Posts Tagged ‘Russ Fox’

Tax Roundup, 4/9/15: April 15 is also a day-trader deadline. And: Grant 1, Lee 0.

Thursday, April 9th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

daydrinkersTechnology has made made sophisticated stock trading tools that exchange floor pros once could only dream of available to every home. It has democratized the ability to make, and lose, money playing the markets.

It can be tempting to chuck the desk job and run off with Maria Bartiromo and TD Ameritrade. Sadly, more than one trader has emerged from the relationship with nothing to show for it but a lifetime of capital loss carryforwards.

That’s where today’s filing season tip comes in. If you qualify as a “trader,” April 15 is your deadline for choosing whether to make the “mark-to-market election” on your trading positions for 2015. If you don’t qualify as a trader, you can’t make the election.

If you make the mark-to-market election, you are required to recognize all of your open positions at year-end on your tax return as if you had cashed them out. More importantly, all of your gains and losses are ordinary, rather than capital.

That may seem like an inherently bad idea. Aren’t capital gains taxed at a lower rate? Yes, they are, but only if they are long-term, on assets held for over one year. That’s not the kind of gain day-traders are going for. Short-term gains are taxed at the same rates as ordinary income.

Ordinary losses, on the other hand, are a good thing. Well, on your tax return, anyway, if not in any other way. While individual capital losses are deductible only against capital gains, plus $3,000 per year, ordinary losses are fully deductible, and can even generate loss carrybacks.

That makes the mark-to-market election useful for day traders. They give up capital gain treatment that they can’t use anyway, and if they have a bad year — and many beginners do — they at least get to deduct all of their losses. For example, a famous trial lawyer who left the bar for day trading used the mark-to-market election to deduct $25 million in losses.

It’s already too late to make the election, also known as the “Section 475(f) election, for 2014. But you have until April 15 to make the election for 2015. You make the election either with either an unextended 2014 1040 or with the Form 4868 extension for the 2014 return. You may not make the election on an extended 1040.

The election is made on a statement with the following information:

  1. That you are making an election under section 475(f);
  2. The first tax year for which the election is effective; and
  3. The trade or business for which you are making the election.

So if you are spending your days with CNBC and your trading program, you might want to hedge your tax risks by making a 2015 475(f) election by April 15.

Related: The lure of a Sec. 475 election (Journal of Accountancy)

This is another of our series of 2015 Filing Season Tips — one daily through April 15!

 

Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #3: Just Don’t File

 

Flickr image courtesy Easa Shamih under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy Easa Shamih under Creative Commons license

Tax Court judges can do math too.We talked last week about the need to properly document charitable deductions.  The Tax Court talked about it yesterday, disallowing claimed deductions of $37,315 for lack of substantiation — most of it for purported contributions of household goods. From the decision:

Petitioners did not provide to the IRS or the Court a “contemporaneous written acknowledgment” from any of the four charitable organizations. Petitioners produced no acknowledgment of any kind from the Church or Goodwill. And the doorknob hangers left by the truck drivers from Vietnam Veterans and Purple Heart clearly do not satisfy the regulatory requirements. These doorknob hangers are undated; they are not specific to petitioners; they do not describe the property contributed; and they contain none of the other required information.

So if you claim property deductions for gifts of $250 or more, you need to have something from the charity that, even if it doesn’t show the value, shows what you gave. So why not claim you just gave only gifts under $250? From the Tax Court (my emphasis):

Petitioners contend that they did not need to get written acknowledgments because they made all of their contributions in batches worth less than $250. We did not find this testimony credible. Petitioners allegedly donated property worth $13,115 to the Church; this donation occurred in conjunction with a single event, the Church’s annual flea market. Petitioners’ testimony that they intentionally made all other contributions in batches worth less than $250 requires the assumption that they made these donations, with an alleged value of $24,200, on 97 distinct occasions. This assumption is implausible and has no support in the record.

Hey, I drive a Smart car, it takes a lot of trips!

Cite: Kunkel, T.C. Memo 2015-71.

 

20140401-1Jana Luttenegger Weiler, Special Tax Deduction for Contributions to Support Families of Slain NY Officers. (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). A 2014 deduction that you can still fund today.

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): Z Is For Zloty. On paying taxes while abroad and you need to use a foreign currency.

Robert Wood, Newest Tax Fraud Threat? Your Payroll Tax. A good reminder of the need to use EFTPS to monitor your payroll tax service, to make sure your company payroll taxes are getting deposited with the government.

Jason Dinesen, Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 6: Community Property Laws

Kay Bell, IRS headquarters hit by brief Washington, D.C., power outage. A reminder that even if you e-file, you don’t want to wait until the very last minute.

William Perez, Requesting Additional Time to File a State Tax Return

Jack Townsend, Tax Shelter Salesman Avoids Fraud Finding for Investment in Tax Shelter. You’ll have to follow the link for the more accurate, but less printable, version of the headline.

