Posts Tagged ‘Russ Fox’

Tax Roundup, 2/10/16: Tax Court rules out super-duper bureaucrat deduction. And: Don’t rob the preparer!

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20120801-2You are fined $50 court costs. My accountant prefers it that way.  A good lawyer can make you seriously consider a position that seems absurd at first glance. An Arizona judge whose case showed up in Tax Court yesterday must be a good lawyer.

The case is based on the difference between the tax treatment of business expenses and employee expenses. Business expenses are normally fully deductible. In contrast, expenses incurred by an employee, and not reimbursed by the employer, are only deductible as itemized deductions, and then only to the extent they — when added to other “miscellaneous” deductions — exceed 2% of adjusted gross income. Worse, even if you have enough employee expenses to show up on Schedule A, they are non-deductible in computing alternative minimum tax. That often makes them useless.

Arizona state judge Michael Jones had a clever accountant who saw a potential way around this problem. According to the Tax Court, Judge Jones incurred some out-of-pocket expenses to run his chambers when state budget cuts began to pinch. His tax preparer, a CPA, said that Section 62(a)(2)(C) made these “above the line” business expenses:

(C)Certain expenses of officials

The deductions allowed by section 162 which consist of expenses paid or incurred with respect to services performed by an official as an employee of a State or a political subdivision thereof in a position compensated in whole or in part on a fee basis.

So how did that affect Judge Jones? From Tax Court Judge Holmes (my emphasis, citations omitted):

Maricopa County Superior Court is funded in part by the collection of fees. Individuals must pay the superior court clerk fees for various case filings, petitions, writs, the filing of any documents, and the issuance of any licenses or certificates. The county does not, however, receive fees paid for wedding ceremonies — judges are allowed to collect those directly (although Judge Jones himself did not charge for weddings during the years at issue).

Judge Jones argues that “in a position compensated in whole or in part on a fee basis” means something like “a position funded in whole or in part by fees paid by members of the public for services rendered by judges.” Neither the Code nor the regulations define what “fee basis” means, and the case law is similarly stubborn in its silence.

Judge Holmes ponders the arguments and reaches his decision:

We also have to conclude that the Commissioner’s position is the more reasonable one. An enormous number of government agencies, courts, departments, and boards receive fee income. If Judge Jones’s construction of section 62(a)(2)(C) were correct, all the positions in all these government bodies would be “position[s] compensated in whole or in part on a fee basis.” This would create a caste of employees — those employed as government “officials” — who would be exempt from the rule Congress chose to enact that limits the deductibility of unreimbursed employee expenses. Maybe Congress could do that, but it didn’t do so plainly. Business expenses are also usually thought deductible because they are an ordinary and necessary requirement for producing income. But Judge Jones’s reading of section 62 would uncouple the deductibility of an expense from the income it produces — once a position was funded in part by fees, any employee holding that position would be entitled to unlimited deduction of his unreimbursed business expenses regardless of whether those expenses had anything to do with those fees.

I think Judge Holmes comes to the right conclusion dealing with this obscure provision. If he concluded differently, every public official would be running to their preparers to amend all the open years. Though when it comes to a privileged “caste” of public employees, we’re further down that road than we should be already.

The moral? It’s important to handle business expenses properly. Many taxpayers who own S corporations, for example, pay some business expenses themselves without being reimbursed by the S corporation. Such expenses become “employee” expenses and are routinely lost. By submitting the costs to the employer — their own S corporation — for reimbursement, they become corporation expenses and fully deductible.

Cite: Jones, 146 T.C. No. 3

 

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Accounting Today, Obama Budget Includes Tax Increases and Tax Preparer Regulation. Of course it does.

We need IRS employees to oversee preparers to prevent fraud. IRS Employee Pleads Guilty to $1 Million ID Theft Tax Fraud Scheme (Department of Justice).

Kay Bell, Obama’s final budget is full of big, but unlikely to be fulfilled, tax and spending ideas. It will go over well as his prior budgets.

 

Paul Neiffer, We Knew It Was Coming!:

In doing various tax classes over the last few years, I almost always stated that it would only be a matter of time before the President would ask for this net investment income tax to be applied to S corporation and partnership income whether passive or material.  In the new budget proposal issued by the President, that time has come.

His budget proposes that all income of S corporations and partnerships be subject to the net investment income tax of 3.8%.  This would include any gains from selling any assets inside of these entities or selling the stock or partnership interest.  This will affect farmers who have large gains in the future.

Somehow I don’t think the momentum is there to expand Obamacare taxes.

 

Russ Fox, Can a Resident of a Non-Tax Treaty Country (With Respect to Gambling) Get His Withheld Funds Back? “Canadians are allowed to file a Form 1040NR and claim gambling losses up to the amount of wins, and get a refund. New Zealanders are not.”

Peter Reilly, Is Tax Foundation Unfair To Bernie Sanders? Only if it’s unfair to focus on the destruction that would result from his confiscatory taxes, rather than the magical results he promises when he gives you some of your money back through those wonderful and always efficient government programs.

Lany Villalobos, Patrick Tohomas, The Struggle to Obtain Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (Procedurally Taxing). The government is doing its best to increase tax burdens on offshore investors, while at the same time making it hard for them to even start complying.

TaxGrrrl, Ask The Taxgirl: The Child Tax Credit

Robert Wood, New Excuse: ‘Fear Of IRS Audit Made Me Cheat On My Taxes’ Huh?

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 1007. After five years, one of the prominent 501(c)(4) applications slow-walked through the IRS process is finally approved. Nope, no politics here.

Tax Policy Blog, 2015 Outstanding Achievement in State Tax Reform Awards. None awarded to Iowans, unsurprisingly.

Ajay Gupta, Hillary Clinton’s Wall on the Border (Tax Analysts Blog):

Turns out the inevitable Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, would also build a great, great wall. Unlike Trump’s wall, hers would not deter foreign individuals lacking proper documentation from coming into the country. Instead, it would dissuade U.S. corporations stuck with domestic charters from leaving. And she would have U.S. investors and workers pay for that wall.

Something about grasping politicians loves a wall.

 

Career Corner. Which Popular Accounting Hashtag Should You Use? An Explainer (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

Jim Maule, Stupid Criminals, Tax Version. “According to several reports, including this one, a woman and her son walked into a Liberty Tax Services office in Toledo, Ohio, pointed what appeared to be a gun over which a towel was draped, demanded money, and made off with $280… It turned out that the “gun” was a curling iron. And it also turned out that the staff recognized the two as customers who had used Liberty’s services a few days earlier.”

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Tax Roundup, 2/9/16: Cam Newton lost more than a game in California. And: cats with pink bows!

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20130819-1Welcome to California, Cam! The quarterback for the losing team in this year’s Super Bowl earned a $51,000 bonus for his trouble. Did he really lose money on the deal, after taxes? K. Sean Packard reports that he loses money on the deal. Is that even possible?

Before we get into the numbers, let’s do a quick review of the jock tax rules applied to professional athletes (similar tax rules apply to anyone doing business across state lines, but they are rarely enforced). States tax a player based on their calendar-year income. They apply a duty day calculation which takes the ratio of duty days within the state over total duty days for the year. That ratio is then multiplied by the player’s salary to arrive at a state’s allocable income.

According to the story, Cam Newton will have about 206 “duty days” this year. Cam Newton’s 2016 salary is $20 million. The Super Bowl gave Mr. Newton 7 California duty days. So, the numbers, as I compute them:

7/206=.0339805825.

$20 million x 0339805825 = 679,612 income allocated to California

California’s tax on $679,612 x 13.3% 90,388. Add the 13.3% on his $51,000 allocated to California, which is not included in the $20,000,000 base, and he owes another $230, for a total California hit of $90,618. That will reduce his federal taxes by about $35,885 (39.6% x 90,618), so his net California hit for the 7 Super Bowl days is $54,733. Considering the 40.5% federal tax on his additional $51,000 of wages ($20,655), Mr. Newton takes a $75,388 net tax hit on his $51,000 earned — a combined 147.8% marginal rate.

If Mr. Newton is a North Carolina resident, he would have paid some of that money in resident state taxes. If he is a tax-savvy Florida resident, it’s all loss. Sort of like the game Sunday.

20141208-2We are all Cam Newton. Not all of us can play football at a high level, but all of us can face similar issues working in another state. Contrary to what the article above says, taxes on cross-border visits aren’t just “rarely” enforced. Some states, including California and New York, enforce these taxes with vigor. Entertainers and corporate executives are the easiest targets, but improved data-mining has allowed states to go downmarket in pursuit of income from workers in-state on short assignments — whether on a consulting or accounting job, or on a sales call.

This creates a potential compliance nightmare for employees who work in multiple states. And if you are a resident of a high-tax state, it’s a nightmare that may not even cost you additional tax, because of credits allowed for non-resident state taxes. Just additional time and prep fees — and potentially ugly penalties if you fail to file in a state you visit briefly.

That’s why the Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act would be a good thing. By limiting state taxes on most employees to situations where they spend at least 30 days in a state,  H.R. 2315 would save employees and employers a great deal of pointless compliance hassle. By going to http://www.mobileworkforcecoalition.org/contact-congress/#/ you can tell your Senator to get behind the bill. As Senator Grassley is on the Senate taxwriting committee, he especially needs to hear about it.

Unfortunately for Mr. Newton, it wouldn’t apply to athletes (an unfair exemption, apparently required politically), but it at least H.R. 2315 would keep itinerant accountants out of multi-state tax purgatory.

 

Seventh Avenue, Des Moines, this morning.

 

Russ Fox, IRS Must Pay Fees in Civil Forfeiture Case. “I am not a fan of civil forfeiture as currently practiced: It’s being abused widely by the government. Indeed, some government police agencies consider it a part of their normal funding!” Institute for Justice is also pursuing fees in the case of the Northwest Iowa restaurant owner whose cash was confiscated by IRS. Russ encourages contributions to IJ; I’m a donor.

William Perez, Free Tax Preparation and Tax Problem Resolution Services

Kay Bell, Previous Year of the Monkey stamp offers collectors a nice profit, but a higher capital gains tax rate

Jason Dinesen, Why Yes, I Am “Just” An Enrolled Agent. The EA designation is impressive, and contrary to the attitude of an accountant Jason encountered, CPAs have no cause to be snotty to EAs.

Robert Wood, Hillary’s Wall Street Speech Fees: Hers Or Clinton Foundation’s?. I think that’s a distinction without a difference.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 1006

Joseph Thorndike, Bernie Sanders Wants to Soak the Poor — Just Like FDR (Tax Analysts Blog). “Ultimately, however, the most revealing linkage between Sanders and FDR resides not in a shared impulse to tax the rich, but in a common willingness to soak the poor.” You can’t have a mass welfare benefit paid for only by a class tax.

 

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

 

I can’t find this tax rule in the code. A taxpayer brought a novel approach to determining his income to Tax Court in a case released yesterday. The gentleman is of the tax defier persuasion, feline variation (my emphasis):

The Court inquired whether he had any evidence to submit regarding his receipt of income during 2011 from BDL Films, Partizan Entertainment, Avatar Films, or Western Federal Credit Union. He replied: “I don’t even know what you mean by ‘income.’ I have my own definition of income.” Asked what that definition was, he replied: “It’s a cat with a pink bow. I earned no income. I’m in my own jurisdiction. * * * I am not part of the legal society; I have my own society.”

I suspect that his earnings were not routinely paid in cat, with bows of any color. The Court wasn’t persuaded, either:

The petition that petitioner filed in this Court consists solely of frivolous arguments. We warned petitioner four times — twice in advance of trial and twice during trial — that he risked incurring a significant penalty if he persisted in advancing frivolous arguments. He persisted. He has deluged this Court with gibberish and has wasted the resources of respondent’s counsel and this Court. We will accordingly require that he pay to the United States under section 6673(a) a penalty of $3,500.

$3,500 is a lot of kitty litter.

Cite: Bruhwiler, T.C. Memo. 2016-18

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Tax Roundup, 2/8/16: When your password is a key for thieves. And: More Tax Credits!

Monday, February 8th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20150910-2You need more than one password. Another home tax software company reports that its customers may have had their data stolen. Marketwatch.com reports:

In its letter to affected customers, TaxSlayer said it became aware Jan. 13 that hackers had accessed some of its customers’ accounts. The illegal access took place between Oct.10, 2015, and Dec. 21, 2015.

The letter said an “unauthorized third party may have obtained access to any information you included in a tax return or draft tax return saved on TaxSlayer, including your name and address, your Social Security number, the Social Security numbers of your dependents, and other data contained on your 2014 tax return.”

In its statement, TaxSlayer said it doesn’t believe its own systems were breached. Instead, “user credentials, stolen from other sources, were then used to misrepresent our customers and therefore access our program.”

They’re saying that they got passwords from another site and tried them on TaxSlayer, and they worked. That kind of breach is on the user, not the software company.

Reusing passwords is poor data security hygiene. McAfee Software offers some great tips for good passwords. The tips include a list of things people do that make them vulnerable to data theft, including:

Reuse of passwords across multiple sites: Reusing passwords for email, banking, and social media accounts can lead to identity theft. Two recent breaches revealed a password reuse rate of 31% among victims.

