Posts Tagged ‘Robert D Flach’

Tax Roundup, 9/1/15: If the taxman takes your car, recode your garage door. And: jobs, $211,111 each.

Tuesday, September 1st, 2015 by Joe Kristan
1974 mercedes

A 1974 Mercedes scheduled for IRS auction 8/31/15 at Bama Jammer Storage, Huntsville, AL.

As if having your car seized by the taxman wasn’t bad enough. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, in a report on IRS handling of property seized for tax nonpayment, notes a potential problem if the IRS takes your car:

However, during our discussions with IRS employees involved in the seizure process, we determined that there was no guidance on what actions to take if seized vehicles are equipped with installed navigation or garage door opening systems. Additionally, except for one employee, everyone we spoke with had not considered what actions to take if they seized a vehicle with one of these systems. While we do not have any examples in our case reviews of this situation occurring, it is in the taxpayers’ and Government’s best interest that employees are prepared if seizures involve these types of systems. If these systems are not reset to the original factory settings, there is a risk that the third-party purchaser of the vehicle can gain access to the taxpayer’s personal information or property. For example, the purchaser could use the vehicle navigational equipment to locate a taxpayer’s residence and then use the garage door opener to gain access to the home.

I have to admit, it wouldn’t have occurred to me either. It’s easy to forget that cars are also more and more data systems. Still, computerized data probably wasn’t an issue with the 1974 Mercedes pictured above that was scheduled for auction by the IRS yesterday in Huntsville, Alabama.

 

O. Kay HendersonBranstad defends state tax incentives for new Kum & Go headquarters:

Governor Terry Branstad today called the “Kum & Go” convenience store chain a “great…family-owned”, Iowa-based business and he has no objection to the nearly $19 million in state tax incentives it will get for moving the company headquarters to downtown Des Moines.

The convenience store chain is moving its headquarters about 10 miles from West Des Moines to Downtown Des Moines. It is getting $6.33 for every Iowan for its trouble. I’m sure Kum & Go is a perfectly nice company, and I don’t blame them for taking money the state is giving away, but there are lots of nice employers who don’t get $211,111 in state tax breaks for each new job they create. The unfortunate ones have to pay some of the highest business tax rates in the country to help pay for those who do benefit from tax breaks.

For perspective, check out Jared Walczak, Location Matters: Effective Tax Rates on Corporate Headquarters by State (Tax Policy Blog). “Today we’ll take a look at states’ effective tax rates on new and mature corporate headquarters.”  Have a look:

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For this ranking, Iowa is the fourth worst. Giving millions to one company doesn’t fix it for everyone else.

 

Robert D. Flach has fresh Buzz for us today. Robert buzzes about blog posts he’s found about higher taxes, due dates, and the “Cadillac tax” on high-cost health plans — which seems to be most of them nowadays.

Russ Fox, The Hospital’s Closing; Who Will Notice the Missing Charity Money? Apparently one of the doctors, with unfortunate tax results.

TaxGrrrl asks Which State Has The Highest Property Taxes In America?

Kay Bell, IRS gets so-so rating so far on Yelp. Well, I’d never eat there.

Leslie Book, Legislative Language Directs IRS To Make Self-Prepared EITC Claims More Burdensome (Procedurally Taxing).

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 845. Today the Prof links to Robert Wood’s Court Orders IRS To Reveal White House Requests About Taxpayers. The White House will surely appeal, waiting until the last minute to file for it, and drag the process out as long as possible. This is good news, though: “Finally, though, the court ruled that the IRS cannot hide behind a law used to shield the very misconduct it was enacted to prohibit.”

The stonewalling doesn’t mean there was misconduct. By stonewalling everything, the administration makes it hard to unearth misdeeds; as an added bonus, when a painful and drawn out process finally forces the administration to yeild innocent information, it makes the investigators look silly while sapping their resources.

 

Jeremy Scott, Trump’s Lack of Specifics on Tax Is Hardly Unique (Tax Analysts Blog). ” There are many reasons to dislike Trump and his ill-defined platform (which seems mostly based on nativism and reality-show-style demagoguery), but his lack of policy details at this stage of the game is hardly unique.”

 

News from the Profession. AICPA Lays the Smackdown on Dear Abby (Greg Kyte, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/27/15: Iowa cheap for the factory, costly for the headquarters. And: Instant Tax indictments.

Thursday, August 27th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

All the state taxes. The Tax Foundation has issued its 2015 Location Matters report, “a comparative analysis of state tax costs on business.” It provides a summary of the costs of operating different kinds of business, state by state, with wonderful charts like this one for Iowa:

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

This chart seems to show that Iowa is relatively easy on manufacturing, but a very expensive place for a service business or a distribution center — with an effective state and local rate of around 40% for distribution facilities. It also shows that the corporation income tax really only clobbers retailers and corporate headquarters.

The charts really get interesting when you compare states. Let’s turn to our neighbors in South Dakota:

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Source: The Tax Foundation

While most industries fare much better in South Dakota than in Iowa, capital-intensive manufacturers — especially new ones — do a little worse. This is because South Dakota has a higher sales tax, and, presumably, because of the presence of Iowa’s tax incentives for new manufacturers. Once you settle in, there is little difference.

Here’s what the report says about Iowa (my emphasis):

Despite having the highest top corporate income tax rate in the nation at 12.0 percent, Iowa’s mature capital-intensive manufacturing firm experiences the lowest effective tax burden in the nation at 3.9 percent, due in large part to Iowa’s single sales factor apportionment formula and the lack of a throwback rule, which have the effect of exempting nearly all of a firm’s income from in-state taxation. The operation also experiences a relatively low property tax burden due to the lack of property taxes on equipment and inventory.

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 offers a 50 percent deduction for federal income taxes paid, which helps mitigate the burden of the state’s high corporate and individual income taxes but is also responsible for those high rates.

In addition to its favorable apportionment factors for businesses selling goods out of state, Iowa’s benefits-based sourcing rules work to the advantage of Iowa-based firms selling services out of state. However, effective property tax rates can be exceedingly high for some firms—nearly double the national average for mature distribution centers, for instance—greatly increasing overall tax costs. Qualifying new firms (the manufacturing operations and the distribution center) receive a full abatement of the property tax on improvements for three years, though the abatement does not cover taxes on the value of the land itself.

Manufacturing machinery and research and development (R&D) equipment are exempt from the state sales tax, and the R&D facility receives other incentives as well. Iowa also offers generous investment and job creation tax incentives to new firms, though due to the state’s high tax rates, most new firms continue to experience above-average tax burdens.

This offers some lessons for Iowa’s ongoing tax reform debate:

– The Iowa Corporation Income Tax, where it isn’t futile, is a job killer, making it very expensive to locate a corporate headquarters here.

– Iowa’s vaunted tax incentives benefit the lucky and the well connected, while stifling start ups: “most new firms continue to experience above-average tax burdens.”

– Despite the recently enacted property tax reforms, Iowa’s real estate taxes still are a big cost for Iowa businesses.

The full report can be found here.

Related:

Can Iowa tax reform happen?

Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan

 

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Instant tax unhappinessThe tax prep franchise outfit Instant Tax Service had a colorful history before it was ordered to close by a federal judge. It was notorious for “paystub” returns, prepared to claim refunds for a mostly low-income clientele before they got their W-2s. That’s something preparers aren’t supposed to do.

Yesterday things got worse for the owners of Instant Tax Service with an indictment on tax charges. A Department of Justice Press Release lists some of the allegations (my emphasis):

From about January 2004 through November 2012, Ogbazion and Wade executed a scheme to obstruct the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), wherein numerous ITS franchises filed false federal income tax returns without valid Forms W-2 and without the permission of their taxpayer clients.  The false returns included false and inflated sole proprietorship Schedule C income in an attempt to increase the Earned Income Tax Credit.  Over the course of several years, Ogbazion also instructed an ITS employee to electronically file large volumes of unsigned tax returns on the first day of the “tax filing season,” then falsely backdated customer filing authorizations.  In an attempt to obstruct IRS civil compliance audits, ITS maintained and filed false documents with the IRS, including fabricated Forms W-2 created by ITS employees using tax preparation software, and forged client signatures on various false IRS forms.

Earned income tax credit skeptics are often scolded that the 25% rate of improper payments isn’t all due to fraud; it’s because taxes are hard and all. Taxes are hard, but if there isn’t massive fraud, it’s not for lack of trying. Rather than trying to run a welfare system through the tax code, we should be looking at a universal benefit along the lines proposed by Arnold Kling.

Related:

Arnold Kling, The EITC in Practice

Tax Update, Helping the poor by increasing their marginal tax rate.

 

Vox.com, H&R Block snuck language into a Senate bill to make taxes more confusing for poor people (Via the TaxProf).

H&R Block’s entire business model is premised on taxes being confusing and hard to file.

Well, that and promoting IRS preparer regulation to put competitors out of business.

Robert Wood, Trump Firing H&R Block Could Actually Help Immigrants

 

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Jason Dinesen, Things a Business Owner Needs to Know Before Hiring Employees

Robert D. Flach, WHAT DEDUCTIONS WOULD YOU KEEP?

Tony Nitti, 2013 Tax Changes Raised The Tax Bill On The Wealthiest 2 Percent By $60 Billion. “Whether an additional $60 billion in revenue is enough to satisfy the current administration remains to be seen.” No, we already know it won’t.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 840. More about Toby Miles. Meanwhile, Commissioner Koskinen dismisses the revelations of Lois Lerner’s canine email address under the “old news” ploy, and tells Tax Analysts ($link) that even though she hates Republicans and Tea Partiers, Lerner’s team was fair and square in dealing with their exemption applications.

Kay Bell, Lois Lerner used her dog’s email to conduct IRS business

 

Joseph Thorndike, When it Comes to Taxes, Americans Are of Two Minds – or Three, or Five or Eight. “While trying to make sense of Donald Trump’s statements on tax policy, I was struck by their disparate quality; to call them random is to exaggerate their coherence.”

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Tax Roundup, 8/25/15: Capital losses, your portfolio disaster silver lining. And: Introducing Toby Miles!

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
Flickr Image courtesy donjd2 under Creative Commons License.

Flickr Image courtesy donjd2 under Creative Commons License.

So how’s the market doing? Recent days have been unkind to many stock portfolios. Can you make tax lemonade out of the sour lemons in your portfolio?

Let’s make clear that I am in no way saying you should sell your losing stocks right now. If I were smart enough to call the market, you wouldn’t find me doing tax returns in Des Moines in January, as lovely as it is. But I can explain what stock losses do to your income taxes, and how to do it.

First, tax losses are generally useful only when they occur in a taxable account. If your IRA or 401(k) portfolio takes a hit, you are normally out of luck.

Second, you have to actually sell the losing stock to deduct a loss. Just as you don’t pay taxes on appreciated stocks you don’t sell, you don’t get to deduct losses on shares you don’t cash out.

Third, you can’t buy back the shares you sell at a loss for 30 days, under the “wash sale” rules. So if you think that loser is going to bounce back right away, you can’t just buy back other shares of the same stock you sold at a loss if you want the deduction. Nor can you buy the other shares of the same stock in the 30 days before you take the loss. The IRS says buying the offsetting shares in a nontaxable IRA account also triggers wash-sale disallowance.

Finally, individuals may only deduct their capital losses to the extent of capital gains (long-term or short-term), plus $3,000 ($1,500 for married-filing-separately taxpayers). That means you get no tax benefit from overdoing taking losses; the excess of losses of $3,000 carries forward to offset future taxable gains.

