Posts Tagged ‘Russ Fox’

Tax Roundup, 1/23/2015: Egg donor compensation taxable payment for services. Meanwhile, kidney donor compensation is a felony.

Friday, January 23rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan
"White-&-Brown-Eggs" by Evan-Amos - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

“White-&-Brown-Eggs” by Evan-Amos – Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

The big news in the tax world today is a Tax Court case ruling that payments to an egg donor were compensation for services. The case turned on the language of the contract of between the egg donor and the agency that procured the eggs. Tax Court Judge Holmes ruled that the payments were not excludible as payments for physical damages because there was no tort claim involved.

There are plenty of places you can read more details on this case, including Russ Fox and Tony Nitti. The TaxProf has a roundup.

So there is an organized and legal market for donor eggs, which, if all goes well, turn into an entire new human. That’s a good thing. But if an agency paid you for one of your kidneys to save the life of an already-born child on the kidney donor list, they would face a $50,000 fine and five years in prison under the Gore-Hatch National Organ Transplant Act of 1984.

The National Kidney Foundation reports that 12 people die daily waiting for a donor kidney, and that 4,453 died waiting for a kidney transplant in 2013.  It’s a felony to save any of those lives by buying a kidney from a healthy, willing and fully-informed seller. Meanwhile, nobody dies waiting for a donated egg.

Cite: Perez, 144 T.C. No. 4

Related: The Case for Paying Organ Donors (Sally Satel)

 

Kyle Pomerleau, Richard Borean, More than Half of all Private Sector Workers are Employed by Pass-through Businesses:

53.7% of Iowans work for pass-through businesses taxed on 1040s.

53.7% of Iowans work for pass-through businesses taxed on 1040s.

“Pass-through” income is income earned by S corporations and partnerships, including LLCs. This income is taxed on 1040s. Those who favor ever-increasing individual taxation of “the rich” by definition favor increasing the tax on employment.

 

buzz20140923Robert D. Flach has your Friday Buzz, including thoughts on avoiding scammers claiming to be from IRS and on Wal-Mart’s cash tax refund program: “My advice – avoid this program.”

Kay Bell, IRS gets $1.3 million for Darryl Strawberry’s Mets annuity

Paul Neiffer, IRS Scammers Net $14 Million from 3,000 Victims. If the e-mail says it’s from the IRS, it’s not. If you aren’t expecting a call from the IRS, the caller isn’t from the IRS.

Jason Dinesen, Ridiculous IRS Situations I’ve Recently Dealt With. A continuing series.

Leslie Book, Tax Court Addresses Verification Requirement in Trust Fund CDP Case (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert Wood, Washington Nationals $210M Pitching Contract For Max Scherzer Is About Taxes. “The Home Rule Act prohibits the District from imposing a commuter tax on non-residents.”

Peter ReillyExclusive – Kent Hovind Claims Congressmen Are Looking Into His Case. All you could possibly want to know about the case of the guy who thinks the Flintstones was actually a documentary series.

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Robert Goulder, Reading the Tea Leaves: China’s Jurisdictional Tax Claims (Tax Analysts Blog). Contrary to some reports, even Communist China doesn’t plan to tax worldwide income of non-resident Chinese. The U.S. stands alone in doing that.

Howard Gleckman, A Look at the Territorial Tax Systems in Four Countries Finds No Magic Bullets (TaxVox). No magic beans, either, I’ll bet.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 624

 

Career Corner. Here Are Just a Few Questions You’ll Be Asked in a Big 4 Interview (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/20/2015: What’s with the accounting method changes? And: foot kissing + tax evasion = double trouble.

Tuesday, January 20th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

3115-2009If your business return seems extra thick this year, it could be a result of an “accounting method change” application — Form 3115 — buried in it.

The tax law requires taxpayers to get IRS permission to change a “method of accounting.” Without getting into all of the tedious details, and with great oversimplification, a “method of accounting” occurs when the way you account for something on your tax return affects the timing of income or expense, but not the total amount over time. In other words, it’s temporary vs. permanent differences.

Of course timing is everything in tax planning, and the IRS doesn’t want you to change accounting methods willy-nilly. The IRS doesn’t have the time to consider every accounting method change, though, so it publishes a long list of “automatic” method changes annually. This year’s list is in Rev. Proc. 2015-14.

This year will see more Forms 3115 than usual as a result of the so-called “repair regulations” that are effective for 2014 returns. These rules distinguish between “repair” expenses, which can be deducted, and “improvements,” which have to be capitalized and depreciated.

20140925-2The repair regulations have provisions that let taxpayers treat their building components — HVAC, roofs, elevators, etc — as separate items under these rules. Their effect is to permit deductions for some costs that may have been trapped in the depreciable cost of the building. That makes the automatic method change under these rules (Rev. Proc. 2014-17) a good deal, as it can provide a catch-up deduction for prior capitalized costs. Many returns will also include a method change (Rev. Proc. 2014-16) to reflect updated rules for deducting or capitalizing “materials and supplies.”

Automatic method changes are a good thing; if you have a method change that isn’t automatic, special IRS permission is required, and it doesn’t come cheap. But even an automatic change isn’t free, especially if your preparer has to go through old repair records to determine the catch-up deduction. But if you have significant depreciable real property, it’s probably worth the effort.

 

Russ Fox, Former Mayor (and Current CPA) Learns of Tax Fraud, Joins the Conspiracy

Now, let’s assume you’re a tax professional and you learn that a company is withholding payroll taxes and not paying them to the IRS. Would you:
(a) Tell them that the taxes aren’t being paid, that’s violating the law, and you need to fix this (which could include setting up payment plans with the IRS and Minnesota, or just paying the withheld funds);
(b) Tell them that if they don’t start remitting the withheld funds that he would need to quit the engagement; or
(c) Join the conspiracy. 

An accountant from Stillwater, Minnesota — who happened to also be the Mayor — chose poorly.

 

20121120-2Hank Stern, Counting down the ObamaTax:

Many (most?) folks believe that the tax is a mere $95 this year and, for some people, this may well be the case. But it’s actually just a minimum; the actual rate (this year) is 1% of income:

TurboTax, an online tax service, estimated that the average penalty for lacking health insurance in 2014 will be $301.”

A common misconception.

Robert Wood, Beware Obamacare When Filing Taxes This Year. A roundup of the individual mandate penalty and the net investment income tax.

 

Annette Nellen, Due diligence for preparing 1040s for 2014:

What’s new for due diligence for 2014 individual tax returns?  Virtual currency, Affordable Care Act, FBAR, Airbnb rentals, for sure.  Also, the typical charitable contributions, mortgage interest and 1099-K review.  The biggest new item for 2014 will the new line asking if the individual had health coverage for the year.

More work doesn’t come free. The post lists to a longer article about preparer “due diligence” this tax season.

 

Tim Todd, Tax Court Adopts Functional Test to Define “Bank”. “In sum, the Tax Court held that Moneygram satisfied neither the Staunton functional test nor the § 581 test because it failed to receive deposits, make loans, and was not regarded as a bank by any state or federal regulator. Consequently, Moneygram was not entitled to the reported bad debt deductions of the partial or wholly worthless asset-backed securities.”

Jason Dinesen, A Brief History of Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 2: Taxes in 1913.

 

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Understanding Partnership Distributions, Part 1. “As you will see, the regime governing partnership distributions is drastically different from the one governing corporate distributions.”

TaxGrrrl, Fun With Taxes: Tax Haiku 2015. How about this:

 insure worker health?

Better not reimburse it

That is expensive.

 Kay Bell, Martin Luther King Jr. Day lessons via “Selma” & “Glory”

Mitch Maahs, IRS Announces New Standard Mileage Rates (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

 

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Robert D. Flach, BO SOTU PLANS TO INCREASE TAX ON THE “WEALTHY”. ” BO’s tax proposals, both to help the middle class and punish the wealthy, will never pass in the Republican controlled Congress.”

Matt Gardner, President Obama Takes on the Capital Gains Tax Inequity with New Proposals. By making it worse, of course, though not to hear Mr. Gardner tell it.

Renu Zaretsky, To Build a Better Tax Code, You Could Follow the Money.  The TaxVox headline roundup is heavy on the President’s proposals.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 621. This edition cites Stephen Moore’s Op-ed: “Congress needs to hold the IRS accountable and demand the firing of Mr. Kostiken because he has he admitted openly he can’t do his job.”  Unfortunately, the President who hired him thinks he is doing his job, which is to be a partisan scandal goalie.

 

The headline that wins the internet: Foot Kissing Chiropractor Sentenced for Bribing IRS Agent (Jack Townsend)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/16/15: Insurance reimbursements may trigger $100/day penalty, but at least they’re not on W-2.

Friday, January 16th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20121120-2Letter to Congressman says insurance reimbursements that trigger $100/day Obamacare penalty still excludible from W-2. 

Small employers have long used “Section 105″ plans to reimburse employee purchases of individual health insurance, in lieu of setting up an employer group health plan. Such reimbursements were excludible from employee W-2 taxable income.

Under the Administration’s interpretation of the Affordable Care Act, such plans trigger a $100 per-day, per-employee penalty starting in 2014. Many employers are just learning that they had disqualified plans last year and are scrambling to comply; fixing a plan within 30 days of compliance may enable such taxpayers to avoid the $36,500 hit for each employee on “reasonable cause” grounds.

One question that has hung over this is whether the employer has to put the reimbursements that trigger the penalties on employee W-2s as income. A letter to an Illinois Congressman reprinted today in Tax Analysts says they don’t. From the letter  (my emphasis and links):

Prior to the ACA, an employer could reimburse employees for the medical expenses of the employee and the employee’s family and exclude those amounts from the employee’s income and wages under section 105(b) of the Code. The ACA has not changed the tax treatment of the reimbursement for employee medical expenses. However, these arrangements, under the ACA, are considered to be group health plans and must satisfy the market reform rules for them.

The guidance that we provided in Notice 2013-54 did not change the tax results described in Revenue Ruling 61-146. This ruling says that under certain conditions if an employer reimburses an employee’s substantiated premiums for individual health insurance policies, the payments are excluded from the employee’s gross income under section 106 of the Code. This exclusion also applies if the employer pays the premiums directly to the insurance company.

W2Note that the exclusion “applies.” That’s present tense, meaning it’s still alive.

Some employers responded to Notice 2013-54 by treating reimbursements as taxable, but subsequent guidance issued in November last year said that didn’t work to make the $100/day penalty go away.

While they scramble to terminate their now horrifyingly expensive Sec. 105 reimbursement arrangements and figure out how to get out of the penalties, employers still have to issue W-2s this month. Now they know they can at least leave the reimbursements off employee W-2s. Given how widespread the problems seems to be, and how terrible the penalties, the IRS ought to just issue a blanket penalty waiver on this for everyone for 2014 if the non-compliance is disclosed.

Why wasn’t this printed as guidance? This letter went to Congressman Lipinski in September. A similar letter went to Kansas Congressman Goodlatte about the same time. Obviously the IRS knew from the Congressional inquiries that guidance was needed, but until Tax Analysts published this guidance, the IRS had never explained how to handle the W-2s. They still haven’t published guidance telling employers how to  “correct” the erroneous plans, as required on the penalty waiver instructions to the penalty reporting form, Form 8929.

 

IMG_0598Yeah, like he’d admit that. From Tax Analysts ($link):

The IRS is not pursuing a “Washington monument” strategy of discontinuing taxpayer services to protest recent congressional budget cuts, Commissioner John Koskinen told reporters at a press conference on January 15.

