Posts Tagged ‘Robert D Flach’

Tax Roundup, 9/9/14: The $63 Question Edition. And: is there such thing as an influential accountant?

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140321-4Asking the judge the 63-dollar question.  CPA practitioners sue to stop PTIN fees (Journal of Accountancy):

Two CPAs have filed suit in the U.S. district court for the District of Columbia, asking the court to stop the IRS from charging fees for issuing preparer tax identification numbers (PTINs), to obtain refunds of fees paid in the past, and to enjoin the IRS from asking for more information than needed to issue preparer tax identification numbers (PTINs)…

Although the IRS claims that the excess fees are intended to be used to pay the costs of the registration cards sent to each preparer, the costs of forms and other guidance provided to preparers, and the costs of tax compliance and suitability checks, the plaintiffs point out that none of this has been done or should be done. No registration cards have been sent, the IRS does not normally charge to issue other tax forms and instructions, and it has not conducted suitability checks because attorneys and CPAs are not subject to those requirements. In fact, CPAs are subject to their own requirements to prove that they are fit and competent. 

While I think the plaintiffs are correct in saying the $63 fee far exceeds any benefit we get from it, I suspect the attorneys will be the real winners in this suit.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 488

 

AndersenlogoFrancine McKenna, Arthur Ashes:

Arthur Andersen is back from the dead. A group of former partners from the accounting firm is reviving the brand a dozen years after its demise. It’s a display of hubris that attempts to give credence to some revisionist history about Andersen.

Enron was no isolated event. Andersen was implicated in cases involving Sunbeam, WorldCom and others. Its settlement with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission over Waste Management was at the time, in early 2001, a rare fraud case against a big accounting firm.

With only four “major” accounting firms left, it’s hard to imagine any of them going the way of Andersen.  It’s also hard to imagine that the Andersen brand will be worth more than, say, the Enron brand.

 

EITC error chartKyle Pomerleau, IRS Releases More Detail on EITC Over-Payments:

One of the major issues with the Earned Income Tax Credit is that is suffers from a high amount of payment error. In any given year, the error can amount to approximately 25% of total payments and cost $14 billion dollars.

It is usually not clear exactly why these errors occur. There are two common stories behind them. The first story is about plain fraud. Taxpayers, or the preparers that help them file taxes, are purposefully misrepresenting their information in order to receive the EITC, or increase their EITC.

The second story is that EITC filers, which are typically lower-income individuals with lower levels of education, are making a high number of mistakes when filing. For instance, they may claim their child as a dependent (which leads to a much larger EITC), but their ex-spouse may have claimed their child as well. The result being that one parent is non-compliant.

Given that the errors result in overpayments of the credit, you have to think fraud is a big part of it.  If the errors were random, you would expect about the same amount of underpayment errors as overpayment errors. Human nature itself plays a role, too; a disappointed taxpayer might keep working the numbers until a happy answer — an overpayment — is reached.  A taxpayer who reaches a happy answer right away is less likely to re-run the numbers.

 


buzz20140909TaxGrrrl, 
Back To School 2014: Expired Educator Expenses & Unreimbursed Employee Expenses

Jason Dinesen ponders What Responsibilities Do Tax Preparers Have in Assessing ACA Penalties?  “Just because we think a law is stupid doesn’t mean we don’t deal with it.” If we didn’t, we would have very little to do.

Peter Reilly, Joan Rivers Made Tax History

Robert D. Flach brings your early-in-the-week Buzz! Today he returns to the hive withmore news of the anti-PTIN fee lawsuit, among other topics.

 

Martin Sullivan, How Much Do Converted and Nontraditional REITs Cost the U.S. Treasury? (Tax Analysts Blog)

Howard Gleckman, Treasury’s Lew Says Anti-Inversion Decision Will Come Soon, But Offers No Hints About What Or When.  While we don’t know what the decision will be, we can be confident that it will leave the real problems — high rates and worldwide taxation of U.S. taxpayers — untouched.

 

Accounting Today has issued its annual list of the 100 Most Influential People in Tax and Accounting.  Somehow I missed the cut again, though I follow a few on Twitter. I hope I can make the “100 most influential accountants in Polk County” list, but I may have to do some lobbying.

Congratulations to TaxProf Paul Caron and Going Concern’s Caleb Newquist, but the omission of Caleb’s crony Adrienne Gonzalez is a crime that cries out for justice.

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/5/14: Obamacare tax credits get a reprieve. And: what’s $14 billion waste for a good cause?

Friday, September 5th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will re-hear Halbig.  The full court will re-decide the decision reached by a three-member court panel that limited tax credits under Obamacare to policies purchased through state-established exchanges.  As 36 states have not established exchanges, the decision would have undermined both the employer and employee mandates, which are largely dependent on the tax credits.  Jonathan Adler has more.  Michael Cannon explains the politics behind the decision to re-hear the case.

 

EITC error chartLeslie Book, IRS Issues New Report on EITC Overclaims (Title A).  Leslie covers the recent IRS report on how much of the cost of this welfare program run through tax returns is misspent:

“As a result of the EITC program growth the total overclaims in the study are higher in the 2006-08 Report than in the past 1999 study, with annual overclaim estimates for 2006-08 at $14 billion (lower estimate) or $19.3 billion (higher estimate), compared to 1999 figures of $12.3 billion (lower estimate) and $14 billion (higher estimate).”

The report shows that the errors arise largely from misreporting of income and claiming ineligible dependents.  While some of the errors are attributable to complexity, the skewing of the errors to extra refunds points to widespread cheating.  Complexity errors would tend to be more equally split between overpayments and underpayments, but the vast majority of errors resulted in EITC overpayments.

All of this makes Arnold Kling’s proposal to roll all means-tested welfare programs into a single voucher grant with a uniform phase-out rate look wise.

 

haroldMore on the Iowa Film Credit Settlement with a Rhode Island filmmaker from Maria Koklanaris at Tax Analysts ($link):

The state admits no liability in making the settlement, according to the agreement. An accompanying letter from Adam Humes, a state assistant attorney general, to Joseph Barry of the state Department of Management, says that “the agreement will resolve all claims related to these film projects, and all claims in . . . the civil case in exchange for a cash settlement. After the settlement becomes final, the civil case . . . will be dismissed with prejudice.”

Joe Kristan of Roth & Co. PC of Des Moines said several civil suits arose after the state “slammed the brakes on everything” to do with the film tax credit scandal, which resulted in seven criminal convictions amid revelations that the state had issued $26 million in improper credits.

You gotta like her sources.

 

Sebastian Johnson, Big Oil Wins In Alaska, Hollywood Wins in California.  Because California has plenty of cash to shower on filmmakers…

Russ Fox, $1.25 Billion Attracts Tesla to Nevada

 

Kyle Pomerleau, IRS Aims to Tax Silicon Valley Workers’ Fringe Benefits (Tax Policy Bl0g).

“The IRS and U.S. Treasury Department last week included taxation of “employer-provided meals” in their annual list of top tax priorities for the fiscal year ending next June. The agencies said they intend to issue new ‘guidance’ on the matter, but gave no specifics about timing or what the guidance would say.”

The IRS believes that the regular free meals provided to employees are a fringe benefit and should be taxed like compensation.

You can make a good theoretical argument that a lavish Silicon Valley cafeteria results in taxable income for the employees. It’s much harder to make a good practical arguemnt for taxing that benefit.  There are serious measurement problems, and the amount of revenue at stake hardly seems worth it.

 

buzz20140905It’s Friday!  That means it’s Buzz day for Robert D. Flach, who buzzes from taxing frequent flyer miles to taxing marijuana.  However you get high, there’s a tax for that.

William Perez, How to Deduct Car and Truck Expenses on Your Taxes.  “To prove you are eligible to deduct your car and truck expenses, you should keep a mileage log.”

Paul Neiffer, Partner Must Have Basis to Deduct Loss. “The bottom line is if you show a loss from a partnership, make sure you have enough “basis” to deduct the loss.”

Kay Bell, New NFL players ready for football, IRS ready for their taxes

Peter Reilly, IRS Shows Serious Meatspace Prejudice.  “You would think with all the pressure that it puts on people to file and pay electronically that the IRS would have a forward looking view and a preference for cyberspace.  It does not seem to be that way  in the tax exempt division, where meatspace seems to be much preferred.”

 

Jack Townsend discusses an Article on Swiss Banks in U.S. DOJ Program.  He quotes from the article:

Caught in the crossfire of these strategies, however, are thousands of bank clients who are either innocent of tax evasion offences or were unaware of their reporting responsibilities.

These include US citizens living and working in Switzerland who cannot open bank accounts or take out mortgage loans. In some cases they have been expelled by their banks as involving too much unwanted paperwork and risk.

Well done, Congress.  Your FATCA makes everyday personal finance a miserable challenge for Americans abroad.

Tax Trials, IRS Updates Internal Revenue Manual for Streamlined Offshore Compliance

 

horse 20140905Annette Nellen, Shakespeare, building your vocabulary … and taxes.  She summons up a “parade of horribles” — well, a judge she quotes does.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 484

 

Should I show this to my high school junior?  What Every High School Junior Should Know About Going to College (Bryan Caplan).  “College is a good deal for good students, a mediocre deal for mediocre students, and a poor deal for poor students.”

News from the Profession: EY Is No Longer Blocking Sports Websites Just in Time for Football Season (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/4/14: IOU? No basis for you! And: IRS may say TANSTAAFL.

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120801-2Partner IOUs fail to increase basis.  Just like S corporation shareholders, partners in a partnership can only deduct their share of the entity’s losses to the extent they have basis.  Like S corporation owners, partner basis starts with the basis of property and the amount of cash contributed to the partnership; it is increased by the owner’s share of taxable and tax-exempt income, and is reduced by expenses and distributions.

In a Tax Court case yesterday, partners”contributed” IOU from themselves to the partnership, VisionMonitor Software LLC.; the partners then used the amounts of the IOUs as basis for deducting losses.

Unfortunately for the partners, that doesn’t work.  Judge Holmes explains (minor editing by me):

VisionMonitor argues that the notes in this case, like the assumption of debt in Gefen, were necessary to persuade a third party to kick in more funding to a cash-strapped partnership. But unlike the partner in Gefen, neither Mantor nor Smith were guaranteeing a preexisting partnership debt to a third party. And they did not directly assume any of VisionMonitor’s outside liabilities — these notes are their liability to VisionMonitor, not an assumption or guaranty of VisionMonitor’s debt to a third party…  And there’s also no evidence that Mantor or Smith were personally obliged under the VisionMonitor partnership agreement to contribute a fixed amount for a specific, preexisting partnership liability.

Unlike S corporation shareholders, partners can get basis for debt owed by a partnership to third parties — for example, by providing a guarantee to a third-party lender (watch out for the “at-risk” rules).  But the court held that writing an IOU, by itself, doesn’t rise to the level of creating debt basis for the partner:

 Here… the partners each have no adjusted basis in the notes, and until they are paid, the notes are only a contractual obligation to their partnership. Mantor made a payment under his notes only in 2010, and the record has no evidence that Smith ever did. We therefore find that Mantor’s and Smith’s bases in their promissory notes during the 2007 and 2008 tax years were zero and, accordingly, that VisionMonitor’s basis in the contributed notes was also zero.

As it always does, the IRS tried to stick the partners with a 20% “accuracy-related” penalty. Judge Holmes wisely declined, holding that they relied reasonably on oral advice from their tax man, a Mr. Sympson:

We have little problem in finding that VisionMonitor actually relied on Sympson’s advice — his conclusion that the notes were additions to VisionMonitor’s capital (and the capital accounts of Smith and Mantor) was set out on the company’s returns. And we have little trouble in finding that this reliance was in good faith. In a case like this one — where VisionMonitor secured Smith and Mantor’s promises to increase their personal risk alongside their promise to extend their personal credit to the firm’s vendors — advice from a longtime tax adviser that this increased Smith’s and Mantor’s bases would seem reasonable to Mantor.

This is the sort of standard that the Tax Court should apply.  Taxes are hard — that’s why people hire out their tax work.  If they are open with their tax advisor, and they don’t have reason to think the tax advisor is incompetent, they shouldn’t get hammered with penalties just because the advisor makes a mistake. After all, the IRS makes mistakes too.

The Moral: If you want to get basis in your partnership without putting in cash, you need to get third party debt allocated to you in a way that makes you at-risk.  And: when things get complicated, if you are open with your preparer and follow the advice given, IRS penalties are not automatic.

Cite: VisionMonitor Software LLC, T.C. Memo 2014-182.

Related: How much K-1 loss can I deduct? Start with your basis.

 

TANSTAAFL. (There Aint) No Such Thing As A Free Lunch: IRS Mulls Tax On Employee Meals. (TaxGrrrl)  Just because you can make a theoretical argument that something is taxable doesn’t mean you should tax it.

 

20130121-2So you think regulation of preparers by IRS will stop fraud?  IRS Employee Accused Of Tax Fraud.  If they can’t keep themselves honest, they aren’t likely to prevent preparer cheating. Of course, preparer regulation isn’t about stopping fraud or improving tax compliance. It’s about grabbing power and helping well-placed friends.  Russ Fox has more.

 

Jana Luttenegger, Tax Court Ruling on Frequent Flyer Miles as Income (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Kay Bell, Tax differences between home repairs & home improvements.  It can make a big difference when you sell.

Robert D. Flach tells you WHAT TO ASK A TAX PRO

Jack Townsend, Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt – Ramblings

 

David Brunori, Business Pays a Lot of State and Local Taxes (Tax Analysts Blog):

COST recently released its 12th edition of the report. And it continues to influence the state tax debate as much today as it did in 2002. The new report says that businesses paid $671 billion in state and local taxes in 2013, up about 4 percent over the previous year. But business taxes accounted for 45 percent of all state and local taxes.