If you use different passwords for your different important accounts, one data breach won’t expose your entire financial life.

Related: TaxSlayer data breach is the 3rd tax software-related security issue so far this filing season (Kay Bell)

 

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Brent Willett, Iowa’s next economic frontier (IowaBiz.com). An unintended but useful followup to my IowaBiz post on Friday on the unwisdom of targeted tax credits, the post boosts a proposed new tax credit that I criticized by name. The post touts a new report promising “Fifty thousand jobs” to Iowa if we just enact a new “Bio-Based Chemicals” tax credit.

The post neatly checks off several items I note in my post:

Might these special favors be better for the economy than some farmer or small business who buys a new tractor or machine? You could make that case, but it would be plausible only if these favors were enacted by a process where the state looked at the vast menu of possible industries to support and carefully evaluated which ones were more persuasive. That never happens. Instead, the credits follow the path of the notorious Iowa film industry credits, where an industry gets some legislators and business boosters excited and builds support — sometimes with “studies” funded by booster groups. There is no evaluation of the opportunity costs, of whether the funds would be better used elsewhere.

No comparison to other industry opportunities? Check. Studies funded by booster groups? Check. Ignoring opportunity costs? Check.

I encourage your to read the Willett post and ponder why a government subsidy is needed if the industry is such a slam-dunk.  Also, consider whether you would get the same article by substituting other industries for bio-chemicals in the post.

 

 

Andrew Mitchel: New Expatriate Record for 2015 – Nearly 4,300 Expatriations:

2015 expatriations

“The escalation of offshore penalties over the last 20 years is likely contributing to the increased incidence of expatriation.”

Related: Record Numbers Renounce Their U.S. Citizenship (Robert Wood)

 

Jason Dinesen, Lots and Lots of Scam E-mails this Year. Jason posts many helpful examples. Be very skeptical of emails you don’t expect, and delete any purporting to come from IRS.

Annette Nellen, Ideas for Retirement Savings Reform. “One overall reform Irecommend is to change the focus of retirement plans from the employer to the employee, making them truly portable from job to job and if in employee or contractor status or both.”

Jim Maule, The Biggest Tax Refund?. Overwithholding will do the trick.

Leslie Book, The Limits of the “One Inspection” of Taxpayers’ Books and Records Rule (Procedurally Taxing). “One limitation on IRS powers is the Code itself, as Section 7605(b) provides that ‘only one inspection of a taxpayer’s books of account shall be made for each taxable year unless ․ the [Treasury] Secretary ․ notifies the taxpayer in writing that an additional inspection is necessary.'”

Robert D. Flach, TAX GUIDE FOR NEW HOMEOWNERS

Russ Fox, It Was Only a 13.33% Kickback. A police chief breaks the tax law.

TaxGrrrl, So About Those Cam Newton ‘Sunday Giveaway’ Game Balls…

 

Only the form of your destructor. What Would Be At Stake In A Trump v. Sanders Election? How About $24 Trillion in Tax Revenue (Tony Nitti).

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 1003Day 1004Day 1005

Scott Greenberg, White House Calls for Targeting the Cadillac Tax by Location:

Why would the White House propose changes that would weaken the Cadillac Tax – a central part of the administration’s most significant policy achievement? In fact, these changes might be necessary to secure the continued existence of the tax. The White House has been fighting a losing battle to defend the Cadillac Tax, and these proposed changes may placate some of the tax’s opponents, particularly employers in states with high healthcare costs.

We must destroy the Cadillac Tax to save the Cadillac Tax!

Renu Zaretsky, Budget Hearings, Saving, and Entertaining (TaxVox). “There is almost always something perfunctory about the last budget of an outgoing president, but this year’s will generate even less interest than usual. In the ultimate insult, the GOP-run congressional budget committees won’t even invite White House officials to describe their fiscal plan.” And lots more in today’s TaxVox headline roundup.

I reject this false choice. Kentucky Can Attract Tourists Who Like Bible More Than Bourbon Without Violating First Amendment  (Peter Reilly)

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/5/16: The IRS isn’t a bank, and a 1099 isn’t what makes income taxable. And: oil companies, money trees.

Friday, February 5th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20151217-1Nice Try. The tax law discourages taxpayers from tapping retirement savings too early with a 10% early withdrawal tax. The tax law also allows an above-the-line deduction for penalties imposed by banks for closing out a CD or savings account before maturity.

They aren’t the same thing.

A Mr. Martin learned that lesson this week in Tax Court. He was 54 years old when he pulled out $55,976.29 from his IRA. He reported the 10% penalty tax, but then he also deducted it on line 30 of his 1040 as a “penalty on early withdrawal of savings.”

I can see the logic, as it does look like, well, a penalty on an early withdrawal of savings. But that’s not how the Tax Court sees it (my emphasis):

Martin argues that the additional tax imposed by section 72(t) is deductible under section 62(a)(9). We disagree. Section 62(a)(9) provides a deduction for an amount “forfeited to a bank, mutual savings bank, savings and loan association, building and loan association, cooperative bank or homestead association as a penalty for premature withdrawal of funds from a time savings account, certificate of deposit, or similar class of deposit.” The section 72(t) additional tax is payable to the federal government, not to a “bank” or similar institution listed in section 62(a)(9). Therefore, it is not deductible under section 62(a)(9). Further, the additional tax imposed by section 72(t) is a federal-income tax. Section 275(a)(1) disallows any deductions for “Federal income taxes” (A deduction for certain other taxes, including State income taxes and some other federal taxes, is allowed by section 164(a).).

There was one other problem with the return. He won $1,000 at a casino, an amount arguably below the threshold for which casinos most report gambling winnings on a W2-G. They reported it anyway. Again, the Tax Court:

The casino reported on an information return its $1,000 payment to Martin. Martin argues that, because he earned entries into the lottery by playing slot machines, his gambling winnings should be subject to the $1,200 reporting threshold. Thus, Martin argues, the casino should not have reported the gambling  winnings of $1,000 because the payment fell below the $1,200 reporting-requirement threshold for gambling winnings from slot machines.

Martin assumes that gambling winnings that are not reportable on information returns are not includible in gross income. At trial he said that the IRS is “trying to separate the taxation from the reporting when it is undeniably one and the same”. Martin does not see, or refuses to see, the distinction between information-reporting requirements and the imposition of income tax. Whether the casino was required to report Martin’s winnings is irrelevant to the question of whether his winnings are includible in his gross income. The Internal Revenue Code does not exclude a payment from income when the payment is not large enough to require the payor to report the payment on an information return.

A lot of people think that when something doesn’t show up on an information return, it’s tax-free. It just doesn’t work that way.

Cite: Martin, T.C. Memo. 2016-15

 

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Obama seeks oil tax, destruction of self-driving car industryCNBC reports:

President Barack Obama will propose a $10-per-barrel charge on oil to fund clean transportation projects as part of his final budget request next week, the White House said Thursday.

Oil companies would pay the fee, which would be gradually introduced over five years. The government would use the revenue to help fund high-speed railways, autonomous cars and other travel systems, aiming to reduce emissions from the nation’s transportation system.

“Oil companies would pay the fee.” Such a kidder, that President. Apparently the oil companies will pay it by planting more carbon-absorbing money trees out behind their refineries.

It’s a credit to misguided persistence that the President is still pursuing high-speed passenger rail, an idea that California is busy proving once again to be ridiculously expensive and impractical. And somehow I’d feel much safer in an autonomous car from Google or Apple than one from the the same government that brings us the IRS.

 

Scott Hodge, New IRS Data: Wealthy Paid 55 Percent of Income Taxes in 2014 (Tax Policy Blog).

distribution 2014 income

“So while many politicians may argue that the wealthy don’t pay their fair share of income taxes, the data simply does not support that opinion.”

 

Russ Fox, Maryland Suspends Processing Tax Returns from 23 Liberty Tax Service Locations:

For consumers, the advice that Maryland noted in their press release is accurate: “Taxpayers should carefully review their returns for these issues and should be suspicious if a preparer: deducts fees from the taxpayer’s refund to be deposited into the tax preparer’s account; does not sign the tax return; or fails to include the Preparer Taxpayer Identification number “PTIN” on the return.” I’ll add, if you don’t own a business and see business income on your return, there’s a problem.

Indeed.

Kay Bell, Lesson from IRS hardware failure: Be prepared for the unexpected during tax filing season. The hardware went back on line yesterday afternoon. 

TaxGrrrl, Update: IRS Website Back Online, Tax Refunds Unaffected

Peter ReillyIRS And The Tea Party – Scandal Enters A New Millennium. Peter observes The TaxProf’s Day 1000 Tea Party Scandal entry.

Keith Fogg, Discharging Late Filed Returns – A Novel but Unsuccessful Approach. “The case shows the creativity that can come into play in the face of very long odds.”

Robert Wood, Bank Julius Baer Hit With $547M Criminal Tax Evasion Penalty, Two Bankers Plead Guilty

 

Me, Tax credits for a few vs. business deductions for everyone. I take my battle against cronyism and for conforming Iowa tax law to 2015 federal changes to IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record Business Professional’s Blog.

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 1,002. Another supposedly-erased hard drive sought by investigators miraculously reappears.

Megan McArdle, Obamacare’s Cadillac Tax Will Not Survive. The way pieces of the machine keep falling off, you might wonder if it wasn’t very well designed.

Renu Zaretsky, A Budget, Capital, Growth, and TransparencyToday’s TaxVox news roundup covers the Obama oil fee, last night’s Sanders-Clinton debate, and lots more.

News from the Profession. Lying About Your Financial Statements Being Audited Still Frowned Upon (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/4/16. Confirmed: Governor opposes coupling to ALL 2015 changes. And: Are hipsters really flocking downtown?

Thursday, February 4th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

coupling20160129Worst Iowa tax policy decision ever. Governor Branstad doesn’t want to conform Iowa’s tax law to any of the extender provisions passed in December for 2015. A reliable source has confirmed our earlier report that the Governor wants to skip coupling entirely for 2015, and then conform to everything except Section 179 and bonus depreciation in 2016 and beyond.

It’s bad enough that he doesn’t want to conform with the $500,000 federal Section 179 for the first time in years — imposing a big tax increase on small businesses and farmers in every county. But conforming to nothing means a whole host of separate Iowa computations for 2015 returns — and 2015 only. Without spending a lot of time, I come up with these:

Exclusion for IRA contributions to charity
Exclusion of gain from qualified small business stock
Basis adjustment for S corporation charitable contributions
Built-in gain tax five-year recognition period
Educator expense deduction
Exclusion of home mortgage debt forgiveness
Qualified tuition deduction
Conservation easement deductions
Deduction for food inventory contributions

I have asked the Department of Revenue for a complete list of affected provisions, and I will provide it if they send one.

These will have effects on thousands of taxpayers ranging from minor annoyance and more expensive tax compliance to major unexpected Iowa tax expense. To take a common example, the exclusion fo IRA contributions to charity allows taxpayers aged 70 1/2 or older to have their IRAs make contributions to charity directly. This means the contributions bypass their federal 1040s altogether. But for Iowa, the Governor would have the IRA holder include the contribution in taxable income and then, presumably, add it to their itemized deductions — if the taxpayer itemizes in the first place.

Some of these can be very costly. For example, the exclusion of gain for qualifying C corporation stock sales can apply to up to $10 million of capital gain. The exclusion benefits start-up businesses, which Iowa allegedly supports with at least four separate tax credits. Failure to couple would clobber a $10 million 2015 gain with an unexpected $898,000 tax bill.

There is bipartisan support for coupling with all federal provisions other than bonus depreciation for 2015. The Iowa House of Representatives has already passed such a bill on a bipartisan 82-14 vote. But Governor Branstad and Senate Majority Leader Gronstal have apparently reached a little bipartisan deal of their own to keep the Senate from ever voting on 2015 conformity. The Senate tax committee meeting yesterday was cancelled, which I hope means the Senate leadership is getting pressure to back off this stupid policy.

If you are affected, or if your clients are (they are), I encourage you to let your Iowa Senator know how you feel.

Related Coverage:

Iowa House passes $500,000 Section 179, but prospects bleak in Senate.

Iowa Governor reportedly opposes 2015 coupling for anything.

Branstad budget omits $500,000 Section 179 deduction for Iowa; no 2015 conformity.

 

20130218-1What do you mean, IBM doesn’t stock the vacuum tubes anymore? IRS Systems Outage Shuts Down Tax Processing (Accounting Today):

The Internal Revenue Service said Wednesday evening its tax-processing systems have suffered a hardware failure and that tax processing could be affected into Thursday.

“The IRS experienced a hardware failure this afternoon affecting a number of tax processing systems, which are currently unavailable,” said the IRS. “Several of our systems are not currently operating, including our modernized e-file system and a number of other related systems. The IRS is currently in the process of making repairs and working to restore normal operations as soon as possible. We anticipate some of the systems will remain unavailable until tomorrow.”

The IRS says it’s confident that it will have the system restored by the weekend and that any refund delays will be minor.

Related: IRS Having One of Those Days (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern); TaxGrrrl, IRS Website Hit With Hardware Failure, Some Refund & Payment Tools Unavailable.