The Washington monument strategy refers to claims made by some media outlets during the October 2013 government shutdown that various federal agencies seemed to be closing highly visible public services as a protest against the shutdown.

Koskinen denied that any such calculations entered into the IRS’s decision-making regarding service and enforcement constraints that he said were induced by Congress’s $346 million cut (to $10.9 billion) to the IRS budget for fiscal 2015.

I’ll believe that he’s serious when he closes the “voluntary” preparer registration program and stops paying IRS employees to work full-time for the Treasury Employees Union.

James Taranto at the Wall Street Journal doesn’t deny that the IRS needs more money, but doesn’t have much sympathy anyway (WSJ subscription may be required to access original):

It’s all rather comical—but also galling. The IRS’s abuse of power in its harassment of conservative nonprofits aimed in substantial part at suppressing opposition to ObamaCare. That is, the IRS traduced the free-speech rights of citizens in order to preserve a law expanding IRS power and creating more work for IRS agents.

Now the commissioner complains that the IRS has too much work and not enough resources and threatens to make life even more difficult for taxpayers. It’s like the guy who killed his parents and then pleaded for mercy because he was an orphan.

And an unapologetic one.

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Robert D. Flach has your Friday Buzz, with a warning for users of off-the-shelf software.

William Perez, The Penalty for Not Having Health Insurance. Don’t think it’s just $95.

Robert Wood. 3 Reasons Filing Taxes Sucks? Obamacare, Obamacare & Obamacare. I can think of a lot of others, myself, but these are definitely three of them.

Alan Cole, The Employer Mandate Reduces Hours Worked (Tax Policy Blog). Not by tax preparers, it doesn’t.

 

Kay Bell, IRS Free File opens Friday, Jan. 16, for eligible taxpayers, four days ahead of Jan. 20 full tax season start

Russ Fox, If You Do Government Work, It Pays to Treat the Government Well

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 617

Howard Gleckman, What To Make of the Senate Finance Committee’s Tax Reform Workgroups 

 

Keith Fogg, Eskimos and the IRS: A Winter’s Tale (Procedurally Taxing) “This post is not about tax procedure issues in the native American population in Alaska but a recent Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) report concerning frozen credits at the IRS made me think about the number of ways Eskimos have to say snow.”

 

News from the Profession. Ron Baker: You Can Put Lipstick on Billing by the Hour But Don’t Call It Value Pricing (Adrienne Gonzales, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/15/15: Taxpayer Advocate rips offshore account enforcement, recommends fixes to Congress.

Thursday, January 15th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today Readershere is the post on the 2015 Iowa legislative session outlook.

 

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Still shooting jaywalkers. National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson has submitted her Annual Report to Congress, and she rips the IRS offshore compliance program. Among the “most serious problems” noted in the report is “Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Programs Undermined the Law and Violate Taxpayer Rights.”

The report says the IRS routinely stretches the penalties for “willful” violations of foreign reporting requirements to inadvertent violations, interprets its own guidelines whimsically and unfairly, and makes a practice of hammering small violators disproportionately.  The report also criticizes the IRS practice of denying relief for taxpayers who came in from the cold early when it later started applying reduced penalties.

The report includes one awful example of the IRS treating an apartment owned by the taxpayer as a foreign financial account for purposes of computing the penalty for late reporting:

Example : An IRS employee took the position that a taxpayer’s foreign apartment must be included in the “offshore penalty” base solely because the taxpayer filed returns reporting income from the apartment between two and fifteen months late—after receipt of foreign information reporting documents relating to inherited property. The employee concluded the delay in filing returns meant that the apartment was related to tax noncompliance. Under the 2011 OVDI FAQ 35, “[t]he offshore penalty is intended to apply to all of the taxpayer’s offshore holdings that are related in any way to tax noncompliance.” FAQ 35 defines tax noncompliance as follows:

“Tax noncompliance includes failure to report income from the assets, as well as failure to pay U.S. tax that was due with respect to the funds used to acquire the asset.”

The taxpayer timely overpaid her taxes and reported the income from the apartment (albeit on late-filed returns), and the apartment was not acquired with untaxed funds. Thus, the IRS employee’s unreviewable determination to include the apartment in the offshore penalty base appears to contradict FAQ 35.

This indicates an IRS practice of shooting jaywalkers so that it can slap real international tax cheats on the wrists. Especially unrepresented jaywalkers:

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These penalties – $2,202 average penalty for an average $268 tax understatement for the smallest accounts – are unconscionable. I defy anyone to say otherwise. Well, anyone who doesn’t work for IRS.

It also indicates that taxpayers who oped out of the voluntary disclosure program got better results — which is a harsh indictment of the way the “voluntary” program treats taxpayers.

The report does praise recent changes to IRS practice, but slams the IRS for not applying them retroactively.  The report also recommends that Congress ease up on offshore penalties, including eliminating the penalties when the taxpayer resides in the same country as the foreign account. This would be incredibly useful, eliminating the penalty for committing personal finance while living abroad.

I would go further and make the U.S. tax system territorial for non-residents, to eliminate absurd spectacles like the IRS going after the U.S.-born Mayor of London for capital gains on the sale of his home in London.

Related coverage: 

Robert Wood, National Taxpayer Advocate Slams IRS Offshore Programs & FBAR Penalties, Demands Change

TaxGrrrl, Taxpayer Advocate IDs Most Serious Problems For Taxpayers: Unacceptably Low Levels Of Service Tops List

 

20150115-2Kay Bell, It’s a new year, but time for final 2014 estimated tax payment

Russ Fox, Waiting for Godot. ” If you’re going to call the IRS, expect very lengthy hold times; yesterday I was on hold for 101 minutes before speaking with an IRS representative. I expect the hold times to get far worse as we head into Tax Season.”

Jason Dinesen, 5 Things You Didn’t Know About EAs, #5: EAs are the Only Pros Required to Take Tax CPE.

Robert D. Flach, WTF IS AN EA?  Wednesday Tax Forum is an EA?

Tim Todd, Unsubordinated Mortgage Prevents Charitable Deduction for Conservation Easement

Iowa Public Radio, Tax Time Gets New Ritual: Proof Of Health Insurance.

 

Alan Cole, Financial Transactions Are A Very Poor Tax Base (Tax Policy Blog):

Simply put, financial transactions are a very poor tax base. For one thing, it results in “pyramiding:” taxing the same economic activity many times. For another, economists generally think of trades as highly-valuable activity that benefits both parties, given that they both agreed to the deal. Taxing trade itself results in a kind of “lock-in” effect where people hold on to the things they have, whether or not they’re the best people to actually be holding on to them.

He also notes the social value of the ability to easily sell financial assets, one that would be damaged by a transaction tax.

Howard Gleckman, Gale and DeLong Debate: Is the Budget Deficit Even a Problem? (TaxVox).

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Cara Griffith, Illinois Lawsuit Challenges Tax Credit Program for Encouraging Job Retention (Tax Analysts Blog). “But the interesting question this lawsuit raises is whether job creation and job retention should be treated as equal for purposes of a tax credit.” Yes, they should all get no tax credits.

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 1/12: When Your Mouth Writes a Check Your State Can’t Cash (Tax Justice Blog)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 616

Career Corner. The Happiest Lawyers Are Tax Lawyers  (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/13/15: Another bad day for Mr. Banister in Tax Court.

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Sometimes people with ideas that are shocking and revolutionary are ahead of their time. And sometimes they are just wrong.

lizard20140826“Tax Honesty” figure Joe Banister has been in the second category for some time, as far as the Tax Court is concerned. The former KPMG accountant and IRS criminal division agent made an unusual career change, becoming a guru for those who insist there is no federal income tax. His biggest success may have been winning an acquittal on criminal tax charges in 2005. His courtroom ventures have been less rewarding since.

In 2008, the Tax Court ruled that he owed tax on about $24,000 in unreported income from 2002. Yesterday they hit him harder.

This case picked up Mr. Banister’s unfiled return string in 2003. From the Tax Court’s opinion (emphasis mine):

During 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006, petitioner earned income from his tax consultation services, speeches, book sales, and other business activities promulgating his views of the Federal income tax system. In 2006 he received $71,497 in nonemployee compensation. He deposited his income into six bank accounts over which he maintained control. He earned interest income on some of them. Deposits into those accounts totaled $280,270.01, $522,418.98, $247,666.61, and $118,608.72 for 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006, respectively. Petitioner did not file Federal income tax returns or pay taxes for any of those years.

The IRS commenced an audit for petitioner’s 2003 through 2006 tax years. Petitioner failed to submit for examination complete and adequate books and accounts for the years under audit. He resisted IRS efforts to obtain bank records through the use of summonses. The IRS ultimately prepared substitutes for returns under section 6020(b), determining petitioner’s correct adjusted gross income for each year by the bank deposits analysis method. The IRS determined that taxable deposits into the six bank accounts were $143,607.46, $177,402.24, $130,502.24, and $87,389.49 for 2003, 2004, 2005, and 2006, respectively. Those amounts were used in the statutory notice sent to petitioner.

It appears that giving odd tax advice is at least as lucrative as being a criminal agent. But maybe not after tax and penalties, as we will see.

Mr. Banister tried to use his own medicine to fight the IRS:20120511-2

During the course of this case, petitioner did not deny receipt of the income determined in the statutory notice and did not identify deductions that had not been allowed. His arguments, his motions, his attempts to conduct discovery, and his cross-examination of respondent’s witnesses at trial have been directed to his claim that the statutory notice was invalid because it was not signed by an authorized person and that, as a result, this Court lacks jurisdiction over his case. In his pretrial memorandum he also asserted that his U.S. income was not subject to tax and that he had no obligation to file tax returns, repeating or restating the arguments that had led to his disqualification to practice before the IRS and his loss of his certified public accountant’s license. Petitioner refused to testify at trial, citing his Fifth Amendment privilege against self-incrimination. Instead he submitted a “motion for offer of proof” that, to the extent intelligible at all, repeated and elaborated on his argument that his U.S. income was not subject to income tax.

It didn’t work, and the Tax Court upheld deficiencies of $176,786. They tacked on 25% failure to file penalties and 75% fraud penalties, and estimated tax underpayment penalties, about doubling the bill. Then for good measure they penalized him $25,000 for making “frivolous” arguments in Tax Court.

Assuming the IRS accurately assessed Mr. Banister’s income, he netted $152,801 after tax for four years — though California will surely want some of that. Assuming conservatively that 20% of what’s left after taxes and penalties goes to the Golden State coffers, Mr. Banister nets about $122,000 after tax and penalties for four year’s work — an amount that probably compares poorly  to what he would have pocketed with less trouble had he stuck it out at IRS. Of course, there might be other cash income out there that never hit the IRS bank account computation.

The funny thing is, Mr. Banister could have filed his tax returns and cut his tax bill in half — and nobody would have been the wiser, except for the IRS. It may have been foolish consistency for him to take his own advice, but consistency it was.

I doubt Mr Banister is done in court. It’s not typical of hard-core “tax honesty” adherents to just pay assessments. The IRS is likely to have to slog through the dreary process of levy and asset seizure now. For those who think that Mr. Banister actually understands the tax law, this dismal record of assessment and collection litigation should be instructional. Unfortunately, anybody who still buys tax protest thinking is by definition a slow learner.

Cite: Banister, T.C. Memo 2015-10

Russ Fox has more: The Second Time Wasn’t the Charm

 

20120620-1Busy day, so just some quick links.

Robert D. Flach has fresh Tuesday Buzz,  with links to Jason Dinesen and thoughts on national franchise tax prep firm marketing.