I note that the amount of tax paid by “business” is deceptive. Businesses do not pay taxes; people pay taxes. And every dime of the $671 billion was paid by some combination of shareholder, owner, employee, customer, or supplier. Those on the left desperately want the burden to fall on shareholders. But there is growing evidence that in a global economy, the burden falls on employees. 

And if it does fall on shareholders, remember that pension funds are also shareholders.

 

20140801-2Lyman Stone, Governor Rick Scott Offers Mixed Bag of Tax Proposals for Florida (Tax Policy Blog). “Governor Scott’s tax proposals offer meaningful improvements in some areas like cell phone and corporate income taxes. But on other issues like the property tax cap, it’s not clear whether or how the plan will work; on sales tax holidays, the proposed “tax cut” would actually make the tax code more complicated and distortionary, while creating little or no economic growth.”

Yes.  Next Question?  Is It Time to Repeal The Corporate Income Tax? (Howard Gleckman, TaxVox) “This view acknowledges that roughly 10 million businesses already have engaged in self-help tax reform by organizing themselves as pass-through firms (where owners at taxed as individuals but bypass the corporate tax entirely).”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 483

 

News from the Profession.  Ladies Still Need Entire Panels Made Up of Dudes to Talk About Ladies in the Profession (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)  “Don’t worry, ladies, the guys are ON IT.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/3/14: Fight the power edition. And: another Iowa film credit economic triumph!

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

It’s good to be back.  Sometimes other things take precedence over work.

 

Fight the Power!  Tax Analysts’ Joseph Thorndike defends the corporation income tax as a bulwark against corporate power ($link):

Popular fondness for taxing corporations may reflect an imperfect understanding of the corporate levy’s incidence. But it also reflects a clear-headed view of where the power lies in American society.

That’s interesting.  Lets see where some major institutions stack up in terms of “power,” measured by revenue (an imperfect measure, but one that is at least available for all of them, unlike net worth).

Google: $55 billion.

Apple: $171 billion.

Microsoft: $23 billion.

BP: $379 billion

State of California: $112 billion

United States Government revenue: $2,770 billion.

United States Government spending: $3,450 billion.

 

In handy graph form:

20140902-1

Of course, only one of these outfits can also send in people with guns to settle disputes with all of the others.  So who is going to impose an income tax to rein in the monster on the Potomac?

 

Economic Development, film style: Iowa pays $2 million to settle film lawsuit (Des Moines Register).  But think of the intangible benefits!

 

Kristy Maitre, Kristine Tidgren, ACA’s Thorny Impact On More-Than-2% S Corporation Shareholders

Consequently, in the absence of further guidance, we believe that if an S corporation chooses to increase wages for its employees to make up for its non-ACA-compliant employer payment plan, the more-than-2% shareholders will now have to pay FICA/FUTA taxes on that compensation, just as the other employees will now have to pay income taxes and FICA taxes on the increased wages. These payments are no longer made pursuant to an employer health plan and cannot be excluded from taxation.

You don’t have to have 50 employees to have Obamacare problems.

 

Peter Reilly, IRS Will Not Tax Forfeited Jackpots Of Compulsive Gamblers.  Mighty kind of them.

Kay Bell, Running errands for mom and other September tax moves

TaxGrrrl, Credit Cards, The IRS, Form 1099-K And The $19,399 Reporting Hole

Tony Nitti, Tax Court Says Bank ‘Thank You’ Points Are Taxable Income   

 

 

Scott Hodge, IRS Data Contradicts Kleinbard’s Warnings of Earnings Stripping from Inversions  (Tax Policy Blog)

Ajay Gupta, Yep, Son, We Have Met the Enemy (Tax Analysts Blog).  Mr. Gupta discusses the FIRPTA precedent for the current inversion hysteria:

It turns out that the enemy in the ‘80s was not the pools of offshore money ready to descend on onshore real estate. Nor will the enemy this time be the many offshore tax havens ready to shelter departing onshore companies. The enemy, as always, is closer to home.

Congress would be a good place to look.

 

Robert D. Flach once again gets to the heart of the matter:  “There is absolutely nothing illegal, immoral, or unethical with trying to ‘dodge’ taxes.  By ‘dodge’ I mean ‘avoid’.”

 

20140527-1Joseph Thorndike, When Do-Gooder Taxes Don’t Do Good (Tax Analysts Blog).

I’m no fan of anti-obesity taxes, whether they target soda, candy bars, or any other junk food. They are regressive and arbitrary, not to mention paternalistic and condescending. Supporters have all sorts of genuine good intentions. But ultimately, these taxes are simply an unfair money grab dressed up as a public health initiative.

Now we have some evidence that they may be ineffective, too.

Imagine that.

 

William Gale, Don’t be fooled: America’s deficit is still a problem

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown: Sept. 2 (Tax Justice Blog).  A left-side rundown of “Oil tax ballot fails in Alaska, film tax credits pass in California, and Ohio needs to do more on EITC expansion. Also: updates on Iowa gubernatorial election and a new report on airline gas tax breaks.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 482

 

And New Coke marketing genius award goes to…  From Going Concern, news of the boldest marketing move since the Edsel.  (Adrienne Gonzalez)

 

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Tax roundup, 8/26/14: Oh, that backup file. You can’t have that one. And lots more!

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

perryheadOh, that email backup?  From Today’s TaxProf IRA scandal roundup, The IRS Scandal, Day 474, comes this dazer:

Department of Justice attorneys for the Internal Revenue Service told Judicial Watch on Friday that Lois Lerner’s emails, indeed all government computer records, are backed up by the federal government in case of a government-wide catastrophe.  The Obama administration attorneys said that this back-up system would be too onerous to search. 

Tremendous.  After telling the court that there just was no way on earth those emails survived, now they say there is a backup, but it’s just too much of a hassle for them to use it to comply with the court’s orders.  I find it hard to imagine the brashest private-sector lawyer saying something like that, at least more than once.

But wait, there’s more:

The IRS filing in federal Judge Emmet Sullivan’s court reveals shocking new information. The IRS destroyed Lerner’s Blackberry AFTER it knew her computer had crashed and after a Congressional inquiry was well underway. As an IRS official declared under the penalty of perjury, the destroyed Blackberry would have contained the same emails (both sent and received) as Lois Lerner’s hard drive. 

Yet Commissioner Koskinen says we should just stop bugging him about this silly abuse of power stuff and give him money instead.  Because we can trust the IRS.

Related: TaxGrrrl, Judicial Watch Claims IRS Attorneys Admit Lois Lerner’s ‘Missing’ Emails Exist;  Russ Fox, Remember Those Missing IRS Emails? They Appear to Exist….

 

Peter Reilly, Home Sweet RV Does Not Always Produce Best Tax Result.  Peter discusses the recreational vehicle tax Catch-22 we noted recently.

harvestPaul Neiffer, How to Sell Your Land and Pay No Tax – MAYBE.  It involves stretching out the payments and keeping your other income down.

Jason Dinesen, More Commentary About Year-Round Proactive Services to Clients.  “Those of us who are good professionals rarely demand the respect we have earned. And then we wonder why clients seemingly don’t respect us, don’t value us, don’t listen to our advice, or jump ship the moment you breathe about a rate increase.”

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Computing Earnings and Profits.  “The primary purpose for computing E&P is to determine whether a distribution represents a taxable dividend, a nontaxable return of shareholder capital, or capital gain to the recipient shareholders.”

 

Leslie Book, A Stolen Check, Mistaken Identity and Prisoners (Procedurally Taxing):

This post considers Hill v US, a case from the Court of Federal Claims involving a prisoner named Mark Hill whose $1182 tax refund was stolen and cashed by another prisoner with the same name after the prison system mistakenly delivered an IRS letter relating to the missing refund check to the wrong Mark Hill. With time on his hands, but no check, the right Mark Hill sought justice in the form of a new check. After getting the runaround from the IRS, the right Mark Hill sued the US to force it to issue a new refund check. For good measure, he also wanted interest and punitive damages.

Turns out the IRS doesn’t get any more helpful if you are behind bars.

 

20140826-1Robert D. Flach serves your fresh Tuesday Buzz, with links about smart giving, educational savings options, and what you can earn working tax season at a national return prep franchise.

That’s a long time.  Cobb County man sentenced to 20 years for ID theft, tax fraud (ajc.com).  The guy is also supposed to pay back $5 million he stole.  Good luck on that.  Sure, the guy should go away for a long time, but the real crime is that the IRS let him steal that much from the taxpayers.

Jeremy Scott, Fracking Taxes Help States Now, but What About the Future?  (Tax Analysts Blog)  “North Dakota has been transformed by its rapidly growing energy sector, but it should be cautious about staking too much of its fiscal future on continually increasing severance taxes.”

 

Andrew Lundeen, Solutions on Inversions and Corporate Tax Reform (Tax Policy Blog).

Steve Warnhoff, Will Congress Let Burger King’s Shareholders Have It Their Way?  (Tax Justice Blog).  If it means we get Tim Horton’s donuts, I’m all for the proposed merger.

 

Renu Zaretsky,  Tax Rates: Growth, Competition, and Debt.  The TaxVox headline roundup ponders the effects of individual rate cuts, the badness of corporate rates in the U.S., and film credits in North Carolina, among other things.

lizard20140826Have a nice day.  1.2 Billion Reasons to Worry: Security firm reports Russian crime ring compromised 1.2 billion usernames and passwords (John Lande, Iowa Banking Law Blog)

News from the Profession.  Extra-Marital Affairs Site Claims Accountants are Kings of Romance Because Their Jobs are Boring (Adrienne GonzalezGoing Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/25/14: Tax Credits for not killing a puppy. Well, another puppy. And: mind your spelling!

Monday, August 25th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Flickr Image courtisy Llima under Creative Commons license

Flickr Image courtesy Llima under Creative Commons license

Wisconsin finds a new frontier in incentive tax credits.  From madison.com:

The board overseeing the state’s flagship job-creation agency has quietly approved a $6 million tax credit for Ashley Furniture Industries with a condition allowing the company to eliminate half of its state workforce.

As approved by the Wisconsin Economic Development Corp. board, the award would allow the Arcadia-based global furniture maker to move ahead with a $35 million expansion of its headquarters and keep 1,924 jobs in the state.

Stop me with tax incentives, or I’ll fire some more people!

Of course, all of these tax credits are paid for by people who, by definition, aren’t getting their taxes wiped out with special tax breaks that allow politicians to show up for a ribbon cutting.  Politicians know that they’ll get attaboys for “creating jobs,” and nobody will call then out for the jobs they cost by taxing people to give money to their special friends.

Thanks to an alert reader for the tip.

Related: IF TRUTH IN ADVERTISING APPLIED TO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AGENCIES

 

Peter Reilly reports on tax pro who thinks a case we discussed last week may have been wrongly decided.  I think the court probably got it right, but it’s a good read.  If the taxpayer wins on appeal, it will be very helpful for tax planning.

 

Does that make this a tax shelter?

Does that make this a tax shelter?

Audit the Pope, then?  New Tax Head Says She Knows Why Italians Don’t Pay Taxes: They’re Catholic (TaxGrrrl)

Kay Bell, Coverdell Education Savings Account’s pre-college options.

Jason Dinesen, Bridging the Gap Between What Clients Want … And What They’ll Pay For. “Sure, people “want” a proactive approach. But it seems to me like few are actually willing to PAY for the service.”

Russ Fox, Tax Preparers Behaving Badly, “There’s a common thread among these tax professionals: You’ll be getting a refund. That sounds good until you realize that you really shouldn’t have, and that you will likely get in trouble later.”

Robert D. Flach,  OOPS! THEY DID IT AGAIN.  “The State wants taxpayers, and preparers, to submit income tax returns electronically – but when they do the returns and payments therefor are not properly processed.”

Jack Townsend, Criminal Justice Article of U.S. Global Tax Enforcement

Tony Nitti, Your Complete Guide To Every Tax Reference In ‘The Simpsons’ Marathon 

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 473

Ajay Gupta, Carbon Taxes and the White Man’s Burden (Tax Analysts  Blog):

 China, which surpassed the United States as the world’s largest emitter of CO2 in 2006, has made it clear that it has no intention of agreeing to any reduction quotas “because this country is still at an early stage of development.” India, which now ranks third, behind China and the United States in total CO2 emissions, has similarly rejected the notion of subjecting itself to binding reductions.

Yet the carbon tax lobby in the West remains unfazed in the face of this repudiation of responsibility by the developing world. Among the grounds advanced for pressing ahead with unilateral action is one that relies on the residence time of CO2. For several decades, the West pumped much more CO2 into the earth’s atmosphere than China, India, or any other developing county. Unilateralists argue that those historical emissions and their persisting warming effects ensure that the West will remain the largest contributor to climate change for years to come.

That argument has more than a whiff of reparations.

Frack away.

 

2140731-3Matt Gardiner, Kinder Morgan Doesn’t Want to Be a Limited Partnership Anymore–But They’re One of the Few (Tax Justice Blog).  Paying one tax is better than paying two, other things being equal.

William McBride, More Jobs versus More Children:

I, like most humans, think that children are blessing. I am also one to think we as a society should have more kids. I also think that in the very long run, say decades, demographics are destiny, i.e. we cannot expect to be a large, flourishing economy a generation from now if our birth rate continues to be at or below the replacement rate.

However, boosting the birth rate is not as simple as boosting the child credit. 

Not every problem can be solved with a tax credit.