But if you have cashed out gains already in your taxable portfolio, it may make sense to sell enough losers to offset the gain, if you have them. Otherwise, you are in effect paying tax on the gains voluntarily — assuming you can live without the loser stock for 30 days.

Related:

TaxGrrrl, As Stocks Tumble, Understanding When A Loss Isn’t Really A Loss

IRS.gov, Topic 409 – Capital Gains and Losses

 

 

Toby Miles, IRS.

Toby Miles, IRS.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 838. Today’s installment links to revelations of another Lois Lerner personal account used to conduct official business:

“In addition to emails to or from an email account denominated ‘Lois G. Lerner‘ or ‘Lois Home,’ some emails responsive to Judicial Watch’s request may have been sent to or received from a personal email account denominated ‘Toby Miles,’” Mr. Klimas told Judge Emmet G. Sullivan, who is hearing the case.

It is unclear who Toby Miles is, but Mr. Klimas said the IRS has concluded that was “a personal email account used by Lerner.”

The linked Washington Times story also has this:

The use of secret or extra email accounts has bedeviled the Obama administration, which is has tried to fend off a slew of lawsuits involving former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and her top aides, the White House’s top science adviser, top Environmental Protection Agency officials and the IRS.

That’s not quite right. It’s not the use of the email accounts that has “bedeviled” the administration. Enough have come to light to make clear that such use is standard operating procedure. It’s the getting caught that does the bedeviling.

 

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Paul Neiffer, IRS Delays New Inherited Property Reporting Requirements Until February 2016. Statements showing the basis of inherited property will not have to be filed with the IRS before the end of February, 2016, at the earliest.

Russ Fox, How to Commit Tax Fraud 101. “Until the IRS makes it far more difficult for the fraudsters, this epidemic will continue. As I’ve said, why rob banks?”

Robert D. Flach, TRY TO REMEMBER . . . End of summer tips on home mortgage interest, alternative minimum tax, and more.

Robert Wood, 10 Ways Trump Is Right About Taxes. When you say random things without regard to other random things you’ve already said, you are likely to be right occasionally. Unlike Mr. Wood, I think the “hedge fund loophole” talk is foolish nonsense.

Kay Bell, Trump trashes tax breaks for ‘paper pushing’ money managers. Featuring the Trump Squirrel.

Peter Reilly, Sending IRS Against Phony Churches Is Bringing A Knife To A Gun Fight. “Fundamentally the IRS cannot base its enforcement actions on the content of an organization’s beliefs.”

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Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for July (Procedurally Taxing). Coverage of recent happenings in tax procedure.

Jason Dinesen, Does a Sole Proprietorship Need a Balance Sheet? Technically, no, but it’s foolish not to keep one.

Career Corner. Former Ryan Principal Made a Helluva Career Limiting Move (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/24/15: School’s in! And: state taxes just might matter.

Monday, August 24th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

20150824-2School starts here today. In my mind, the day school starts will always mark the end of summer, regardless of where the sun is in the sky, and it always makes me a little sad.

 

 

 

Do state taxes matter? Some policymakers say that states can tax “the rich” as much as you want, and they’ll just sit still and take it. According to Clean Slate Tax blog, IRS migration data implies otherwise:

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Florida and Texas were in the top ten for state business tax climates in 2013, while New Jersey, New York and California were in the bottom five. California had the highest state income tax rate, at 13.3%. New York and New Jersey are in the top ten. Texas and Florida have no state income tax.

We live in a complex world, and many factors affect migration patterns. But the weather in California is at least as nice as in Texas, yet people are fleeing California. It’s hard to believe taxes don’t have something to do with it.

Via the TaxProf.

 

20150819-2Robert D. Flach has a special Monday Buzz! roundup today, covering self-employment tax and saving for college.

Kay Bell, Tax fraud gangsters celebrate their crimes in song. IRS has made ID-theft fraud so easy, even a street gang can do it.

Russ Fox, Former Oklahoma State Senator Embezzled $1.2 Million & Committed Tax Fraud:

Over a ten-plus year period Mr. Brinkley had fraudulently obtained over $1.2 Million from the Better Business Bureau. Mr. Brinkley was President and CEO of the organization; he created phony invoices and used the money for personal expenses and to support his gambling habit. He also admitted to not reporting $148,390 in income on his 2013 tax return.

Elected officials don’t lose their human failings when they become elected officials. In fact, public office may attract people with certain kinds of failings.

 

TaxGrrrl, Debt, Equity and Startup Money. “Repayment of debt is tax-free but associated interest is taxed as ordinary income.”

Peter Reilly, Paul Hansen Receives Below Guideline Sentence – End Of L’affaire Kent Hovind?  The never ending saga of the tax trouble of the guy who things humans co-existed with dinosaurs.

 

20150824-3Jack Townsend, When a Prosecutor’s Questions Turns the Prosecutor Into a Witness

Keith Fogg, My Dad and the Tax Court are Almost the Same Age (Procedurally Taxing)

They’re, like, totally rad, too. Marijuana Taxes Swell, Not Up In Smoke After All (Robert Wood).

 

 

Scott Greenberg, Clean Energy Credits Mostly Benefit the Wealthy, New Study Shows (Tax Policy Blog). ” The credit for electric vehicles is most skewed towards high-income households, with the top 20% of taxpayers claiming 90% of all electric vehicle credits.”

Renu Zaretsky, Plans, Problems, and Production. This TaxVox headline roundup covers the Rubio tax plan, the Walker ACA replacement, and more.

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 835Day 836Day 837.

News from the Profession. Going Concern Is Now Part of AccountingflyCaleb Newquist takes the Boeing.

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/19/15: Even if it faxes, it’s still a printer in Iowa. And: the rich guy still isn’t buying.

Wednesday, August 19th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150813-1All for one, one for all. Iowa has a sales tax exclusion for “Computers used in processing or storage of data or information by an insurance company, financial institution, or commercial enterprise.” But what is a computer anymore, now that everything has a computer in it?

Last week Iowa released a ruling (Document 15300028) holding that Principal Financial Group’s all-in-one devices count as computers and are exempt from sales tax. From the ruling:

The protest was filed due to the Department’s partial denial of a refund claim which involved, among other issues, several multi-function devices which provide copy, print, scan, and fax services.  Your position is that because the multi-function devices are connected to your company’s computers and used in the manner described that these devices qualify as exempt computer peripheral equipment under Iowa’s statutes and administrative code…

Rule IAC 701—18.58(1), which was written, in part, to implement that code section, defines computers as the following:

…stored program processing equipment and all devices fastened to it by means of signal cables or any communication medium that serves the function of a signal cable. Nonexclusive examples of devices fastened by a signal cable or other communication medium are terminals, printers, display units, card readers, tape readers, document sorters, optical readers, and card or tape punchers.

The Department of Revenue had argued that copiers and fax machines don’t qualify, and these functions disqualified the multi-function devices. Principal brought its considerable in-house tax expertise to bear:

However, since the filing date of the protest, you have provided the auditor with the “click count” information for each individual multi-function device included in the refund claim.  This documentation verifies that each unit individually qualifies for exemption because the majority of the usage for each of the devices is for exempt printing and scanning. 

Attached to the protest as Exhibit B was a summary schedule in which you determined that 96.67% of the usage of the devices was for exempt purposes.  This percentage was utilized by Principal to determine the amount of tax under protest ($145,134.80).  However, because each device qualified for exemption, the purchase prices of these units are fully exempt from Iowa sales tax.  Therefore, the Department will refund 100% of the sales tax paid on the purchases of these devices. 

So after a struggle, the Department settles on the right legal answer. The policy answer is only half-right, though. All business inputs should be exempt from sales tax, regardless of whether they are hooked up to a computer.

I rarely fax or copy anything anymore, and I think that this is true nowadays for most businesses. It could say something about how they do things at the Iowa Department of Revenue that they assumed otherwise. In any case, this ruling tells us that fax and copy capability doesn’t make an otherwise exempt scanner/printer subject to sales tax for an Iowa business.

 

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Megan McArdle discusses presidential candidate Scott Walker’s Obamacare replacement (my emphasis):

In this debate, you can see the shape of where our politics may go over the next 20 years. Many Republicans would like a much smaller entitlement state; some Democrats would like a much bigger one, with Sweden-style universal coverage of virtually everything, crib to grave. Neither one is going to get what they want, because Americans are not prepared to give up their Social Security checks, or 60 percent of their paychecks either — and no, there is not enough money to fund these ambitions, or even our existing entitlements, by simply taxing “the rich.”

The discussion is becoming more urgent, as Obamacare as it stands is not working well; the big premium increases and the struggles of the “cooperatives” us that. It could be harder to fix the health insurance market than it was to wreck it in the first place.

 

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Robert D. Flach brings the Tuesday Buzz on Wednesday, covering the tax blog ground from property taxes to the Get Transcript data breach.

Tony Nitti, Tax Court Reminds Us That You Should Never Toy Around With Your Retirement Account:

Section 72 clearly mandates that annuity income is ordinary income, rather than capital gains. Thus, it is immaterial whether, as the taxpayer asserted, the annuity generated most of its income in the form of capital gains. Because once the annuity distributed the cash generated from those capital gains on to the taxpayer, the tax law required it to be treated as ordinary income.

Oops.

 

Jason Dinesen, Why is Self-Employment Tax Based on 92.35% of Self-Employment Income?

William Perez, These 6 states will waive penalties if you pay off your back taxes.

Paul Neiffer, Highway Use Tax Return Due August 31, 2015

Jim Maule, More Tax Fraud in the People’s Court. “It was an attempt to change a non-deductible cost of a boat into a business deduction.”

Kay Bell, A-list performers would get tax credit for New Jersey shows.

Republican Sen. Tom Kean, Jr. this week renewed a push for his bill that would provide a tax break for so-called A-list performers in the Garden State.

Not every problem is a tax problem. Especially this one.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 832.

 

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David Brunori, Retroactive Tax Laws Are Just Wrong (Tax Analysts Blog):

There are two fundamental problems with changing the rules retroactively. First, it is patently unfair. People who follow the rules should not be penalized later. We would never stand for it in the criminal context. Why should we accept it for taxes? Second, retroactively changing the rules undermines confidence in the tax system. Most people try to do the right thing. Often they spend a lot of money paying lawyers and accountants to guide them to the right result. The good taxpayers might not be diligent in following the rules if those rules might change.

It’s harder to justify spending money on tax compliance when it doesn’t do any good.

 

Howard Gleckman, New Rules Will Require States to Be More Transparent About Tax Subsidies (TaxVox): “While local governments have complained that the new rules will be complicated and burdensome, it is frankly a scandal that governments have been able to keep these subsidies under wraps for so long.”

 

News from the Profession. Only 20% of Companies Using Creative Accounting to Its Full Potential (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). “…it’s not technically fraud”

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/14/15: IRS won’t tax victims of its data breach on IRS-provided credit monitoring. And: little birds as informants?

Friday, August 14th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150814-1That’s sporting of them. The IRS transcript database was hacked this spring. It is offering to pay for credit monitoring to the victims of its negligence in protecting their records. Now, in its beneficence, the IRS says that the victims don’t have to pay tax on the credit monitoring:

The IRS will not assert that an individual whose personal information may have been compromised in a data breach must include in gross income the value of the identity protection services provided by the organization that experienced the data breach. Additionally, the IRS will not assert that an employer providing identity protection services to employees whose personal information may have been compromised in a data breach of the employer’s (or employer’s agent or service provider’s) recordkeeping system must include the value of the identity protection services in the employees’ gross income and wages. The IRS will also not assert that these amounts must be reported on an information return (such as Form W-2 or Form 1099-MISC) filed with respect to such individuals.

