Posts Tagged ‘Robert D Flach’

Tax Roundup, 11/25/15: Don’t bother depreciating things up to $2,500. And: Have a great Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 25th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20141226-1$2,500 is the new $500. The IRS yesterday announced (Notice 2015-82) that it was increasing the maximum “safe harbor” expensing amount from $500 per item to $2,500 for taxpayers without an “applicable financial statement” — that is, most taxpayers. Taxpayers with an AFS can elect to expense items up to $5,000. These safe harbors enable taxpayers to not worry about capitalizing and depreciating items up to these amounts.

The new safe harbor takes effect for years starting January 1, 2016 and later.

The safe harbors are authorized by treasury regulations for taxpayers who have in place at the beginning of the tax year “accounting procedures treating as an expense for non-tax purposes” that expense such “per invoice (or per item as substantiated by invoice)” So make sure you write down somewhere that you have a policy of expensing everything up to $2,500 before December 31.

This is a good, if small, step towards allowing taxpayers to expense capital costs. I object to the “applicable financial statement” requirement for the $5,000 amount, as the tax law shouldn’t care whether you have a CPA-certified audit or that you have to report your financials to a government agency, but at least this closes the gap some.   I should be happy, I suppose, that it gives my auditing brethren a small sales tool.

Related: Russ Fox, IRS Increases De Minimis Expense Threshold to $2,500 from $500 for 2016 OnwardTony Nitti, IRS: Taxpayers May Immediately Deduct The Purchase Of Assets Costing Less Than $2,500.




William Perez, Year End Tax Planning Ideas for Self Employed Persons.

Robert Wood, Passports Required For Domestic Travel In 2016, But IRS Can Revoke Passports For Taxes. Giving IRS control over passports is a horrible idea. They make so many errors, and the errors can be so hard to fix.

Robert D. Flach, MORTGAGE INTEREST LIMITATIONS. “But the Court of Appeals ruled that [unmarried] co-owners of one primary residence can each claim mortgage interest on up to $1 Million in acquisition debt and $100,000 of home equity debt.”


Annette Nellen, Sales Tax as a Penalty? “A proposed California initiative may surprise you.  It calls for a 1000% sales tax on ‘political advertisements.'”

Kay Bell, IRS should focus tax audit efforts on richer taxpayers. Willie Sutton might agree. 

Paul Neiffer, FAFSA Reporting Changes. “The Department of Education has issued new rules that make this process be much less of a hassle; however, you have to wait until 2017 to take advantage of it.  Beginning in that year, your required FAFSA income tax return will be a whole year in arrears.” About time.

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Home Offices, Principal Place of Business, and Mileage Deductions

Carl Smith, New, Additional Proposed Innocent Spouse Regulations Issued (Part 1), (Part 2) (Procedurally Taxing)

TaxGrrrl, Don’t Try This At Home: Avoid These 10 Money Missteps That Landed Reality TV Stars In Trouble.




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 930. Today’s link on the “investigation” of the scandal by the Justice Department.


Scott Hodge, The Simple Solution to the Pfizer Deal: Cut the Rate and Move to a Territorial Tax System (Tax Policy Blog). So, you could actually do something like this that makes sense, or you could listen to….

Richard Phillips, Congress Must Act Now to Stop Pfizer and Other Companies from Inverting (Tax Justice Blog). The “continue the beatings until morale improves” approach.

News from the Profession. A Surprising Number of Accountants Think Accountants Are Incredibly Corrupt (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).


Programming Note: The Tax Update will be taking the rest of the week off to celebrate Thanksgiving. I am thankful for the many fine tax bloggers I get to read when putting the Tax Roundups together, and I am especially thankful for those of you who stop by to read the Tax Update. Enjoy your Thanksgiving, and maybe start with Jim Maule’s holiday musings: Thanks Again! “For as long as I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve been sharing a Thanksgiving post to express my gratitude for a variety of people, events, and things.”



Tax Roundup, 11/24/15: Another Kansas medical practice ESOP blows up. And: tax credits for everything!

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20151124-1When you fund an employee stock ownership plan, be sure you have an employee. Another strange ESOP failure out of Kansas emerged from the Tax Court yesterday. A Wichita doctor, whom we will call Dr. F, funded an ESOP for his practice with over $400,000 in 2004, supposedly rolled over from his IRA. But, according to the tax court, the doctor wasn’t qualified to participate, and there was no evidence of a rollover. From the Tax Court (emphasis added, citations omitted, doctor’s name shortened by me):

Dr. F. received no compensation from, and was not employed by, petitioner in 2004 or 2005. A total of 53.06 shares of petitioner’s stock was allocated to his account in these years. Respondent determined that these contributions exceeded the section 415(c) limitation because Dr. F. received no compensation from petitioner in 2004 or 2005. Petitioner alleges that the amounts in Dr. F.’s accounts were rollover contributions from Dr. F.’s individual retirement account and should not be considered for purposes of section 415(c).

In order for a distribution to be considered a rollover contribution, the entire amount received must be paid into a qualified trust for the distributee’s benefit no later than the 60th day after the day that the distribution is received. Petitioner has not provided evidence that a valid rollover took place. Further, because the ESOP trust did not have a bank or brokerage account from May 13, 2004, through December 31, 2009, it was not possible for the distribution from Dr. F.’s individual retirement account to have been paid into an account held by the ESOP trust.

Details, details. But details are everything. The IRS cited multiple reasons for the ESOP revocation, and as the court notes, “Any one of the reasons cited in the final revocation letter would be sufficient alone to cause the ESOP and the ESOP trust to fail…” The ESOP also failed to get a qualified appraisal.

This is the second physician ESOP out of Kansas to fail this year in Tax Court. Iowa has long been the capital of flaky ESOPs, but Kansas seems ready to challenge our dubious supremacy. In fairness, though, the trustee of both ESOPs appears to operate out of Northeast Iowa, so we’re keeping our hand in the game.

The Moral? ESOPs are useful for limited purposes, primarily as a succession vehicle for a closely-held business, but they are complex and dangerous, requiring meticulous compliance to avoid catastrophe. They are a poor tax shelter for a closely-held business when the owner wants to maintain control.

Cite: Fleming Cardiovascular PA, T.C. Memo. 2015-224


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.

Joseph Thorndike, Tax Credits Are Easy – And a Loser’s Game for Liberals (Tax Analysts Blog):

Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign is still churning out tax proposals at a furious pace. Over the weekend, she proposed a new credit for caretakers—intended, according to her campaign, to “provide support for the millions of families paying for, coordinating, or providing care for aging or disabled family members.”

That sounds great – just like every other tax break Clinton has suggested in the past several months. After all, caring for family members can be hard, and it’s often expensive. Caretakers could definitely use a hand.

But is the tax system the best way to provide it? Probably not.

Home caregivers are wonderful people. But Mr. Thorndike notes the problems with such feel-good credits:

Using tax incentives as a form of hidden spending merely serves to further erode support for more direct forms of government action. Small-bore tax breaks breed more small-bore tax breaks. But they don’t foster any serious rethinking of the role of government.

Nor do they produce meaningful results, even for the narrow problems they target.

There’s another argument that the tax-credits-for-everything crowd glosses over. Each feel-good credit throws another social program to an IRS that is collapsing under its current workload. They can’t really want IRS agents evaluating at-home care, yet it’s baked into that cake. If you don’t audit a lucrative tax credit, it becomes a fraud magnet. So IRS, meet Grandma.


Howard Gleckman, Clinton’s Caregiver Credit Adds To Her List of Tax Breaks, Sharpens Her Contrast With The GOP. “The likely Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, would aggressively use the tax code to achieve social and economic goals, cut taxes on many middle-income people, and raise taxes on high-income households. Every Republican presidential hopeful would eliminate most existing tax subsidies, lower rates, and give big tax cuts to those with high-incomes.”




Robert D. Flach has fresh Tuesday Buzz! Lots of links, and spicy observations on the use of the tax law to run social programs.

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Reminding You That The Gain On That Sale Of Stock May Be Tax Free. “C corporations are like pit bulls and prostate exams — they carry quite the stigma,  but they’re not nearly as bad as they’re made out to be.”

TaxGrrrl, Guilty On Tax & Conspiracy Counts, Couple Faces New Charges For Revenge. Violating the first rule of holes.

Robert Wood, Al Sharpton’s Charity Hikes His Pay 71%, But Tax Liens, Clinton Imprint Remain.


Farley Katz, Joseph Perera, Katy David, Important New Partnership Audit Rules Change Taxation of Partnerships (Procedurally Taxing)

Not only can the partnership owe income tax, the tax will not be based on the income for the year in question, but instead on one or more prior years’ income. Consequently, the economic burden of the tax could be borne by partners who had no interest in the partnership when the income was generated. Conversely, if a partnership overstated its income in a prior year, the benefit of correcting that overstatement will accrue to the current partners, not those who were partners in the earlier year. Finally, if a partnership elects out of the new provisions (assuming it is eligible), the IRS will no longer be able to conduct a centralized audit controlling each partner’s distributive share, but will instead have to audit each partner individually,

Excellent article. These new rules will change the dynamics of partnership exams a great deal when they take effect for 2017 filings.

Jack Townsend, Fifth Circuit Sustains Convictions Despite Trial Judge’s Refusal to Give Proper Cheek Willfulness Instruction




Tyler Cowen, Against a financial transactions tax. He cites a paper documenting that such taxes are unwise:  “This is consistent with earlier findings on Sweden’s transactions tax, and that proposal continues to be one of the more overrated ideas in American Progressive political discourse.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 929

Peter Reilly, Foundation Of Big GOP Donor Loses Tax Court Case Over Political Ads


Career Corner. Let’s Discuss: Non-Equity Partners in Accounting Firms (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 11/23/15: Maquoketa! And, bought and paid-for at year-end insufficient for golf-cart credit.

Monday, November 23rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan
A Maquoketa Cave. Picture by Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

A Maquoketa Cave. Picture by Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

Maquoketa! The Day 1 team of the  ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax Schools is in the northeast Iowa town of Maquoketa, known for its cave system and the 61 Drive-in theater, “one of the few remaining outdoor theaters in the United States.” We then get two weeks off before the penultimate session in Denison, on the other side of the state, and our December 14 final session in Ames. Register here for one of the final schools or for the webcast of the Ames session.


“Ordered” doesn’t cut it for year-end asset purchases. Among the many silly tax rules enacted in the panicked response to the 2008 financial crisis was the tax credit for “low-speed electric vehicles,” more conventionally known as golf carts. This led to panic buying of golf carts to claim the lucrative tax spiff. Last week the Tax Court disappointed one buyer who tried to get a tax credit purchase in under the wire. It provides a lesson for all taxpayers looking at year-end purchases to get a Section 179 deduction or bonus depreciation.

The credit was available only for carts “placed in service” in 2009. Judge Paris sets the stage (all emphasis mine, footnotes omitted):

Respondent determined a deficiency of $6,253 in petitioners’ Federal income tax for 2009. The issue before the Court is whether petitioners are eligible for a New Qualified Plug-in Electric Drive Motor Vehicle tax credit (PEVC) of $6,253 pursuant to section 30D for 2009. The notice of deficiency did not determine a penalty.

The electric vehicle at issue, a Spark NEV-48 EX, was manufactured by Zone Electric Car, LLC (Zone Electric). Pursuant to Notice 2009-54, 2009-26 I.R.B. 1124 (June 29, 2009), Zone Electric submitted a request on October 1, 2009, to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to certify that its electric vehicles were qualified plug-in electric vehicles for purposes of section 30D, which as of the date of the notice allowed a tax credit for qualified plug-in electric vehicles placed in service from January 1 to December 31, 2009. On October 7, 2009, the IRS issued a letter to Zone Electric stating that the Spark NEV-48 EX model “meets the requirements of the Qualified Plug-in Electric Vehicle Credit as a Qualified Plug-in Vehicle.

$6,253 off if delivery taken by December 31, 2009!

$6,253 off if delivery taken by December 31, 2009!

So the Spark NEV-48 EX qualified — if it beat the deadline. Back to Judge Paris:

The electric vehicle was delivered to petitioners on June 8, 2010, even though petitioners placed an order for a low-speed electric vehicle reflecting their choice of color, radio, and size from Drive Electric, LLC (Drive Electric), through its Web site on December 21, 2009.

On December 21, 2009, petitioners remitted full payment of $7,786.53 for the vehicle with a credit card and promptly commenced insurance on the vehicle on December 28, 2009.

For charitable contributions and cash-basis business expenses, this would normally be all that is necessary, as a credit card transaction is as good as cash to IRS. But not this time:

Petitioners argue they remitted payment and acquired title to a qualified electric vehicle on December 21, 2009. Petitioners assert that legal title passed to them on the date of purchase and therefore they are entitled to a PEVC for 2009 because the vehicle was acquired before December 31, 2009. However, the statute effective on the date of purchase also required a qualified motor vehicle to be placed in service on or before December 31, 2009. 

