Posts Tagged ‘Robert D Flach’

Tax Roundup, 5/14/14: Earned income credits, still busted. And: extenders advance.

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
The EITC as a poverty trap: phaseouts of the benefit impose stiff marginal tax rates on the working poor.

The EITC as a poverty trap: phaseouts of the benefit impose stiff marginal tax rates on the working poor.

Nope.  Still busted.  From WashingtonExaminer.com comes an update on what some call America’s most successful anti-poverty program:

The Treasury Department has released its latest report  on the fight against widespread fraud in the Earned Income Tax Credit program. The problem is, fraud is still winning. And there’s not even much of a fight.

“The Internal Revenue Service continues to make little progress in reducing improper payments of Earned Income Tax Credits,” a press release from Treasury’s inspector general for Tax Administration says. “The IRS estimates that 22 to 26 percent of EITC payments were issued improperly in Fiscal Year 2013. The dollar value of these improper payments was estimated to be between $13.3 billion and $15.6 billion.”

Wait.  Didn’t the President sign a bill in 2010 to fix all this?

The new report found that the IRS is simply ignoring the requirements of a law called the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act, signed by President Obama in 2010, which requires the IRS to set fraud-control targets and keep improper payments below ten percent of all Earned Income Tax Credit payouts.

Whatever the EITC does to help the working poor, it is a boon to the Grifter-American community.  Fraudulent EITC claims are a staple of ID theft fraud and low-tech tax cheating in general.

It’s worth noting that the high rate of improper EITC payouts has not gone down in spite of the ever-increasing IRS requirements for preparers who issue returns claiming the credits.  This should give pause to folks who think IRS preparer regulations will stop fraud, though it won’t.

It’s also notable that Iowa recently increased its piggyback EITC to 15% of the federal credit — increasing the annual cost of the credit by an estimated $35 million.  Assuming Iowans are just as honest as other Americans, that means about $8 million of additional stimulus to the Iowa grifter economy.

Finally, the phase-out of the EITC functions as a hidden high marginal tax rate on the program’s intended beneficiaries, the working poor.  The effective marginal rate in Iowa exceeds 50% at some income levels.  Combined with other income-based phase-outs, the EITC becomes a poverty trap.

 

Related: Arnold Kling,  SNEP and the EITC. “My priors, which I think are supported by the research cited by Salam, is that trying to use a program like the EITC for social engineering is a mug’s game.”

 

 

Extenders advance in Senate.  Tax Analysts reports ($link)

Legislation that would extend for two years nearly all the tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013 cleared a procedural hurdle in the Senate May 13.

Senators voted 96 to 3 to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to H.R. 3474, a bill to exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate employees with healthcare coverage through the Veterans Benefits Administration or through the military healthcare program TRICARE.

The bill is the legislative vehicle for the tax extenders. It will be amended to include the text of the Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act of 2014 (S. 2260) and likely that of the Tax Technical Corrections Act of 2014 (S. 2261), both of which the Senate Finance Committee passed April 3 via voice vote.

The bill that passes will probably look much like the Senate bill.  The House has advanced bills to make some of the perpetually-expiring provisions permanent, but the President, pretending that they won’t get passed every year anyway, says permanent extension is fiscally irresponsible.

Among the provisions to be extended yet again, mostly through 2015, are the research credit, new markets credits, wind and biofuel credits, bonus depreciation, and increased Sec. 179 deductions.  The five-year built-in gain tax recognition period is also extended through 2015.

Related: TaxGrrrl, Senate Moves Forward To Extend Tax Breaks For 2014

 

20120906-1O. Kay HendersonKnoxville Raceway ceremony for state tax break of up to $2 million:

Governor Terry Branstad went to Knoxville today to sign a bill into law that gives the Knoxville Raceway a state tax break to help finance improvements at the track.

“This is a great facility,” Branstad told Radio Iowa during a telephone interview right after the event. “Last year, in 2013, they attracted 211,000 visitors, so it’s a big tourism attraction and it’s a good investment and it’s great for the state to partner with the community for a project of this magnitude.”

Here’s how that partnership works: the racetrack will charge sales tax to its customers, and keep the money.  Only two other businesses are special enough to get this sweet deal.  Tough luck for the rest of us who don’t have the good connections and lobbyists.

 

Walnut st flowersJana Luttenegger, Updated E-Filing Requirements for Tax Preparers (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  “The handbook is not exactly clear.

Jason Dinesen, Things Tax Preparers Say: S-Corporation Compensation.  “But too many business owners — and their accountants — treat S-corps like a magic wand that can just make taxes disappear completely.”

Kay Bell, IRS fight to regulate tax preparers officially over…for now

Peter Reilly, Can Somebody Explain Tax Shelters To Thomas Piketty?  In the unlikely event that the Piketty recommendations are ever enacted, Peter notes that “there will be a renaissance of shelter activity.”  Peter provides a “Cliff Notes” summary of this year’s big forgettable book I’ll never read, which I appreciate.  Also: Peter uses the tax-law-as-Swiss Army Knife analogy that I am so fond of.

Robert D. Flach, STILL MORE CLIENTS SCREWED BY THE TAX CODE.  “The list of taxpayers screwed by our current Tax Code is not a short one.  Today I add taxpayers with gambling winnings.”

 

20130110-2Howard Gleckman, How “Dead Men” Fiscal Policy Is Paralyzing Government (TaxVox).  He reviews a new book, Dead Men Ruling, by Gene Steurle:

“We are left with a budget for a declining nation,” Gene writes, “that invests ever-less in our future…and a broken government that presides over archaic, inefficient, and inequitable spending and tax programs.”

All this has happened due to a confluence of two unhappy trends: The first is what the late conservative writer Jude Wanniski memorably described almost four decades ago as the “Two-Santa Theory.”

The Santas are the two parties, each of whom pick our pockets to fill our stockings.

 

Alan Cole, The Simple Case for Tax Neutrality (Tax Policy Blog).  “When states give preferential rates of sales tax to certain goods, the most visible result is the legal bonanza that follows from trying to re-categorize goods into the preferred groupings. ”

David Brunori, Repealing the Property Tax Is an Asinine Idea (Tax Analysts Blog). “Public finance experts are almost unanimous in their belief that the property tax is the ideal way to fund local government services… Most importantly, the property tax ensures local political control.”

William McBride, What is Investment and How Do We Get More of It? (Tax Policy Blog).  “Full expensing for all investment, according to our analysis, would increase the capital stock by 16 percent and grow GDP by more than 5 percent.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 370

News from the Profession.  AICPA Tackling the Important Issue of Male CPAs Wanting It All (Going Concern). 

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/12/14: There is no Tax Fairy in Des Moines. And: the Brewster’s Millions prophecy.

Monday, May 12th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


tax fairy
Principal’s $291 million loss struck down in Claims Court.  
Des Moines’ largest employer had a bad day at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims Friday when the court ruled against a $291 million loss taken on tax returns in 2000 and 2001.  That was a time when many big companies took up the search for the Tax Fairy, the mythical sprite who can make millions in taxes go away with incantations and fancy wandwork.

The Principal deductions were from a “strip” transaction, where Principal Life Insurance Company purchased money-market funds, and then split them between the right to income and the, er, principal.   The company retained the right to earnings for 16 to 18 years (there were multiple transactions), and sold the remaining value of the securities.  It allocated all of its basis in split securities to the part it sold, generating the losses.

The IRS had a number of objections to the deduction, may of which can be found in a memo discussing similar transactions — perhaps these transactions.  The Claims Court judge honed in on one: Treasury Regulations that seem to require basis to be allocated between the components of stripped securities (Reg. Sec. 1.61-6(a)):

[w]hen a part of a larger property is sold, the cost or other basis of the entire property shall be equitably apportioned among the several parts, and the gain realized or loss sustained on the part of the entire property sold is the difference between the selling price and the cost or other basis allocated to such part.

The judge didn’t care for Principal’s arguments that it properly allocated all basis to the sold piece of the securities (my emphasis):

VLUU L310 W  / Samsung L310 W It asserts, in effect, that the regulation has a tacit exception, that is, it does not address situations in which an income interest is carved out from a financial instrument. In that situation, PLIC  claims, the proper tax treatment is governed not by the Treasury Regulations, but by “80 years of common law, which Congress and the Treasury have knowingly left in place.” PLIC cites, as evidence of this, a line of authority that it claims demonstrates not only the existence of carve-out interests, but also the fact that the normal basis allocation rules do not apply to them. It contends that this lineament well-illustrates that the basis allocation performed by PLIC here — in which all of its cost in acquiring the Perpetuals was allocated to the residual equity interest — was quite appropriate. But, as will be seen, PLIC’s invocation of these cases — and the supposed “common law” rules they embody — turns out to be something of a clupeidae roseus (or perhaps a school of them). 

Clupeidae roseus must be what judges call “red herrings” when they talk to each other.  In this case, the judge found the PFG arguments wanting and ruled for the IRS.  It deferred its decision on whether penalties would apply pending further proceedings.

While this transaction looks like something that might have been marketed to Principal by a big law or accounting firm, the opinion doesn’t say so.   The case also involved income items where IRS challenged Principal’s exclusion of $21 million from other stripped securities — a part of the case the company also lost.

The moral?  I think the judge put it well: “Only in a parallel universe, where the ‘too good to be true’ rule of taxation reigns not, should the result be different.”  Or as I might put it, there is no Tax Fairy.

Cite: Principal Life Insurance Company and Subsidiaries v. United States, 1:07-cv-00006 (Fed. Cl. 2014)

 

 

20140307-1William Perez, Tips for Starting a Business

TaxGrrrl, On Mother’s Day, What Happens When You’re Taking Care Of Mom (And Not The Other Way Around)?   

Kay Bell, Are child-related tax breaks appropriate, fair?

Jason Dinesen, Taxpayer Identity Theft — Part 19.  Jason links to a summary of his client’s battle with ID theft, including the 10-thumbed IRS treatment she received.

Russ Fox, When Two Intelligent Individuals Reach the Opposite Conclusion… “Welcome to the brave new world of signature documents.”

Robert D. Flach, MORE CLIENTS SCREWED BY THE TAX CODE.  I’d say pretty much all of them.

Stephen Dunn, Foreign Accounts? Don’t Rush Into OVDP.

 

William McBride, How Best to Prevent the Corporations from Leaving? (Tax Policy Blog):

Most industrialized countries largely exclude foreign earnings from the corporate tax base. Most industrialized countries let businesses write-off investments faster than they can in the U.S. These are not “loopholes” but broad-based ways in which these countries compete for business investment and jobs. 

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 368

 

20140512-1The “Brewster’s Millions” tax strategy.  IMDB has the plot summary from this 1985 Richard Pryor vehicle:

Brewster is challenged to either take $1 million upfront or spend $30 million within 30 days to inherit $300 million. If he chooses the former, the law firm becomes executor of the estate and divides the money among charities (after taking a sizable fee). In the latter case, after 30 days, he must spend the entire $30 million within one month…

Brewster gets the idea to join the race for Mayor of New York and throws most of his money at a protest campaign urging a vote for “None of the Above”.

India’s Economic Times reports that on the Subcontinent, Brewster’s Millions is apparently a prophecy:

Made a huge profit selling your property and wondering how to avoid paying tax? Form a political party and “donate” your sale proceeds to it. And if you were worried the taxman will come knocking, just relax, it is perfectly legit. You and your party can claim 100% tax exemption too. “Many political parties are fronts for income tax fraud,” says former chief election commissioner N Gopalaswami . That explains the burgeoning political party registrations. There are about 1,600 political parties in India, but only 100-150 actually contest elections.

It doesn’t work that way in the States.  Here, politics is just a way to blow money.  Unless, of course, you are a humble career public servant from Iowa.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/9/14: Worst-ever edition. And: It’s Scandal Day 365!