Gee, thanks, guys.

Related: Russ Fox, IRS: Free Identity Protection Services After a Data Breach Isn’t Includable in Income

 

buzz20150804It’s Friday, so it’s Buzz day at Robert D. Flach’s place, with links on topics from tracking time in activities to S corporations.

TaxGrrrl, Fix The Tax Code Friday: Letting Go Of Tax Deductions: “If we scrapped all of the deductions under the Tax Code except one, which one would you want to hold onto?”

Russ Fox, A Pseudo New Nominee for Tax Offender of the Year:

Well, he probably can’t win my coveted award of Tax Offender of the Year as the alleged crimes have nothing to do with tax. However, the alleged perpetrator is a tax attorney, so there is at least some relation to tax. Robert Howell of Cary, North Carolina is accused of attempted murder, kidnapping, and first degree burglary in Isle of Palms, South Carolina. Mr. Howell is alleged to have followed his ex-girlfriend to South Carolina where he is alleged to have committed the crimes. He’s also accused of assaulting and threatening her the day before this incident in her home in Cary, North Carolina.

But the tax code doesn’t say anything about kidnapping and murder!

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 827. Poor Lois edition.

Joseph Thorndike, The Clintons Don’t Care About Tax Reform – And Neither Does Anyone Else (Tax Analysts Blog):

Clinton, in other words, is eating the seed corn of tax reform. For the sake of an appealing policy initiative, she’s cannibalizing the budgetary payoff from base broadening – and making general tax reform much less likely.

To be fair, Clinton isn’t the only improvident one. Republicans, too, are eager to raid the piggy bank of tax reform in order to pay for their own needs, specifically highway construction. Some key Democrats have also signed on to this idea.

That’s exactly why clever little tax tricks, like “patent boxes” or “incentive” tax credits, drive me nuts. They narrow the base and create another group with an interest in preserving the current awful tax system.

 

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Steven Entin, Restoring Solvency to the Social Security Retirement Program (Tax Policy Blog).

August 14th marks the 80th anniversary of the signing of the Social Security Act by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1935. The program has done much to alleviate poverty among the elderly. Unfortunately, the system itself is showing its age. The Old Age and Survivors Insurance program (OASI, retirement benefits) is now running cash deficits as the baby boomers are retiring. The Disability Insurance program (DI) has been running deficits for several years, and is about to exhaust its trust fund. The recently released Trustees Report shows that only 93% of current OASI costs are covered by tax revenue, and that when the OASI trust fund runs out in 2034, benefits would have to be cut by more than 20% from projected levels. Longer term, OASI has a funding gap of four percent of payroll, meaning that would require more than a four percentage point rise in the payroll tax to close the funding gap over the next 75 years, or benefits would have to be reduced below promised levels by 27% by 2090.

Have a nice day.

 

Because it’s not his own money. Why Did Scott Walker Commit $400 Million for a Pro Basketball Arena? (Howard Gleckman, TaxVox):

But what’s really wrong is Walker’s economic analysis. He confidently calculates an enormous return on that public investment. According to The Washington Post:

“The return on investment is 3 to 1 on this, so we think this is a good, solid move as a good steward of the taxpayers’ money here in Wisconsin,” Walker said Wednesday morning after he signed the legislation. “This is just simple mathematics.”

It may be simple math, but it isn’t very good economics. And Walker ignores some important parts of the story. He didn’t have to. An April, 2013 report released by the city’s Legislative Reference Bureau did a nice job demolishing claims of big returns from similar projects.

Related: Sports Stadiums Are Bad Public Investments. So Why Are Cities Still Paying for Them? (Reason.com)

Career Corner. CPE, Booze, Jokes: That’s All You Need to Know (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

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TaxProf, Republicans Seek To Ban Unions For IRS Employees.

 

New frontiers in public service. A revenue agent from Ohio found a way to combine her day job with her side business venture, according to a report from the Ohio Inspector General. The report says the agent, a Ms. Zhang “accessed tax information for six direct competitors of her personal business on 34 separate occasions.”

Her bosses asked what was going on:

Finally, investigators asked Zhang whether or not she accessed tax records for businesses identified as being direct competitors of her own personal business.  Zhang admitted to doing so in order to create audit leads.  Zhang explained that shortly after her business opened, an unnamed individual approached her in the store and informed her that another similar business was not paying sales tax.  Based on this information, Zhang decided to conduct her own research into the matter. 

Oh, an unnamed individual. All righty, then. I was afraid a little bird told her. All for the public good, I’m sure.

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/13/15: IRS makes it hard to extend the W-2 deadline; Iowa makes it easy to extend a farm lease.

Thursday, August 13th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150813-1IRS ends automatic extensions for W-2s. Tax Analysts reports ($link) that IRS will no longer allow automatic extensions for W-2s. Non-automatic extensions will be allowed only in dire circumstances, according to the report:

Under the new rules, the IRS will grant the nonautomatic extension only when the filer demonstrates “extraordinary circumstances or catastrophe,” such as loss of record from fire or natural disaster.

It is an attempt to get wage information in sooner to make it easier to match refund claims to withholding, to help prevent identity theft. It’s a nice thought, but it is nowhere near enough. E-filed W-2s can be filed as late as the end of March – far too late to do much matching before refunds are issued.

Fighting identity theft will require more. It will probably require delays in refunds. It may also require a change in the culture that thinks big tax refunds are a good thing.

It will also require the IRS to raise its game in fraud prevention in its return processing. Russ Fox, Why Rob Banks, Redux:

From Los Angeles comes the news that the California Attorney General’s Office, along with the Long Beach Police and the US Postal Inspection Service did a “takedown” of the “Insane Crip” street gang; 22 members are in custody on charges that include 283 counts of conspiracy, 299 counts of identity theft, and 226 counts of grand theft.”

I doubt there is a lot of sophisticated computer savvy in the Insane Crip ranks. That the IRS is losing billions to street criminals says a lot about how poor the IRS anti-theft systems are.

 

20150813-3

 

Kristine Tidgren, Remember the September 1 Lease Termination Notice Deadline (Ag Docket):

Perhaps the most misunderstood portion of Iowa farm lease law is that governing the proper termination of a lease. Iowa law is unique in that under Iowa Code §562.6, a farm lease renews automatically—under the same terms and conditions as the original lease—absent specific action by one or both parties to the lease. The automatic renewal provision applies to both oral and written leases. 

Kristine explains what to do to end a bad lease.

 

Robert D. Flach, ONE REASON YOU SHOULD KEEP COPIES OF YOUR TAX RETURNS FOREVER. “I recently came across an excellent example of the benefit of keeping copies forever.”

Jason Dinesen, Choosing a Business Entity: Partnership. “A partnership can exist — for both tax and legal purposes — even if there’s no written agreement in place.”

Kay Bell, Don’t miss the tax break for college textbooks. “The American Opportunity Tax Credit, or AOTC, covers expenses for course-related books, supplies and equipment that are not necessarily paid to the educational institution.”

 

TaxGrrrl, Gun & Ammo Tax Aims At Reducing Violence In Seattle:

It wouldn’t be the only such tax in the country. A similar tax in Cook County, Illinois, was adopted after much controversy in 2012. The hope was that it would slow gun violence. However, according to reports in the Chicago Tribune, gun violence continues to escalate in the city of Chicago with the numbers of persons shot in 2015 so far on pace to top those shot in 2014.

This is the same community that is pricing the poor out of the job market with minimum wage increases.  In both cases, moral preening is substituted for sound policy.

 

Peter Reilly, Church Attendance Held Against Taxpayer In Maryland Domicile Case. Though I suspect attendance at the Secular Humanist Club down the street would have gotten the same result.

 

20150813-2

 

Kyle Pomerleau, Senator Carper Introduces Gas Tax Increase Paired With EITC and Child Tax Credit Expansion (Tax Policy Blog). “Paired with an EITC expansion, however, a gas tax increase becomes distributionally progressive: low-income taxpayers receive a net tax cut while middle and upper-income taxpayers receive a slight tax increase.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 826

Career Corner. Can an Accounting Firm Be a ‘Guilt-Free Zone’? (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/11/15: Extreme Time Management fails in Tax Court. And: the rise of scam-by-mail.

Tuesday, August 11th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150811-1Dedication. The tax law “passive loss” rules generally treat real estate rental as automatically passive. If losses are passive, they can’t be deducted until either the taxpayer has passive income or the taxpayer sell the “passive activity” (think about that phrase for a minute).

There are two exceptions to this “per-se passive” rule. One rule allows up to $25,000 in rental losses to “active” real estate owners, but this phases out between $100,000 and $150,000 in adjusted gross income. The other exception applies to “materially participating real estate professionals.”

It’s hard to qualify as a real estate pro. There are two big hurdles:

– You have to spend at least 750 hours in a year working on real estate activities in which you have an ownership interest, and

– You have to spend more time in your real estate activities than in your other work or business activities.

The second condition is a tough hurdle for taxpayers with full-time jobs outside of real estate to clear, as a Los Angeles teacher learned yesterday in Tax Court. The teacher presented logs to the court to show that he spent more time on his real estate than on his teaching job. This from the Tax Court decision gives you an idea how that went (my emphasis):

In addition to the obvious understatement in the logs of hours petitioner spent as a teacher for each year in issue, the reliability of the logs is also called into question by what appear to be exaggerated amounts of time shown for relatively routine, recurring events, such as check writing. During petitioner’s cross-examination respondent’s counsel pointed out numerous instances of entries showing one to several hours for such activities. The Court does not exist in a vacuum, and we cannot divorce ourselves from our own experiences of daily life, such as the time it takes to review a mortgage statement and/or bill and pay the item by check. We reject petitioner’s claim that the dozens, if not hundreds, of checks that he wrote over the years in issue each took at least an hour to prepare.

Other entries pointed out by respondent’s counsel during petitioner’s cross-examination add to our concerns. Rather than point out each one, however, suffice it to note the following exchange during petitioner’s cross-examination after respondent’s counsel totaled the hours shown in the logs for time spent on various activities on a particular day:

MR. RICHMOND [respondent’s counsel]: And on November 30th [2007], you worked a 25-hour day on your rental properties?

WITNESS [petitioner]: Well, I guess it was a big day.

MR. RICHMOND: I guess it was.

So the Tax Court has something against the time-traveler-American community?

Decision for IRS.

The moral? A long-ago and now deceased big-firm partner/boss once told me “you can create hours with a pencil.” While that may be valid in big-firm public accounting, it doesn’t work so well in Tax Court.

Cite: Escalate, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-47

 

20150811-2

 

Robert D. Flach has fresh Tuesday Buzz, including this wise advice:

For years I have also been telling you that whenever you receive any correspondence from the IRS or a state tax agency give it to your tax preparer immediately. Do not send any money to anyone without first checking with your tax pro.

It appears scammers are starting to use the postal service, so watch out.

 

Russ Fox, Up In Smoke…Again. Tax life is hard for Marijuana businesses, even legal ones.

Tony Nitti, Ninth Circuit: Unmarried Cohabitants Each Entitled To Deduct Interest On $1,100,000 Mortgage Limit

Robert Wood, New IRS Guidance Suggests Obamacare 40% Cadillac Tax Could Get Even Worse

Keith Fogg, Ninth Circuit Reverses Tax Court on Qualified Offer Case and Holds That a Concession is not a Settlement (Procedurally Taxing)

Jim Maule, This Tax Change Will Help But It Won’t End the Problem. Thoughts on the new partnership return due dates.

Jason Dinesen, The Jason Dinesen Plan for Preparer Regulation. “Which begs the question of why they need a regulatory program — mandatory or voluntary — at all.”

