Posts Tagged ‘Robert D Flach’

Tax Roundup, 10/2/14: The IRS helps fulfill a vow of poverty. And: ACA – good in theory?

Thursday, October 2nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

tack shelterWe should all face such poverty. A Mississippi orthopedic surgeon has been convicted of tax evasion through an unbelievably hokey dodge.  From a Department of Justice press release:

The evidence at trial showed that Dr. Jackson claimed he had taken a vow of poverty in 2003 with the “Church of Compassionate Service,” an entity located in Utah, claiming that he was therefore exempt from paying any income tax. The evidence proved that he made substantial income practicing medicine but had not filed a tax return or paid any income tax since 2003. It also showed that he used nominee accounts and other devices to conceal his income from the IRS through the “church,” but that in fact 90% of the income was returned to him.

The indictment said Dr. Jackson had taxable income of $823,000 in 2009, but failed to file a return.  He may have had a disturbing lack of faith in his faith-based tax planning, though, as he also was accused of hiding assets by using fake invoices to inflate expenses and by putting his vehicles in “Ministry Vehicle #1 Holdings Trust.”

While the failure of this scheme isn’t remarkable, it is remarkable that somebody smart enough to complete medical school and establish an evidently successful surgical practice would attempt such a ridiculous tax dodge.  After his likely prison term and the probable collection of back taxes and 75% civil fraud penalties, plus interest, the doctor may finally have a chance to fulfill his vow of poverty.

More from Robert Wood: Invent A Church, Skip Taxes, Enrage IRS, Go To Jail

 

train-wreckRobert D. Flach has published his monthly The Tax Professional newsletter for October.  Robert is always entertaining, always intelligent, even if I don’t think he’s always right.

His lead October item is “Obamacare – Good Concept but Bad Legislation:”

The basic concept of Obamacare is a good and valid one – attempting universal health insurance coverage for all Americans without having to resort to UK-like “socialized medicine”. 

He says this “good concept” was just badly executed:

However, for solely political reasons, the Democratic Party wanted a victory for President Obama early in his first term and rushed through poorly conceived legislation that turned out to be a total mess, instead of allowing for sufficient time to properly think through the correct and efficient application of the concept.

Nothing to disagree with in this sentence, but Robert misses the main point.  His flaw is his assumption that it is even possible for any Congress to enact well-conceived legislation to restructure 1/6 of the economy.  While I grant that this legislation is extraordinarily bad, there is no set of 535 humans born wise enough, and with enough information, to design a top-down system for 300 million people with 300 million different needs.  That’s why I can’t agree that this is a “good concept” to begin with.

It would have been far wiser to examine the barriers that the government itself has put in place to affordable health insurance. Obvious problems are the government-imposed restrictions on interstate sales of health insurance and the restriction of tax benefits for health coverage to employer plans. Remove the barriers to developing and marketing insurance, then leave it to consenting adults to decide whether to buy insurance, and to determine what policies they need and are willing to pay for. But because reforming these things would reduce govenment power, not expand it, these fixes don’t have much support among grasping politicians and bureaucrats.

Robert also gives an excellent example of a huge, whimsical inequity in how ACA works.  No doubt the upcoming tax season will teach practitioners everywhere what a “fess,” as Robert would say, we now have.

I will address some other topics in Robert’s October newsletter in future posts; he contains multitudes.

Update: Robert responds.

 

20140513-1Russ Fox, One Good Erasure Deserves Another:

Most of the time, I wouldn’t believe that the IRS would do this. As of 18 months ago, I wouldn’t believe that the IRS would lie to Congress, would target conservative applicants for nonprofit status, and that the hard drive of any computer (or other electronic device) touched by Lois Lerner would be magically erased.

It will take years, and a much better Commissioner, to repair the damage the IRS has done to its own reputation.

TaxGrrrl, Caroline Wozniacki Forgets Her Paycheck, Can’t Skip Out On Taxes. They don’t offer direct deposit for these things?

Roger McEowen, Counties Eligible for Extended Replacement Period for Livestock Sold Due to Drought  (ISU-CALT)

Peter Reilly, Seventh Circuit Allows Do-over On Tax Court Stipulations For Deceived Taxpayers. IRS doesn’t get to benefit from practitioner’s deceit.

Michael Desmond, Is There a Future Role for Circular 230 in the Internal Revenue Service’s Efforts to Improve Tax Compliance? (Tax Procedure Blog).  A good coverage of the flaws in Circular 230 as a regulation tool, but I can’t let this statement go:

The politics of that question extend beyond this posting, but they will have to be addressed if there is to be any comprehensive response, legislative or otherwise, to Loving and the largely unchallenged proposition that paid return preparers should be subject to broader oversight than current law appears to permit.

Don’t take that “largely unchallenged” thing for granted. I challenge it, as do many practitioners. I am unwilling to trust an organization that has shown such bad faith at the highest level to control the livelihood of those of us who have to deal with them.

 

Joseph Thorndike, Let’s Stop Talking About Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog) “Outside wonky policy circles, there is simply no appetite for the real work — and real pain — of genuine tax reform.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 511, Did the IRS leak the Koch Brothers’ returns to the White House? TIGTA ordered to disclose whether this is being investigated.

David Brunori, A Very Good Idea to Curb Incentive Abuse (Tax Analysts Blog). It’s a proposal to ban commissions for helping seek a tax credit. I think that’s inconsistent with the logic of corporate welfare — supposedly you want to spread this wonderful stuff like candy, if you think it works, and commission-collecting middlemen help.  It would be much better to eliminate their product, rather than going after their commissions for selling it.