Petitioners entered into the transaction for purchase of the vehicle just before the close of the year. As previously discussed, they received a bill of sale, which contained a VIN, and a certificate of origin shortly after they remitted full payment. However, a bill of sale containing a description of the vehicle and a VIN is not sufficient to show the vehicle was ready and available for full operation for its intended use. Petitioners have not offered evidence to show the vehicle was available for their use, much less fully manufactured. In fact, the vehicle was not delivered until June 8, 2010, making it impossible for the vehicle to be available for use until that date. Even if the Court were to assume the vehicle was fully manufactured and operational while awaiting shipment to petitioners, Brown and Noell tell us that the vehicle could not be considered placed in service unless and until the vehicle was readily available to serve its assigned function for petitioners’ personal use on a regular basis. The Court finds that the low-speed electric vehicle was not available for its intended use on a regular basis until it was delivered on June 8, 2010. Consequently, petitioners did not place the vehicle in service in 2009 and are not eligible for a PEVC for that year.

So the taxpayer’s golf cart just went up $6,000 or so in price.

The lesson for year-end tax planning is that the same “placed in service” rule applies to year-end fixed asset purchases by taxpayers wanting Section 179 deductions or bonus depreciation. If your business races to buy a big SUV or a new tractor by year-end, it needs to be in your garage or barn by December 31. A new machine has to be on the shop floor, ready to go.  “Bought and paid-for” isn’t enough.

Cite: Podraza, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-67.



Peter Reilly, Tax Court Denies Exempt Status To Group Using Trading Card Games To Promote Sobriety. Peter has an in-depth exploration of last week’s Gamehearts Tax Court case. It explains that the organization denied tax exemption in the case was involved in non-casino games, including “Magic: The Gathering and similar games such as Pokemon and World of Warcraft Trading Card Game.” I had assumed that it was more of a gambling thing. I have edited my original post on the case accordingly.

Peter does not agree with the decision:

This is another example to me of the IRS EO group being out of touch with the modern world.  Magic the Gathering has been a thing since 1993.  You will also see IRS giving a hard time to not for profits dedicated to open source software.  It also turned down a sorority that wanted to operate on-line and a group planning to provide free wi-fi.

The whole exempt organization function is in disarray.



Kay Bell, Is Alaska getting closer to enacting a state income tax? The oil bust has clobbered Alaska revenues.

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Issuing 1099s to an Incorporated Veterinarian

Jim Maule, Old Tax Returns Have Value. I keep my tax returns forever; Prof. Maule explains why being a tax hoarder can be useful.

Robert Wood, Your Passport Could Be Cancelled If You Owe IRS. Because Congress apparently feels we need one more poorly-considered bill that will hugely inconvenience honest taxpayers and will be impossible to undo.

Russ Fox, The Turf Monster Striketh. With a caution against sending tax ID numbers via e-mail.

TaxGrrrl, Jay Z Loses On Alvarez-Cotto Boxing Bet As Charity Gets Big Win.

Robert D. Flach, YEAR-END TAX UPDATE WORKSHOPS. With some sound year-end planning reminders.


Me, How your calendar might help you beat the IRS. My newest post at, the Des Moines Business Record’s business professional’s blog, covers the importance of keeping track of your time to document “material participation” to take tax losses and to avoid the 3.8% Obamacare Net Investment Income Tax.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 926Day 927Day 928, Day 926 discusses the ties between Lois Lerner and the architect of Wisconsin’s Kafkaeske partisan “John Doe” witchhunt.


Steven Rosenthal, Treasury Pulls its Punches on Earnings Stripping (TaxVox). “Treasury made only small technical changes to the definition of an inversion.  News reports suggested something much larger—namely limits on earnings stripping, which would have made inversions (and other combinations of U.S. firms with foreign corporations) much less profitable.”


Career Corner. Let’s Enjoy Some Intern Reviews of Various Accounting Firms (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).


Tax Roundup, 11/17/15: We’re #40! The new State Business Tax Climate Index comes out today.

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
If Iowa's income tax were a car, it would look like this.

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

Iowa rises out of bottom ten in State Business Tax Climate index. The Tax Foundation released its 2016 State Business Tax Climate Index today, and Iowa is no longer one of the ten-worst states in the index. Barely.

Maryland and Iowa changed places from last year in the index, making Iowa the 40th state in the annual index of business tax climates. Iowa’s overall score improved slightly, while Maryland got a little worse, especially in its unemployment insurance ranking. Iowa failed to improve its ranking in any of the five components making up the index. Its ranking fell in the sales tax, unemployment tax, and property tax categories, and it maintained its 32nd place individual tax and 49th place in corporation tax. Still, Maryland’s seven-place plunge in its unemployment tax rankings enabled it to crawl underneath Iowa in the index.

The result isn’t surprising, as Iowa’s tax law is nearly unchanged from last year. The split control of the Iowa legislature has blocked any significant tax legislation. I do suspect that the sales tax component will improve in the 2017 index based on the change in the definition of sales tax-exempt manufacturing supplies under an administrative ruling set to take effect July 1 of next year.

Iowa, in short, continues to have a bad system, one changed very little in structure since the 1970s, with high rates and a rat’s nest of feel-good deductions and special interest subsidies producing a hostile system for small businesses lacking expensive advisors and good friends at the statehouse. It’s a system crying for reform. The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan would be a huge improvement.

Map by the Tax Foundation

Map by the Tax Foundation


Fresh Buzz! Tuesday again brings a fresh Buzz roundup from Robert D. Flach, covering ground from accounting nostalgia to changes in this year’s W-2.

Robert Wood, Clinton Foundation Amends 4 Years Taxes, Admits Speech Fees Weren’t Donations. Ah, but better keep an eye on those sneaky Tea Partiers. The laundering of speech fees through the foundation, instead of through Clinton 1040s, seems inherently sketchy.

Jay A. Soled, Kathleen DeLaney ThomasThe Nonreporting of Modern Fringe Benefits (Procedurally Taxing). “But there is a strange phenomenon transpiring with respect to this new breed of fringe benefits. While they generally do not fall within the delineated scope of Code section 132’s enumerated exemptions, they are nevertheless not being reported as income by employers (nor by the employees, who follow suit).”

Jason Dinesen, Glossary: Review (Of Financial Statements). “In a review, the CPA examines a company’s financials to verify that they are free of deficiencies, but the firm does not review internal controls or fraud risks as in an audit.”

Jack Townsend, Is Jury Unanimity Required as to at Least One Obstructive Act for Tax Obstruction?

Paul Neiffer, Trends in Write-Offs of Farm Assets:

The Tax Foundation periodically comes out with good information on tax statistics.  They recently issued a report on corporate investment in equipment for tax year 2012.  My perception has been that most of the equipment purchased during 2012 was new equipment.  Based on this report, my perception may be in error (or not).

I think Paul is correct in believing that Section 179 is a bigger deal for most farmers than bonus depreciation.

Kay Bell, Cell phone service taxes average 18%, an all-time high




Peter Reilly, Bernie Sanders Less Of A Socialist Than Dwight Eisenhower. Peter bases this (absurd) headline on the Sanders statement that he wouldn’t raise income tax rates to the 90% amount seen in the Eisenhower administration. I suspect Peter was being deliberately provocative or sarcastic, as I think he knows his history too well to actually believe that.

UPDATE: Peter corrects my speculation in the comments: “On the not as Socialist as Dwight Eisenhower thing, I was quoting Sanders (or paraphrasing) as I was live blogging the debates.” Peter has a much stronger stomach than I do to actually watch these things.


Jim Maule, Not a Surprise: Tax Ignorance Afflicts Presidential Candidates and CNN.  While the good professor focuses on the size of the tax code, I think that’s just a reflection of a much bigger problem — one that would be corrected by my proposal that all politicians, and all candidates, be required to do their returns by hand in a live webcast. I would also require a comment bar so we could all help the politicians — “hey, do you really think your used briefs are worth $3 each?”


Annette Nellen, “Abolish the IRS” Distracts from Needed Reforms.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 922. The Attorney General will get to explain why she concludes there were no crimes committed.

Renu Zaretsky, Maybe peace, definitely another patch, and many refunds… Today’s TaxVox headline roundup ranges from prospects for tax legislation this year to refunds of Cleveland’s “Jock Tax.”


News from the Profession. Some Audit Committee Members Just Ignoring Auditors Now (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). Well, they’re used to it.



Tax Roundup, 11/16/15: Mason City Monday. And: maybe using that disbarred tax guy isn’t such a great idea.

Monday, November 16th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Right here in River City. The ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax Schools are here in Mason City, the town that was the model for Meredith Willson’s “Music Man.” It’s rainy here today.


Still, I’ll take that over what we had here last year:


There remain three sessions in this year’s circuit, in Maquoketa, Denison, and Ames. The Ames school is also available as a webinar, in case the weather continues to deteriorate. Register today!


The Tiffany of tax prep. If you’ve been in the tax prep business for very long, you probably have lost a client along the way to an “aggressive” tax guy who promised much better results than a milquetoast like you would ever have. If a federal injunction order issued last week is to believed, a California preparer is the model for that kind of “aggressive” guy.

The case involves a Mr. Siegel, who the court says never answered the allegations against him. The order describes some amazing tax thinking (my emphasis):

For example, Siegel falsely advises his customers that to treat their home as an out-of-state corporate office for federal tax purposes, the customer’s Nevada “C” corporation (i.e., an entity entirely controlled by Siegel and the customer) must require as a condition of employment that its corporate officers (i.e., the same Siegel customer) live in the customer’s California home while working away from the corporation’s purported home state of Nevada (i.e., a state where the Siegel customer typically has no actual contact). Siegel has falsely advised customers by e-mail that this scheme is valid because: (a) the customers, as business owners, are necessarily “on call 24/7” while living or working from their out-of-state “business office;” (b) the customers can deduct [their] rent and other expenses through [their] corporation when [they] are on call for that corporation”; and (c) while “the internet was just getting hot for being on call” in 2002, “[w]ithout a question in 2013 when we are truly on call 24/7 working at home is a deduction for the corporation”

It takes a special kind of preparer to give that kind of advice. The kind htat has been disbarred, like this one. The Department of Justice press release adds some details:

For example, the complaint states that Siegel deducted on one couple’s tax returns purchases at Tiffany & Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines, Louis Vuitton and Princess Cruise Lines.  Siegel allegedly attempted to conceal these fraudulent deductions from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) by lumping them together and reporting them as large expenses for “supplies” or “medical records and supplies.”

Medical records? I suppose you could stash your medical bills in your Louis Vuitton handbag.

The injunction isn’t a criminal charge, but given the allegations, Mr. Siegel may hear more from the Department of Justice. Meanwhile, his clients may be wishing they had used a less “aggressive” tax guy.

Other coverage:

Russ Fox, Don’t Go to Lawrence Siegel to Have Your Taxes Done

Robert Wood: Court Bars Masquerade, No More America’s Next Top Tax Lawyer


Mason City Sundog Morning, 2014

Mason City Sundog Morning, 2014


William Perez, What to do if you see “RSUs” on Form W-2

Robert D. Flach, TRAPPED BY OUR CAPITAL GAINS ARE WE. “Never let the tax tail wag the economic dog.”

Kristine Tidgren, A Trial Court Has Much Discretion When Divorce Strikes the Farm (Ag Docket): “The court noted that ‘there are no hard and fast rules governing economic issues in dissolution actions.'”

Kay Bell, Cleveland could owe millions in jock tax refunds

Peter Reilly, Former IRS Commissioners Scold Congress For Gutting IRS Budget. If they really want an increased IRS budget, they should also urge Commissioner Koskinen to resign.

TaxGrrrl, Spend It Like Beckham: Tax Deal Could Bring MLS Soccer To Miami. Apparently Miami has solved all of its real problems if it can spend tax money on this.



Scott Greenberg, Bonus Depreciation Covers 2/3rds of Corporate Investment (Tax Policy Blog). Not if an extender bill doesn’t pass for 2015.

Richard Auxier, Marco Rubio’s gas tax cut would give state and local governments flexibility, and political fights (TaxVox).

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 919Day 920Day 921

News from the Profession. A Three-Page Tax Code Would Keep Accountants Plenty Busy (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 11/13/15: AirBNB, tax collector. Also: time to overpay for your PTIN!

Friday, November 13th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20151113-1aAir-tax-BNB. Less than two weeks after Iowa issued a policy letter saying short-term home rentals are subject to the Iowa Hotel-Motel tax, the leading internet short-term rental matchmaker announced that it will cooperate in collecting lodging taxes in all jurisdictions where it is allowed to operate:

In those places that respect the right of people to share their home, we will work to ensure that the Airbnb community pays its fair share of taxes while honoring our commitment to protect our hosts’ and guests’ privacy. This includes helping to ensure the efficient collection of tourist and/or hotel taxes in cities that have such taxes. We will work to implement this initiative in as many communities as possible.