Kay Bell, Senate Finance Democratic duo introduces bill that would give IRS regulatory authority over paid tax preparers. Fine, if the Senators require themselves and their House colleagues to do their own returns on a live webcast, by hand, with a rolling comment screen so their regulated preparers can chime in with all kinds of helpful advice.

 

Kyle Pomerleau, The Earned Income Tax Credit Still Faces High Error Rate (Tax Policy Blog).

Jeremy Scott, Nunes Plan Ignores Base Erosion Concerns:

Republican House taxwriter Devin Nunes released a business tax reform plan last week that would gradually lower tax rates to 25 percent and move to full expensing. Nunes’s plan shifts U.S. international tax rules toward territoriality and imposes a 5 percent tax on a company’s undistributed earnings. He says that when it is scored, it will be revenue neutral. Sounds great, right? Well, Nunes has decided to completely ignore the problem of U.S. tax base erosion, saying when pressed that those concerns are “irrelevant” because he is creating a new tax code.

Tax reform in this Congress seems unlikely, but if 2016 adds a Republican President to a GOP Senate and House, things they’re talking about now could turn into law in a hurry.

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Martin Sullivan, Would Congress Dare Pass the Nunes Plan? (Tax Analysts Blog):

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 614

 

Career Corner. So You Passed the CPA Exam; What Do You Want, a Cookie? (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

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Tax Roundup, 1/12/15: They’re back! Gas tax boost, maybe; tax reform, not likely as 86th Iowa General Assembly convenes

Monday, January 12th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1Same Governor. Same split party control in the legislature. So why would we expect different results? I expect no big tax cuts, tax increases or tax reforms. When you mix the same ingredients and put them in the same oven, expect the same thing to come out of the oven.

They will be legislating for the next few months, so they will talk, and who knows? Something might happen. But that’s not the way to bet.

The Des Moines Register today covers 10 key issues facing Iowa Legislature in 2015. Six of them are tax items. I think only one of them is likely to result in legislation. Let’s go down the list.

ROAD FUNDING/GAS TAX. The state gas tax isn’t inflation adjusted, and the Department of Transportation says it needs more money. As gas taxes are close to a fee on road use, you can make a policy case for an increase. It’s a lot harder to make a political case, which is why the Governor and the legislature are so deferential to one another in this area. The fracking-induced fall in gas prices may give them the legislature the excuse they need to do what they clearly want to do — raise the 10 21-cent per gallon tax. The governor may push it through if he has decided this is his last term. But most likely they’ll be saying “after you” right through adjournment.

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.

INCOME TAX CUTS.  The Register conflates tax cuts with tax reform here. They aren’t necessarily the same thing. Iowa’s income tax could bring in the same amount of revenue without the highest corporation rate in the developed world by eliminating the dozens of special interest tax credits and carveouts and tax credits for the well-connected. As long as Michael Gronstal remains in control of the flow of legislation in the Iowa Senate, anything that cuts rates for “the rich” goes nowhere. In any case, the Governor doesn’t seem to mind a tax credit system that gets him invited to all the cool ribbon cuttings.

That’s too bad. Iowa has a bottom-ten business tax climate that favors those with good lobbyists while making South Dakota look attractive for everyone else. Something like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan, which would wipe out the corporate tax, cut individual rates, and get rid of Iowa’s byzantine maze of special breaks, is long overdue.

20120906-1BROADBAND EXPANSION. This is the sort of small-ball legislation that has passed in recent years, and this seems like the most likely to get through, probably as a tax credit. Of course, every new tax credit means a puppy dies Iowa’s tax law is just a little worse and a little harder to fix. Never mind that the real obstacle to broadband expansion is in Washington, not Des Moines.

LOCAL OPTION SALES TAXES. The municipalities want to be able to drive out businesses by increasing sales tax without help from surrounding communities. Same ingredients, same cake.

BANNING TRAFFIC CAMERAS. It’s about the money, and Senator Gronstal will prevent any anti revenue camera legislation from advancing.

SALES TAX INCREASE. This proposal to increase sales taxes for natural resource funding died in the Senate last year. If you can’t get a tax increase out of the Iowa Senate, you sure aren’t getting one out of the GOP House.

Other coverage: Sioux City Journal, Iowa Legislators see limited budget room for tax cuts this session

Related: Tax States of the States: Mixed, Murky and Sometimes Mercurial (Renu Zaretsky, TaxVox)

 

IMG_0923Russ Fox, FTC Sponsors Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week

Tony Nitti, Four Things Sure To Destroy Your Tax Season. Three of them stem from Obamacare.

 

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

Annette Nellen, HR 30 – Defining full-time worker for ACA has costs. A story of unintended consequences.

Peter Reilly, Dressage Riding Physician Convinces IRS On Hobby Loss Audit But Loses To Massachusetts

Keith Fogg, Tenth Circuit Ups the Ante on Late Filed Returns (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert Wood, Bill Gives IRS Power Over Tax Prep, But Should It? No.

Kay Bell, St. Louis says no added taxes for new NFL Rams stadium. But the one they have is 20 years old, darn it!

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Kyle Pomerleau, Government Cost $4.5 Trillion in 2014 and We All Paid Part of It (Tax Policy Blog).

Robert Goulder, China’s Fiscal Roadmap: Tax Like America (Tax Policy Blog). If you are worried about China achieving economic domination, you can rest easy now.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 613

News from the Profession. Judging By This List, Accountants Aren’t Marriage Material (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/8/15: Tax shelter turned upside down: S Corp – ESOP structure produces pretend income. And: you are the 1%!

Thursday, January 8th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

tack shelterFlaky tax shelters are supposed to generate pretend losses. You know a shelter has gone very bad when it generates pretend income instead. Yet that’s how it worked out for an “S corporation ESOP management company” plan considered by the Tax Court yesterday.

The plan involved a partnership, a C corporation, an S corporation, and an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. The ESOP owned 100% of the S corporation. S corporation income is taxed to its owners. As a tax-exempt entity receiving special treatment from the tax law, ESOP-owned S corporations can achieve Tax Fairy-like results. The ESOP’s can earn non-taxed business income passing through from the S corporation (though this gets very tricky and dangerous when there are few ESOP beneficiaries).

The plan was hatched by A. Blair Stover, who has shown up in these pixels before. Mr. Stover started his tax career with a national firm in Nebraska, moving on from there to Kansas City and then to California, leaving questionable tax shelters in his wake. He was barred from promoting shelters like the one in this case in an injunction affirmed by the Eighth Circuit in 2011.

This plan involved the payment of “management fees” and other purported expenses by a partnership owned by the taxpayer and his spouse that ended up in his ESOP-owned S corporation. The partnership appears to have had no other purpose than to gin up deductions by paying pretend management fees and other expenses. The taxpayers deducted the “expenses” on their 1040, with the idea that they would avoid tax because they flowed through the S corporation to the ESOP.

tax fairyWhen the IRS went after Mr. Stover’s shelters, his clients received unpleasant IRS attention. In yesterday’s Tax Court case, the taxpayers signed a settlement agreeing to include in income on their 1040 the purported management fees paid to the ESOP.

So far, so good. But the agreement didn’t address the other side of the deal – the deduction for the payment of the purported fees by the partnership. The taxpayers claimed that if they had to pick up the pretend fees in income, they should get to deduct them too. Fair’s fair.

But if you want fairness, the tax law might not be the place to seek it.  The court held that while they agreed to pick up the extra income, their settlement said nothing about a deduction, and they were stuck with the results (my emphasis, citations omitted):

Generally, recognition of income does not inexorably prove a corresponding deductible expense. For example, payments to a promoter in furtherance of a tax avoidance scheme constitute income to the promoter, but they are not deductible under section 162 by the payor.  Furthermore, that petitioners might otherwise be obliged to recognize phantom income does not relieve them of their obligation to identify some legal authority for the deduction, nor does it permit the Court to manufacture such authority from whole cloth.

Petitioners’ phantom income argument amounts, in essence, to a plea for fairness. This Court strives to avoid unjust results, but “we are not a court of equity and cannot ignore the law to achieve an equitable end.” Moreover, the parties’ recent stipulation assuages our fairness concerns. In our order of July 1, 2014, we directed the parties to stipulate if possible, or to otherwise brief, the source of and factual and/or legal basis for the income inclusions required by the SOSI. The parties stipulated that the required income inclusions represent “the amount of taxable income petitioners avoided reporting” for tax years 2001 through 2003 because of their use of the management S corporation/ESOP structure. Taxable income is a term that is defined in the Code. Section 63 generally defines taxable income as gross income less allowable deductions. The parties’ chosen language thus implies that the $84,837 of income petitioners must include for 2003 pursuant to the SOSI represents not “phantom income” but bona fide, net taxable income that petitioners received and should have reported. So interpreted, the stipulation is difficult, if not impossible, to reconcile with petitioners’ theory for deducting the administration fee.

The result: a reverse tax shelter, generating only phantom income.

I’m not sure this too-bad-to-be-true result would hold up on appeal, but it does serve a warning. The Tax Fairy is a fickle sprite, and she can magically generate income for those seeking magical deductions. And if you agree to include phantom income when the IRS comes after you, make sure they allow the offsetting phantom deduction in writing.

Cite: Wakefield, T.C. Memo 2015-4.

 

IMG_0598Leslie Book, Bank of America on Hot Seat For Issuing Allegedly Incorrect 1099C to Disabled Veteran (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert D Flach explains WHAT’S NEW FOR THE 2014 FORM 1040?

Kay Bell, Daily Tax Tip #2: A tax quiz!

Robert Wood, The 1031 Exchange That Ate New York City. A lesson on the scalability of swaps.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 609. The Worst Commissioner Ever comes out the other side of the revolving door.

 

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

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

Scott Sumner on low-income use of untraceable cash at Econlog:

College professors who advocate the elimination of currency are often unaware of how important currency is for those with low incomes, many of who lack bank accounts. For instance, consider someone getting government benefits that are conditional on income (food stamps, EITC, disability, welfare, Medicaid, etc.) This group often faces relatively high implicit marginal tax rates. However currency allows them to supplement their meager benefits with additional earned income, perhaps doing home repair for neighbors, or working as a nanny. Lots of those jobs are paid in cash. If we eliminate physical cash then all transactions will be easily traceable by the government… That’s bad for two reasons; low-income people would see reduced incomes (increasing inequality), and the rest of us will be denied the services that they might have produced in the underground economy. Economists who advocate the elimination of currency need to consider those side effects.

This highlights one of the dangers of the earned income tax credit: its phase-outs serve as a hidden high tax rate on low incomes, resulting in a poverty trap on those earning their way out of poverty.

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Russ Fox, The Tax Court Looks for $1,410 in Dividends. Sometimes you can fight a small injustice and win.

 

We are the 1% Admit It: You’re Rich (Megan McArdle):

The cutoff for the global 1 percent starts quite a bit lower than the parochial American version preferred by pundits. I’m on it. So is David Sirota. And if your personal income is higher than $32,500, so are you.  

It’s all a matter of perspective.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/7/15: Resolve to monitor your payroll taxes this year. And: searching for gray.

Wednesday, January 7th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

EFTPSIf you’re an employer, here’s a new year’s resolution: “I will verify that my tax payments have been made on time every payroll by logging into EFTPS.”

The customers of Riverside, California payroll service Paycare are wishing they had made and kept that resolution. From The Press Enterprise:

The co-owner of a Riverside-based payroll service, Paycare, Inc., pleaded guilty Monday to failure to pay federal payroll taxes and embezzlement from a federally-funded program, the Internal Revenue Service reported.

Scott Willsea, 56, entered the guilty plea in federal court before U.S. District Judge Manuel L. Real, according to a press release from IRS spokeswoman Linda Lowery.