Friday, May 9th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

I was grumpy yesterday when I noticed Tax Analysts correspondent @Meg_Shreve’s live-tweeting of a speech by Doug Shulman, the Worst IRS Commissioner Ever.  So I tweet-grumpted, adding “#worstcommissionerever (fixed)” to one of her posts — the “(fixed)” as a perhaps inadequate attempt to inform the Twitterverse that the tag was my addition, not hers (apologies to Meg Shreve).  That earned this response:

 

20140509-1

 

Ah, where to begin?  How about with identity theft?  Doug Shulman took office with a reputation as an information systems maven.  He then presided over an historic IT debacle.  Tax refund fraud — fundamentally a systems failure —  has let two-bit grifters like Rashia Wilson steal tens of billions of dollars in fraudulent refunds over the years.

This problem has been ramping up for years, and only now, with Shulman gone, is the IRS beginning to take effective action to prevent it.  My wife can’t go shopping in Chicago without me getting a call from the credit card company warning me of a suspicious transaction, but Doug Shulman’s IRS could send 655 refunds to the same apartment in Lithuania without batting an eye.

Rashia says "thanks, Commissioner!"

Rashia says “thanks, Commissioner!”

While the theft of taxpayer billions is outrageous enough, the inept treatment of ID theft victims makes it even worse.  Only after Doug Shulman left did the IRS even begin to get this right.

The Worst Commissioner Ever was just too darned busy to stop ID theft.  He was busy trying to increase IRS power over preparers with a useless, expensive and unilateral preparer regulation regime.  He reversed the longstanding IRS position that the agency had no such regulatory power, only to be unceremoniously slapped down by the courts.   In the meantime, the prospect of the regulations drove thousands of preparers out of the business, increasing taxpayer costs and driving many taxpayers to self-prepare — and surely causing some to fall out of the system altogether.  The IRS wasted enormous resources on this futile power grab — resources that might have been better-devoted, to, oh, maybe the fight against identity theft.

 

He was also busy shooting jaywalkers.  International tax enforcement is considered Doug Shulman’s greatest success — but there was no reason the pursuit of wealthy international money-launderers had to also terrorize American expatriates whose offenses were to commit everyday personal finance.  Many folks have been hit with ridiculous penalties for not filing FBAR reports that they had no idea existed.  These folks are often people who married overseas or moved out of the U.S. as children, but were presumptively treated as international money-launderers when they tried to come into the system, and were hit with enormous penalties — often when little or no tax had been avoided.

It’s hard to imagine that an agency that can find ways to simply wave away the ACA employer mandate couldn’t find a way to allow expats and individuals without criminal intent to come into the international reporting system without risking financial disaster.  The states that allow non-resident non-filers to come in by paying five years of back taxes provide an obvious model.

 

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how big is legacy is.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how big is legacy is.

Then there is the scandal.  When Tea Party groups complained about absurd and abusive IRS information requests, sympathetic Congresscritters asked Doug Shulman if the IRS was targeting Tea Party groups.  The Worst Commissioner Ever testified before Congress that the IRS was doing nothing of the sort:

“There’s absolutely no targeting. This is the kind of back and forth that happens to people” who apply for tax-exempt status, Shulman said.

That statement, of course, became inoperative when the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reported that the IRS was, in fact, picking on the Tea Party groups.  Subsequent revelations have shown that it was exactly a partisan attempt to fight anti-administration groups.  So Doug Shulman either was too lazy and ineffective to know what his own agency was doing, or he knew, or he didn’t care.  He destroyed the credibility of the agency as a nonpartisan enclave of competent technicians.

Now the party controlling the House of Representatives is on notice that the agency wants to see it lose.  That agency can hardly expect generous appropriations as long as that perception remains (and the new Commissioner has done nothing reassuring on that score).   This will damage the agency’s effectiveness for years — all because The Worst Commissioner Ever was unwilling or unable to run a professional, non-partisan agency.

This is a record of administrative ineptitude and negligence that is unbeaten.  No IRS commissioner has so squandered agency resources and reputation.  If another Commissioner has even come close, I’d sure like to know who it was.

 

Meanwhile, the TaxProf has reached a milestone: The IRS Scandal, Day 365.  The biggest item in this edition is the report that the IRS had not destroyed Tea Party donor lists — after saying it had — and that the IRS has audited 10% of Tea Party donors.  This is a staggering audit rate, if true, and is a tremendous scandal in itself if the IRS doesn’t come up with a good explanation.

TaxGrrrl, House Finds Lerner, Central Figure In Tax Exempt Scandal, In Contempt Of Congress

 

20140509-2Jana Luttenegger, Deadline Approaching to Avoid Losing Tax Exempt Status (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). Get those 990-series reports filed!

Trish McIntire, EFTPS – Inquiry PIN.  “The Inquiry PIN will allow taxpayers to check and make sure that their federal tax deposits have been made and catch a problem before it becomes a major issue.”  This should be used by all employers.

Peter Reilly, Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Owner Scores Touchdown In Tax Court.  “It may seem odd to look at a case that ends up with a charitable deduction dis-allowance of nearly $4 million as a victory, but when you consider how taxpayers generally fare in easement cases it really is.”

Leslie Book, Tax Court Jurisdiction to Determine its Jurisdiction: Foreign Taxes and Credits (Procedurally Taxing)

Mindy Herzfeld, International Tax Trending (Tax Analysts Blog)

 

Richard Borean, Tax Freedom Day Arrives in Final Two States: Connecticut and New Jersey (Tax Policy Blog)

Howard Gleckman, Taxing Employer-Sponsored Insurance Would Hike Social Security Benefits But Boost Federal Coffers (TaxVox)

 

Kay Bell, IRS employee arrested after inadvertently following Obama daughters’ motorcade onto White House grounds.  Oops.

Tax Justice Blog, Déjà vu: Oklahoma Enacts Tax Cut Voters Don’t Want.  I’m not sure about the “don’t want” part.

Robert D. Flach has your Friday morning Buzz!

 

News from the Profession.  Deloitte CEO Prefers Traditional Photo Op Over Selfie  (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/6/14. Welcome back, loyal client. IRS says I have to verify that you aren’t a shape-shifting alien.

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


e-file logo
It’s not enough that you’ve done business with me forever.  I need some ID.  
The invaluable Russ Fox yesterday threw light on new requirements for electronic filing from the IRS.  These requirements, found in their new Publication 1345, were issued with no public comment period or consultation with practitioners, as far as I can tell, and they sure look that way.

Let’s start with clients who come into our office – a minority of my clients, by the way, as most of my clients either mail in tax information or send it electronically.  Words are from Publication 1345, but emphasis is mine:

The ERO must inspect a valid government picture identification; compare picture to applicant; and record the name, social security number, address and date of birth. Verify that the name, social security number, address, date of birth and other personal information on record are consistent with the information provided through record checks with the applicable agency or institution or through credit bureaus or similar databases.

So I have clients I have been working with since 1985.  When retired gentleman comes in, a little slower than last year, with his cane, but still as charming as ever, I have to say “hold it right there, partner.  You may look like the client I’ve been working with for 28 years, but you might be a clever shape-shifting alien scum looking to defraud our government.  I need to see some picture ID.  Then excuse me while I call the credit bureau.”

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

Oh, but it isn’t that bad:

For in-person transactions, the record checks with the applicable agency or institution or through credit bureaus or similar databases are optional.

Oh, I only have to run credit checks on my long-time clients who don’t come into the office.  Gee, that’s mighty kind of you, IRS.

Examples of government picture identification (ID) include a driver’s license, employer ID, school ID, state ID, military ID, national ID, voter ID, visa or passport.

“National ID?”  I guess that must be next in the IRS off-plan business plan.

You’re thinking, “calm down, Joe.  Surely you are overreacting.  The IRS doesn’t really want you to card your longtime clients, right?”  Well, wrong:

If there is a multi-year business relationship, you should identify and authenticate the taxpayer.

You may think they are longtime clients, but you don’t know if you’ve been fooled by imposters all along!

Of course, this is all a reaction to the identity theft epidemic that the IRS has allowed to spread virtually unchecked for years.  The IRS, an agency too clueless to notice that 655 refunds are going to the same apartment in Lithuania, is now responding to the riot it incited by firing at the bystandersqea0hm77.  It is creating an enormous new and uncompensated burden on preparers and their clients that will do nothing to eliminate ID theft.

Rashia didn't use these bundles of cash at a CPA office.

Rashia didn’t use these bundles of cash to pay preparers.

Why won’t this work?  Most ID thieves work like Rashia Wilson, the self-proclaimed “Queen of IRS Tax Fraud.”  She used store-bought software to claim millions in tax refunds belonging to other people whose identities she had stolen.  ID thieves don’t walk into legitimate tax shops and pay to have fraudulent refunds claimed.  

 

Oddly, none of this applies to paper filings.  If the IRS is really serious about these rules, they can expect preparers  to sabotage the e-file process in self-defense by charging for the non-trivial new time and hassle of e-filing.  While preparers are required to e-file unless otherwise directed, taxpayers are allowed to choose paper.  Nothing says we can’t inform them of that right.  If even 10% of taxpayers respond by choosing to revert to paper, it will badly strain IRS facilities.  If 20% revert to paper, it will be a debacle for the agency.  And they’ll richly deserve it.

 

Other Coverage:

Russ Fox follows up with A Better Idea on Identity Theft. “The IRS should check each tax return’s address to verify it matches the address on file for the taxpayer.”  What a radical thought.

Robert D. Flach notes the Russ Fox post in today’s Buzz and adds, “Thankfully I am not an ERO – and after reading this I never will be!”

 

Flickr image by Christian under Creative Commons license.

Flickr image by Christian under Creative Commons license.

Kay Bell, 5 tax tips for Cinco de Mayo

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Determining A Shareholder’s Basis In S Corporation Stock and Debt

TaxGrrrl, She’s Just Not That Into You: 11 Reasons Your Tax Pro Wants To Call It Off .  ” You need to tell your tax professional the truth. No matter how ugly it is.”

Keith Fogg, When One Spouse Files Bankruptcy How Should the Court Split the Refund Resulting from a Joint Return between the Estate of the Debtor Spouse and the non-Debtor Spouse (Procedurally Taxing)

Jason Dinesen, Tax Refunds and “Not Owing Tax”, Part 2 . “So if you get a refund, it’s possible that you “didn’t owe taxes,” but only if your “total tax” before refundable credits equaled zero.”

Margaret Van Houten, Anti Money Laundering Initiatives and Lawyers: What We Need to Know (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  “Unfortunately, however, not all well-intended actions are effective.”

 

20140506-1TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 362.  What the IRS was busy with while the ID-theft fraud epidemic was getting rolling.

Howard Gleckman, Special Tax Penalties on Donald Sterling are a Personal Foul (TaxVox).  Not every foul has to be a tax issue.

Mindy Herzfeld, International Tax Trending (Tax Analysts Blog)

I reject this false choice.  Investment, GDP Slow in First Quarter: Bad Weather or Bad Tax Policy? (Stephen J. Entin, Tax Policy Blog)

 

News from the Profession.  BREAKING: CPA Exam Candidate Passes AUD  (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/2/14: Film credit trial remake edition. And: Senator Otter, taxwriter.

Friday, May 2nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan


harold
An Iowa appeals court this week threw out the conviction of TV-show producer Dennis Brouse
on charges arising out of the Iowa film tax credit scandal.  The court ruled 2-1 that unclear jury instructions rendered the guilty verdict untenable.  From the decision:

After examining the jury instruction and finding it so confusing, we conclude that it was not possible for the jury to find sufficient evidence to convict pursuant to a general verdict that implicated the joint criminal conduct instruction. 

The case was remanded to the trial court.  I believe the state can appeal this decision to the Iowa Supreme Court.  I am not sure whether the state can retry Mr. Brouse if the ruling stands.  The reversal would leave Wendy Weiner-Runge as the only person hit with serious prison time in the scandal.

In any case, the real offenders in this case will go free.  No charges will be filed against the legislators who voted overwhelmingly to create a cash-filled pinata for out-of-state filmmakers.  The Governor who was to oversee the program will never have to answer for appointing a former drugstore film clerk to run it.  The clerk’s immediate supervisor faces no charges for letting the clerk run wild, committing taxpayer dollars by the millions virtually without documentation or control.

The real crime is that the 150 legislative supergeniuses feel competent to take money from taxpayers and give it to people who convince them they will use it better.