One city that fails to “respect the right of people to share their home” is my own town of West Des Moines, which succumbed to a one-man moral panic this summer to outlaw such short-term rentals. The West Des Moines lodging tax is 7%, on top of the state 5% rate. I suspect the Airbnb move will nudge municipalities like West Des Moines towards allowing short-term rentals. Nothing assuages a moral panic like revenue.

More coverage is available to TaxNotes subscribers: Airbnb Pledges to Collect Tourist and Hotel Taxes in All Cities (Jennifer DePaul)


PTIN renewal time. The IRS reminds us that it’s again time for preparers to overpay for their Preparer Tax Identification Numbers. The PTIN renewal page is here.




It’s Friday, it’s Buzz Day! for Robert D. Flach. Today’s links feature year-end planning, mysterious IRS notices, and lots more.

Kay Bell, Extend your tax luck with these 13 year-end moves

Jason Dinesen, Was There Really a Good Old Days of Accounting? “So for accountants, is it really true that things were better with business clients ‘way back when’?”

Robert Wood, Beware Willful, Frivolous, Even Self-Incriminating Tax Filings. “So, can you just write ‘Fifth Amendment’ on your tax return and forget all your FBAR woes? Not hardly!”

TaxGrrrl, Tesla’s License Plate Mystery Raises Questions Ahead Of Tax Changes.


Carl Smith, Willson v. Comm’r: D.C. Cir. Holds Tax Court Lacks Refund Jurisdiction in Collection Due Process Cases. Agreeing with the Tax Court itself.


Gavin Ekins, Assumption About Global Capital Markets Explains the Differences Between the JCT’s and the Tax Foundation’s Estimates of Bonus Expensing (Tax Policy Blog). “The true peril to capital investment is not the U.S. deficits but excessive taxation of capital income and the resulting sluggish economic growth.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 918. Today’s link is on the unwisdom of wasting effort on impeaching the worthless IRS Commissioner.

Jeremy Scott, Netanyahu’s Economic Reforms and the Laffer Curve (Tax Analysts Blog). “A cursory examination of Israel’s financial situation shows that Netanyahu might have succeeded where President Reagan failed. His tax cuts did pay for themselves.”




Peter Reilly, Ben Carson’s Tax Proposal Takes On The Mortgage And Charity Sacred Cows. “That makes the second thing I have learned about having in common with Doctor Carson this week.”

Howard Gleckman, Could We Get the Tax Code Down to Three Pages? Why Would We Want To? (TaxVox). “And keep in mind that the vast bulk of today’s law governs the taxation of businesses, not individuals. And businesses are very complicated.

Bob McIntyre. Ted Cruz’s Tax Plan Would Cost $16.2 Trillion over 10 Years–Or Maybe Altogether Eliminate Tax Collection (Tax Justice Blog).



The second ditty that I heard on NPR was a report in which a member of the DC city council worried aloud that money “will pollute our politics.”  Such a concern is akin to worrying that dropping a moldy bagel into a cesspool will pollute the contents of the cesspool.

Don Boudreaux


Career Corner. Accountants Earn More Than Philosophers (Barely) (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 11/10/15: Sheldon! And: a hard-working mom, plus a sure clue that you aren’t talking to the IRS.

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Sheldon! The Day 1 ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax Schools team is in Sheldon, Iowa today, while another crew takes care of Day 2 in Waterloo. Today’s session is at Northwest Iowa Community College, where about 1,900 students study programs ranging from pre-professional accounting to powerline technology. It’s not exactly an urban setting:

View towards the Northwest from the campus of Northwest Iowa Community College.

View towards the Northwest from the campus of Northwest Iowa Community College.

It’s always a great crowd, and it’s good to see everyone again. Especially since it’s not freezing here yet this year.


Accounting firm real estate appraiser flunks real estate pro test. It’s not easy for someone with a day job to be a “real estate professional” under the tax law “passive loss” rules. Passive losses are only deductible to the extent of passive income, and are otherwise deferred until a taxable sale of the “passive activity.” Real estate rental losses are automatically passive for most taxpayers, but an exception allows “real estate professionals” to qualify as non-passive under the same rules that apply to other businesses.

You have to clear two hurdles to be a real estate pro:

  1. You have to work more than 750 hours in real estate businesses in which you have an ownership interest, and
  2. Your real estate time has to exceed the time you spend doing everything else.

The second qualification eliminates most taxpayers with day jobs. But that didn’t stop our intrepid appraiser, who worked for two top-ten accounting firms in their appraisal practices.

The taxpayer and his wife acquired several apartments over the course of their marriage, which they claimed losses based on the real estate pro provision. The Tax Court sets the stage; I change the taxpayers’ names to “Mr. Taxpayer” and “Mrs. Taxpayer” in my excerpts, and all emphasis is mine.

Petitioners were married in 2006. At that time Mrs. Taxpayer owned a single condominium (Unit 918) which she had previously used as her personal residence. Mr. Taxpayer owned two condominiums (Units 522 and 801), one of which he had previously used as his personal residence. Each unit was subject to a separate mortgage. When petitioners married, they pledged the three units as collateral and obtained a loan to purchase an additional condominium (in the same building as Units 522 and 801) for use as their new personal residence.

Beginning in 2006 and throughout the year in issue, petitioners operated Units 522, 801, and 918 as rental properties. The parties stipulated that petitioners did not hire a property manager to assist with their rental properties in 2010.

20151110-2The court quickly rejected the husband’s arguments:

Mr. Taxpayer’s reliance on work that he performed for Grant Thornton and Crowe Horwath to show that he qualified as a real estate professional in 2010 is misplaced. In short, he testified that he did not own an equity interest in either firm, and he did not offer any other evidence in support of the proposition that he met the definition of a “5-percent owner” of either firm within the meaning of section 416(i)(1)(B). Therefore, the personal services that he performed as an employee of those firms may not be taken into account in computing the number of hours that he performed personal services in real property trades or businesses.

The wife had a better argument, but the court was unpersuaded by her evidence of working 750 hours:

Petitioners’ testimony was inconsistent regarding the division of labor between them and the timing of significant events. As to the division of labor, Mr. Taxpayer stated, quite candidly we believe, that Mrs. Taxpayer did little physical labor after the birth of their son in late November 2009. In contrast, Mrs. Taxpayer testified (and her revised log indicates) that she spent many long days in the first weeks of January 2010 cleaning, painting, and repairing Units 522 and 801.

Against this backdrop, we bear in mind that Mrs. Taxpayer did not maintain a contemporaneous log of her rental property activities and instead made handwritten notes on scraps of paper that she did not review in any great detail until a few weeks before trial. A close examination of the revised log that she submitted to respondent’s counsel raises serious doubts about its accuracy… for the period January 2 to January 11, Mrs. Taxpayer’s revised log indicates that she worked at least 154 hours — an average of slightly more than 15 hours per day for the 10-day period — not counting any time that she may have spent showing either unit to prospective tenants. We find it improbable that Mrs. Taxpayer performed all of the work described above.

While I admire anyone who can work 15-hour days within two months of giving birth, the Tax Court’s admiration was at best tempered by poor recordkeeping. Decision for IRS, with 20% “accuracy related” penalties tacked on.

The Moral? If you need to prove your time spent for business activities, there’s nothing better than a current time log. “Scraps of paper” are a poor substitute.

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

Related: Material participation basics.

What the Northwest Iowa Community College looked like on my visit two years ago.

What the Northwest Iowa Community College looked like on my visit two years ago.


Robert D. Flach comes through with an “especially ‘meaty'” Buzz today. LInks to much tax blog goodness, with free analysis of Donald Trump, no extra charge.

Russ Fox, Cleveland Loses on Monday (and They Didn’t Even Play). The Supreme Court rejected an appeal of rulings that its “Jock Tax” is unconstitutional.

Kay Bell, Looking for a holiday job? Employee or contractor status makes a tax difference to you, your boss and the IRS

William Perez, The Key Benefits of Health Savings Accounts


Renu Zaretsky, A Debate, A New Plan, A Vote, and Two Mulligans. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the GOP debate, the Carson tax plan, and TurboTax’s plans for the coming filing season.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 915


A vital clue. While leading the class yesterday in Waterloo, co-presenter Roger’s phone was buzzing frantically in his pocket while he was speaking. As it turns out, Mrs. Roger had received a message on her anwering machine at home saying the IRS needed to talk to her immediately. She called the number that was left, and somebody answered, telling her the police would arrest her right away if she didn’t pay her taxes.

Roger related the story to the class, and one of the attendees immediately pointed out the sure clue that it wasn’t really a call from the IRS:

“Somebody answered the phone.”



Tax Roundup, 11/9/15: Waterloo! And Estonia!

Monday, November 9th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Day 1: Waterloo! The ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax Schools are underway! I am on this morning’s panel in beautiful Waterloo, Iowa, with Roger McEowen and Kristy Maitre. Spaces are available for all of the remaining Iowa sessions, so register today! If you can’t make one of the sessions in person, you can attend the December 14 Ames session via webinar.

The November 9 session of the Farm and Urban Tax School in Waterloo is underway!

The November 9 session of the Farm and Urban Tax School in Waterloo is underway!

The early-rising schedule for the drive up here today requires an abbreviated roundup today, so let’s roll.


Kyle Pomerleau Estonia’s Growth-Oriented Tax Code. (Tax Policy Blog). It excerpts a speech from the Estonian Ambassador to the U.S.:

The main components of the Estonian tax system have been in place since the beginning of the 1990s. After Estonia regained independence in 1991, the country needed a tax system that was compatible both with the limited experience of the taxpayer who came from the Soviet communist controlled society and effective tax administration. It was essential that the tax system should support economic growth, not impede it. Therefore, a tax system was developed with an emphasis on indirect taxes. To keep the system simple, transparent and easy to use, only a few exceptions were allowed, as at the same time, tax rates were kept rather low.

A cornerstone of Estonia’s fiscal policy was corporate and personal income tax reform, which introduced the proportional, or flat tax rate of 26% in 1992, which has been reduced to 20%. Since 1999, reinvested corporate profits are no longer subject to income tax. Today, Estonian income tax system, with its flat rate of 20%, is considered one of the simplest tax regimes in the world

We could do a lot worse than the Estonian system. We certainly do now.


Tony Nitti, Renting Your Home On Airbnb? Be Aware Of The Tax Consequences:

Section 280A of the Internal Revenue Code, which governs the treatment of homes that are used for both personal and rental purposes, is a complicated tangle of definitions, designations, and resulting consequences. But if you’re going to start renting out a property on Airbnb or Craigslist, you’re going to need to know the rules, so let’s take a deep dive into Section 280A and see if we can’t help all of you newly-minted slumlords sort through your tax considerations.

And remember the local lodging tax that may apply.


Still plenty of coffee and juice in Waterloo...

Still plenty of coffee and juice in Waterloo…


Headline of the Day: Colorado county’s pot tax to pay for higher education (Kay Bell). 

Jason Dinesen, What Is Iowa Alternate Tax?

Peter Reilly, Republicans Want IRS To Target Hillary Clinton:

Given the outrage that Republicans have expressed about the “targeting” of the Tea Party by the IRS, you would think that they would be slow to advocate IRS political targeting.  Apparently  it is more a matter of who’s ox is being gored.

That’s why the party in power may regret the way it has politicized the IRS. It isn’t likely to remain in power forever.


Rachel Rubenstein, IRS Announces Procedures for Identity Theft Victims to Request Copies of Fraudulently Filed Tax Returns (Procedurally Taxing).

TaxGrrrl, Austrian Woman Destroys Million Dollar Fortune Rather Than Pay Out Heirs

Robert D. Flach offers A YEAR-END TAX PLANNING TIP on capital gains.


...but the breakfast treats are going fast.

…but the breakfast treats are going fast.


Russ Fox, Chaka Fattah, Jr. Guilty of Tax and Fraud Charges. “Chaka Fattah Jr., son of Democratic Congressman Chaka Fattah Sr. (D-PA), was found guilty on Friday of 22 of 23 tax and fraud charges.”

Jack Townsend, Financial Secrecy in the U.S. – A NonTax Example Illustrating the Law Enforcement Problem:

One of the issues is that opacity of U.S. entity structures.  The beneficial owners of corporations and other entities may simply not be known.  And states permitting such entities to be organized usually do not request any representations of ownership.  So, shady actors can easily fly under the law enforcement — including tax enforcement — radar screen.  Hence, the U.S. may facilitate evasion of other countries’ taxes by offering foreign investors secrecy as to their investments in the U.S.

In the FATCA era, it will be more difficult for us to tell foreign tax collectors that U.S. tax structures are none of their business.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 912Day 913Day 914.