 

David Brunori, Greed, Piracy, and Cowardice (Tax Analsyts Blog):

I have written about 100 articles on tax incentives, all of them critical. I don’t blame the “greedy” corporations. State and local taxes are a relatively small part of the cost of doing business. Corporations are handed opportunities to minimize their tax burdens — legally. And rationally, they take advantage of those opportunities. The biggest factors in deciding where to invest are labor costs and broad access to markets. If we ended all tax incentives tomorrow, there would be virtually no effect on the economy. Corporations would still be investing where they are investing.

It’s politicians responding to the incentives. Those of us who want better tax policy, broad tax bases, and low rates for all don’t show up at the legislator’s golf fund raisers. Those looking for a special deal for their company or their industry have low handicaps for a reason.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 700. 700 days, no scandal here, move along.

 

Bloomberg, An Emotional Audit: IRS Workers Are Miserable and Overwhelmed. A visit to one of the few places where they still offer on-site service. (Via the TaxProf)

 

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History alert. General Lee surrended to General Grant 150 years ago today at Appomatox Court House, Virginia. Fellow tax blogger Peter Reilly is there, and I am insanely jealous.  I am contenting myself by re-reading Lee’s Last Retreatthe best book I’ve seen about the last frantic days of the Army of Northern Virginia. It makes you feel like you are there with the crumbling confederate army as it tried to escape after shattering defeats around Richmond. It also punctures a lot of romantic myths around those events.

After tax season, I will be happy to bore you with my thoughts on why Grant is grievously underrated for his Civil War achievements, and why he is also an underappreciated president. Next week.

 

News from the Profession: CPA Firm Managing Partner Charged in Embezzlement Scheme (Accounting Today):

Patrick H. Oki, managing partner at the Honolulu-based firm was charged Monday with theft in the first degree, money laundering, use of a computer in the commission of a separate crime, and forgery in the second degree, according to the office of Prosecuting Attorney Keith M. Kaneshiro.

Mr. Oki is reported to be both a CPA and a Certified Fraud Examiner. I can only imagine the awkwardness at the next partner meeting.

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/8/15: It’s all due a week from today. The case for extensions.

Wednesday, April 8th, 2015 by Joe Kristan


4868 bigThe tax deadline is a week from today. An extension might be a great idea. 
It’s all real at your local tax pro’s office. Late nights, new information, complex returns, tight deadlines — all ingredients for something to go wrong. Is it really a good idea for you to want your tax filing to come out of that?

You tax return isn’t a trivial item. That’s why you are paying for it, or why you are spending hours slaving over it. The consequences of a seemingly minor mistake can be shockingly expensive. You own 10% of a Canadian partnership with some fishing buddies and you didn’t report it on the right form? That’s a $10,000 penalty for you!

That’s why it’s unwise to try to rush it through at the deadline, when you can easily get an extension and have it prepared by somebody who has had some sleep and nutrition.

Here are things I hear from people who don’t want to be extended:

This means I will get audited! No it doesn’t. I have seen zero evidence that extending a return increases the risk of audit. I have filed my own 1040 on extension every year since at least 1990, and have yet to be audited (*knocks wood*). A return with a mistake, on the other hand, definitely increases your risk of audit.

But this means they get an extra six months to look at my return! Yes it does. That doesn’t mean much. While I’m sure it’s happened, I have yet to see a case where a taxpayer had to pay an amount on audit on an extended return that wouldn’t have been caught had the return not been exended in 30 years of tax practice. I have seen cases where we were able to get refunds because we found an error on the return three years after the original due date, but before the extended filing date. It can work both ways.

I always file on time! Extended returns are still filed on time. It’s just a different time. This is usually more an assertion of the individual’s self-importance. It really means “you should drop everything else you are doing and finish my return.” It asserts ego over wisdom and practicality.

Now, the positive things about extending:

It gives you more time to make certain tax return elections. Automatic accounting method changes can be filed with extended returns. For many taxpayers, especially those with real estate investments on their 1040, an extension may give your preparer extra time to find new deductions that are “biblical” in scale under the new “repair” regulations. These aren’t available on amended returns.

It may give you more time to fund deductions. If you have a Keogh or SEP retirement plan, extending your 1040 gives you until October 15 to fund your 2014 deductible retirement plan contributions. Remember, though, that some deductions still have to be funded by April 15 even on extended returns, including IRA and HSA contributions.

20150326-3It may give you more time to find deductions. More than one taxpayer has found a charitable contribution receipt or tax payment that they missed when they sent their pre-extension information in.

Extensions may avoid an amended return. It’s not unknown for a taxpayer who is already filed a complex return to get a late K-1 or a 1099 from a new investment that they didn’t think would issue one. That means they have to file an amended return. The IRS does look at these. It’s always better to extend than amend. 

Extensions can turn a 5% per month non-filing penalty into a 1/2% per month late payment penalty. If you are caught short and can’t pay, it’s a lot cheaper to extend than to blow off the payment.

Finally, and most importantly, an extended return is likely to be more accurate. Workload compression is something tax preparers talk about with each other, if not so much in public. Tired people make more mistakes, and that includes preparers. If you really want to attract IRS attention, drop a digit from a six-figure 1099 or K-1 number.

If you extend, you still need to have 90% of your tax paid in when you file Form 4868 to avoid penalties. Many taxpayers extending 2014 returns will include the amount they would pay as their 2015 first-quarter estimate with the extension payment; that payment is due April 15 too, and it gives them a little cushion against surprises on the extended return.

