Posts Tagged ‘revenue cameras’

Tax Roundup, 3/10/14: Sioux City $afety Edition. And: rogue dentistry!

Monday, March 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Sioux City Revenue Camera Windfall.  The Des Moines Register today lists the winners from revenue cameras around the state.  Public safety isn’t up there:

Tickets from automatic traffic cameras totaled $19.7 million for nine Iowa cities during the last fiscal year, but more than 34 percent of that money went to out-of-state vendors.

The summary:

20140310-1

Sioux City benefitted richly from Iowa’s status as the only state allowing revenue cameras on interstate highways:

Iowa is the only state in the country that allows speed cameras to be permanently placed on highways and interstates. The data collected by the DOT shows those cameras are the most lucrative: The two placed in a construction zone on Interstate Highway 29 in Sioux City brought in more than $4.5 million for the fiscal year ending in June.

gatsoThe evident failure of the cameras to stop construction zone speeding tells you how much they help public safety.  If they stopped speeding, there wouldn’t be so much revenue.  Of course, Sioux City also has a big incentive to generously define “construction zones” and leave them in place after construction is completed.  I drove through the I-29 zone on a Sunday night (no ticket for me!);  with no no workers around at the time, the only point of the construction zone speed limits when I drove through was camera revenue.

Some good news from the piece: “The number of red-light cameras nationally is dropping, according to a study by the Reason Foundation, a libertarian-leaning think tank.”  That’s because they’re a crock, a corrupt bargain between the operators and the municipalities, and people hate that.

 

William Perez, Need Extra Time to Finish up Your 2013 Tax Return?:

The IRS will grant a person an additional six months to file their tax return. To request this extra time, file an extension with the IRS on or before the deadline.

Filing an extension provides several benefits. Besides extra time to file the tax return, an extension also provides extra time to fund a self-employed retirement plan and to recharacterize IRA contributions.

And, contrary to myth, it doesn’t increase your chances of getting audited.  In contrast, filing an erroneous return to beat the deadline or get a quicker refund definitely increases your audit risk.

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): D Is For DRIP   

Kay Bell, Daylight Saving Time + gas taxes = boon for tax collectors, but some money-saving options for added daylight drivers 

Janet Novack, Pensions Create Yet Another Tax Trap For U.S. Expatriates

Russ Fox, False Checks, Trusts, and Ignoring Taxes Lead to Real Prison.  Indeed they do.

 

 Joseph Henchman, State Tax Reforms Are More Than Just Revenue Changes (Tax Policy Blog):

But more to the point, we consider 2013 one of the most successful years for tax reform we’ve seen in a while. We saw North Carolina cut its taxes but, more importantly, massively restructure them to become flatter, simpler, and more competitive. The real improvement in North Carolina wasn’t just the amount of taxes (though they did cut taxes, as noted above), but the structure of the tax code.

Beyond North Carolina’s landmark reform, Indiana under Governor Mike Pence (R) also moved to cut its personal income taxes and abolish its death tax. Wisconsin also made significant income tax cuts accompanied by positive structural changes authored by Representative Dale Kooyenga. Even in states that couldn’t achieve such sweeping reforms, valuable progress was made. Arizona implemented an important simplification of its sales tax code. Governor Martinez of New Mexico worked with her legislature to cut her state’s corporate tax. Texas made some positive reforms to its damaging gross receipts tax, the margin tax.

Notice one state missing there?  Anyone?  Iowa?  The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan is ready to go!  How about a 4% top individual rate, repeal of the Iowa corporation tax, and massive simplification — or do you like massive complexity, special favors for special friends, and the nation’s highest stated corporate rate?

 

Eric Todor, Tax Reform’s Quiet Protectionism (TaxVox): “In effect, income from the sale in the United States of goods manufactured overseas by controlled foreign subsidiaries (CFCs) of U.S.-resident multinational companies would be taxed at a higher U.S. rate than other income from the same factory”

 

William Gale, Alan Auerbach, Forgotten but Not Gone: The Long-Term Fiscal Imbalance (TaxVox):

First, ignoring projections for the future, the current debt-GDP ratio is far higher than at any time in U.S. history except for a brief period around World War II. While there is little mystery why the debt-GDP ratio grew substantially over the last six years – largely the recession and, to a smaller extent, countercyclical measures – today’s higher debt-GDP ratio leaves less “fiscal space” for future policy.