Other coverage: KCCI.com

Cite: State v. Brouse, No. 12-1076  [3-1192]

 

 

 

Andrew Mitchel, 2014 First Quarter Published Expatriates – Second Highest Ever:

 

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC

Considering how poorly the U.S. tax system treats Americans abroad, it’s no surprise.

 

Jason Dinesen, On Tax Refunds and “Not Owing Tax,” Part 1  “Just because you got a refund it doesn’t necessarily mean you didn’t owe taxes.”

Kay Bell, Tax moves to make in May 2014

Peter Reilly, IRS Chief Counsel Checks 1986 Committee Reports To Give Break On Foreclosed Real Estate   

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 358

Russ Fox, Once Again, Bring Me the Usual Suspects: 2014 Small Business Tax Index.  Iowa does poorly.

Robert D. Flach brings your Friday Buzz!

 

Kyle Pomerleau, It Takes 175 hours for a U.S. Business to Comply with U.S. Taxes (Tax Policy Blog).  For bigger businesses, that’s way low.

Howard Gleckman, The Tax Extenders: Yes, Virginia, They Really Are Tax Cuts (TaxVox).

 

 

Not Senator Wyden

Not Senator Wyden

 Senator Wyden, meet Animal House.

Otter: ” But you can’t hold a whole fraternity responsible for the behavior of a few, sick twisted individuals. For if you do, then shouldn’t we blame the whole fraternity system? And if the whole fraternity system is guilty, then isn’t this an indictment of our educational institutions in general? I put it to you, Greg – isn’t this an indictment of our entire American society? Well, you can do whatever you want to us, but we’re not going to sit here and listen to you badmouth the United States of America.”

Senator Ron Wyden:At the same time, the potential misconduct of a small group of IRS employees should not tarnish the overwhelming majority of hard working agency employees who do play by the rules.”

 

I did not have tax with that state, New York.  Bill Clinton: ‘I Thank God Every Day That Hillary and I Live in NY and Pay the Highest Aggregate Tax Rate in America’  (TaxProf)

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/29/14: Funding what we do anyway edition. And: the real IRS crisis.

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Remember, Iowa 1040s are due tomorrow!  They extend automatically, with no need to file an extension, to October 30 if you have at least 90% of your 2013 tax paid in.  If you need to pay in some more, use Iowa 1040-V.

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

O. Kay Henderson reports on a New state tax break proposed for Iowa parents who adopt:

The legislature has voted to establish a new tax credit for Iowa parents who adopt a child. If the governor signs the bill into law, Iowans could claim a credit of up to $2500 per child for adoption-related expenses.

The bill would allow the credit for expenses like legal fees and the medical bills for the birth mother.

So the legislature is boldly addressing the lack of available parents wanting to adopt children by subsidizing the process.  Except there is no lack of willing prospective adoptive parents.  In fact, the high cost of adoptions is largely driven by the lack of U.S. babies available, forcing parents wanting to adopt to pursue expensive overseas adoptions.

Adoptive parents do a wonderful thing, taking a stranger’s child into their house as their own.  But all good things don’t necessarily need their own tax break.  This break pays people to do what they are already doing.  If the tax law needs to encourage something, is this the most important thing to do?  Should it instead encourage something people wouldn’t do otherwise?  Should people choose what to do without tax law involvement?  Is it really worth making the Department of Revenue an overseer of the adoption process?  Nobody cares, apparently, as HF 2468 flew through the Iowa Senate 48-0, and the Iowa House, 95-1.  Governor Branstad will come out against farmers before he vetoes this one.

 

I’m sure they are.  Iowa Renewable Fuels Group Pleased With Biofuels Bill Approval. More special favors for special friends.

 

A scene from the heydey of Iowa energy independence.

A scene from the heydey of Iowa energy independence.

 

Kay Bell, Maryland pays $11.5 million to keep House of Cards.  Some people never learn.

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

Janet NovackThere’s A Crisis At The IRS And It’s Not What You Think:

The IRS is, however, an insular, often tone deaf and sometimes bumbling bureaucracy which is being starved of the resources it needs to do its job.  Since 2010, its Congressional appropriations have fallen 7% —-and that’s in nominal dollars, before any adjustment for inflation. During the same period, its appropriations funded workforce has shrunk by 10%, with enforcement staff down 15%, according to numbers Congress’ Government Accountability Office released last week. Meanwhile, the tax agency’s workload has increased with the explosion of identity theft tax refund fraud; a 4% growth in returns filed; and new laws to administer, including the Affordable Care Act  (a.k.a. Obamacare).

That is precisely true.  It’s also mostly the agency’s own fault.   The agency been shown to have used its powers against political opponents of the administration.  It refuses to back off of proposed regulations that would make its political role permanent.  Until it swears off that approach, it can only expect short funding.  The House GOP would be fools to fund an agency dedicated to the other party.  Untill Commissioner Koskinen can rise above pro-administration partisanship and pull the proposed regulations, the agency will continue to be shorted.

 

Annals of Public Service.  Rep. Grimm charged with tax fraud, says he won’t quit (USA Today):

Republican Rep. Michael Grimm was indicted Monday on federal charges of tax evasion and perjury for allegedly hiding more than $1 million in revenue from a New York City restaurant he owned where, prosecutors said, he also hired undocumented immigrants.

Grimm, a former FBI agent who has been under federal investigation regarding campaign contributions, said he is the victim of a “political witch hunt” and said he would not resign his seat.

While you can’t rule out a political explanation, the man is a politician, so the charges are at least plausible.  If it is an unsupported political prosecution, that will become apparent quickly.

Even if the charges are supported, that doesn’t rule out political bias.  After all, Democrat Charlie Rangel was never indicted, in spite of failing to pay his taxes for years.  That’s why arguments that the Tea Party persecution was OK, because some Tea Party groups didn’t qualify for exempt status, are unconvincing.  When a law is enforced only against opponents,  it is a gross injustice, even if the selective enforcement catches some actual violators.

 

IMG_1944Peter Reilly, Tax Court Denies Amway Losses – Again.  Peter ponders the Amway couple I discussed last week.  Peter has actually attended an Amway presentation, and he explains how the program works – or doesn’t.

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Tax Planning For Mergers And Acquisitions, Part II.  This post discusses the tax-free kind.

TaxGrrrl, Let’s Go Places: Toyota Workers Could Save Big Tax Dollars With Move.  Food for thought for those who think state taxes are irrelevant.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 355

Tyler Cowen, Accounting for U.S. Earnings and Wealth Inequality.  “So much of the current Piketty debate is simply forgetting that…science exists and has already offered a wide range of insights on these topics, as well as having rendered some of the more extreme claims unlikely.”

Richard Borean, Does a Flat Income Tax Create Income Inequality? (Tax Policy Blog).  Short answer: no.

20140429-1

 

Jeremy ScottThe Most Expensive Extenders (Tax Analysts Blog).  “Temporary tax policy is generally bad, but temporary policy that is designed to encourage long-term investment decisions is even worse. ”

 

It’s Tuesday!  That makes it Robert D. Flach Buzzday!

 

Russ Fox, It’s Probably Not Good for Your Case When the Court Considers Sanctioning Your Attorney.  When  your lawyer angers the judge, he may not be helping.

News from the Profession.  This Off-Kilter Accounting Firm Just Launched a New Website Begging to Be Judged (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/22/14: $418,000 per-job edition! And: AGI and farm subsidies.

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120906-1Iowa Watchdog reports Iowa to give Microsoft millions in exchange for 86 jobs:

The West Des Moines City Council on March 24 approved asking the IEDA to award Project Alluvion $18 million in sales tax rebates, the maximum amount possible under the IEDA’s High Quality Jobs Program.

Neither the city nor the IEDA questioned why Microsoft, which had $24.5 billion in revenue and $8 billion in profits in the most recent fiscal quarter, needed taxpayers’ support to build its data center.

By the time the new data center opens for business, Microsoft will have received from the state and the city more than $418,000 for each of the 86 jobs it says it will create.

There’s a good argument that businesses shouldn’t have to pay sales taxes on their purchases. There’s no good argument that only businesses who know how to pull strings in city hall and at the statehouses should be able to avoid sales tax on their inputs.  Yet that’s what Iowa’s “economic development” policy is all about: special deals for special friends.  The rest of you suckers without lobbyists and pull, pay up!

Related: LOCAL CPA FIRM VOWS TO SWALLOW PRIDE, ACCEPT $28 MILLION

Tax Justice Blog, State News Quick Hits: Tax Breaks for Expensive Artwork and Apple Inc.

microsoft-apple

 

Roger McEowen, Farm Service Agency Adjusted Gross Income Calculation Could Influence Choice of Entity:

Beginning with the 2014 crop year, producers whose average adjusted gross income (AGI) exceeds $900,000 are not eligible to receive payments or benefits from most programs administered by FSA and the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS). Previous AGI provisions distinguishing between farm and non-farm AGI are no longer utilized.  Average AGI for crop year 2014, for example, will be based on a producer’s AGI from 2010, 2011 and 2012.

This is an incentive for business owners receiving substantial farm subsidies to use C corporations, which don’t increase AGI, at least not immediately.  But C corporations do increase the effective tax rate on business income for most people who have enough AGI to worry about this problem.  It would be a lot easier to get rid of the subsidies and let farmers just grow what the market demands.

 

Yesterday was the national commemoration of The Tax Foundation’s Tax Freedom Day.   Not surprisingly, it’s later than last year.

Tax Freedom Day is “the day when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its total tax bill for year.”  It varies by state.  Iowa’s day was April 13.  Connecticut and New Jersey will be the last states to finish paying their tax bill, on May 9.

Tax Freedom Day 2014 Map_0

 

TaxProf, GAO: IRS Audits 1% of Big Partnerships, 27% of Big Corporations

Jeremy Scott, The Misleading Debate About the Corporate Income Tax (Tax Analysts Blog):

Congress must consider passthroughs when discussing business tax reform. You can’t complain about high U.S. corporate tax rates or declining corporate tax revenues without looking at how the shift to passthrough entities is affecting the U.S. tax system. Passthrough reform is just as critical as corporate reform, even if it doesn’t receive nearly as much attention in congressional speeches or front-page news stories.

It won’t happen until the inane quest to hammer “the rich” is decisively rejected in tax policy debates  – because with pass-throughs, taxing “the rich” means taxing away employment.  Yet the same high-tax redistribution schemes have led to disaster over and over are enjoying a new vogue among people who just can’t stand other people having more money.

 

20140321-3Jack Townsend, GE Ducks Any Penalty for Its (BS) Tax Shelter — For Now 

Brian Mahany, Is the IRS Whistleblower Program a Failure?

TaxGrrrl, Higher Or Lower: How Do You Think Your U.S. Tax Burden Compares To Other Countries?   

Steven Rosenthal, A Flash Tax for the Flash Boys (TaxVox).  Never mind that high-frequency traders make for more efficient markets and lower transaction costs for other traders.  We need to screw up the capital markets even more.

Annette Nellen, Tax Day – April 15, 2014 – It Can Be Easier.  It sure could be.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 348

 

William Perez, Obamas, Bidens Release 2013 Tax Returns.  I still say they should have had to prepare them by themselves in a live webcast — as should all congresscritters.

Russ Fox, If You Can’t Get the Refund, Why Not File Some Liens?  After all, it is a foolish and futile gesture, so go for it!

Peter Reilly, Court Approves Tax Sale Of New Mexico Property For Less Than 1% Of Its Value.  Peter sheds light on the sleazy practice of what amounts to stealing property to pay petty amounts of tax.

Jason Dinesen, On Schedule C’s and Setting Rates.  If your 1040 is really a business return, you can’t expect to pay the same as a 1040A filer.   In many ways Schedule C’s are harder, because they rarely have a balance sheet to provide a reality check.

 

20120620-1

Robert D. Flach’s Buzz is Back!  Welcome back, Robert!

Kay Bell, How are you spending your federal tax refund?

Jana Luttenegger, Are You Curious How Your Tax Dollars Were Spent? (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

News you can use.  Timely Filing a Tax Court Petition from Prison (Carl Smith, Procedurally Taxing)

Breaking!  Millennials Don’t Like Grunt Work, Says Millennial Grunt (Going Concern).  Hey Millennials, the rest of us aren’t so crazy about it either.  That’s why they have to pay us to do it.