This is another in our series of 2015 Filing Season Tips. Come back every day for a new one through April 15!

 

Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #4: Procrastinate! “What happens if you wake up and it’s April 15, 2015, and you can’t file your tax? File an extension.”

Robert Wood, 9 Innocent Tax Return Mistakes That Trigger IRS Problems. Nine more good reasons to extend and get your return right.

TaxGrrrl, 13 Quirky Beer And Tax Facts On National Beer Day. They say that was yesterday, but any tax pro will tell you it’s really April 15.

Kay Bell, Chaffetz goes after tax-delinquent federal employees (again)

 

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The Des Moines Register reports: Bill advances to exempt bees from sales tax

 The [Iowa] House Ways and Means Committee passed a bill Tuesday that would exclude the sale of honey bees from state sales tax laws.

Honey bees have been the subject of much concern in recent years as their numbers have mysteriously declined. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, total losses to managed honey bee colonies was 23.2 percent nationwide during the 2013-2014 winter.

Those honey bee losses – which have been occurring for the last decade – have been linked to many things, including the use of pesticides, disease and loss of habitat.

As far as I know, this is the first time the decline in bees has been linked to sales taxes.

I’m sympathetic to this, in a way, in that I think business inputs should not be subject to sales tax. Still, this is the wrong way to go about it. While I love bees, there’s nothing about apiculture that makes it different from, say, raising earthworms, from a tax policy viewpoint. A group with good lobbyists gets the ball rolling, and everyone else gets left behind.

 

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TaxProf, Brown: The IRS Should Report on Tax Returns Filed by All 535 Members of Congress. I have a better idea: The President, every member of Congress, every cabinet member, and the IRS Commissioner should all have to prepare their 1040s by hand on a live webcast with a running comment bar. The webcasts should be archived on the Library of Congress website, along with the completed tax returns. I think tax simplification would follow in a hurry.

 

Andrew Lundeen, The Estate Tax Provides Less than One Percent of Federal Revenue (Tax Policy Blog). The rich guy isn’t buying.

Howard Gleckman, One Solution to California’s Drought: Tax Water. Oh, so close. How about markets?

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 699

 

Career Corner. #BusySeasonProblems: Inflatable Sharks; Late-night Checklists; Unexpected Taxable Income (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/7/15: Dealing with that long-awaited K-1. And: IRS, beacon for Millenials?

Tuesday, April 7th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

My K-1 finally showed up. Now what? Many Tax Update visitors arrive here when they ask their search engines something like “understanding K-1s” or “deducting K-1 losses on 1040.” As more business income is now reported on 1040s via K-1s than on corporation returns, these aren’t trivial questions.

k1corner2014It helps to understand what a K-1 does. “Pass-through” entities — partnerships, S corporations, and trusts that distribute their income to beneficiaries — generally don’t pay tax on their income. The owners pay. The tax returns of the pass-throughs gather the information the owners need to report the pass-through’s tax results properly. Because many different tax items are required to be reported differently on 1040s, the income, deductions and credits of the business have to be broken out on the K-1. That’s why there are so many boxes and so many identification codes on the K-1.

The challenge for the return preparer is to take the information off the K-1 and to report it properly on the 1040. It can get especially complicated when losses are involved.

While anything short of a full seminar will oversimplify the treatment of pass-through items, there are three main hurdles a loss deduction has to clear. They are, in order (follow the links for more detail):

You have to have basis in the pass-through to take losses. Basis starts with your investment in the entity. It includes direct loans to the entity. If you have a partnership, it includes your share of partnership third-party debt. It is increased by earnings and capital contributions and reduced by losses and distributions. If you don’t have basis, the loss is deferred until a year in which you get basis.

There is no official IRS form to track basis, but many pass-throughs track basis for their owners. Check your K-1 package to see if includes a basis schedule.

Flickr image courtesy  Grzegorz Jereczek under Creative Commons license.

Flickr image courtesy Grzegorz Jereczek
under Creative Commons license.

Your basis has to be “at-risk” to enable you to deduct losses. While the at-risk rules are a very complex and archaic response to 1970s-era tax shelters, the basic idea is that you have to be on the hook for your basis, especially basis attributable to borrowings, to be able to deduct losses against that basis. Special exclusions exist for “qualified non-recourse liabilities” arising from third-party real estate loans. Losses that aren’t “at-risk” are deferred until there is income or new “at-risk” basis. At risk losses are computed and tracked on Form 6198.

You can only deduct “passive losses” to the extent of your “passive” income. A loss is “passive” if you fail to “materially participate” in the business. Material participation is primarily determined by the amount of time you spend on the business activity. Real estate rental losses are automatically passive unless you are a “real estate professional.”

Passive losses are normally deductible only to the extent of passive income. The non-deductible losses carry forward until a year in which there is passive income, or until the activity is disposed of to a non-related party in a taxable transaction. You compute your passive losses allowance on Form 8582.

Even if you have income, instead of losses, be sure to use any carryforward losses you might have against it. And consider visiting a tax pro if you find the whole process perplexing.