Willsea allegedly prepared quarterly payroll taxes for 15 different client companies in the 2009 and 2010 tax years, including All Mission Indian Housing Authority and Of One Mind, LLC, and failed to account for or pay the full amount of tax owed to the IRS by each company.

The IRS and the states want those payroll taxes; after all, they issue refunds to the employees based on the reported withholdings, paid or not. If your payroll provider steals your payroll taxes, you have to pay them again. That can ruin a struggling business,and cripple a strong one.

That’s why employers who use a payroll service should still log onto their accounts with the Electronic Federal Tax Payroll System to verify that the payments have been made. If you do payroll taxes in-house, it’s good financial hygiene to do the same thing.

It’s also a reason for extra due diligence if you consider a “professional employer organization” to meet your payroll needs. These outfits pay your payroll taxes under their own account, and you can’t use EFTPS to monitor your payments. That can work out badly.

 

FranceflagAndrew Mitchel, A Reminder for Green Card Holders Living Outside the U.S.:

U.S. lawful permanent residents (“green card holders”) who live outside the U.S. continue to be subject to U.S. tax on their worldwide income until the green card has been revoked or has been administratively or judicially determined to have been abandoned. 

Sad and true.

 

Jason Dinesen, Sorry, But There Really Isn’t a “Gray Area” for Most Taxpayers to Push:

NEWSFLASH: for the vast majority of taxpayers, there is no gray area to be pushed.

Your income is whatever your W-2 says it is.

Your deductions are whatever they are. Mortgage, property taxes, charitable, car registration. I suppose there could be a gray area if someone is claiming employee business expenses. But even then, those expenses are not likely to end up being deductible anyway.

No matter what the H & R Block commercials say, there is no magic wand that a tax preparer can wave to make a bigger tax refund appear.

Absolutely true. And if a preparer boasts otherwise, it’s likely that there is a perfectly bad explanation.

 

20141231-1Tim Todd, Late Tax Return Precludes Bankruptcy Discharge. One more reason to file timely.

Russ Fox, Varagiannis Gets 15 Months for Tax Evasion. In Nevada, pimping is OK, but only if you pay your income taxes.

Robert D. Flach has word of ANOTHER UNTRUE TAX EMAIL making the rounds. You mean we can’t trust spam emails? Next thing you’ll tell me that people post things on Facebook that aren’t precisely true.

 

Joseph Thorndike, Planned Disasters Are Here to Stay – and Probably the Only Hope for Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog).

All in all, it seems likely that the new GOP majority will need to gin up some potent crises if they hope to get anything done over the next two years.

I would think we have plenty of crises to go around already.

 

Kay Bell, Tax reform is part of new GOP Congress’ agenda

 

David Brunori is full of wisdom today in Want Bad Tax Policy? Here’s a Blueprint (Tax Analysts Bl0g):

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee recently released his proposed budget. It illustrates a lot of what is wrong with tax policy in the states. The governor wants to raise taxes by $1.4 billion over the next two years. Conservatives may think this is terrible — and it is. But the problem is how Inslee wants to raise the new revenue. He wants to impose a 7 percent capital gains tax on a narrow band of Washington residents. Specifically, he wants to impose the tax on the earnings sales of stocks, bonds, and other assets above $25,000 for individuals and $50,000 for those filing jointly. It would affect “only” an estimated 32,000 people who live in Washington.

Keep in mind that this is a state without an income tax. Certainly not a way to encourage their population of tech millionaires to stick around.

Also:

Inslee is also proposing a new excise tax on e-cigarettes and vapor products at 95 percent of the taxable sales price. Yes, 95 percent of the taxable sales price. If the government cared about the health of the poor, it would be subsidizing e-cigarettes.

States hate the idea of losing their tobacco revenue stream.

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Andrew Lundeen, Kansas Would Have Benefited from Dynamic Scoring (Tax Policy Blog):

The tax cuts didn’t pay for themselves. Instead, they left Kansas was left with a hole in the budget. (You can read about what Kansas could have done better here and here.)

This isn’t because individual tax cuts are bad for the economy; they’re just expensive. If the governor had used dynamic scoring, he would have known this.

Iowa has a lot of room to improve its tax system, but they could always screw it up even worse.

 

Howard Gleckman offers Nine Tax Stories to Watch in 2015 (TaxVox), including this:

Tax extenders: They are, after a resurrection of two weeks, once again expired. This is tiresome to even write about, but the best bet is Congress will once again delay action on these 50-plus tax breaks until at least next fall, when the budget wars are likely to come to a head. After that, well, don’t ever bet against another short-term extension.

Yuk.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 608Peter Reilly is featured.

 

Robert Wood, Taxman Is Funny In UK, Why Not IRS? Must not be in the budget.

Career Corner. Skip the Shout Outs and Other Helpful Farewell Email Advice (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). “Quitting your job is a part of life in public accounting. Unless you’re one of those sick, carrot-chasing freaks sticking around until partner, that is.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/24/14: Giving season edition! How to give, avoiding traps, and suggestions for the perplexed.

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The extender bill was signed while I was away, as you have probably figured out already. While the extenders remain awful policy, at least we go into the year-end knowing what the tax law is. We should be grateful for our presents; even a lump of coal can help keep us warm.

Related: Kristine Tidgren, Tax Increase Prevention Act of 2014 Revives Tax Breaks, But Only for 2014Paul Neiffer, It’s Official.

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Tax tips for the giving seasonAs the business week winds down early on Christmas Eve, many taxpayers find themselves feeling generous to charity. Here are some things to keep in mind as you go about your charitable gifting

Gifts of appreciated long-term capital gain property are often the most tax-efficient. Such gifts, done properly, give you a full fair market value deduction without ever taxing you on the appreciation. If you are not gifting publicly-traded securities, however, appraisal requirements for gifts over $5,000, and just the paperwork that may be involved in transferring ownership, may make it impossible to complete such a gift this year.

Even gifts of traded securities can be hard to pull off this late in the year. You have to get the securities into the donee’s brokerage account by the close of business December 31. I’ve seen attempts to get this done fail more than once. It is especially troublesome in dealing with small or unsophisticated charities, who might not even have a brokerage account available to use.

Congress renewed the IRA break in the extender bill, but it needs to happen by December 31, and there are some restrictions. The IRS explains:

  • If you are an IRA owner age 70½ or older you have until Dec. 31 to make a qualified charitable distribution, or QCD.
  • A QCD is direct transfer of part or all of your IRA distributions to an eligible charity. You may transfer up to $100,000 per year.
  • You may exclude the distributed amounts from your income. You can claim this benefit regardless of whether you itemize your deductions. If you do exclude the QCD from your income, you can’t also deduct it as a charitable contribution on Schedule A if you do itemize.
  • You can count your QCDs in determining whether you meet the IRA’s required minimum distribution.
  • The provision had expired at the end of 2013. The new law is retroactive for 2014. This means any eligible QCD in 2014 will qualify.
  • Not all charities are eligible. For example, donor-advised funds and supporting organizations are not eligible recipients.

If you want to give cash, the “mailbox rule” applies. The postmark date controls whether a mailed check is deductible this year.  If you don’t care to take chances, a gift by credit card is deductible in the year the credit card is charged, even if the credit card bill isn’t paid until next year.

If you give any charity a gift over of $250 or more, you need to insist on a written receipt declaring that you received no value for your contribution — or disclosing the amount of any value. No receipt, no deduction.

Of course, your gift has to go to an actual charity to be deductible. The IRS list of qualified Section 501(c)(3) organizations can help you make sure your intended donee qualifies.

If you feel generous, but don’t know what to do, I humbly submit for your consideration a few worthy organizations I donate to:

salvation armySalvation ArmyThey take care of many of the most needy and down-and-out with very little leakage to internal bureaucracy.

Institute for JusticeThis organization shut down the IRS preparer regulation power grab, winning a battle all good-thinking people considered hopeless and frivolous. They made the IRS give back the money they stole from the owner of a little restaurant in Arnolds Park, Iowa while forcing a change in their abusive use of their cash account seizure powers. They also support the little guy when the government abuses its eminent domain powers on behalf of the powerful and well-connected.

Tax FoundationThese guys do wonderful work in helping to form better tax policy. While it is difficult to get politicians to make tax policy for everyone, rather than just the well-lobbied, their 2014 successes in North Carolina, Indiana, Michigan and New York show that the good guys win sometimes.

ISU Center for Agricultural Law and TaxationRoger, Kristine, Kristy and Tiffany do great work helping keep the taxpayers and tax preparers of Iowa in compliance and out of trouble. If you use them, like I do, you should help them out.

 

William PerezQualified Charitable Distributions

Peter Reilly, The Wheels On The Easement Void The Deduction

 

 

20131209-1TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 594. This edition covers the new report by the House Oversight Committee on the scandal.

There is a lot to the report, which I hope to spend more time on. The item that jumps out at me is that 2011 IRS assessments of gift taxes on contributions to 501(c)(4) organizations were no accident, but were instead part of the IRS effort to fight conservative 501(c)(4) organizations.  The Wall Street Journal reports:

The then-IRS commissioner, Doug Shulman, denied at the time that the IRS was making a broad effort to assess gift tax on donors to such tax-exempt groups, which are formed under section 501(c)(4) of the tax code. Mr. Shulman said in a May 2011 letter to lawmakers that the audits were initiated by a single IRS employee and were “not part of any broader effort to look at donations” to these organizations.

The new report from GOP lawmakers says that “although the IRS denied any broader attempt to tax gifts to 501(c)(4) groups, “internal documents suggest otherwise.” It notes that in May 2011, an attorney in the IRS chief counsel’s office wrote to his superiors that the “plan is to elevate the issue of asserting gift tax on donors to 501(c)(4) organizations,” and seek a decision from the commissioner and the IRS chief counsel.

It’s clear that Shulman at best didn’t care enough to learn the truth before testifying. At worst he gave false information on purpose. Either answer burnishes his crown as Worst Commissioner Ever.

Related: Can political contributions really be taxable gifts?

 

Grimm tidings. A Congressman pleads guilty to tax fraud involving a restaurant he owned. From the New York Times:

Michael G. Grimm, the Republican representing New York’s 11th Congressional District, who carried the burden of a 20-count federal indictment to a landslide re-election in November, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a single felony charge of tax fraud.

Representative Grimm said he had no intention of stepping down. “Absolutely not,” he said.

My limited experience with felons is that they are cursed with grossly excessive self-esteem. That certainly seems to be the case here.

 

20141201-1Robert D. Flach brings the Holiday Buzz! Good tax stuff from around the tax blogs just in time for Christmas.

Kay Bell, Christmas tree ‘tax’ delayed again. Effort to end it continues

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Tax Court: Vacant House Can Still Qualify as Rental

Robert Goulder, The Vatican Bank, Christmas Cheer, and FATCA (Tax Analysts Blog). “The pontiff is cool with tax transparency.”

Tony Nitti, IRS To Sell The Right To Collect Darryl Strawberry’s Remaining New York Mets Salary.

Russ Fox, Nominations Due for 2014 Tax Offender of the Year

 

Amy Frantz, How the Grinch Taxed Your Christmas Candy in Iowa (Caffeinated Thoughts)

Howard Gleckman, The Tax Vox Lump of Coal Awards: The 10 Worst Tax Ideas of 2014 (TaxVox). My list would differ, but there are so many worthy ideas from which to choose.

Career Corner. Be Social, Don’t Skip the Party, and Other Redundant Holiday Party Advice (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/8/14: Denison! And: Do-or-die week for extenders?