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/21/14: Clearing the wreckage edition. And: Tax Court penalty abuse.

Monday, April 21st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140330-2So I took a five-day weekend.  I needed the sleep, and to see something besides the office, my bed, and my commuting route.  So now to clear the debris of the last few weeks from my desk, and my email inbox.

And I come back to see perhaps the dumbest thing ever to come out of the Tax Court.  Janet Novack reports:

“Taxpayers rely on IRS guidance at their own peril,” Judge Joseph W. Nega wrote in an order entered  on April 15th —an order denying a motion that he reconsider his earlier decision to penalize tax lawyer Alvan L. Bobrow for making an IRA rollover move that IRS Publication 590,  Individual Retirement Arrangements (IRAs), says is allowed.

Which is more astounding: he IRS decision to seek penalties against a taxpayer for following IRS guidance, or the Tax Court going along?  A great deal of what we do as professionals, and what taxpayers do, is in reliance on IRS guidance, because often that’s all there is to go on.  If you can get hit with a penalty for following IRS guidance if the IRS changes its mind, we’re all avoiding disaster only as long as the IRS is in a good mood.

This unwittingly goes to the heart of the IRS non-enforcement of the Obamacare employer mandate. The statute provides that the penalty tax on those with 50 or more employees starts this year if they fail to provide specified health insurance.  Nothing in the statute provides otherwise.  The only thing standing between all these employers and massive penalties is IRS guidance — y0u know, the guidance that Judge Nega just said taxpayers rely on “at their own peril.”

The whole Tax Court should reconsider this order.  If they decide that something that stupid really is the law, Congress should reverse with legislation providing that taxpayers relying on written IRS guidance should never be penalized for it.

 

20130419-1Megan McArdle kindly linked to me last week in You Can’t Fight the IRS – specifically, to Tax season tip: when you owe and can’t pay.  She added some thoughtful commentary, including:

 There are basically three types of tax trouble. There is “I was underwithheld at work because my salary changed over the course of the year but didn’t realize it” or “I’m a freelancer or small-business owner, and I forgot to put away enough money for taxes, or I incorrectly estimated what my tax bill would be.” Then there is “I am a small-business owner or otherwise self-employed, and I am on the brink of financial collapse; the money with which I hoped to pay the taxes had to go to keep my creditors (barely) at bay.” And, of course, though I hope this is not you, there is “I have been cheating on my taxes.”

She notes that different troubles require different solutions.

Thanks to her link, and to one from Instapundit to the same post, last week was the busiest around here all year.  My thanks to them, and to everyone who takes the time to link here.  You rock my little world.  If you ever want to link to just a piece of a Tax Roundup, you can do so if it starts in blue bold letters, like the words “Megan McArdle” at the beginning of this segment.

 

While I was too busy to do Tax Roundups at the end of tax season, I missed some excellent Bozo Tax Tips from Russ Fox, including Bozo Tax Tip #1: The Eternal Hobby Loss

 

Greg Mankiw,Transitory Income and the One Percent:

It turns out that 12 percent of the population will find themselves in the top 1 percent of the income distribution for at least one year. What’s more, 39 percent of Americans will spend a year in the top 5 percent of the income distribution, 56 percent will find themselves in the top 10 percent, and a whopping 73 percent will spend a year in the top 20 percent of the income distribution….  

-Quoting a NY Times article by Mark Rank

Occupy… yourselves!

 

Jason Dinesen, Another Tax Season Down — 2014 Tax Season Recap 

Paul Neiffer, Another Tax Season Bites the Dust.  “This year was actually much easier on myself and I think most of my compatriots since we did not have Congress passing a tax bill on the last day of the year to mess up the IRS computers (although the computers have other issues to deal with).”

TaxGrrrl, IRS Reports Tax Filing Numbers As Expected, Issues Statement On Refund Delays 

Robert D. Flach, THAT WAS THE TAX SEASON THAT WAS.  “43 down – 7 to go!”  I hope to stop before 43, myself.  Robert is tougher than I am.

In case you missed it, you can see my April 15 interview with local TV station KCCI here.

 

 

Locust Street, Des Moines

Locust Street, Des Moines

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Tax Planning For Mergers And Acquisitions, Part I.  “…if we spend the time necessary to uncover and understand our clients’ non-tax and tax goals, we will typically find that choosing an ideal transaction structure is largely a process of elimination, and when the dust settles, there will often be only one option that works.”

Peter Reilly, Sawyer Taxi Heirs Midcoast Fortrend Deal – Could Have Been Worse.  It involves a C corporation attempting to have its cake while eating it too, by paying stock-deal tax on an asset sale.

Christopher Bergin, Tax Day – It Just Isn’t Fair (Tax Analysts Blog)  “I suppose the only good news is that in the last several days, there have been dozens of items in the news reporting that the IRS is doing fewer audits.”

Tax Justice Blog, Partners in Crime? New GAO Report Shows that Large Corporate Partnerships Can Operate Without Fear of Audits

Kyle Pomerleau, Why Many People are Wrong about Executive Pay and the Corporate Tax Code.  “A neutral tax code that properly defines business income would place no restriction on how much a business can deduct in compensation.”

Howard Gleckman, If Congress Lets Firms Expense Investments, It Should Take Away Their Interest Deduction.  Fine, if you let them deduct dividends.

 

Going Concern, Utah Man Discovers Liberty Tax Not as Effective as Maury Povich in Determining Paternity.

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/9/14: Common K-1 problems. And: if the preparer doesn’t have a brain, give him a diploma!

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

S-SidewalkSo you read yesterday’s post and you’re still preparing your own return?  You’ve answered the questions you need to ask yourself before starting to put numbers from your S corporation/Partnership/Trust (collectively, “thing”) K-1 onto your 1040 schedules?  OK, if you are intrepid enough to be doing your own return here, you are mostly on your own.  Don’t shortcut it.  This is one chore where you really should read the instructions (S corporation, Partnership, Trust), rather than just opening the box and putting pieces together.

There’s no point in me trying to walk through the whole K-1 with you; that’s what the instructions are for.  I will point out a few items on the K-1 (or left out) that frequently cause errors and trigger questions.

On the partnership K-1 the ending capital account is probably not your “basis.” The capital account is frequently useless in measuring basis.  It might be the same as your basis if the “Tax basis” box is checked, but the only sure way to track your basis is to keep your own running basis schedule year-by-year.  S corporation shareholders can find their basis computation schedule here.

Don’t double-count your gains.  The “Unrecaptured Section 1250 gain” in Box 8c of your S corporation K-1  (9c of the partnership return) is a part of the “Net Section 1231 gain” (S corporation box 9, partnership box 10).  The total income is the Section 1231 gain, not the sum of the unrecaptured 1250 and 1231 amounts.  You use the “Unrecaptured 1250 gain” on your Schedule D worksheet to figure out how much of your Section 1231 gain is taxed at a 25% rate, rather than the normal 20% top capital gain rate.

Don’t double count “investment income.”  If you have interest, dividends or capital gains on your K-1, the partnerships is required to tell you how much of that is “investment income” with a code “A” in the “other information” box on the K-1.  You only need that number if you are computing an investment interest expense deduction on Form 4952.  You don’t add it as additional income on your return.

Beware the “net investment income” disclosure, code “Y” in the “other information” section.  The partnership and S corporation instructions for computing this came out late, and this number is likely to be wrong.  If you have to fill out Form 8960 to compute your Obamacare net investment income tax, you shouldn’t count on this number, especially for a K-1 with trade or business income.  Use instead the separate items from the K-1 that are investment income for Form 8960 purposes.

Be careful out there, and come back tomorrow for a new 2014 filing season tip!

 

20140307-1Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #5: Procrastinate.  You mean waiting won’t solve my tax problems?

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Are Those S Corporation Distributions Taxable?

 

William Perez, Tax Freedom Day 2014.  April 21.

Kay Bell, Being DIFferent could prompt a tax audit.  Kay points out things that can attract IRS attention on your 1040.

Jeremy Scott, Audit Electability (Tax Analysts Blog).  “However, a taxpayer’s choice of entity can have broad tax ramifications, including some consequences unintended even by the complicated U.S. tax regime.”

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for 4/4/2014.  (Procedurally Taxing), A good roundup of some recent tax cases, including coverage of the Ohio accounting firm’s unpleasant breakup that we covered last week.

 

20140409-1The IRS Commissionerwho apparently can’t regulate his own employees sufficiently to provide subpoenaed documents to Congress, still wants to regulate tax preparers.

The idea is no more than what the Wizard of Oz told the scarecrow: regulated preparers wouldn’t be any smarter, but they would have a diploma.  An IRS-issued Doctorate in Thinkology doesn’t make an inept preparer competent, any more than granting a CPA or a JD makes somebody a good tax preparer.  I would much sooner have uncredentailed Robert D. Flach do my 1040 than any number of fully-credentialed CPAs and attorneys I know.   All regulation would accomplish would be to raise prices, lining the pockets of the big tax prep franchises while driving many taxpayers to self-prepare or stop filing.

TaxGrrrl, House Committee Gunning For Criminal Charges In IRS Scandal

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 335

 

Roberton Williams, If You Have High Income, Your Taxes Are Going Up (TaxVox)

Tax Justice Blog, “Tax Extenders” Would Mean Even Lower Revenue than the Ryan Plan

Jim Maule, How Shocking is Tax Evasion?

Radio Iowa, Senator Grassley says fouled up tax system is depressing.  He’s depressed?  As a senior taxwriter for most of the last three decades, he’s answerable for a lot of the depression.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/31/14: Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day party edition! And: e-filing begins.

Friday, January 31st, 2014 by Joe Kristan


EITC error chart
Yes, for those of you not already taking the day off to observe it, today is Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day!  Let’s celebrate with a true story of EITC awareness.

Cedar Rapids tax preparer Demetries Johnson displayed her awareness of the credit in a big way:

Defendant DEMETRIES JOHNSON notified some taxpayers seeking her services that she could obtain larger tax refunds than they would otherwise receive.  To obtain refunds, defendant DEMETRIES JOHNSON would knowingly report false information on taxpayers returns. The claims made in the tax returns were false, fictitious, and fraudulent in that the claims for refunds, for example: 1) falsely reported income when little or no income was earned, thereby substantially and materially overstating taxpayers’ income in a manner that made the taxpayer appear eligible for a refund by virtue of the EITC; and 2) falsely included a child or children on taxpayers’ returns who did not in fact qualify under the EITC.  Through submission of these false claims, defendant DEMETRIES JOHNSON increased payments made by the Internal Revenue Service to the taxpayers or to bank accounts controlled by the defendant.

Her awareness ended up earning a two-year prison sentence after she pleaded guilty to tax charges.  Her keen level of awareness isn’t uncommon; a recent Treasury Inspector General analysis showed that 21-25% of the $13 billion of the credit issued annually is claimed “in error.”  No small amount of those errors are deliberate.

Those who scam the system are especially aware that the credit is “refundable.”  If you claim more credit than you owe in taxes, the IRS will send you a check for the excess.  Like all refundable credits, it attracts fraudsters.

Come to think of it, maybe “awareness” isn’t the real problem with the Earned Income Credit.

 

Flickr image courtesy Shock264 under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy Shock264 under Creative Commons license

When you buy a round, it’s always popular Wind industry fears slowdown as Congress considers future of popular tax credit  (Des Moines Register).  The recipients of wind subsidies delivered through the tax law are annoyed that there is a delay in getting their free stuff.

The headline says the wind turbine subsidy is “popular,” but nothing in the article backs that up, or even repeats the claim.  I suppose it’s as popular with the Warren Buffet-controlled utility that is a big recipient of the credit as the Earned Income Tax Credit was with Demetries Johnson’s clients.