Kay Bell, Cleveland to take Ohio jock tax ruling to U.S. Supreme Court

William Perez, Communicate Effectively with Your Tax Preparer

 

20150811-3

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 824

Jeremy Scott, Jeb Bush’s Troubling Reversal on Taxes (Tax Analysts Blog).

Career Corner. Why You Should (and Shouldn’t) Accept a Full-Time Offer From a Public Accounting Firm (Amber Setter, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/10/15: 9th Circuit offers divorce bonus for rich homeowners. And: a cunning charity deduction plan!

Monday, August 10th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

CA--9 mapThe wages of sin have gone up for west-coast couples who choose to live together without benefit of clergy, and who happen to own expensive west-coast houses. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that unmarried couples can deduct interest on $2.2 million in home mortgage debt on a shared residence — twice the allowance for a married couple.

The appeals court overruled a Tax Court decision involving an unmarried couple, a Mr. Voss and a Mr. Sophy. The court lays out the basic facts:

Voss and Sophy purchased the Beverly Hills home in 2002. They financed the purchase of the Beverly Hills home with a $2,240,000 mortgage, secured by the Beverly Hills property. About a year later, they refinanced the mortgage by obtaining a new loan in the amount of $2,000,000. Voss and Sophy are jointly and severally liable for the refinanced Beverly Hills mortgage, which, like the original mortgage, is secured by the Beverly Hills property. At the same time as they refinanced the Beverly Hills mortgage, Voss and Sophy also obtained a home equity line of credit of $300,000 for the Beverly Hills home. Voss and Sophy are jointly and severally liable for the home equity line of credit as well.

The total average balance of the two mortgages and the line of credit in 2006 and 2007 (the two taxable years at issue) was about $2.7 million — $2,703,568.05 in 2006 and $2,669,135.57 in 2007. 

Between the two owners, the federal tax benefit at stake for the extra deduction over two years was around $56,000, if I read the Tax Court case correctly. The Tax Court ruled against the couple, saying the tax law

…appears to set out a specific allocation of the limitation amounts that must be used by married couples filing separate tax returns, thus implying that co-owners who are not married to one another may choose to allocate the limitation amounts among themselves in some other manner, such as according to percentage of ownership.

The Ninth Circuit found otherwise:

We hold that 26 U.S.C. § 163(h)(3)’s debt limit provisions apply on a per-taxpayer basis to unmarried co-owners of a qualified residence. We infer this conclusion from the text of the statute: By expressly providing that married individuals filing separate returns are entitled to deduct interest on up to $550,000 of home debt each, Congress implied that unmarried co-owners filing separate returns are entitled to deduct interest on up to $1.1 million of home debt each.

The statute is surprisingly unclear on this. It is hard to believe that Congress wanted to give wealthy unmarried couples a special deal, but legislative incompetence is not surprising at all. I expect that the IRS will continue to enforce the $1.1 million limit outside the Ninth Circuit. Still, any cohabiting taxpayers who have lost deductions because of the limit should file protective refund claims for open years; it may eventually take a Supreme Court decision, or additional legislation, to settle the issue.

The moral? For some power couples, matrimony may have a tax cost.

This case also shows that the real beneficiaries of the home mortgage deduction tend to be the very wealthy. As the Tax Foundation explains:

Despite the claims of various industry groups that the home mortgage interest deduction is an important factor promoting broad-based home ownership, IRS data show the bulk of mortgage interest deductions are claimed by a relatively small fraction of Americans with incomes well above average. As a result, it is likely that the deduction primarily encourages larger and more expensive homes among a relatively small share of taxpayers, rather than promoting broad-based home ownership among ordinary Americans.

Better to eliminate the tax break and lower rates for everyone. I won’t hold my breath, because I think the politics are impossible despite the unwisdom of the policy. If there is a national policy argument for subsidizing the purchase of $2 million Hollywood homes for unmarried couples, it must be fabulous.

Cite: Voss, CA-9, Case No. 12-73257.

Update: Additional coverage from TaxProf (Ninth Circuit Gives Unmarried Couples Double The Mortgage Interest Deduction Available To Married Couples.) and Instaupundit (PUNISH THE BOURGEOISIE!)

 

20150810-1

 

Robert D. Flach, THE TAX PRACTITIONERS BILL OF RIGHTS. “The National Society of Accountants (the ‘other’ NSA) has developed a ‘Tax Practitioners Bill of Rights’ in response to continued IRS budget cuts and the recent serious decline in IRS ‘customer service’.”

Mitch Maahs, Deadline Days Shuffle for Many Business Tax Returns (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Russ Fox, Criminal Charges Dropped Against Roni Deutch. Ms. Deutch was one of the biggest players in the “pennies on the dollar” industry, as seen on TV! which collapsed in a pile of lawsuits, lost up-front payments, and disappointed tax debtors. “California has dropped the criminal indictments, and instead of paying $34 million she’ll be paying $2.5 million in the civil suit (per her lawyer).”

Kay Bell, Bush brothers’ barbecue and tax banter. “The only thing we Texans take more seriously than our football (high school, college and pro) and politics (equally crazy at local, state and federal levels) is our barbecue.”

Peter Reilly, Bristol Palin At Heart Of IRS Scandal – Who Knew?

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 821Day 822Day 823.

TaxGrrrl, Our Current Tax v. The Flat Tax v. The Fair Tax: What’s The Difference?

Andrew Lundeen, Six Changes Every Tax Reform Plan Should Include (Tax Policy Blog):

  1. Make the Tax Rates competitive for Businesses
  2. Move to a Territorial Tax System
  3. Correctly Define Business Income with Full Expensing
  4. Integrate the Corporate and Individual Tax Systems
  5. Create Universal Savings Accounts
  6. Repeal the Estate Tax

For my clients, 1, 3 and 4 are the big deals.

 

20150810-2

 

Renu Zaretsky, Simple Is as Simple Does. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup talks about taxes in debates. Also: shockingly, New Jersey’s film industry is surviving the loss of the 20% production tax credit.

Cara Griffith, A Look at Information Sharing Agreements Between the IRS and States (Tax Analysts Blog)

 

Wanting a charitable deduction in the worst way. The Des Moines Register relates a state auditor report that a University of Northern Iowa clerk took cash deposits and wrote checks to the University to claim as charitable deductions or business expenses:

She allegedly told the adviser that she intended for the check to appear as if it were a donation for tax purposes, saying that she “had always done it that way,” according to the report.

In one instance, Shannon admitted to auditors that a check she had written in lieu of cash for $1,002 was from a construction business account, and a note was made on the check to indicate a business expense. Cash was split evenly between her husband and his brother as a distribution from the company.

However, the report says she did not explain why the check’s memo line indicated it was a donation.

Needless to say, that doesn’t work. The obvious problem here is that for a check over $250, you don’t get a deduction unless you get a letter from the donee saying you got nothing in exchange for the check. Here, it seems that the “donor” got $1,002 in exchange for the $1,002 “donation.” That isn’t worth much as a deduction, if my math is correct.

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/7/15: Iowa sales tax takes a holiday, and other brutal assaults on reason.

Friday, August 7th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150807-1Today is the firm field day. Once again my proposal for an all-office open chess tournament failed to win support, so it’s golf again.

The annual Iowa sales tax holiday for clothing and footwear is today and tomorrow. Details from the Iowa Department of Revenue:

-Exemption period: from 12:01 a.m., August 7, 2015, through midnight, August 8, 2015.

-No sales tax, including local option sales tax, will be collected on sales of an article of clothing or footwear having a selling price less than $100.00.

-The exemption does not apply in any way to the price of an item selling for $100.00 or more

-The exemption applies to each article priced under $100.00 regardless of how many items are sold on the same invoice to a customer

“Clothing” means…

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

“Clothing” does not include…

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

Sales tax holidays are a bad policy, for reasons explained well by Joseph Henchman and Liz Malm, including this:

Political gimmicks like sales tax holidays distract policymakers and taxpayers from genuine, permanent tax relief. If a state must offer a “holiday” from its tax system, it is a sign that the state’s tax system is uncompetitive. If policymakers want to save money for consumers, then they should cut the sales tax rate year-round

The Federation of Tax Administrators has a complete list of sales tax holidays for 2015. Mississippi and Louisiana have holidays for firearms purchases September 4-6, so you can dress up in Iowa and drive south to do your weapons shopping in Iowa style.

Related: Kay Bell, 13 state sales tax holidays on tap this weekend

20150807-2

Robert D. Flach brings the Friday Buzz, including a special offer on THE NEW SCHEDULE C NOTEBOOK, his tax Baedeker for the sole proprietor.

William Perez, Changes in Tax Deadlines to Take Effect in 2017 (Plus Deadlines for 2015 and 2016)

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: LLC

Keith Fogg, The Room of Lies (Procedurally Taxing). No, it’s not about debate settings, Congress or the White House Press Briefing Room. It’s about the process the government uses in deciding whether to appeal tax cases.

Robert Wood, Mo’ Indictments For Mo’ Money Taxes, 20 Years Prison Possible. “Indeed, the fallout for innocent taxpayers patronizing a tax preparation shop that is in trouble can be far-reaching.”  Yes, that’s why taxpayers should be wary of a shop that seems to always get bigger refunds than anyone else.

Tony Nitti, If You Hired Mo’ Money Taxes To Prepare Your Return, You Continue To Have Mo’ Problems.  “The most institutionally corrupt organization south of the New England Patriots…”

TaxGrrrl Live-blogged the GOP presidential debate last night. As the political season seems to be fully underway, it’s time to express my joy of the season, best stated by Arnold Kling:

To me, political campaigns are not sacred events, to be eagerly anticipated and avidly followed. They are brutal assaults on reason. I look forward to election season about as much as a gulf coast resident looks forward to hurricane season.

And reason never comes out well in the contest.

20150807-3

Renu Zaretsky, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, again.” Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers international tax reform, gas taxes, and sales tax holidays.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 820. Lots of reaction to the Senate Finance report on the scandal.

Peter Reilly, IRS Scandal – Blame It All On Lois Lerner And Move On?

Joseph Thorndike, Clinton Should Keep It Simple and Just Propose Repealing the Capital Gains Preference (Tax Analysts). No, no, no. She should keep it simple and propose repealing the capital gain tax.

 

Career Corner. The “I’m Leaving” Conversation (Green Dot Peon, Going Concern).

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Tax Roundup, 8/6/15: Tax Court sinks IRS passive loss attack on boat charter business.

Thursday, August 6th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

20150806-1It can be difficult to win a “passive loss” examination. That’s why taxpayer victories are worth studying. A couple who chartered boats and who incurred losses overcame an IRS passive loss challenge yesterday in Tax Court. Can we learn anything from them?

The taxpayer husband, a Mr. Kline, is an airline pilot who chartered boats and occasionally skippered charter excursions. They had a management agreement with a company called Horizon Charters, LTD. The Tax Court said “Pursuant to the terms of the management agreement Horizon was responsible for marketing the boats, setting charter prices, booking charters, keeping records of all charters, collecting money due from customers, and cleaning and maintaining the boats.”

The passive loss rules treat a loss as “passive” if the taxpayer fails to “materially participate” in the business generating the losses. Passive losses can only be deducted against passive income; net passive losses are deferred until either there is passive income or the business is sold.

The tax law determines losses are “passive” based on the amount of time spent on the activity by the taxpayers. For example, taxpayers who spend 500 hours on an activity are generally treated as non-passive. The taxpayers in the charter boat case argued that they met another test — (1) they spent at least 100 hours on the activity, and (2) they spent more time on the activity than anyone else.