Monday, December 8th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

donnareedThe Tax Update comes to you today from Denison, Iowa, birthplace of actress Donna Reed. It’s also the fertile ground from which sprang the fertile imagination of Kennedy assassination figure Jim Garrison.

Today Denison hosts the seventh session of the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax School. I’m helping out with the Day 1 panel. The last session is in Ames next Monday (register now!).  If you can’t be there in person, that session will also be webcast.

 

Congress wants to finish up its year Thursday, reports The Hill. This article says the Senate is expected to take up the “extenders” bill before it goes home. This could mean that Majority Leader Reid’s comments last week that he might be too busy to bring up the bill are no longer operative. I hope so.

This post from the Tax Policy Blog lists all of the extenders passed by the House last week in HR 5771. The bill revives these provisions through the end of this month, retroactively to the beginning of 2014. Prominent among them are the $500,000 Section 179 limit, 50% bonus depreciation, the research credit and the five-year limit on built-in gains. The bill also includes individual provisions like the exclusion for IRA donations for charity and the deduction for educator expenses and the non-business energy credit.

Paul Neiffer, Senate to Vote on Tax Extenders on Wednesday?

 

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Today in Denison, Iowa.

 

Tax reform on the Iowa legislative agenda? The Des Moines Register reports that legislators are at least thinking about it.

Income tax reform will be high on the agenda when the Legislature convenes in January, although many details have yet to be hammered out, key lawmakers said Friday.

However, Democratic and Republican legislative leaders told the Iowa Taxpayers Association they are welcoming a debate on revising Iowa’s income tax system.

This paragraph from the story is why I don’t expect much to happen this session:

State Rep. Tom Sands, R-Wapello, chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said his preference would be to examine corporate and individual income taxes while exploring ways to simplify the tax system. Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said any tax cuts should be focused on helping middle-class Iowans.

Nor does this bode well:

“If it is only to say really rich people get a break that nobody else can use; no, it doesn’t pass muster,” Gronstal told reporters.

If you have to “explore” ways to simplify Iowa’s byzantine tax system, you haven’t looked very hard. The whole thing about “really rich” taxpayers could guarantee that any reform of Iowa’s high rates and complexity won’t pass muster with Senator Gronstal, which is the same thing as not clearing the Iowa Senate.

If they do want to get serious, though, they could do a lot worse than starting with The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform plan, sweeping away vast swaths of deductions and crony credits, eliminating the corporation tax, and slashing rates.

 

Just a few quick links today:

 

20121108-1Russ Fox, Speaking of Efficiency. “Imagine what would happen if every Congresscritter did their own tax returns by hand. The Tax Code would unanimously be shrunk four hours later.”  I think they should have to do it on a live webcast with a running comments feature.

Robert D. Flach, EVERYBODY OUGHT TO HAVE AN IRA

Kay Bell, IRS holding millions of dollars in frozen taxpayer accounts

TaxGrrrl, Whistleblower Alleges Vanguard Cheated On Taxes, Costing Taxpayers More Than $1 Billion

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 578

 

20141208-2TaxSlayer Bowl! Iowa’s highest-paid state employee will lead the 7-5 Hawkeyes to Jacksonville to compete with 6-6 Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl.  I understand the game will be played under standard college football rules. It would help the educational mission of the schools if they modified the rules to reflect the tax theme. If college football had rules like the tax law, we might see some different rules.

– Throughout the game, referees would audit completed plays, with the option of imposing penalties for infractions in the three prior games, with yardage charged in the current game.

– When the play clock runs down, the quarterback can call for one automatic extension.

– When calling an audible, the quarterback will have to request a change in method from the referee.

– When a penalty is called, the referees could not tell the opposing team what the penalty is for under confidentiality rules.

– Penalties can be imposed on coaches who are “responsible persons” with respect to the infraction.

– If you like your football, you can keep your football.

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/2/14: Dead provisions to arise for just a few weeks? And: Shocker! IRS Commissioner wants more $$$

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

lazarus risingCongress to let the Lazarus provisions make it to the end of 2014? The White House’s threat to veto the Senate’s deal to permanently extend some of the perennially expiring tax provisions has killed that proposal. Now it looks like Congress will take up a bill to extend the provisions, which expired at the end of 2013, through the end of this year. That means we get to do this all over again next year. The Hill reports:

The vote on a short-term extension, expected as soon as this week, would come after a veto threat from President Obama derailed a developing $400 billion deal between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) that would have extended some expired tax breaks indefinitely, as well as others for two years.

Republicans on both side of the Capitol suggested the move showed that a one-year deal was the only proposal with a chance of becoming law.

The article says “practically all” of the provisions that expired at the end of 2013 will be included. The Lazarus provisions that will come back to life include, among many others:

– A $500,000 Section 179 deduction for asset purchases that would otherwise be capitalized and depreciated.

– 50% “bonus depreciation”

– The research credit

– The five-year built-in gain period.

– The allowance of tax-free distributions from IRAs to charities.

The full text of the bill is available here: (HR 5771)

So we will get a 2014 tax law just as 2014 comes to an end. Because there is no election, there is hope that we won’t have to wait until December 2015 to know what the tax law is for 2015. Not exactly a shining moment in tax policy.

The bill also includes technical corrections for tax bills going back to 2004.

Related:

How the White House torpedoed Harry Reid’s tax deal (The Hill)

The Politics and Policy of Tax Extenders (Len Burman, TaxVox). “In theory, allowing tax provisions to expire periodically could precipitate a careful reexamination of the effectiveness of each program in light of our fiscal situation and priorities. In practice, the expiration of popular temporary provisions such as the R&E credit creates a vehicle for all sorts of budget-busting mischief.”

 

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.

TaxGrrrl has posted another installment of her interview with IRS Commissioner KoskinenYou may not be astounded to hear that he wants more money:

With spending cuts already taking a toll on taxpayer services, the agency is bracing itself for another tough season. In fact, Koskinen cites funding the IRS as his biggest challenge since taking office last December.

“It’s a serious problem for us,” he says. “I don’t know who got our $500 million but I’ll bet they’re not gonna give you back the $2-3 billion we would have if we had it.”

Given that the Congress has used the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy, with responsibilities including attempting to run the broken Obamacare machine, it’s not unreasonable to think IRS has increased needs for funds.

That said, the Commissioner has nobody to blame but himself. His tone-deaf and confrontational tone with Republicans investigating the political abuse of the Exempt Organizations function has earned him no friends in the party that controls the purse strings. The sudden appearance of 30,000 Lois Lerner e-mails that he insisted could not be recovered killed any credibility he had left. Only a new commissioner has any hope of turning that around.

The Commissioner also says he has cut spending to the bone:

The agency is already down 3,000 employees last year. Another 2,000-3,000 are on their way out by the end of this year. The current rate of replacement is one new employee for every five employees who leave… 
What gets cut next? The Commissioner is clear that it will be more personnel. That is, he noted, all that’s left.

Well, maybe. I’d be more convinced of that if he decided there just wasn’t enough cash lying around for his “voluntary” tax preparer initiative — a blatant attempt to get around the Loving decision shutting down mandatory preparer regulation.

Related: Robert Wood, Horrible Bosses, IRS EditionPeter Reilly, Restoring Trust In IRS Is A National Imperative

 

buzz20141017Robert D. Flach has posted his fresh Tuesday Buzz, including a link to his post at The Tax Professional on tax preparer civil disobedience in ACA enforcement. I will have more to say about this topic later this week.

William Perez explains Itemized Tax Deductions

Russ Fox, Mundane Tax Fraud Downs Friend of Cicero Town President

Keith Fogg, Appeals Fumbles CDP Case and Resulting Resolution Demonstrates Power of Installment Agreement (Procedurally Taxing)

Jason Dinesen, 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Enrolled Agents

Jack Townsend, More on Willfulness. You can’t break the law if you aren’t trying.

Kay Bell, December to-do list: shopping, family visits and tax tasks

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 572

Andrew Lundeen, Kyle Pomerleau, Less Than One Percent of Businesses Employ Half of the Private Sector Workforce (Tax Policy Blog). “On the other hand, while only 0.4 percent of all firms have over 500 employees, this small group of businesses employs 50.6 percent of the nation’s private sector workforce, with most of those employees working for C corporations.”

News from the Profession. This Timesheet-Addicted Managing Partner Will Make You Grateful Not to Work For Him (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). A charming threat of dismissal issued the day before Thanksgiving will always make you thankful for an updated resume.

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/24/14: Report from the Battle of Scottsdale.

Monday, November 24th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

haroldBattle report from a skirmish in the state tax policy wars. I was in Scottsdale Friday to join Joseph Henchman of the Tax Foundation to talk about state film tax incentives. We were on a panel with three advocates for incentives — two from the film industry and one a retired head of a state film office. Our audience was a panel from the National Conference of State Legislators, mostly legislators heading state taxwriting committees.

Joseph did a nice job explaining that all of the studies not financed by the film industry show tax credits for films to at best an inefficient way to create jobs, and at worst job killers when other possible uses for the funds are considered.

The incentive boosters were big on stories, about all the jobs “created” by taxpayer money, all the happy stories of communities getting together to make a movie, and so on.

My role was to tell a different story — the story of Iowa’s embarrassing and disastrous Film Tax Credit program.  I told how the Iowa legislature enacted the program, with two different 25% transferable credits, with little debate and almost no opposition (three “no” votes out of 150 legislators) in 2007. By 2009, film trucks were everywhere and the local paper was running fanzine-like articles gushing over the “sightings” of celebrities.

But trouble was brewing. By spring 2009 the legislature was realizing that they had enacted an open-ended subsidy that threatened their ability to do anything but fund Hollywood. About the same time a tipster sent a letter to the Department of Economic Development saying a filmmaker was bragging around Los Angeles about how she was making money through the “Half-price Filmmaking” program, using pretend expenditures to get tax credit funding well in excess of her cost in making (bad) movies. An audit was commissioned, and soon the program collapsed in disgrace when the audit revealed amazing mismanagement and breathtaking looting of the program. A follow-up audit by the state auditors office showed that 80% of the credits that had been granted were either improper or fraudulent.  Good times.

The Tax Foundation crew was impressive. Joseph and his Tax Foundation colleague Elizabeth Malm seemed to know every legislator. Joseph seemed to be aware of every detail, even correcting my posture as I sat listening to the questions. I think he was a little concerned I might be a loose cannon and go off on the legislators; I can’t deny the temptation, but I knew that wasn’t my place.

The legislators agreed to set up a panel on setting standards for evaluating the cost-effectiveness of tax incentives. That’s a better response than I expected, and I hope something comes of it.

 

Only time for a few quick links today.

 

20140728-1Robert D. Flach starts the short holiday week with a special Monday Buzz!

Russ Fox tackles the important question: Would the Proprietors of “I Married an Idiot” Commit Tax Fraud?

Peter Reilly, Should President Obama Offer Amnesty For Legal Residents Behind On Taxes? I think he should offer a blanket amnesty for Americans abroad enmeshed in the FATCA/FBAR nightmare.

Paul Neiffer, Take Advantage of Low Rates! Low IRS minimum interest rates, that is.

 

Robert Goulder, Magnum Opus: “Paying Taxes 2015: The Global Picture” (Tax Analysts Blog)

Hauqun Li, An Introduction to Forms of Business Organization and Taxation (Tax Policy Blog)

Donald Marron, Bigger, Cleaner, and More Efficient: A Carbon-Corporate Tax Swap

 

TaxGrrrl, Those Not-So-Lost IRS Emails: Up To 30,000 Lerner Emails May Have Been Recovered

Kay Bell, Possible break in hunt for Lois Lerner’s lost IRS emails

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 564

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/19/14: Mayor of London, U.S. tax delinquent. And: sticks, stones, and IRS.