Renu Zaretsky, Repeal, Reform, and Maybe Retaliation. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup topics include efforts to repeal the “Cadillac Tax,” the background of the new Ways and Means Chairman, and allegations of retaliatory audits in New Mexico.

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 11/6: Election Day Wrap Up (TAx Justice Blog).
Career Corner. More Accounting Firms Should Let Employees Build Their Own Niche Practices (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 11/6/15: Time to invade rural Iowa! And: IRS backs off valuation discount limits.

Friday, November 6th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Tax School Rampage! In the pre-dawn hours Monday I will rendezvous with Roger McEowen, Director of the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation, for the drive to Waterloo and the first 2015 session of the Iowa Farm and Urban Tax Schools. We will rampage through four Iowa towns this week. The complete schedule:

Nov. 9-10 – Waterloo
Nov. 10-11 – Sheldon
Nov. 11-12 – Red Oak
Nov. 12-13 – Ottumwa
Nov. 16-17 – Mason City
Nov. 23-24 – Maquoketa
Dec. 7-8 – Denison
Dec. 14-15 – Ames

For those of you unfortunate enough to not be in Iowa, or who prefer to study from the comfort of your computer, the Ames session is also available in a live webinar.

I am on the Day 1 schedule for all eight sessions, along with Roger and Kristy Maitre, the former Iowa IRS stakeholder liaison. There are two Day 2 teams. Waterloo, Mason City, Maquoketa and Denison get Dave Bibler, Jim Goodman, and Daniel Fretheim. Sheldon, Red Oak, Ottumwa and Ames get Dave Repp and Paul Neiffer of FarmCPA Today blog fame.

We have lots to cover this year. Details of topics here, and registration information here. Say you heard about it at the Tax Update Blog and get free coffee at any session!



Valuation power grab inoperative. Tax Analysts reports that Treasury officials have disavowed any intention of using forthcoming regulations to crack down on valuation discounts in estate planning. From the Tax Analysts report ($link):

Coming regulations on estate valuation for interests held by family members will follow not the Obama administration’s prior budget proposals, but the statute, an IRS official said November 4, signaling a welcome about-face for practitioners from earlier comments made by Treasury officials.

“There seems to be some confusion as to exactly what the guidance will rely on,” Finlow said. “We are looking to the statute as it is now. . . . We are not looking at the green book,” she said, referring to Treasury’s green book explanation of the president’s proposal on valuation discounts in his fiscal 2013 budget plan.

How do such crazy rumors get started?

In May Catherine Hughes, attorney-adviser, Treasury Office of Tax Legislative Counsel, said practitioners should look to that fiscal 2013 proposal for hints on what would be in store in the regs. The Obama administration asked Congress to amend section 2704(b) to disregard some provisions, such as some transfer and liquidation restrictions, in the valuation of intrafamily transfers of interests in family entities.

This would take the urgency out of some gift tax planning that is going on in anticipation of a crackdown on discounts for minority interests that seemed to be telegraphed by the Hughes comments.


buzz20150804Friday is a good day for so many reasons. Not least of which is that it’s the day Robert D. Flach posts his Friday Buzz roundup. Today his links included his year-end planning guide and bad news about the level of IRS service we can look forward to this coming filing season.


Robert Wood, Surgeon Hid Money In Divorce, Is Convicted Of Tax Evasion, Faces Up To 95 Years Prison:

He left the country without telling friends, family or his workplace, and secretly drove to Costa Rica He opened two bank accounts there, depositing more than $350,000 in cash. He also hid a thousand ounces of gold in a Costa Rican safe deposit box. Crossing into Panama, he opened another account there under the name of a sham corporation, Dakota Investments. By 2008, he had moved $4.6 million into that account.

He was hiding the money from an estranged wife and the IRS. With the benefit of hindsight he may wish he had instead invested in good divorce and tax counsel.


Roger Russell, Taxes in the Sharing Economy (Accounting Today). Includes a discussion of local lodging taxes for AirBNB renters.

William Perez explains Itemized Tax Deductions.

Kay Bell, New Ways and Means chairman Rep. Kevin Brady wants to move tax extenders ‘sooner rather than later’. “Like House Speaker Paul D. Ryan before him, Brady favors making the tax extenders permanent pieces of legislation.”

Paul Neiffer, Does 7 Equal 5? “For most farmers, Section 179 (at the $500,000 level) is much more important than a five-year life for equipment depreciation.”

Keith Fogg, How Does Indexing Federal Tax Lien Impact Its Effectiveness (Procedurally Taxing). “The purchasers in this case did not realize they were purchasing property encumbered by a federal tax lien because the title search did not turn up a lien against a prior owner.”

TaxGrrrl, IRS Announces Lower Fees For 2016 As PTIN Registration Opens




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 911. Today’s link discusses the scandal’s context in the larger effort of “campaign finance reform” advocates to silence their opposition by government power.

Richard Auxier, 2015 Ballot Measure Results: Tax cuts, yes; marijuana, sometimes (TaxVox).

Career Corner. CPA Exam Score Release Anxiety Is the Best Anxiety (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 11/4/15. Taxpayer Advocate: Koskinen demoralizes IRS, IRS breaks law. Koskinen replies: give me more money!

Wednesday, November 4th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
Nina Olson, Taxpayer Advocate

Nina Olson, Taxpayer Advocate

It’s getting bad when the IRS won’t even talk to its own Taxpayer Advocate. Nina Olson, the head of the IRS Taxpayer Advocate office, ripped the state of the IRS and Commissioner Koskinen’s management in a speech to the AICPA annual tax conference yesterday, Tax Analysts reports  (my emphasis, $link):

Olson said that IRS Commissioner John Koskinen’s oft-repeated mantra — that instead of doing more with less in budget-constrained times, the agency was going to do less with less — was demoralizing the IRS workforce and further eroding customer service.

“What my local taxpayer advocates are telling me is that they have never seen so much resistance to their own work” from the IRS, Olson said. She recounted the story of a local TAS employee who asked the IRS in October to release a taxpayer’s refund that had been held up since February. “The response that [TAS] got back was . . . ‘We have thousands of these cases; get in line,’” Olson said, adding that it was the first time she’d heard such a response from the IRS in her 15 years at the TAS.

The feeling at the IRS that there are some jobs it won’t do because Congress didn’t provide funding, Olson said, “works its way down to the employees, so that they feel like, ‘Well, I’m going to do just this, and I’ve got so much work that I’m only going to be able to get this done.'”

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner, but he'd probably do a better job than the one who is.

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner, but he’d probably do a better job than the one who is.

The Taxpayer Advocate Office is “an independent organization within the IRS” charged with helping taxpayers who can’t resolved their problems within the normal IRS bureaucracy. We only call on them out of desperation, when the IRS just refuses to do its job. It’s a bad sign if even the Taxpayer Advocate can’t get the time of day from the regular IRS.

Ms. Olson says the IRS mistreatment of the TAS office has risen to the level of lawbreaking:

Olson also protested that the IRS is refusing to grant her and her staff access to taxpayers’ administrative files unless they sign agreements barring them from sharing any of the files’ information, even with the taxpayer. Olson noted that she is bound by the same privacy laws as other IRS employees and said she is entitled to access under section 6103.

“My position is that the IRS in those instances has violated the law,” Olson said. “And I do not say that lightly.”

You have problems with the IRS breaking the law? Well, to coin a phrase, get in line.

Commissioner Koskinen responded later in a speech to the same group, in which he did what he always does: ask for more money. “Most of Koskinen’s prepared remarks at the conference were a repeat of his concerns about the IRS’s deteriorating budget position.”

But this Commissioner will never get a budget increase out of this Congress. His glib, arrogant and obstructionist response to the Tea Party scandal, full of denials of the existence of information that subsequently surfaced, has destroyed his credibility. There’s no hope that the IRS will get improved funding as long as he is around to spend it.

Other Coverage: 

Russ Fox, Where I Agree (In Part) With IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. “Commissioner Koskinen is correct. Congress should get off its duff and pass the extender legislation.”

Accounting Today, IRS Commissioner Sees Budget Cuts Hurting Practitioners, Warns of Delayed Tax Season. A story that weirdly downplays and buries the Taxpayer Advocate’s withering criticisms deep in the article.


Alan Cole, What Places Benefit Most From the Earned Income Tax Credit? (Tax Policy Blog).


It looks like the deep south and Indian country have the biggest proportion of EITC recipients.


TaxGrrrl, Despite Complaints, Past Failures & Opportunities For Fraud, Congress Pushes Private Tax Collection. I think Kelly is too hard on private tax collection. Plenty of preparers deal safely with confidential tax information every day, and I don’t think there’s something special about IRS employees that makes them automatically trustworthy. I think for uncontested and unpaid tax debts, private collection makes sense, especially when the IRS isn’t even trying to collect.

Robert D. Flach emphatically agrees with Kelly, though: NO! NO! A MILLION TIMES NO!. I guess private tax debt collection is one of those unpopular views I hold, like Waylon > Willie.


Wall Street Journal,  IRS Audits of Individuals Drop to 11-Year Low (via the TaxProf, $link).

Kay Bell, Avoid tax turkeys! Check out November Tax Moves

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2015: #9 Rental Properties Should Probably Be Rented. “Believe it or not, the IRS doesn’t always require that you rent a home in order to establish that you have converted the home to a for-profit rental activity, but it certainly helps.”




Carl SmithGovernment Inconsistent on Whether Unpublished Tax Court Orders Can Be Cited (Procedurally Taxing). “I’m more a believer in ‘what’s good for the goose is good for the gander’.”

Renu Zaretsky, The Case of the Questionable Tax Incentive: Women and Retirement Savings (TaxVox). “But from what I can tell, the surest way to increase a woman’s savings is to give her a nice raise… and introduce her to my sister.”

David Brunori, Impeaching the IRS Commissioner Is the Wrong Thing to Do (Tax Analysts Blog). “Koskinen may be guilty of being combative with Congress. He may be guilty of caginess during his testimony. He may be guilty of being a lousy commissioner. But none of those are reasons for impeachment.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 909. Today’s link is to an editorial, Yes, the IRS Chief Has Earned Impeachment. I agree, but I still think it’s an unwise exercise when it has no chance of success. Still, the editorial is a concise summary of how awful Commissioner Koskinen has been.

Jim Maule, Taking and Giving Back. “The NFL and its teams, as well as the other professional sports leagues and franchises, do not need financial assistance from the public.”


News from the Profession. Socially Inept Accountant Held Responsible (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). Is there another kind?




Tax Roundup, 11/3/15: Work in Illinois, live in Iowa, pay quarterly. And: fun with FATCA!

Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Illinois sealReciprocity = no state wage withholding. A newly-released policy letter from the Iowa Department of Revenue explains how the Iowa-Illinois tax reciprocity agreement works for an Iowan working in Illinois for a non-Iowa company. The letter is addressed to the employer:

Your employee is an Iowa resident, earning income in Illinois, and therefore is exempt from paying Illinois income tax on income earned from salaries, wages, and other compensation. For your employee to pay Iowa income taxes, the employee should make estimated payments by completing Form 1040ES – Estimated Income Tax for Individuals. The employee may also need to file an Illinois form showing that they are an Iowa resident not subject to Illinois withholding under the agreement.

While in theory it should make no economic difference whether you pay taxes through quarterly estimates or withholding, many taxpayers prefer withholding. It just seems less painful to have the money taken out before you see it, and you don’t have to remember to write those estimates. I wonder if the employee really feels better off.

The letter adds:

It is also possible for your business to register for an Iowa Withholding Tax Permit on the Department’s website ( In that case your Iowa resident employees could have those employees fill out an IA W-4 (available at and you as the employer could withhold Iowa tax from their paychecks.

Illinois is the only state with which Iowa has a reciprocity agreement. Other states withhold (if they have an income tax) on Iowa employees, and the Iowans claim a credit for taxes paid in other states on their Iowa 1040s.  That sort of works out like Iowa wage withholding in a way for Iowans working in Wisconsin, Missouri, Nebraska and Minnesota — except with the hassle of completing two full state tax returns. For those crossing the border to South Dakota, which has no income tax, the compliance problem is the same as for the Illinois taxpayer in this policy letter.



Wall Street Journal, American Tax Refugees: Why So Many Yanks Are Renouncing Their U.S. Citizenship  (may be subscriber only link):

Fatca requires that foreign banks, brokers, insurers and other financial institutions give the U.S. Internal Revenue Service detailed asset and transaction records for any accounts held by Americans, including corporate accounts controlled by American employees. If a firm fails to comply, the IRS can slap it with a 30% withholding tax on transactions originating in the U.S. Facing such risks and compliance costs, many foreign firms have decided it’s easier to dump their American clients.