While the taxpayers didn’t keep a daily time calendar or log, they were able to convince the court that they reached the 100-hour limit:

During the audit examination respondent’s agent asked petitioners to provide the number of hours they spent in connection with the charter activity. While they did not maintain a contemporaneous log of the time spent, Mr. Kline did maintain copies of email communications with Horizon. Using this correspondence and records of the length and destination of the Kline charters, petitioners were able to develop a log of the time they spent… Though petitioners did not contemporaneously record their time, we find the time entries they provided to be reasonable reconstructions of the hours that they spent in the charter business and consistent with the requirements of section 1.469-5T(f)(4), Temporary Income Tax Regs.

So emails showing regular involvement help. So does having a credible story to explain how you spent your time. But the IRS still had another challenge — they said that Horizon employees spent more time on the activity than the taxpayers, defeating the requirement that the taxpayers spend more time than anyone else. The Tax Court sided with the taxpayer:

However, on the basis of the invoices Horizon sent to petitioners regarding work done on the boats and the testimony of Horizon’s operations manager during the years at issue, we conclude petitioners spent more time in connection with the boats than any individual employed by Horizon.  

The Moral? The taxpayers won without keeping a daily calendar because they were able to reconstruct their time based on other records, and because the Tax Court found them believable. While it would have been easier if they kept a log, failure to keep one isn’t fatal if you have other good ways to show the time you spent.

Cite: Kline, T.C. Memo 2015-144.

 

20150806-2

 

Robert D. Flach, FORM 1098-T WILL BE REQUIRED FOR CLAIMING EDUCATION BENEFITS, “My initial response to this new matching requirement concerns the fact that most Form 1098-Ts that I see during the tax season are as useful as tits on a bull.”

Peter Reilly, IRS Says Charitable Trust Not Charitable Enough. “The NIMCRUT is still a fantastic tool in the right circumstances.  Just don’t be too aggressive on the payout.”

Kay Bell, GOP debate(s) and drinking games tonight!

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 819. The big item today is the Senate Finance Committee report (sorry, no free link yet).

Robert Wood, Gross Mismanagement At IRS, Says Senate Report. “IRS was just incompetent, not intentionally bad, says the latest report.” Well, OK, then.

 

Alan Cole, Of Loopholes and Tax Expenditures (Tax Policy Blog):

For a real-life example of a loophole, consider “mandatory donations” to popular college sports teams in order to get season tickets. This was a clever way of selling tickets (by all means, a “mandatory donation” in exchange for something is a sale) while giving them the appearance of a deductible charitable donation for the purposes of the IRS. This was clearly not an intended effect of the deduction for charitable contributions; therefore, it meets the true definition of a loophole. This loophole was partially rolled back through further legislation, and the President’s most recent budget would eliminate it entirely.

However, the word “loophole” is clearly misused when applied to deliberate, well-known policy provisions. For example, the mortgage interest deduction is no more a loophole in the tax code than Memorial Day sales are a loophole in mattress pricing.

The other issue is whether a so-called loophole was really snuck past clueless legislators by somebody who knew exactly what he was doing.

 

20150806-3

 

Renu Zaretsky, Information: Additions, Disclosures, and Theft. Today’s TaxVox roundup covers dynamic scoring of the “extender” bill and the rules requiring disclosure of the revenue effects of tax “incentives.”

David Brunori, Supermajority Requirements for Raising Taxes areTroublesome (Tax Analysts Blog). “Questioning whether a majority of legislators can raise taxes seems undemocratic in the greatest democracy that ever was. Moreover, supermajority requirements put a great deal of power in the hands of the minority.”

 

News from the Profession. In the Future, Accountants Count Everything (Chris Hooper, Going Concern).

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Tax Roundup, 8/4/15: Cash-basis farmers score Tax Court win. Plus Buzz, and more!

Tuesday, August 4th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

binStrawberries. An old joke holds that the tax law has a provision that makes it illegal for farmers to pay taxes. Jokes usually express an underlying truth. The ability of most farm enterprises to deduct expenses on a cash basis is a big part of the joke. A fiscally-alert cash-basis farmer can ease the tax pain of a profitable year by buying up to a year’s worth of feed, seed and supplies on December 31, deducting the whole purchase.

The Tax Court last week upheld a broad use of cash-basis deductions by farmers in a case involving a California strawberry grower, Agro-Jal. This cash-basis deduction challenged case differs from what you might see in a typical Iowa crop or livestock operation. The taxpayer packs the strawberries it grows, and it purchased and deducted the packing materials on a cash basis. The IRS said that such supplies are not the sort of feed, seed and materials allowed to farmers as a cash basis deduction.

Judge Holmes looked at the rules and said the IRS got it wrong. The decision largely hinged on a Section that wasn’t directly in play here, Section 464. This section was enacted to fight an early tax shelter based on allowing cash basis farm deductions to off-the-farm investors by preventing “farm syndicates” from using the cash method. Judge Holmes considered the IRS arguments, and then noted (my emphasis, footnotes omitted):

But section 464 does bolster Agro-Jal’s argument indirectly, because the history of section 464 shows that before its enactment anyone in the farming business could immediately deduct prepaid expenses. Seen against this backdrop, section 464 looks like it was aimed at both especially abusive taxpayers — “farming syndicates” — and to certain especially abused expenses — “feed, seed, fertilizer, or other similar farm supplies.”

I understand this to mean that absent some other provision, farmers can, or could, deduct all prepaid expenses. Judge Holmes went on to consider the tax regulation on deductions of materials and supplies, and concluded that the IRS reading was not supported.

There is another wrinkle. The IRS has re-issued the “materials and supplies” regulation as part of its “repair regs” project, and it has changed the language relied on by the taxpayer. Tax Analysts discusses that change ($link):

Sharon Kay of Grant Thornton LLP said that the reference to the old version of the regs may not help other cash method farm taxpayers understand how to apply the new final tangible property regulations on materials and supplies. “That’s the big question,” she said. “What does this case mean, not just looking back, but actually looking forward under the new tangible property regulations?”

Kay noted that throughout the revisions to the tangible property regs, the IRS had made statements, primarily in the various preambles, that it did not intend for the revisions to substantially change the “determination of the treatment of materials and supplies as either non-incidental or incidental.” She said that the holding in Agro-Jal reflects farm taxpayers’ understanding of the law and general practices.

This may mean the IRS could continue to challenge deductions under the new regulations, hoping for a different result. But for Iowa livestock and crop farmers, whose big prepaid deductions are mostly for advance purchases of feed, seed and fertilizer, cash accounting does not seem to be under immediate threat. And it probably wouldn’t have been even if the IRS had won this case.

Paul Neiffer has more: Cash Basis Farmers Allowed to Deduct All Costs!

Cite: Agro-Jal Farming Enterprises, Inc., 145 T.C. No. 5.

 

buzz20150804

 

It’s summer. The bees are buzzing, and so is Robert D. Flach with a fresh Buzz roundup, including coverage of the new due-date rules.

Robert Wood, Charging $476K For Strippers On Company Card? No Tax Deduction, Jail Instead. That’s a lot of $1 bills.

Peter Reilly, Review Of Julian Block’s Home Seller’s Tax Guide. “The book packs a lot of important information into less than 100 pages.  I think that if I had a real estate office, I would be negotiating with Julian to buy copies in bulk to hand to potential clients as a marketing tool.”

Jim Maule, Another Problem with Targeted Tax Credits. “Once tax credits are handed out, everyone wants in on the gravy train.”

Kay Bell, Cool tax moves to make during August’s hot Dog Days

Jack Townsend, New Legislation Affecting FBAR and Tax Matters (8/1/15).

Mike Feehan, Urban Legends, Insurance File No. XXIV (Insureblog). “My opinion?  Most claims submitted are valid claims.  And systematic denial of valid claims is an urban legend.”

 

Cara Griffith, New York Attempts to Tax Income From Nonresident Lawyer Based on Bar License (Tax Analysts Blog):

“Thankfully, an administrative law judge for the DTA set the division straight. The ALJ concluded that the division’s argument is meritless, inconsistent with the state tax regulations, and inconsistent with New York judiciary laws. “The Division cannot,” the ALJ said, “assert tax merely based on a New York license.”

This is a case where my “sauce for the gander” proposal would allow taxpayers to collect penalties from the state for making a frivolous argument.

Richard Auxier, Recovery cannot save state budgets from politics (TaxVox). “Since then the economy has improved, state tax revenue are growing, and legislatures have more room to maneuver during budget season. Yet havoc still reigns in many statehouses. In fact, it might be getting worse.”

 

20150804-1

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 817

Matt Gardner, Innovation Boxes and Patent Boxes: Congress Is Focusing on Corporate Tax Giveaways, Not Corporate Tax Reform. (Tax Justice Blog). The “patent box” would give preferential rates for intellectual property income, which would create a new industry of consultants devoted to making all income I.P. income. Far better to broaden the base and lower rates for everyone.

Kyle Pomerleau, Ways and Means Committee Introduces “Innovation Box” Discussion Draft (Tax Policy Blog). “Simply put, a patent box provides a lower tax rate on income related to intellectual property.”

 

Quotable: 

Most economists, on the other hand, believe that targeted tax incentives may work, but only in the sense that companies get extra cash and say the right things at press conferences. However, the tax breaks often don’t work in the sense of actually boosting state and local economies in any appreciable way. One large high-tech warehouse on the edge of town with 40 workers won’t transform anything. Neither will a dozen.

Billy Hamilton, Tax Analysts ($link)

 

News from the Profession. Accountant Posts Big Game Hunting Photos, Internet Flips Out (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). I hope my big game trophy shots never make the internet. Oh, wait…

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/30/15: It’s FBAR Day! Foreign and gaming account owners, do or die.

Tuesday, June 30th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

fincen logoForm 114 or bust. Today is the unextendable deadline to file Form 114, the “FBAR” report of foreign financial accounts. It’s required if you own foreign financial accounts whose value reached $10,000 anytime in 2014. Penalties for failing to file can run to half the value of the account, so if it applies, you want to get it done. The form must be filed electronically.

Foreign financial accounts include bank or brokerage accounts held outside, even in an offshore branch of a U.S. bank. They also include online gaming accounts for sites located outside the U.S. More details on what is included is available at the IRS FBAR page.

You will need the mailing address of the branch where your foreign account is located. Russ Fox has done a great job of finding many street addresses for online gaming sites.

Is the Form 114 filing requirement absurd? Yes. The filing threshold is far too low, and it works to make regulatory violators out of Americans living and working overseas for the crime of committing personal finance abroad. Meanwhile, I would be surprised if any actual criminals are actually caught using Form 114; instead, it’s just used to increase penalties on those whose tax violations are found in other ways. Oh, and to extort money out of people who didn’t realize they were supposed to file the thing. Unfortunately, absurdity is what the IRS is all about.

Speaking of absurd, The Commerce Department BE-10 survey for those owning at least 10% of an offshore business is also due for e-filing today, with penalties into the thousands of dollars for non-filers.

Related: Russ Fox, Does a Nonresident Alien Spouse that Has Elected to be Treated as a US Person Need to File an FBAR?

 

Arnold Kling reports on what seems to me a very unwise idea: State Nullification of the Federal Income Tax?, involving the idea of “nullifying” the federal income tax by providing a state credit for whatever the federal income tax is, funded by state sales taxes. Arnold points out some of the obvious problems: “For example, if this were enacted, then residents would have no incentive to minimize their tax liability. Go ahead and realize all of your capital gains, because when you pay more Federal taxes, your state sends you a credit.”

 

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Forest fires in Canada give Iowa a spooky sky today.