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Boris Johnaon and an unidentified IRS agent.

Boris Johnson and an unidentified IRS agent.

I thought the Revolution was fought to get away from the English, not to tax them. From Robert W. Wood comes a story that says volumes about how absurd America’s system of worldwide taxation is:

London’s Mayor Boris Johnson is English, but being born in New York means he’s American too. Turns out he never gave up his U.S. citizenship, as the BBC confirmed. Sure, he threatened to renounce in a column for the Spectator, but he renewed his U.S. passport instead.

And on his recent book tour, in a Diane Rehm Show Interview, November 13, 2014, Mr. Johnson even said a thing or two about the American global tax regime. He thinks it is outrageous to tax U.S. citizens everywhere no matter what. He hasn’t lived in the U.S. since he was 5 years old, he notes. Still, the IRS wants money.

Only the U.S. tax law is stupid enough to consider Boris Johnson an American taxpayer. Of course, the U.S. tax law says he’s taxable on his worldwide income as a U.S. Citizen, and that means he’s delinquent on U.S. tax on everything he’s ever earned. Of course, the IRS also claims FBAR penalties on “foreign” financial accounts that would render the Mayor of London a pauper.  He could renounce his U.S. citizenship, but Mr. Wood notes that “When you exit you must certify five years of U.S. tax compliance to the IRS. And any tax for the current or prior years must be paid.”

Boris Johnson is only the most prominent victim of a system supposedly designed to catch international financial fraud, but that works much better in making financial criminals and paupers out of ordinary people for committing personal finance while abroad. And yet there seems to be no movement at all to fix this horrible system. Because Swiss banks, or something.

 

20140106-1William Perez, Excluding Foreign Wages from US Taxes

Paul Neiffer, Another Section 179 Update:

Whenever, I indicate that we should know what the final number should be around Christmas or even New Years, I get emails back saying doesn’t Congress know that taxpayers really can’t make informed equipment decisions without knowing what Section 179 is.

The quick answer is that “Congress does not care!”

So true.

 

Russ Fox, IRS Clarifies Electronic Signature Requirements:

The IRS released a new version of Publication 1345 today (html version only is available for now). Included in it is the following:

Note: An electronic signature via remote transaction does not include handwritten signatures on Forms 8878 or 8879 sent to the ERO by hand delivery, U.S. mail, private delivery service, fax, email or an Internet website.

Thus, if a client signs a signature document in ink, hands it to me, mails it to me, faxes it to me, or uploads it to me via our web portal (or even if he emails it to me), it’s not an electronic signature and I don’t have to check id, etc. (So, mom, I don’t need to see your ID.)   

That’s good news.

 

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Kay Bell, States continue efforts to tax e-cigarettes as vaping grows. E-cigs threaten the states’ tobacco settlement gravy train. That’s why politicians hate them. All of the vaporous public health claims used against E-cigarettes is just blowing smoke.

 Peter Reilly, What’s In A Name? Should Naming Rights Reduce Charitable Deductions?

TaxGrrrl, Top Ten Area Codes Making Spam Calls: Are They Dialing You Up? If you aren’t expecting a call from the IRS, it’s not the IRS.

Robert D. Flach, DON’T BE A NON-FILER! “It is much “more better” to submit a balance due return with no payment than to submit nothing at all.”

Jack Townsend, IRS Documents On OVDI/P From FOIA Request.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 559

Alan Cole, Obamacare’s Contradictory Tax Incentives (Tax Policy Blog):

All too often, the motives behind Obamacare’s taxes are incoherent. We don’t like the distortion towards employer-provided health insurance, so we levy taxes on it. But we also do like the distortion towards employer-provided health insurance, so much so that we will actually mandate it!

The real motivation was to pass something and let IRS work out the details.

Howard Gleckman, Will Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration Kill Tax Reform? Hint: You Can’t Kill Something That’s Already Dead (TaxVox)

 

Hello, IRS readers! Apparently the IRS reads the blogs. Legal Insurrection reports that the IRS is trying to avoid disclosing names of their personnel in a lawsuit because of things said about Lois Lerner in that blog’s comments:

In a federal FOIA lawsuit by Judicial Watch seeking records of Lerner emails and IRS efforts to retrieve the emails, the IRS used two of the comments to the Legal Insurrection Reader Poll post to justify the IRS no longer disclosing the identities of IRS personnel.

Here are the awful comments:

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Juvenile? Sure, but pretty tame stuff for political blogs. Go hang out at Daily Kos if you think otherwise. By the standard the IRS is using here, you would have to conceal the names of just about anybody remotely connected with the government or politics. I’ve been called a “hamburger chomping, malleable moron in the comments,” with no ill consequences other than now I’m self-conscious at McDonalds.

But all the same, be nice in the comments here.

 

Career Corner. Your Open Office May Be Making You a Crappy Worker (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/17/14: Sundog weather is shorts weather!

Monday, November 17th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

It’s 7F outside here in Mason City, Iowa. Warm enough for shorts, it seems.

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This gentleman was scraping his windows outside North Iowa Area Community College, where I am part of the Day 1 panel of the  Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax School. I wonder what this guy wears in the summer.

It’s cozy and warm here in the conference room, where 165 attendees are beginning two days of the finest continuing education available today in Cerro Gordo County. There are two sessions left after today, in Denison and Ames; the Ames school will be webcast.  Register today!

 

Just links today.

Russ Fox, The Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Upcoming Tax Season:

If you’re a tax professional here’s a warning: The 2015 Tax Season will be one you’re almost certain to remember for all the wrong reasons. If you’re a client of a tax professional be forewarned: Your tax professional will be even more grouchy than usual next year. Why? The upcoming tax season will likely be the worst in 30 years.

There are four reasons for this: tax extenders, budget issues the IRS faces, the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare), and the new property capitalization/repair regulations.

Are we excited yet?

 

Mason City Sundog Morning. It's cold here today.

Mason City Sundog Morning. It’s cold here today.

Robert D. Flach, IT AIN’T FAIR – SELECTIVE INFLATION ADJUSTMENTS. “If it is appropriate to index some tax items for inflation why shouldn’t ALL deductions, credits, thresholds, etc. be indexed for inflation?”

Paul Neiffer, Direct Deposit Limits. “In an effort to combat fraud and identity theft, new IRS procedures effective January 2015 will limit the number of refunds electronically deposited into a single financial account or pre-paid debit card to three.”

Jim Maule, Soda Sales Shifting? “Does anyone seriously think that the soda tax will reduce the number of obese people in Berkeley, or raise enough revenue to make the cost of administering and complying with the tax worthwhile?”

I’ll believe it’s about health when these people tax their own “unhealthy” habits, like double caramel lattes.

Kay Bell, Navajo lawmakers approve 2% sales tax on snacks, sodas

TaxGrrrl, NFL Flagged With Another Challenge To Tax-Exempt Status Because Of Redskins

Annette Nellen, The Election, 114th Congress and Fate of Tax Reform

Keith Fogg, TIGTA Report on ACS Details the Impact of Shrinking Budget on Tax Collection Efforts (Procedurally Taxing)

 

20131112TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 557

Robert Goulder, The Ghost of Captain Renault (Tax Analysts Blog). “What? There’s corporate tax avoidance going on in Luxembourg? You don’t say?”

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 11/14: Here Comes the Judge (Tax Justice Blog). Kansas school funding and Maryland’s attempted double-taxation are on the docket.

Stephen Entin, Tax Policy Is Child’s Play (Tax Policy Blog). “The enactment of tax reductions or regulatory changes that make it possible to profitably employ more capital is like landing on a ladder… Enacting adverse policies that force a reduction in the amount of capital that people are willing to maintain is like hitting a chute.”

Renu Zaretsky asks How Quickly Can Lame Ducks Move Before the Holidays?  The Tax Vox headline roundup is heavy on gas tax talk and extenders.

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Tax Roundup, 11/13/14: Ottumwa Day! And: Elections and State Tax Policy.

Thursday, November 13th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Ottumwa, Iowa: An old Southeast Iowa industrial and railroad town, home of fictional Corporal Radar O’Reilly, and today host of Day 1 of the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax School. I’m helping out on the Day 1 panel for this year’s schools, along with CALT Director Roger McEowen and former IRS Stakeholder Liaison Kristy Maitre.  We’ll spend the morning on the ACA and it’s compliance requirements and penalties. We’ll spend the rest of the day trying to distract everyone.

It’s cozy and warm in our conference room at Indian Hills Community College.  That’s good, as it’s chilly outside.

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We’re in Mason City on Monday, and in Denison and Ames next month. There’s still time to register! And if you can’t make it to Denison, Mason City or Ames, the December 15-16 Ames session will be webcast.

 

David Brunori, What Do the Recent Elections Mean for State Tax Policy? (Tax Analysts Blog):

Taxes mattered more in Kansas than anywhere else. Gov. Sam Brownback (R) won there comfortably. The tax cuts of Republican Govs. Rick Snyder in Michigan, Paul LePage in Maine, and Scott Walker in Wisconsin were the focus of opponents’ campaigns, and those governors survived as well. The GOP challengers in Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts promised to either cut taxes or never raise them. They won. The message was clear: Tax cuts sell politically. One need not be Nate Silver to predict that state political leaders seeking to reduce tax burdens will be emboldened by this election.

I don’t think that’s so true here in Iowa. Now safely re-elected to a sixth term, our GOP governor is making noises about increasing the gasoline tax. But maybe he will go bold and convince a split legislature to go big on income tax reform — maybe starting with The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

Greg Mankiw, Tax Fact of the Day::

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The big difference is the reliance on other countries on a Value Added Tax, which shows up in the Consumption Taxes bar.

 

Howard Gleckman, Now is the Perfect Time to Raise Gas Taxes (TaxVox).  “Gas prices are at their lowest levels in years and dropping. Consumers would barely notice if they had to pay a bit more now at the pump.”

 

Andrew Lundeen, Kyle Pomerleau, Economic Growth Has Slowed Since 2000 (Tax Policy Blog). “Since 2000, GDP growth in the U.S. has been persistently low, averaging about 2 percent. This is much lower than the economic growth we saw in the past.”

20141113-3Kay Bell, Tax extenders outlook cloudy in the 2014 lame duck session:

Will there still be some insistence by the GOP on longer-term approaches to expired tax laws in this Congressional session’s waning hours?

Just what is the level of Democratic support of permanence vs. temporary laws?

And just how much pressure will lobbyists be able to exert to gain support of their favorite provisions, especially since some of the members making decisions now will not be around next year?

We simply don’t know yet.

There’s a lot of incentive for congresscritters to pass temporary provisions. They get to pretend they are less expensive than they really are, and they force lobbyists to show up and genuflect every year or two.

Russ Fox, London Calling: The Real Winners of the 2014 World Series of Poker. The Royal Exchequer trumps a royal flush.

TaxGrrrl, Internet Tax Ban Ending Soon: Speaker Boehner Hopes To Keep Internet Tax Free

Keith Fogg, Reinhart Part II – Extending the Statute of Limitations on Collection by Virtue of Being Out of Country (Procedurally Taxing)

20140729-1Paul Neiffer, Final FUTA Tax Rates by State

 

A new Cavalcade of Risk is up at Terms and Conditions. This edition of the definitive roundup of insurance and risk-management posts covers a lot of ground, including Hank Stern’s Rubber, Road and Lyft: Insurance Crisis? on ride sharing and insurance.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 553

 

The Critical Question. Just What the Hell is Goodwill Anyway? (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going  Concern).