So Americans overseas are becoming increasingly unbankable. Not the wealthiest ones, of course, those “fat cat” potential tax evaders whom Democrats rail against. Much more vulnerable are sales reps, English teachers, lawyers, retirees—the overwhelming majority of American expatriates—whose modest finances make them unappealing clients amid Fatca’s compliance costs.

To get a few press releases, politicians have to break a few citizens eggs.


Robert Wood, U.S. Ranks As Top Tax Haven, Refusing To Share Tax Data Despite FATCA. As long as the U.S. intrudes on other countries’ banks, the other countries will want to reciprocate.

Jack Townsend, National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen Comments on FATCA and OVDP. Quoting the Taxpayer Advocate: “The problem with FATCA is that it imposes burdens on taxpayers at all sorts of levels, and it’s not clear what benefits we’re really going to get from it or what we’ll be able to do.” It’s not about “we,” unless we are a politician looking for a cheap headline.




Robert D. Flach comes through with more Tuesday Buzz, with links to posts on minimum IRA distributions and small business money mistakes, among other things.

Kristine Tidgren, Tax Court Says 1972 Settlement Transfer Was Not a Gift (The Ag Docket). “One takeaway of this case for those outside of the Redstone family is recognition of the cold, hard fact that no statute of limitations applied to prevent the IRS from collecting taxes on this alleged 1972 gift.”

TaxGrrrl, Court Switches Gears, Says AICPA Can Sue IRS Over Tax Preparer Credentials. The IRS “voluntary” preparer regulation scheme hits a bump.


Russ Fox, I’m Sure Their Vacation in Arizona Will Impress the Sentencing Judge. “Mr. Joling wanted to be on “biblical safe ground” (he was a pastor) so he didn’t pay taxes.” Biblically safe, perhaps, but not legally, for sure.

Peter Reilly, Democratic Presidential Candidate Drops Out Without Releasing Tax Plan. And almost without anyone noticing.

Leslie Book, Halloween Special: Third Circuit Case Affirms Preparer’s Conviction For Aiding in Preparing False Tax Returns (Procedurally Taxing). “Despite the promise of oversight and its enhancing greater visibility, prosecuting bad apple preparers is an important after the fact way of ensuring that those who abuse the system know that their actions have consequences beyond bringing in fees for raiding the fisc.”

Jason Dinesen, Glossary: Gross Income/Gross Profit

William Perez discusses the new 401(k) Contribution Limits.




Joseph Henchman, Voters in Five States Consider Tax-Related Initiatives (Tax Policy Blog). Colorado ponders its marijuana tax windfall, Ohio considers approving one for itself.

Jonathan Ackerman, Rosanne Altshuler, Jeffrey Kupfer Bipartisan tax reform is possible: Lessons learned from President Bush’s reform panel (TaxVox). “Our antiquated business tax system has failed to keep up with an economy that has changed dramatically as a result of globalism, technology, and new capital flows.”
Scott Greenberg, The Bush Tax Reform Panel, Ten Years Later (Tax Policy Blog). “The Bush Panel was an important moment in recent tax policy history, because it provided one possible roadmap for a bipartisan tax reform agreement in the future.”

Matt Gardner, Apple Shifts a Record $50 Billion Overseas, Admits It Has Paid Miniscule to No Tax on Offshore Cash (Tax Justice Blog). Showing once again that Apple management isn’t stupid.


Career Corner. Accounting Firms Need To Have More Transparent Conversations With Employees About Compensation (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 11/2/15: Iowa says airbnb rentals trigger hotel-motel tax. And: IRS backdoor regulation push suffers setback.

Monday, November 2nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

wdmlogoAt least West Des Moines homeowners won’t have to pay hotel-motel tax. One of my now-departed uncles was a track and field coach in Illinois. Every April he would get together with some of his fellow coaches and drive to Des Moines for the Drake Relays. They always rented the same house in the South of Grand neighborhood in Des Moines while they stayed here. They had a great time, and the homeowners got a little extra cash.

Short term home rentals are nothing new, in other words. The federal tax law has long accommodated them by excluding income from rentals up to two weeks a year from income tax. The practice has become more widespread now that airbnb and make it easier to match up potential renters and guests.  It shouldn’t surprise us that the tax man has noticed.

An Iowa Department of Revenue policy letter made public last week says short-term home rentals are subject to Iowa’s 5% hotel-motel tax (all emphasis mine):

The Iowa Department of Revenue (“Department”) has received your question about home sharing.  You asked whether a homeowner who occasionally rents the home to others is subject to hotel and motel tax.

You provided the following facts:  A resident of Iowa City owns a home, which is the homeowner’s primary residence.  On the weekends of homecoming and graduation at the University of Iowa—four nights total each year—the homeowner stays with family members and rents the home to visitors.  You asked if the charges for renting the home are subject to hotel and motel tax.

Iowa imposes a hotel and motel tax “upon the sales price for the renting of any lodging” in Iowa.  Iowa Code § 423A.3.  A city or county may also impose a local hotel and motel tax “upon the sales price from the renting of lodging.”  Id. § 423A.4.  “Sales price” is “the consideration for renting of lodging.”  Id. § 423A.2(1)(f). 

“Lodging” means rooms, apartments, or sleeping quarters in a hotel, motel, inn, public lodging house, rooming house, or manufactured or mobile home which is tangible personal property, or in a tourist court, or in any place where sleeping accommodations are furnished to transient guests for rent, whether with or without meals. Lodging does not include rooms that are not used for sleeping accommodations.

Id. § 423A.2(1)(c).

The homeowner’s home is clearly a “place where sleeping accommodations are furnished to transient guests for rent.”  See id.  The statute does not place a minimum number of nights a place must be rented for it to qualify as “lodging.”  See id.  Accordingly, the rental of the homeowner’s home is subject to hotel and motel tax.  Iowa provides a limited number of exemptions from hotel and motel tax, none of which apply to the facts you provided.  See id. § 423A.5.  Therefore, the homeowner must collect and remit hotel and motel tax for renting the home. 

I suspect the next person to remit hotel-motel tax for a short-term home rental will also be the first. I also suspect that the existence of services like airbnb will make it easier for the state to collect hotel-motel taxes for short-term home rentals. Renters need to also tack on any local hotel taxes; your friendly county board and city council will surely want to share.

20151102-1Except in West Des Moines. I live in this Des Moines suburb, and the City Council has saved me the trouble of collecting hotel-motel tax by banning short-term rentals. The Des Moines Register explains:

In July, the city council passed an ordinance prohibiting the rental of single family homes, including condos, for 31 days or less. Owners can rent their properties only if they are “on-site and present at the time of and for the duration of the rental.” In other words, if someone attending the World Food Prize wants to rent a home in the suburb for a week, the owner must be there, too.

Was West Des Moines cowering in terror from rioting short-term visitors brazenly cutting across our lawns? No. From the Register piece:

Were the few short-term rentals available in West Des Moines creating problems? Were numerous residents lodging complaints with city officials? No. The ordinance was prompted by one complaint from one person.

One person, one moral panic. The resident said there ought to be a law, and in practically no time, the West Des Moines city council enacted one:

[The complaining resident] suggested the council consider adopting an ordinance to address the issue. Within about one month, it did exactly that. It didn’t survey residents. It didn’t contact the Ashworth homeowner. It didn’t do a comprehensive search of other properties that may be listed on several websites. It quickly passed an ordinance that applies to 60,000 residents because a man showed up at a meeting to complain about his neighbor. One man. One complaint.

It passed unanimously. The minutes of the meeting are here. West Des Moines city council elections are tomorrow, but the elections appear to be uncontested.




Russ Fox, AICPA Has Standing Per DC Court of Appeals; IRS’s Annual Filing Season Program In Jeopardy:

The original lawsuit claims by the AICPA look very accurate to me. And there’s a new one: Unenrolled preparers who do not participate in the AFSP will be denied the ability to represent taxpayers’ whose returns they prepared in examinations (as of January 2016). This makes the program look a lot more mandatory than voluntary.

I always assumed the “voluntary” program was preparer regulation by the back door, and that it would be just as voluntary as the United Way contributions were back at my first CPA job.

Robert D. Flach notes Russ’s piece and comments: “The bottom line – the AICPA fears that any government, or other, credential or designation that identifies a person’s competence and currency in 1040 preparation will take business away from CPAs.”

Elaine Maag, The IRS Could Improve EITC Compliance by Regulating Tax Preparers. (TaxVox). Ms. Maag is a big believer in hope over experience.


Paul Neiffer, File & Suspend Will Be No More:

The budget bill that was finalized this week eliminates a strategy for social security recipients called “File and Suspend”.  Under this strategy, the high income earner could file for benefits, allow his lower earning spouse to get benefits before full retirement age and then “suspend” their benefits until age 70 to lock in the additional 8% increase per year in benefits. 

Paul links to additional articles on what this means for retirement planning.


Peter Reilly, Redstone Family Saga Writ Large In Favorable Tax Court Decision. “Being in the movie business and all you would think the Redstones would have been familiar with the remark attributed to Samuel Goldwyn – ‘A verbal contract isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.'”


William Perez discusses Employee Stock Purchase Plans.

Kay Bell, IRS uses cell phone surveillance only in criminal cases. And everybody trusts the IRS.

Jason Dinesen, Corporate Tax Status Determined By Federal Law, Not State Law

Robert Wood, How IKEA Billionaire Legally Avoided Taxes From 1973 Until 2015. In Sweden.

TaxGrrrl, No ‘Candy Tax’ At My House On Halloween. “The candy tax – which is a variation on what parents used to do back in the day and just didn’t call it a tax – is a parenting trend where you purport to teach your kids about responsibility by stealing some of their candy levying a “tax” on their trick or treat loot.”




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 905Day 906Day 907. Day 906 covers blogger reactions to the resolution to impeach Commissioner Koskinen. This from the Day 905 link describes the larger problem, of which the IRS scandal is only a part:

The federal bureaucracy has always been bad at policing employees, but President Obama bears direct responsibility for the problem getting immeasurably worse. Last year, 47 of the 73 federal inspectors general signed a letter decrying the Obama administration for stonewalling their investigations and in some cases actively intimidating investigators.

The policy has been to fight all transparency and oversight, whether there’s something to hide or not. If there is, the long struggle will make it easier to spin bad news as “old news” by the time the facts emerge. If there is nothing to hide, then it makes the investigators look bad for investigating.


Scott Drenkard, Which States Have the Worst Sales Tax Administration? (Tax Policy Blog). It looks like Louisiana, Arizona and Colorado are pretty bad.


Bottom story of the day. The New York Times Advances a Poor Argument For Tax Hikes (Alan Cole, Tax Policy Blog).

Career Corner. Survey: Performance Reviews Cause Millennials to Complain, Curse, Cry (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 10/30/15: IRS: we didn’t overcharge you, and we won’t do it again. And: Beggars’ Night!

Friday, October 30th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

The IRS yesterday issued rules reducing the fees charged for giving tax preparers for Preparer Tax Identification Numbers, or PTINs. The rules reduce the annual fee from $50 to $33, but raise the fee charged by a third-party vendor that collects the fee from $13 ($14.25 for first time applications) to $17 for all applications.

It’s an interesting move, considering that the IRS is fighting a lawsuit arguing that the IRS has been overcharging preparers for the numbers, which are required for preparers signing tax returns. The IRS claims that the reduction reflects reduced costs for the program.

Dan Alban of the Institute for Justice, the public interest law firm that led the successful fight against the IRS preparer regulations, says that it is an admission that the IRS has been overcharging, and that the IRS cost reduction argument doesn’t hold up. From his Twitter feed:


The IRS has never been straight with us about either preparer regulation — really, a power grab and a move to assist the big tax prep franchise outfits — or the PTIN fee. I look forward to seeing how the judge hearing the PTIN lawsuit reacts to this news.

Related: PTIN User Fee Will Be Lowered (Sally Schreiber, The Tax Adviser).




I’m back from the Santa Monica TIAG conference. TIAG is an international alliance of independent accounting firms that Roth & Company joined last year. There were great sessions on technical and practice management topics, but the best part is to meet and get to know lawyers and accountants around the world. It’s nice to know people in other countries to call when our clients need professional services aboad, and it’s fun to compare notes with our offshore counterparts.


Friday – Buzz Day! Robert D. Flach rounds up interesting tax stuff from all over.

William Perez talks about Itemized Tax Deductions..

Annette Nellen, Poor recordkeeping – complexity or too busy. “Every year there are several tax cases where taxpayers think they’ll get a better result in court despite poor records. They almost always lose.”

Kay Bell, Obama and House reach budget, debt ceiling deal

Jack Townsend, Movie Review of Film on Corporate Offshoring

Jim Maule,Where Do the Poor and Middle Class Line Up for This Tax Break Parade? Properly decrying corporate welfare, the good Professor asks and answers:

So could it be time for “if you can’t beat them, join them”? Not for those of us who lack the resources to sign up for the parade, or perhaps what should be called the corporate gravy train.