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 267.  He highlights today’s Peggy Noonan piece:

 Meanwhile, back in America, conservatives targeted and harassed by the Internal Revenue Service still await answers on their years-long requests for tax exempt status. When news of the IRS targeting broke last spring, agency officials lied about it, and one took the Fifth. The president said he was outraged, had no idea, read about it in the papers, boy was he going to get to the bottom of it. An investigation was announced but somehow never quite materialized. Victims of the targeting waited to be contacted by the FBI to be asked about their experience. Now the Justice Department has made clear its investigation won’t be spearheaded by the FBI but by a department lawyer who is a campaign contributor to the president and the Democratic Party. Sometimes you feel they are just laughing at you, and going too far.

For a case where a key figure promptly hid behind the Fifth Amendment, the FBI was sure quick to conclude there was no crime.

 

William Gale, Benjamin Harris, David John, State of the Union Speech Promotes New Retirement Savings Vehicles (TaxVox):

 Similar to the R-Bond discussed in a recent AARP Public Policy Institute paper written by William Gale, David John and Spencer Smith, MyRA would allow individuals to save in a government bond account similar to the one offered as an option to federal employees through the Thrift Savings Plan. The details are unclear (there’s a WhiteHouse fact sheet here), but MyRA would allow new savers and those with small balances to accumulate retirement savings without either having to pay administrative charges or face market risk.

Just inflation and government policy risk.

 

20130916-1TaxGrrrl, IRS Officially Opens Tax Season Today, Begins Processing Returns and Refunds

William Perez, IRS’s Electronic Filing Systems Opens January 31

Kay Bell, Are you ready to e-file your federal tax return? Here’s how.

Trish McIntire, IRS Notice Prevention

 

Fear the Family (and other related parties).  My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record Business Professionals Blog.

 

Kyle Pomerleau notes A Few Contradictions in President Obama’s State of the Union Address (Tax Policy Blog)

Keith Fogg, Does Treasury’s Policy Restraining Referrals to Low Income Tax Clinics Harm Individuals and the Tax System? (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert D. Flach serves up his last Buzz for awhile as he begins his tax season hiatus.  It’s his 43rd tax season.  If I hit my 43d tax season, it will be in my 68th year.  I admire Robert’s endurance, but I have no plans to match it.

 

haroldDirector of Chartered firm among 13 charged over £2.5m film tax fraud (ifaonline.co.uk).  I think film tax credits are the bait car of tax incentives.

Useless tool.   Treasury Nominee Dynan Calls Home Buyer Tax Credit ‘Useful Tool’ (Tax Analysts, $link).  Not only should her nomination be rejected on the basis of her approval of the failed and fraud-ridden credit, she should be presumed self-disqualified from any public position ever.

While I think the court decision ending tax-free treatment for cash parsonage allowances is likely to stand, not everyone agrees.  Zelinsky: The First Amendment and the § 107 Parsonage Allowance (TaxProf)

 

Tax Trials continues its “Famous Fridays” series with Pete Rose, Gambling Winnings Are Income Too.

News from the Profession: PwC Doing Its Part to Keep Dog Tails Wagging in Northeast Ohio (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/29/14: E-cigarette panic! And: SOTU, SALY.

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Via e-cigarettepedia.com

Via e-cigarettepedia.com

Jeff Stier, Iowa should tread carefully on e-cigarette rules, on the weird impulse to restrict and tax water vapor:

Restricting the use of e-cigarettes, known as “vaping” for the vapor they emit, would undermine the very goal of this law.

First, it wouldn’t reduce exposure to environmental smoke, better known as second-hand smoke, because there is no smoke. There isn’t even any first-hand smoke.

More important, a ban on vaping in public places would damage public health because it would make e-cigarettes a less convenient alternative to cigarette smoking. It would also send the implicit (and incorrect) message that they are also equally dangerous, not only to the user, but to those exposed to the vapor.

All true.  There are two explanations for the why politicians have their dresses over their heads over what amount to very small room vaporizers.

First, because people vaping look a little like smokers, and smoking is a great sin these days, they must be sinning, and sin must be stopped.  For the children!

The second explanation is more cynical, so it probably is true.  The state has a nicotine addiction.  Iowa collected $227 million in tobacco taxes in 2013.  If smokers use e-cigarettes to quit, that money dries up.  We can’t have that.

 


EITC error chart
Tax Analysts’ 
headline ($link) on its story about the tax proposals in the State of the Union doesn’t exactly scream Hope and Change:  “Obama Proposes EITC Expansion in State of the Union, Otherwise Reiterates Old Tax Proposals.”

One hopes that Congress will do something to keep 20-25% of the EITC from being issued “improperly” to grifters before it increases the theft pot.  We can expect the President’s other tax proposals to go nowhere, as they went nowhere when he was in better political shape.  The dead-on-arrival proposals include disallowing more of the Section 199 deduction for f0ssil fuels and tax credits to “build fuel infrastructure” and to subsidize alternative fuels.

His budget also provides for a hodgepodge of other tax incentives.  His revenue-raisers include repealing LIFO inventories, slower depreciation for aircraft, changing grantor trust rules so they are treated the same for income and tax purposes, and limiting the size of retirement accounts — all doomed absent an unlikely comprehensive tax reform.

Related:  Tax Policy is MIA in the State of the Union (Howard Gleckman, TaxVox). “The president perfunctorily restated his support for business tax reform but added no new twist to make his plan any more acceptable to congressional Republicans.”

Good Jobs First, a left-side think tank, has released Show us the Subsidized Jobs, a report on state tax incentives.  Iowa only scores 27%, largely because there is no online disclosure of recipients of the Industrial New Jobs Training program and the Iowa New Jobs Tax Credit.  I would give Iowa zero percent, because these hidden subsidies wouldn’t exist in a well designed tax system.  They should be repealed and replaced by the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

Broadbandits.  Speaking of corporate welfare, SSB 3319 was introduced yestarday in the Iowa Senate.  Among other ways to pay providers for something they will do anyway if customers want it, the bill includes a 3% credit on the cost of “new installation of broadband infrastructure.”  Just one more step away from simplicity and transparency.

 

20111040logoDavid Henderson, Marginal Tax Rates: Singing Taxman to My Class:

Think about the Beatles’ earnings. Late 1963 was when they first started making real money. Then in 1964, they hit it big. Presumably they didn’t spend it all but started investing, figuring that they would get interest and dividends on their investments. They probably did. But those returns would be taxed at the 95% rate. When would they start noticing this? Probably some time in 1965. Thus the 1966 song. 

And we all know what an economic dynamo the UK was then.

Martin Sullivan, The Obama Administration’s Backdoor Bailout of Puerto Rico (Tax Analysts Blog):

But here’s a little secret that the powers that be inside and outside government don’t want you to know: The Obama administration has already provided a multibillion-dollar bailout to Puerto Rico. Nobody in the major media outlets has noticed because the issue is highly technical.

And because Look!  Justin Bieber!

 

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Why You Should Never Hold Real Estate In A Corporation? 

William Perez, Filing Requirements for Tax Year 2013

TaxGrrrl, ‘Same Love’ Grammy Wedding: Married Is Married For Tax Purposes

Leslie Book, Corbalis v Commissioner: Tax Court Holds it Has Jurisdiction to Review Interest Suspension Decisions (Procedurally Taxing)

 

Scott Hodge, President Obama Signs Executive Order to Increase Minimum Wages Paid by Federal Contractors (Tax Policy Blog).  Spending our money to show us how generous he is.

Tax Justice Blog, Has the Tax Code Been Used to Reduce Inequality During the Obama Years? Not Really.   They’ve tried, but it doesn’t work.

Jeremy Scott, BEPS Project Should Include Digital Economy Permanent Establishment (Tax Analysts Blog).   Should companies be taxable in a country because they have a “digital permanent establishment”?  I say they shouldn’t be taxed at all.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 265

Jack Townsend, DOJ Tax AAG Keneally Reports on Swiss Banks Joining DOJ Swiss Bank Program

Kay Bell, Mortgage tax break contributes to fading American dream.

 

Robert D. Flach is a sensible man:

I did not watch the State of the Union address last night.  Instead I watched the wonderful film GAMBIT with Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine on TCM.

I ate a delicious dinner and had pie for dessert, with the TV off.  My view of the whole SOTU thing is well-reflected here.

 

Career Corner: You Can Run But You Can’t Hide. Therefore, Sabotage Your Coworkers (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/28/14: Another Iowa ESOP debacle. And: soft skills!

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


20120920-3
Iowa gets all of the good bad ESOP cases.  
Thanks largely to the energetic work of a single ESOP evangelist in the 1980s and 1990s, Iowa has been treasure trove of cases involving faulty employee stock ownership plans.  The pinnacle of these cases may have been the Martin v. Feilen case, finding violations sufficient for the Eighth Circuit to rule that a district court “abused its discretion” by not banning the Iowa ESOP evangelist from doing any further ERISA work.

Iowa’s bad ESOP history got another chapter yesterday in Tax Court.  The ESOP involved a Rockwell, Iowa S corporation, which had an ESOP owner.  The non-ESOP shares were owned by the corporation’s sole employee and his wife.

So many things can go wrong with this sort of arrangement, and they all did — starting with Sec. 409(p).  Judge Kroupa explains (some citations omitted, emphasis added):

  Responding to perceived abuses, Congress in 2001 enacted section 409(p), which generally limits the tax benefits available through an ESOP that owns stock of an S corporation unless the ESOP provides meaningful benefits to rank-and-file employees.

There are significant tax consequences when an ESOP violates the section 409(p) requirements. For one, an excise tax equal to 50% of the total prohibited allocation is imposed. Sec. 4979A. Furthermore, the ESOP will not satisfy the requirements of section 4975(e)(7) and will cease to qualify as an ESOP. 

Those are pretty severe penalties.  So how do you violate Sec. 409(p)? Roth and Company alum Nancy Dittmer explains:

Section 409(p) is satisfied if “disqualified persons” do not own 50% or more of the S corporation’s “stock.” This stock includes allocated and yet-to-be allocated ESOP shares, synthetic equity of the S corporation, and any shares held directly in the S corporation. The ESOP shares and any synthetic equity are considered to be “deemed-owned” shares for purposes of Section 409(p).

In general, a disqualified person is any ESOP participant who owns 10% or more of the ESOP’s stock. 

20140128-1As our Rockwell taxpayer was the only employee of the S corporation and, by attribution, the only owner of the ESOP, he owned 100% of the shares.  Those of you who are good at math will realize that 100% exceeds 50%, and 409(p)’s excise tax and plan disqualification applies.

So things looked dark for the Rockwell ESOP.  Yet there was a glimmer of hope — not only was the ESOP screwed up, so was the S corporation.  The corporation had 2 classes of stock, which normally disqualifies an S corporation election.  If the corporation isn’t an S corporation, it can’t violate 409(p)!  Alas, Judge Kroupa decided here that two (OK, more than two) wrongs didn’t make a right:

     Petitioner represented to respondent that it qualified as an S corporation for 2002 when it filed its election to be treated as such. Respondent relied on this representation for 2002 because petitioner reported on its 2002 Form 1120S that it owed no income tax because of its electing to be treated as a passthrough entity under subchapter S. The statute of limitations on assessment now bars respondent from adjusting petitioner’s income tax liability for 2002. See sec. 6501(a).

Petitioner was silent regarding its desire to be treated as something other than an S corporation for 2002. Petitioner cannot avoid the duty of consistency, however, by simply remaining silent. Allowing silence to trump the duty of consistency would only encourage gamesmanship and absurd results. Therefore, we will treat petitioner as an S corporation for 2002 under the duty of consistency. 

This bundle of bad facts resulted in $161,200 in taxes and another $76,000 or so in penalties.

The moral?  In spite of media reports, it can be dangerous to game the ESOP rules to avoid tax on S corporation income.  There are many hazards and much legal complication.  If you want to have an ESOP, be sure to bring in a specialist.

Cite: Ries Enterprises, Inc., T.C. Memo 2014-14.

 

Me: IRS gives mulligan to elect portability for $5 million estate exclusion

Paul Neiffer, Not Too Late to Make Portability Election!  I have more here.

Kay Bell, Decoding your W-2

TaxGrrrl, Do You Need To File A Tax Return In 2014?   