Cara Griffith, Managing the Tax Consequences of Equity Compensation Awards (Tax Analysts Blog) “Although states have not historically been aggressive in going after nonresident individuals with equity-based compensation awards, that may change.”

Joshua D. McCaherty, Lyman Stone, A Year After $9 Billion Incentive, Boeing Employment in Washington to be Reduced (Tax Policy Blog).  Thanks, chumps!

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Tax Roundup, 9/30/14: IRS handling of uncollected taxes slammed. And: ISU TaxPlace goes live!

Tuesday, September 30th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Priorities.  While allowing billions of false refunds to go to two-bit grifters via ID-theft refund fraud, the IRS also manages to not correctly follow up on billions of unpaid assessed taxes, according to a new report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.  “Of a stratified sample of 250 cases reviewed, there was no evidence that employees completed all of the required research steps for 57 percent of the cases prior to their closing.”

How much money was potentially involved?  A chart from the report:

20140930-1

This is what happens when the tax law is treated as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy, rather than as a simple tax collection and enforcement mechanism. It doesn’t help when successive commissioners are more concerned with expanding the agency’s power and suppressing political opponents than with collecting revenue and properly issuing refunds.

The TaxProf has more.

 

20130114-1TaxPlace goes liveThe ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation has launched TaxPlace:

We are very excited to introduce TaxPlace, a 24-7 resource for tax professionals, especially those preparing farm tax returns. For a limited time, we are offering a yearly subscription for the low introductory price of $150. 

What does that include?

This one-year subscription to TaxPlace entitles you and your staff to one calendar year of unlimited access to all TaxPlace materials and services, including:

A searchable database of timely articles and seminar materials explaining basic, new, and complex tax issues, with a particular emphasis on issues impacting farmers, ranchers, and ag-businesses.

Unlimited replays of recorded seminars and webinars addressing timely and challenging farm and urban tax and estate and business planning concepts.

Access to “Ask a Question,” a personal connection with a professional knowledgeable in farm tax requirements. (“Ask a question” is not a gateway for legal advice and does not substitute for services from a legal or accounting professional.)

Tables, charts, explanations of procedures and forms, and contact information to simplify your interaction with the Internal Revenue Service or state tax departments.

Access to a weekly blog and to future archives of “the Scoop,” a bi-monthly live webinar addressing new tax laws and procedures as they develop and providing attendees with an opportunity to ask questions.

A bargain for $150.

 

TaxGrrrlHow To Get Away With Tax Fraud. No, she hasn’t gone over to the dark side. She is outlining some rookie mistakes made by a Ms. Jackson, who tried to cash a $94 million tax refund check she received. Revenue agents were waiting for her at the grocery store where she tried to cash the check:

Among the basic mistakes TaxGrrrl points out is this:

 Unless you are due a lot of refundable tax credits (more on that later), you’ll want to make sure that your math makes sense. I didn’t see Jackson’s tax return. And I’m not licensed in Georgia. But even I can figure from peeking at the Georgia Department of Revenue’s web site that the highest income tax rate for individuals is 6%. To have paid in $94 million of tax, the amount of her refund claim, you’d have to have earned about $1.56 billion in income – in one year (assuming no carry forward or carry back). That kind of money should have landed Jackson on the newly released Forbes’ 400 Richest Americans list. Spoiler alert: she’s not on the list.

And no, it doesn’t appear that she sandbagged a little too much on her estimated tax payments.  Another basic mistake: real tax thieves prefer direct deposit. But, as a man once said to police here in Des Moines, “You don’t spend your days chasing geniuses, do you?’

 

Peter Reilly, New York Springs Sales Tax Trap On Passive LLC Members. Apparently New York is holding LLC members personally liable for sales taxes owed by the LLC. If the Empire State wants businesses and investors to stay far away, this is a pretty good step. Oddly, S corporation owners don’t have this problem.

 

Fresh Buzz is available from Robert D. Flach, including links to stories on retiree taxation and Roberts side project, The Tax Professional.

Carl Smith discusses The Congressman James Traficant Memorial Code Section at Procedurally Taxing.  Well, if it’s like most code sections, it will outlast all of us.

 

J.D. Tuccille, Yet More IRS Employees Busted for Stealing Taxpayers’ Identities (Reason.com):

Have I mentioned that people signing for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act are supposed to update the government on any major life changes, including marriage status, employment, finances…? Oh wait, yes I have.

I wonder if that information will be better protected.

Remain calm, all is well.

 

20130111-1Andrew Lundeen, Kyle PomerleauEstonia has the Most Competitive Tax System in the OECD. (Tax Policy Blog). The posts tells of a fascinating feature of the Estonian tax law:

Additionally, Estonia only taxes distributed profits and at a 21 percent tax rate. This means that if a business in Estonia earns $100 and pays that $100 to its shareholders, the business would be required to pay a tax of $21 on the distributed profit. Instead, if that business decides to reinvest that $100, the business would not have to pay tax on that $100.

Compare that to the U.S., where the corporations pay tax on income when it is earned, and potentially another tax if earnings are not distributed.  Still another tax is paid when the earnings are distributed; in Estonia, there is no second tax.

If you were designing a tax system to actually make sense, it would look a lot more like the Estonian setup than the U.S. income tax.  You also wouldn’t have the inversion problem people fret about so.