What the good Professor hasn’t realized is that this is exactly what we can expect when we give the government more and more authority to run and regulate things. Those with the means and the connections win.


20151030-3TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 903Day 904. This from the Day 904 link sounds about right to me regarding the idea of impeaching Commissioner Koskinen:

The evidence against Koskinen will be convincing, but Democrats and the media will claim that because it all involves his defiance of congressional directives – and in their opinion Congress shouldn’t have been investigating in the first place – he really didn’t do anything wrong. They used the same argument in defense of Bill Clinton. Sure, he lied under oath and obstructed justice, but there never should have been an investigation in the first place.

I think it’s a poor use of limited time and political capital.

Peter Reilly, IRS Commissioner Koskinen Impeachment Trial Would Be Historic. A long but worthwhile discussion of the history and process of impeachment, and its prospects.

Keith Fogg, Notification of IRS as a Junior Creditor (Procedurally Taxing). “Two recent lien decisions demonstrate the power of the federal tax lien and the specific steps that parties must take when trying to address that lien.”

Robert Wood, Last Chance To Report Offshore Accounts To IRS, Penalties Climb To 50%

TaxGrrrl. 5 Things You Need To Know About Paul Ryan’s Rise To House Speaker & Tax Reform.

Jeremy Scott, Paul Ryan Punts on Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog). “Paul Ryan is moving on to become speaker, and tax reform might be in a worse spot than it was when Dave Camp’s H.R. 1 went over like a lead balloon.”

Cara Griffith, Why Do We Still Have Unpublished Opinions? (Tax Analysts Blog). “Now unpublished opinions readily appear in online databases. As a result, unpublished opinions are not unpublished in the sense that no one has access to them, but are simply not published in an official reporter and hold less or no precedential value with courts.”


Greg Mankiw, Keep the Cadillac Tax. Better idea — scrap the ACA altogether, give a capped health insurance tax credit for individuals, eliminate interstate barriers to health insurance sales, and let nature take its course.

Career Corner, It’s Time for the Accounting Profession to Get Serious About Mental Illness (Leona May, Going Concern). They aren’t the same thing?




Beggars’ Night! Des Moines and its suburbs don’t trick-or-treat on Halloween. Instead our little goblins go forth on October 30 – “Beggars’ Night.” An explanation: What’s up with Beggars’ Night?:

An article in The Des Moines Register on October 28, 1997, says “Blame World War II.” as well as rowdy youths in the early history of Des Moines. According to this article and other sources, Beggars’ Night was created in 1938 by the Des Moines Playground Commission (later the Parks and Recreation Department) because Halloween night had become a night of vandalism and destructive “tricks” such as setting fires and breaking windows.

Kathryn Krieg, director of recreation for the commission, in 1938 began a campaign to encourage less violent forms of Halloween fun. She declared Beggars’ Night to be October 30 in Des Moines, and further required that children would only receive their treat after earning it by performing a trick or telling a riddle. This too is the opposite of the rest of the country, which traditionally provides the treat in order to avoid being tricked!

So if you need a joke for tonight, you can always rely on the classics, like “What’s the pirate’s favorite restaurant? Arrghhhh-bys!”




Tax Roundup, 10/27/15: IRS list of citizenship renunciations hits new record. And: Santa Monica!

Tuesday, October 27th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Jaywalkers continue to flee. 2015 Third Quarter Published Expatriates – A Record High (Andrew Mitchel):

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC.

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC.

Last year, there was a record-setting 3,415 published expatriates.  Only an additional 195 published expatriates in the fourth quarter would be required for a new record to be set. If a new record is set, this would be the third consecutive year with a year over year increase.  For a discussion of how the IRS compiles the data, see this post.

We continue to believe that the IRS is likely missing a significant number of names from its quarterly publication of expatriates.  During the third quarter of 2015, the FBI has added 1,558 individuals who renounced their U.S. citizenship to the NICS index.

U.S. taxation of offshore income and overseas citizens is off the rails. The area is full of compliance traps that can trigger catastrophic penalties for innocent behavior. FATCA is making personal finance a headache for U.S. citizens posted abroad. The whole system should be drastically changed, starting with FATCA repeal, a huge increase in the threshold for reporting offshore accounts, repeal of FBAR reporting for signature only accounts, and a standard program where small taxpayers can come into compliance without penalty if they have not been contacted by IRS.

But the IRS is committed to continuing a policy of shooting jaywalkers.

Related: Robert Wood, Reverse Immigration: Americans Renounce Citizenship In Record Numbers



Buzz! A fresh new roundup of tax news from Robert D. Flach is up!

Jack Townsend,  DOJ Will Not Seek Indictment of Lois Lerner  “But, based on what I know and infer from the letter, while DOJ could likely have obtained an indictment for some crime (the old ham sandwich phenomenon), DOJ would not have been able to convict — certainly, there was not the reasonable likelihood of conviction to meet DOJ standards for  prosecution.”

TaxGrrrl, IRS Joins FBI, DEA & Other Federal Agencies With Access To Cellphone Surveillance Technology

Scott Greenberg, The EITC is Not the Solution to Puerto Rico’s Woes (Tax Policy Blog). You mean there are things that tax credits can’t do?

Russ Fox, Over 1,100 Returns Filed from Two Addresses Lead to Two Heading to ClubFed. What tipped them off?

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2015: #10 – Cash For Egg Donation Is Taxable Income


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 901

Peter Reilly, God May Bless Your Pot Shop – Tax Court Not So Much


Santa Monica Freeway. I arrived in Santa Monica, California last night for a conference with other members of TIAG, the alliance of independent accounting firms. Our firms membership in this organization gives us access to smart tax and accounting people around the country and around the world. As more of the economy crosses borders, this helps us help our clients as they grow. Yes, there are hardships, like beautiful southern California weather, but we shall be stoic about it. If you are a Tax Update reader and a TIAG member, come and say hi to me or my colleague Doug Ross, who is also here.



Tax Roundup, 10/26/15: No surprise, no Tea Party charges. And: the proposed Iowa graduate tax break.

Monday, October 26th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
Toby Miles, IRS.

Toby Miles, IRS.

You break news on Friday when you want to bury it. And that’s what the Department of Justice did when it told Congress that it would not prosecute Lois Lerner, or anybody else in IRS, as a result of the Tea Party Scandal.

Not that anybody would expect otherwise. The Justice Department continues to act as the Administration’s scandal goalie. The fix was in once the President changed his tune from “this is terrible” to “not even a smidgen of corruption.”

Throughout the investigation, not a single IRS employee reported any allegation, concern, or suspicion that the handling of tax-exempt applications — or any other IRS function — was motivated by political bias, discriminatory intent, or corruption. Among these witnesses were several IRS employees who were critical of Ms. Lerner’s and other officials’ leadership, as well as others who volunteered to us that they are politically conservative. Moreover, both TIGTA and the IRS’s Whistleblower Office confirmed that neither has received internal complaints from IRS employees alleging that officials’ handling of tax-exempt applications was motivated by political or other discriminatory bias.

The Investors Business Daily gets this right:

This is absurd. Lerner was caught red-handed targeting Tea Party and other conservative groups, wrote partisan emails to prove it, then engaged in a massive cover-up effort — with a suspiciously crashed server, an oddly missing BlackBerry and plenty of excuses.

She evaded even more accountability by shielding herself with the Fifth Amendment in Congress.

It was only Tea Party groups that had to wait years for approval. Considering the destroyed emails, “lost” backups, and Ms. Lerner’s peculiar interest in communication methods that could not be traced, there’s too much smoke and ash to believe there was no fire.

TaxProf has more: The IRS Scandal, Day 898Day 899Day 900. The fix is put in, and we’re told that means that there is no scandal.


Robert Wood, Obama Administration Learned From Lois, Dodging IRS Scandal. “Deny, stonewall, deny.”

TaxGrrrl, DOJ Says No Criminal Charges For Lerner, Others In IRS Scandal, Closes Investigation




Jana Luttenegger Weiler, IRS Releases Inflation Adjustments for 2016 (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).

Kay Bell, Securing taxpayer data is the IRS’ biggest challenge

Russ Fox, Over 1,100 Returns Filed from Two Addresses Lead to Two Heading to ClubFed

Robert D. Flach, WHO MUST FILE A 2016, or 2015, TAX RETURN? “FYI, based on the new inflation adjustments recently announced by the Internal Revenue Service, you do not have to file a 2016 Form 1040, or 1040A, unless your “gross income” is at least…” Visit Robert to find the numbers.


Hank Stern, Easy come, easy go:

“[T]he GAO report found that … at least $1.6 billion [is] unaccounted for.”

That’s out of over $5 billion in “loans” sent to states, most of which went for state-based Exchanges (which, per SCOTUS, don’t actually exist).

That must be the “affordable” part of the Affordable Care Act.”




Joseph Thorndike, Mexico Is Having Second Thoughts About the Soda Tax – And So Should Everyone Else (Tax Analysts Blog). “If a big tax dissuades people from drinking Mountain Dew, maybe they will lose weight. But maybe they will continue to scarf down their Twinkies with a cupful of untaxed water – and keep packing on the pounds.”

Scott Greenberg, Reviewing Paul Ryan’s Short Term as Chairman of Ways and Means (Tax Policy Blog). “In the last 10 months, the Ways and Means Committee has brought 52 bills to the House floor, tied for most with the Energy and Commerce Committee. Out of these bills, 15 were passed into law, the most out of any committee.”

Howard Gleckman, Little Difference Between the Cadillac Tax and a Cap on the Tax Exclusion for Employer Health Plans (TaxVox).


Caleb Newquist, Accountant Won’t Be Taking a Walk in the Woods Anytime Soon. “James Hammes, who spent 6 years on the lam walking the Appalachian Trail, pleaded guilty earlier today to wire fraud.”


David Brunori discusses ($link) a tax break proposed by Iowa graduate students for… themselves.

The idea is that if you graduate from any college or university in Iowa and stay in the state, you would get a 50 percent tax break for five years. If you move to a rural part of the state, you get a 75 percent tax reduction. As an Easterner, I learned everything I know about Iowa from Joe Kristan’s blog. But I could have sworn most of the state is rural.

In any event, kids, this is a terrible tax policy idea. It will solve no brain-drain problem — although employers may pay less since these graduates won’t be paying taxes. Here is just one problem: If you’re not paying taxes, someone else is. That someone else is probably a poor guy or gal who didn’t graduate from college and is making a lot less than you. I thought college kids would be more empathetic than that.

While most of the state is rural, but most of the jobs for college graduates aren’t.

David gets the policy exactly right. It’s tough to justify a special deal for a young prosperous couple with accounting or law degrees while the people building their suburban house and watching their kids pay full fare.



Tax Roundup, 10/23/15: Tax Court dispenses with pot dispensary deductions. And: IRS scam call, captured on tape!

Friday, October 23rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today newsletter visitors: click here to go directly to the rental loss story


Cannabis leaf image via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license.

Cannabis leaf image via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license.

Deductions get stoned. Not in a good way. Attitudes towards marijuana have changed a lot in the last 33 years. A recent Gallup Poll shows that 58% of respondents favor weed legalization. But a tax provision enacted in 1982 continues the Reefer War with full vigor, as the operators of a legal California medical marijuana dispensary learned yesterday.

Section 280E, enacted early in the Reagan Administration, is one of the more clear provisions of the income tax. It reads in full:

No deduction or credit shall be allowed for any amount paid or incurred during the taxable year in carrying on any trade or business if such trade or business (or the activities which comprise such trade or business) consists of trafficking in controlled substances (within the meaning of schedule I and II of the Controlled Substances Act) which is prohibited by Federal law or the law of any State in which such trade or business is conducted.

Marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, despite its growing legalization at the state level. That means the only deduction allowed to state-legal weed dispensaries and dealers is their cost of goods sold — their direct cost of their inventory. No rent, salaries, benefits, security, depreciation, or any of the other obvious costs of doing business can be deducted.

Canna Care, Inc., a California dispensary, claimed about $870,000 in business deductions over a three-year period. The Tax Court explains (my emphasis, ditations omitted):

Petitioner argues that its actions cannot be considered “trafficking” for purposes of section 280E because its activities were not illegal under California law. Petitioner claims that this conclusion is supported by memoranda issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on October 19, 2009, and August 29, 2013, and guidance issued by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) on February 14, 2014.

We have previously held the sale of medical marijuana pursuant to California law constitutes trafficking within the meaning of section 280E… DOJ memoranda and FinCEN guidance released after the years at issue that represent exercises of prosecutorial discretion do not change the result in this case. Petitioner regularly bought and sold marijuana. This activity constitutes trafficking within the meaning of section 280E even when permitted by State law.