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/10/14: DOL nixes many employer health reimbursement setups. And: Sheldon!

Monday, November 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Good morning from beautiful, if frigid, Sheldon, Iowa, where I am on the Day 1 panel of the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax School. A good crowd has braved the brisk north winds and forecasts of snow — so now it’s up to us to make them glad they did.

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Elections are over I. Branstad says Iowa road funding a top priority, raising fuel tax on the table (Omaha.com)

Elections are over II. FAQs about Affordable Care Act Implementation (Part XXII) The Department of Labor has issued new guidance on small-employer plan arrangements. The guidance, issued just after the election, puts strict limits on the ability of employers to bypass group plan rules by reimbursing premiums or using Health Reimbursement Arrangements under Section 105. As plans doing that have been marketed to small employers in Iowa and elsewhere, this could be an expensive development for employers; violating these rules carries a $100 per day penalty for each affected employee.

The FAQ discusses premium reimbursement arrangements: (my emphasis):

My employer offers employees cash to reimburse the purchase of an individual market policy. Does this arrangement comply with the market reforms?

No. If the employer uses an arrangement that provides cash reimbursement for the purchase of an individual market policy, the employer’s payment arrangement is part of a plan, fund, or other arrangement established or maintained for the purpose of providing medical care to employees, without regard to whether the employer treats the money as pre-tax or post-tax to the employee. Therefore, the arrangement is group health plan coverage within the meaning of Code section 9832(a), Employee Retirement Income Securi20121120-2ty Act (ERISA) section 733(a) and PHS Act section 2791(a), and is subject to the market reform provisions of the Affordable Care Act applicable to group health plans. Such employer health care arrangements cannot be integrated with individual market policies to satisfy the market reforms and, therefore, will violate PHS Act sections 2711 and 2713, among other provisions, which can trigger penalties such as excise taxes under section 4980D of the Code. Under the Departments’ prior published guidance, the cash arrangement fails to comply with the market reforms because the cash payment cannot be integrated with an individual market policy.(6)

This means that employers cannot have employees submit their insurance bills for reimbursement; doing so is considered a disqualified group insurance plan. The closest the employer can do is give an employee a raise without restriction, giving the employee the option of buying insurance.

The FAQ pretty much embalms Sec. 105 plans as substitutes for group plans.

A vendor markets a product to employers claiming that employers can cancel their group policies, set up a Code section 105 reimbursement plan that works with health insurance brokers or agents to help employees select individual insurance policies, and allow eligible employees to access the premium tax credits for Marketplace coverage. Is this permissible?

No. The Departments have been informed that some vendors are marketing such products. However, these arrangements are problematic for several reasons. First, the arrangements described in this Q3 are themselves group health plans and, therefore, employees participating in such arrangements are ineligible for premium tax credits (or cost-sharing reductions) for Marketplace coverage. The mere fact that the employer does not get involved with an employee’s individual selection or purchase of an individual health insurance policy does not prevent the arrangement from being a group health plan. DOL guidance indicates that the existence of a group health plan is based on many facts and circumstances, including the employer’s involvement in the overall scheme and the absence of an unfettered right by the employee to receive the employer contributions in cash.(12)

DOL LogoSecond, as explained in DOL Technical Release 2013-03, IRS Notice 2013-54, and the two IRS FAQs addressing employer health care arrangements referenced earlier, such arrangements are subject to the market reform provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including the PHS Act section 2711 prohibition on annual limits and the PHS Act 2713 requirement to provide certain preventive services without cost sharing. Such employer health care arrangements cannot be integrated with individual market policies to satisfy the market reforms and, therefore, will violate PHS Act sections 2711 and 2713, among other provisions, which can trigger penalties such as excise taxes under section 4980D of the Code.

It is difficult to determine the policy reasons behind this. As best I can tell, it seems to be that the DOL wants employees to be covered either under traditional group plans set up under the small business exchanges, or on individual plans purchased through the regular exchanges. Whatever the policy justification, it’s bad news for any employers using such arrangements, as the rules are already in effect for 2014.

Paul Neiffer has more at DOL Plays Hardball (Don’t Shoot the Messenger)!

If you are dealing with any vendor offering Section 105 plans that are attempting to make payment of health insurance premiums for more than one employee deductible by the employer and exempt from payroll taxes, be extremely careful.  As you can see from this Q #3, the DOL takes a dim view of these arrangements.

One last area of concern that was not addressed by the DOL is what happens with S corporation shareholders who have health insurance premiums reimbursed.  Under the self-employed health insurance deduction rules, there is a requirement for reimbursement; under the DOL Q&A, these reimbursements may run afoul of the ACA requirements.  If we get further clarity on this, we will let you know.

I understand this as restricting S corporation 2% owners to group plans, without a reimbursement option, but I suspect clarification is forthcoming.

Additional coverage from ISU-CALT: Updated! Heal.th Reimbursement Plans Not Compliant with ACA Could Mean Exorbitant Penalties.

 

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Sheldon scene, 2013. It’s slightly less cold this year.

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

Kay Bell, IRS taxpayer service outlook, short- and long-term, is bleak

Robert Everett JohnsonIRS Seizure of Assets Using Anti-Structuring Laws (Procedurally Taxing). It is a guest post by an attorney for the heroic Institute for Justice, which is defending the Arnolds Park, Iowa resturaunteur whose cash was stolen by the IRS.

TaxGrrrl, IRS Warns Taxpayers To Be Diligent As Identity Thieves Add New Twist To Phone Scam.

Russ Fox, Since the Dead Vote, Why Can’t They Get Tax Exemptions? “Cook County has begun to make sure that seniors are truly alive when taking the exemption.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 550. Todays links hit heavily on the failure of the agency to even look for the missing Lois Lerner e-mails in its servers or backup tapes. Yet Commissioner Koskinen just doesn’t understand why Republican appropriators don’t want to entrust him with a bigger budget.

Career Corner. Gentlemen, If Your Firm Offers Paternity Leave, Take All Of It (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). Yes, it gives you lots of time to interview for that new job you’ll be needing.

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/6/14: You pretend to complete the form, we’ll pretend to care. And: election mania!

Thursday, November 6th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today visitorsthe godawful link you seek is here.

 

20120905-1Don’t worry about getting it right, just make it look good. IRS personnel trying to appease angry practitioners at an AICPA Tax Division gathering had some strange and annoying things to say yesterday.

Practitioners are upset at the IRS insistence on Form 3115 accounting method change applications with 2014 returns from everyone moving into compliance with the new rules on repair and capitalization costs.  Tax Analysts reports ($link):

Participants in the tax methods and periods panel at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants fall Tax Division meeting in Washington said that some taxpayers don’t want to pay the high costs associated with going through years’ worth of records to calculate a precise section 481(a) adjustment required under the final regulations (T.D. 9636). The cost of that level of compliance could be more than the entire cost of preparing their returns, practitioners said, adding that the taxpayers are considering filing their method changes with corresponding section 481(a) adjustments of zero.

The piece cites Scott Dinwiddie, special counsel, IRS Office of Associate Chief Counsel (Income Tax and Accounting):

Taxpayers were taking aggressive positions, so the government didn’t want to provide an across-the-board cutoff in the final regulations, he said. Instead, it required 481(a) adjustments as a way to allow field agents to examine taxpayers’ aggressive positions, he said.

So because some taxpayers were taking positions you didn’t like, you want to require everyone to do a bunch of wasteful and meaningless busy work during our busiest time of the year. Got it.

Dinwiddie said that, barring a situation in which the taxpayer has taken aggressive positions in the past or has in no way applied a proper capitalization method, the IRS is unlikely to have much interest in examining a taxpayer’s section 481(a) adjustment now.

So we pretend to file an accurate Form 3115, and they pretend to care. Well, you have to admit that considering the budget and enforcement restraints on the IRS, this approach is… absolutely insane. Taxpayers have to pay for a bunch of nonsense compliance, and the IRS doesn’t care whether it’s right. The IRS still has to incur processing costs. I’d love to see the IRS cost-benefit worksheets on this one.

 

20120810-1The TaxProf has a roundup of observations on the whether tax reform can happen in the new Congress, including this from William Gale:

It is a good bet that the new Republican Congress will continue to talk about tax reform. That is safe ground for Republicans generally. And, of course, seemingly impossible things do sometimes happen. But I wouldn’t bet on tax reform. 

A wise non-bet.

 

TaxGrrrl, What Matters Most When It Comes To Tax Reform? Hint: It’s Not Control Of Congress:

What is interesting, however, is that most of the significant tax policy changes in the modern era are more closely tied to the length of presidential terms. Every president has a budget – and an agenda – but real shifts in rates and policies tend to happen during a second term (or en route to a second term) no matter which party is in control. 

I don’t expect it to happen this time.

 

Scott Drenkard, What Do the 2014 Midterm Election Results Mean for State Tax Policy? “My prediction is that this means that taxes will be one of the biggest, if not the biggest issue in state policy next legislative session, and that tax reform will become even more of a bipartisan issue.”  I’m afraid that’s not true here in Iowa.

Russ Fox, Nevada Goes Deep Red. “Do you remember 1928? Well, that was the last time Nevada had a Republican governor, a Republican State Assembly, a Republican State Senate, and Republicans holding all major statewide offices.”

Paul Neiffer, A Christmas Present?! “They will meet over the next six weeks or so and around Christmas time we will get the final tax package.”

 

 

20120702-2Arnold Kling’s characteristically wise observation on the election results:

Conventional wisdom is that, relatively speaking, Democrats have a structural advantage in Presidential elections, because those elections attract more turnout. In other words, they do much better among disengaged voters. One could spin this positively for the Democrats, saying that they get support from the weaker segments of society. One could spin this negatively and say that they rely on a segment of the electorate that is poorly informed and easily bamboozled, which I believe is the case. The counter to that would be that Republicans also rely on a segment of the electorate that is poorly informed and easily bamboozled, which I also believe is the case.

While I don’t agree with all of what he says, the whole post is brief and well worth reading. So is this from Don Boudreaux:

I advise freedom-loving and free-market-appreciating Americans (of which I am unashamedly one) to be good Tullockians about the results of yesterday’s landslide wins for the G.O.P.  The Republicans who won those elections are, after all, politicians – and it is the rare politician, of whatever party, who reliably puts principle above personal interest.  As a rule, politicians are untrustworthy, duplicitous, and cowardly; they are people who have an unusually powerful craving for power and fame; and the successful among them typically posses an unusual talent for camouflaging their craving for power and fame as a saintly calling to ‘serve the people.’

Pretty much. But some are less bad than others, enough so that I do bother to vote.

Renu Zaretsky, Don’t Call It a Comeback… Yet.  The TaxVox headline roundup is full of post-election links, including news of Berkeley, California, passing an idiotic soda tax. When they start taxing mocha lattes, I’ll believe they’re such taxes are about public health than moral vanity.

 

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And some folks are actually talking about things other than the election:

Jana Luttenegger, Even Startups Need to Have the Conversation (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).

Jason Dinesen tells us A Little Bit About Sole Proprietorships, Part 1

William Perez, Dividends: Taxes and Reporting

Robert D. Flach recounts EXPLAINING MORTGAGE INTEREST AND INVESTMENT INTEREST FOR A CLIENT

Jim Maule discusses how Mortgage Loan Modification Can Imperil Interest Deduction

Stephen Olsen at Procedurally Taxing as a new round of Summary Opinions., with links to news from the world of tax procedure.

Jack Townsend, The Honorable Jed Rakoff on Why Innocent People Plead Guilty. He quotes Judge Rakoff: “…the guidelines, like the mandatory minimums, provide prosecutors with weapons to bludgeon defendants into effectively coerced plea bargains.”