 

Howard Gleckman, How Much Would An Individual Tax Rate Cut Add to the Deficit, and Who Would Benefit? (TaxVox).  “A one percentage point across-the-board reduction in tax rates would add $662 billion to the budget deficit over 10 years—about $40 billion in 2015 rising to more than $85 billion by 2024.”

 

Donald Boudreax is not a happy taxpayer:

 I pay what I “owe” in taxes not because I have a “responsibility” to do so but, instead, only because government threatens to use violence against me if I don’t pay what it demands.  I stand in the same relation to the tax-gatherer as I stand in relation to any common thug who points a gun, knife, or fist at me demanding my money.  [I actually prefer the common thug, for he neither insults my intelligence by telling me that his predation is for my own good nor spends the money he takes from me to fund schemes to further interfere in my life.] 

I suppose that illusion-free approach probably applies to most of us, if you think about it.

 

Career Corner.  Use All Your Vacation Days, Even If It Means Making Less Money (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

dictionarySpelling is important.  Even for identity theives.  From Dispatch.com:

A $3.5 million bogus tax-refund scheme that unraveled because the conspirators couldn’t spell the names of well-known cities has resulted in a federal-prison sentence of more than eight years for the scam’s mastermind.

Sims and Towns misspelled the names of several cities when they listed return addresses, including “Louieville” and “Pittsburg.” That caught the attention of Internal Revenue Service investigators.

I love how they call somebody who committed a stupid crime in a stupid way — and showed up for a sentencing hearing drunk, apparently —  a “mastermind.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/19/14: Will people just quit paying taxes? And how far does your $100 go in Iowa?

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
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.

Some folks are worried that we’ll all suddenly stop paying taxes, according to a Tax Analysts story today (subscriber link only):

Richard Lavoie of the University of Akron School of Law, who studies tax ethics, says voluntary compliance rates have remained relatively high because paying taxes is an accepted social norm. Withholding plays a large role in compliance, but it does not explain everything, according to Lavoie.

Lavoie said the recent controversies surrounding the IRS, such as accusations that the agency targeted conservative groups for political reasons, and other factors such as worsening income inequality have all eroded the public’s trust in a fair tax system. If those pressures continue, it could cause taxpayer attitudes to change virtually overnight, he said. “At some point that all adds up, and what was a stable norm that we collect 83 or so percent of taxes voluntarily could flip,” he said.

I think Mr. Lavoie is identifying things he doesn’t like, such as “income inequality” and the Tea Parties, and dreaming up dreadful consequences.  For example, “Lavoie argued in his 2012 paper that antitax rhetoric such as that espoused by the Tea Party also has the potential to unbalance the tax system.”

Mr Lavoie talks about “accusations” of IRS malfeasance and “anti-tax rhetoric” as the dangers — not the well-documented abuses themselves, or the IRS stonewalling of investigations into the abuses, or the former Commissioner’s dishonest response to the scandal, or the current Commissioner’s intransigence, or the President’s “joke” about auditing his opponents.  These damage faith in the IRS much more than anything the Tea Party could come up with.

The article finds some people who get closer to identifying the real problem:

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson in recent remarks also warned that the habit of voluntary compliance may be at risk. Like Koskinen, she cited the IRS’s budget situation, saying that if Congress continues to restrict the agency’s budget, it may lead to a downward spiral in voluntary compliance rates.

While the poor customer service and declining enforcement are related to funding, funding still isn’t the real problem.  The IRS budget would be just fine if the IRS were treated as just a revenue agency.  Instead Congress has made the tax system into the Swiss Army Knife of public policy.  The IRS has a portfolio that ranges from industrial policy to education to retirement security to, famously, health care.  The IRS policy roles can dwarf those of agencies with nominal responsibility for policy areas.  Giving so many jobs to the IRS necessarily makes it less capable of doing its real job, tax collection.

Unfortunately, there’s no sign that anybody is going to take away the agency’s many non-revenue tasks.  And a GOP Congress isn’t about to increase funding for the IRS as long as it seems unapologetic about going after groups opposed to the administration.  To the extent IRS intransigence causes a compliance crash, the agency has only itself to blame.

 

Alan Cole, Lyman Stone, Richard Borean, The Real Value of $100 in Each State (Tax Policy Blog):

 

20140819-1

 

This map makes Iowa look pretty good.  When you consider average incomes compared to the cost of living, Iowa looks even better.

 

Robert D. Flach’s Tuesday Buzz covers inheritance taxes, tax robots, and the large number of people who seem to rely on lottery winnings for retirement funding.

 

20140728-1TaxGrrrl, Investment Opportunity: Possibly Booby-Trapped Property Remains Unsold.  Ed and Elaine Brown forfeited their property after their armed stand-off with the IRS, but the agency can’t find anybody willing to buy it.  There is some fear of booby traps, but I suspect potential buyers would also be a bit concerned about the reaction of Brown supporters.

Peter Reilly, The OID Fraud And Criminal Gullibility:

I have to say that I have some sympathy with the perspective that a reasonable person seeing the refund checks might want to take another look at the scheme.  If they were incapable of understanding the reasoning behind the scheme and what OID actually is, it could be hard to resist.

The OID scheme is absurd.  I realize some people really are gullible enough to believe in it — but only with a leap of faith that is, literally, criminally stupid.

 

Kay Bell, Pot tourism’s potential tax payoff for states with legal weed.  Iowa’s Governor just says no.

Richard Auxler, Do Sales Tax Holidays Ever Make Sense? (TaxVox).  “In some situations, sales tax holidays can make sense. But generally, they’re bad tax policy unless the alternative is large tax cuts with dubious growth assumptions, and not just for a weekend but for the whole year.”

Erica Brady, Final Whistleblower Regulations Create Administrative Review of Rejected and Denied Claims (Procedurally Taxing)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 467

 

News from the Profession: TIL: Ancient Greeks Used Slaves as Auditors So They Could Be Beaten When They Screwed Up (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/18/14: Tax Credits for housing. And for Elvis!

Monday, August 18th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The Des Moines Register is running a series on Jack Hatch, the Democratic nominee for Iowa Governor, focusing on subsidized housing projects he developed.  The stories include Jack Hatch’s record shows no clear conflicts of interest and Review shows Hatch followed public financing rules.

The Register finds no evidence of illegality in Sen. Hatch’s tax credit-driven deals.  That’s unsurprising, as the tax credits are shared with investors, who want clean tax projects and impeccable tax breaks.  As usual with tax incentives, though, the scandal is what is perfectly legal.

The series describes the financing of some projects.  For example:

20140816-1

 

A $6.5 million development with over $8 million in government aid.  A sweet deal, if you are one of the lucky participants of an oversubscribed subsidy program.

While such projects are touted as achieving “affordable housing,” the real beneficiaries are arguably well-connected developers and tax shelter investors.  It’s all legal, and all paid for by the rest of us.

If the real goal is to help the poor, there are better ways than a Rube Goldberg tax credit system running the aid through tax shelter developers and investors.  Arnold Kling’s idea to provide the poor with a universal flexible benefit “to replace all forms of means-tested assistance, including food stamps, housing subsidies, Medicaid, and the EITC, with a single cash benefit,”  is a more promising approach.  It is what a program designed to help the poor, rather than the connected, would look like.

 

Elvis20140818-3Kay Bell, Elvis estate seeks tax breaks for Graceland expansion.  Or what?  Graceland is going to leave Tennessee?  Elvis will leave the building?  But, but, jobs!  Or something.

Robert D. Flach, KEEP COPIES OF YOUR W-2s FOREVER!  Robert explains how he was able to use old W-2s to help a client show that his retirement contributions were “after tax” for New Jersey purposes, preventing a second tax on withdrawal.

Tony Nitti, New Opportunities Exist For S Corporation Shareholders To Deduct Losses

William Perez, Got a Call From the IRS? It’s Probably Not the IRS.  A client of our office got such a scam call last week.  We told them to hang up if they call back.

Jack Townsend, Tidbits on the New Streamlined Procedures

Annette Nellen, Better identity theft efforts – S. 2736

 

20140818-1Jason Dinesen, Why an LPA?  Jason answers the question “Why did I pursue an Iowa “Licensed Public Accountant” designation? LPAs are an obscure lot, in that we only really exist in 3 states (Iowa, Delaware and Minnesota).”

Peter Reilly, IRS Stampedes A Cattle Shelter.  Peter explains why losing a hobby loss case is extra bad.  With a bonus quote from me (Thanks, Peter!).

Tax Trials, Record Your Easement: Tax Court Adjusts Timing & Valuation of New York Facade Easement

 

TaxGrrrl, From AR-15s To Rubber Bullets: How Did Police End Up With Military Gear On American Streets?  Your tax dollars at work.  Amazingly, no tax credits appear to be involved.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 466.  It appears the judge who told the IRS to explain what happened to the Lois Lerner emails isn’t yet satisfied with the IRS response.  More from Russ Fox: Judge Sullivan Not Impressed by the “Dog Ate my Homework” Excuse.

20140818-2Ajay Gupta, Demagoguing the ‘I’ Words. (Tax Analysts Blog) “If an inversion exploits a loophole, then so does every other corporate reorganization that painstakingly adheres to the requirements of the code and regs.”

Steven Rosenthal, Can Obama slow corporate inversions? Yes he can.  Silly rabbit.  The idea isn’t to slow corporate diversions; it’s to demonize them for political fun and profit.  And his idea of reviving the moribund Sec. 385 debt-equity regulations for this purpose shows how much the inversion panic has parted from reality.

 

News from the Profession.  Here’s Further Proof That Accounting Firms Need a Charge Code for “Wasting Time on Internet” (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/15/14: Sell Iowa land, pay Iowa tax. And: more inversion diversion!

Friday, August 15th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120920-3

Accounting Today visitors, the ALEC story link you want is here: Tax Roundup, 8/11/14: Don’t you dare agree with me edition.

 

It’s not just Iowa.  If you sell land for a gain, the state where the land is will want to tax you.  A Letter of Findings (Document 14201016issued by the Iowa Department of Revenue this week  gave the bad news to a Wisconsin man.  From the letter:

Your income tax assessment for 2002 was based upon the fact that you sold property in Iowa for that year and the gain from the sale of that property was never reported as taxable income in Iowa.  Your Protest seems largely based on the argument that you are not a citizen or resident of Iowa.

You don’t have to live in a state to be taxed there.  States can tax income from non-residents if it has enough connection to the state.  The letter explains:

 Despite the fact that you are currently a nonresident, you still owe Iowa income tax on the capital gain related to the sale of property in Iowa. 

This is important to a lot of non-Iowans who have inherited farmland here.  Farmland values have spiked in recent years, making it tempting to cash out.  The Department of Revenue will be looking for its cut.

 

Kyle Pomerleau asks How Much Will Corporate Tax Inversions Cost the U.S. Treasury? (Tax Policy Blog):

The Joint Committee on Taxation in May released their estimate of the revenue gained from passing the “Stop Corporate Inversions Act of 2014.” This law alters rules and makes it harder for corporations to invert and move overseas. The JCT estimates that this will raise approximately $19.5 billion over fiscal years 2015 and 2024.

Compare this to the Congressional Budget Office’s fiscal outlook that estimates that the corporate income tax is estimated to raise approximately $4.5 trillion over the same period.

That is a 0.4 percent loss to our corporate tax base due to corporate inversions. Hardly the doom and gloom many in the press and Congress make it out to be.

Or, in handy graphical form:

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The whole contrived inversion panic is best understood as a diversion, an attempt to create a hate totem to divert attention from the disastrous effects of other policies.

 

20140815-2Jim Maule isn’t taking inversions very well:

Furchtgott-Roth asks, “What is more American than doing what is best for your company?” The answer is, doing what is best for America no matter what it does to the company. That is what America did during World War II. If today’s generation of “capitalists” were the folks around back in the 1940s, we’d be speaking German or Japanese.

The good Professor Maule makes some basic mistakes here.  First, he assumes that people didn’t try to keep their taxes low back in the 1930s and 1940s.  I have boxes of dusty old tax casebooks that say otherwise.

A more fundamental mistake is his assumption that paying more taxes than the tax law requires is “best for America no matter what it does to the company.”  The President and our 535 Congressional supergeniuses have no magical insight on what’s “best for America.”  Reasonable minds may differ on “what’s best” without being traitors.

Professor Maule seems to make the default assumption that whatever gives more revenue to the government is “best for America no matter what it does to the company.”  By that logic, corporations should liquidate and turn their proceeds over to the IRS.  Forget the products those corporations make, the needs they meet, the jobs they provide.  Screw the pensioners with pension plans funded with corporation stock.  Because America!

 

TIGTA reports Some Contractor Personnel Without Background Investigations Had Access to Taxpayer Data and Other Sensitive Information.  Remember how everyone was all up in arms that a private company was hired to call on tax delinquents that the agency couldn’t be bothered with, on privacy and security grounds?  Good thing confidential tax data is secure now.

 

20120620-1TaxGrrrl, TIGTA, IRS Warn Phone Scam Continues As Fraudsters Rake In Millions   

William Perez, How to Make Sure Your Charity Donation Is Tax-Deductible.

Kay Bell, California tax deduction bill aimed at former NBA owner Donald Sterling advances.  California forgets that not every problem is a tax problem, and being a jerk isn’t a taxable event.

Russ Fox, Lawsuits Against FATCA in Canada

It’s Friday, so Robert D Flach has fresh Buzz!

 

Arnold Kling points out this from the Wall Street Journal:

Employers in many countries are reluctant to hire on permanent contracts because of rigid labor rules and sky-high payroll taxes that go to funding the huge pension bill of their parents.