Martin Sullivan, Can Congress Pass Tax Reform That Would Stop Inversions? (Tax Analysts Blog). “Right now the U.S. tax system favors foreign owned corporations over U.S. owned corporations.”

 

Donald Marron, The $300 billion question: How should we budget for federal lending? (TaxVox)

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 509

 

Liz Malm, Businesses Paid Nearly $671 Billion in State and Local Taxes Last Year (Tax Policy Blog)

 

Career Corner. Let’s Waste Some Chargeable Hours Comparing Chargeable Hour Goals (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/26/14: Fact-check Fail Edition. And: it’s Buzz day!

Friday, September 26th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


20121006-1During the continuing brutal assault on reason perpetrated by campaign ads in election season, it would be nice if the press would do competent work to identify misleading and stupid claims by candidates.

Alas.

Erin Jordan at Cedar Rapids’ TheGazette.com took a stab at it in her “fact check” of an ad by Pat Murphy, running in Iowa’s 1st congressional district:

“Blum cheated his workers out of overtime.”

“He moved his business to dodge Iowa taxes.”

“He laid off over 70 workers”

Source of Claim: Iowa Sen. Pat Murphy, a Dubuque Democrat running for U.S. House of Representatives

“Blum” is Rod Blum, a former executive at Eagle Point Software, and Mr. Murphy’s opponent.  This being a tax blog, let’s look at the tax claim discussion (my emphasis):

Claim 2: “Moved his business to dodge Iowa taxes”

Originally incorporated in Iowa in 1983, Eagle Point, under Blum’s leadership, reincorporated in Delaware in 1995, according to SEC filings. The company’s physical location and all employees remained in Dubuque.

Many U.S. companies — including more than half of those in the Fortune 500 — have their legal home in Delaware for beneficial tax laws and courts.

University of Iowa College of Law professor Andy Grewal, who specializes in tax law, said a company’s Delaware presence — even if it’s just a P.O. Box — may charge royalties on income gained in other states. Companies deduct those royalties from the income taxes they are required to pay in, say, Iowa, while Delaware doesn’t tax the royalties.

From the “conclusion”:

Under Blum, Eagle Point reincorporated in Delaware, generally viewed as having more business-friendly tax laws and courts. In these types of cases, the home state can lose out on corporate income taxes…

The claims in Murphy’s ad are mostly true.

20131029-3The “fact checker” has no basis for that statement, at least with the tax information in her story. The idea that companies incorporate in Delaware primarily for tax reasons is flat wrong. Delaware is preferred largely for its well-developed business-friendly corporate law.

While Delaware is tax-friendly, the royalty maneuver casually referred to in the story only works if an intellectual property corporation has been set up in Delaware to own the IP; the IP company collects the royalties in Delaware, and the operating company deducts the payments to lower its income in high-tax states.  There appears to have been no such entity. 

The 1999 10-K filing with financial statements for Eagle Point Software would detail related parties and subsidiaries included in the financial statements. Any Delaware IP subsidiary would be included in the consolidated financial information, because while investors like it when their companies reduce state taxes, they don’t like it if it means real cash leaves the company covered by the financial statements.

Eagle Point’s only subsidiary included in the financials is a Wisconsin Corporation, ECOM Associates. As Wisconsin is a high-tax state, nobody would set up an IP holding company there.

The only “related party transaction” shown in the statements is its lease for its facilities. There is no mention of any intellectual property lease.

And there almost certainly would have been no need for Eagle Point Software to go through the trouble.  Corporations apportion their income to Iowa based on the destination of the sale.  As a public company, we can assume over 90% of their sales were to non-Iowa customers.  That means almost all of its income would not be taxed in Iowa to begin with.  And that would have been just as true if the company were incorporated in Iowa, rather than Delaware.

So, apparently without looking at publicly available information on Eagle Point, and with only a general statement by a law-school prof claiming no direct knowledge of the transaction, the Gazette’s “fact checker” called the assertion that the company incorporated in Delaware to dodge Iowa taxes “mostly true.” In fact, there appears to be no royalty agreement to funnel income out of Iowa. And, as most of Eagle Point Software’s sales would have been to non-Iowa customers, there would be little state tax to reduce in the first place.

Conclusion: with respect to the tax claims evaluated by Thegazette.com, I rate their fact-checking effort worthless. I rate the claim by Pat Murphy that Eagle Point incorporated in Delaware to “dodge Iowa taxes” false.

 

buzz20140905It’s Friday, so it’s Buzz Day! Go see Robert D. Flach for the fresh Buzz, including (of course) his pungent thoughts on the Jersey Shore celebrity who is facing tax charges.

TaxGrrrl brings word of ‘Staggering’ Sanctions Slapped On Wyly Brothers In Offshore Case. $190 million, plus interest, will get anyone’s attention.

 

 

Christopher Bergin, The Hobgoblin of Little Minds (Tax Analysts Blog):

This week the Treasury Department got into the act, putting corporate America on notice that it will soon issue regulations that will take “targeted action to reduce the tax benefits of – and when possible, stop – corporate tax inversions.” Treasury said it “will continue to review a broad range of authorities for further anti-inversion measures as part of our continued work to close loopholes that allow some taxpayers to avoid paying their fair share.”

I think Treasury will end up regretting this announcement. First, two minor points: So-called loopholes are created by elected officials and include such things as the ability to deduct the interest you pay on the mortgage you got to buy that house you live in. And it’s up to Congress to decide on “fair shares.” The Treasury Department doesn’t get to make law, which is why when it comes to corporate inversions it will ultimately do little more than make a lot of noise and create an initial annoyance.