 

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Jason Dinesen, The Iowa Trust Fund Tax Credit is $0 for 2015

Robert Wood, Perfectly Legal Tax Write-off? Lawyer Fees — Even $1,200 An Hour

Russ Fox, A Tale of Three States. “Hawaii, Indiana, and Mississippi are three states where daily fantasy sports (DFS) is being debated. The three states are representative of what is likely to occur in every state.”

Keith Fogg, Verification of Bankruptcy Action in a Collection Due Process Case (Procedurally Taxing). “Because Appeals employees often have very little knowledge of bankruptcy, this case points out the need to pay careful attention in CDP cases that follow bankruptcy actions and challenge verifications where the Appeals employee fails to acknowledge the impact of the bankruptcy case.”

Bob Vineyard, Aetna Not Pulling Plug on Obamacare …. Yet (InsureBlog). Many Iowans get coverage through Aetna’s Coventry unit. But as the company expects to lose $1 billion over two years on Exchange policies, their willingness to continue to provide ACA – compliant policies on the exchange will be sorely tried.

Jack Townsend, Another Taxpayer Guilty Plea for Offshore Account Misbehavior

Peter Reilly, Tax Dependency Exemptions For Noncustodial Parents – It Is All About Form 8332. It really is. Form 8332 provides a way for couples to continue fighting long after the divorce is final.

Jim Maule, “Can a Clone Qualify as a Qualifying Child or Qualifying Relative?”

 

Scott Greenberg, The Tax Benefits of Having an Additional Child (Tax Policy Blog). In case your decision hinges on this.

Renu Zaretsky, Debates, Energy, Credits and PrepToday’s TaxVox roundup covers tonight’s Democratic Debate, energy tax policy, and a shutdown of 26 Liberty Tax franchise operations in Maryland.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 1,001

 

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Is Hip, Cool Des Moines Really Attracting Migrants? (Lyman Stone). I haven’t seen any local media pick this up, but this is a fascinating look at migration and population patterns Downtown and across Polk County. It is inspired by the recent Politico piece on how hip and all we are (emphasis in original):

In fact, throughout the article, there’s an interesting claim made that the population of downtown Des Moines has risen from 1,000 at some unspecified time in the 1990s, to at least over 10,000 as of 2016. In fact, throughout the article, there’s an interesting claim made that the population of downtown Des Moines has risen from 1,000 at some unspecified time in the 1990s, to at least over 10,000 as of 2016.

The claim turns out to be exaggerated, but only a little:

Downtown Des Moines probably did not gain 10,000 residents from the late 1990s to 2016, nor does it seem likely that it had just 1,000 residents at any time in the last few decades. However, that doesn’t mean the essential claims of Woodard’s story are wrong. Au contraire, Des Moines has gained about 10,000 people since 2000, and has about 9,000 more people than we would expect had 1987 growth rates continued. That’s a meaningful acceleration in urban growth, and a significant number have been headed to the very center of the city.

It’s a great read with some surprising observations about how suburban and downtown growth complement each other.

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Tax Roundup, 2/1/2016: Caucus day, and other plagues.

Monday, February 1st, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20160131-1Is there such a thing as snow locusts? Today is the last day Iowa will be plagued by presidential candidates and their relentless ads and emails. Tonight, blizzard and winter storm warnings across the state.

Lots of things go into choosing a candidate. We kid ourselves if we think it is all rational. Many voters put as much thought into their political preferences as they do into choosing a favorite sports team. Most voters are much more informed about their sports teams than their votes.

But Tax Update readers are different!  You especially want to know about candidate tax policies. Fortunately, the Tax Foundation has an excellent Comparison of Presidential Tax Plans and Their Economic Effects. I like this chart they provide:

taxplanchart

You’ll notice that only one plan is projected to have positive economic effects while reducing the budget deficit over 10 years. I like that one.

 

Other Caucus-related links:

Tax Policy Center Major candidate tax proposals, a center-left analysis.

TaxProf, Clinton (47%), Sanders (54%) Propose Highest Capital Gain Tax Rates (Now 24%) In History

Tyler Cowen, My favorite things Iowa (Marginal Revolution). “The bottom line: Who would have thought ‘jazz musician’ would be the strongest category here?” Speak for yourself, buddy!

 

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Russ Fox, The Liberty to Commit Tax Fraud:

This story does show two things. First, requiring every tax professional to obtain a license won’t stop tax fraud. The alleged fraud here was started by an individual with a PTIN, someone who assuredly could obtain the former RTRP designation or the current AFSP “seal of approval.” Second, the Department of Justice news release notes, “In the past decade, the Tax Division has obtained injunctions against hundreds of unscrupulous tax preparers.” This is absolutely true, and the DOJ should be commended for their work. It also shows that licensing every tax professional isn’t needed to get rid of unscrupulous ones.

Amen.

William Perez, When Does an 83(b) Election Make Sense? 

Paul Neiffer, Pre-1977 Purchases May Get 100% Step-up or Not! Involving old joint interests in property.

Kay Bell, W-2, 1099 forms delivery deadline is here

Jack Townsend, 60 Minutes Exposé on Money Laundering Into the U.S.

Jason Dinesen, Not All Donations to Charity Are Deductible. Time, for example.

Kristine Tidgren, Des Moines Water Works Lawsuit Gets More Complicated (AgDocket)

Peter Reilly, NorCal Tea Party Patriots V IRS – Grassroots Or Astroturf?

Leslie Book, Migraine Caused by Improper IRS Collection Action During Bankruptcy Stay Triggers Damages for Emotional Distress

Robert Wood, Worst Lottery To Win Is IRS Audit Lottery, So Decrease Your Odds

TaxGrrrl, Understanding Your Tax Forms 2016: 1098-T, Tuition Statement

Tony Nitti, IRS Rules On Whether Trade-In Of Private Jet Qualifies For A Tax-Free Like-Kind Exchange

Happy Blogiversary! to Hank Stern for 10 years of Insureblog.

 

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Matt Gardner, International Speedway Reaps Benefits of Revived “NASCAR Tax Break” (Tax Justice Blog). In which the Tax Justice people sctually make a lot of sense: “In the context of our growing budget deficits, the annual cost of the NASCAR giveaway is a drop in the bucket at less than $20 million, making it a small part of the $680 billion extenders package. But because its benefits are narrowly focused on a few privileged companies, the damaging effects of this tax break go way beyond its fiscal cost.”

Donald Marron, What Should We Do with the Money from Taxing “Bads”? (TaxVox)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 996Day 997, Day 998. Day 997 links to  IRS’s New Ethics Chief Once Ordered Records Be Illegally Destroyed. These are the people who think they need to regulate tax preparers to keep us in line.

 

Scott Drenkard, David Bowie: Tax Planning Hero (Tax Policy Blog). “Taxes really matter, especially for an artist like Bowie who had a lot of options for where to reside and earn income.”

Robert D. Flach, THE TWELVE DAYS OF TAX SEASON

 

Finally, in honor of the Iowa Caucuses I quote the great Arnold Kling, who captures my feelings about these proceedings perfectly:

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

Only the beginning of a wise and profound post. Read it all.

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Tax Roundup, 1/26/16: Tempt not your tax pro. And: Airbnb, Buzz, and inspiring emails from the boss!

Tuesday, January 26th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

dimeIf only she had taken an IRS-approved ethics continuing education course. Accountant charged in $1M embezzlement case (Herald-Dispatch.com):

HUNTINGTON – A local accountant is charged with 953 criminal counts accusing her of embezzling more than $1 million from at least one client’s account over a five-year period, according to criminal complaints filed by the West Virginia State Police.

Kimberly Dawn Price, 57, of Huntington, was arraigned Friday on 302 counts of embezzlement, 326 counts of forgery, and 325 counts of uttering at Cabell Count Magistrate Court.

There’s so much that has gone wrong here. For example:

According to criminal complaints, Price, while employed as a staff accountant at the Huntington-based firm Hess, Stewart, and Campbell, PLLC, was directly in charge of the account of Elizabeth Caldwell, a Huntington woman who died in the fall of 2015.

That’s a lot of authority for a staff accountant. I don’t understand, though, why anybody would give their outside accountant full access to their checking accounts. Or why any accounting firm would ever want its employees to deal with that sort of temptation. To be sure, the partners may not have known she had the client checkbook.

When hiring a tax pro, you want them to do a good job of preparing your return, helping you comply with the tax law, and getting you refunds when they are due. It’s not their job to spend it for you. They don’t need your checkbook.

 

Let us operate in your town, you’ll be glad you did. Airbnb, the online facilitator of private short-term rentals, not long ago announced that it would work with states and localities to collect lodging taxes. I suspected that they would use the lure of revenue to convince reluctant municipalities to allow them to operate. Yes, there are silly municipalities, like my own West Des Moines, who prevent people from renting their homes out for, say, the Iowa Caucus crowd.

Now Airbnb seems to confirm my suspicions with their new report, AIRBNB: Generating #2 BILLION IN POTENTIAL TAX REVENUE FOR AMERICA’S CITIES.

Just the sort of argument that carries weigh in city halls everywhere.

 

buzz20150827The bees may be quiet for the winter, but Robert D. Flach is Buzzing! Today’s Buzz covers 1095-Cs, retirement savings, state anti-fraud measures, and a certain national tax prep franchise.

Russ Fox, FTB’s New MyFTB Impresses; Will the IRS Take Heed?:

If you’re a tax professional who deals with California clients or a California taxpayer, I urge you to enroll in MyFTB. I’m very impressed. I may rag on the FTB (especially in the enforcement area) but from my point of view MyFTB is a model to be emulated by the rest of the country.

California has made it easier for practitioners to get powers of attorney online.

Robert Wood, Married Filing Joint Tax Returns? IRS Helps Some Couples With Offshore Accounts. “The new rules are a welcome change. But they should still underscore the importance of deciding which disclosure program is right for you.”

Emily CaubleReforming the Non-Disavowal Doctrine (Procedurally Taxing) “I will refer to courts’ resistance to taxpayers’ attempts to invoke substance-over-form as the ‘Non-Disavowal Doctrine.'”

Jason Dinesen, Glossary: 529 Plan. “The term “529 Plan” is a generic name given to tax-advantaged savings accounts for college expenses.”

William Perez, Tips for a Tax-Efficient Divorce, Plus a List of What to Do First

Annette Nellen, Recent Tax Law Change Cautions

Kay Bell, Arizona proposal: a state tax credit for gun classes. Tax credits. Is there anything they can’t do?

 

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Scott Greenberg, How the Tax Code Discourages Investment, in One Statistic (Tax Policy Blog). “The results are disheartening: over time, U.S. corporations will only be able to deduct 87.14 percent of the cost of investments they made in 2012, in present value terms.”

Renu ZaretskyOutlooks, Deficits, Breaks and Moves. Inversions, deficits forever, and state budget battles.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 992

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 1/25: State of the States (Tax Justice Blog). “Read all about the latest tax debates in West Virginia, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, and North Carolina. Plus a listing with links to State of the State addresses.”

 

News from the Profession. Confidential to a Certain Deloitte CEO: Millennials Don’t Need Any More Emails (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

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Tax Roundup, 1/22/16: Tax scams for tax pros. And: How Des Moines got so cool once I moved here.

Friday, January 22nd, 2016 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today Visitors:  Click here for the post on Popular wisdom and tax rates.

 

Gone Phishing. It’s not just taxpayers that get scam emails. Scammers also aim at tax pros. For example:

Phishing message 20160122

Of course the message is a fake. It was sent by the sketchy-sounding email address “info@tablerockbelize.com” and the link goes to something called “otadealsbox.com/irs.” Nothing good would happen from following that link. Be careful out there.

 

Nicole Kaeding, Map: State-Local Tax Burden Rankings for FY 2012 (Tax Policy Blog):

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While Iowa’s tax burden isn’t that out of line — it’s actually a little better than average — our business tax climate is one of the worst. It’s a result of how poorly designed Iowa’s tax system is. The good news is that there’s a lot of room to improve our tax system without increasing the overall tax burden.

 

Start your weekend right with fresh Buzz! from Robert D. Flach. Today’s links cover lots of ground on early filing, and a good explanation of why the talk of how “IRS now has six years to audit your taxes” isn’t right.

Jason Dinesen, Do I Need Form 1095-C to File My Tax Return? The next question: how many taxpayers even know to expect one?

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William Perez reminds readers to Communicate Effectively with Your Tax Preparer

Annette Nellen, Filing 2015 tax returns – help for practitioners

Kay Bell has 4 filing tips to ensure you get your tax refund ASAP

Robert Wood, What To Do If Form 1099 Reports More To IRS Than You Received

Paul Neiffer, Mr. Market Wants Its Excess Profits Back. “We know what happened after the 1970s and now Mr. Market is now trying to grab those excess profits back from farmers from the ‘ethanol’ boom.”  Of course, aging corn state politicians are fighting back by yelling at clouds.

Jim Maule, Deductions Arising from Constructive Payments. “The Tax Court explained that payment by an S corporation of a shareholder’s personal expense is a constructive distribution. It pointed out that this principle had previously been articulated by the court. Thus, explained the court, ‘It also follows that for purposes of claiming the deduction, the shareholder is treated as constructively paying the obligation.'”

Peter Reilly, Tax Planning In Bernie Sanders Land Would Feel Familiar To Elderly CPAs. Older than me, even.