He adds: “Don’t think it couldn’t happen here.”  It’s already starting to.

Because giving money to politicians is more important than your retirement. Amazing Waste: Tax Subsidies To Qualified Retirement Plans, (Calvin Johnson, at Tax Analysts, via the TaxProf): 

Qualified plans are ineffective or counterproductive for their given rationales, which makes them a rich source of revenue when the United States needs money.

Mr. Johnson has a strange hobby of finding ways to give more of your money to the government by making tax rules even worse.  Apparently he is convinced that politicians and bureaucrats have better things to do with your money than you do.  (via the TaxProf)

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 463

Kelly Davis, Hey Missouri, You’re the Show Me State, But Don’t Follow Kansas’s Lead.  (Tax Justice Bl0g).  Shouldn’t that be “so,” no “but?”

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/12/14: FBAR Filing, some acrobatics required.

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

No Walnut STThe foreign financial account reporting system is said to be all about keeping people from evading taxes by hiding assets overseas.  I’m starting to think that it is really just a strange sadistic plan to torture random taxpayers for fun and profit.  Consider:

– The FBAR filings are not part of the tax returns everyone files anyway.

– They are due at separate times from regular tax filings.

– The Treasury claims the timely mailed (or transmitted) = timely filed rule doesn’t apply to FBAR filings, unlike all other tax filings.

– The filing system is entirely separate from other tax return systems, including a separate bureaucracy and facilities.

Support for my theory comes from today’s report by Tax Analysts ($link):

Taxpayers cannot file a foreign bank account report electronically if they have a copy of popular software programs such as Adobe Acrobat installed on their computers because the programs conflict with the FBAR electronic filing portal, Tax Analysts has learned.

The only way to resolve the problem is to uninstall the conflicting programs and install a copy of Adobe Reader, according to instructionsfrom the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) e-filing help desk. The conflict was confirmed by a help desk employee.

FinCEN mandated e-filing of FBARs as of July 1, 2013. According to a FinCEN FAQ, failure to comply with the electronic filing mandate could result in civil penalties, including a $500 fine for each negligent currency transaction.

The FBAR system is way overdue for an overhaul.  Some obvious steps:

– Raise the foreign account filing threshold drastically — say to $100,000 or $200,000 from the current $10,000.  This would keep thousands of Americans working overseas, and thousands more Green Card holders workers from having to risk enormous fines for foot-fault violations.

– Moving the FBAR filing to the regular tax return system, with the same filing locations and due dates.   Currently filing is with “FincCEN,” which is creep-ese for the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network — which helps lead to the government presumption that committing personal finance while overseas is a crime.

– Making sure “timely mailed = timely filed” applies to FBAR reports.

Still better would be to join the developed world in imposing the income tax on a territorial basis, rather than on worldwide income.

Requiring taxpayers to screw around with their computer setup just to meet their FBAR requirements is outrageous.  Even if FBAR filing is not merely a sadistic plot — and it sure acts like one — it seems more designed as a hook to punish violators — purposeful and accidental —  than a way to gather compliance information.  As usual, Congress goes after a small set of violators by firing into the crowd.

 

Russ Fox, Bears Sacked; Lose Court Case Worth $4.1 Million.  “No, Jay Cutler didn’t throw one of his usual interceptions. Instead, Judge Mary Mason of the 1st District Illinois Appellate Court ruled that the Chicago Bears had underpaid Cook County’s Amusement Tax.”

Paul Neiffer, How Does Section 179 Work?

Robert D. Flach has your fresh Tuesday Buzz!

 

20120510-1TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 460

Kyle Pomerleau, Two New Reports on the “New Markets Tax Credit”  (Tax Policy Blog):

This week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on “New Markets Tax Credits” (NMTC) at the request of Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK). In addition, Senator Coburn also released a report of his own outlining the program.

New Market Tax Credits were introduced in 2000 as part of the Community Renewal Tax Relief Act of 2000. The NMTC were meant to encourage investment in low-income areas that don’t have access to capital.

The credit works by giving an investor a tax credit equal to 39 percent of the initial investment the investor makes in a project. This means for every $100 in an investment, an investor will receive a $39 tax credit. The credit is distributed over seven years. From 2003 to 2013, the program has cost the federal government $40 billion.

While the credit is meant to help fund projects in low-income areas, it has actually benefitted banks substantially. GAO and Coburn’s report outline significant issues with the program.

Imagine that.

Jeremy Scott,Kansas and Missouri Show the Dangers of Tax Competition (Tax Analysts Blog):

For the last two decades, U.S. states have found themselves competing with their neighbors to attract domestic investment and relocations. And as Missouri and Kansas are learning, the real losers in tax competitions are taxpayers and state budgets.

The winners? The well-connected, fixers, middlemen, and politicians.

Career Corner.  Rat Out Your Employer On Taxes. Win Cash Rewards! (Walter Olson, Reason.com)

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/11/14: Don’t you dare agree with me edition.

Monday, August 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

microsoft-appleDavid Brunori notes ($link) some odd behavior by Good Jobs First, a left-side outfit that has been on the side of the angels by highlighting the baneful effects of corporate welfare tax incentives.  The American Legislative Exchange Council came out with a report blasting cronyist tax incentives, and rather than embracing the report, Good Jobs First ripped it — because the Koch Brothers are the Devil:

Yet, Good Jobs First slams ALEC because many recipients of tax incentives have close ties to ALEC. But so what? The fact that corporations, including those run by the Koch brothers, provide support to ALEC doesn’t diminish the argument that incentives are terrible.

Weirdly, Good Jobs First primarily blames the recipients of corporate welfare for taking the money, rather than the politicians who give it away:

Moreover, Good Jobs First inexplicably says that ALEC is wrong to blame policymakers rather than the companies that receive incentives. But the blame for those horrible policies rests squarely on the shoulders of lawmakers and governors who perpetuate them. In a world where the government is handing out benefits to anyone who asks, it’s hard to fault the people who line up for the handout. No one has been more critical of tax incentives than I, but I’ve never blamed the corporations. Nor do I blame the army of consultants and lawyers who grease the wheels to make incentives happen. There’s no blame for anyone other than the cowardly politicians from both parties who can’t seem to resist using those nefarious policies.

Precisely correct.  When somebody is handing out free money, it’s hard to turn it down when your competitors are taking all they can.

I have seen smart people I respect do everything short of donning tin-foil hats when talking about the Koch Brothers and their dreadful agenda of influencing the government to leave you alone.  Maybe everyone needs an Emmanuel Goldstein.

Adam Michel, Scott Drenkard, New Report Quantifies “Tax Cronyism” (Tax Policy Blog)

Annette Nellen, What about accountability? California solar energy property.  Green corporate welfare is still corporate welfare.

 

20130121-2Russ Fox, Where Karen Hawkins Disagrees With Me…  The Director of the IRS Office of Preparer Responsibility commented on Russ’ post “The IRS Apparently Thinks They Won the Loving Case.”  Russ replies to the comment:

Ms. Hawkins is technically correct that Judge Boasberg’s order says nothing about the use of an RTRP designation. However, the Order specifically states that the IRS has no authority to create such a regulatory scheme. If there isn’t such a regulation, what’s the use of the designation?

The courts closed the front door to preparer regulation, so the IRS is trying to find an unlocked window.

 

TaxGrrrl, IRS Imposes New Limits On Tax Refunds By Direct Deposit.  “Effective for the 2015 tax season, the IRS will limit the number of refunds electronically deposited into a single financial account (such as a savings or checking account) or prepaid debit card to three.”

This seems like a measure that should have been put in place years ago.  The Worst Commissioner Ever apparently had other priorities.

 

Kay Bell, Actor Robert Redford sues NY tax office over $1.6 million bill.  The actor gets dragged into New York via a pass-through entity in which he had an interest — a topic we mentioned last week.

Renu Zaretsky, August Avoidance: Corporate Taxes and Budget Realities.  The TaxVox headline roundup covers inversions, gridlock, and Kansas.

Peter Reilly, Org Tries Exempt Status Multiple Choice – IRS Answers None Of The Above

 

 

20140811-1Ajay Gupta, The Libertarian Case for BEPS (Tax Analysts Blog)  BEPS stands for “Base Erosion and Profit Shifting.”

Matt Gardiner, Inversions Aside, Don’t Lose Sight of Other Ways Corps. Are Dodging Taxes (Tax Justice Blog).  Don’t worry, Matt.  If I did, my clients would take their business elsewhere.

Robert D. Flach, HEY MR PRESIDENT – DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER!  “If there is something wrong with the Tax Code do not blame the accountant or tax professional.  We have a moral and ethical responsibility to bring to our clients’ attention all the legal deductions, credits, loopholes, techniques, and strategies that are available to reduce their federal and state tax liabilities to the least possible amounts.”

 

Roger McEowen, Federal Court, Contrary To U.S. Supreme Court, Says ACA Individual Mandate Not a Tax.

Jack Townsend, U.S. Forfeits Over $480 Million Stolen by Former Nigerian Dictator.  The headline is misleading — the U.S. received the cash in a forfeiture — they seized it, rather than forfeiting it.

 

2140731-3TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 459

Instapundit, GANGSTER GOVERNMENT: Inspectors general say Obama aides obstruct investigations.  The majority of the 78 federal inspectors general took the extraordinary step of writing an open letter saying the Administration is blocking their work as a matter of course.  The IRS stonewalling on the Tea Party scandal is part of the pattern.

 

 

News from the Profession. It’s Completely Understandable Someone Might Sign Over 200 Audit Reports By Mistake (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

You mean they didn’t shift to organic carrot juice?  “From Coke to Coors: A Field Study of a Fat Tax and its Unintended Consequences” (Via Maria Koklanaris at Tax Analysts):

Could taxation of calorie-dense foods such as soft drinks be used to reduce obesity? To address this question, a six-month field experiment was conducted in an American city of 62,000 where half of the 113 households recruited into the study faced a 10% tax on calorie-dense foods and beverages and half did not. The tax resulted in a short-term (1-month) decrease in soft drink purchases, but no decrease over a 3-month or 6-month period. Moreover, in beer-purchasing households, this tax led to increased purchases of beer.

I’m sure the politicians who want to run everyone’s diet will angrily demand higher beer taxes in response.

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/8/14: Get a Room Edition. And: Koskinen, cronyist.

Friday, August 8th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Flickr image by Ellenm1 under Creative Commons licenseTax Court: Get a room!  If you spend a lot of time on the road, you may have wondered whether it might make sense to buy a Winnebago instead of hopping between motels.  The Tax Court yesterday weighed in on the side of motels.

A California insurance man with an RV found a market for his wares among his fellow tin-can nomads, as the Judge Wherry explains:

Starting in 2004, petitioners began attending RV rallies not just for pleasure but also for business purposes. At or around the same time, they purchased a 2004 Winnebago RV. We reject petitioners’ contentions that they attended RV rallies solely for business purposes from 2004 but instead find that they had mixed purposes. Petitioners would gather sales leads at every rally. To that end, petitioners had a banner that they attached to their RV advertising Dell Jackson Insurance. Petitioners would set up an information table outside of their RV or outside the clubhouse, if the site had one. If they set up a table by a clubhouse, petitioners moved the banner from the RV to the table. Otherwise, the sign remained on the RV from the time they arrived until the time they left. Petitioners would invite potential customers to come to their RV, and they would sit either outside or inside the RV and discuss the prospective client’s insurance needs. It would often take months, if not years, for a relationship with a potential customer, which could begin with a lead, to develop into an actual sale.

Naturally the salesman deducted expenses of his RV in preparing the Schedule C for his insurance business.  The IRS limited his deductions using Section 280A, which limits business deductions for personal residences.  The Court said that the RV was a house, as far as the tax law is concerned (citations and footnotes omitted, emphasis added):

Generally, “a taxpayer uses the dwelling unit during the taxable year as a residence if he uses such unit (or portion thereof) for personal purposes for a number of days which exceeds the greater of — (A) 14 days, or (B) 10 percent of the number of days during such year for which such unit is rented at a fair rental.” “Dwelling unit” is also a defined term and “includes a house, apartment, condominium, mobile home, boat, or similar property”. Sec. 280A(f)(1)(A). This Court has previously held that a motor home qualifies as a dwelling unit within the meaning of section 280A(f)(1)(A).  Although we use the more modern term throughout this opinion, an RV and a motor home are one and the same thing. Petitioners and counsel used the two terms interchangeably at trial. Accordingly, petitioners’ RV is a dwelling unit for purposes of section 280A. 

The Tax Court said that while the expenses were otherwise legitimate, the Section 280A disallowance of business expenses when a residence, or part of one, isn’t used “exclusively” for business overrides the deductions:

This result may seem harsh, but it is the operation of the statute, which reflects Congress’ desire to prevent taxpayers from deducting personal expenses as business expenses.

While the court admitted the result was harsh to begin with, that didn’t stop it from piling on, adding over $8,000 in “accuracy-related” penalties to the $42,000 in additional taxes assessed by the IRS — another example of the unfortunate tendency of the IRS — with the blessing of the Tax Court — to penalize everything, even when the taxpayer used an apparently reputable preparer.

The moral: RVs may be great for retirement travel, but they aren’t the best thing for business deductions.  If they had rented hotel rooms, the deductions apparently would have been just fine.

Cite: Jackson, T.C. Memo 2014-160

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

So the IRS Commissioner is just fine with cronyism in tax administration.  John Koskinen Indicates IRS Revolving Door Is A Feature Not A Bug (Peter Reilly).  It will be hard to unseat Doug Shulman as the Worst Commissioner Ever, but John Koskinen is giving it the old college try.