Second, while we clearly face no imminent budget crisis, our new projections suggest the 10-year budget outlook remains tenuous and is worse than it was last year, primarily due to changes in economic projections.

And the rich guy can’t pick up the tab.

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

George Will, The IRS’s behavior taxes credulity:

Obama breezily says there was nothing more sinister than “boneheaded decisions” by wayward and anonymous IRS underlings. Certainly boneheadedness explains much about this administration. Still, does he consider it interesting that the consequences of IRS boneheadedness were not randomly distributed but thwarted conservatives?

The rules that Obama says befuddled the IRS boneheads — to his benefit — read today exactly as they have read since 1959. For half a century they did not prevent the IRS from processing applications for tax-exempt status in less than three months. Some conservative group should offer $10,000 to anyone who can identify a liberal group that had the experience scores of conservative groups have had — an application delayed more than three years and receipt of an IRS questionnaire containing at least 60 questions.

Believing that there isn’t a “smidgen of corruption” is about as much of an intellectual leap as, say, believing dinosaurs and humans co-existed.

Via Instapundit

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 305

 

Jack Townsend has a List of 14 Swiss Banks Under Criminal Investigation

Quotable: 

Many smart people think preparers should be regulated. I just don’t agree. There is no market failure. If you don’t like your preparer, find another one. Or better yet, write your representative and ask for a tax system that doesn’t require low-income people to pay preparers.

David Brunori, State Tax Notes ($link)

 

I suspect he won’t need a preparer for awhile now.  From Going Concern:

Xzavier allegedly beat up a tax preparer when he found out the woman he was with wouldn’t be getting her refund in cash. After a security guard intervened, he is accused of whipping out his heat and shooting both the guard and two women. A fourth person was grazed by a bullet but not shot.

I’m sure that really helped her get that refund sooner.

 

Crazy news from Canada: Rogue dentist fined $33,000 for unpaid tax; Tung Sheng Wu practised dentistry illegally in the tri-cities and Burnaby

I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen the phrase “rogue dentist” before.

 

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

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

More from Howard Gleckman:

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

Most studies conclude there is not.

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

 

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

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

 

Choosing a preparer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

competence curve

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

 

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

Fairmark.com: Share Identification Under Attack

 

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 258

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/26/2013: The corporation that’s gone no longer protects you.

Monday, August 26th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130826-1Most people set up corporations at least partly to protect themselves from being liable for liabilities incurred in the business.  And it usually works that way.   But not always, as a case out of Colorado reminds us.

Colorado Gas Compression, Inc. ceased operations in 1998 and was administratively dissolved in 2005.  In 1998 the IRS assessed taxes on the company for 1994 through 1996, and eventually won in Tax Court.  But the company was gone by then.  So what happened?  The IRS went after the corporation’s shareholder:

Mr. Holmes was the sole shareholder of Colorado Gas until it was dissolved by the Colorado Secretary of State in 2005, by which time it had ceased operations…

Colorado Gas made a series of distributions to Mr. Holmes in the years from 1995 to 2002, transfers which totaled over $3.6 million. As will be explained infra, it is significant that Colorado Gas was in the process of winding up its active operations at this time. 

Cutting to the ending, the appeals court ruled that Mr. Holmes was liable as a “transferee” of corporate assets.

If the corporation had died owing taxes, but had not distributed funds to Mr. Holmes, the answer likely would have been different.  But if a corporation dies owing taxes while the owners withdrew funds, they might be on the hook.  The same idea can apply to estates when the IRS assesses tax to either the estate or the decedent.

Cite: Holmes, CA-10, Nos. 12-1164, 12-1220

 

 

Kay Bell, Remembering Martin Luther King’s legacy and tax trial:

King was indicted in February 1960 by an Alabama grand jury on two counts of felony perjury. The state charged that King had signed fraudulent tax returns for 1956 and 1958.

A state audit of King’s returns the previous month claimed that he had not reported funds he received on behalf of the Montgomery Improvement Association (MIA) and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), and still owed Alabama tax collectors more than $1,700. 

Tax law can be politicized very easily.  That’s why the IRS Tea Party scandal is serious business, and why Presidents shouldn’t joke about auditing their enemies.