The taxpayer also argued that its business activities weren’t entirely about marijuana, and that at least some of the activities should therefore be deductible. The Tax Court said that the taxpayer’s evidence wasn’t sufficient to make that case:

Aside from the sale of medical marijuana, petitioner’s only other source of income was the sale of books, T-shirts, and other items. On the basis of the evidence presented, we cannot determine what percentage of petitioner’s income was from the sale of medical marijuana and what percentage was from the sale of other items. Because of the parties’ stipulation, we find that the sale of medical marijuana was petitioner’s primary source of income and that the sale of any other item was an activity incident to its business of distributing medical marijuana.

No deductions. Victory for IRS.

The Moral: Sometime in the next few years I suspect weed will either cease to be a controlled substance or Section 280E will be amended to allow legal pot sellers to deduct their expenses. Until then, dealers will need to mark up their product a lot to cover the taxes on phantom income. If they have other business activities, they need keep records sufficient to separately track the non-pot profits.

The other moral: Don’t use the tax law to do anything other than measure income and collect taxes. Special carve-outs, whether punitive or beneficial, linger long after the moral panic surrounding their enactment passes. In addition to Section 280E, we remain stuck with other moral panic tax provisions. These include Section 409A, enacted in the Enron panic but punishing ordinary businesses and non-profits trying to compensate their employees, and FIRPTA, enacted to combat the threat of Japanese buying up our precious golf courses. The Japanese have moved on to other things, but FIRPTA still clobbers U.S. real estate buyers who fail to realize they need to withhold taxes on purchases from non-U.S. sellers.

Cite: Canna Care, Inc., T.C. Memo 2015-206.

Related: Russ Fox, Up In Smoke, Again. For more on taxes in the early ’80s, TaxGrrrl has Back To The Future: Taxes Now & Then.


Ed Brown’s fortress-house sells at auction, reports The winning bid was $205,000, though the story makes it appear that the winning bidder may also need to pay some accumulated property taxes.


buzz 20151023-1

It’s Friday, so celebrate with fresh Buzz from Robert D. Flach. Year-end planning, IRS inflation adjustments, and the S corporation vs. partnership conundrum figure prominently.

William Perez reports on the updated 401(k) Contribution Limits.

Tony Nitti, IRS Redefines ‘Husband’ And ‘Wife’ In Response to Landmark Same-Sex Marriage Decisions.

Caleb Newquist, Company Accused of Being ‘Pharmaceutical Enron’ Doesn’t Appreciate the Sentiment (Going Concern).

Robert Wood, Stock Options 2.0: Twitter CEO Gives His Own Stock To Employees

Peter Reilly, IRS Should Be Asking For Cooperation Not Volunteering. “Audits of non-compliant taxpayers will have them “busted” which is unpleasant, whereas non-compliant taxpayers not being audited make the rest of us feel like chumps.”

Kay Bell, As Ryan gets ready to take on House Speaker role, Ways & Means members jockey for tax-writing chairmanship




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 897. Administration partisans urge continued political administration of the IRS, as they needed the encouragement.

Alan Cole, This Bill to Repeal Obamacare Taxes Would Grow the Economy (Tax Policy Blog). Just eliminating the ridiculous and costly paperwork of the ACA would be an economic boost.


Ever wonder what it sounds like to get a phone call from a scammer claiming to be from IRS? Well, you are in luck! A scammer was kind enough to leave a message on my phone at home, which I recorded and uploaded to the link in this sentence.  I believe it is typical of the recorded-message version of the scam, telling me that the IRS “is filing a lawsuit against you” and telling me to call a number to “get more information on this case file.”

The IRS does not call you to tell you they are suing you. They use the old-fashioned U.S. Postal Service, and if they can’t find you, they will use genuine U.S. Marshals to serve you papers. Believe me, if the IRS is after you, you will know you have a problem, and that knowledge won’t come over the phone.



Tax Roundup, 10/20/15: Shock! State tax “incentives” favor the big! And: the 1% surprise.

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20120906-1Regulation always favors the big. So do state business incentives. Left-side think tank Good Jobs First demonstrates the big-player bias of state “incentive” tax deals in a new report Shortchanging Small Business: How Big Businesses Dominate State Economic Development IncentivesMaria Koklanaris summarizes the report for State Tax Notes ($link):

Using its own databases and other programs, [Good Jobs First] weeded out awards targeting companies of a specific size, focusing only on those purportedly available regardless of company size. Of those “facially neutral” awards, 90 percent of the dollars went to big businesses, the report said.

“The deals, worth more than $3.2 billion, were granted in recent years by programs that on their faces, are equally accessible to small and large companies,” the report said. “Yet big businesses overall were awarded 90 percent of the dollars from the programs analyzed, indicating a profound bias against small businesses.”

While Iowa’s incentives weren’t among those studied, I am confident the exact same thing is true here. It’s the big and well-connected taxpayers who know how to play the system. They can hire the attorneys and accountants to navigate the system, and the lobbyists to make sure the taxpayer money is steered their way. And it’s the big projects — inherently done by big taxpayers — that attract the politicians. You’ve never heard of a Governor calling a press conference for some little business hiring two people.

A real Iowa tax reform, like the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan, would get rid of all of these breaks for insiders and lower the rates and compliance costs for everyone.


New York Times, What Could Raising Taxes on the 1% Do? Surprising Amounts.

Scott Greenberg, No, Raising Taxes on the 1% Will Not Lead to “Surprising Amounts” of Revenue (Tax Policy Blog):

Let’s say, for instance, that Congress decided to raise the effective tax rate of the 1% by increasing the top rate on ordinary income. Currently, the top tax bracket on ordinary income is 39.6%. How high would Congress have to raise this rate, in order to raise the effective tax rate of the 1% to 45 percent?

According to our estimates, Congress would have to raise the top rate on ordinary income to 74 percent, in order to raise the effective rate of the 1% from 33.4 percent to 45 percent. This would be a rate hike of over 34 percentage points, or an 87 percent increase in the top rate.

Oh, I think the amounts of revenue raised would be surprising, to the Times. And disappointing. As I’ve noted many times, the rich guy isn’t picking up the tab, because he can’t.




TaxGrrrl, 11 Things I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self About Taxes. Plenty of good advice here. It’s all worth reading, but I especially like #7, Planning is important:

Tax planning is important. You should take advantage of tax strategies that can help you lower your tax bill, like seeking out tax credits you might have overlooked or making a contribution to a tax-deferred retirement account. And knowing what’s coming down the pike is also important when it comes to payment: having a good idea of what you might owe and making estimated payments will help you avoid writing a big check at the end (trust me) and possibly being subject to underpayment penalties.

This is true for all taxpayers, but it is especially true for the self-employed, who are much more numerous with the growth of the “gig economy.”


buzz20150804Robert D. Flach is up and running with a fresh and pungent Tuesday Buzz roundup. He covers the recent tax season and the right response to callers claiming to be from the IRS demanding payment, among other things.

Jason Dinesen, Choosing a Business Entity: S-Corporation vs. C-Corporation. “The ‘C’ and ‘S’ refer to how that corporation is taxed, not to its legal standing.”

Tony Nitti, Apple To Issue Restricted Stock To Employees: Siri, What Are The Tax Consequences?

Russ Fox, The Future of DFS. “If you watch any sports television, you’ve almost certainly seen commercials for the two leading daily fantasy sports (DFS) sites, DraftKings and FanDuel.”

Robert Wood, Chef Jamie Oliver Calls For Sugar Tax, While Mexico Eyes Soda Tax Cut. We actually already have a pretty high sugar tax.

Keith Fogg, Contesting the Merits of the Underlying Tax in a Collection Due Process Case – A Convoluted Fact Pattern Leads to Wrong Decision (Procedurally Taxing).

Peter Reilly, Massachusetts Hits Staples For $10 Million On Sham Interest Deductions. “This case is a beautiful illustration of my fourth law of tax planning – Execution isn’t everything, but it is a lot.”




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 894. On how the President signals Justice Department investigators to back off.

Brian Doherty, Irwin Schiff, R.I.P. ( “He was indeed a jolly warrior for a cause he obviously very sincerely believed in, even when it became completely obvious that the federal government was not going to be daunted by his arguments and indeed was going to keep arresting him for practicing them and advocating them.”

Kay Bell, Infamous tax protester Irwin Schiff has died. “His anti-tax tactics live on, as do penalties for those who insist on using them.”


Howard Gleckman, Presidential Candidates, “Free Stuff,” and Pixie Dust (TaxVox):

Even in its early stages, the 2016 presidential race looks like it will be remembered for two depressing superlatives. The candidates will spend more money than ever before, and they will promise more costly give-aways than any politicians in history.

Once again demonstrating the wisdom of Arnold Kling.


Tax Roundup, 10/19/15: Keeping a calendar pays off big for Brooklyn apartment owner. And: Irwin Schiff dies in prison.

Monday, October 19th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150811-1Marking time pays. If you ever think owning income property is easy money, a Tax Court case last week might make you think twice. But the case also shows how keeping track of the time you spend can make a big difference if the IRS questions your rental losses.

The taxpayer couple owned “a four-floor mulifamily house” in Brooklyn. The couple lived on the first two floors, and rented out the two remaining floors as two apartments. He had a day job involving construction, but he also had his hands full with the apartment.

The couple claimed just under $70,000 of rental losses between 2010 and 2011. The IRS challenged the losses. The IRS has a good track record in rental loss cases because the tax law sets a high bar for deducting them. Such losses are automatically “passive,” and deductible only to the extent of “passive income,” unless you are a “real estate professional.” To be a real estate professional, you have to

  1. work more than 750 hours in a real estate trade or business during the year, and
  2. Your real estate work has to take more time than anything else you do.

It’s that second test that usually trips up people with day jobs. The taxpayer here, though, had an advantage, as Special Trial Judge Panuthos explains:

For purposes of the requirement in section 469(c)(7)(B)(i) [the real estate professional test], a real property trade or business includes construction and reconstruction. Sec. 469(c)(7)(C). 

So that meant the rental activity didn’t have to take more time than the day job. But the real estate professional rule doesn’t automatically make a rental loss deductible. The taxpayer still had to show that he “materially participated” to avoid the passive loss rule. Material participation is generally based on time spent working on the activity during the year, with 500 hours annually being the most common threshold used.  Fortunately, the taxpayer kept track of his time:

We used petitioner’s contemporaneous activity log to calculate the amount of time that he spent on the rental property. We included the amount of time petitioner recorded in his contemporaneous activity log for the work related to the tenants’ apartments and two-thirds of the amount of time petitioner recorded in his contemporaneous activity log for the work related to the common areas. On the basis of these calculations, we conclude that petitioner spent 1,008 hours performing services with respect to the rental activity for 2010. Because the 1,008 hours meets the more-than-500-hour requirement of section 1.469-5T(a)(1), Temporary Income Tax Regs., supra, petitioner meets this requirement for the 2010 taxable year. Accordingly, petitioner materially participated in the rental real estate activity for 2010, and petitioner’s 2010 rental real estate activity was not a passive activity.

That’s a lot of time. So much for the idea that rental income is easy money. The taxpayer’s records also carried the day for 2011. In total, the recordkeeping saved the taxpayer $25,174.60 in taxes and penalties that the Tax Court overturned.

The Moral? Keeping a daily calendar of your time is the best antidote to an IRS passive loss examination. It may seem like a hassle, but as this case shows, it can turn out to be the best investment of time you can make if the IRS comes for a visit.

Cite: Simmons-Brown, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-62.


Irwin SchiffTax Protester Schiff dies in prisonIrwin Schiff, a prominent figure among those denying the general application of the income tax, died in prison last week, reports Peter Reilly. Mr. Schiff, 87, had been diagnosed with lung cancer while serving a 13-year sentence for practicing what he unwisely preached. Peter’s humane and thoughtful coverage includes this:

When I first encountered Schiff’s arguments in the nineties I was so impressed by how well put together they were, that I found it difficult to believe that they were constructed by someone who believed them, as citations always checked out, but were wildly out of context.  Irwin, however, has proved his sincerity.  That doesn’t make his arguments right, but it does merit some grudging admiration.

Mr. Schiff’s story shows that however sincerely you believe that the income tax doesn’t apply to you, your sincerity does little good when the IRS, the U.S. Marshals, the federal judges, and the Bureau of Prisons think it does. And they do.



Russ Fox, That Was the Year that Was. Russ reflects on the filing season ended last week:

Calling the IRS was almost a joke. The “Practitioner Priority Service” hold times were so bad that I’d hate to think of what they were for regular numbers. Unfortunately, I see no improvement possible with the IRS budget until the IRS scandal is resolved. That’s not going to happen until we have a new President, so we have probably two more years of misery in dealing with the IRS.

At least.