E. Martin Davidoff, New Format of Notice of Intent to Levy Fails to Provide Sufficient Notice (Procedurally Taxing)

Russ Fox, Fail, Caesar! An Update. Implications for poker pros.

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 988. “Tax Agency Erased Hard Drive Despite Litigation Hold.” Don’t try that with your tax records.

Jeremy Scott, Furor Over Extenders and Rising Deficits Disingenuous (Tax Analysts Blog), my emphasis:

So the new CBO report is something of a bitter pill for Obama. But the president isn’t to blame, according to some observers. In fact, the CBO itself points out that about half the cost of rising deficits is from tax legislation enacted since August 2015. The biggest chunk, of course, comes from the extenders compromise, which made some expiring (or expired) tax provisions permanent. That hurts the budget outlook, which always assumed expiring tax provisions would stay expired.

But extenders have never been allowed to stay expired. They are always renewed — sometimes late and sometimes retroactively, but without significant exception. And that makes the CBO’s observations about extenders deceptive. It also highlights why previous CBO projections about the deficit were always too rosy. By assuming that extenders would go away once they expired, budget forecasters were always showing too much revenue. If the CBO had used a model that assumed Congress would continually renew popular provisions like the research credit, the deduction for state and local sales taxes, and bonus depreciation, the numbers would look almost identical to what the January 19 report is showing now.

Exactly. The extenders were an ongoing accounting scam, pretending provisions that were permanent in reality would go away. “By making some extenders permanent, Congress has finally allowed the CBO to paint a more realistic portrait of the federal deficit and the long-term budget outlook.”

Matt Gardner, After Years of Shrinking, Nation’s Deficit Set to Grow in 2016; Recent Tax Cuts a Contributor (Tax Justice Blog)

 

Howard Gleckman, What Are the Consequences of a Financial Transactions Tax? (TaxVox). Aside from moving exchanges offshore, damaging markets, erasing wealth, and making it harder for the little guy to close transactions, it’s a great idea.

 

Joseph Thorndike, Do Progressives Hate Tax Reform? (Tax Analysts Blog):

The Tax Reform Act of 1986 was far from perfect, but it made good on the lower rates/broader base mantra. Almost immediately, however, both parts of the bargain began to fray; rates began creeping up within a few years, and preferences (never vanquished entirely in the first place) also began to grow. By the mid-1990s, tax reform was starting to look like a disappointment, to both liberals and conservatives.

Today, classic tax reform has little real support outside the wonk community. So it’s fair to say, as Holtz-Eakin does repeatedly, that liberals don’t care about tax reform.

But neither do conservatives.

I think that’s always true, in a way. That doesn’t mean it’s not worth doing.

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News from the Profession. Report: CPAs Exaggerate Their Success at the Bar, Pretty Much Everywhere (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

Fun link: How America’s Dullest City Got Cool. I think they overstate how much of the revival of Des Moines was planned by anyone, but they are right to point out home much this town has improved since I moved here in 1985 (proving that correlation is definitely not causation). Thanks to @lymanstoneky for the link on Twitter.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/20/16: Divorce transfer foot fault wrecks Iowa ESOP. And: efficiency!

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

tax fairyMarriage explodes, ESOP explodes. S corporations and ESOPs are a tempting mix. To the extent an ESOP holds the shares of an S corporation, it becomes a tax-exempt for-profit business. This is almost like finding a real-life tax fairy. If any other tax-exempt entity holds S corporation stock, it will pay Unrelated Business Income Tax — a form of the regular corporate income tax — on its S corporation earnings.

These features draw tax-fairy seekers to the S corporation ESOP. For a Muscatine, Iowa chiropractor, the quest ended in both tax and romantic failure. The failure reminds us that ESOPs are not to be adopted lightly. It also shows that ESOP failures, unlike some marriages, last forever.

The chiropractor involved incorporated his practice in 1999, made an S corporation election, and immediately established an ESOP. He and his wife were the only shareholders and only ESOP participants.

The marriage broke up in 2007. In 2009, the ex-wife left the company and agreed to give up her ESOP account, then valued at $286,904.53. But they did it wrong. The Tax Court explains (citations omitted):

In addition, once a participant’s benefit becomes vested, it is nonforfeitable under ERISA. In sum, a participant in a section 401(a) plan may not assign or alienate his or her benefit, and at the same time, he or she has a nonforfeitable right to that same benefit.

Pursuant to the May 27, 2009, corporate documents, and relying upon the divorce decree, [Wife] transferred 100% of her ESOP shares and relinquished any rights she had under the ESOP. The ESOP’s June 30, 2009 and 2010, reports [*15] reflect that 100% of the shares allocated to [Wife] on June 30, 2009, were reallocated to {Husband’s] account as of June 30, 2010.

Before April 5, 2007, [Husband] and [Wife]… were also [the corporation’s] sole employees and ESOP participants. Although the 2007 divorce decree dissolved the… marriage, it is insufficient to allow the transfer of plan assets that transpired in this case. Transferring the vested shares from [Wife]’s account to [Husband’s] caused [Wife]’s ESOP account to become alienated from her after it became fully vested. By violating section 401(a)(13), the plan ceased to be qualified. Accordingly, we hold that respondent did not abuse his discretion in disqualifying the ESOP for its 2010 plan year and for subsequent plan years.

Public domain image courtesy Wikipedia

Public domain image of Phoenix courtesy Wikipedia

You might wonder why one mistake in one year wrecked everything. Judge Dawson explains:

In general, a qualification failure pursuant to section 401(a) is a continuing failure because allowing a plan to requalify in subsequent years would be to allow a plan “to rise phoenix-like from the ashes of such disqualification and become qualified for that year.”

That’s the frightening thing about going ESOP. You have to comply with extremely detailed and complex qualification rules every year, every time. This requires significant legal and consulting bills, and even then mistakes can be made. While ESOPs can be useful in the right situations, you have to live with serious compliance costs and risks.

In this case, I’m only surprised that the ESOP lasted as long as it did. Section 409(p) imposes a both the UBIT and a 50% excise tax when “disqualified persons” receive an ESOP allocation. Related taxpayers who own more than 10% of the S corporation, or 20% with family members, are “disqualified persons.” In this case the couple owned 100% of the corporation. The case is silent on this issue, but I don’t understand how this structure could have worked even before the disqualification in light of the Section 409(p) rules. The case does say that they terminated their S corporation in 2005, which would have solved the 409(p) problem after that date.

This is the fourth ESOP disqualification the Tax Court has decided involving the individual named as trustee in this case, who I believe had an Iowa-based practice. This continues Iowa’s unhappy history of involvment in bad ESOPs.

Cite: Family Chiropractic Sports Injury & Rehab Clinic, T.C. Memo 2016-10.

 

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William Perez, Secure Ways to Send Tax Documents to Your Accountant. It is reckless and dangerous to send pdfs of your W-2s, 1099s, etc. as an unencryped e-mail attachment. William offers good advice on how to do it right.

Jason Dinesen, Glossary: Compilation. “In the accounting world, the term “compilation” refers to formal financial statements prepared by a public accountant.”

Robert Wood, IRS Forms 1099 Are Coming, The Most Important Tax Form Of All.

Robert D. Flach, 2015 INFORMATION RETURNS. Robert offers a handy chart of the various information returns, except for K-1s.

Russ Fox, Texas Attorney General: DFS Illegal in Texas. “Texas’s Attorney General, Ken Paxton, issued an opinion today that says that daily fantasy sports (DFS) is illegal under Texas law.”

 

 

Illustration for early draft Bernie Sanders tax plan.

Illustration for early draft Bernie Sanders tax plan.

Water is wet. Bernie Sanders Is Proposing Really Big Tax Increases (Howard Gleckman, TaxVox).

It is hard to grasp the enormity of the tax increases Bernie Sanders is proposing, how far out-of-step he is with recent economic history in the U.S., and what a stunning contrast he presents with Republican presidential hopefuls.

I love when “enormity” is used correctly unintentionally.

While Sanders describes his top rate as 52 percent, top-bracket taxpayers would be paying up to 58 percent rate (the 52 percent base rate, plus the 2.2 percent health premium, plus the Affordable Care Act’s 3.8 percent surtax on investment income, which Sanders would keep).

Be happy he doesn’t take more, kulaks!

Peter Reilly, Bernie Sanders Tax Plan Moderate On Top Income Tax Rate. Well, I suppose compared to beheading high bracket taxpayers, confiscating their estates, and selling their families into slavery, it is.

 

 

Career Corner. Accountant Worked One Day, Allegedly Embezzled $15k (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). Efficiency!

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/19/16: Thieves holiday! Filing season underway today.

Tuesday, January 19th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

1040 corner 2015It begins. The official start of filing season is today. That means the IRS will begin processing electronic return filings today. That doesn’t mean all that much.

Well, it means something to the people most eager to file 2015 1040s: the identity thieves. They don’t have to wait on real W-2s and other information returns, most of which don’t have to be provided to recipients before February 1. The thieves like to file right away, before the real taxpayers e-file and block them.

It means something to earned income tax credit fraudsters. Claiming a little qualifying income on a phony schedule C is standard operating practice for EITC scams, and you can file in a hurry when you just are making it up.

For most other taxpayers, the opening of filing season is a non-event. They are still waiting on the W-2s, their 1098s for their home mortgage interest, and their 1099s for interest and dividends. Especially dividends, as the big brokerage houses routinely get extensions for issuing their 1099s, and then issue amended ones anyway. And K-1s for partnerships and S corporations often aren’t even ready by the filing deadline.

The information return wait will be longer for many of us this year. This is the first year many businesses are required to issue 1095-Bs and 1095-Cs to report health care coverage to their employees under the Affordable Care Act. These forms are supposed to enable employees to determine their coverage credits and penalties. When it became clear that many employers would be unable to meet the deadline for completing these complex forms, the IRS rolled back their deadlines. The IRS says employees can file their 1040s using “other information” to compute their ACA taxes and credits, but we don’t know yet if people will try.

Don’t be hasty. It is unwise to try to file returns before you have all of your information returns. Especially don’t try to file using your last pay stub instead of your W-2. You’ll probably get it wrong. Worse, if your employer is participating in a new IRS program where W-2s get a unique anti-theft ID number, you’ll delay your refund.

This convicted ID thief likely was a first-day filer.

This convicted ID thief likely was a first-day filer.

It’s better to extend than amend. Whatever benefit you get from filing your return a little sooner, it is lost if you have to file an amended return for a corrected 1099, or for one you didn’t expect that showed up late.

You can file a FAFSA using estimated amounts. One of the biggest causes for taxpayer impatience is the need for tax return information to complete their “Free Application for Federal Student Aid,” which asks for numbers off the 1040. But the FAFSA allows you to use estimates if you haven’t filed your 1040. If you are awaiting a K-1, you’re better off filing your FAFSA based on an estimate than hounding the tax preparer to file a 1040 with incomplete information.

The system should change. Allowing e-filing before any of the information return deadlines almost seems to be a special IRS fraud-filing feature. Given the identity theft epidemic, it’s irresponsible for IRS to be sending billions to grifters before they can cross check returns against third-party information. The third-party filings should have unique identifiers for taxpayers to use to show that they aren’t ID thieves.

The culture should change. Everybody gets excited about a big refund. That just means you gave the government a big interest free loan. Withholding tables should be modified to not generate big refunds, to reduce the pressure for rapid refunds. Penalty thresholds for underpayment should be lowered so that taxpayers accidentally underwithheld aren’t clobbered. People shouldn’t think it’s good to let the Leviathan have their extra cash.

Related: 

TaxGrrrl, Another State Puts Brakes On Tax Refunds, Citing Concerns About Identity Theft;

Accounting Today, IRS Launches Free File for New Season.

Russ Fox, Same as Last Year Doesn’t Work. “Robert Flach has a post today where he notes the information that’s needed to prepare a tax return. I don’t have much to add to his excellent list (though I do need to see your W-2Gs, too).”

 

Enjoying a short Des Moines winter commute.

Enjoying a short Des Moines winter commute.

Gazette.comGeorgia man linked to 2014 UNI data breach charged with tax fraud:

A Georgia man linked to a University of Northern Iowa data breach in 2014 has been charged with tax fraud in federal court.

Bernard Ogie Oretekor, 45, also known as Emmanuel Libs, was charged last week with theft of government property and aggravated identity theft.

How did a Georgia man from Nigeria get past the IRS? It apparently isn’t too hard:

The California indictment shows Oretekor and his co-defendant sent victim’s “phishing” emails to capture their usernames and account passwords. When victims clicked on the link in the phishing emails it sent them to a fraudulent website and when they logged in their usernames and passwords were captured, which allowed the defendants to access the victims’ accounts.

Be smart. I’ve never seen a real email that requires you to “update your information” for your bank, credit card, etc. Don’t click on links from emails you aren’t expecting, and don’t provide information to them. If you really need to check your information, close the email and go to the actual bank or vendor website directly.

 

Robert D. Flach has a wintry Tuesday Buzz! Bartering, bad taxpayer service, and much more.

William Perez, Can Two Taxpayers Claim Head of Household Status at the Same Address?