 

Paul Neiffer, The Power of Installment Sales:

Assuming our farmer had other ordinary farm income of $150,000, his total capital gains tax bill if sold for cash would be 15% on the first $100,000 of gain, 18.8% on the next $200,000 of gain and finally 23.8% on the last $100,000 of gain for total tax owed of $76,400 (the actual tax would be slightly higher due to phaseout of itemized deductions and exemptions).  However, if he spreads the gain over the next ten years and keeps his net gain in the 15% bracket (staying under $250,000 of adjusted gross income), the total tax owed on the gain would only be $60,000 for a net tax savings of $16,400.  Plus, the farmer may have received an interest rate on the installment note greater than current interest rates.

By spreading the income over a longer time, the taxpayer kept his AGI below the $250,000 threshold for the Obamacare Net Investment Income Tax.

 

Jason Dinesen, Evaluating the Cost of Working:

What we found was, the difference between me staying home with the kids (thus eliminating all of the above costs) and me continuing to work was: $200/month.

I could stay home with the kids, contribute $2,400 a year to our family’s bottom line from my side business, and we’d be in the exact same financial situation as we would be in if I continued to work at my day job.

It was a simple decision.

I quit my day job, and have been part accountant, part stay-at-home dad for the last two years.

But, he notes, it’s not for everyone.

 

Peter Reilly, S Corporation SE Avoidance Still A Solid Strategy   Just remember, hogs get slaughtered.

 

TaxProf, 9th Circuit Reverses Tax Fraud Conviction for Using Charitable Contribution to Arm Chechnyan Terrorists, Rather Than to Purchase Mosque

 

Phil Hodgen,  Relinquishing U.S. citizenship and expatriation

Brian Mahany, Offshore Tax Evasion Update – By The Numbers

Jack Townsend,   Swiss IT Specialist Sentenced for Disclosing Bank Client Data to German Tax Authorities.  He got paid over 1 million Euros by the German tax authorities.

 

Russ Fox, Have I Got a Fixer-Upper for You.  It sounds a little like Iowa’s Wallace Building, but bigger.

William McBride, Repatriated Foreign Earnings Do Not Mainly Go To Shareholder Payouts

Because they think we’re pockets to be picked.  Polk County expands use of speed cameras (Des Moines Register)

 

I’ve been interviewed: Interview with Joe Kristan, Author of the Roth CPA Tax Update Blog

 

Moving beyond straw man arguments:

Clay men face federal tax fraud charges

Cobb Man Charged in ID Theft Scheme

 

 

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

Friday, August 16th, 2013 by Joe Kristan


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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

Peter then provides the reasons, one by one.

Trish McIntire,  Documenting Donations

 

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

Kay Bell,  Turning financial failures into tax-saving successes

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 99

Robert D. Flach is ready with your Friday Buzz!

 

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

 

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

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

That doesn’t work, as Paul explains.

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

Thursday, August 15th, 2013 by Joe Kristan


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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

TaxGrrrl has more.

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 98.

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Friday, July 19th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

Greg Mankiw, The Changing Distribution of Income:

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

I’ll have what he’s having.

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

Thursday, July 18th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wall Street Journal, The IRS Goes to Washington.

 

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

There has been no prosecution for the illegal access:

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

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

Instapundit has more.

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


 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

Jack Townsend, Interview of Swiss Bank Whistleblower

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/27/2013: All apologies edition. And DOMA Carnival!

Thursday, June 27th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Apology payments? The Taxpayer Advocate’s office issued a special report yesterday blasting the IRS treatment of 501(c)(4) exemption applications.  The report also said the IRS apparently violated the law, and its own internal procedures, by having unpublished secret internal guidance on handling the Tea Party cases.The report raises the idea of allowing the issuance of $1,000 “apology payments” for taxpayers who are mistreated by the IRS.

Not a bad start, but far better would be a “sauce for the gander” approach, where the IRS could be subject to penalties for late processing, delays and unjustified positions on the same basis as taxpayers.  If a little charity can be hit with a $100-per-day penalty for not filing a Form 990, the IRS could pay $100 per day for sitting on a 501(c)(4) exemption.  If the IRS takes an unsupported position on an examination, it should pay to the taxpayer 20% of the tax it would have collected through its bogus position.

The TaxProf has more.

Joseph Thorndike, So the IRS Hounded Liberals Too – But We’ve Still Got a Problem (Tax Analysts Blog) I still await tales left-side organization applications left to languish for years or subjected to the grilling applied to the Tea Party groups.