The point is to score some election season points; if it causes problems down the road, well, they’ll be somebody else’s.

 

Joshua McCaherty, California Triples Film Tax Credit. (Tax Policy Blog)  Because Hollywood needs taxpayer funding.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 505

 

Now he’s probably taken a big step towards fulfilling that vow. Mississippi surgeon found guilty of tax evasion after claiming “vow of poverty”

 

News from the Profession. Revealed: The tax accountant who runs brothel from Belfast terrace (Belfast Telegraph).  Think of the cross-selling opportunities! No word on whether that’s where he gets his extra help for busy season.

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/24/14: The $3,000+ price tag of Iowa’s special tax breaks. And: Tea Parties in the strangest places.

Wednesday, September 24th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120906-1Do special favors for special friends in the Iowa income tax cost Iowa families $3,000? A Buena Vista University professor seems to think so.  Paul Brennan reports that Jeremy Horpedahl, an economist at BV, has determined that removing all “tax privileges” in Nebraska would save the average Nebraska family that much, and that it might be more in Iowa:

Although he hasn’t yet done a thorough analysis Iowa’s tax codes, Horpedahl said eliminating tax privileges would result in at least as great as savings.

“Actually, it would probably be a little higher, because Iowa has more privileges built into its tax code,” Horpedahl said.

Sadly, Mr. Horpedahl said he studied Nebraska’s system because they are actually considering serious tax reform, unlike Iowa.  What does he mean by “privileges?”

“I define a tax privilege as a tax break or exemption that benefits a specific type of industry or an individual taking a certain type of action,” Horpedahl explained.

“The standard deduction on income tax isn’t a privilege, because that’s available to everyone. But a tax break that benefits just the construction industry is. For an individual, that certain goods or services they buy are exempt from sales tax is a privilege,” he said.

Mr. Horpedahl sounds a theme familiar to Tax Update readers:

Horpedahl pointed out that Iowa’s businesses would  also benefit from the elimination of tax privileges.

“Iowa has a very high corporate tax rate — 12 percent — so to be attractive to businesses, the state has to offer them a way of avoiding it,” Horpedahl said.

“But not every business can avoid it. So what we end up doing is rewarding lobbying. Those who are successful in lobbying for privileges get lower taxes. And that implicitly punishes those who don’t lobby, because they end up paying higher rates.”

Also:

“Politicians love to hand out these privileges,” Horpedahl said. “It allows them to say, ‘‘I’m doing something, I’m bringing businesses to the state, I’m creating jobs.’”

“They never mention that the tax rate has to be kept high to pay for all these privileges. And most people don’t realize that research has shown that these sweetheart deals very rarely pass the cost-benefit analysis test, so there’s very little push back.”

Precisely. They take your money to lure and subsidize your competitors, and then they tell you that it is good for you. There is a solution out there, waiting for a bold politician to run with it: The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

Related:

IF TRUTH IN ADVERTISING APPLIED TO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AGENCIES

Taking your wife’s purse to buy drinks for the girls

 

 

20140521-1More dangerous and inflammatory anti-tax rhetoric. A political group of Americans abroad surveyed its members and discovered that they think the FATCA crackdown on offshore financial activity is making life tough for innocent non-billionaire expats, reports Laura Saunders of the Wall Street Journal:

The survey… found that nearly one in six respondents had had a financial account closed by a bank or brokerage house. More than two-thirds of the checking accounts that were closed had a balance of less than $10,000. Nearly 60% of the closed investment accounts had a value of less than $50,000. Other people were unable to open accounts.

Respondents also reported Fatca-related difficulties with non-U.S. spouses and partners. More than one-fifth said they have separated or are considering separating financial accounts held jointly with their partner.

Added one person, “Fatca has caused enormous friction in my marriage. My non-U.S.spouse is refusing to let the U.S. government know about his salary/earnings/savings… and moving to separate bank accounts would leave me very vulnerable as I’m an unemployed, stay-at-home mother.”

Well, of course you’d expect this sort of anti-tax rhetoric from some Tea Party outfit. I wonder if Democrats Abroad, who ran the survey, will have its tax exemption questioned now. But if they expect Democrats in Congress to ease their plight, good luck.

 

William Perez, How Do You Report Alimony on Your Tax Return?

Peter Reilly, For Joint Filing Status You Have To File.  “You’re not supposed to do that if you are actually married though.”

TaxGrrrl, Back To School 2014: Internships. ” If there’s no income to report, that makes the income piece easy.”

Robert D. Flach, IRS ANNOUNCES NEW PER DIEM RATES FOR BUSINESS TRAVEL

Keith Fogg, Extracting Yourself from a Tax Court Case (Procedurally Taxing)

 

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 503,  The day 503 of the so-called “so-called scandal” includes a link to this from Jason Keisling and Emily Elkins: Lois Lerner Claims the IRS Did Nothing Wrong. The Data Say Otherwise, with this fine chart:

targetingstatschart

 


Alan Cole, Reducing Compliance Costs for Small Businesses (Tax Policy Blog):

A good principle in tax policy – as well as policy in general – is to let the little things go. This principle has taken form in a legal maxim, de minimis non curat lex, Latin for “the law does not concern itself with trifles.” Currently, any business expected to owe at least $1,000 in tax for the year must file quarterly. $1,000 is a trifling amount to the IRS, one that need not be split into installment payments.