 

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Iowa Tuition and Textbook Credit and Back-to-School Shopping

Jack Townsend, It’s So Easy to Say No — The IRS Often Gets to No for Streamlined Transition Relief in OVDP. “The bottom-line is that the IRS is denying the nonwillful certification in far more cases than practitioners thought would be the case.  And, the process of denial is a bit of a black box.”

Leslie Book, Summary Opinions for 7/25/14 (Procedurally Taxing).  A roundup of recent tax procedure happenings.

 

tax fairyKay Bell, FTC sending $16 million to former American Tax Relief clients. Don’t fall for tax relief scams in the first place:

Federal prosecutors first filed charges against ATR in 2010. In August 2012, a federal court entered a partial summary judgment in favor of the FTC, finding that the defendants falsely claimed they already had significantly reduced the tax debts of thousands of people and falsely told individual consumers they qualified for tax relief programs that would significantly reduce their tax debts.

The court issued a $103.3 million judgment against the company.

Outfits like ATR, J.K. Harris, TaxMasters and Roni Deutsch pulled in lots of revenue from taxpayers desperate to believe in the Tax Fairy.  There is no tax fairy.

 

 

It’s Friday, the Iowa State Fair is underway, and Robert D. Flach is buzzing!  So it’s a good day three ways.

20140808-1

 

TaxGrrrl, normally the soul of restraint, lets loose on the inversion diversion in Obama Joins Blame Game As Companies Flee U.S. For Lower Tax Rates:

But to point fingers at lawyers and accountants as if they are holding all the cards is plain wrong. If we want to talk about responsibility, let’s talk about responsibility.

Let’s talk about a bloated Tax Code that just keeps getting bigger. Let’s talk about a global tax system that encourages companies (and people) to flee. Let’s talk about stalled tax reform efforts.

The tax code is the instruction manual for taxpayers, and their lawyers and accountants, for tax compliance.  And now the politicians don’t like what happens when we read and follow instructions.

 

20120702-2Andrew Lundeen, To Stop Inversions, Fix the Tax Code (Tax Policy Blog).  “But the lack of competitiveness created by the corporate tax isn’t the only issue: at its core, the corporate tax is inherently not neutral. It is highly distortive, opaque, and economically damaging tax.”

Christopher Bergin, Beware the Individual Income Tax Inversion (Tax Analysts Blog)  “The truth is that our tax system is in trouble – all of it: the corporate side, the administration side, and the individual side. And that means the country is in trouble.”

Kelly Davis, Tax Policy and the Race for the Governor’s Mansion: Illinois Edition (Tax Justice Bl0g).  Political wrangling in a doomed state.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 456.  The scandal has been Voxplained. Keep calm, all is well.

 

Art appreciation tip: “Like the folks who believe that the limits on maritime jurisdiction, explained by a talking salamander, holds the key to beating a federal criminal charge, the full tapestry of wacko tax fraud theories is a lovely thing to behold….” (Matt Kaiser, Above The Law).  He covers a “sovereign citizen” from Omaha who learned that filing a phony $19 million lien on a judge is perhaps not the optimal way to handle a tax controversy.

Related: TaxProf, Nebraska ‘Sovereign Citizen’ Convicted of Filing False Liens Against Federal Officials and Federal Tax Crimes

 

Adrienne Gonzalez, California Might Ditch the Attest Requirement for CPA Licensure.  I’m sure I would have been a better person if I had to waste two years observing inventories and otherwise bothering real auditors.

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/5/14: Personal goodwill is the word. And: more inversion diversion!

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2Word.  Tax Court reduces estate value of stock by executive’s “personal goodwill.”  The courts have recognized that the value of a business depend on the contacts and reputation of a key executive — “personal goodwill.”  That concept has enabled business owners to sell their goodwill separately from other business assets — handy in avoiding the double tax inherent in C corporations.

Yesterday the Tax Court applied “personal goodwill” in valuing stock in a decedent’s estate.  Franklin Z. Adell died in 2006 owning all of the stock of STN.Com, a satellite uplink company.  The company had one customer: The Word Network, a religious broadcaster set up as a non-profit and run by Mr. Adell’s son, Kevin.

The arrangement proved profitable to STN.Com, which generated nearly $16 million in revenues in 2006.  That enabled company executives to travel in style, according to the Tax Court (footnotes omitted):

In addition to rent and compensation, STN.Com made several miscellaneous payments that were primarily for the personal benefit of Mr. Adell and Kevin. STN.Com leased luxury cars, including Bentleys and Rolls-Royces, used for personal and work purposes by Mr. Adell, Kevin, and its other employees. STN.Com also helped Mr. Adell and Kevin purchase and maintain real estate. For example, STN.Com gave money to Mr. Adell and Kevin to purchase a condominium in Los Angeles, California, and guaranteed the mortgage. STN.Com purchased high-end furnishings for the condominium and for Mr. Adell’s home in Michigan and paid all expenses, including the mortgage, interest, and insurance, related to Kevin’s second home in Florida. In 2002 STN.Com paid $300,000 toward Kevin’s home in Florida. From July 2002 through June 2003 STN.Com paid between $300,000 and $400,000 of Kevin’s personal legal fees for litigation involving a dispute with a home contractor. In 2006 Mr. Adell paid a $6 million judgment entered against Kevin using funds from Mr. Adell’s salary at STN.Com.

The estate filed a tax return showing a date-of-death value of $9.3 million.  The IRS thought that number was slightly low, coming up with a value of $93.3 million.  By the time of the trial, the IRS number had come down to $26,341,030, and the estate was arguing for a $4.3 million value.  The trial came down to a duel of expert witness appraisers.

The main difference between the appraisals was the  treatment of “personal goodwill” by the estate’s expert, a Mr. Risius.  From the Tax Court decision:

Mr. Risius also adjusted STN.Com’s operating expenses to include an economic charge for Kevin’s personal goodwill. Mr. Risius explained that the adjustment was appropriate because the success of STN.Com depended heavily on Kevin’s personal relationships with the board of directors of The Word. Moreover, Kevin did not have a noncompete agreement with STN.Com, and as a result a potential buyer would acquire STN.Com only to the extent that the company retained Kevin. The economic charge for Kevin’s personal goodwill ranged from 37.2% to 43.4% of sales over the historical period and from 43.7% to 44.1% of sales over the projection period.

The IRS expert, Mr. Burns, admitted the importance of the son’s personal involvement, but took a different approach:

Instead of applying an economic charge for Kevin’s personal goodwill similar to the one found in Mr. Risius’ first valuation report, Mr. Burns concluded that a hypothetical investor would anticipate retaining Kevin as an officer of STN.Com and would need to compensate Kevin at an acceptable rate of 8.1% of sales. Mr. Burns noted that his assumed compensation level for Kevin of nearly $1.3 million in 2006 was significantly higher than Mr. Risius’ estimate of $528,000 in his first valuation report.

20140321-4Tax Court Judge Paris found the estate’s approach more persuasive:

Kevin’s goodwill was personally owned independent of STN.Com. STN.Com’s success was heavily dependent on The Word because of their symbiotic relationship. To launch The Word, it was Kevin who contacted religious leaders in the Detroit area and Rev. Jackson in Chicago. Along with his notable contacts and his father, he went to Los Angeles to meet with DirecTV representatives about broadcasting The Word. His meeting was successful and it eventually led to the national broadcasting of The Word on cable television. Kevin was the face of the operation because he was the individual soliciting content and pursuing broadcast opportunities.

Yes, that Rev. Jackson.

     Further, Kevin did not transfer his goodwill to STN.Com through a covenant not to compete or other agreement. Kevin was free to leave STN.Com and use his relationships to directly compete against his previous employer. If Kevin quit, STN.Com could not exclusively use the relationships that Kevin cultivated; thus, the value of those relationships should not be attributed to STN.Com.

Accordingly, Mr. Risius properly adjusted STN.Com’s operating expenses to include an economic charge of $8 million to $12 million for Kevin’s personal goodwill at an amount high enough to account for the significant value of Kevin’s relationships. Mr. Burns, on the other hand, not only failed to apply an economic charge for Kevin’s personal goodwill but also gave too low an estimate of acceptable compensation for Kevin, i.e., $1.3 million in 2006. This was especially so because Kevin had stepped into the position of Mr. Adell, who had previously made between over $2 million and $7 million of compensation in each of the five years before his death.

The court went with the $9.3 million value on the original tax return: “…the Court concludes that Mr. Risius’ first valuation report on the STN.Com stock included with the original estate tax return was the most creditable because it properly accounted for Kevin’s personal goodwill and appropriately used the discounted cashflow analysis of the income approach to value the STN.Com stock.”

The moral?  Appraisers working with closely-held businesses need to look closely at important customer and vendor relationships and determine whether they actually belong to the corporation, or if they instead belong separately to executives.  The case also is more support for taxpayers wanting to sell personal goodwill separately from corporate assets.

Cite: Estate of Franklin Z. Adell T.C. Memo 2014-155.

 

20140805-2Robert D. Flach offers fresh Tuesday Buzz! Robert has also started a new monthly newsletter, The Tax Professional.  “The purpose of THE TAX PROFESSIONAL is to discuss and debate issues of interest and importance to the profession of preparing income tax returns – such as certification and credentials, dealing with the IRS and state tax agencies, due diligence requirements, ethics and obligations, regulation, representation, tax law complexity, etc.”  While I often disagree with Robert, he’s a smart and entertaining guy, and both his blog and the newsletter are worth regular visits.

 

Kay Bell, August to-do list: Vacation, shopping, school and taxes

 

Peter Reilly, Homeowner Association IRS Ruling Highlights Schizophrenic Nature Of Associations.  “Unless they have vast reserves earning significant investment income, homeowners associations can avoid any significant tax liability by filing Form 1120H, which allows the organization to exclude assessments.  Despite that option, some homeowners associations go to the trouble of applying to be 501(c)(4) social welfare organizations.”

Annette Nellen, Marijuana businesses and ethical issues for tax practitioners.  Can you get in trouble for helping a pot store pay its taxes?

 

Frank Agostino, a veteran Tax Court litigator, guests posts in Procedurally Taxing with Procedural Challenges to Penalties: Section 6751(b)(1)’s Signed Supervisory Approval Requirement.  “In view of the fact that the IRS (and the Tax Court) have so strictly adhered to the Code’s substantiation requirements, one is hopeful that a similar strict compliance standard will be applied when interpreting a statutory provision clearly intended to protect taxpayer’s procedural due process rights.”

Jack Townsend, Williams Yet Again – Court Bows Deeply to Government Claims of Expansive Discretion for FBAR Willful Penalty 

 

 

nra-blue-eagleThe current diversionary panic about corporate inversions has reached its illogical conclusion, reports J.D. Tucille at Reason.com: With Loyalty Oath Demand, Crusade Against Corporate Inversion Gets Even Creepier.

Leave it to Jonathan Alter to jump the already laughably overblown “problem” of corporations seeking friendlier tax jurisdictions elsewhere right past parody. Forget any discussion of why businesses are relocating. At the Daily Beast, Alter wants potential “corporate deserters” to take…wait, I have to check this again…yep…loyalty oaths

The post quotes Mr. Alter’s argument:

For those companies less able to act as Americans or recognize their real interests, there are two ways to make this work. The president should issue an executive order that says any company that wants to keep its federal contracts must sign a new-fangled [non-desertion agreement]…

But other companies with few or no federal contracts might be tempted to desert anyway.

That’s where the rest of us come in. Under my scheme, companies that sign non-desertion agreements would embed a tiny American flag or some other Good Housekeeping-type seal in their corporate insignia for all to see, just as companies during the Great Depression that agreed to Franklin Roosevelt’s recovery plan hung an emblem of a blue eagle in their windows with the legend, “We Do Our Part.”

Mr. Tucille observes:

To make it clear where this all goes, the National Recovery Administration once boasted, “The Fascist Principles are very similar to those we have been evolving here in America.” Its head, Hugh Johnson, noted about the adoption or rejection of the blue eagle symbol and its code, “Those who are not with us are against us.”

There’s a good book about this sort of thing.

Corporations have entirely legitimate purposes other than funneling cash to the IRS.  They have to make payroll, supply desired and needed goods to customers, and provide a return to their owners.  They have no more obligation to pay un-owed taxes than you, me, or Mr. Alter.  Unless Mr. Alter declines to itemize and forgoes his personal exemption in the name of economic patriotism, no blue eagle for him either.

 

20140805-1Kyle Pomerleau, Everything You Need to Know About Corporate Inversions (Tax Policy Blog). “The most obvious benefit is that most countries do not have a worldwide corporate income tax system. The United States taxes income earned by U.S. corporations no matter where they earn that income, domestically or abroad.”

Martin Sullivan, Don’t Count on Tax Reform to Stop Inversions (Tax Analysts Blog)

Rebecca Wilkins, Wall Street a Major Player in Current Wave of Corporate Inversions (Tax Justice Blog).  Maybe because investors like companies that don’t incur unnecessary expenses.

 

Renu Zaretsky, Online Taxes: Searches, Storage, and Sales.  The daily TaxVox headline roundup covers, among other things, an insane attempt to tax websites that link to Spanish newspaper association stories.  “Note to Spanish tax authorities: buena suerte.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/4/14: Will 401(k) deferred annuities catch on? And: about those oil industry “subsidies…”

Monday, August 4th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

I survived the firm golf day and the Iowa sales tax holiday.  Now back to work.

 

20131206-1Howard Gleckman, A New Way to Invest for Old Age, But How Many Will Buy? (TaxVox).

A few weeks ago, with absolutely no fanfare, the Treasury Department announced what could be a major change in the way we save for retirement. It will now permit people to shift a portion of their 401(k)s or IRAs into a deferred annuity that provides a guaranteed stream of income once you reach old age.