 

Lots of reaction to yesterday’s Supreme Court decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act. 

Jason Dinesen owns this issue.  He has an extensive practice in Iowa same-sex married couples, and he posted up a storm yesterday:

DOMA Ruled Unconstitutional:

It means couples in same-sex marriages no longer have to jump through the following hoops to meet their tax obligations:

  1. Prepare and file separate federal tax returns as two single people and applying tax law as it applies to single people.

  2. Prepare a “mock” federal return employing tax law as it applies to married people, to see what their tax situation would have looked like if the federal government had recognized their marriage.

  3. Use that “mock” return to prepare their state return as a married couple.

Also, DOMA Done, But Complications Live On and More DOMA Musings — Married But Living in a Non-Recognition State:

IRS Revenue Ruling 58-66 says marital status is determined at the state level and does not change even if you move to a state that doesn’t recognize your marriage… But would this Revenue Ruling from 1958 regarding common-law marriage apply to same-sex couples from states like Missouri or Nebraska who drive to Iowa to get a marriage certificate but who actually live in Missouri or Nebraska, or some other non-recognition state?

The IRS will have to come out with guidance on this and other issues, including:

– A standard procedure for amended returns from same-sex couples who want to obtain joint filing benefits.

– Guidance on the mandatory nature of joint returns for same-sex married couples, and whether it is retroactive.  If same-sex married couples get to choose for open years whether to file jointly or single, is it also an equal-protection violation to deny that choice to double-sex couples?  I doubt it, but that would be fun.

Jason also offers a DOMA Tax News Roundup today.

 

Tony Nitti, Tax Implications Of The Supreme Court’s DOMA Decision: Same-Sex Couples To Be Subject To Marriage Penalty:

The Supreme Court’s ruling is clearly a victory for equality. And from a tax perspective, the decision stands to save meaningful dollars for same-sex couples who will now be defined as married for purposes of the federal estate and gift laws; because the marital deduction will now apply to these couples, spouses will be permitted to transfer assets to each other tax-free during their lifetime or at death.

Kay Bell, DOMA is dead: The effect on same-sex married couples’ taxes

Len Burman, What Will Supreme Court Decision on DOMA Mean for the IRS? (TaxVox)

Let’s assume that half of the newly recognized couples receive bonuses, which means that roughly 50,000 couples might benefit from filing amended income tax returns for 2012, 2011, and/or 2010. If all 50,000 filed amended returns for an average of 1.5 years out of the three this would yield 75,000 amended returns.

Roberton Williams, DOMA’s Demise and Federal Taxes (TaxVox)

Russ Fox, DOMA Done, But Don’t File that Joint Return Just Yet:

The US Supreme Court ruled today that the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) was unconstitutional.  That makes it appear that same-sex couples should be able to file joint tax returns.  There’s only one problem: The IRS computers likely would reject such a return if it were filed today.

TaxGrrrl, Supreme Court Rules DOMA Unconstitutional (And It Was A Tax Case!)

Nick Kasprak, Joint Filing in the Tax Code (Tax Policy Blog):

Despite the possibility of a penalty, joint tax returns generally provide tax relief, and they’re probably one of the biggest benefits that gay couples can now take advantage of (along with the estate tax exemption, which was at the center of the Supreme Court case).

Joseph Henchman, Supreme Court Decides Same-Sex Marriage Estate Tax Case (Tax Policy Blog)

Robert D. Flach, THE DEATH OF DOMA

Tax Trials, DOMA Doomed by Estate Tax Refund Claim

Linda Beale, Gay Marriage Decisions– As Expected, A Step Towards Full Civil Rights for Gays

 

In other news:

Russ Fox, Loving Appeal to be Heard on September 24th

Jack Townsend, New Taxpayer Advocate Discussion of Problems with IRS OVDI/P Program.  Still shooting jaywalkers.

Paul Neiffer, A Lease Qualifies For Like Kind Treatment But Watch the Fine Print

William McBride, Reducing Tax Avoidance by Reducing Economic Activity: New Zealand’s Failed Experiment with Ending Deferral (Tax Policy Blog)

 

Extortion Watch.  Tennessee Man Indicted for Romney Tax Return Fraud and Extortion Scheme (Department of Justice Press Release)

Legal extortion watch.   Police investigate damage to red light camera.  (Des Moines Register) It’s a tragedy that somebody might have gotten away with not quite coming to a complete stop at an empty intersection.