Robert Wood, Goldman Sachs’ Historic $5 Billion Settlement Has Silver Lining: Tax Deduction

Kay Bell, Lotteries aren’t budget bonanzas for states

Congratulations to a longtime Iowa Business Blogger. 2016 Brings 10th Anniversary of Rush on Business

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 985

Cara Griffith, Why the Minnesota Tax Court Is Making Me Paranoid:

Here’s my concern: In doing regular research, staff at Tax Analysts realized that the Minnesota Tax Court hadn’t published any new opinions to its website in several months. That is odd, so an inquiry was sent to the court to ask if the location of published opinions had changed or if the court had stopped publishing opinions.

The court responded that its website was under construction and that recent tax court decisions could be found on Westlaw. Eventually it added that a paralegal would attend to the request – next week.

That’s sad and lame. And, as Ms. Griffith points out, Westlaw is expensive. Here in Iowa, the Department of Revenue hasn’t put new rulings online since November 5, and now their new ruling website appears to have blown up. Here’s how it looks this morning:

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Oops.

 

Renu Zaretsky, All’s fair in debates and taxes…. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers how taxpayers will feel the Bern, the attempt to subvert Colorado’s taxpayer protections, and much more.

 

News from the Profession. In 2016, The War Rages On for All the Management Accountants (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/18/15: Popular wisdom and tax rates. And more Monday goodness!

Monday, January 18th, 2016 by Joe Kristan
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Math is hard.

Vox Populi. It’s a slow tax news day, with schools and government offices closed and e-filing not beginning until tomorrow. That enabled me to spend a little time with Peter Reilly’s coverage of Disparate Tax Views At Opening Of Bernie Sanders Worcester Office. Peter chatted up Sanders volunteers about their views on the proper top marginal tax rates. He was surprised by his first conversation:

Deb Bock, my first victim, said 15%.  I hadn’t gotten into the listening groove yet so I failed to hide my shock and asked her why she wasn’t backing Ben Carson – “Because he is an idiot.”

Those of us who live in the tax world can easily forget how poor the knowledge of actual tax law, including rates, is among the general public. The Tax Foundation has printed some fascinating surveys about what people think tax rates should be. Here is some information from their 2009 survey, the most recent available on the Tax Foundation website. It shows that Peter’s friend Ms. Bock is close to the  consensus view of what the effective combined federal, state and local effective rate on taxable income should be: 15.6%:

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Source: Tax Foundation

Of course, effective rates are much higher than this, as The Tax Foundation explains in its 2015 Tax Freedom Day explanation:

In 2015, Americans will pay $3.28 trillion in federal taxes and $1.57 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total tax bill of $4.85 trillion, or 31 percent of national income.

That’s just about twice the average effective rate that people think should apply. Because the tax law is very progressive, many taxpayers pay a much higher percentage.

Still, politicians like Mr. Sanders continue to get votes by convincing us that taxes are too low. Of course, they do so by telling people that those taxes will be paid by somebody else.

Related:

Tony Nitti, Bernie Sanders Releases Tax Plan, Nation’s Rich Recoil In Horror. “Democratic Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders took a break from yelling at clouds long enough to release his tax plan today, and it’s, how should I put this…aggressive.”

Me, The rich guy can’t pick up the tab.

 

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Kyle Pomerleau, Congressman Nunes Introduces Business Tax Reform (Tax Policy Blog):

Details of the plan:

-Cutting the corporate income tax to 25 percent;

-Limiting the top tax rate on non-corporate business income to 25 percent;

-Allowing businesses to deduct investment costs when they occur (full expensing);

 

-Eliminating most business tax credits and many deductions;

 

-Moving to a territorial tax system like most developed nations;

 

-No longer letting nonfinancial businesses deduct interest costs but no longer taxing them on interest receipts;

 

-Applying the same tax-rate limitation to individuals’ interest income as now applies to their capital gains and dividend income; and

 

-Eliminating the individual and corporate alternative minimum taxes (AMTs).

This would be a big improvement.

 

Russ Fox, Those “Extra Services” Were Great for Business. A massage business.

Jason Dinesen, Choosing a Business Entity: Wrap-up Post

Robert D. Flach, COME IN TO THE OFFICE AND WALK OUT WITH CASH!

Kay Bell, Finding a charity to volunteer with on MLK Day 2016

Jack Townsend, Prosecuting Corporate Employees and Officers, with Focus on Swiss Banks. “Corporations cannot go to jail; individuals can.”

Jim Maule, Birthdays in the Tax Law (and Obituaries?).

Actually, the tax law uses the phrases “attain the age of” and “attain age” far more often that its occasional use of the word “birthday” but few of us talk about “attaining an age” when we are conversing about the anniversaries of our arrival on the planet.

When was the last time you ever said “attain” out loud?

Robert Wood, IRS Lax Controls Enable Targeting Based On Religion + Politics, Claims Report

 

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Len Burman, Ted Cruz’s Business Flat Tax is a VAT. “It’s also important to point out—as Cruz did in the debate—that his plan also repeals the payroll and corporate income tax.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 982Day 983Day 984.

Tax Justice Blog, Obama Policies Curbed Tax Break for 400 Richest Americans; Choice of Next President Will Reverse or Continue This Shift. Once again Tax Justice Blog entirely misses the point that it’s never the same 400 people who pay tax in any given year.

Career Corner. Let’s Review: Side Gigs, Email, Lunches and Logos (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/13/16: Considering the “small partnership exception.” And lots more!

Wednesday, January 13th, 2016 by Joe Kristan
Today in Helsinki. Photo: Sini Hämäläinen

Today in Helsinki. Photo: Sini Hämäläinen

Small partnerships, big risks. A venerable voice in Iowa tax, Neil Harl, has for some time touted the “small partnership exception” as a way for partnerships with 10 or fewer members to avoid filing tax returns, and the operation of the partnership rules in general. A version of it appeared at Tax Analysts yesterday ($link), where he argues that a tax case defeat for a non-filing small partnership does not call his argument into question. Non-subscribers can read his basic argument here.

I find it unconvincing as a legal matter. Dr. Harl’s argument is that a provision that applies by its terms to the Code subchapter covering how partnership examinations are conducted (“For purposes of this subchapter,” meaning Chapter 63, Subchaper C) creates a blanket exemption to the filing requirement imposed in a different part of the code (Chapter 61, Subchapter A). Time has resolved the argument after 2017 as the Code section Dr. Harl relies on has been repealed effective in 2018.

1065 2015 cornerStill, even assuming Dr. Harl is correct on the law, he is unconvincing on the practicalities. Dr. Harl himself says that partnership failure to file penalties are proper unless “all partners have fully reported their shares of the income, deductions, and credits of the partnership on their timely filed income tax returns.”

That puts any managing partner at the mercy of his least responsible partner. There’s no practical way to force a partner to file. In a ten-person partnership, one non-filing partner triggers $1,950 in monthly failure to file penalties. That’s a big risk for a partner to take on just to save filing a return, and it was a losing bet for the South Dakota Battle Flats partnership.

Dr. Harl summarizes the advantages he sees in his approach (my emphasis):

The availability of the exception generally means a lower annual cost for income tax return preparation and freedom from the onerous penalties for failure to file a timely or complete Form 1065, not to mention the advantage of sidestepping the complex rules that apply to partnerships generally such as the depreciation rules applicable to partnerships after transfer of depreciable assets to the partnership.

The Battle Flats case disposes of the “freedom from onerous penalties” bit. As far as return prep costs, Dr Harl himself notes that the income of a small partnership has to be reported somehow:

So how do the small partnerships report their income? The statute is not clear on that point but the definition of “partner” implies that each partner is to take into account the “partnership items” which would include income, gains, losses and credits. Those items would be reported on Schedule C, F or E as would be appropriate for that partner.

That means the partnership has to provide each partner with the income from operations sorted in a way that enables the partner to properly file their 1040s. That’s exactly what Form 1065 and its Schedule K-1 do. Either you prepare a homemade document to do what the K-1 does, or you do a K-1. It’s hard to see why it’s cheaper to design a homemade K-1 than to use the one the IRS provides.

Tax pro Chris Hesse responds to Dr. Harl in the comments to his Tax Analysts piece:

Readers who carefully read Rev. Proc. 84-35 will conclude that Dr. Harl’s position is not sustainable. Those who follow Dr. Harl’s path will find themselves not only subject to the penalties for late filing, but incurring the professional costs of defending a losing argument. Advisors should counsel that it is less costly to comply.

I think that’s correct.  Even if you are convinced that Dr. Harl has the law right, I don’t see why it makes sense for a partnership to place its tax compliance, and the risk of severe non-filing penalties, in the hands of its least responsible partner.

Related: Roger McEowen, IRS Guidance on Reasonable Cause Exception to Penalties for Failure to File Partnership Return Upheld.

 

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Kristine Tidgren, DMWW Court Certifies Questions to Iowa Supreme Court (AgDocket). Developments in the Des Moines Water Works environmental lawsuit against upstream farming counties.

William Perez, New Rules for Deducting Repairs and Maintenance

Tony Nitti, IRS Continues To Whipsaw Taxpayers: Sales Of Land Generate Ordinary Income, Capital Loss

Robert D. Flach recaps THE FAMOUS STATE TAX SEMINAR last weekend in New Jersey.

 

Jim Maule offers Another Reason Tax Professors Don’t Need to Invent Hypotheticals. If you made up a case like the real one he discusses, everyone would say it was too far-fetched.

Question, answered:

Peter Reilly, How To Cash Your Powerball Winning Ticket Anonymously.

Robert Wood, Copy Hillary Clinton: Transfer Powerball Tickets Now Before Win, Avoid Taxes.

TaxGrrrl liveblogged the State of the Union. State Of The Union 2016 – LIVE. That’s dedication.

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David Brunori, Montana’s School Credit Is Unconstitutional, but Not for Obvious Reasons (Tax Analysts)

Joseph Henchman, Pretend You Won the Powerball. What Taxes Do You Owe? (Tax Policy Blog).

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 979

Renu Zaretsky, Tax Hikes, Relief, Dedication, and Resurrection. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers State of the Union tax talk, campaign tax proposals, and lots more.

 

Career Corner: Let’s Get Worked Up About: Email Pet Peeves (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). Hey, Caleb sent me one yesterday!

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Tax Roundup, 1/12/16: IRS wants to shoot more jaywalkers. And: the benefits of IRS ethics training.

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20120912-1They think it’s expensive because it is. Tax Analysts reports ($link) on a speech given by an IRS international tax deputy commissioner that shows how little the IRS cares about wreaking havoc on the lives of taxpayers who inadvertently fail to comply with the weird and obscure foreign account reporting rules. The talk by David Horton shows that the IRS continues to assume anybody who has failed to file FBAR forms is a bad actor. For example:

The IRS’s 2014 OVDP (Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program) guidance provides transitional rules for non-willful taxpayers who entered the OVDP earlier, but could have been eligible for the streamlined program. [Robert] Panoff wondered why they were incurring lower penalties than similarly situated taxpayers who completed the OVDP. 

Horton explained that these taxpayers are still in the OVDP, so they will get criminal clearance and a closing agreement, while streamlined participants get neither. Criminal clearance and a closing agreement are worth paying for, the thinking goes. A streamlined participant could later get a notice of deficiency for penalties that are assessed as taxes.

So a non-willful failure to file still benefits from “criminal clearance?” That’s a funny thing to need for a non-willful violation, and it shows an “it’s all criminal” mindset. Shoot all the jaywalkers!

The article has this:

Every practitioner hopes to shoehorn his offshore-account-holder clients into the streamlined program. Indeed, the only taxpayers who don’t welcome the streamlined program are recent immigrants who think that 5 percent of a home-country bank balance is a stiff price to pay for a green card.

That’s because it is ridiculously expensive.

Nowhere in the piece is any evidence that they (or the author) are aware that accidental Americans and compliant taxpayers can be financially ruined for failing to meet a requirement unknown to 95% of the populace. There’s certainly no awareness of the fundamental injustice of hitting taxpayers with 5-figure fines for committing personal finance abroad without an FBAR.

There is a crying need for foreign financial reporting reform. Two good first steps:

  1. Increase the FBAR foreign account thresholds to the amounts that apply for reporting foreign financial assets on Form 8938. These don’t begin to apply until the assets exceed $50,000, or $200,000 for taxpayers abroad. Using this threshold for foreign financial account filing would eliminate the vast majority of filings, leaving them only for taxpayers who actually have enough income to justify the hassle.
  2. Provide an automatic and penalty-free option to enable taxpayers to come in out of the cold, as long as they file before they are contacted by the IRS and any unreported tax required is relatively small. This would work much like the programs states have for businesses who want to come into compliance. The states benefit from getting the taxpayers in the system, and the taxpayers get in from the cold without financial ruin.

Unfortunately, the IRS apparently wants to go the other way: “Horton reported that while the IRS is still getting a steady flow of offshore voluntary disclosure program filings every month, that program has to end eventually.” Then it will be a choice to either stay out of compliance and risk financial disaster, or come into compliance and guarantee it.

 

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But preparer regulation will help prevent preparer fraud! From a U.S. Attorney press release:

Yolanda Castro, 48, an employee of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in Fresno, pleaded guilty today to aiding and assisting in the preparation of a false tax return, United States Attorney Benjamin B. Wagner announced.