This is another of our 2015 Filing Season Tips. There will be a new one every day here through April 15!

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Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #5: Ignoring California

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): Y Is For Years Certain Annuity

William Perez, Opportunity to Increase Charitable Donations for 2014 under a New Tax Law. “Individuals who donate cash by April 15, 2015, to certain charities providing relief to families of slain New York City police officers can deduct those donate on their 2014 tax return.”

Robert Wood, Beware Tax Mistakes IRS Calls Willful. “Even a smidgen of fraud or intentional misstatements can land you in jail.”

Have a nice day.

I’m from the IRS, and I’m here to help! IRS Agent Causes Grief For Taxpayer’s Spouse By Being Helpful (Peter Reilly)

Kay Bell, Don’t bet on fooling IRS with bought losing lottery tickets.

Leslie Book, District Court FBAR Penalty Opinion Raises Important Administrative and Constitutional Law Issues. “Taxpayers should not be forced to sue in federal court to get an explanation as to the agency’s rationale or the evidence it considered in making its decision.”

Jason Dinesen, It’s Pointless for EAs to Attack CPAs. And vice-versa.

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 698

Roger McEowen, Rough Economic Times Elevate Bankruptcy Legal Issues (ISU-CALT)

Martin Sullivan, How Much Did Jeb Bush Cut Taxes In Florida? (Tax Analysts Blog). “So was Jeb Bush a pedal-to-the-metal tax slasher in Florida?”

Renu Zaretsky, It’s Spring Break, and “Everything’s Coming Up Taxes…” (No Daffodils). The TaxVox headline roundup covers IRS budget cuts, reefer madness, and online sales taxes in Washington State today.

 

Career Corner. Do Any Millennials Want to Work at the IRS Non-ironically? (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). Not very hipster.

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/6/15: I don’t have my K-1 yet. Is that illegal? Or, why K-1s are slower.

Monday, April 6th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

k1corner2014I have my W-2. Why don’t I have my K-1? Tax practitioners hear some version of this every year. The short answer is that employers are required to provide W-2s by the end of January, but most K-1 issuers can legally wait until September 15.

The long answer is that K-1s can be much harder to prepare. For a W-2, you only need to have the wage, withholding and benefit information for the employee — not always super-simple, but usually easy enough with a good payroll system.

To issue a K-1, in contrast, a business has to determine its taxable income, and then it has to determine how to allocate it among its owners. Most businesses don’t even have a clean close on their books until well into January. Many then have their auditors in to opine on the financial statements, sometimes with adjustments that change the results. Then the tax preparers show up.

The tax preparers have to determine where the financial statement books have to be changed to get to taxable income. They have to evaluate elections as to the timing of assets and present them to the business, which then has to make a decision. They may have to prepare accounting method changes that require a review of years of fixed asset additions and disposals. If ownership has changed, they have to determine how the income is to be allocated based on the differing ownership during the year. If property has been contributed, they may have to allocate income and deductions for that property differently than for everything else in the business.

20140321-3Then it’s time for state returns. Every state tax system has its own quirks, and the preparer has to determine whether a business needs to file in a state, how to allocate or apportion the business income to the state, and then to identify where the state computes income differently from federal income.

Oh, and they have to do this for more clients than just the one that issues your K-1.

So it’s not a crime for you to not have your K-1 yet. There are a lot of good reasons, from the complexity to the tax law to the rules that require most K-1 issuers to have their work done at the same time, that delay K-1s. If you are missing a K-1 and April 15 is looming, an extension is likely to be your best option. There’s no evidence that the IRS pays special attention to extended returns, but they definitely notice if you file a return that leaves out a K-1. And you’d much rather file an extended return with a correct K-1 than to amend a return because a K-1 prepared in haste was wrong.

Tomorrow we start to talk about what to do with your K-1 when it does show up as part of our series of , one a day through April 15. Don’t miss a one!

 

Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #6: Nevada Corporations. “If the corporation operates in California it will need to file a California tax return. Period. It doesn’t matter if the corporation is a California corporation, a Delaware corporation, or a Nevada corporation.”

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): W Is For Withholding From Wages

 

William Perez, The Penalty for Not Having Health Insurance

Robert Wood, Know IRS Audit Risks Before Filing Your Taxes. Your audit risk is a lot less if you don’t make a prep mistake. If extending helps you avoid mistakes, extend.

Jack Townsend, Court Approves FBAR NonWillful Penalty Merits But Wants Further Development of APA Issues. ” The IRS disregarded its own promise and assessed the penalty before Mr. Moore could request an ‘appeal.'”

 

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David Brunori has thoughts on state tax incentives ($link):

To the extent blame is to be assigned, it rests solely on our political leaders. Governors, and to a larger extent legislators, have the power to grant or deny incentives. If they adhered to the principles of sound tax policy, they would build tax systems on a broad base with low rates. There would be little, if any, special treatment. But they don’t, because they are driven by two human conditions — greed and fear. They want a big corporation with thousands of employees to move to their state. They believe, incorrectly, that the way to achieve that is to give tax breaks that are unavailable to the rest of us. Conversely, they fear that a company might leave and take the jobs with it. They believe the only way to do that is through the tax code. I have said that politicians are unimaginative cowards when it comes to incentives. I don’t think that is too strong a statement. Of course, we put them in power. So perhaps the real blame lies with us.