 

William Perez, Tax Implications of Supreme Court’s Same-Sex Marriage Ruling. “Together, [Jason] Dinesen and I came up with a list of all the tax things we should be concerned about as a result of the Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges (pdf).”

Robert D. Flach brings his Tuesday Buzz, along with the less cheerful news that his Gmail account has been compromised. He ponders whether IRS Commissioner Koskinen is worse than his predecessor, Worst Commissioner Ever Shulman. I still give the prize to Shulman, but Koskinen is making a heck of a case for the honor.

Kay Bell, IRS ‘incompetence’ blamed for lost Lois Lerner emails. That’s certainly plausible, but the incompetence all seems to be on the side of hampering the investigation.

Robert Wood, If Uber, FedEx, Other Workers Are Employees, Who Pays What?

Joni Larson, Failing to Prove the Attorney-Client Privilege Applies (Procedurally Taxing). Some conversations you’d rather not share with the IRS.

Peter Reilly, Mario Biaggi’s Criminal Case Followed By Tax Travails. In some ways the tax decision coming on top of the criminal conviction really makes me think there might have been something to Biaggi’s contention that he was a victim of Giuliani’s ambition.  When you look at the big picture of the transactions, nobody seems to have been getting away with anything from an income tax perspective.”

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Are Donations to a 501(c)(4) Deductible?

 

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Elizabeth Malm, A Quick Primer on Personal Income Taxes (with GIFs!) (Tax Policy Blog). They’re nice, but no dancing cats. A great little post for anybody wanting an overview of state income taxes.

Gene Steuerle, Combined Tax Rates and Creating a 21st Century Social Welfare Budget (TaxVox).

Dalton Lane, Obergefell v. Hodges: Supreme Court Upholds Same-Sex Marriage (Tax Policy Blog):

The Supreme Court’s ruling has definitely simplified the tax system. Whether a same-sex marriage, or a opposite-sex marriage, the tax treatment is the same. Furthermore, same-sex couples will no longer have any difference in filing status between their state income taxes and federal income taxes.

It will make Jason Dinesen’s life easier, for sure.

Caleb Newquist, PwC Walks a Fine Line Between Its People and Clients on Same-Sex Marriage (Going Concern).

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 782

 

TaxGrrrl, 8 Signs That It’s Time To Get A New Tax Professional. They are all good signs, especially number 8.

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/23/15: A foolproof tax prep scam! And more.

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

One week left! To file your FBAR Form 114 reports of foreign financial accounts.

 

ice truckDid a Davenport preparer e-file different returns than he showed his clients? That’s what federal prosecutors allege. They have accused a Davenport man of preparing accurate tax returns for clients, but then e-filing different returns claiming larger refunds, diverting the extra refunds to his own account.

If true, the case is interesting in two ways.

First,It appears to have been based on fraudulent Schedule C sole proprietorship filings. These can be used to create sham losses to create extra refunds, or to create sham earned income to generate earned income tax credit. It was most likely an EITC scam, as fake schedule A deductions work as well for deductions, but not at all for generating refundable EITC.

Second, it was a horrible idea. It’s hard to imagine how he thought he would ever get away with filing returns different from what the client approved. Inevitably there would be a notice or other problem that would bring the scam to light. But the cops don’t spend their days chasing geniuses.

 

Robert Wood, Record 27 Years Prison For Tax Fraud, Beating Tax Fraud Queen’s 21 Years. The guy allegedly collected 7,000 Social Security numbers and scammed $1.8 in stolen refunds. Considering the hassle he created for the rightful holders of those numbers, that sounds about right.

buzz20141017Robert D. Flach has Tuesday Buzz for you, covering the ground from Trump to Kansas.

William Perez, Tax Advice for Cannabis Entrepreneurs. Speaking of buzz.

Hank Stern, CO-OPs: That flushing sound you hear…  It appears that other Obamacare health co-ops may go the way of Iowa’s CoOportunity.

Keith Fogg, Contrasting the Compromise Standards between the Chief Counsel, IRS and the Department of Justice in Litigated Cases (Procedurally Taxing)

Jack Townsend, Two More Swiss Banks Enter DPAs under US DOJ Swiss Bank Program. Swiss bank privacy is over. Taxpayers who have been counting on it need to check in with their attorneys.

 

Jeremy Scott, Supreme Court Could Create $353 Billion Deficit Problem (Tax Analysits Blog):

The wait continues for the Supreme Court’s decision in King v. Burwell — the Court did not release the opinion on June 22. If the Court decides in favor of King — basically making residents of 34 states ineligible for healthcare credits — that will gut President Obama’s healthcare reform effort, essentially leaving lawmakers with the choice to either fix or repeal the Affordable Care Act. Republicans are eager to do the latter, but the Congressional Budget Office may have made that more difficult. The CBO says that outright repeal would cost $353 billion over 10 years based on a static scoring model.

It’s a bit strange to think that it’s the Republicans’ responsibility to fix a law that was incompetently drafted by a Democratic Congress. And the House and Senate don’t seem inclined to follow that path anyway. 

It’s not the Supreme Court that would create the problem. It would be the administration and its Congressional allies that passed an unworkable and incoherent lawwith no support at all from the other party.

Kay Bell, No Supreme Court word yet on Obamacare subsidies,
but another part of the health care law is closer to repeal
. “The House voted on June 18 to get rid of the medical device tax.”

 

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Dita Aisyah, Tax Extenders: Take Them or Leave Them, Part 2 (Tax Policy Blog):

Currently, all 50 or so tax extenders are expired for 2015, but Congress will likely pass them retroactively as they have in the past.

Some tax extenders are genuinely good policy, while some are bad. However, the concept of an extender is silly. They create unnecessary uncertainty for individuals and businesses who need to make important long term financial plans.

This very uncertainty creates the need for lobbyists to make annual pilgrimages to Congress to beg for another year of tax breaks. I suspect that Congress likes it that way.

 

Kyle Pomerleau, Senator Rand Paul’s Payroll Tax Swap. “One striking feature of the tax plan is that it eliminates payroll taxes.”

Bob McIntyre, Detractor Dangles Shiny Objects to Obscure Facts about Rand Paul’s Deficit-Inflating Flat Tax Proposal. (Tax Justice Blog). A left-wing tax site calls the Tax Foundation right-wing.

Steven Rosenthal, The Rich get Richer, with a Little Tax Help (TaxVox).

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 775. Today’s entry covers a non Tea Party organization whose exemption was stalled because it held views disapproved by the Administration.

 

News from the Profession. There’s a Lack of Talent to Succeed Accounting Firms Because the Talent Doesn’t Exist (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). “A recent survey of accounting firm partners from the CPA Consultants’ Alliance found that over half of respondents (51.7%) said procrastination or denial was a primary cause for firms’ succession troubles.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/17/15: Revenues: every business should have them! And: tax abuse of accidental Americans.

Wednesday, June 17th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

dontwalk4A picture of a bad deduction. Early in my career a practitioner confided to me that every 1040 should have a Schedule C, the 1040 report of business income, so that taxpayers could write-off personal expenses. That’s never been the actual tax law, but too many taxpayers believe otherwise.

The actual tax law is that you can’t deduct as business expenses costs without an intent to actually make money. Iowa has been independently enforcing this rule, known informally as the “hobby loss” rule. A newly-released protest resolution has an example of a Schedule C business that may not have been conducted with adequate vigor:

The Business Activity Questionnaire you completed indicated that you spent 8-10 hours per year on the business. That is less than one hour per month. This hardly seems reasonable to have for a successful business. An average photoshoot can last longer than 1 hour including let up and tear down and then most photographers spend additional time editing or developing the photos.

What made the state suspicious? From the protest response (my emphasis)

There is no evidence that the taxpayer has ever been successful in this business. With the exception of 2014, there is no record indicating that you filed a sales tax return or a schedule C showing any receipts since your permit was issued. 

One of the most important parts of a real business is revenue. You could look it up. If you have none, it may be hard to convince the revenue agent you are serious.

You receive some income from other sources, and the losses you report from this activity does lower your income, in some years enough to make you exempt from tax. 

That can be a clincher. If you have “business losses” that never end, but they save you taxes on other income, that’s a likely sign that your real “business” is reducing your taxes.

Cite: Iowa Document Reference 15201018

 

20140815-2William Perez, People Unaware of Their American Citizenship are Being Fined for Not Filing US Tax Returns:

“[The] typical [client I’m] seeing now,” reveals Virginia LaTorre Jeker, a tax attorney in Dubai, is “someone who [was] either born in the US and left as young child, or who has [an] American parent from whom they have acquired citizenship.

The individual will always have another nationality, typically from a Middle Eastern country which they consider as their true home. Most times, these individuals will never have filed a US tax return since they were unaware they had any US tax obligations.”

If you think this sounds insane, you are right. No other country does anything like this.

Robert Wood, FBARs For Foreign Accounts Are Due June 30. Should You File For The First Time? “You don’t want to ignore a filing obligation now that you know about FBARs. But one should consider where you are going long term with your issues, how quickly you plan to act, and whether you have good and accurate information to file now.”

 

Kay Bell, U.K. pays a record amount for tax cheat tips

Jim Maule, How Does a Politician Fix a Tax Law The Politician Doesn’t Understand? Well, they’re obviously perfectly willing to enact tax laws they don’t understand in the first place. Yet for all the demonstrated incompetence of politicians, Prof. Maule wants to put more things under their control.

TaxGrrrl, Banks Quick To Turn Over ‘Abandoned’ Assets To Revenue-Hungry States:

Originally accounts were typically considered abandoned only if they went untouched for decades. But revenue-hungry states have been dramatically shortening that “dormancy” period to get their hands on this booty. 

Because the state politicians want the money don’t trust the private sector to take care of their customers, and they are looking out for you!

Peter Reilly, Campaigning For Bishopric Not A Valid Exempt Purpose – Kent Hovind Update. It’s not? I guess I can skip my mitre-measuring session.

 

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Robert D. Flach, FOUR REASONS TO REMOVE THE EITC FROM THE TAX CODE: “Probably the most important reason – Tax credits, especially refundable credits, are a magnet for tax fraud.” That’s exactly right.

Rachel Rubenstein, Reflections on the General State of Tax-related Identity Theft (Procedurally Taxing). “From 2004 to 2013, the NTA identified tax-related identity theft as one of the “‘Most Serious Problems” faced by taxpayers in nearly every annual report submitted to Congress here.”

David Brunori, The Revolt of the Corporations (Tax Analysts Blog). “The message is clear: Businesses have options and will move to sunnier tax climates.”

Howard Gleckman, The House GOP’s Internal Battle Over Online Sales Taxes (TaxVox).

Tony Nitti, Donald Trump Announces Bid For Presidency: What Is His Tax Plan? And who cares?

 

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Alan Cole, IGM Panel: Real Income Growth is Understated (Tax Policy Blog):

The IGM Forum, a University of Chicago project that surveys academic economists on issues, last month found that economists broadly agree that real median income numbers understate real growth in standards of living.

I think that has to be true. Don Boudreaux likes to compare items in old Sears catalogs with their modern counterparts to show how much better — and cheaper, in terms of hours of work needed to pay for them — the modern goods are:

The list is long of consumer goods that ordinary Americans today can easily afford but that were unavailable commercially to even the wealthiest Americans in the 1950s. This list includes digital cameras, lightweight waterproof sportswear, high-definition televisions, recorded Hollywood movies to play at home, MP3 players, personal computers, cellphones, soft contact lenses, and GPS devices.