According to court documents, Castro was employed by the IRS for approximately 20 years, including as a tax examiner and contact representative. Between 2007 and 2013, she prepared and filed false federal income tax returns for herself, her family members and others in which she fraudulently claimed tax deductions and credits. For instance, on her own 2008 tax return, Castro claimed a credit for education expenses that she did not incur, and provided the IRS phony textbook receipts to support the claim. Likewise, in tax returns she prepared for herself and others, Castro claimed child care expenses that had not been incurred.

Surely some ethics continuing education would have saved her.

 

Robert D. Flach has a little Buzz for your Tuesday. “Not much BUZZ today – but, as I always say, some BUZZ is better than no BUZZ.”

Russ Fox reminds us that it’s 1099 Time for 2016. “The best way to check whether or not you need to send a 1099 to a vendor is to know this before you pay a vendor’s invoice.”

William Perez, What You Need to Know about Reporting Payments Using Form 1099-MISC

TaxGrrrl, No, You Can’t Actually File Your Tax Return Early (And More Info About Tax Refunds). “Some tax preparers are suggesting in ads and on social media that they can somehow help you skip the line and get you a refund before anyone else. Don’t be fooled.”

Robert Wood, 12 Surprising Items IRS Says You Must Report On Your Taxes. You won’t believe number 2!

Jason Dinesen, Glossary: Social Security Wage Base. “The term Social Security Wage Base refers to the maximum amount of wages or self-employment income on which the 6.2% Social Security tax is based.”

Paul Neiffer, Relief for Older Farmers with IRAs. And not just farmers.

 

Keith Fogg, Improving Payroll Tax Compliance (Procedurally Taxing). “From my perspective working on these cases within the IRS, the failure of employers to pay over the collected taxes usually resulted from poor cash management.”

Renu Zaretsky, New Taxes, Excess Profits, and a Windfall. Lots of cynical posturing by desperate politicians in today’s TaxVox headline roundup.

 


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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 978. The process of running out the clock continues.

Scott Greenberg, Which Tax Extenders are Left? (Tax Policy Blog):

Looking over the list below of remaining tax extenders, none of them seem like “must-pass” policies. As a result, the pressure is off of Congress to renew all of the tax extenders as a package. Instead, Congress should take the time to evaluate the remaining tax extenders one by one, making the good provisions permanent and letting the bad ones expire. Temporary tax policy is bad tax policy, and it’s about time that Congress laid the ritual of tax extenders to rest once and for all.

Let’s hope so.

 

The Critical Question. Would a cuddly mascot make the IRS lovable? (Kay Bell). That would look like a stuffed Cthulhu

The Critical Question II: Accounting Firms Allowing Side Gigs: Good Idea or Independence Mine Field? (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/11/2016: Hide the spoons, hold your wallets. The General Assembly is back.

Monday, January 11th, 2016 by Joe Kristan
If Iowa's income tax were a car, it would look like this.

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

Same recipe, same dish. The 2016 session of the 86th General Assembly of Iowa convenes today. As the membership is about the same as last year’s session, we can expect pretty much the same tax policy results. There will be no fundamental reappraisal of Iowa’s dysfunctional income tax this year. If anything, it might get a little worse.

Iowa’s tax system is a rat’s nest of high rates and complexity, full of special-interest loopholes, feel-good spiffs for sympathetic groups, and subsidies for the well-connected. It’s a great deal for the insiders who can work the system, paid for by high rates on those of us without lobbyists and tax credit consultants.

What Iowa needs is an overhaul that lowers the rates significantly, paying for them by simplifying the rules and swearing off subsidies like the notorious Orascom deal and the now-defunct film tax program. In other words, something like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

What Iowa is likely to get is more special interest tax subsidies. In a story about 10 issues likely to spark debate in Iowa Legislature, The Des Moines Register reports:

A host of Iowa business and farm groups are lobbying for state tax credits to attract investment in renewable chemical manufacturing and advanced bio-refining. The goal is to build upon Iowa’s renewable fuels industry. Iowa needs to move swiftly because of competition for businesses looking to invest in the industry, business lobbyists say.

“If we are looking at a game changer for this session, this is it. It is absolutely huge,” said Jay Byers, chief executive officer of the Greater Des Moines Partnership. Legislation to provide renewable chemical manufacturing tax credits was approved by the House last session, but failed to pass the Senate.

20120906-1A “game changer?” New tax credits? The dozens of tax credits we already have haven’t done the trick, so we need more?

Think about it. The idea that the state can constructively direct investment capital assumes that the insiders that make up the Greater Des Moines Partnership and the small town politicians who run the state legislature have some unique insight on what the industries of the future are. If so, they should be investing their own money in these “game changers,” because there’s obviously a great profit opportunity to be had. Instead they want to spend your money, and mine, on it. That tells you something important.

Remember, these are the same people who told us it would be a great idea to subsidize Iowa’s film industry with tax credits (page 6 at the link), and that worked out just great.

The only constructive thing likely to come out of the legislature is a “code conformity” bill that updates Iowa’s 2015 income tax rules for the retroactive passage of the federal “extenders” bill in December. The Department of Revenue cautions taxpayers to not file returns using the extended provisions until the conformity bill is passed. The Section 179 deduction, the educator expense deduction, and tax-free IRA gifts are key provisions that are affected. Last year the code conformity bill was one of the first bills passed, in mid-February.

 

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TaxGrrrl, Taxpayers Get A Breather On Passport Requirement For Domestic Travel As REAL ID Requirement Delayed:

The key date to know is January 22, 2018. That’s the date on which air travelers with a driver’s license or identification card issued by a state that does not meet the requirements of the REAL ID Act (unless that state has been granted an extension to comply with the Act) must present an alternative form of identification acceptable to the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) in order to fly domestic. Acceptable identification would include a passport or passport card, Global Entry card, U.S. military ID, airline or airport-issued ID, federally recognized tribal-issued photo ID.

Congress last year passed a provision allowing IRS to revoke passports for non-payment of taxes. And of course the IRS never makes mistakes.

 

William Perez, How Soon Can We Begin Filing Tax Returns?

Annette Nellen, PATH and Many Tax Changes – PL 114-113

Kay Bell, 24 top taxpayer problems of 2015. “IRS electronic approach to customer service tops National Taxpayer Advocate’s annual list”

Jack Townsend, Hawaii Businessman Sentenced to 46 Months

Peter Reilly, Poor Return Preparation Kills Facade Easement Tax Deduction. “Often the buildings already have so much restriction on them already that promising not to alter them is a little like me renouncing my super powers

Robert D. Flach has thoughts on FINDING A TAX PROFESSIONAL.

Russ Fox, Fraudster Tries Alchemy; Will Have 20 Years to Think That Over:

Joseph Furando of Montvale, New Jersey thought he had the perfect way of performing alchemy. He took biodiesel fuel that wasn’t eligible for two tax credits and magically turned it into biodiesel fuel that was eligible for the tax credits:

Tax Credits, fraudulent? Unthinkable!

 

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Scott Drenkard, Businesses Love Texas, Except this One Tax that Holds the State Back (Tax Policy Blog)

Renu ZaretskyLooking ahead to 2016 and beyond? It’s blurry. (Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the upcoming State of the Union Address, the Taxpayer Advocate report from last week, and more.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 977

 

Something to look forward to. Winner Of $1.3 Billion Powerball May Face Suits By Friends, Co-Workers, Family (Robert Wood).

Career Corner. Unhappy Accountants: Go Get a 10% Raise (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/8/16: A look at Iowans and their federal income taxes.

Friday, January 8th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20160108-1aSoak the rich? Iowa’s soaking in it! The Iowa Legislative Service Bureau this week published a report on the federal taxes paid by Iowans in 2013. It’s a useful reminder that the politicians running around Iowa talking about how “the rich” pay no taxes are talking nonsense.

This table covers a lot of ground:

 

 

 

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Source: Iowa Legislative Service bureau. Click to enlarge.

Note that for the >$1 million filers, the biggest category is “other income.” Given that they also pay the highest effective rates, it’s clear that this isn’t tax-preferred capital gains or dividends. It’s K-1 income from partnerships and S corporations, or business income from farms or schedule C businesses. In other words, its taxes paid by employers. When you soak the rich, you are soaking employers.

It’s also clear that “the rich” in Iowa are paying a bigger share of their earnings than everyone else. If we count “the rich” as taxpayers with gross income over $200,000, their average federal tax rate as a percentage of gross income — before any deductions — is 22.4%, compared to 7.3% for all other taxpayers.

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Tax Update Chart using Iowa Legislative Service Bureau data. Dollars in millions.

The taxes paid at the top end are a much larger share of the tax paid than of their share of the income: they have 20.8% of the gross income, but pay 44.7% of the taxes. While some politicians may say that’s not enough, remember that much of that is income earned by employers from their businesses. If they have to pay more to the IRS, that’s money they don’t have to hire people, give raises, or grow their business.

Another lesson is that even with the disparity towards the high end, 59.2% of the taxes paid are paid by those in the $25,000-$200,000 gross income range. When the politicians promise to give you stuff paid for by someone else, they lie. They intend to take your money, give you some back, and expect you to thank them.

 

Last night I gave a presentation to IMA chapters across the state over the Iowa Cable Network, mostly on the newly passed extenders bill. You can download the Powerpoint slides I used here.

 

It’s Friday! It’s Buzz Day! At Robert D. Flach’s place. Links all around, including commentary on Turbo Tax ads.

Russ Fox, Substance Over Form. “So today’s petitioner, who represented himself in Tax Court, won that he was an independent contractor, not an employee”

TaxGrrrl, When It Comes To Taxes, Where Not To Win Powerball.

Robert Wood, To IRS, ‘Willful’ Means Penalties Or Jail

Jason Dinesen, How Often Should a Budget Be Updated?

Kay BellRecently issued tax identity theft PINs are valid for 2015 filings despite wrong date in IRS letters to taxpayers

 

 

Alex Durante, New NBER Paper Underscores Need for Corporate Integration (Tax Policy Blog). By “corporate integration, they mean “stop taxing corporation income twice.”

For the convenience of the politicians all concerned how corporate taxes have declined as a share of all federal taxes, they illustrate the obvious:

c corp share of entities

The high C corporation rate and the second tax imposed when corporate earnings are withdrawn as dividends or cashed out on a share sale explain why people set up their businesses in other ways.

 

Howard Gleckman, If Banning Negligent Low-Income Households From Taking Tax Credits Is Such a Great Idea, Why Stop With Them? (TaxVox). Good point.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 974. Today’s link discusses the proposal abandoned by the IRS yesterday to make charities collect social security numbers of their donors.

 

If you are a regular reader, you know better than to click on the link if you get an email like this:

HRscamemail

Be careful out there, people, and be smart.

And have a great weekend.

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Tax Roundup, 1/6/16: Oh, I meant that other year. And: IRS won’t rule on truck rehab “glider kits.”

Wednesday, January 6th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20160106-1Better increase their budget. The IRS provides a special “Identity Protection Personal Identification Number,” or “IP-PIN,” to identity theft victims to help them with future tax filings. The IP-PIN lets them tell the IRS that the return being filed is being filed by the real taxpayers, rather than by some grifter in Tampa (Florida) or St. Petersburg (Russia).

Now, after the IRS has already screwed up things for innocent taxpayers by sending their refunds to thieves, they have added insult to the injury. TaxGrrrl reports IRS Sends IP PIN Letters With Wrong Tax Year, Stresses It Will Not Affect Returns Filed In 2016.

Letters sending out IP PINs for the 2016 filing season (for the 2015 tax year) were mailed out at the end of December 2015 (but dated January 4, 2016) marked with the incorrect year. The letter, also referred to as a CP01A Notice, incorrectly indicates the IP PIN issued is to be used for filing your 2014 tax return when the number is actually to be used for your 2015 tax return. 

The IRS isn’t sending correction letters.

The funny thing: the IRS gets really mad if impatient taxpayers use forms for the wrong year and cross off the year at the top of the form, writing in the right year. Do as we say, not as we do…

Related:

IRS Notice on Your Identity Protection PIN.

Russ Fox, IRS Errs on Identity Theft PIN Letters. “One would think that the IRS proofed important letters and notices before they’re finalized.”

 

ice truck“Glider kit” guidance grounded. The IRS will decline to issue rulings on whether the excise tax on over-the-road tractors applies when a new cab, chassis, frame and axle — a “glider kit” is applied to an old engine and power train. Tax Analysts reports ($link):

Section 4052(f)(1) provides that if a modification to the chassis or body doesn’t exceed 75 percent of the retail price of a comparable new chassis or body, then it won’t incur the section 4051 tax. The IRS decided that it will not rule on whether a modification using a glider kit qualifies for the 75 percent exception under section 4052(f)(1).

A more recent legal memorandum (ILM 201403014) makes clear that the IRS has evolved its thinking on the issue, determining that when an outfitter combines an old engine and transmission with a new cab, chassis frame, and axles, the excise tax applies and the exception isn’t applicable. It also explains that taxpayers must include a 4 percent markup in the price of the refurbished truck for purposes of computing the tax, minus the value of used components if they’re customer provided.