The Peters bill would allow very new businesses, or businesses with less than $1 million in total revenues, to file their taxes only once yearly – an arrangement that seems more reasonable.

Good thinking.

 

Howard Gleckman, Treasury’s New Rules May Slow, But Won’t Stop Corporate Tax Inversions (TaxVox). “Now the dealmakers have the roadmap they need to keep their inversions Kosher. And with that guidance, it is likely that lawyers will attempt to restructure many transactions to satisfy the new rules.”

 

News from the Profession. Why Your Firm Needs a Bring Your Dog to Work Policy (Leona May, Going Concern).  Sounds like animal cruelty to me.

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/23/14: Lois Lerner interview goes over… not well. And: Inversion action!

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

man-wichLois Lerner’s interview with Politico published yesterday got some reaction. The Tax Prof has a great roundup in The IRS Scandal, Day 502, including these wonderful headlines:

American Thinker:  Politico Does Weepy Story About Poor Lois Lerner

PJ Media:  Politico Disguises A Slobbering Love Letter To Lois Lerner As An Interview

Breitbart:  News Site Seeks Mutually Beneficial Exclusive with Former IRS Exec (Must Love Dogs)

And my favorite:

Daily Caller:  Lois Lerner Compares Herself To Jeffrey Dahmer

So Tea Party-friendly web sites were not won over, apparently.  Some other reaction:

 

Instapundit:

LOIS LERNER TOOK THE FIFTH, but now she’s telling Politico that she did nothing wrong, and that she’s the real victim here. And note the prominent play Politico gives to alleged anti-semitic epithets, and to Lerner’s brownie-baking. So why the media-rehab operation — and that’s what this is — and why now?

But it’s nice to hear that even the Washington revolving-door apparat finds her “untouchable.” Perhaps that’s because nothing much in this story suggests that she didn’t target Tea Party groups for partisan political reasons.

 

David Hirsanyi, Sorry, Politico, But Lois Lerner Is Not A Victim:

 She has already admitted and apologized for the practice of targeting conservatives groups with terms like “Tea Party” or “patriots” in their titles. She claims that it was done in an effort to deal with the surge in applications for tax-exempt status asking for permission to participate in the political process. Yet, she didn’t aim at groups with the “climate change” or “fairness” in their names to mitigate this alleged crush of work she was facing.

Peter Suderman, Unapologetic Lois Lerner Insists She’s Done Nothing Wrong (Reason.com):

Lerner thinks she did nothing wrong, and she won’t apologize. “Regardless of whatever else happens, I know I did the best I could under the circumstances and am not sorry for anything I did,” she said in an interview with the paper.

That’s basically all she says about her role in the scandal. Lerner, who, after reading a statement, exercised her Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination when called to testify before Congress last year, doesn’t really add anything to her defense with the statements in her piece. She declares that she stands by her work—and that’s it.

And James Taranto reports “Politico landed an exclusive interview with Lois Lerner, the former IRS official at the center of the still-unresolved scandal, and to call it a whitewash would be an insult to lime.”

I think we can safely say of this PR stunt, so far, not so good.

Prior Tax Update coverage: Lerner speaks, sort of. And: a federal tax amnesty?

 

No Walnut STTreasury “does something” about inversions.  The moral panic over inversion transactions took its next logical step when the Treasury announced it would issue regulations out of nowhere to “crack down” on corporations trying to escape our awful U.S. corporation income tax. Notice 2014-52 has the technical details.

The Treasury has previously issued such notices, generally describing future regulations, when it is in a hurry to stop some kind of transaction and doesn’t want to wait for the usual regulation comment period to “do something.”

The Wall Street Journal explains the rules in general terms:

The Treasury rules will make it harder for companies that invert to use cash accumulating abroad—a big draw in recent deals. In addition, the government has made it more difficult to complete these overseas mergers.

The tax changes took effect immediately, officials said, and applied to all deals that hadn’t closed by Monday.

The article addresses how the deal might affect pending deals: (I removed the WSJ’s obligatory stock price info):

The new guidelines could impact a number of pending mergers and acquisitions, including Medtronic Inc. s proposed acquisition of Irish medical-device maker Covidien PLC; Salix Pharmaceuticals Ltd.’s acquisition of a division of Italy’s Cosmo Pharmaceuticals SpA; and Mylan Inc.’s  pending deal for Abbott Laboratories overseas generics business. It could also interfere with the merger of fruit grower Chiquita Brands International Inc. and Fyffes PLC.

Less clear is how it would impact Burger King Worldwide Inc. BKW -0.48% ‘s proposed acquisition of Canadian coffee-and-doughnut chain Tim Hortons Inc., THI.T +1.92% a deal that was designed to move the new corporate headquarters to Canada. 

That deal is structured somewhat differently, and experts disagree whether it would be affected by the new government rules. Most agree the rule changes aren’t likely to end inversions altogether.

Of course it won’t. As long as the U.S. has an uncompetitive business tax climate — better only than France and Portugal in the developed world — corporations will be forced to seek self-help, like inversion deals.

Tax Analysts has a story about how the last round of inversion rules created dangers for corporations who aren’t even inverting ($link): “The existing anti-inversion rules under section 7874 create several traps for foreign companies and individuals that could cause transactions to be treated as inversions when no inversion has taken place.”

Unintended consequences result, traps are created for the unwary, and the awful U.S. corporation income tax gets a little worse. Well done, Jack Lew!