William Perez, Where to Find and How to Read Tax Tables

Annette Nellen, Responsible Governance – Tax break bills vetoed! “What happened – On 10/10/15, Governor Brown vetoed nine bills that either created or expanded a tax credit or exclusion or exemption.”




Alan Cole, How Do Property Taxes Vary Across The Country? (Tax Policy Blog). The post feature a handy interactive map showing the average property tax deduction taken in each U.S. county in 2013.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 891Day 892ay 893. Day 892 covers the connection between Lois Lerner and a bureaucrat behind the outrageous Wisconsin “John Doe” investigations of conservative organizations.

Howard Gleckman, The Debt Limit: Here We Go Again (TaxVox).

Kay Bell, GOP presidential candidates tax trash talk on Twitter

Robert Wood, Execs Get 10 Years Prison Over Company Taxes? Yes, Here’s How. Robert covers the Arrow Trucking saga.

TaxGrrrl, As TIGTA Continues To Warn On IRS Scams, New Treasury Scams Surface. “In one version, scammers advise that an individual has been awarded a grant or a similar sum of money and in order to collect, the individual needs to provide personal information or a sum of money to ‘release’ the funds. It sounds a little bit like those lottery scams making the rounds but the use of the name of the Office of the Treasury seems to make individuals believe that it’s more legitimate”


News from the Profession. A Noncomprehensive List of Morale Boosters for Accounting Firms (Leona May, Going Concern). “Accounting firms, who generally eat their young, are all competing for ‘who has the best perks’ in race to scoop up all of the competent new hires.”



Tax Roundup, 10/16/15: Is the Earned Income Credit really all that great? And: Ed Brown house back on the block.

Friday, October 16th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150929-1Can a program that wastes 25% of its cost be worthwhile? While many economists left and right say the Earned Income Credit is a great poverty fighting tool, some of us who do tax for a living aren’t so sure. Now two scholars at the libertarian Cato Institute have published a report that fleshes out some of these doubts: Earned Income Tax Credit: Small Benefits, Large Costs. The report provides this background:

While the EITC is administered through the tax code, it is primarily a spending program. The EITC is “refundable,” meaning that individuals who pay no income taxes are nonetheless eligible to receive a payment from the U.S. Treasury. Of the $69 billion in benefits this year, about 88 percent, or $60 billion, is spending.

Articles by liberal and conservative pundits regarding the EITC often make it seem as if there are few downsides to the program. The EITC is aimed at reducing poverty and encouraging work. Who could be against that?

Alas, there is no free lunch with subsidy programs. The EITC has a high error and fraud rate, and for most recipients it creates a disincentive to increase earnings.

The waste and the “disincentive effects” are the things that bother me the most. The phase out of the benefits makes it very expensive to earn a little more, after a certain low-income point. My computation of the Iowa marginal rates on EITC recipients is in chart:eic 2014

That’s a 55% tax on every dollar earned, which doesn’t exactly encourage you to earn more dollars. And I don’t try to account for the hidden tax resulting from the loss of other welfare benefits as income increases.

Unfortunately, the study doesn’t really address what should replace the EITC, other than calling for generic good tax policy: “For example, cutting the corporate income tax rate would boost business capital investment. That would generate higher demand for labor, and thus raise wages and create more opportunities for American workers over time.”

I wish they had discussed the “universal benefit” that Arnold Kling and others have set forth. Arnold describes this version:

For a universal benefit, I propose something like $6000 for each adult in a household and $4000 for each child. [Charles] Murray proposed $10,000 per adult and zero per child.

Murray described the program as a cash grant. I describe it as flex-dollars that can only be used for “merit” goods, meaning health care, food, housing, and education.

Each of us presumes that people will purchase health insurance. I am explicit that catastrophic health insurance would be mandatory.

I propose something like a 20 percent marginal tax rate, or phase-out rate, for the universal benefit.

Arnold would have the phase-out as an addition to the income tax; I would couple it with the standard deduction so it phases out as part of the income tax, not as an addition to it. In any case, it would address many of the fraud and administration problems we see in the EITC.


honey princesses 2014


Robert D. Flach has your fresh Friday Buzz! Last minute filing, neglected beneficiary designations, and Dance Moms are highlighted.

Laura Saunders, Beware of Tax Surprises Lurking in Mutual Funds (Wall Street Journal). “Here’s why: By law, each year mutual funds must pay out to investors nearly all their income, which includes interest, dividends and net realized capital gains—in short, the profits on their trades minus offsetting losses… Already, one fund has announced the largest capital-gains payout some experts can remember.”

William Perez, I don’t make too much money, does the new health insurance rule apply to me?

Annette Nellen, Worker Voice, Classification and Taxes. “One of many things the “on demand” economy means is more clear and consistent rules on worker classification.”

Jason Dinesen, Glossary: S-corporation. “S-corporation is a tax term that refers to a corporation or an LLC that elects to be taxed under the rules of Subchapter S of the Internal Revenue Code.”

Jim Maule, Taxes, Consumption, Soda, and Obesity. “It is not unlikely that people who find soda to be too expensive because of the tax will spend their dollars on pies, cakes, candy, doughnuts, cookies, ice cream, and similar items.”

Leslie Book, Tax Court Holds Preparer Who Placed Truncated Social Security Number on Returns Subject to Penalties. He didn’t use a PTIN or Social Security Number on the returns he signed. The penalty is $50 per return. He prepared 134 returns in 2009. I’ll leave the math as an exercise for the reader.

TaxGrrrl, ‘Dance Moms’ Star Abby Lee Miller Accused Of Hiding Income, Indicted On Fraud Charges. So many TV shows I’ve never seen, so many indictments.

They both eat brains. Presidential candidate debates outdraw zombies (Kay Bell)




Howard Gleckman, The Debt Limit: Here We Go Again (TaxVox):

The House is largely leaderless and a significant minority of its Republican caucus will oppose any increase in the federal borrowing limit. In the Senate, CNN reports that GOP leader Mitch McConnell wants major concessions from the White House on such hot button issues as Social Security and Medicare before he moves a debt bill. And a lame-duck President Obama seems increasingly disinclined to negotiate with Hill Republicans on any issue. 

Pass the popcorn.


Jeremy Scott, Democrats Offer Nothing Much on Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog):

Taxes were discussed. Bernie, of course, wants to use them to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor, something it’s not clear his plan even addresses. Chafee wants a new 45 percent bracket on higher incomes. And Hillary talked some about the numerous small tax provisions she would like to enact to accomplish extremely specific, targeted goals. But nothing said onstage Tuesday night should give any tax reform observers hope that a Democratic White House in 2017 will be any more behind a broad tax reform effort than President Obama has been.

A complicated tax code that meddles in everything is exactly what you would expect from big government fans. There’s no reason to expect reform from the avowed party of big government.


Kyle Pomerleau, Governor Lincoln Chafee’s Modest Tax Proposal (Tax Policy Blog).

Bob McIntyre, Although He Left out Key Details, It’s Clear Kasich’s Tax Plan Is a Deficit-Busting Giveaway to the Wealthy (Tax Justice Blog). We don’t need no stinking key details.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 890

News from the Profession. Will the CPA Exam Become Optional? (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)


The Brown house. Photo from IRS Auction web site.

The Brown house. Photo from IRS Auction web site.

6,000 Sq. Ft., Handyman’s and Ordnance Clearance Specialist’s Dream! The IRS is going to once again try to auction the home of Ed and Elaine Brown, the couple serving loooong prison terms as a result of an armed standoff following their conviction on tax charges. It has some unusual features, reports

In the back of a closet, a hidden door can be found. A ladder leads to a small bunker with a passageway that leads just outside. Dirt hides the manhole cover that provides an exit to the passage.

Admit it, you’ve always wanted one of those.

“There’s a lot of stuff that you need to look at and say, ‘Do I want to finish it that way? Do I want to go a different direction?'” said Roger Sweeney, liquidation specialist for the IRS. “But it also comes with 100 acres, and with that price, it’s a heck of a deal.”

There are solar panels and a wind turbine on the land, but investigators have found explosive devices, as well. A warning is included in the notice of sale.

The article has a little photo tour of the property. You can learn more at the IRS auction website. The starting bid is only $125,000.

Related: Tax Update Blog Ed Brown coverage.



Tax Roundup, 10/13/15: Thoughts for those facing the due date. And: Ex-Iowa revenue director backs sales tax rule.

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today visitors, click here to go to the YMCA story.


20151013-4It’s time. The extended return deadline is Thursday, October 15, and no more extensions are available (unless, perhaps, you are in South Carolina, drying out from the floods, or you are in an overseas combat zone).

Haven’t filed yet? Haven’t even started? Russ Fox has some thoughts for you:

Somewhere, there’s a procrastinator wondering that exact question. He’s likely thinking, “I don’t have to do anything; I have until October 15th!” That’s not a good answer (with one exception [1]).

First, most tax professionals will not be able to fit you in. I took in one new client appointment this week—and he’s filling a cancellation. Determine your income, gather all your documents, and do your best. Tax forms are available online (the IRS website is actually quite good). Commercial tax software, though flawed [2], is a good choice at this point in time.

That makes sense. You really shouldn’t file late. It’s habit-forming, and it’s a bad habit. If you have a refund coming, you will probably lose it if you don’t file in two years — and without a due date deadline, that happens a lot. If you don’t file, you can’t get a 2016 ACA advance premium credit, making you out-of-pocket for the whole thing until you file your 2016 tax return, assuming you get around to that one.

Russ has another comment worth noting:

I disagree with fellow tax professional Robert Flach on his description that all tax software is fatally flawed. For individuals in simple situation it works perfectly. It doesn’t make math mistakes. And it usually allows for seamless electronic filing. I agree with Robert that the ability to look at a return and evaluate what’s on it (does it pass the smell test) is vital but when you’re up against a deadline, you don’t have a choice.

While I am in awe of Robert’s practice of doing his returns by hand, I don’t recommend it for anyone else. While software, like any human endeavor, is “flawed,” it’s much less flawed than a do-it-yourself tax filer without software. Tax software prevents a lot more mistakes than it causes.


Speaking of Robert Flach, it’s Tuesday, so he has fresh Buzz! His artisanal mind wanders from the size of the tax law, charity scams, and maintaining small business records. Presumably posted with flawed software!




Mike Ralston, Manufacturers shouldn’t be taxed twice. The President of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, and former director of the Iowa Department of Revenue, defends the new proposed rules broadening the definition of “manufacturing supplies” exempt from sales tax: “To the best of my knowledge, no one inside the Statehouse has argued that the proposed rule is bad policy.” David Brunori is quoted.


Tulsa World, Doug Pielsticker: Sentence more than justified. “Laid-off employees blamed the company’s bankruptcy partly on Pielsticker’s lavish lifestyle, which included a $1.3 million mansion, a Bentley and a wedding with 1,000 guests at Philbrook Museum.” We covered the sentencing yesterday.


John Mickelson, Importance of succession planning for privately held businesses (

TaxGrrrl, Be Smart When Being Charitable: IRS Warns On SC Flood Relief Scams

Keith Fogg, The Right Instincts and the Wrong Decision Leads to No Relief as an Innocent Spouse – An Adam and Eve Story (Procedurally Taxing) “Reading the opinion, I realized that I had watched the trial with my students and we had analyzed it in class reaching the same conclusion as Judge Lauber but still feeling sad for the individual who sought relief.”

Peter Reilly, Volkswagen’s Emissiongate May Include Tax Crimes

Jack Townsend, Schumacher, UBS Banker Enabler, Sentenced to Probation Only and Fine. Once again, slapping the real international financial criminals on the wrist while shooting the jaywalkers.

Kay Bell, Some in GOP question Ryan’s conservative commitment; others say he serves the party best as tax-writing chair.  

William Perez, Changes in Tax Deadlines to Take Effect in 2017 (Plus Deadlines for 2015 and 2016). There’s a big one this week.




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 887. Today’s installment features some guy who think the IRS isn’t meddling in politics enough.

Scott Greenberg, Bobby Jindal’s Tax Plan Would End the Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Exclusion (Tax Policy Blog):

Some of the features of Bobby Jindal’s recently released tax plan – fewer tax brackets, ending the estate tax, and eliminating itemized deductions – should be familiar from other Republican candidates’ tax plans. But a few elements of Jindal’s plan stand out from the rest of the field. Specifically, Jindal would significantly change the tax treatment of employer-sponsored health insurance plans.

It would replace the employer exclusion for health care with a “standard deduction” for insurance costs.


Bob McIntyre, We (Don’t) Need to Talk about Bobby Jindal (Tax Justice Blog). We don’t like him. We’ll pretend he’s not there.

Renu Zaretsky, A Speaker, A Speaker, Their Kingdom for a Speaker. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the House Speaker situation, Hockey free agents, and the upcoming Democratic candidate debate.

Career Corner. The Rise of the Lifestyle Accountant (Chris Hooper, Going Concern).