The article adds:

The Iowa Motor Truck Association, in an alert (http://goo.gl/IXnYaS) issued to its members following the release of ILM 201403014, also warned that “the memo probably indicates that IRS auditors will now be more aggressive about glider-kit transactions, and that at least some transactions that have been regarded as exempt may turn out not to be.”

This is obviously a big deal to dealers and their customers. It’s terrible that the IRS is making this sort of policy by internal memos rather than through published guidance, leaving taxpayers hanging.

 

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

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

Megan McArdle has some wise thoughts on the tax law in Why We Fear the IRS (my emphasis):

Legal complexity does not accumulate linearly; it accumulates exponentially. When you have one law on the books, and you add a second, the new law may (or may not) have some unexpected interaction with the old law. This would be one complexity point for regulators to manage. But with each new law, the number of potential interactions grows quickly, until it passes the ability of any layman to grasp it (and eventually, surpasses the professionals as well, which is why they’re increasingly specialized in narrow areas). We are long past that point with the tax code.

That’s a point universally ignored by politicians who use the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy. A Swiss Army Knife the size of a railcar is interesting, but it’s not much good as a knife.

Her post also covers important ground on why the tax law has gotten so bad. Recommended.

 

Paul Neiffer, Is Section 179 a Ticking Tax Time Bomb?. The ability to deduct up to $500,000 in new equipment may have unintended consequences:

On the face, this sounds like a great tax deduction for farmers, however, with continued low commodity prices, might this be a ticking tax time bomb for many farmers.  This is due to a farmer having to liquidate some farm equipment due to the bank requiring additional liquidity be put into the farm operation or perhaps the farmer has lost some ground and no longer needs the equipment.   This sale of equipment causes the Section 179 to be “recaptured” as ordinary income and since the farmer probably does not have sufficient liquidity to prepay additional farm expenses, causes the farmer to be in a high tax bracket.  This leads to a large tax bill which then requires the farmer to sell additional equipment or grain to cover the tax bill.  This is especially harsh when the equipment was financed 100%.

In theory, the tax savings from the original deduction should be available to cover that tax bill, but if you are having to liquidate to pay the bank, the savings have already been spent on other things.

 

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Robert D. Flach, THE PATH ACT OF 2015 AND TAX PLANNING FOR 2016

William Perez, What Is the Alternative Minimum Tax? “Essentially, this is a tax based on a person’s adjusted gross income if they aren’t itemizers.”

Kay Bell, Seattle gun & ammo taxes drive gun seller out of town.  The criminals, they get to stay.

Jason Dinesen, What is Form 1023-EZ? “Form 1023-EZ is a new IRS form used by some not-for-profits to apply for tax-exempt status as a 501(c)(3) organization.”

Jim Maule, Is This Proposed Tax Necessary or Even Sensible?:

Several days ago, in a New York Times editorial, Max Frankel proposed “a relatively simple new tax – officially called a user fee – “ based on “the grandeur of each lofty view” from the apartments being built in very tall luxury skyscrapers along the southern edge of Central Park. He suggested it could informally be called a “window tax” and he suggested various dollar amounts for windows and doors based on height, the existence or absence of obstructions, and the nature of what can be seen.

Gee, what could go wrong? A little history shows some problems with Mr. Frankel’s proposal:

The window tax was a property tax based on the number of windows in a house. It was a significant social, cultural, and architectural force in England, France and Scotland during the 18th and 19th centuries. To avoid the tax some houses from the period can be seen to have bricked-up window-spaces (ready to be glazed or reglazed at a later date).

Prof. Maule rightly criticizes the proposal.

 

Robert Wood, As Offshore Banks Agree To U.S. Tax Evasion Deal, Account Holders Must Deal With IRS. Betting on foreign bank secrecy is a bet against the odds.

Keith Fogg, Fulfilling the Requirements of Section 6751 When the IRS Imposes a Penalty (Procedurally Taxing). “In Legg v. Commissioner, the Tax Court issued a division opinion concerning this little known provision that serves as a gatekeeper to the assertion of many penalties.”

Peter Reilly, Tax Court Sorts Out Basis On Russian Fast Food Merger. “The IRS can argue that what you said you did – the form – is not what actually happened – the substance.  You can’t generally do that yourself, because you got to choose the form, so you are stuck with it.”

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Renu Zaretsky, The Case of Tax Scams, Private Debt Collectors, and Wishful Thinking (TaxVox). “There is one way Congress could make tax compliance and collection easier and tax avoidance harder, while improving the public’s perception of the IRS. It could simplify the tax code. Unfortunately, that’s a call Congress has not chosen to make.”

Stephen J. Entin, Michael Schuyler, Are Dividend Taxes Harmless? Don’t Bet On It!

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 972

 

Career Corner. New Year’s Resolutions That Will Make Busy Season Less Awful (Leona May, Going Concern). It’s hard to argue with “Stop stealing co-workers’ lunches”

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/5/16: Start your year-end planning today! And: private tax audits for fun and profit!

Tuesday, January 5th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1182Welcome to 2016. We’ve just finished another round of 2015 year-end planning. It’s too soon for most of us to be working on our 2015 filings, given the need for 1099s, W-2s, K-1s, etc. But it is a good time to start getting things in order for 2016.

Too many people want to know the last day they can do something for their tax planning. It’s better to worry about the first day to do something. Many tax moves are best done at the beginning of the year. If you fund a tax-deferred account at the beginning of the year, you start sheltering the investment income from taxes 15 1/2 months sooner than somebody who waits until the end of the year.

Here are a few 2016 tax planning moves you can make right now:

Fund an IRA. You can fund a 2016 IRA to the extent of the lesser of your 2016 earned income or $5,500 – or $6,500 if you are going to be 50 years old by year-end. You don’t have to wait until you have earned that $5,500 or $6,500; if you are still working, you’ll get there. And don’t forget a spousal IRA, same limits.

Health Savings Accounts for 2016 can be funded up to $6,750, or $7,750 if you will reach age 55 by year-end.

A 55 year-old working couple with a high-deductible health plan can stash $20,750 in tax-deferred IRAs and HSAs today and shift the earnings on those funds to the non-taxable category now, instead of waiting until April 2017. Not only do they start their tax savings right away, but they aren’t tempted to spend that money between now and then.

While Section 529 plans can’t generate deductions like HSAs and traditional IRAs, they do shelter investment earnings like HSAs and IRAs, and they have more flexible contribution limits. The IRS explains:

Contributions can not exceed the amount necessary to provide for the qualified education expenses of the beneficiary. If you contribute to a 529 plan, however, be aware that there may be gift tax consequences if your contributions, plus any other gifts, to a particular beneficiary exceed $14,000 during the year.

Taxpayers filing in Iowa can deduct their contributions to the College Savings Iowa Section 529 plan up to $3,188 per beneficiary, per donor on their Iowa income tax return. A married couple funding plans for their two children can therefore deduct up to $12,752 in 2016 CSI contributions.

So start that 2016 year-end planning right away!

 

Tax Analysts reports ($link) that a Chicago Whistleblower Has Filed 938 FCA Tax Cases, Attorney Says. It quotes the director of the Illinois Department of Revenue, Connie Beard, talking about False Claims Act lawsuit trolling:

Beard told the lawmakers that the suits “are not true whistleblower lawsuits,” wherein an insider who has knowledge of a company’s fraudulent behavior seeks to report it to the state. “These are lawsuits that simply accuse business taxpayers, big and small, of incorrectly collecting and reporting tax,” she said.

As if Illinois wasn’t hopeless enough.

 

nytchart20151229-7Scott Hodge, IRS “Fortunate 400” Report Shows Evidence of Significant Income Shifting to Avoid Fiscal Cliff Tax Rate Hikes (Tax Policy blog). They show how taxpayers shifted income to beat the 2013 tax hikes:

Finally, we get to the bottom line and can see that taxable income declined 23 percent in 2013 to $85 billion from $111 billion in 2012.

So what explains this? Well, the more interesting narrative to come out of the IRS report is the evidence of income shifting in 2012 as the 400 wealthiest taxpayers anticipated the eventual tax increases on personal and investment income that would result from the fiscal cliff tax legislation.

Nearly all the major sources of income for these 400 taxpayers were up significantly in 2012 compared to 2011, as they pulled income from the future into a lower-tax year…

The lesson here is that high-income taxpayers have considerable flexibility as to how and when they report income. Headlines reporting that the rich are paying higher average tax rates as a result of the fiscal cliff deal don’t really tell the whole story.

People aren’t stupid. If they have a choice between recognizing income in a low-tax or a high-tax year, a sensible person picks the low-tax one. As the biggest source of income of the “400” is capital gains, there was a lot of pressure to beat the 2013 rate hikes from 15% to 23.8%.

Related coverage here.

 

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Robert D. Flach gets 2016 started with a bang Buzz! A tremendous link fest to start they year.

William Perez, How Soon Can We Begin Filing Tax Returns?

Andrew Mitchel, Flowchart – Section 267(a)(2) & (3) Related Party Matching Rules (International Tax Blog). Andrew’s charts are a wonderful resource.

Annette NellenTop Ten Items of Tax Policy Interest for 2015 – #10. The “gig economy.”

Kay Bell, 2016’s first tax tip: Filing season starts on Jan. 19

Jason Dinesen, Choosing a Business Entity: LLC. “LLCs provide legal protection much like a corporation, but LLCs are easier to form and are generally easier to administer.”

Jack Townsend, Judge Criticizes Prosecutor’s Use of Language Directing Secrecy for Receipt of Grand Jury Subpoena. “I hope that all readers of this blog know that grand jury proceedings are generally secret and the grand jurors and government actors in the process must keep them secret.  FRCrP 6(e)(2), here.  But the obligation of secrecy is not imposed on witnesses before the grand jury.”

Jim Maule, Taking (Tax Breaks) Without Giving (What Was Promised). “Too many tax breaks are handed out in exchange for promises by the recipients to do something beneficial for the community at large.” Once the politicians issue the press release and cut the ribbon, they have what they want, and they don’t much care what happens next.

Peter Reilly, Family Partnership Valuation Discounts Approved By Tax Court. A big year-end Tax Court case is discussed.

Leslie Book, NY Times Article Today Highlights Why People Pay Taxes as Well as Some of My Favorite PT Posts of 2015 (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert Wood, 2016 Brings IRS Power Over Passports, Use Of Private Debt Collectors

TaxGrrrl, 100 Things You Absolutely Need To Know About Money Before You’re 35

Tony Nitti, Ben Carson Releases Tax Plan, Promises End To Mortgage Interest, Charitable Contribution Deductions.

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 967Day 968Day 969Day 970Day 971.

Howard Gleckman, What Can Congress and President Obama Accomplish in 2016? Pray they don’t define “accomplish” the same way.

2015 top news from the profession. Going Concern Editor’s Picks for 2015: Relationships at Work, Bad Auditing, Women in Accounting and More (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

Russ Fox, My Day on Jury Duty. Congratulations to Russ on getting it out of the way January 4.

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/29/15: No year-end basis, no S corporation loss. And: ACA 1095 deadlines extended.

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

S-SidewalkBasis or bust. With the re-enactment of bonus depreciation for 2015, some S corporations find themselves with taxable losses for 2015. That won’t do much for the 2015 tax returns of S corporation shareholders who have no basis in their stock at year-end. While they also have to get by the “at-risk” and “passive loss” limits, they don’t even get to those problems without basis.

A taxpayer’s initial basis in an S corporation is the amount paid for the stock. It is increased by capital contributions and by undistributed income of the S corporation. It is reduced by distributions of S corporation earnings and by S corporation losses. If there have been 2015 distributions, they count before the losses do.

A shareholder with no stock basis can still get deductions by loaning money to the S corporation by year-end. The loan has to meet the at-risk rules (it can’t be funded by another shareholder or by the corporation, for example), but if it meets those requirements, it can create basis for S corporation losses. But don’t do anything hokey like making a loan on December 31 and having the corporation repay it on January 3.

It’s a trap! Well, it doesn’t have to be, but remember that any losses you take against a loan reduce the basis of the loan. That means that if the loan is repaid before the losses are restored by S corporation income, the repayment will be taxable gain to the extent of the unrestored losses.

This is another installment of our 2015 year-end planning tips series running through December 31. Collect them all!

 

1095-C cornerIRS delays due dates for 1095-B and 1095-C reporting2015 is the first year many employers are required to file a new form documenting insurance coverage, or offers of coverage, for their employees. Apparently many employers are still scrambling to figure out how to comply with the complex rules, because yesterday the IRS announced (Notice 2016-4) a delay in the deadlines for providing these forms to employees and to the IRS. A summary:

2016-4 deadlines

Employers are encouraged to file under the old deadlines if they can, but they now have a blanket extension, with no need to file any extension request.

While the IRS will be processing forms starting January 16, this announcement tells us that millions of taxpayers will lack the forms they need to properly report their ACA tax credits or penalties for inadequate coverage. The IRS says that employees can rely upon “other information received” from employers or insurers, and do not have to amend returns if the 1095s they receive later show that their original amounts are incorrect. What could possibly go wrong with this? Aside from rampant errors and outright fraud, I mean.

We are now approaching six years since the enactment of the ACA, and it’s still a mess.