The TaxProf has a roundup.  Howard Gleckman asks Does Treasury Have the Legal Authority To Curb Tax Inversions? (TaxVox): “This issue is the subject of heated debate among tax lawyers.”

 

 

buzz20140923Robert D. Flach brings the Tuesday Buzz, including links to posts covering ground from tax holidays to How Does a Sole Proprietor Get Paid?

TaxGrrrl, Back To School 2014: Moving Expenses

Tony Nitti, Tax Court: Anxiety, Depression Are Not Physical Injuries

Russ Fox, They Both Begin With “E”. Embezzlement, evasion. Add another: eventually detected.

Kay Bell, Identity theft tax refund fraud is increasing, but ways to prevent the crime are not likely to be popular

Jason Dinesen, Entrepreneurial Maturity. “In other words, a business owner who has entrepreneurial maturity knows what they don’t know.”

Annette Nellen, Points from your bank. On the “frequent flyer miles” Tax Court case.

Steven Olsen, Summary Opinions for 9/12/14 (Procedurally Taxing). Rounding up recent developments in tax procedure.

Jack Townsend has some Comments on the Warner Sentencing Oral Argument: “The panel was also concerned that, if Warner’s conduct were so bad, why did the Government argue at sentencing for only a sentence of 1 year and 1 day when the Guidelines range was significantly higher.”

 

20140923-1Alan Cole, The U.S. Tax Code is its Worst Competitive Weakness (Tax Policy Blog). “Simply put, while assessments of the U.S. tax code – both at Tax Foundation and elsewhere – are bleak, there is much to be optimistic about in America.”

Martin Sullivan, Should We Give Up On Reagan Style Tax Reform? (Tax Analysts Blog) “The landmark 1986 Tax Reform Act is an inspiration to all would-be tax reformers. But reforms following that basic framework have gotten nowhere in Congress.”

Steve Warnhoff, The Estate Tax Is Not Doing Enough to Mitigate Inequality: State-by-State Figures (Tax Justice Blog). It’s not working, so lets do it more, harder!

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Tax Roundup, 9/22/14: Lerner speaks, sort of. And: a federal tax amnesty?

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner gives an interview. The former IRS officer at the center of the Tea Party disclosure scandal won’t testify under oath, but she sat down for a two-hour interview with Politico: Exclusive: Lois Lerner Breaks Silence:

And she’s a savvy lawyer: She studiously avoided answering fundamental questions about her role in the IRS scandal that could land her in deeper trouble with Congress. During her POLITICO interview, flanked by her husband, a partner at a national law firm, and two of her personal attorneys, she opened up about her life as a pariah, joked about horrible news photos and advice that she disguise herself with a blond wig, and cried when expressing gratitude for her legal team’s friendship.

It is, of course, a public-relations play, designed to make her look like a misunderstood victim of a partisan witch hunt. But it isn’t an especially impressive effort. From the Politico piece:

Several Lerner allies said she was so focused on enforcement that she failed to see the sensitivity of bringing cases against incumbents running for reelection.

But Republicans continue to point to emails in which Lerner inquired about Crossroads specifically, asking her colleagues why the group hadn’t been audited and suggesting the group’s application should be denied. And just weeks before the tea party news broke, after she had seen a draft of the damning inspector general report, she asked colleagues if internal IRS instant messages are tracked and could be requested by Congress.

A little history sheds some light on her “non-partisan” background:

– Before she worked at the IRS, she worked at the Federal Elections Commission, she attempted to get an Illinois GOP senate candidate to withdraw from public life as the price for ending an FEC investigation. The allegations were later dismissed.

– The IRS Commissioner, Doug Shulman, repeatedly denied there was any targeting before the report. Either he knew better, or as a subordinate, she didn’t pass the word up the chain.

– She was in the middle of the Tea Party efforts at an early date. When the Treasury Inspector General Report was about to open the scandal, she did a modified limited hangout, using a planted question to spin the story as just a Cincinnati rogue agent problem.

– She had a hang-up about the Citizens United decision, and her emails show that she was trying to use the tax law to accomplish what the Supreme Court had forbidden.

– The numbers are glaring, showing that conservative groups got much more scrutiny, and it took much longer for their applications to be approved than liberal groups:

targetingstats

Ms. Lerner has, of course, invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying before Congress about her role in the scandal.

Presumably this interview is the start of a P.R. campaign. I don’t think it will work, but it might get her some good press from outlets inclined to dismiss the scandal.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 500. It features Stonewall Koskinen: The IRS Commissioner Was Supposed to Clean Up the Mess. Instead, He’s Running Interference from Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal:

 The only thing Mr. Koskinen has seemed remotely interested in turning around is his agency’s ugly story-line. He has yet to even accept his agency did anything wrong, spending a March hearing arguing that the IRS didn’t engage in “targeting” and claiming the Treasury inspector general agreed. This was so misleading the Washington Post gave Mr. Koskinen “three Pinocchios, ” noting the IG had testified to the exact opposite.

He seems intent on de-throning Doug Shulman as the Worst Commissioner Ever.

 

 

get-outRobert D. Flach asks WHAT ABOUT A FEDERAL TAX AMNESTY?

This would be a one-time only offer. The legislation creating the Federal Tax Amnesty Program could so state by forbidding any future Amnesty programs. Or it could state that the federal government would not be able to institute another Amnesty Program during the twenty years after the end of the current amnesty period.