The other reason is that nobody shows up at your golf fund-raiser to lobby for broad bases and low rates, but they do when they want a special deal.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 697Day 696Day 695. Thoughts on how this scandal would have been viewed if it occurred under a President Bush, and a victory for a group suing for a complete list of entities targeted by IRS for their politics.

Jared Walczak, Legislators Take on the Taxing Logic of Nevada’s Live Entertainment Tax (Tax Policy Blog). How Nevada puts musicians out of work.

Annette Nellen, Designing sales tax exemptions – what is necessary?

Robert Goulder, Stateless Income Revisited: Kleinbard, Herzfeld, and BEPS (Tax Analysts Blog)

Richard Phillips, Will this Tax Day be the First and Last Including Premium Tax Subsidies for Millions of Americans? (Tax Justice Blog).

 

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Kay Bell, Mad Men’s Pete Campbell complains about 1970’s tax rates. “In 1970, when the midseason premiere is set, the top tax rate was 70 percent on, for a single filer like Pete, income of more than $100,000.”

Career Corner. Ten Days Until Tax Day: How To Tell Inconsiderate Clients You’ll Be Extending Their Returns (Tony Nitti). “Yet, despite presumably possessing the ability to comprehend the standard Gregorian calendar, here you are, dropping off all of your information mere days before the deadline — just as you did last year, and the year before that — and leaving me a Post-It note thanking me for ‘squeezing you in.'”

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Tax Roundup, 4/2/15: For gift deductions, it’s not just the thought that counts. It’s the paperwork. And: more!

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

salvation armyToday’s filing season tip: assemble your contribution documents. For some things, spending the money isn’t enough to put a deduction on your return. You also have to get the paperwork right.

Charitable contributions are very much in this category. And it’s not good enough to find some paperwork when the IRS examiner starts asking questions. You need the documents in hand before you file your return.

For cash contributions of $250 or more, you need to have, in the words of IRS:

…a contemporaneous written acknowledgment from the qualified organization indicating the amount of the cash and a description of any property contributed. The acknowledgment must say whether the organization provided any goods or services in exchange for the gift and, if so, must provide a description and a good faith estimate of the value of those goods or services. 

That’s true whether you give cash or property. That means if you don’t have a nice note from your donee for your $250 gift, you need to bug them until they give you one. It also means that if you claim a deduction for dumping a bunch of household goods at Salvation Army, you need to get a note from them with a list of the items donated and the “goods or services” statement.

You need an appraisal if you donated property (other than publicly-traded securities) to charity for deductions starting at $5,000. We will talk about that tomorrow.

For more information, See Topic 506 – Charitable Contributions at www.irs.gov.

Come back every day through April 15 for another 2015 filing season tip!

 

Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #8: Be Frivolous! “Tax Court judges don’t have the same sense of humor that I do about frivolous arguments.”

 

atombombAmanda Athanasiou at Tax Analysts reports ($link), FATCA: Swatting Flies With Atom Bombs:

Possible inflation of the offshore tax evasion problem and the staggering costs of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act are causing even the most ardent advocates of information sharing and ending bank secrecy to question the U.S. approach.

“For the U.S. to ask countries around the world to spend billions in implementation costs to deliver less than $1 billion per year is, economically, complete nonsense,” said Martin Naville, CEO of the Swiss-American Chamber of Commerce. He referred to FATCA as the least considered program in history and “mind boggling” in its unilateralism. “The net value of FATCA for the U.S. is probably negative,” said Naville, who added that tax compliance is a must but that there are better ways to achieve it.

But it goes after Fat Cats! Don’t you get our clever pun? And besides, how can we go after international money launderers without making it a crime to commit personal finance abroad?

Related: Wall Street Journal, Checking the IRS Overseas (Via the TaxProf). “Even the Obama Administration says the law would capture only $870 million a year in additional tax revenue, which is probably overstated given changes in behavior by Americans and their overseas employers.”

 

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William Perez, Do Your Home Improvements Qualify for the Residential Energy Tax Credits?

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): T Is For TIN (Taxpayer Identification Number)

Peter ReillyZombies Can’t File Tax Court Petitions. Making Tax Court headquarters the go-to place for a Zombie Apocalypse.

Kay Bell, IRS’ Koskinen says tax agency’s troubles are over. No joke. Joke.

Kristine Tidgren, Don’t Be Fooled! “While many artless tactics remain (if you just wire this money to Nigeria by Friday…), the emerging scams come wrapped in a cloak of credibility. It’s often difficult for even the wary to separate fact from fiction in this new age.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 693. “The Department of Justice announced yesterday that it will not pursue contempt of Congress charges against Lois Lerner.”  Of course not. That’s not what a scandal goalie does.

Marc Bellemare, Soda taxes don’t seem to work. (via Tyler Cowen)

Renu Zaretsky, A Penny for Your Sugar: Setting a Price on Sin. (TaxVox). “Are we are all aware of our sugar sins?”  Sins? So food nannyism is really a religion.