We take for granted everyday things, like the internet, flight, automobiles, paved roads between cities, that the richest men of 200 years ago did without.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 769

News from the Profession. Counteroffers Rarely Work for Employees Jumping Ship (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/11/15: Remember the June 15 deadlines. And: The Bernie Sanders bait and switch.

Thursday, June 11th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

20140728-1Programming Note: No tax roundup tomorrow. See you Monday!

 

Things that are due Monday: 

– Second Quarter estimated tax payments.

– Returns for filers living abroad

The IRS reminds us Taxpayers with Foreign Assets May Have FBAR and FATCA Filing Requirements in June.

 

Kyle Pomerleau, How Scandinavian Countries Pay for Their Government Spending (Tax Policy Blog).  This post considers avowed Socialist and quixotic presidential candidate Bernie Sander’s affection for Scandinavian tax and spending policies:

Specifically, Sanders wants the United States to adopt a lot of the spending policies that many of the Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden) are commonly known to have. Policies such as government sponsored college education, paid parental leave, and universal healthcare.

Many of these new government programs would be expensive and necessitate higher taxes. It is instructive to look at how Scandinavian countries structure their tax systems in order to raise revenue for these programs. Interestingly, some of the ways that Scandinavian countries raise revenue may make Sanders, who is a proponent of highly progressive taxation, uncomfortable.

Two charts from the post tell the story:

High top rates…

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…that kick in at much lower income levels than here:

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In words, somebody making just a little more than the average income in Denmark pays a 60.4% rate on every additional dollar of income, while you have to make 8.5 times the average U.S. income to hit the top U.S. marginal rate of 39.6%.

A high top tax rate sounds great when it’s being paid by some rich guy you don’t know, but when you pay it, it doesn’t soound so good. That’s the bait and switch behind the spending policies of Bernie Sanders and his ideological soulmates. They tell you that somebody else will pay for all of this bountiful government spending, but the rich guy isn’t buying — he can’t.

 

Leona May, Accounting Firms Need More Career Options If They Want to Retain Talent (Going Concern):

With partner being the only laudable end goal, no wonder the big accounting firms have become essentially an accounting industry training ground. Firms pay to train us, and then we jump ship after a few years if that shinin’ disco light partner standard does not jibe with our long-term career aspirations.

The failure to retain good employees who don’t want equity is an expensive failure for our industry.

 

Robert D. Flach says SEE YOUR TAX PRO FIRST! “Very, very important – if you are considering entering into a business enterprise visit your tax professional and your accountant (if not the same person or firm) before you visit your attorney.”

Hank Stern, Centennial State HIX Hiccups (InsureBl0g). On the ugly state of Colorado’s ACA exchange.

Robert Wood, IRS Still Isn’t Ready For Obamacare, Says Watchdog

Carl Smith, Is The Tax Court an Agency or a Court for FOIA Purposes? (Procedurally Taxing)

Kay Bell, NYC attorney pleads guilty to amended tax return fraud. If the tax agency asks you why you haven’t filed your tax returns, filing fraudulent ones is an unwise response.

Jack Townsend, The Vatican Signs On To FATCA

Andrew Mitchel, U.S. Government Continues to Pursue Taxpayers Committing Tax Fraud

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 763. Today’s link puts the Tea Party scandal in its context as part of the larger movement to regulate (and, inevitably, restrict) free speech via campaign finance “reform.”

Renu Zaretsky, “The Waiting Is the Hardest [and Most Constant] Part”  Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the IRS funding standoff and the continuing Kansas budget fight, among other things.

Cara Griffith, Are REITs Paying Their Fair Share to States? (Tax Analysts Bl0g)

Carl Davis, Sales-Tax-Free Purchases on Amazon Are a Thing of the Past for Most (Tax Justice Blog). “Effective June 1, Amazon is now collecting sales taxes in fully half the states that are collectively home to over 247 million people, or 77 percent of the country’s population.”

 

This could catch on a lot better than that Irwin Schiff stuff. Austrian Brothel Offering Free Sex And Drinks In Tax Protest

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/9/15: A Cedar Rapids ID thief pleads guilty. And: Packing the patent box.

Tuesday, June 9th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

lizard20140826What are the chances of the government recovering any of the fraudulent refunds? WQAD reports on an Iowan who jumped on the ID theft refund fraud gravy train:

A 35-year-old Iowa woman was convicted after she used another person’s identity to file a phony tax return and then cash the $6,000 refund check issued by the IRS.

Gwendolyn Murray, of Cedar Rapids, was initially charged March 3, 2015, with 12 counts of filing false claims for tax refunds, seven counts of theft of government property and two counts of aggravated identity theft. She was accused of preparing fraudulent tax returns between 2008 and 2013, from which she received seven refund checks, according to court documents.

The total amount allegedly stolen is unavailable in public records, and the defendant pleaded guilty to only one count. Whatever the amount, the defendant’s need for a public defender doesn’t make recovery of the stolen funds seem likely.

 

Image by Theroadislong under Creative Commons license, via Wikipedia.

Image by Theroadislong under Creative Commons license, via Wikipedia.

Martin Sullivan, Patent Box: Good Intentions Gone Bad (Tax Analysts Blog):

Now several prominent members of Congress want to provide another tax break for research. At first glance, this seems like a very good idea since the usual objections to tax breaks don’t apply. And most regular people understand that the competitiveness of our nation — or in politics-speak, the availability of high-paying jobs — depends on technology.

The new tax break is called a patent box. (The “box” referred to here is the box checked on tax forms in Europe where this idea originated.) The general idea is that income from technology pays tax at a substantially lower rate than other income. So if under tax reform we could get the corporate rate down to 28 percent, patent box income would be taxed at a 14 percent rate.

The problem with this approach is that no one knows even a halfway good way of identifying “income from technology.”

It’s a ridiculous idea. In a real sense every bit of income is “income from technology.” The technology of animal husbandry and plant cultivation has been around for awhile, but it was a big step up from the Acheulean Hand Axe, which was cutting edge technology (literally) in its day.

The patent box is as arbitrary and nonsensical as the Section 199 deduction for “domestic production income.” Yet Section 199 became and remains part of the tax law, so being absurd won’t necessarily stop it.

 

Hank Stern, Obama Tax Breakage:

And second, why is it a given that “employer sponsored” health plans are the bee’s knees? As we’ve previously blogged, employers don’t tell us what groceries or house to buy: they pay us our wages and we’re free to make our own choices. Why should health insurance be any different?

The historical accidents that led to employer health as a tax-advantaged fringe benefit are reasonably well-known, but it’s a lot harder to answer why it should be that way.

 

buzz20141017It’s Tuesday, so it’s Buzz Day! At Robert D. Flach’s, you can rummage through the tax implications of garage sales and see just how much Robert likes “reality TV.”

TaxGrrrl, Hastert, Hovind & FIFA Matters Shed Light On Dangers Of Structuring

Russ Fox, Neymar Wins Championship but Faces Tax Evasion Investigation. Soccer just isn’t getting great press off the field the last week or so.

Robert Wood, Moving To Avoid California Taxes? Be Careful. “Don’t just get a post office box in Nevada. That doesn’t work and you will end up with bills for taxes, interest and penalties or worse.”

Keith Fogg, Update on Dischargeability of Late Filed Tax Returns. It can be hard to get bankruptcy discharge on tax debts if you don’t stay current with your filings.

Kay Bell, The tax costs of maintaining private coastal properties. “It’s time that we faced the reality that we can’t beat Mother Nature, at least not along the coastline. And we need to stop using our tax dollars to subsidize this destined-to-fail effort.”

William Perez, 4 Tips for the 1st Estimated Tax Payment of 2015. The second payment is due June 15.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 761. “Judicial Watch announced that Judge Emmet Sullivan of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted a Judicial Watch request to issue an order requiring the IRS to provide answers by June 12, 2015, on the status of the Lois Lerner emails the IRS had previously declared lost.”

 

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Joseph Thorndike, Carly Fiorina Answers the $59 M Question: Why Should Candidates Release Their Tax Returns? (Tax Analysts Blog). “For many, that disclosure will be unpleasant. But I suspect most candidates have learned a lesson from the Romney debacle: Tax disclosure can hurt, but nondisclosure can be deadly.”

Howard Gleckman, Obama-Era Tax Reform: RIP: “Many Democrats, who have embraced income inequality as their 2016 campaign theme, are likely to back more targeted middle-income tax breaks, not fewer. Their agenda will be tax deform, not tax reform.”

 

Cameron Williamson, Connecticut Legislature Sends Corporate Tax Hike to Governor. (Tax Policy Blog). This is a step backwards for Connecticut tax policy.

Jared Walczak, Nevada Approves New Tax on Business Gross Receipts (Tax Foundation). A big step backwards for Nevada tax policy. At least it’s paired with a giant step forwards in education policy.

 

Peter Reilly dives deep into the case of the creationist theme park operator and his seemingly miraculous impending release from prison: The Juror Who Freed Kent Hovind Steps Forward

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/5/15: Iowa adds deductions to 1041s. And: the dangers of unmonitored payroll services.

Friday, June 5th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1Federal 706 costs good for Iowa 1041. The Iowa General Assembly yesterday eased restrictions on administrative deductions for fiduciaries. Iowa uses federal taxable income, with modifications, as its tax bases. Both houses passed HF 661, which provides a modification to this tax base:

On the Iowa fiduciary income tax return, subtract the amount of administrative expenses that were not taken or allowed as a deduction in calculating net income for federal fiduciary income tax purposes.

If I understand this correctly, this means fiduciaries can now deduct on Iowa 1041s expenses that executors have opted to deduct on the federal estate tax return; executors get to choose to deduct estate administration costs on either the Federal 706 or the Federal 1041, but not both. This bill makes some sense, as there is no Iowa estate tax; any deductions taken on the federal Form 706 estate return would otherwise provide no Iowa benefit.

It also appears to allow the deduction of any “administrative” expenses that would otherwise be disallowed under the 2% of AGI floor. The explanation to the bill doesn’t add much, so we will have to see if this is how the Department of Revenue reads the bill.

The bill passed both houses unanimously, so it seems likely the Governor will sign it. It is to take effect for “tax years ending on or after July 1, 2015 — so it will apply to the current calendar year.

 

EFTPSPEO operator gets 12 years after looting client payroll taxes. A Kentucky man will go away for a long time for an ambitious list of crimes that include stealing payroll taxes from clients. Wilbur Huff ran a professional employer organization. Such organizations take over employer payroll tax functions for their clients. PEOs file and pay the payroll taxes under their own tax ID number. This differs from traditional payroll tax services, which remit taxes under client tax ID numbers and provide prepared returns for the clients to submit.

From a Department of Justice Press release (my emphasis):

From 2008 to 2010, HUFF controlled O2HR, a professional employer organization (“PEO”) located in Tampa, Florida.  Like other PEOs, O2HR was paid to manage the payroll, tax, and workers’ compensation insurance obligations of its client companies.  However, instead of paying $53 million in taxes that O2HR’s clients owed the IRS, and instead of paying $5 million to Providence Property and Casualty Insurance Company (“Providence P&C”) – an Oklahoma-based insurance company – for workers’ compensation coverage expenses for O2HR clients, HUFF stole the money that his client companies had paid O2HR for those purposes.  Among other things, HUFF diverted millions of dollars from O2HR to fund his investments in unrelated business ventures, and to pay his family members’ personal expenses.  The expenses included mortgages on HUFF’s homes, rent payments for his children’s apartments, staff and equipment for HUFF’s farm, designer clothing, jewelry, and luxury cars.

Taxpayers using traditional payroll tax services can make sure their payroll taxes are actually paid to the IRS by logging into EFTPS, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System. This doesn’t work for PEOs. That turned out very badly for Mr. Huff’s clients, who still have to pay the IRS the payroll taxes that went for the fancy cars and clothes.