I have my doubts. One Congress can’t bind another, and if it is popular, the pressure for another amnesty will start building as soon as the first one ends. I also worry about the chump effect – people will feel like chumps for complying, and will convince themselves that if they don’t comply, there will be another amnesty anyway. But I might be convinced otherwise, especially if it were combined with tax reforms that would help prevent the need for another one.

 

Russ Fox, “I’ve tried to tell you the truth every time I’ve been here”. “That quote is from IRS Commissioner John Koskinen during his testimony from earlier this week on Capitol Hill. I have a simple question for Commissioner Koskinen: Why doesn’t that quote read, ‘I’ve told you the truth every time I’ve been here?'”

TaxGrrrl, Back To School 2014: Childcare Expenses

Jack Townsend, Trial Management of the Cheek Good Faith Defense.  Or as an old lawyer I know calls it, the “good-faith fraud defense.”

Kay Bell, Getting old sucks. We can’t stop Father Time, but we can prepare physically, emotionally and financially. And it still beats the alternative.

 

David Brunori talks about Nevada’s Tesla giveaway in State Tax Notes ($link):

Nevada is giving $1.3 billion to a company that is essentially owned by a guy worth $12 billion. I don’t begrudge Elon Musk his money. On the contrary, I admire his ability to create and accumulate great wealth. I just don’t see the need to give him public money. Assuming you ascribe to the belief that horizontal equity requires that similarly situated taxpayers bear similar burdens, Nevada is giving away public money…

I know that the politics of incentives are impossible to overcome. And I have had numerous readers tell me to give my constant ranting a rest. But the political inevitability of tax incentives does not make them appropriate or good.

Tax credit corporate welfare doesn’t just hurt the states that “lose” the competition to bribe companies like Tesla. It hurts all of the businesses of the “winning” state that have to pay full-freight while brazen and well-connected companies like Tesla pay nothing.

 

20140922-1William Gale, Income Tax Changes and Economic Growth (TaxVox) “While there is no doubt that tax policy influences economic choices, it is by no means obvious on an ex ante basis that tax rate cuts will ultimately lead to a larger economy.”

Joshua McCaherty,  Senator Schumer’s Retroactive Tax Bill (Tax Policy Blog). Part of the inversion diversion.

Ajay Gupta, Renouncing the Dogma of Surrey’s Infallibility (Tax Analysts Blog). Sounds like something involving the Pope and Henry VIII, but it’s really about transfer pricing.

A new Cavalcade of Risk is up at Workers Comp Resource Center, with posts from around the insurance and risk-management world.

 

News from the Profession. 15 Reasons Why EY’s BuzzFeed Post Is a Bunch of Malarkey (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/19/14: Brutal Assault on Reason Season Edition. Arrggh!

Friday, September 19th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20121006-1Brutal Assault on Reason Season is underway. Elections depress me. Arnold Kling sums up my feelings:

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.

Very few of us are in a position to have more than intuitions on the great issues of the day. Rarely are voters health-care economists, trade experts, military or foreign policy specialists, etc., and most of us have little basis to tell when the politicians are lying about these issues (though that is a good default assumption). Doing taxes for a living, though, I feel competent to identify bogus tax claims by politicians. William McBride does so in a Tax Policy Blog Post,  U.S. Corporate Tax Revenue is Low Because High Taxes Have Shrunk the Corporate Sector.

He quotes the U.S. Senate’s only unabashed socialist, Bernie Sanders:

“Want to better understand why we have a federal deficit? In 1952, the corporate income tax accounted for 33 percent of all federal tax revenue. Today, despite record-breaking profits, corporate taxes bring in less than 9 percent. It’s time for real tax reform.”

There is a truly brutal assault on reason, and Mr. McBride fights back:

The share of U.S. business profits attributable to pass-through businesses has grown dramatically as well, as they now represent more than 60 percent of all U.S. business profits. The second chart below shows that C corporation profits, while extremely volatile, have generally trended downward in recent decades, while the profits of S corporations and partnerships have trended upwards. In the 1960s and 1970s, C corporation profits were about 8 percent of GDP, while partnership profits were about 1 percent and S corporation profits were virtually nil. Now C corporation profits hover around 4 percent of GDP (4.7 percent in 2011), while partnership profits are almost at the same level (3.7 percent in 2011) and S corporation profits are not far behind (2.4 percent in 2011). Partnership and S corporation profits are growing such that they will each exceed C corporation profits in the near future if not already. When commentators claim that “corporate profits are at an all-time high”, they are referring to Bureau of Economic Analysis data that combines C corporations and pass-through businesses, whether they know it or not.

In sum, the Senator’s statement is flat out false. It is completely misleading to claim that corporate profits are up while corporate tax revenues are down, essentially implying there is some mischief going on via “loopholes”, etc. The truth is corporate tax revenue has been falling for decades because the corporate sector has been shrinking, and not just by corporate inversions. The most likely culprit is our extremely uncompetitive corporate tax regime.

In other words, high rates are driving businesses out of the corporate form and to pass-throughs of one sort or another.

20140919-1

As we head into election season, expect the brutal assaults to continue. Here are a few phrases commonly seen in assaults on reason when taxes are involved, enabling you to spot them even if you don’t know a 1040 from a hole in the ground:

“Politician X voted for tax breaks to ship jobs overseas.”

“This tax cut will pay for itself.”

“I believe in free markets, but tax credit X is needed to level the playing field.”

“I don’t want to punish success; I want X to pay his fair share.”