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 264

Kyle Pomerleau, The U.S. Has the Highest Corporate Income Tax Rate in the OECD (Tax Policy Blog):

OECD corporate rates

And as Iowa has the highest corporate rate in the U.S., at 12%, we’re number 1!  In a bad way.

 

Robert D. Flach is right on time with your Tuesday Buzz!

 

Career Corner: Soft Skills Are For Pansies (Going Concern)

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/24/14: Executive stock spiff proposed for Iowa. And: Haiku!

Friday, January 24th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1Legislators propose to exempt employer stock gains from employee Iowa income tax.   S.F. 2043 would exclude from taxation capital gains from stock received by an “employee-owner” of a company “on account of employment” with the corporation, and acquired while the taxpayer was still employed..  While it isn’t entirely clear from the legislation, it would appear to include long or short-term gains, and would include stock acquired by exercise of options or stock bonus plans.  It’s not clear that it would apply to gains on ESOP shares, which are generally issued to owners or redeemed on retirement, but I suspect it would.

It’s an astonishingly broad exclusion.  Once elected, it would apply to stock gifted by the employee-owner to spouses and lineal descendants.  It wouldn’t apply to many family owned companies, because it requires five shareholders, at least two unrelated under IRC Section 318 attribution.  Interestingly, the bill misstates Sec. 318, saying:

Two persons are considered related when, under section 318 of the Internal Revenue Code, one is a person who owns, directly or indirectly, capital stock that if directly owned would be attributed to the other person, or is the brother, sister, aunt, uncle, cousin, niece, or nephew of the other person who owns capital stock either directly or indirectly.

No, that would be Section 267 attribution, and only for pass-throughs.  Section 318 only makes a taxpayer related to:

his spouse (other than a spouse who is legally separated from the individual under a decree of divorce or separate maintenance), and

(ii) his children, grandchildren, and parents. 

No siblings, nieces or nephews to be seen.  If they can’t even read the Code, should they really be messing with the state income tax?

If the Iowa income tax is so awful that we need to carve out a special exemption to executive stockholders to get them to come to Iowa, we should fix it for everyone, not just for them.  Does anybody really doubt that Iowa would be more attractive to business with no corporate income tax and a 4% top individual income tax rate than with the current system plus a new executive spiff?  Come on, legislators:  take the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan off the shelf!

Related: Iowa House advances one-time stock gain bill, on a similar bill introduced last year.

 

David Henderson, Steve Moore’s Alternative Maximum Tax (Econlog).  Governor Branstad floated a plan to allow taxpayers to choose between Iowa’s current baroque income tax and a simpler one with lower rates, before abandoning it prior to the opening of the legislative session.   I thought I was being clever by calling an alternative maximum tax.  David reports that Steve Moore came up with both the idea and the name for a proposal he made for the federal tax system in the 1990s.

I still don’t care for it.  In practice we would be computing the tax both ways and paying the lesser amount.  By adding another computation to the process, it would actually make things harder.  The only way it would work would be if it resulted in lower taxes for everyone; then in a few years they could repeal the regular income tax without anyone noticing.

 

20120531-1The 200th edition of the Cavalcade of Risk is up!  This milestone edition of the long-lived roundup of insurance and risk management posts is at Rootfin.  Congratulations to Hank Stern, the evil genius behind the Cavalcade; he participates in this edition with Hacktastic!, on the security troubles of Healthcare.gov, and government’s efforts to hush them up:

See, the problem isn’t the wide-open portal, it’s the folks trying to alert the folks who run it that there is, in fact, a problem. I’m reminded of a certain Middle East river.

More alarming still, though, is that that it’s not just the state folks yelling “burn the witch:” now the FBI has warned Mr Hermansen to zip his lips. That’ll sure make the problem go away.

Your healthcare is in the very best of hands.

 

Jim Maule, How Not to Compute a Casualty Loss Deduction:

The taxpayer claimed a $12,020 casualty loss deduction on account of the loss of the vehicle. The taxpayer computed the deduction by subtracting the $48,000 from $60,020, the original value of the vehicle. However, the first step in computing the amount of a casualty loss deduction is to subtract the insurance recovery from the difference between the value of the property immediately before the casualty and the value of the property immediately after the casualty, unless the taxpayer chooses to use cost of repairs as a substitute measure, though that was not relevant in this case.  Because the taxpayer did not provide evidence of those values, and because the Tax Court was unwilling to assume that the vehicle’s value immediately before the accident was the same as its value when it was new, it upheld the determination of the IRS that the taxpayer was not entitled to a casualty loss deduction.

The IRS often examines casualty loss deductions, so you need to do your legwork on getting the valuations documented before you file.

 

Jason Dinesen, Small Businesses — Review Those Benefit Programs  “When was the last time your small business reviewed the benefit programs your business offers?”

William Perez weighs in on Finding the Right Tax Professional.

Kay Bell, Tax season is tax scam, tax identity theft season. “If you get any unexpected communication in any form that is purportedly from the IRS, especially at the start of tax season, be wary.”  And they will never initiate contact by phone or email.

Paul Neiffer, Cash Does Not Equal Gain.  You can’t make taxable gain go away by using it to pay off loans.

Trish McIntire, Kansas Taxes – Sneaky Changes.

Robert D. Flach brings the Friday Buzz!

 

Kyle Pomerleau, High-Income Taxpayers Could Face a Top Marginal Tax Rate over 50 percent this Tax Season.  Be glad we don’t take it all, serf!  He computes Iowa’s top combined rate at 47.4%.

 

taxanalystslogoChristopher Bergin, Fortress Secrecy – No News Here (Tax Analysts Blog).

Anyone familiar with my writing knows that I have bent over backwards to give the IRS the benefit of the doubt in this black eye some call the “exemption scandal.” I must admit I’m getting a little tired of bending.

Back in the day, as the saying goes, I often referred to the IRS as Fortress Secrecy, a term meant to describe the agency’s obsession with hiding as much of its operations as it can get away with. I am not a casual observer, and I have never seen things this bad. Everything the IRS has done in addressing the exemption scandal leads to just one conclusion: that this agency now believes it is accountable to no one other than itself.

Because shut up, peasant.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 260

Howard Gleckman, Fiscal Magic: Paying for New Highways by Cutting Corporate Taxes (TaxVox)

 

Frank Agostino, Jairo G. Cano, and Crystal Loyer.  Guest posters at Procedurally Taxing, including the prolific Tax Court litigator Frank Agostino, discuss how IRS rules against giving false testimony bolstered an IRS man’s own case, in Section 1203 to Bolster a Taxpayer’s Credibility at Trial.

Jack Townsend, Required Records IRS Summons Enforced Again

 

News from the Profession.  Pulling Back the Curtain on Making Partner in a Big 4 Firm. Just sell, baby!

TaxGrrrl has Fun With Taxes: Tax Haiku 2014.

I’ll try it.

Here comes tax season

April 15 arrives swiftly

I need a stiff drink.

OK, I’ll keep the day job.

 

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

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

More from Howard Gleckman:

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

Most studies conclude there is not.

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

 

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

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

 

Choosing a preparer?

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

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

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

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

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

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

competence curve

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

 

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

Fairmark.com: Share Identification Under Attack

 

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 258

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/20/14: If it’s not a scandal, it hurts like one. And: S corporation ESOP play in WSJ.

Monday, January 20th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa didn’t need my services as a juror this week, so  I will be participating in the Iowa Bar Association webinar this afternoon on new developments for 2014.  It starts at noon.  You can register here and find more information here.   I will join Roger McEowen of the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation, and Kristie Maitre, IRS Stakeholder Liason for Iowa.

 

20130419-1If the Tea Party scandal is not a scandal, why would it be so damaging to the IRS?  The TaxProf’s IRS Scandal Roundup for Day 255 has some eye-opening quotes from a high-powered panel from a Pepperdine/Tax Analysts Symposium last week:

Donald Korb (Partner, Sullivan & Cromwell; former IRS Chief Counsel):  I think it is incredibly damaging.  Frankly, I see it as one of the seeds of the next tax shelter era. … And in terms of scandal, I don’t think we really know. We have not been permitted to understand exactly what happened. So, who knows.

George Yin (Edwin S. Cohen Distinguished Professor of Law and Taxation, Virginia; former Chief of Staff, Joint Committee on Taxation):  I think there has been tremendous damage.  Almost without regard to what actually happened.  And I actually despair of finding out what actually happened. …

Donald Tobin (Frank E. and Virginia H. Bazler Designated Professor in Business Law, Ohio State):  I think it is awful. I agree with Don and George.  7 or 8.  I think this is ultimately going to have huge implications. …

Ellen Aprill (John E. Anderson Chair in Tax Law, Loyola-L.A.):  I agree with all of that.  I have myself avoided the word “scandal” because I just don’t know.  And some of the people I know personally.  I don’t think that was their political motivation.  So I’ve used “controversy” and “brouhaha” and everything but tried not to go all the way to scandal. …

Korb: … This is very, very damaging.  Maybe we are at a 9.5

You can already see effects in the reduction of the IRS funding request in the latest budget deal.  While Congress makes the IRS the Swiss Army Knife of tax policy, it continues to cut back its resources.  That can’t end well.  But the GOP sees that the IRS has acted as a tool for its political opponents, and it’s asking a lot for them to fund their opposition.

 

Robert D. Flach ponders whether the Registered Tax Return Preparer designation could be revived as a voluntary credential.  If any group of preparers can unite behind a voluntary credential with self-administered standards, great.  Just keep the IRS out of it.  It’s a poor use of their resources, and they aren’t to be trusted with that sort of power.

 

S imageS imageS-SidewalkESOP S corporation strategy.  The Wall Street Journal (Laura Saunders, via the TaxProf) reports on an S corporation that may have found a way to funnel all of its income to a tax-exempt ESOP via restricted stock for the non-ESOP owners.  Paul Neiffer suspects it may be too good to be true.

It would be a hard needle to thread, giving the severe 409(p) excise tax that can apply to allocations of ESOP shares to owners of closely-held S corporation.  If the strategy does win in the courts, I would expect to see legislation to change the result quickly.

 

Jack Townsend, Eighth Circuit Affirms Offshore Account Related Conviction

 

Joseph Henchman, What Same-Sex Couples Need to Know This Filing Season  (Tax Policy Blog).  He links to a nice Tax Foundation study that tells how each state is approaching same-sex marriage this filing season.

Roberton Williams, Utah Lets Same-Sex Couples File Joint Tax Returns (TaxVox)

Kay Bell, Girl Scout cookies might be tax deductible.  Unfortunately, only if you don’t eat them.

Russ Fox, The Trouble With Bitcoins: Taxation.  “If you make money with Bitcoins, it is absolutely taxable.”

Jason Dinesen, Issuing 1099s to an Incorporated Veterinarian.  So veterinary services are “medical services.”

So the IRS agrees with Corb Lund.

 

Tax Justice Blog, Oklahoma Shows How Not to Budget.  “The biggest offender here is one we’ve explained before: the growing trend of funneling general tax revenues toward transportation in order to delay having to enact a long-overdue gas tax increase.”

William Perez, In Honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.  “In 1960, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., was found not guilty of filing fraudulent state tax returns for the years 1956 and 1958.”  That’s why you don’t want politicized tax enforcement.

TaxGrrrl, Why Justice Matters: The Indictment & Trial Of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On Tax Charges   

 

Annette Nellen, Real revenue sources for tax reform.  “Where can permanent tax increases be generated to offset the desired permanent tax decrease generated from permanent lower rates?”

Good, we need it.  Bloggers = Media for First Amendment Libel Law Purposes (Eugene Volokh).  “To be precise, the Ninth Circuit concludes that all who speak to the public, whether or not they are members of the institutional press, are equally protected by the First Amendment.”

That’s how it should be.

Peter Reilly, Soldier To Tax Accountant – Rachel Millios EA   

 

News from the Profession.  CPA Exam Pass Rates Basically Went Right Off the Cliff at the End of 2013 (Going Concern).  

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Tax Roundup, 1/17/14: Envy as a principle of tax policy. And: my maybe webinar!

Friday, January 17th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

taxanalystslogoJoseph Thorndike, the tax historian at Tax Analysts, asks: What if the Income Tax Is All About Envy? Would That Be So Bad?.