Not that the current tax law is exactly a shining light.  Ted Cruz and His Dim-Bulb Tax Policy (Joseph Thorndike, Tax Analysts Blog). “Increasingly, Washington is alive with interesting, conservative tax proposals. But none of them are coming from the junior senator from Texas.”

Meg Wiehe, More Than 20 States Considering Detrimental Tax Proposals (Tax Justice Blog). Pretty close to 50, I’d guess.

 

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Christopher Bergin, April Is More Than Just Tax Season (Tax Analysts Blog). “Koskinen announced that so far, the filing season has gone “swimmingly,” which apparently means the IRS answers the phone less than half the time when taxpayers call for help.” 

Today in advanced tax policy debate: How Tax Brackets are Adjusted Explained in Taylor Swift Gifs (Kyle Pomerleau, Dan Carvajal, Tax Policy Blog)

 

News from the Profession. Deloitte Not Taking Any Chances That Someone Might Burn Their Disneyland to the Ground (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/1/15: No fooling – if you reached 70 1/2 last year, take a distribution by today. And: Freedom on April 17!

Wednesday, April 1st, 2015 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1212They don’t call them “required” distributions for nothing. If you reached 70 1/2 years of age in 2014, first, congratulations! Second, today is the deadline for you to take your first required minimum distribution from your (Non-Roth) IRA or SEP, and, if you have retired, from your defined-contribution retirement plan. The rules for the two types of plans are slightly different.

The tax law doesn’t want your retirement plan assets to be growing tax-free forever. That’s why the RMD rules were enacted. You are required to pull an annual taxable amount out based on your remaining life expectancy, determined by IRS tables.

The first required distribution must be taken by April 1 of the year following the year in which you turn 70 1/2. That means you, if you were born after June 30, 1943 and before July 1, 1944. Subsequent distributions have to be taken by December 31. That means if you are taking your first one today, you’ll need to take another one this year.

If you don’t have a spouse 10 years younger than you, you can compute your IRA distribution at this table. If you do, use this table instead. You will need to know your IRA balance as of December 31, 2014.

And if you don’t take your distribution on time? A 50% penalty tax on the amount you should have withdrawn. That would hurt.

This is the first of our 2015 filing season tips. Come back daily through April 15 for more!

 

Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #9: 300 Million Witnesses Can’t Be Right!:

For a tax blogger, people like Richard Hatch are wonderful. Hatch, for those who don’t remember, was the winner of the first Survivor and won $1 million. About 300 million individuals worldwide saw Hatch take down the $1 million.

Yet, somehow it didn’t land on his 1040. Things went badly.

 

People in Iowa get in tax trouble too. St. Charles man sentenced to prison for filing false tax return (Osceola Sentinel-Tribune).

 

Tax Freedom Day is April 24, The Tax Foundation Announces:

Tax Freedom Day is the day when the nation as a whole has earned enough money to pay its total tax bill for the year. Tax Freedom Day takes all federal, state, and local taxes and divides them by the nation’s income. In 2015, Americans will pay $3.28 trillion in federal taxes and $1.57 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total tax bill of $4.85 trillion, or 31 percent of national income. This year, Tax Freedom Day falls on April 24, or 114 days into the year. 

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The big day is a day later than it was last year. As state taxes differ, states have different Tax Freedom Days. The first one is Louisiana, which arrives tomorrow. New York and Connecticut have to wait until May 13. Iowa celebrates fittingly on my next day off, April 16.

 

William Perez, How Saving for Retirement Can Reduce Your Taxes

Kay Bell, Time to choose between a Roth or traditional IRA

Jason Dinesen, Iowa Adoption Credit and Deduction. “The Iowa deduction for adoption expenses is also still available, and there is a relationship between the credit and the deduction.”

Robert Wood, Five Ways To Audit Proof Your Tax Return Against The IRS. For example, “Don’t claim flaky deductions.”

TaxGrrrl,Taxes From A To Z (2015): S Is For Scams

 

Keith Fogg, Impact of Bankruptcy Determination of Tax Liability on Tax Court Case and on Assessment Timing (Procedurally Taxing). “When a taxpayer goes into bankruptcy, a new forum for tax litigation opens up, or potentially opens up, based on section 505 of the Bankruptcy Code.”

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 692. Today the TaxProf says that Commissioner Koskinen has put all this unpleasantness behind him:

The IRS has fixed its errors, such as improper extra scrutiny of Tea Party groups, and they won’t happen again, the tax agency’s commissioner said Tuesday.

“The changes are so significant throughout the agency that you could hang a sign out at the front of the headquarters saying ‘Under New Management,’” Internal Revenue Service Commissioner John Koskinen said in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington.

Uh-huh. And there were no more Lerner emails, and the Commissioner had made sure he looked very hard for them.

 

Oh, goody. The Rich Are Finally Paying More in Taxes (Jeremy Scott, Tax Analysts Blog). Oddly, he thinks that’s a good thing. But ultimately, the rich guy isn’t buying. And when you try to smack “the rich,” you are really going after employers.

