact is, your insurance is going to get worse and you are going to pay more for it.”

Robert D. Flach, QUESTIONS ANSWERED. Robert answers a reader question on deducting state property taxes.

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2015, #8: Tax-Free Parsonage Allowance Gets A Second Life.

Russ Fox, The Real Winners of the World Series of Poker (2015 Edition). Hint: the winner’s first initial is “I.”

Janet Novack, Here’s How Congress Just Cut Social Security For Baby Boomer Couples. The end of “file and suspend.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 917,

Stuart Gibson, The European Predictability Paradox (Tax Analysts Blog). “Paradox will rule the European tax world, in which certainty will become uncertain and the predictability accorded by advance rulings will become entirely unpredictable.”

Renu Zaretsky, To make money you have to spend money…” Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the Dell-EMC merger, international tax reform hopes, and lots more.

 

News from the Profession. CPAs Admit That They’re Not Good Business People (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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