 

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

Friday, October 26th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/10/12: Herbert Hoover birthday edition!

Friday, August 10th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Herbert Hoover was born 138 years ago in West Branch, Iowa.  They haven’t elected another Iowan as President since for some reason.  Arnold Kling ponders the Hoover presidency:

Price V. Fishback and John Joseph Wallis write,

Federal budget outlays in real dollars rose 88 percent under Hoover between 1929 and 1932, faster than the growth in the first three years under Roosevelt (although starting from a lower base). Budget deficits under Hoover look more Keynesian than Roosevelt’s deficits, although likely not by Hoover’s design.

The conventional wisdom is that Herbert Hoover sat back and did nothing, and then Roosevelt cured the Depression with the New Deal.  In fact, I think that economic historians tend to see both Presidents making similar mistakes.  The most common view among economists today is that going off the gold standard was President Roosevelt’s best policy move, while many of the other New Deal policies, most especially the National Recovery Administration, were a hindrance.

President Hoover will always be linked to the depression.  That’s fair, though the story is much more interesting than the comic-book version of popular history.

 

State rejects Windsor Heights’ bid for revenue cameras (Des Moines Register):

The portion of I-235 that goes through Windsor Heights has the highest crash rate in the county, according to the city’s proposal.

(Windsor Heights Police Chief) McDaniel said that while the cameras will likely pay for themselves, the city wasn’t thinking about additional revenue when they proposed the project. Any potential revenue would go toward equipment purchases for public safety entities, he said.

Windsor Heights has long been notorious as an incorporated speed trap.  Why would anyone think that the cameras would be there just for revenue?  They are also there to award special favors to other government agencies!

Yes, that stretch has a lot of accidents — because of the design of the road, where having one too few lanes to accommodate three exits in a short stretch causes daily traffic backups.  Why are there too few lanes?  If my memory serves, it’s because Windsor Heights objected to an extra lane through their fair city.

 

Yes, government programs require government regulation.  The Quad City Times concludes an editorial on the film program this way:

Iowa, like many states, wheels and deals with tens of millions of dollars in tax credits every year to encourage senior housing, economic development, energy efficient homes and businesses and countless other initiatives. Witter’s jury acquitted a professional, degreed and licensed accountant of any criminal culpability for submitting expenses the state auditor later documented as unfounded.

So without extensive government regulation, Iowa’s tax credit programs seem ripe for the picking.

So what government is supposed to regulate a state government program?

It came out in the most recent film credit trial that the man who brokered 2/3 of the $36 million of tax credits issued — 80% of them improperlyreceived over $400,000 in commissions for his efforts.  So while the programs are advertised as benefiting “senior housing, economic development, energy efficient homes and businesses and countless other initiatives,”  remember that the real beneficiaries are well-connected fixers and middlemen.

 

Josh Barro asks, “Is Iowa Necessary?”

What’s so great about the wind credit? Well, according to Branstad, it has encouraged the construction of wind turbines all over Iowa, which means jobs for Iowans and rental income for Iowa farmers. If that sounds to you a lot like the arguments for subsidizing solar power — and the arguments for every industrial subsidy ever — you’re not alone.

Of course, the really important difference between wind subsidies and solar subsidies is that Iowa is windy and not especially sunny. If the purpose of the federal government is to do nice things for Iowa, then obviously it should prioritize wind over solar.

His solution for the problem of Iowa extortion:

 We could reduce Iowan tyranny by taking away its status as the first state to hold presidential caucuses. But Iowa would remain a swing state with outsized influence in the general election. The only way to really be safe is to revoke Iowa’s statehood, returning it to a territory whose representatives in Washington, D.C., would play a purely advisory role — and whose residents would have no part in choosing the president.

OK, we have our faults here, but put California and Illinois in receivership first, then we can talk about Iowa.  Update: Josh Barro Declares War on Iowa (Reihan Salam)

 

Kay Bell: IRS ignored fake tax ID numbers, potentially costing Treasury billions.  Good thing we have open-book competency exams for tax preparers.  More from Peter Pappas.  Meanwhile, Jason Dinesen has a new installment of the saga of how IRS negligence on the refund fraud front led to a nightmare for a widowed client.  A Ways and Means Republican has called for the resignation of IRS Commissioner Shulman to resign in the wake of the new revelations of IRS malfeasance.  It’s long overdue.