The short answer: yes, it would.  The primary purpose of a tax is to fund the operations of the government.  Asking the tax to do anything else makes it worse at its main job, while imposing wealth-destroying distortions on the economy.  Also, as we noted the other day, increasing taxes on “the rich” has coincided with an increase in inequality.  It’s not clear at all that taxes at any non-catastrophic level can “help” inequality.

But its a slow news day, so let’s spend a little time on a longer answer.  Joseph thinks that inequality on its own is bad, even when “the poor” are well-off in real, but not relative, terms:

In other words, even if a rising tide lifts all boats, the relative size of everybody’s boat still matters. If some boats are much bigger than others, then a society is vulnerable to political instability.

Now, you can object that all the people with little boats are just feeling envious. But that doesn’t make the envy disappear; moral indignation may be satisfying, but it’s not a particularly effective means of keeping the peace. What’s needed, if you’re trying to fend off revolution, is some sort of actual policy response to feelings of relative deprivation.

I think Joseph greatly overstates the risk of well-fed people rising up against their neighbors just because they have nicer cars and houses.  People with something to lose tend to be risk-averse, and few things are riskier than revolution.   Still, that’s not something I can empirically demonstrate.

Equality in action in the Soviet Union on the Belomor Canal

Equality in action in the Soviet Union on the Belomor Canal

One thing that is indisputable is that catastrophe happens when a government makes “equality” its driving principle.  It was tried extensively in the 20th century, and tens of millions became equally dead as a result.  Given that history, equality as an end in itself has no moral force.

In our current politics, inequality is the cynical rallying cry of a President who lives in a mansion and plays golf at exclusive resorts pretty much every week.  He presides over a listless economy, enormous deficits,  and a health reform plan that is a debacle.  He’s out of ideas, so he’s reduced to saying it’s the rich guy’s fault.  Given the approval ratings he’s getting out of it, revolution seems a long way off.

 

Scott Hodge and Andrew Lundeen, High Income Taxpayers Earn the Majority of All Pass-Through Business Income (Tax Policy Blog).  They make a point that can’t be repeated too often:

It is often said that raising top tax rates will have little effect on business activity because only 2 percent of taxpayers with business income will be impacted. However, the more economically meaningful statistic is how much overall business income will be taxed at the highest rates. In 2011, the vast majority (70 percent) of pass-through business income was reported by taxpayers earning more than $200,000. Millionaire tax returns earned 34 percent of all private business income while taxpayers with incomes below $100,000 earned just 14 percent.

20140117-3

Indulging in envy-driven rate increases on “the rich” means weakening businesses and their ability to hire and grow — reducing opportunities for their would-be employees in the name of “equality.”

 

Perspective.  The brilliant Arnold Kling quotes Laurence Kotlicoff on the U.S. Budget:

In a podcast with Russ Roberts, he says,

I think we are probably in worse fiscal shape and any developed country. The reason, Russ, is we’ve been piling up debts for over 6 decades; and when I say ‘we’ I’m referring to Republican and Democratic administrations and Congresses. And we’ve been hiding them. We’ve been keeping them off the books and using economic labels, words, to pretend that they are not real liabilities of the government…we have all these obligations to something like 30-40 million current retirees and close to 80 million baby boomers who are about to start collecting Social Security benefits if they haven’t already. All those obligations are not reported as part of the government’s debt, so we are missing those off-the-book obligations.

But the real economic emergency is inequality. Or austerity. Or something.

Of course, that “something” is probably those  Tea Party extremists who actually want the government to live within its means.  How dare they.

 

Kay Bell, Filing patience can prevent a big tax mistake.  Hurrying your refund by taking out a refund anticipation loan can be an expensive mistake.

Russ Fox, We Will Soon be Able to Efile Past Due Individual Tax Returns.  Good news.  While everybody should file on time, not everybody does, and anything that helps non-filers come in from the cold is a good thing.

 

20130114-1Programming Note:  I am scheduled to participate in a Tax Update Webinar Monday sponsored by the Iowa Bar Association from noon to 1:45 pm.  Registration information is here – $40 to get a great start on your 2014 CPE/CLE.  Other speakers are Roger McEowen of the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation, and Kristy Maitre, Iowa’s IRS Stakeholder Liason.

While I hope to be there, I can’t guarantee it.  I am on federal jury standby this month, and I won’t know until after 5 p.m. tonight whether I will be hanging out in the jury room at the Des Moines Federal Courthouse instead of at the webinar.  They haven’t needed me these first two weeks, but I suppose past performance is no guarantee of future results here.  If I am on jury duty, the Tax Update may go quiet for awhile.

Update, 1/18: not called for a jury next week, so I will be on!

 

TaxGrrrl, IRS Free File To Open January 17, Two Weeks Before Tax Season Officially Opens 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 253.  He quotes an op-ed by an attorney for the Tea Party outfits, who says: “Let’s all be very clear: The FBI did not conduct an “investigation” into the IRS scandal.”  Of course.  Lookouts don’t investigate.

Robert D. Flach brings the Friday Buzz!

 

News from the Profession.  Life at Deloitte May or May Not Involve Time Spent on Your Knees (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/15/14: Serving society by shooting jaywalkers, sending billionaires to elementary school.

Wednesday, January 15th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Don’t forget to mail your 1040 first quarter estimated tax payments today!

 

Wikipedia image

Wikipedia image

“Society will be best served by allowing him to continue his good works.”  So said Federal Judge Charles Kocaras in sentencing Beanie Baby Billionaire Ty Warner to two years of probation and 500 hours of community service.  Mr. Warner admitted evading taxes on more than $3.3 million in income through the use of Swiss accounts in a plea deal, but his total unpaid taxes was in the neighborhood of $5.6 million, according to Bloomberg News.

So Mr. Beanie Baby gets to do good works.  It’s remarkable, considering the federal sentencing guidelines for a $5 million tax loss start at a 51-month sentence.

Meanwhile, an American woman who has lived her adult life in France is terrified that she will be financially ruined if she starts complying with foreign reporting requirements that she had no idea existed.  A Canadian born of an American parent who has never been to the U.S. faces ruinous penalties because he never filed U.S. tax returns or FBAR reports — it never occurred to him that he might have to file U.S. taxes.  A second-generation American who inherited a foreign bank account from her father faces a minimum of $40,000 in penalties after not paying a whopping $100 in income tax on the account, which she didn’t even know existed.

So society is best served by allowing Mr. Beanie Baby to help out in classrooms, while the IRS quietly imposes outrageous penalties on the innocent conduct of non-billionaires for foot-faulting their paperwork?  I think society would be best served by letting people voluntarily come into compliance without facing financial ruin.  I think society would be best served by not imposing insanely severe penalties for failing to report a Canadian bank account on time when no tax was avoided.  I think society would be best served by not terrorizing Americans abroad for committing personal finance.  But I’m not a federal judge, so my idea of what best serves society doesn’t mean much.

Related:

Jack Townsend, The Beanie Baby Man, The Tax Evader Adult Man, Ty Warner, Gets Probation!  “I do ask the question that comes immediately to mind.  What is it about the very rich that seems to resonate with sentencing judges?”

Janet Novack, No Jail Time For Beanie Babies Billionaire Tax Evader Ty Warner   “Even after those payments, he will still, according to an accounting he gave the government, be worth more than $1.8 billion.”

 

Kyle Pomerleau, IRS Data on Income Shifts Shows Progressivity of Federal Individual Income Tax (Tax Policy Blog):

In 1980, the top 1 percent accounted for 8.46 percent of adjusted gross income and 19.06 percent of income taxes paid: a difference of 10.59 percent. By 2011, their share of income increased to 18.7 and their share of all income taxes paid increased to 35.06; the difference increased to 16.35 percent.

Top 1 pays more than bottom 90

 

So increasing taxes on the rich didn’t make things more “equal.”  How about that.

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Howard Gleckman, IRS Gets Hammered in the 2014 Budget Agreement (TaxVox):

The Internal Revenue Service is one of the biggest losers in the 2014 budget deal agreed to last night by House and Senate negotiators. Under the agreement, the service would get just $11.3 billion, which is $526 million below its 2013 budget and $1.7 billion less than President Obama requested. 

Congress uses the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy.  It has a sprawling portfolio that ranges from energy policy to welfare to health care — responsibilities that dwarf many of the cabinet agencies nominally overseeing those areas.  Yet Congress, while increasing the responsibility of the IRS more and more, is cutting its resources.  That won’t end well.

Yet the IRS in a way has itself to blame.  It’s outrageous politicization under Doug Shulman and the resulting Tea Party harassment have had the predictable effect of making the Republicans consider the IRS a political opponent.  Nobody wants to fund the opposition.  And no, I don’t buy Mr. Gleckman’s line that “…the 501(c)(4) mess was caused in part by a lack of resources.”  If you don’t have resources, you don’t spend extra time singling out certain political views for “special” treatment.”

 

David Brunori, Apple and Wal-Mart Are Perfect Together in a World of Bad Tax Policy (Tax Analysts Blog):

In any event, the purveyors of tomorrow’s technology and cheap toiletries recently got together to lobby for a sales tax holiday in Wisconsin. In that regard at least, Apple and Wal-Mart are very much alike. They favor bad tax policy when it helps their bottom line. 

Of course they do.  The real shame is the legislators who make it happen.

microsoft-apple

 

TaxGrrrl, No Criminal Charges Expected In FBI Investigation Into IRS Scandal

William Perez discusses Prices for Professional Tax Preparation Services.

Kay Bell, California has $16 million in undeliverable 2012 tax refunds

Robert D. Flach, THE FUTURE OF THE RTRP DESIGNATION – THE CONVERSATION CONTINUES:  “To be effective the organization that administers the independent voluntary RTRP credential must have the backing, support, and recognition of the entire industry, and not just one component or organization.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 251

If the sentence is carried out on April 16, it’s cruel and unusual punishment.  Governor Christie Redeems Himself By Signing “CPA Death Penalty” Legislation in New Jersey (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/13/14: They’re back edition. And: tax fairy doesn’t show up at appeals court.

Monday, January 13th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


20130117-1
The 2014 session of the 85th Iowa General Assembly begins today.
 It doesn’t look like much tax legislation will pass.

The Governor abandoned a plan to allow taxpayers to choose between the current byzantine Iowa income tax and a lower-rate version with fewer deductions and no deduction for federal taxes paid even before the session started.  He instead will focus on lame feel-good initiatives in an election year, reports Omaha.com:

Gov. Terry Branstad is set to unveil his agenda Tuesday during the Condition of the State address. He said his priorities will include expanding broadband Internet access, fighting school bullying and curtailing student loan debt.

The Governor’s opposition will block any tax reform that isn’t sufficiently punitive to the “rich” — which means any reform worthy of the name.  They will try to change some of Iowa’s worst corporate welfare giveaways, reports the Des Moines Register, but the Governor, an inveterate smokestack chaser and ribbon-cutter, can be expected block any restrictions on using your money to lure and subsidize your competitors.

Meanwhile, trial balloons about increasing the gas tax have already deflated.  That means we can expect a quiet session on the tax front, and a continuation of Iowa’s insanely complex and worthless tax system for another year.  But if they change their minds and want to do something useful, it’s always a good time to talk about The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

tax fairyTax Fairy seeker loses appeal.  A South Dakota surgeon who looked across the ocean for the Tax Fairy found only grief — and the grief wasn’t alleviated on appeals.  The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals last week upheld the conviction that led to a five-year sentence for Dr. Edward Picardi.

The doctor used a scheme where he “leased” his medical services to an offshore company he controlled to artificially reduce his income by stashing earnings in offshore accounts.  The scheme was promoted to him by an attorney-CPA who has been acquitted of criminal charges in another employee leasing case.

Other taxpayers have avoided fraud penalties from employee-leasing to offshore entities (see here), but not taxes and penalties.  When the best you can say about a tax plan is that you avoided fraud penalties, it’s not much of a plan.  There is no tax fairy.

Prior coverage here.

 

Kay Bell has Important January tax dates, deadlines

 

Lyman Stone, Should Nebraska Follow the Example of Illinois or Indiana?  “The case of Illinois is a great example of how higher taxes can contribute to a worsening business climate, which leads to less jobs.”