“This tax credit created X jobs”

I know I’m missing many. If you point out more in the comments, I’ll be happy to talk about them.

 

It’s Talk Like a Pirate Day, so Kay Bell comes through with Avast, me hearties! The IRS wants its cut of your illegal income, be it pirated or otherwise criminally obtained.

 

Peter Reilly, Professional C Corp Denied Deduction For Uncashed Salary Check To Owner.  He covers a story I covered earlier this week where a professional corporation deducted a year-end bonus “paid” through an NSF check that was “loaned” back to the corporation.  His take: “I’m not sure that the Tax Court was right to deny any of  deduction, but I really question whether the whole deduction should be denied.”

 

TaxGrrrl, Back To School 2014: Deducting Student Loan Interest (Even If You Don’t Pay It)

20140826-1Robert D. Flach has fresh Friday Buzz, including links on the cost of tax compliance and “7 deadly tax sins.”

William Perez, When are State Refunds Taxed on Your Federal Return?

Jason Dinesen, IRS Says Online Sorority Is Not Tax Exempt. Social media apparently isn’t social enough for them.

Jim Maule, An Epidemic of Tax Ignorance. He covers one of my pet peeves — people who use the term “the IRS code” for the Internal Revenue Code. It’s Congress that came up with that thing, not the IRS.

Russ Fox, Hyatt Decision a Win for FTB as Far as Damages, but Decision Upheld that FTB Committed Fraud. FTB is the California Franchise Tax Board. Tax authorities should get in trouble for fraud to the same extent they hold taxpayers responsible for fraud.

 

A. Levar Taylor, What Constitutes An Attempt To Evade Or Defeat Taxes For Purposes Of Section 523(a)(1)(C) Of The Bankruptcy Code: The Ninth Circuit Parts Company With Other Circuits (Part 1) and (Part 2).

 

20140801-2Joseph Thorndike, Should We Tax Away Huge Fortunes? (Tax Analysts Blog). “In other words, if you like the estate tax, talk more about revenue and less about dynasties.”

Richard Philips, House GOP Bill Combines Worst Tax Break Ideas of 2014 for Half-a-Trillion Dollar Giveaway. (Tax Justice Blog). When they know that the Senate will ignore whatever they do, it’s easy to accommodate anyone lobbying for a tax break.

Renu Zaretsky, Will Tax Reform See Light at the End of the Next Tunnel? This TaxVox headline roundup covers Tax Reform, Treasury’s plans on inversions, and the continuing resolution passed before the congresscritters left D.C. to assault reason some more.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 498

Me, IRS issues Applicable Federal Rates (AFR) for October 2014

News from the Profession. Grant Thornton Has a Fight Song and It’s As Awful As You Might Expect (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern).

 

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

Tuesday, September 9th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 488

 

AndersenlogoFrancine McKenna, Arthur Ashes:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

Peter Reilly, Joan Rivers Made Tax History

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

Friday, September 5th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

You gotta like her sources.

 

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

Russ Fox, $1.25 Billion Attracts Tesla to Nevada

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 484

 

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

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

 

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

Thursday, September 4th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Jack Townsend, Proof Beyond a Reasonable Doubt – Ramblings

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 483

 

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

 

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

Wednesday, September 3rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

 

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

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

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

Google: $55 billion.

Apple: $171 billion.

Microsoft: $23 billion.

BP: $379 billion

State of California: $112 billion

United States Government revenue: $2,770 billion.

United States Government spending: $3,450 billion.

 

In handy graph form:

20140902-1

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

Congress would be a good place to look.

 

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

 

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

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

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

Imagine that.

 

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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 482

 

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

 

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

Tuesday, August 26th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

But wait, there’s more:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Flickr Image courtesy Llima under Creative Commons license

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks to an alert reader for the tip.

Related: IF TRUTH IN ADVERTISING APPLIED TO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AGENCIES

 

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

 

Does that make this a tax shelter?

Does that make this a tax shelter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 473

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

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

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

That argument has more than a whiff of reparations.

Frack away.

 

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

William McBride, More Jobs versus More Children:

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

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

Not every problem can be solved with a tax credit.

 

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

 

Donald Boudreax is not a happy taxpayer:

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

Tuesday, August 19th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
The income tax, the Ultimate Swiss Army Knife of public policy.  Flickr Image courtesy redjar under Creative Commons license.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

20140819-1

 

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

 

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

 

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

Peter Reilly, The OID Fraud And Criminal Gullibility:

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

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

 

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

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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 467

 

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

 

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

Monday, August 18th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

20140816-1

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Jack Townsend, Tidbits on the New Streamlined Procedures

Annette Nellen, Better identity theft efforts – S. 2736

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Friday, August 15th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120920-3

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Or, in handy graphical form:

20140815-1

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

Russ Fox, Lawsuits Against FATCA in Canada

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

 

Arnold Kling points out this from the Wall Street Journal:

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

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

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

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

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

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 463

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

 

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

Tuesday, August 12th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Paul Neiffer, How Does Section 179 Work?

Robert D. Flach has your fresh Tuesday Buzz!

 

20120510-1TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 460

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

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

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

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

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

Imagine that.

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

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

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

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

 

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

Monday, August 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

2140731-3TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 459

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

Friday, August 8th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cite: Jackson, T.C. Memo 2014-160

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

20140808-1

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

Tuesday, August 5th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Yes, that Rev. Jackson.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

The post quotes Mr. Alter’s argument:

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

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

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

Mr. Tucille observes:

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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