Russ Fox, What a Drag:

Write a business plan, have a separate bank account, and keep good records!  Trust me, you’ll be happy you did

If you want to deduct your expenses, that is.

Howard Gleckman, The Bowles-Simpson and Romney Tax Plans Have Almost Nothing in Common (TaxVox)

Jim Maule, You Get What You Vote For.  The good professor just can’t imagine why voters would distrust the government to spend more money wisely.

But you still have to pay the rent somehow. It Is Never Unreasonable to Quit a “Good Job” If You Hate Your Life   (Going Concern)

News you can use: Strippers of America, Get Your W-4s Ready. You’re Employees Now(Anthony Nitti)

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/2/2012

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012 by Joe Kristan

In case you need more evidence that your Iowa public officials hold you in contempt:  “Two decisions made in favor of mobile speed cameras; Supervisors OK them for busy Polk roads, while legislators kill a proposed state ban.”   Remember them in November. (Des Moines Register)

The lush life of the washed-up NFL player: three of them charged in ID-theft tax refund scam.  (Kay Bell, Bankrate.com)

Just another humble municipal public servant: Dixon, Illinois financial officer accused of helping herself to $53 million or so.  Think it ever hit her 1040? (Going Concern)

Sadly, they get to pay taxes for humble municipal public servants steal:The Price of Freedom: What Happens to the Wrongfully Convicted?” (TaxGrrrl)

Commissioner Shulman won’t rest until they’re all gone: Wealthy Americans Queue to Give Up Their Passports“‘There is incredible frustration at the audacity and imperial overreach of this law,’ said David Kuenzi, a tax adviser at Thun Financial Advisors in Madison, Wisconsin, referring to Fatca. “ (Bloomberg)

Death and Income Taxes.  My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record group blog for entrepreneurs.

Off the barbie: Crocodile Dundee settles Oz tax bill (Kay Bell)  TaxDood has more.

No.  “Would a Romney Presidency Bring Sweeping Tax Cuts?” With the debt we’ve been accumulating, avoiding tax increases will be an accomplishment. (Anthony Nitti).

Are the new broker basis reporting rules worth it?Five Challenges for the IRS’s New Capital Gains Reporting Rules“(TaxVox)

News you can use: Beating The Possible Estate Tax Increase Without Switching To Cat Food – The Midmill Dilemma.  An issue for folks with net worth of $4 million to $14 million. (Peter J. Reilly)

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Amazon Tax, Field of Dreams subsidy pass Iowa Senate

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

The Iowa Senate outdid itself yesterday in bad tax policy. 

– It passed a bill (SF 2329) to allow a private business to keep sales taxes it collects for ten years.  This bill is a subsidy to a developer of an athletic complex at the site where “Field of Dreams” was filmed.  Soon everyone will want their own break, either making big winners out of those with the best lobbyists or gutting the sales tax base.  Government by special favor is alive and well in Iowa.

- It passed an “Amazon Tax” (SF 2330) with a breathtaking, and likely unconstitutional, extension of state tax liability to out-of-state companies that have business relationships or common ownership with companies selling into Iowa.  These taxes may cause* Amazon to drop affiliates in Iowa, making it harder on entrepreneurs here.  Colorado’s version was declared unconstitutional just yesterday.  (Disclosure: The Tax Update is available on Kindle.  Subscribe while you can!).

Iowans can find some consolation in the House, which passed a bill to outlaw traffic cameras (HF 2450).  Unfortunately the Senate is likely to protect their pickpocket friends in municipal government, who just love that sweet sweet camera revenue.

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

*I worngly said “have caused” in the original version of this post.  Amazon has dumped affiliates in other states with “Amazon Taxes,” but not in Iowa yet.  My apologies.

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

Wednesday, January 25th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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Revenue cameras lose in West Des Moines election

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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Making Des Moines safer, one collision at a time

Tuesday, June 14th, 2011 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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Missing the signals

Thursday, June 9th, 2011 by Joe Kristan

While Des Moines turns on its revenue cameras, including one at the 9th and Grand intersection downtown, Los Angeles prepares to shut its red-light cameras down:

The Los Angeles Police Commission Tuesday rejected a proposal from police officials to continue the city

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