Annette Nellen, Marijuana and the Tax Law.  Despite appearances, there is no evidence the lawmakers are smoking something when they write tax laws.

TaxGrrrl, Top 10 Most Litigated Tax Issues.  Number one is penalties.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 249

Robert D. Flach offers a SPECIAL OFFER FOR ITEMIZERS!

 

TaxTrials, Famous Fridays: Wesley Snipes, A Lesson in Listening to Bad Advice.  Did he ever.

 

The Critical Question: Massages May Feel Nice, But Can You Deduct Them at the Poker Table? (Russ Fox)

News from the Profession: KPMG Upgrades Its Female Interns From Necklaces to Camisoles  (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/10/2014: Taxpayer advocate rips IRS penalties and foreign account enforcement. Also: the Code still stinks!

Friday, January 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

The Taxpayer Advocate’s Annual Report directs some well-deserved fire on two of the worst IRS practices: the penalty-happy approach to examinations and the shoot-the-jaywalkers approach to offshore enforcement.

The report says this about penalties:

The IRS’s decision not to abate inapplicable penalties illustrates its resource-driven approach to them. As we have described in prior reports, the IRS too often proposes accuracy-related penalties automatically when they might potentially apply — before performing a careful analysis of the relevant facts and circumstances — and then burdens taxpayers by requiring them to prove the penalties do not apply.

The IRS should identify and abate all of the accuracy-related penalties that should not apply. It should minimize taxpayer burden when administering the IRC § 6676 penalty (e.g., by not proposing it automatically) and work with the Treasury Department to support a reasonable cause exception.

Amen.  The tax law is hard, and when a taxpayer does what a reasonable person — not a reasonable tax lawyer — should do to pay the right amount, there shouldn’t be an automatic 20% mistake penalty.  Too bad the advocate doesn’t seem to have embraced my “sauce for the gander” penalty, which would make the IRS pay taxpayers the same 20% penalty when the IRS makes an unjustified assessment.

Regarding foreign account enforcement, the report faults the IRS shoot-the-jaywalker approach (my emphasis):

In the 2009 OVD program, the median offshore penalty paid by those with the smallest accounts ($87,145 or less) was nearly six times the tax on their unreported income. Among unrepresented taxpayers with small accounts it was nearly eight times the unpaid tax. The penalty was also disproportionately greater than the amount paid by those with the largest accounts (more than $4.2 million) who paid a median of about three times their unreported tax. When the IRS audited taxpayers who opted out (or were removed), on average, it assessed smaller, but still severe, penalties of nearly 70 percent of the unpaid tax and interest. Given the harsh treatment the IRS applied to benign actors, others have made quiet disclosures by correcting old returns or by complying in future years without subjecting themselves to the lengthy and seemingly-unfair OVD process. Still others have not addressed FBAR compliance problems, and the IRS has not done enough to help them comply.

20121129-1Shooting the jaywalkers so you can slap the bad actors on the wrist.

The IRS should expand the self-correction and settlement options available to benign actors so that they are not pressured to opt out or pay more than they should; do more to educate persons with foreign accounts (e.g., recent immigrants) about the reporting requirements; consolidate and simplify guidance; and reduce duplicative reporting requirements.

The IRS should follow the lead of the states that allow non-resident taxpayers who voluntarily disclose past non-compliance to file and pay five years of prior taxes, with only interest and no penalties — reserving the penalties for those who wait until they are caught.  Tax Analysts quotes one lawyer as saying this would be unfair to the already-wounded jaywalkers:

“It’s very hard to make the program more lenient now without going back and adjusting thousands of [prior] taxpayers’ resolutions since 2009,” he said. That is something the IRS is likely unwilling to do, he added.

Too bad.  That’s exactly what they should do.

 There’s a lot more to the report, including a call for a new taxpayers bill of rights (good) and a renewed call for IRS preparer regulation (a waste of IRS and preparer time).

Related: 

Lynnley  Browning, IRS top cop says the agency is too hard on offshore tax dodgers.  I can’t imagine she wrote that headline.  Any lazy headline writers who call an inadvertent FBAR violator a “tax dodger” should have half their bank account balances seized if they ever forget to report a 1099.

TaxGrrrl, Report To Congress: IRS Is Increasingly Unable To Meet Taxpayer Needs

Jack Townsend,New Taxpayer Advocate Report to Congress Addressing, Inter Alia, OVDI/P Concerns

 

TaxProf, IRS Releases FY2013 2006 Enforcement Stats:

The IRS has released Fiscal Year 2013 Enforcement and Service Results, showing among other things:

  • Individual audit rate:  0.96% (lowest since 2005)

  • Large corporation audit rate: 15.8% (lowest since 2009)

  • Revenue from audits:  $9.8 billion (lowest since 2003)

  • Number of IRS agents:  19,531 (lowest since pre-2000)

  • Conviction rate:  93.1% (highest since pre-2000)

It’s hard to see where the IRS has the resources for making compliant preparers waste their time on preparer regulation busywork.

 

William Perez, Fourth Estimated Tax Payment for 2013 Due on January 15

Paul Neiffer, How Low is Too Low For A Rental Arrangement?  “We had a reader ask the following question: ‘Does leasing cropland to a family member for substantially less than fair market value become “gifting” subject to taxes for value above gifting limit?’”

Jason Dinesen,  Review Your Small Business Operations as Part of Year-End/Year-Beginning Planning

Leslie Book, NTA Annual Report Released (Procedurally Taxing)

 

 

Christopher Bergin, The Tax Code in 2014 – It Still Stinks (Tax Analysts Blog):

I’ve always believed in progressive income taxation. This isn’t it. The conservatives have sold us on the notion that tax is a dirty word, and the liberals have sold us on the notion that class envy is a healthy state of mind.

And that, folks, is why the tax code stinks. And it won’t get any better in the new year.   

There’s more to the stink than that, but it’s a good start.

 

Scott Hodge, Millionaire Taxpayers Tend to be Older.  Well, that’s one good thing about aging, I guess.

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Howard Gleckman, Pay to Extend Unemployment Benefits? Why Not Pay to Extend Temporary Tax Breaks Too?  (TaxVox)

Tax Justice Blog,  Reasons Why Congress Should Allow the Deduction for Tuition to Remain Expired

Kay Bell, Marijuana sales, tax collections good for Colorado coffers.

 

The Newest Cavalcade of Risk is up!  Hank Stern participates with an Overseas ObamaTax Conundrum

 

Robert D. Flach brings the Friday Buzz!

Career Corner: This Year, Resolve to Finally Decide What You Want To Be When You Grow Up in Public Accounting (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/7/2014: Koskinen proposes voluntary IRS preparer certification. And: Obamacare, small business incubator?

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

The new IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, would like for IRS to oversee a voluntary preparer certification program if their preparer regulation power grab fails in the courts, reports Accounting Today. But he would still prefer the power grab:

“If you could require certification of preparers and some educational requirements, it would help taxpayers feel some level of confidence that preparers actually know what they’re doing, and the vast majority of them do,” Koskinen said during a conference call with reporters after he was sworn in ceremonially Monday by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew with an audience of many IRS employees in attendance. “My sense is that we should be able to provide that same educational training and that background to preparers. If you can’t require it, offer it, and if you complete the information, you get a certificate that says, ‘I have completed the IRS preparer course.’ I think that could be over time very valuable to preparers, and consumers could ask preparers, ‘Have you gone through the IRS training?’ Whatever happens with the court case, we ought to be able to move forward on that and provide taxpayers with as much assurance as we can that the preparers they are dealing with have met some kind of minimum standards.”

Somebody should point out to him that there already is such a program: the Enrolled Agent Program.  If the IRS runs the now-mothballed Registered Tax Return Preparer literacy test as a voluntary program, it will be a crippling blow to the more rigorous and underappreciated EA designation. Before he worries more about the competence of preparers, Commissioner Koskinen should fix his agency first (my emphasis):

“When I look at the impact of the budget and the implications of further cuts or what happens the next time there’s a sequester, the first thing that happens is the waiting time on a phone call goes up and our service goes down,” he said. “We try to get to 70 or 80 percent, but sometimes it gets as low as 50 or 60, which means at 50 percent that half the people who are calling are getting no answer at all and no satisfaction. It just seems to me that’s intolerable. Taxpayers deserve better, so we need to do whatever we can to provide the services that taxpayers need and expect. They ought to be able to dial the IRS number and get an answer promptly, and they ought to be able to get accurate information.”

Even the shabbiest storefront preparer at least processes more than half of its customers.

 

Why Iowa income tax reform will go nowhere this yearvia the Sioux City Journal:

Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said Senate Democrats would formulate a tax-relief approach geared toward income tax cuts for middle-class Iowans, not the two-tiered plan being pushed by Republicans.

“Nobody in my caucus is going to go along with a scheme that leaves middle-class Iowans carrying more than their share of the tax burden in Iowa so rich people can choose whichever one works the best for them,” Gronstal said.

The idea that the state income tax system is somehow a way to fight The Rich Guy is willfully dumb, with zero-income-tax South Dakota right next door.  Oh, and you know what another word for “the rich” is?  Employers. 

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

 

Megan McCardle poses the question “Will Obamacare Inspire Small-Business Ownership?“:

One theorized benefit of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is that it will unleash a new era of entrepreneurship. Undoubtedly, there are people in the U.S. who wanted to start a business but feared losing their health insurance. Now that they know they can buy it, presumably they’ll be freed to take risks without fearing that they could end up uninsured and uninsurable.

Unfortunately, we just don’t have that much empirical evidence. European nations with more generous social safety nets have lower rates of entrepreneurship than the U.S. does, even though a thought experiment might suggest that generous welfare programs would encourage people to take more risks. Nor did we see a radical unfurling of entrepreneurial energy in Massachusetts after RomneyCare.

She also points out that Obamacare is a kick in the head for businesses that actually succeed:

Meanwhile, of course, the law imposes significant new penalties for growing a company; anyone with more than 50 employees not only has to provide health insurance for their employees, but they also have to meet a substantial regulatory burden to demonstrate that they’re providing affordable coverage. That might discourage people from growing their firms. 

You know, it just might.

 

Russ Fox, Your Mileage Log — Start It Now (2014 Version).  You would not believe how much it helps in an IRS exam.  And doing it retrospectively when the IRS exam notice arrives tends to go badly.

Peter Reilly, Post Divorce Tax Intimacy Can Be Riskier Than Post Divorce Sex   Ewww…

Paul Neiffer, Roger’s Top Ten. “Roger McEowen from Iowa State University and their Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation (CALT) just listed his Top 10 Ag Law and Taxation Developments for 2014.”

William Perez, Resources for Preparing and Filing Form W-2 for Small Businesses

Robert D. Flach tells us WHAT’S NEW FOR NJ STATE TAXES FOR 2013

Kay Bell, Tax Carnival #124: Happy New Tax Year 2014

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Martin Sullivan, Goodbye Baucus, Hello Wyden (Tax Analysts Blog): “On tax reform the current chair of the Senate Finance Committee has been a laggard. Wyden will be a leader.”

Jeremy Scott, A To-Do List for Wyden (Tax Analysts Blog).  Tax Reform, Extenders, and the Tea Party investigation.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 243

 

Joseph Henchman, Parking and Transit Benefits Tax Exclusion Parity Expires Again; Congress Should Consider Permanent Fix.  (Tax Policy Blog).  “The tax code is probably the wrong place to be subsidizing commuters, and the entire provision ought to be eliminated. If Congress wishes to retain it, it ought to consider a non-expiring unified exclusion of all transportation commuting expenses.”

Tax Justice Blog, Corporate Income Tax Repeal Is Not a Serious Proposal.  Stawmen go up in flames.

Ben Harris, Rethinking Homeownership Subsidies (TaxVox).  He wants to revamp them.  I’d prefer to get rid of them.

 

TaxGrrrl, Cracker Barrel Waitress Serves Up Happiness, Gets Tip & More .  $6,000 more.

The Critical Question: Is College That Guy on eBay Who Never Paid For the Crap You Sent Him? (Going Concern)

 

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