The idea has the potential to fix several flaws in today’s defined contribution retirement plans and it could make it easier for many older Americans to pay for long-term care. But it raises two huge questions: Will consumers understand these complex products, and will insurance companies bother to sell them to a mass market?

It’s an interesting experiment.  There seems to be a belief that taxpayers are dying for a return to the 1950s style defined benefit pension plan, and this provides a way to sort of get there.  Insurance companies can certainly find a way to profit from such products, as deferred annuities are a big business.

But the same arguments that financial advisors often make against commercial deferred annuities likely apply here — you get more security, but only at the cost of cutting your insurance company in on your retirement income.  It remains to be seen whether many people will accept that trade-off.

 

Wind turbineWilliam McBride, Oil and Gas Subsidies or Sensible Cost Recovery? (Tax Policy Blog). Supporters of the mandates and massive subsidies or mandates for ethanol, wind and solar power sometimes say they would give up their subsidies happily if the oil industry gives up its own subsidies.  They rarely identify any actual subsidies.  Mr. McBride exposes the weakness of the renewable fans’ arguments (my emphasis):

However, a new report from Taxpayers for Common Sense seems to suggest it’s all the result of “tax subsidies” that allow oil and gas companies to immediately deduct their investment costs. Titled “Effective Tax Rates of Oil and Gas Companies: Cashing in on Special Treatment”, the report finds that the effective federal corporate tax rate for oil and gas companies is 24 percent on average, “considerably less than the statutory rate of 35 percent, thanks to the convoluted system of tax provisions allowing them to avoid and defer federal income taxes.”

First, there is nothing special about a 24 percent effective tax rate. The average for all corporations is about 22 percent, according to the IRS, so if anything oil and gas companies pay an above average tax rate.

Second, the particular “tax subsidy” the report refers to is intangible drilling costs, which as they explain merely allows companies to immediately deduct, i.e. expense, the costs of drilling. That is not a subsidy, it is the proper treatment of a real and legitimate business cost. The corporate tax is a profit tax, and profit equals revenue minus costs. Labor costs are fully and immediately deductible, so why not other costs?

Taxpayers for Common Sense would prefer these companies delay drilling cost deductions for years and years, because otherwise “these companies are financing significant parts of their business with interest-free loans from U.S. taxpayers.” No, in fact it is the government that is getting interest-free loans from businesses by requiring them to delay deductions for legitimate business costs. 

This “subsidy” — a deduction for a business expense, like every other business gets (and rightly so) — pales compared to the requirement that oil companies sell ethanol,  regardless of whether their customers demand it.  It sure doesn’t compare to the actual government checks that are issued to producers of biofuels and wind power.  The renewables industry would be much smaller if it had to play on the “level playing field” it claims to want.

 

Jason Dinesen, Taxpayer Advocate Says IRS Issues Too Many FAQs.  “But the overall point is, things like FAQs and news releases are  no substitute for coherent, authoritative guidance.”

Kay Bell, States see electronic cigarettes as a new tax source.  Surprise, surprise.

Peter Reilly, State Fails To Force Electronic Payments On Taxpayer With Hacking Concerns  “Taxpayer refused to pay electronically because if the Pentagon can be hacked, so can Revenue Department. Court voided penalty.”

Keith Fogg, IRS Treatment of Penalties Following a Substitute for Return (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert D. Flach has some QUESTIONS ABOUT TAX REFORM

 

taxanalystslogoDavid Brunori, Tax Analysts ($link)

Companies invert because the stupid tax laws provide an incentive to do so. A company’s decision to invert is no different from an individual’s decision to live in a state without an income tax or to buy a house rather than rent to take advantage of a tax break. Yet there are people who actually make the moral and patriotic arguments against inversions. The “it may be legal but that doesn’t make it right” argument is laughable. The patriotic argument — usually made by people who had better things to do than serve their country — is even more laughable. People and companies engage in tax planning because they want to keep more of their money. Invoking the Good Book or channeling Nathan Hale won’t change that.

When they play the “patriotism” card first, they don’t have a good hand.

 

Ajay Gupta, Closed Mind on Open Borders (Tax Analysts Blog):

There is, however, one unquestionable benefit that is properly attributable to an inversion—liberation of cash trapped offshore in controlled foreign corporations. Post-inversion, that money can be moved from a CFC to the new foreign parent, which can then put it to virtually any use, including buying back stock or making other investments in the U.S., without U.S. tax consequences. But for the inversion, any such onshore expenditures would have constituted taxable repatriations.

If you think it’s somehow unpatriotic to use legal means to reduce taxes, I hope you don’t take a $500 charitable deduction for all those clothes you thew away, I mean gave to Goodwill.

 

20140506-1 TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 452

Jack Townsend, Article on British Deal with Swiss to Flush Out Evades and Lost Revenue — Not So Good 

 

You say that like it’s a bad thing.  On Highway Bill, Congress Moves to the Right of Grover Norquist  (Steve Warnhoff, Tax Justice Blog)

Government spending has been cut to the bone.

 

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Tax Roundup, 7/31/14: Tax Holiday Weekend! And: how defined benefit plans hurt Iowa municipal services.

Thursday, July 31st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140731-1You’ve had your calendar’s marked for a long time, and here it is: Iowa’s annual sales tax holiday is tomorrow and Saturday.  From the Iowa Department of Revenue:

If you sell clothing or footwear in the State of Iowa, this law may impact your business.

  • Exemption period: from 12:01 a.m., August 1, 2014, through midnight, August 2, 2014.
  • No sales tax, including local option sales tax, will be collected on sales of an article of clothing or footwear having a selling price less than $100.00.
  • The exemption does not apply in any way to the price of an item selling for $100.00 or more
  • The exemption applies to each article priced under $100.00 regardless of how many items are sold on the same invoice to a customer

“Clothing” means…

  • any article of wearing apparel and typical footwear intended to be worn on or about the human body.

“Clothing” does not include…

  • watches, watchbands, jewelry, umbrellas, handkerchiefs, sporting equipment, skis, swim fins, roller blades, skates, and any special clothing or footwear designed primarily for athletic activity or protective use and not usually considered appropriate for everyday wear.

Stylish tax-savvy shoppers can combine holidays across states.  For example, you can pick up a cute new outfit in Iowa this weekend and wear it to Louisiana for their September firearms tax holiday.

Related:  

Kay Bell, 12 states kick off August 2014 with sales tax holidays

Joseph Henchman, Sales Tax Holidays: Politically Expedient but Poor Tax Policy

 

Robert D. Flach has some sound ADVICE FOR A NEW GRADUATE STARTING OUT IN HIS/HER FIRST FULL-TIME JOB.  One nice bit: “If you have any cash from graduation gifts left over open a ROTH IRA account and use this money to fund your 2014 contribution.”

Jason Dinesen makes it easy to follow his excellent series on one client’s ID theft saga: Find All of My Identity Theft Blog Posts in One Location.

 

 

taxpayers assn logoGretchen TegelerFallout from Iowa public pension shortfalls (IowaBiz.com):

The increase in public spending for pensions has impacted the ability of our state and local governments in Iowa to pay for other services.  The result is a decline in the quality of public services and an increase in property taxes.  For example, all Des Moines libraries have closed an additional day each week just to help cover the cost of police and fire pensions.  Urbandale is raising property taxes.  Some have questioned whether it’s worth the substantial public cost to pay such a generous benefit to so few individuals.  Police and firefighters in our largest 49 cities can retire at age 55, and receive 82 percent of their highest salary each year for the remainder of their lives.  Almost all of the retirees in this system will have a higher standard of living post-retirement than they did during their highest earning years.

This is true even though Iowa’s public-sector pensions are better-funded than those in many other states.  The problem won’t be fixed until public employees go on the same defined contribution model as the rest of us — you get paid the amount that has been funded.  Defined benefit plans are a lie – to the taxpayers about what current public services cost, or to the employees about what they can expect as pension income, or to both.

 

20140731-2Paul Neiffer, Another Cattle Tax Shelter Bites the Dust:

Essentially, Mr. Gardner would issue a promissory note to these entities for the purchase of cattle and/or operating expenses and equipment.  The promissory notes totaled more than a $1 million, however, it appears that Mr. Gardner effectively paid less than $100,000 on any of these promissory notes.  Also, in almost all cases, Mr. Gardner defaulted on all notes and no collection efforts were made to collect.

This is almost quaint.  When I first started working in the 1980s, I saw a few shelters like this.  A cow worth, say, $2,000 would be sold for $50,000, $2,000 down and the rest on a “note” that would never be collected — but the “farmer” would depreciate $50,000, rather than $2,000.  I’m a little surprised it still going on, considering the at-risk rules, passive loss rules, and hobby loss rules against this sort of thing.

 

 

Jim Maule’s “Tax Myths” series includes “Children Do Not Pay Tax.”  He notes “A child of any age, with gross income exceeding whatever standard deduction is available, has federal income tax liability.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 448.  Read this and tell me again how the Tea Party targeting was just a non-partisan, unbiased attempt to clear a backlog of application that was driven by low-level functionaries in Cincinnati.

Jack Townsend notes UBS Continuing Woes, Including Settlement with Germany

 

2140731-3Cara Griffith, Access to Public Records Isn’t a Fundamental Right – But It Should Be (Tax Analysts Blog).  But bureaucrats everywhere prefer to work without witnesses.

Leslie Book, The Tax Law, EITC and Modern Families: A Bad Mix (Procedurally Taxing).  “I read a summary Tax Court case from a few weeks ago that reminds me that the tax laws in general– and the EITC and Child Tax Credit rules in particular– can sometimes lead to unfair results, especially in light of the complicated and at times messy modern family lives.”

Len Burman, What Ronald Reagan Didn’t Say About the EITC (TaxVox).  I bet he didn’t say it was a floor wax or a dessert topping, either.

Peter Reilly, Obamacare Upheld Against Another Challenge – Court Rules Against Sissel.  The origination clause argument was never more than a forlorn hope.

 

Lyman Stone, Kentucky Considers Tax Rebate for Creationist Theme Park (Tax Policy Blog).  Considering how many legislators think they can play God with state economies by means of tax credits, this has a sort of perverse logic going for it.

Adrienne Gonzalez, PwC Report Declares a Future Free From Nine-to-Five Work (Going Concern).  When I worked at PriceWaterhouse, a PwC predecessor, they were already free from nine-to-five work.  Nine-to-five would have been wimp work for a Sunday.

 

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Tax Roundup, 7/29/14: Whither Halbig and the ACA. And lots more!

Tuesday, July 29th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20121120-2The Big Tax News while I was on vacation was the Halbig decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.  The decision holds invalid the IRS decision allowing tax credit subsidies for policies purchased on federal insurance exchanges.  The impact of the decision was offset by a Fourth Circuit decision the same day coming to the opposite conclusion, but it is still a big deal, especially in light of some subsequent events.

The D.C. circuit has national implications because every taxpayer can come under its jurisdiction by litigating through the Court of Federal Claims.  An alert reader corrects me:

Your post today contains an error.  The  D.C. circuit is not the same as the federal circuit.  The court of federal claims is appealable to the federal circuit. The district court for the D.C. circuit is appealable to the D.C. circuit.  Halbig is a big deal in any event because the dc circuit instructed the district court to vacate the rule.  Vacated means that there is no rule anywhere.  In any event, SCOTUS will make the final call here.

As long as that decision stands — and the IRS will certainly ask the 15-member court to reconsider Halbig, decided by a three-member panel — it threatens not only the tax credits for the 37 states without their own exchanges, but it also invalidates the employer mandate tax in those states and takes much of the bite out of the individual mandate.  The South Carolina Policy Council explains why (my emphasis):

The subsidies are also important for their function as triggers of both the individual and employer mandate portions of the ACA. The ACA imposes a $2,000 per employee penalty for companies with more than 50 employees who do not offer “adequate health insurance” to their workers. This penalty is triggered when an employee accepts an IRS subsidy on a plan purchased through an exchange. If individuals in the 36 states without a state-run exchange are ineligible for subsidies, there will be no trigger to set off the employer mandate.

An absence of subsidies would also allow many people to avoid the ACA’s individual mandate, which requires citizens to maintain health insurance covering certain minimum benefits or pay a fine. This is because the ACA exempts citizens from the individual mandate whose out-of-pocket costs for health insurance exceed 8 percent of their household income. If IRS subsidies are removed, insurance plans offered on exchanges would exceed this cost threshold for many people – thereby providing them an exemption from the mandate.

Flickr image courtesy Tim under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy Tim under Creative Commons license

This would devastate the already shaky economics of Obamacare.

The key ruling in Halbig is its finding that statutory language allowing tax credits through exchanges “established by a State” doesn’t cover the federal exchanges that are used in the 36 states without exchanges.   Critics of Halbig say that Congress couldn’t have been that stupid.  For example, Jonathan Gruber, an architect of the ACA, says“Literally every single person involved in the crafting of this law has said that it`s a typo, that they had no intention of excluding the federal states.”

That assertion has been challenged by a number of observers, notes Megan McArdle.  She cites a January 2012 speech by one Jonathan Gruber, an architect of the ACA:

Only about 10 states have really moved forward aggressively on setting up their exchanges. A number of states have even turned down millions of dollars in federal government grants as a statement of some sort — they don’t support health care reform.