Related: Russ Fox, IRS: We’ll Trust You on Health Insurance for 2015 Because… “We won’t have delays regarding filing returns because taxpayers haven’t received Forms 1095-B or 1095-C as long as they’re aware of their health insurance coverage. That’s a very good thing for all.”

 

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If you are trying to lose weight added by holiday treats, go to Robert D. Flach’s place for a “slender” Tuesday Buzz!

TaxGrrrl, 12 Days Of Charitable Giving 2015: Red Paw Emergency Relief Team

Robert Wood, House Oversight Probes Hillary Speech Fees To Clinton Foundation. The assignment of income rules only apply to little people.

Leslie Book, PATH, CDP Venue and Berglund v Commissioner, A Recent Tax Court Case Where Venue Matters (Procedurally Taxing)

Jason DinesenFrom the Archives: Taxation of Emotional Distress Payments

Kay Bell, 10 tax-saving things to do by December 31

Jana Luttenegger WeilerLast Minute Tax Extenders – 2015 Edition (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

William Perez, Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015

Annette Nellen, Top Ten Items of Tax Policy Interest for 2015 – #6 and #7. Includes coverage of the return due date changes enacted this year.

Me, Forget April 15. Well, don’t, actually, but Dec. 31 matters more. My latest at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record Business Professionals’ Blog.

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 964.

Renu Zaretsky, Bans, Subsidies, Searches, and Bubbles. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers new EITC restrictions and Nevada’s corporate welfare cornucopia for Tesla, among other morsels.

Stephen Entin, Disentangling CAP Arguments against Tax Cuts for Capital Formation: Part 4 (Tax Policy Blog). “Most major tax bills of the last thirty years have provided serious tax reductions or refundable credits (resulting in negative taxes) for lower income families. These are extraordinarily expensive, but do next to nothing to promote capital formation to raise productivity, wages, and employment.”

 

Caleb Newquist, Opening Day of Tax Season Less Than a Month Away (Going Concern). “Anyone with a PTIN is due to report on January 4.” Haven’t renewed your PTIN yet? Get on it!

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/28/15: Harvesting without a combine. And: Tax Credits as a fiscal trap.

Monday, December 28th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

harvestThe corn’s in, but the harvest isn’t over. The tax law taxes capital gains for almost all individual taxpayers when you sell an appreciated asset, even though it shouldn’t. Still, if you’re like most of us, not everything you buy goes up.

The tax law allows individuals to deduct capital losses when they cash out a money-losing investment, up to the amount of capital gains plus $3,000. That means paying capital gain taxes is optional to the extent you have unrealized capital losses in your taxable portfolio. That’s a silly option to exercise. Here are some thoughts on loss harvesting:

You have to take the loss in a taxable account. A loss in an IRA or 401(k) plan doesn’t help you.

Normally the “trade date” is the effective date for tax purposes, so you can sell a stock as late as December 31 this year and still deduct the loss on your 2015 1040.

If you have a loss on a short sale, the tax law treats it as closing on the settlement date, not the trade date, so you can’t wait until the last minute to close a short sale to get a deduction. (See also Russ Fox, Harvesting Capital Losses: Act Quickly on Shorts!)

You don’t need to overdo it.  You can deduct your capital losses only to the extent of your capital gains, plus $3000.  But if you do overdo it, individual capital losses carry forward indefinitely.

Long-term losses can offset short-term gains, and vice-versa.

Harvesting losses helps taxpayers subject to the Obamacare/ACA Net Investment Income Tax to the extent it helps for regular taxes.

– Watch out for the wash sale rules. If you buy the same stock within the 30 days preceding or following the sale of a loss stock, your loss is disallowed. This is true even if you sell from a taxable account and buy in an IRA, according to the IRS.

See also

This is another installment of our 2015 year-end planning tips series running through December 31. 

Related — weekend tax tips:

Altaring your tax planning

Keep on giving! A high-end tax planning tip.

 

1916 Spaulding by The editors of Horseless Age. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

1916 Spaulding by The editors of Horseless Age. Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Tax Credits as a trapThe Sunday Des Moines Register this week told the story of a tax credit deal gone awry, leaving the small college town of Grinnell, Iowa in a financial pickle.

Grinnell once housed Spaulding Manufacturing Company, one of many small early Midwest automakers. The Spaulding story is told in my college buddy Curt McConnell’s fine book, Great Cars of the Great Plains.

There is only one known surviving Spaulding vehicle. It was to be a crown jewel of a transportation museum to be built around the dilapidated remains of the old Spaulding plant. But it hasn’t gone well, according to the Register:

Three years after it opened, the Iowa Transportation Museum has hit a dead end, losing its building to foreclosure and leaving the city of Grinnell on the hook to repay more than $4 million in federal aid for the project.

The museum, which had operated in a renovated portion of the old Spaulding manufacturing plant in downtown Grinnell, closed in October, unable to pay its mortgage to Iowa City’s MidWestOne Bank. The bank even took possession of the museum’s crown jewel, a rare 1913 Spaulding automobile built at the Grinnell plant.

It sounds as though the business plan of attracting auto tourists to Grinnell was hopelessly optimistic, but it was tax credit failure that finished things off:

The museum built its budget around receiving $900,000 in federal historic tax credits that never arrived. A 2012 federal appeals court ruling about a real estate project in New Jersey shook up the market for historic tax credits. A subsequent IRS memo explaining the ruling said, essentially, that investors should not stand to profit from historic tax credits without shouldering some of the risk. As a result, investors backed away from historic tax credit projects.

“That is where things really started to come apart on us, and it was just kind of a chain reaction from there,” Brooke said.

This is where I find myself puzzled. By their terms, federal historic rehab credits have never been transferable. A transferable tax credit can be sold by the original recipient to cash in on a tax break too big to use by itself. Tax credit middlemen tried to make them transferable by setting up “partnership” structures where investors were nominal partners, but really were in it only for the tax credits, with economic gains and losses from the rehab project allocated elsewhere.

To my surprise, the Tax Court had gone along with that structure, but the Third Circuit Court of Appeals reversed them in Historic Boardwalk Hall LLC (CA-3, No. 11-1832). The court held that because the tax credit investor didn’t share meaningfully in either potential income or loss from the project, it wasn’t a partner eligible for tax credits.

That was the risk I had always seen in these deals, and it came home to Grinnell.

The Moral? When it takes tax credits to make a deal work, it doesn’t really work. It’s just crony capitalism.

Enjoying a short Des Moines winter commute.

Enjoying a short Des Moines winter commute.

Robert D. Flach has started a new organization, TAX PROFESSIONALS FOR TAX REFORM. “We believe that the one and only purpose of the Tax Code is to raise the money necessary to fund the government.” A worthy cause.

William Perez, Understanding Canceled Debt Income and Taxes

Kay Bell, Uncommon charitable gifts still provide donors the typical tax deduction. A discussion of property donations. “As with all tax deductible donations, you also need to make these more uncommon ones by Dec. 31 in order to claim them on this year’s taxes.”

Paul Neiffer, Farm and Ranch Provided Housing. A partnership, sole proprietor or S corporation cannot provide and deduct employee related housing for any of its owners (unless they own less than 2% AND are not related to any other owners).”

TaxGrrrl, 12 Days Of Charitable Giving 2015: Fender Music Foundation

 

Seventh Avenue, Des Moines, this morning.

TaxProf, Hemel:  Taxes To Cause Vanguard Fund Fees To ‘Quadruple’? Not So Fast. We know the nosy busybodies would punish Vanguard’s small saver base with higher fees to feed the federal black hole. The only dispute is how much.

Tax Policy Blog, Apple CEO Tim Cook: We Need a Tax Code for the Digital Age. “The solution to ‘profit shifting’ is not a new patch to an already complicated tax code. The solution that the U.S. needs is a comprehensive tax reform that reduces both the corporate tax rate and the complexity of the entire tax code.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 961Day 962Day 963. The Day 961 post notes the obvious problems of giving one of the most aggressively secretive agencies power over passports. Day 962 inadvertently confirms one of the driving forces of the IRS scandal — ongoing bitterness over the Citizens United decision preventing bureaucrats from selectively restricting free speech rights.

Robert Wood, More Calls To Impeach IRS Chief Over Targeting, Bonuses, Obstruction

 

Stuart Gibson, Unlikely New Year’s Resolutions (Tax Analysts Blog). Like these:

-Citizens of Greece: Pay all the taxes they owe.

-Greek tax collectors: Pay all taxes they collect into the Greek treasury.

Unlikely indeed.

 

Peter Reilly, Did You Hear The One About Bernie Sanders And Kent Hovind Walking Into A Tax Blog? Well, Bernie is evidence of the co-existence of dinosaurs and hominids.

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/22/15: If you want a 2015 qualified plan, time to fly! And lots more.

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan
The view from Tax Update world headquaters yesterday.

The view from Tax Update world headquaters yesterday.

10 days to get a qualified plan in place. Some of the best deductions for sole proprietors and one-owner corporations are found in the tax law’s “qualified plan” rules. A payment to a qualified pension or profit-sharing plan is deductible now, grows tax free, and is only taxable on retirement. For one-employee companies, it’s a deduction for taking money from one pocket and putting it in another.

One of the best of these opportunities is the “Solo 401(k),” which allows a deduction of up to $53,000 for contributions to a solo owner-employee’s retirement plan. But there’s one little catch: the plan has to be in place by December 31 of this year to allow a 2015 deduction.

If that sort of deduction sounds attractive, you should consult a qualified plan professional. Some brokerage houses can steer you the right way, as can the Vanguard mutual fund company.

Remember, though, that once money is in a qualified plan, expect it to stay there. Early withdrawals face a 10% penalty, as well as income tax liability. 401(k) plans generally can’t be investors in or lenders to the plan owner’s business. There are annual compliance costs that inevitably reduce the tax benefits. Still, for an annual deduction that size, some inconvenience can be tolerated.

This is the second installment of our 2015 year-end planning tips series. Collect them all!

 

Kay Bell, Upcoming filing season will start on time: Jan. 19, 2016. Almost none of my clients are ready by then. While I’m glad that the season isn’t delayed by a failure to pass an extender bill, I think identity theft requires a later start to issuing tax refunds. They shouldn’t be processed until W-2 and 1099 information is in the IRS system – preferably with special W-2 codes like those the IRS is experimenting with this season to catch fraudulent claims. 

Of course, that means the government will sit on overpayments longer. That should be addressed by changing the “I got a big refund!” culture. That could be done by lowering to 75% the amount of taxes that have to be paid in by April 15 to avoid a penalty and by changing the withholding tables to make refunds less likely.

 

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Robert D. Flach comes through with a “meaty” Christmas Week Buzz, with lots of Extender bill discussion and a hint of perhaps the most unusual Christmas Eve tradition ever.

Tony Nitti, Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2015: #4 – Who Can Qualify As A Real Estate Pro?

Russ Fox, Are Tips (Gratuities) at the Poker Table Deductible? “As long as the tip is reasonable, it’s clear that a professional poker player can deduct the tip as a business expense.” You’ll have to read the post to see whether it works for amateurs.

William Perez, All About the Earned Income Tax Credit. “The easiest way to find out if you qualify for the earned income credit is to use an application found on the IRS Web site called the EITC Assistant.”

Andrew Mitchel offers a True / False Quiz on FAST Act Passport Revocation Provisions

Hank Stern, Major O’Care Disappointment (Insureblog). “Now that the (disastrous) first phase of the 2016 Open Enrollment season is behind us, lets’ take a look at what a huge disappointment it was.”

Carlton Smith, Tilden v. Comm’r: Postal Service Tracking Data Determines Timeliness of Tax Court Petition (Procedurally Taxing)

TaxGrrrl, 12 Days Of Charitable Giving 2015: PACT For Animals

 

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Scott Greenberg, Fact-checking Hillary Clinton on Millionaires’ Taxes (Tax Policy Blog). “There are very few millionaires in the U.S. that pay “10 percent to nothing” in taxes.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 957. Today’s link goes to a Washington Post story that says “There is no love lost between Republicans in Congress and the Internal Revenue Service, whether it’s their dislike for the tax code, the current tax commissioner or their fury at the agency’s treatment a few years ago of conservative groups.” If you want to see increases in the IRS budget, you want Commissioner Koskinen to resign.

Howard Gleckman presents The TaxVox Lump of Coal Awards for the Ten Worst Tax Ideas of 2015. While I might quibble with one or two of the choices, it’s a strong list. For example:

8. Tax credits for what ails you. Hillary Clinton has taken a page out of Bill Clinton’s fiscal playbook: Identify a kitchen table problem and propose a modest tax subsidy to relieve the pain. She has tax credits for families burdened by the high costs of education, caring for aging parents, and high medical costs. And she’s proposed another credit to encourage employers to give workers a stake in their companies. My TPC colleague Gene Steuerle has a name for this: tax deform.

It’s more than a federal problem, for sure.

 

Matt Gardner, What Apple’s Tim Cook Gets Wrong About Its Tax Avoidance (Tax Justice Blog). Mr. Cook has the temerity to think that he has a duty to shareholders, instead of to grasping politicians.

 

Career Corner (or, News from the Profession). Former EY Employee Who Liked Secretly Filming People in the Bathroom Given Four Years to Think About His Choices (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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