 

buzz20140909Robert D. Flach has your Friday Buzz! It’s the place to go whether you Love Lucy or you love reading about tax administration.

Peter Reilly, Structuring Seems Like A Crime You Can Commit By Accident

 Imagine that you go to the bank every four days and deposit $12,000.  The bank will file currency transaction reports that let the Treasury Department know that.  That notion annoys you, so you start going every three days and deposit $9,000. No more currency transaction reports, but before long there will be suspicious activity reports.  If the reason you made the switch was to stop the currency transaction reports, you have committed the crime of structuring, even if there is nothing illegal about the source of the funds or the use of them and you are paying all your taxes.  

The crime of avoiding paperwork.

Kay Bell, Weather claims, estimated taxes and more June tax tasks

Jack Townsend, Two More Banks Obtain NPAs Under DOJ Swiss Bank Program

Robert Wood, Obama’s Immigration Action Means Tax Refunds For Illegals, Says IRS

TaxGrrrl, IRS, TIGTA Talk Tech, Identity Theft & Security At Congressional Hearing.

 

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Cara Griffith, Is the IRS Protecting Taxpayer Information or State Tax Authorities? (Tax Analysts Blog). “Although the IRS indicated it would make changes to improve the oversight of federal taxpayer information, it still seems information is shared between the IRS and state tax authorities as a matter of course and without a true determination (before information is shared) about whether a state tax authority has a secure system in place to protect the information received.”

Scott Drenkard, Why Do So Many Businesses Incorporate in Delaware? (Tax Policy Blog). “Delaware’s attractiveness for incorporation is driven by many things: favorable incorporation regulations, rules limiting corporate liability, and a second-to-none corporate court system (the Court of Chancery) with judges that are corporate law experts.”

Howard Gleckman, How Many Americans Get Government Assistance? All of Us. But some of us pay more than others for it.

Robert Goulder, Global Tax Harmonization and Other Impossible Things (Tax Analysts Blog)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 757 “The IRS responded to a Republican request for an investigation into the Clinton Foundation’s tax-exempt status with a one-page form letter that starts with ‘Dear Sir or Madam.'”

 

Career Corner. ICYMI: AICPA Will Squeeze Excel Into the CPA Exam This Decade (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).  In my day we had pencils — no calculators, no slide rules, no nothing. Spoiled kids won’t get off my lawn.

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/2/15: See what the thief filed to claim your refund. And: a crowded Irish address files 580 1040s!

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20111040logoIt seems only fair. In a policy change, the IRS will enable identity theft victims to see copies of fraudulent returns filed in their names, reports Tax Analysts ($link).

Tax-related identity theft victims will soon be able to obtain IRS copies of the fraudulent tax returns used to steal their identity, thanks in part to a push by Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H.

“Once we have a procedure in place, we will issue an announcement informing tax-related identity theft victims of the process for receiving a redacted copy of the fraudulent return,” IRS Commissioner John Koskinen said in a May 28 letter that acknowledged Ayotte as the impetus for the change in the tax agency’s identity theft policy.

The redactions will deal with other taxpayers included on the stolen return. I am guessing could include pretend spouses and dependents used by the ID thief.

This is good news for taxpayers, as it may help them resolve otherwise inexplicable problems with their IRS accounts. It also promises to help shed light on how the thefts occur and, perhaps, help practitioners suggest measures to fight the fraud. It’s also long overdue. It’s not as if thieves can reasonably expect confidentiality for their crimes.

 

20130316-1The luck of the IRisSh. The tax agency still seems to be way behind the ID thieves. This report from the Irish Times is hardly reassuring: 

An address in Kilkenny topped a table of addresses used for multiple potentially fraudulent tax return applications submitted to the Internal Revenue Service in 2012, a study by the US treasury has found.

The address in Kilkenny was used for 580 returns in 2012, which led to “refunds” totalling $218,974 being issued, according to the study by the treasury inspector general for tax administration in the United States.

The IRS likes to claim that budget constraints are behind its abject failure to control the identity theft refund fraud epidemic. The inability to flag hundreds of refunds claimed from the same offshore address — which would seem like an easy enough programming problem to solve — indicates the problems are deeper than lean budgets.

 An address in Kaunas, Lithuania, was used for 525 applications that prompted the payment of $156,274, while an address in Miami, Florida, came third on the list, with 417 applications leading to the payment of $221,806. 

Somehow this doesn’t tell me the IRS needs to expand its responsibilities — but Congress and the President clearly feel otherwise.

 

Will there finally be real steps to fight the problem? Tax Analysts also reports ($link) that the IRS, in cooperation with states and software vendors, will require additional information to process e-filings:

Central to the announcement is a greatly enhanced public-private effort to combat fraud through increased information sharing.

Another upshot is that industry and government will need to process returns differently starting with the 2016 filing season, said Alabama Department of Revenue Commissioner Julie Magee. On the front end, tax return preparation software providers will need to provide multifactor authentication steps when a taxpayer logs in or returns to a site, she said.

The changes also will require vendors to increase by a few dozen data points the amount of information collected from the taxpayer or the return and sent in a standardized format to the IRS and state revenue departments, Magee said.

The story says the details will be announced sometime this month to enable vendors to prepare for next season. We will cover the announcement when it is made.

 

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Robert D. Flach has a fresh Tuesday Buzz roundup, covering topics as diverse as extenders and “I Love Lucy.

William Perez, The Key Benefits of Health Savings Accounts. Tax deductible contributions, tax-free accumulation, and tax-free withdrawals for qualified medical expenses.

Robert Wood, IRS Says If You’re Willful, FBAR Penalties Hit 100%, $10,000 If You’re Not

Peter Reilly, Conservation Easements – Tax Court Lets Owner Sell Them Or Give Them But Not Both

Jason Dinesen, History of Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 9: After Poe v. Seaborn. “Finally in 1948, Congress acted. For the first time, filing statuses were created and we moved closer to the tax system we know today.”

Kay Bell, Ohio becomes 25th state in which Amazon collects sales tax

Me, How states try to tax the visiting employee. My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record Business Professionals Blog.

 

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Alan Cole, Oregon to Experiment with Mileage-Based Tax (Tax Policy Blog):

Oregon will become the first state to implement a per-mile tax on driving. The tax is voluntary – an alternative to the state’s fuel tax. Drivers will get the choice of paying one or another. Should they choose the mileage-based tax, they will be charged 1.5 cents per mile, but get a credit to offset the taxes they pay on gas.

States have difficulty increasing gas taxes. Energy-efficient cars and electric (coal powered!) vehicles also are affecting gas tax revenues. The post doesn’t expain how the state will measure mileage; privacy issues promise to be a big obstacle for mileage taxes, but if this can be overcome, expect more states to follow Oregon.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 754

Martin Sullivan, How Grover Norquist’s Pledge Can Hurt the Conservative Cause (Tax Analysts Blog). “First, the pledge’s hard and fast prohibition on tax hikes can prevent signers from agreeing to compromises that would result in outcomes most conservatives would consider highly favorable.”

 

Scott Sumner asks Why are interest expenses tax deductible? (Econlog).

The cost of equity (dividends, etc.) is not tax deductible, while interest is deductible. But why?

Good question. I respond with another — why aren’t dividends deductible? That would prevent double taxation of corporate income while making sure corporations can’t be used as incorporated investment portfolios.

 

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/29/15: A distracted IRS takes its eye off the ball. And more Friday goodness.

Friday, May 29th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
The income tax, the Ultimate Swiss Army Knife of public policy.  Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

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

The IRS Fails at Job One(Christopher Bergin, Tax Analysts Blog).

Over the years, as the fight for transparency continues, I’ve marveled that while the IRS was willing to waste hundreds of thousands of dollars to hide information the courts eventually would force it to turn over to the public, it never shirked from its responsibility to protect the truly private information it was entrusted with. I’ve always admired the IRS for its unflinching diligence in putting that job well ahead of its paranoia of public scrutiny regarding how it operates.

But now there’s a chink, and a big one, in that armor.

The IRS has too much to do. It has its hands full just with its primary job of assessing and collecting taxes, issuing refunds, and protecting taxpayer data. But Congress has chosen to use the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy. As a result, the IRS has become a sprawling superagency with a portolio that includes the nation’s health finance system, industrial policy, welfare for the poor, campaign finance… you name it. It should be no surprise that its real job suffers.

 

William Perez, Identity Theft Statistics from the Latest TIGTA Report. “I was curious, just how big is identity theft, and how much money is leaking out of the Treasury?”

Annette Nellen, IRS Data Breach Unfortunate in Many Ways – PIN? “Why not use of a PIN as is used to access bank data and use credit cards?”

Kay Bell, IRS security breach highlights need to rethink online privacy. “We’ve all to some degree shared details of our lives to broader audiences.”

Justin Gelfand. Most Recent IRS International Hacking Reveals Vulnerability ( Procedurally Taxing). “Perhaps more than anything else, this cyber-attack reveals that stolen identity tax refund fraud is not a problem the Government can prosecute its way out of.”

 

eic 2014Arnold Kling, The EITC in Practice. Mr. Kling quotes Timothy Taylor on some of the practical problems in administering this program, and then considers an alternative:

One of the advantages of a universal benefit is that you give the money to everyone. My idea is that you would then tax some of it back at a marginal rate of 20 or 25 percent. That is, for every dollar that someone earns in the market, they are lose 20 cents or 25 cents in universal benefits. Compared to a marginal tax rate of zero, 25 percent is more complex and has a disincentive. But it is much less complex and de-motivating than our current system of sharp cut-off points for benefits like food stamps and housing assistance. And having a non-zero tax rate allows you to have a higher basic benefit at lower overall budget cost.

In another post, he says:

I think that the incentive problems with the current system are so bad that I would like to see the next Administration take its best shot at something better. As you know, my preference is for a negative-income-tax type system, but with the added administrative issue of having the grants be in the form of flexible-benefit dollars that only can be used for food, housing, medical care, and education.

I like that idea much more than refundable credits, which are a fraud magnet.

 

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Adjunct Professors and Mileage Deductions

Robert D. Flach has some fresh Friday Buzz!

 

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Megan McArdle. Obamacare’s Intent? Just Read the Law. “Memory is so very terrible, and this law is so very complex. Anyone who tells you that they have a full and accurate memory of the evolution of the various moving parts is lying — at least to themselves.”

Hank Stern, A Quarter Trillion Here, A Quarter Trillion there…  “Obamacare is set to add more than a quarter-of-a-trillion—that’s trillion—dollars in extra insurance administrative costs to the U.S. health-care system”

 

Joseph Henchman, Major Tax Actions in Texas, Illinois, Nevada, and Louisiana (Tax Policy Blog). The Illinois legislature continues its rush to fiscal disaster. Nevada advances an unwise gross receipts tax. Louisiana advances a bill to kill its poorly conceived franchise tax.

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 5/28: Deals Made, Dreams Fade (Tax Justice Blog). State tax news from New York and Alabama, where a flat tax proposal has fizzled.

 

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Howard Gleckman, The Perpetual, Immortal, Eternal, Never-Ending Tax Extenders. “The magic number for today is 16. That is, remarkably, the number of times Congress has extended the allegedly temporary research and experimentation tax credit since it was first enacted in 1981.”

Jack Townsend, Former House Speaker Indicted for Stucturing and Lying to Federal Agents. It appears blackmail was involved. Robert Wood has more.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 750

 

Well, it’s not brain surgery. Accountants Lack Some Skills (Caleb NewquistGoing Concern).

 

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