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

 

David Brunori, Transparency: Good for the Tax System, Critical for Good Government (Tax Analysts Blog):

Modern state tax policy has been dominated by cravenness and cronyism. But every once in a while, politicians muster the courage to do the right thing. Several proposals have been advancing in legislatures that will bring more transparency to state fiscal systems. I cannot overstate the importance of these measures.

Cronies and cockroaches prefer darkness.

 

Howard Gleckman, Is a Consumption Tax Talk Making a Comeback? (TaxVox)

 

Robert D. Flach emerges from his 1040 cave just long enough to do a little Showboating. He’ll get the reference.

 

That’s not funny! Accountants Ruin Joke (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

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Tax Roundup, 3/26/15: Not every project is an “activity,” and why that’s a good thing. And: starting Iowa’s tax law fresh.

Thursday, March 26th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

What’s an activity? The tax law’s “passive loss” rules limit business losses when a taxpayer fails to “materially participate” in an “activity.” Whether an “activity” is “passive” is mostly 20150326-2based on the amount of time spent in the activity by the taxpayer. That can raise a tricky question: just what is an “activity?”

Many businesses do multiple things. Take a CPA firm that does tax and auditing. If those feckless auditors lose money, is that a separate “activity” from the hard-working tax side? Or consider a convenience store owner with two locations; is each a separate activity, or are they one big activity?

The Tax Court addressed this problem yesterday in a case involving a South Florida developer. Greatly simplifying a complex story of real estate backstabbing and inter-family rivalry, the problem was whether an S corporation was the same “activity” as a partnership with the same owners set up for s specific development project. If so, family patriarch Mr. Lamas could cross the basic 500-hour threshold for participation in the combined activity, making his losses deductible.

Judge Buch explains the IRS regulation (1.469-4(c)) governing this issue:

This regulation sets forth five factors that are “given the greatest weight in determining whether activities constitute an appropriate economic unit for the measurement of gain or loss for purposes of section 469″:

(i) Similarities and differences in types of trades or businesses;

(ii) The extent of common control;

(iii) The extent of common ownership;

(iv) Geographical location; and

(v) Interdependencies between or among the activities (for example, the extent to which the activities purchase or sell goods between or among themselves, involve products or services that are normally provided together, have the same customers, have the same employees, or are accounted for with a single set of books and records).

This regulation further instructs that taxpayers can “use any reasonable method of applying the relevant facts and circumstances” to group activities, and that not all of the five factors are “necessary for a taxpayer to treat more than more activity as a single activity”.

Equality in action in the Soviet Union on the Belomor Canal

The judge said that Shoma (the S corporation) and Greens (the partnership) met these requirements, considering they had the same control and both were in the same general business. Also:

Finally, Shoma and Greens were interdependent. Greens operated out of Shoma offices, used Shoma employees, and consolidated its financial reporting with Shoma’s. Greens was formed by Shoma as a condominium conversion project. The shareholders intended that Greens be dissolved after the project was completed and the capital returned to its shareholders.

Because Shoma and Greens meet these five factors, we find that they are an appropriate economic unit and should be grouped as a single activity.

The taxpayer was able to satisfy the court through witness testimony and phone records that he met the 500-hour requirement.

This case is good news for developers, as this structure is common in that business: a permanent S corporation sets up new LLCs for each development project. This case correctly concludes that they are all part of the same development business.

Cite: Lamas, T.C. Memo 2015-59.

 

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.

Me, What an Iowa income tax might look like with a fresh start. My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record Business Professionals’ Blog, on what Iowa’s tax system might look like if we could start over. A taste:

A system designed from scratch would apply the ultimate simplification to Iowa’s corporation income tax: it wouldn’t have one. Iowa’s corporation income tax is rated the very worst, with extreme complexity and the highest rate of any state. 
 
Eliminating the corporation income tax would eliminate the justification for almost all of the various state incentive tax credits, all of which violate the principles of neutrality and simplicity in the first place. For its astronomical rates and complexity, it generates a paltry portion of the state’s revenue, typically 4-7 percent of state receipts.
 
For S corporations, a from-the-ground-up tax reform might tax Iowa resident shareholders only on the greater of distributions of S corporation income, or interest, dividends, and other investment income earned by the S corporations. The investment income provision would prevent the use of an S corporation as a tax-deferred investment. The effect would be to put S corporations on about the same footing as C corporations.

I have little hope in the legislature actually doing something sensible, but we have to start somewhere. I’d love to hear any thoughts readers may have.

 

 

Roger McEowen addresses the Tax Consequences When Debt is Discharged (ISU-CALT): “There are several relief provisions that a debtor may be able to use to avoid the general rule that discharge of indebtedness amounts are income, but a big one for farmers is the rule for ‘qualified farm indebtedness.'”

Russ Fox, A Break in my Hiatus: Poker Chips and Tax Evasion. Russ lifts his head from his tax returns to tell of the tax problems of a poker chip maker that he has personal experience with. “A helpful hint to anyone wanting to emulate Mr. Kendall: Just pay employees in the normal way, on the books, and send the withholding where it belongs.”

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): N Is For Nonrefundable Tax Credits

Robert Wood, Tax Fraud Draws 6 1/2 Year Prison Term Despite Alzheimer’s. Specifically, a dubious claim of Alzheimer’s.