Kay Bell, 5 tax record keeping questions … and answers!

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 546

News from the Profession. McGladrey Reminds Audit Staff to Stay Billable This Busy Season (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/3/14: Elections tomorrow; good riddance. And: $3,000 unmentionables!

Monday, November 3rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20121006-1Tomorrow is Election Day. Good Riddance.  Tomorrow ends the current Festival of Democracy. Because I share Arnold Kling’s view of election seasons as “brutal assaults on reason,” I look forward to it ending.

However unreasoning, elections do affect policy. Some of the tax policy issues in play this year:

Is it better to give that to receive? Iowa’s incumbent Governor Branstad is an avid distributor of corporate welfare tax credits. His challenger is an avid recipient. If the polls are to be believed, it is truly better to give than to receive.

What about the extenders? We practitioners just want to have a tax law for Christmas, or sooner, so a tax season that we already expect to be bad won’t be just godawful. It’s not clear whether a Republican takeover of the Senate will affect the timing of the extender bill, but it is possible that it might spur the incumbent Democratic leadership into action to pass bills more to their liking than they would see from their successors.

What about federal tax reform? The 1986 tax reforms were passed by a Congress led by one party and signed by a president of the other party. The possibility of this happening if the Senate goes Republican seems absurdly small.

What about Iowa Tax Reform? Iowa once again is in the bottom 10 in having a bad business tax climate. A Republican takeover of the Iowa Senate would make serious tax reform efforts possible. It wouldn’t make it likely, though, given the Governor’s affinity for giving away tax credits.

Whatever the results, I predict that politicians will continue to give away tax credits to businesses that will proceed to do what they were going to do anyway; the politicians will then claim credit for the jobs they “create.”  Other politicians will say that there is nothing wrong with spending money that taking more from “the rich” won’t cure.

So vote away, if you are so inclined. But don’t count on any big changes as a result.

 

Flickr image courtesy David Goehring under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy David Goehring under Creative Commons license

Jack Townsend, IRS and FinCEN Form 8300 and Geographic Targeting Order: “Recently, FinCEN issued a Geographic Targeting Order, here, imposing additional reporting and recordkeeping requirements on a relatively small (but apparently financially active) area of Los Angeles, California.”

Very strange, to me. The order imposes special rules on accepting cash for a wide variety of businesses in part of L.A. I didn’t know there was such a rule. I wonder how they are letting all of these stores — including “lingerie stores” — know they suddenly have a new reporting obligation if somebody spends $3,000 in cash there.  And I wonder who spends $3,000 on lingerie.

 

 

The Des Moines Register adds to the coverage of the seizure of cash from an Arnolds Park, Iowa restaurant owner.

Robert D. Flach, TO EXTEND, OR NOT TO EXTEND. THAT IS THE QUESTION. “If a tax benefit is appropriate it should be permanent – except in response to serious natural disasters, the idiots in Congress should never enact temporary tax measures.”

Amen, Brother Robert.

 

William Perez, Investing in or Spending Bitcoin? Learn about the Tax Implications

 

harvestPaul Neiffer, IRS Announces Various Inflation Adjusted Items:

Last night I rode in the combine in Northeastern Iowa from about 7 pm to about 2:30 am.  We cut about 10,000 bushels of corn with a John Deere S680 and I must admit there is something therapeutic about seeing corn come into the combine and then get dumped into the grain cart. 

Take 10,000 bushels and call me in the morning.

 

Annette Nellen, Damages: Deductible?

It’s a fact of life that businesses get sued. Even if they win, there are legal and related fees. What if they lose and have to pay compensatory and perhaps also punitive damages? Perhaps also some fines to the government?  What is deductible for tax purposes? A recent case from the First Circuit Court dealt with an action involving the False Claims Act with total damages of just over $486 million!

I don’t think generally one sort of damages should be more tax-beneficial than another. The income tax should base should measure capacity to pay taxes, not moral fiber or good citizenship.

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Jana Luttenegger, More 2015 Tax Numbers Released, Including Tax Brackets (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

 

Keith Fogg, Promoting, Not Discouraging, Tax Compliance (Procedurally Taxing). “Don’t we want to introduce our young citizens into a tax system that is rational and just? The current model does precisely the opposite.”

Kay Bell’s “Don’t Mess with Taxes” is sporting a new look. Go read Best states for business tend to have no or low taxes and check it out.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 543

 

tax fairyRuss Fox, Perhaps She’ll Cover the Guilty Plea in the Second Edition:

Her book, The Prosperity Principles: Secrets to Developing and Maintaining Generational Wealth, notes that business should be run, “…where everything you can do can be deducted from your reportable income as a business expense.”

That’s just another way of saying that there is a Tax Fairy. There is no Tax Fairy.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/27/14: IRS visits Arnolds Park restaurant, tips itself.

Monday, October 27th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120703-2IRS Commissioner Koskinen likes to say there is nothing wrong with the IRS that a bigger budget can’t cure. A story out of Arnolds Park, Iowa might cause one to question that. The New York Times reports:

For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders has dished out Mexican specialties at her modest cash-only restaurant. For just as long, she deposited the earnings at a small bank branch a block away — until last year, when two tax agents knocked on her door and informed her that they had seized her checking account, almost $33,000.

The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes — in fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report.

Banks are required to report “suspicious” deposits under $10,000 because they might be done to evade a required IRS filing. As they get in trouble for non-reporting, they are likely to overreport. And in these cases, that’s all the IRS required before stealing the cash. The victims have legal recourse, but it requires them to sue the federal government, owner of the largest law firm in the world; legal bills routinely run into tens of thousands of dollars.

So, without any evidence, or even suspicion, of a crime, the IRS uses some of its allegedly precious and constrained enforcement resources to steal money from a little Iowa restaurant. The story cites other cash seizure nightmares. One involved an Army sergeant saving for his daughters’ education. Others involved legitimate but cash-intensive businesses.

If this is what the IRS accomplishes with insufficient resources, imagine how much they could steal with full funding.

(via Instapundit)

Related:

Tax Justice Blog,  New Movie Aims to Scare Public by Depicting IRS as Jack-Booted Thugs. Where would anybody get that idea?

Dan Mitchell, Another Example of Government Thuggery – and another Reason Why Decent and Moral People Are Libertarians

Russ Fox, SARs Leading to Forfeiture: The IRS Oversteps

 

20141027-2Jason Dinesen, How Non-Residents or Part-Year Residents Report Federal Refunds on Iowa Tax Returns. One more complication from Iowa’s deduction for federal taxes.

Robert D. Flach, DON’T TRY TO BUY A HOUSE OR CONDO WITH ONLY 5% DOWN!. And don’t try to subsidize that either.

William Perez, Self-Employed Retirement Plans, “If you have self-employment income, then you can take a tax deduction for contributions you make to a SEP, SIMPLE, or a solo 401(k) retirement plan.”

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2014: #9-Tax Court Further Muddies The ‘Dealer Versus Investor’ Issue

 

TaxGrrrl, Fundraising Campaign Ends For ‘Ebola Free’ Nurse, Donors Encouraged To Contribute To Charity

Jana Luttenegger, 2015 Retirement Plan Limits Announced (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Paul Neiffer, 2015 Social Security Wage Base Increases to $118,500

Kay Bell, 6 year-end tax tips for small businesses

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions (Procedurally Taxing). Recent cases on whistleblowers, interest abatement, and art valuation.

 

 

Andrew Mitchel, 2014 Third Quarter Published Expatriates – Third Highest Ever. FATCA and the IRS holy war on Americans abroad takes its toll.

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 536

 

David Brunori on the inherently corrupt nature of corporate welfare tax incentives, like those so popular with Iowa politicians ($link):

I have no doubt there are more instances of companies contributing to politicians and getting economic development payouts. I’m not naïve. Corporations donate money to governors and lawmakers and expect a return on their investment. While the governors cited above were Republican, corporations and business interests don’t discriminate. Indeed, Lockheed Martin donated lots of money to Democratic governors.

We likely won’t find a smoking gun e-mail reading, “Dear Governor, your check is in the mail, please process my multimillion-dollar handout. Your friend, CEO.” Politicians and business leaders are too smart for that. But growing evidence of tax incentives being granted by politicians who receive money should give everyone pause. It’s unlikely to be a coincidence.

But, jobs! For the middlemen, fixers and lobbyists, anyway.

 

Joseph Henchman, Michigan Senate Advances Film Tax Credit Extension Bill (Tax Policy Blog). Because Detroit has no greater need than to give money to Hollywood.

 

News from the Profession. Meet the Guy Who Prefers Falafel Over PwC (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/20/14: Extension season is over. Now what? And: do your part for Boeing!

Monday, October 20th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

We are now in the sweet spot of the tax year. We are done with extended 1040s, and it’s too early to get most people to do year-end tax planning. That’s why this is the continuing education season for most of us.

The Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax Schools begin next week. I will be speaking on the Day 1 program for all schools, starting October 28 in Waterloo, Iowa. Tour stops also include Maquoketa, Sheldon, Red Oak, Ottumwa, Mason City, Denison and Ames. Who said public accounting lacks glamour?

Now to get those slides prepared…

 

Government is just a word for things we do together. Like subsidizing big corporations. Using information from Good Jobs First, Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Institute provides a chart of the biggest known recipients of state subsidies:

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Meanwhile, everyone else pays a little higher tax rate to grease Boeing’s landing gear. I believe that the damage caused to the taxpayers who don’t get these subsidies makes losers out of the states that win tax incentive bidding wars.

 

20140805-3Kay Bell, 2014 tax planning starts with your tax bracket

Annette Nellen, Premium Tax Credit Problems, “This is a big deal because the PTC serves to help make health insurance affordable to individuals with income between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty line.”

TaxGrrrl, Apple Seeds Perk Wars, Adds Egg Freezing As Employee Benefit.  Is that a tax-free benefit? It makes me wonder about their work-life balance.

Peter Reilly, UnFair: Exposing The IRS – Does Not Make Strong Case Or Decent Documentary. Peter watched the movie so you don’t have to.

Tax Trials, Tax Court Preserves Taxpayer Protections against Arbitrary and Capricious Appeals Rulings

Russ Fox, Copying Steven Martinez’s Idea Is Not a Good Choice. If you think you need to murder nine witnesses to stay out of jail, you probably won’t stay out of jail.

 

 

The Tax Prof reports that Linda Beale will resume tax blogging after going off the air as a result of the death of her husband. My condolences to Linda and her family.

Jim Maule, Putting the Brakes on Tax Breaks. “Never do indirectly through taxes what can and should be done directly.”

 

Andrew Lundeen, Most Common Jobs by Income Bracket (Tax Policy Blog). The professions do well.

Richard Auxier, Ahead of the Midterms, State Economic Trends Present Mixed Signals (TaxVox). “A September Pew Research poll found that while Americans’ assessment of job opportunities had improved, 56 percent reported their family’s income was falling behind the cost of living.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 529

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Quotable. Tax Analysts David Brunori  on a proposed film credit for the music industry in New York ($link):

Like their film equivalents, tax breaks for musicians are bad tax policy. Even if music producers were swayed by taxes, those breaks would be bad policy. Why musicians? Why not cab drivers? Orthodontists? Flamenco dancers? New York lawmakers, many of whom wanted to be Billy Joel growing up, will probably say yes to this terrible idea.

While I have a rooting interest in the music industry, the tax credit idea is awful.

 

News from the Profession. Let’s Watch This Audit Senior Quit His Job in the Most Fabulous Way (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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