Now, I guess I’m enough of a believer in democracy to think that when the voters in states see that by not setting up an exchange the politicians of a state are costing state residents hundreds and millions and billions of dollars, that they’ll eventually throw the guys out. But I don’t know that for sure. And that is really the ultimate threat, is, will people understand that, gee, if your governor doesn’t set up an exchange, you’re losing hundreds of millions of dollars of tax credits to be delivered to your citizens. [emphasis added] 

The 2012 Jonathan Gruber repeated the story that only state-established exchanges qualify for credits in other forums.   It’s remarkable that two ACA architects named Jonathan Gruber have such divergent views of what the bill does.  It’s even more remarkable that they are the same guy.  This seems like strong support for the D.C. Circuit’s approach.

supreme courtIf the ACA were just another tax bill, it would be pretty easy to predict that the Supreme Court would go with the D.C. Circuit’s approach, based on prior rulings involving statutes that reached results the IRS didn’t care for.  In the Gitlitz case, which arguably provided an unintended windfall for S corporation shareholders when the S corporation incurred non-taxable debt forgiveness income, the Supreme Court said in an 8-1 decision (footnotes and citations omitted, emphasis added):

Second, courts have discussed the policy concern that, if shareholders were permitted to pass through the discharge of indebtedness before reducing any tax attributes, the shareholders would wrongly experience a “double windfall”: They would be exempted from paying taxes on the full amount of the discharge of indebtedness, and they would be able to increase basis and deduct their previously suspended losses.  Because the Code’s plain text permits the taxpayers here to receive these benefits, we need not address this policy concern.

In other words, if Congress doesn’t like what it has done, it’s up to Congress to fix it, not the IRS.  Congress did just that with the Gitlitz result within a year of the decision.

Of course, the ACA isn’t typical tax legislation.  Chief Justice Roberts tied himself in knots to find a way to uphold Obamacare in 2012.  Politics makes it unlikely that the Gitlitz approach will be followed by the left side of the Supreme Court, and who knows how Justice Roberts will rule.  But it does appear at least possible that Halbig will be upheld.

What should taxpayers do?  My thought is to assume the mandates remain in effect and pay tax (or reduce your withholding) accordingly.  Then be prepared to file a refund claim if Halbig is upheld by the Supreme Court.  Plan for the worst and hope for the best.

At least one thoughtful commentator says that ultimately if Halbig is upheld, holdout states will fall into line and establish exchanges.  For the reasons laid out here, I don’t think that will happen, and Congress will be forced to clean up its mess.

 

Paul Neiffer, ACA Subsidies: One Court Strikes Down, Another Upholds

Kristy Maitre, IRS Releases Additional ACA Revenue Procedures and Draft Forms  (ISU-CALT)

 

20140729-2Jason Dinesen, Don’t Be “That” Business Owner.  “I see too many with preconceived notions of what they can “get by with.” I’ve seen and read about too many people whose life got turned upside-down when they ended up NOT “getting by with it” after all.”

Russ Fox,  2:42.  “That’s how long I spent on hold on the IRS Practitioner Priority Service (PPS) yesterday–two hours, forty-two minutes.”   It’s a good thing Practitioners are a “Priority,” or who knows how long he’d have been on hold.

Phil Hodgen, Green card holders, treaty elections, and exit tax

Stephen Olsen, Ct. of Fed. Claims Holds Merger Results in “Same Taxpayer” for Net Zero Interest Rate (Procedurally Taxing)

Peter Reilly wonders if it is Time To Let Kent Hovind Go Home?  Peter thinks the former owner of a theme park based on the idea that hominids and dinosaurs co-existed may have suffered enough for his tax misdeeds.

Robert D. Flach brings the fresh Tuesday Buzz!

Well, these things are never tidi.  Spanish Court Moving Forward With Messi Tax Evasion Case  (TaxGrrrl)

 

taxanalystslogoDavid Brunori, Who Wants to Tax a Millionaire? Lots of People (Tax Analysts Blog).  This is full fo good observations about the unwisdom of states soaking the “rich.”  Highlights include:

States do not (and should not) do a lot of redistributing to the very poor.

When states jack up taxes on the “rich,” the money doesn’t exactly go to people sleeping under bridges, as David explains (my emphasis):

I have written about this before.  I noted that “the real beneficiaries of most government spending, certainly at the state level, never come up. No one ever says that we need higher taxes because my friends in the construction business want new contracts. No one ever says that they want new taxes to expand bloated public employee union bureaucracies. Yes, crony capitalism and union bosses drive most calls for higher taxes.” My right-wing friends often criticize liberals calling for higher marginal taxes as delusional. But they know exactly what they’re doing. Often they want higher taxes just so they can give money to their friends.

The money taken from “the rich” goes to the well-connected.  Iowa’s highest-in-the-nation system fleeces those without pull to pay rich subsidies to well-connected politicians and corporations.  Better to throw out the crony subsidies and lower rates for the rest of us — like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Tax Reform Plan would do.

 

Elaine Maag, The “Helping Working Families Afford Child Care Act” Would Help, but Doesn’t Solve the Timing Mismatch (TaxVox).  “Making the CDCTC refundable and increasing allowable expenses is a huge step in improving child care assistance for low-income families.”

 

20140729-1Joseph Thorndike, The Corporate Income Tax Will Never Be ‘Fixed.’ And That’s OK. (Tax Analysts Blog):

Again, I think the corporate income tax is on the way out. But that’s a long-term problem. It doesn’t mean we should throw in the towel right away. The corporate tax may, as McArdle suggests, be an “insane, unwinnable chess game” pitting lawyers against tax collectors. But for the time being, the game is still worth the candle.

I think Megan McArdle has the better case, that the corporation income tax needs to go away, one way or the other.   I like the idea of doing so via a corporation dividends-paid deduction, combined with an excise tax on dividends for otherwise-exempt stockholders, as a way to get there.

Scott Hodge, More on Inversions and the Effective Tax Rates of Foreign-Owned Firms.   “The administration may want to think twice about taking unilateral action without considering the consequences.”

Clint Stretch, Dreams of Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog).  Patsy Cline is invoked.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 446

 

Greg Kyte, Clarifying Sex and Auditor Independence After the EY and Ventas Affair (Going Concern).  Can an auditor be “independent” while sleeping with a CFO?  Well, auditors are supposed to have hearts of stone…

 

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Tax Roundup, 7/28/14: Out of the Wilderness edition.

Monday, July 28th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Joe K as Ted KI’m back from the Philmont Scout Ranch.  81 rough and hilly miles in 10 days, not counting wrong turns, and all but about 12 with full pack.  The remainder were side trips up mountains.

It was a memorable and wonderful experience, even though I don’t intend to repeat it anytime soon.  I went with a great crew (including my younger son), and a skilled and wise adult “co-advisor,” so mostly I just got to enjoy the scenery and work on my new Unabomber Cowboy look.  I got a bunch of New Mexico mountain flora and fauna photos, many of which will be used as decoration on the Tax Roundups in the coming weeks.

I missed some tax stuff, which I will try to catch up on over the next few days.  I especially need to ponder the implications of the Halbig decision by the D.C. Circuit, striking down tax credits for Obamacare, and, perhaps, the employer and individual mandates for non-exchange state residents.

For the record, I had to clear my spam filter of 50,852 assuredly wonderful comments, and another 128 that got through the spambox for moderation. If you made a non-spam comment that I deleted, I’m sorry.  With so much spam, I have to take the spam filter’s word for it.

Today’s roundup will be abbreviated, as I still have to dig out from the usual post-vacation accumulation of chores.

 

20140728-1Roger McEowen, D.C. Circuit Says IRS Illegally Created Obamacare Tax; Fourth Circuit Sees No Evil.  “The D.C. Circuit’s decision relieves millions of persons from the penalty tax under I.R.C. Sec. 36B that the Congress did not state were subject to the tax.  Most assuredly, the government will ask the full court to hear reconsider the decision.”

TaxGrrrl, Courts Issue Conflicting Rulings On Obamacare Tax Credits: Which One Got It Right?   

William Perez, List of Sales Tax Holidays in 2014.  Iowa’s is this weekend.

Jana Luttenegger, Change in One-Per-Year Rollover Rules on IRA (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Peter Reilly, Pulling IRS Into Your Business Dispute Might Not Be Such A Good Idea.  No kidding.

Robert D. Flach just keeps Buzzing!

 

Christopher Bergin, Inversion Diversion (Tax Analysts Blog):

There’s a lot more wrong with the tax system than corporate inversions. But that’s not the point. With all that’s going on in the world, when President Obama jumps on the anti-inversion bandwagon, it will give the official seal of approval to inversions as this summer’s red herring.  

The talk of corporations making tax moves as “deserters” is repulsive — as if their only duty is to generate revenue for Uncle Sam, without regards to their owners and customers.

Howard Gleckman, The Bring Jobs Home Act Won’t (TaxVox)

Joshua Miller, Richard Borean, Higher Education Tax Credits are a Windfall for Universities.  Of course they are.  You didn’t think they were for students, did you?

Accounting Today,  Former IRS Employee Arrested in Identity Theft Ring.  How do people think IRS regulation of preparers will stop fraud when IRS employment doesn’t.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 445

News from the Profession.  This Complete Idiot Cheated on the Open Book Ethics Exam, Ratted Self Out. (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 7/11/14: Wilderness edition. And: the hazards of doing it yourself.

Friday, July 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Photo courtesy Philmontscoutranch.org

Photo courtesy Philmontscoutranch.org

Programming note.  The Tax Update goes untended for the next two weeks, as I head to Philmont Scout Ranch with my younger son and others for a 10-day backpacking odyssey.  It’s my first visit to New Mexico and my first extended backpacking trip.  Horses, carabiners, and black powder rifles will be encountered.  Whatever remains of me will be back here July 28.  The lovely and talented folks in the blogroll to the right will keep the tax world under control in the meantime.

 

Accounting Today visitors: if you followed the newsletter link here, you probably are looking for this: July 5, 1944.

 

Does the tax law cause people to do work on rental properties that they really should hire out?   That’s one conclusion you could draw from a Tax Court case yesterday, where a landlord says she chose do herself work that, based on the time she says she spent, should have gone to a contractor.

The tax law says real estate losses are normally “passive,” and when adjusted gross income exceeds $150,000, they are only deductible to the extent of other passive income.  A special rule lets “materially participating real estate professionals” out of the “per-se passive” rules; these taxpayers test whether their real estate activity is passive under the rules that apply to other business activities, based on time spent.

There’s a serious catch.  To qualify as a real estate pro, you have to work at least 750 hours in real estate, and more hours than in anything else you do.  If you have a full-time day job, this doesn’t work.

20140325-1But taxpayers attempting to get to 750 hours might be tempted to do work they would otherwise outsource.  That would be the generous interpretation of these facts in the Tax Court (my emphasis):

Petitioner claimed to have spent a total of 772 hours working on her rental properties in 2009. In support of her assertion, petitioner provided activity logs purporting to document the time she spent on her rental activities. Some of the activities included painting, cleaning apartments, shoveling snow, communicating with tenants on various issues, placing rental ads in the local newspaper, picking up mail, and paying bills. Although some log entries reference a specific apartment or property, many log activities do not specifically identify a particular rental unit. In addition, the number of hours noted on petitioner’s logs appears to be significantly inflated. For example, in one instance petitioner claims to have spent 8 to 12 hours per day for 10 days staining the “deck and siding” of what appears to be one apartment at the Pulaski property.

Some people just are perfectionists.

The log also indicates that [petitioner's husband] helped stain the deck and siding on those dates. In that instance, petitioners together spent between 160 to 240 hours staining the deck and siding of one apartment. There are several other instances in 2009 where petitioner claims to have spent many hours staining and painting decks and front porches of the rental properties. Petitioner’s log for July 2009 indicates that she spent approximately 77 hours over an eight-day period to paint a back porch. Petitioner’s log for November 2009 indicates that she spent more than 105 hours over a 12-day period on the flooring for one apartment and that on one specific day she worked 16 hours.

While a misguided attempt to reach 750 hourse might have motivated this sort of effort, the judge decided that something else was going on:

 Although petitioner claims she acted reasonably and in good faith with respect to her position that she was a real estate professional in the years in issue, we have concluded that petitioner’s records are not accurate or reliable and likely inflated the hours she spent in real estate activities. We have also concluded that the logs relating to her activity as an employee and her self-employment were not accurate.

If you want to document time for showing an activity is non-passive, it is wise to track it in a daily contemporaneous calendar.  It is also wise to not push the limits of believability.

Cite: Materano, T.C. Summ. Op. 2014-64

Material participation hours tests can be found here.

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 428.  It features  from the Wall Street Journal U.S. Judge Orders IRS to Explain How it Lost Lerner’s Emails:

A federal judge on Thursday ordered the Internal Revenue Service to explain how it lost two years’ worth of a former official’s emails, and tapped a magistrate judge to find out whether the documents can be obtained from other sources.

At a hearing in a conservative group’s lawsuit, U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan gave the IRS until Aug. 10 to provide a sworn declaration explaining how the email loss occurred. The IRS previously has said that the emails were lost because the top agency official’s computer crashed in 2011, and backup tapes were routinely reused after six months.

These practices violated federal recordkeeping procedures and, likely, federal law.  In spite of Ms. Lerner’s evident concern about the possibility of  her emails being found, Commissioner Koskinen says it’s silly to think anything more suspicious than a remarkable rash of hard-drive failures is to blame.

 

A new study by the Mercatus Institute says state taxes matter.  A summary says “The study finds that higher state taxes correlate with lower economic performance, even when controlling for various factors.”  It says that higher taxes lower economic growth, affect migration patterns, and reduce business startups. (hat tip: Maria Koklanaris, State Tax Notes ($link‘))

 

Carl O’Donnell, How The $1 Billion Kennedy Family Fortune Defies Death And Taxes.  Most politicians who vote for higher taxes do so assuming they won’t have to pay them. (via the TaxProf)

 

Kyle Pomerleau, Bill to be Introduced that Seeks to Reduce EITC Payment Error (Tax Policy Blog).  Unfortunately, fraud and error are baked into this cake.  You might as well try to take the chocolate out of toll house cookies.

 

20140513-1Jim Maule continues his Tax Myth series with Tips Aren’t Taxed Because They Are Gifts.  “Most people who collect tips are paid very little, rely on the tips to make a living, and are unhappy to learn that tips are included in gross income.”

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: Head of Household   

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

Keith Fogg, Revoking the Release of the Federal Tax Lien and Appointing a Receiver (Procedurally Taxing)

 

TaxGrrrl, Who Should Pay For Schools? Answer Remains Unclear As Cigarette Tax Boost On Hold   Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.  For the children!

Renu Zaretsky,  Games, Spins, Ignorance and Patience.  Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers, among other things,  Highway Trust Fund games, corporate inversions.

Steve Warnhoff, House Poised to Throw $276 Billion “Bonus” at Businesses.  (Tax Justice Blog).  He’d rather throw it at the government.

Kay Bell, LeBron ‘King’ James’ return to Cleveland could be a win-win for fans and the so-called Win Tax

 

20140711-2

 

A new Cavalcade of Risk is up!  R.J. Weiss hosts this edition of the blog world’s venerable roundup of insurance and risk management posts, including Hank Stern on Kidnap & Ransom Insurance.

I’ll bet he does.  Beanie Babies creator defends sentence of probation, no prison time, for tax evasion (Brandon Sun)

News from the Profession.  Just How Many CPA Roommates Can You Fit In a Single Apartment? (Leona May, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 7/8/14: Not in Kansas Anymore edition. And: the latest on bonus depreciation for 2014.

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140409-1What’s the matter with Kansas?  Economist Scott Sumner looks at the controversy over the recent Kansas tax reforms:

The past two years Kansas reduced its state income tax rates. As a result, the top rate of income tax faced by Kansas residents (combined state and federal) rose from 41.45% in 2012 to 48.3% in 2013 and then fell a tad to 48.2% in 2014 (if they don’t itemize.) That’s a pretty tiny drop in the top marginal tax rate in 2014, and a much bigger rise in 2013.


I can’t imagine any serious economist predicting that the Kansas rate cut would boost Kansas GDP by 25% or more. Why did I pick that figure? Because the Kansas state income tax top rate fell from 6.45% in 2012 to 4.8% in 2014, which is roughly a 25% rate cut. In order for that rate cut to boost Kansas tax revenues, you’d have to see Kansas GDP rise by more than 25%. That’s obviously absurd.

The Sumner post is there to refute a straw-man argument made by tax fans:

“Why am I even discussing such crazy ideas? Because Paul Krugman seems to want to convince his readers that lots of supply-siders believe such nonsense…”

Actually, supply-siders do not claim that tax cuts pay for themselves, except in very unusual cases. Kansas is not one of those cases. The Laffer curve effect is typically applied to cases of extremely high marginal tax rates.

kansas flagI have long pushed for a combination of rate cuts for Iowa, combined with comprehensive elimination of deductions and cronyist tax credits.  That would keep the state budget from getting clobbered, while making the tax system much easier and cheaper to run and to comply with.  Kansas couldn’t let go of the loopholes, and in fact added new ones.  Joseph Henchman of the Tax Foundation discusses the Kansas tax changes in Governing.com (my emphasis):

Good tax reform broadens the tax base and lowers rates. That’s what Gov. Brownback wanted to do. But the legislature took out the “broaden-the-base” part. They just passed a tax cut, which can be justifiable if you want to reduce the size of government or expect other revenue sources to go up. But they didn’t cut spending and they don’t expect revenue to grow, so it’s just a hole. With the exemption for pass-through entities, if you’re a wage earner, you’re taxed at the top rate, which is currently 4.9 percent in Kansas. If you’re a partnership, an LLC or any form of recognized business entity with limited liability that’s not a corporation, your income is taxed at zero percent. That’s an incentive to game the tax system without doing anything productive for the economy. They think things like the pass-through exemption will encourage small business, and to be fair, it might. But they are doing it in a way that violates the tax principle of neutrality.

So what would happen if my Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan were enacted in Iowa?  My plan would eliminate corporation taxation and allow S corporation owners to elect to be taxed on distributions, rather than on pass-through income.  Properly structured, it wouldn’t hurt Iowa’s tax revenue, as the rate cuts would be offset by fewer deductions and elimination of tax credit giveaways.  I like to think that without a corporation tax and without a culture of begging for tax credits, Iowa would over time do well, considering that its regulatory and labor environment is already business-friendly.  But I don’t expect miracles, and I would not want the rate cuts to be so deep as to depend on a short-term economic boom to keep the state solvent.

 

20130113-3Richard Borean, House to Consider Bonus Depreciation (Tax Policy Blog). “It turns out that  adding permanent bonus expensing to the Camp Plan would boost GDP, wages, job creation, and federal revenue.”

Bonus depreciation is one of the many perpetually-expiring provisions that get renewed every year or two, after enough lobbyists make their offerings to the congressional fundraising idols.  The congresscritters love enacting proposals temporarily because that way they don’t appear to cost as much as officially-permanent provisions, and because it makes the lobbyists come and visit them regularly to get yet another extender bill passed.

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Camp is calling out this game by trying to get some of these provisions extended permanently, officially.  He notes that they really are permanent, and that pretending that they are temporary isn’t fooling anybody.  His opposition in the Senate wants to keep pretending the provisions are temporary, and that the honest step of treating them as permanent is “budget busting.”

None of this helps businesses pricing investment decisions for 2014.  Anyone buying equipment has to guess at the deduction schedule in order to forecast cash flows from the purchase.  Unfortunately, nothing is likely to happen until after the November elections, when a temporary retroactive extension is likely to pass — but might not.

 

Trish McIntire discusses The New Voluntary Tax Preparer Program.  “I’m interested in seeing the numbers of the Filing Season Program come January 2015. Honestly, I don’t think they are going to be as high as the IRS hopes.”

Roberton Williams, IRS Help Line Is Out Of Service (TaxVox) “I needed to double-check an issue concerning withdrawals from my nonagenarian father’s IRA. IRS Publication 590 wasn’t clear so I decided to call the IRS. The experience was illuminating. Not helpful mind you, but illuminating.”

William Perez, What’s Form W-9?  “Independent contractors and other people who work for themselves will often need to give a Form W-9 to their clients. Clients will then use the information on Form W-9 to prepare Form 1099-MISC to report income paid to the independent contractor.”

Jim Maule continues his Tax Myths series with “I’m Getting a Refund and Not Paying Tax.”  He notes “Whether a person has a tax liability cannot be determined simply from the existence of a refund.”

Kay Bell assigns 5 easy tax tasks to take care of in July.

 

20140708-1Brian Mahany, Are FBAR Penalties Unconstitutional? In Many Cases Yes.  “It’s one thing to assess a 50% or 75% penalty but when penalties exceed the total tax owed by a multiple of 50 times like in the Warner case, we believe the penalties are clearly unconstitutional.”

Martin Sullivan, Will States Get a Multibillion-Dollar Windfall From Corporate Tax Reform? (Tax Analysts Blog).  Only if there is actually corporate tax reform.

TaxGrrrl, The Real Cost Of Summer Vacation: Don’t Get Buried In Taxes

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for 6/27/14. (Procedurally Taxing)  Don’t let the date fool you, this roundup of tax procedure news was posted yesterday.

Peter Reilly, City Taxes Trip Up Investment Advisor Restructuring.  Beware New York City.

Jack Townsend, Convicted Politician Did Not Lay a Proper Foundation For Proferred Indirect Testimony of Lack of Intent.  “How does a defendant unwilling to testify as to his intent — thus invoking his Fifth Amendment privilege — introduce indirect evidence of his lack of intent to blunt the Government’s indirect proof of his intent?”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 425

 

Robert D. Flach brings the Tuesday Buzz.  I like this:

Item #10 on the new IRS-issued Taxpayer Bill of Rights is “The Right to a Fair and Just Tax system”.

In order to assure this right to taxpayers the Tax Code would need to be totally rewritten and all current members of Congress would have to be replaced by competent and intelligent legislators who actually give a damn about the American public.

It’s right as far as it goes, but some members of the executive branch would also need to go, starting with the Commissioner.

 

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Tax Roundup, 7/7/14: IRS stands down on imaginary 750-hour rule for real estate pros. And: the real IRS budget problem.

Monday, July 7th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

No Walnut STA newly-released memo indicates that the IRS will no longer hold real estate professionals to an illegal standard in determining passive losses.  

ILM 201427016 addresses how the “750-hour test” of Section 469 applies when you have multiple real estate activities.  Under the passive loss rules of Section 469, rental real estate losses are normally passive; that means the losses are normally deductible only to the extent of other passive income, until the activity is sold.

A special rule allows real estate professionals to apply the normal passive loss rules, which are based on time spent in the activity, to rental real estate losses.  To qualify as a real estate pro, you have to meet two tests:

You have to spend more than 750 hours in the taxable year working in real estate trades or business in which you materially participate, and

You have to spend more time in your real estate activity than in any other kind of activity (this test means that few people with non-real estate day jobs qualify as real estate pros).

In some cases the IRS has applied the 750 test to each activity — making it almost impossible for many taxpayers to qualify, absent an election to treat all rental real estate activities as a single activity under Reg. Sec. 1.469-9(g).  The Tax Court issues a couple opinions that seemed to agree — opinions that I insisted were wrong.

Now the IRS seems to have come around.  From the new IRS memo (my emphasis):

Therefore, whether a taxpayer is a qualifying taxpayer within the meaning of section 469(c)(7)(B) and Treas. Reg. § 1.469-9(b)(6) depends upon the rules for determining a taxpayer’s real property trades or businesses under Treas. Reg. § 1.469-9(d), and is not affected by an election under Treas. Reg. § 1.469-9(g). Instead, the election under Treas. Reg. § 1.469-9(g) is relevant only after the determination of whether the taxpayer is a qualifying taxpayer. However, some court opinions, while reaching the correct result, contain language which may be read to suggest that the election under Treas. Reg. § 1.469-9(g) affects the determination of whether a taxpayer is a qualifying taxpayer. See, for example, Jafarpour v. Comm’r, T.C. Memo. 2012-165, and Hassanipour v. Comm’r, T.C. Memo 2013-88. However, other court opinions recognize that the election under Treas. Reg. § 1.469-9(g) is not relevant to the determination of whether a taxpayer is a qualifying taxpayer. See, for example, Trask v. Comm’r, T.C. Memo 2010-78. 

One hopes the IRS will no longer raise this false issue on examination.

Related: Did the Tax Court just abandon the ‘750 hours for every rental activity’ test?

 

20130426-1Paul Neiffer, IRS Modifies Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP).  “I have personally worked with clients that were involved in the old voluntary disclosure program and I can tell you it is not a pleasant experience.”

Jack Townsend, Rumors on the Workings of Streamlined Programs (Including Transitioning in OVDP).  Reading this, it sounds more like a diabolical bureaucratic torture than a serious attempt to bring the non-compliant into the system.

 

Robert D. Flach, A RANDOM THOUGHT ABOUT THE NEW VOLUNTARY AFSC PROGRAM.  A pithy lesson on the difference between qualifications and credentials.

 

Jason Dinesen, Life After DOMA: A History of Marriage in the Tax Code 

Keith Fogg, When and Where to Make Your Arguments (Procedurally Taxing).  In tax controversies, making the right argument does no good unless you make it at the right time.

 

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 424.   The New York Times thinks the real scandal is that GOP appropriators won’t give the IRS more money to use against them.

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.

Scott Hodge, The IRS Needs Tax Reform Not a Bigger Budget:

The relentless growth of credits and deduction in the code over the past 20 years had made the IRS a super-agency, engaged in policies ranging from delivering welfare benefits to subsidizing the manufacture of energy efficient refrigerators.

I would argue that were we starting from scratch, these are not the functions we would want a tax collection agency to perform. Tax reform would return the IRS to its core function—simply collecting revenues to fund the basic operations of government.

Amen.  I’ve said much the same thing: “Every year Congress gives the IRS more to do.  It has become a sprawling superagency administering programs from industrial policy (R&D credits, export subsidies, manufacturing subsidies) to historic preservation, housing policy to healthcare.”

If Congress stopped using the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy, the current IRS budget would be plenty.

 

20120503-1Christopher Bergin, What’s Behind the Brain Drain at the IRS?  (Tax Analsyts Blog):

So what’s going on? Is this an internal war at the tax agency, specifically in LB&I – a power struggle, if you will? Or is it the more predictable result of competent IRS leaders, who could easily make more money in the private sector, deciding to escape an agency that is being treated like a political piñata? Or is this the new IRS commissioner cleaning house? For me, the latter is the least likely.

Yeah, the new Commissioner is more into closing the blinds to the house so we don’t see the mess, rather than cleaning it up.

 

TaxGrrrl, European Commission Broadens Tax Inquiries To Include Amazon: Google, Microsoft & McDonald’s May Follow   

Renu Zaretsky, Congress Is Back with Much To Do and Consider (TaxVox).  Today’s tax headline roundup covers this week’s Congressional agenda, inadequate retirement savings, and the EU’s efforts to crack down on multinationals.

 

Russ Fox, Pop Goes the Tax Fraud  A rapper, a Canadian, and a football player walk into before the bar…

The 70th anniversary of a red letter day for my Dad.  July 5, 1944.

 

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