Peter Reilly, Did Andie MacDowell’s Mountain Hideaway Require Tax Incentives? To listen to some people, you’d believe nothing good ever happened until tax credits were invented.

 

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Jason Dinesen, Financing a Small Business, Part 5 of 5: Know When to Keep Quiet With the Banker. “Here are a couple of real-world examples I’ve seen where business owners got hung up with the bank because the owner wouldn’t stop talking.”

This has lessons for IRS exams, too.

Kay Bell, Obamacare, bitcoin add twists to 2014 tax filing checklist

Annette Nellen, Another Affordable Care Act Oddity. “Perhaps the problem is more tied to the “cliff” in the PTC that causes someone to completely lose the subsidy once their income crosses the 400% of the FPL (more on that here).”

William Perez, How Much Can You Deduct by Contributing to a Traditional IRA?

 

Alan Cole, Richard Borean, Tom VanAntwerpWhich Places Benefit Most from State and Local Tax Deductions? (Tax Policy Blog):

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The short answer? Places with high state tax rates and high-income earners. Note the purple spot right in the middle of Iowa.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 686

Renu Zaretsky, Sense and Sensibilities. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the House GOP budget, a Texas tax cut, and tax-delinquent federal employees.

 

Richard Phillips, How Presidential Candidate Ted Cruz Would Radically Increase Taxes on Everyone But the Rich (Tax Justice Blog). A taste:

On the flat tax, Cruz has not yet spelled out a specific plan that he would like to see enacted, but it’s unlikely that any plan he proposed will be significantly better than the extremely regressive flat tax proposals that have been offered in the past.

Or, “we don’t know what he will do, but it will be terrible!”

 

Caleb Newquist, Big 4 Gunning for Big Law. To steal a cheap line: who wins if the Big 4 and Big Law fight to the death? Everybody!

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Tax Roundup, 3/17/15: St. Patrick didn’t chase the taxes out of Ireland.

Tuesday, March 17th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150317-1aTax luck of the Irish. While America celebrates Irish heritage by today by drinking far too much bad dyed beer, we’ll ponder the sober look taken by Kyle Pomerleau at the Irish tax system (my emphasis):

It may be surprising to Americans to hear that Ireland has pretty high taxes. We usually hear about Ireland’s tax system in the context of its corporate income tax rate, which sits a low 12.5 percent, half the average rate of the OECD. We are led to believe that Ireland is a low-tax country in general.

In reality, Ireland’s tax code has some of the highest marginal tax rates, especially on income, in the OECD.

Ireland’s top marginal individual income tax rate is 40 percent on individuals with incomes over 33,800 EUR ($36,236).  On top of that, individuals need to pay payroll taxes of 4 percent on wages and other compensation. Ireland also has “Universal Social Charge,” which tops out at 8 percent (11 percent for self-employed individuals).

Altogether, the top marginal tax rate in Ireland is 52 percent. The average top marginal income tax rate (plus employee-side payroll taxes) is 46 percent in the OECD. Not only is this rate high, it applies at a relatively low level of income ($40,174).

It’s enough to make me glad great-great-great Grandpa took off for North America in the 1840s.*

The tax rate is also high on investment income. Capital gains are taxed at 33 percent, which is significantly higher than the OECD average of about 18.4 percent. Dividends are taxed at ordinary income tax rates of 40 percent plus the 8 percent Universal Social Charge (48 percent).

The US top marginal rate, excluding state taxes, is about 44.588%, considering phase-outs and the Obamacare 3.8% Net Investment Income Tax, but it doesn’t kick in until taxable income reaches $406,750 for single filers and $457,600 on joint returns. Our fully-loaded top capital gain and dividend rate is 19.25%. So if you must drink something, drink to having a less awful top marginal rate than Ireland.

*OK, technically he came from County Tyrone, which is in the U.K., not the Republic of Ireland.

 

daydrinkersMaria Koklanaris reports on a study by the left-side policy shop Good Jobs First (Tax Analysts $link):

There are 11 companies listed in both the top 50 state and local subsidy recipients and the top 50 federal subsidy recipients. They are Boeing, The Dow Chemical Co., Ford Motor Co., General Electric, General Motors, JPMorgan Chase & Co., Lockheed Martin Corp., NRG Energy Inc., Sempra Energy, SolarCity, and United Technologies.

Also, six companies on the top 50 state list are on the list of the top 50 recipients of federal loans, loan guarantees, and bailout assistance — Boeing, Ford Motor, General Electric, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, and JPMorgan Chase. Five companies — Boeing, Ford Motor, General Electric, General Motors, and JPMorgan Chase — are on all three lists.

All companies you just feel good about when you pay extra taxes, so they can pay less. Especially GE and JPMorgan Chase.

 

Christopher Bergin, The IRS Doubles Down on Secrecy (Tax Analysts Blog):

Faced with blistering criticism over how it handled exemption applications, accusations that it wrongly – and, perhaps, even criminally – withheld e-mails from lawmakers and the public, and rising concerns that it is the most secretive government agency we have, what is the Internal Revenue Service’s response?

To become even less transparent. As the saying goes: You can’t make this stuff up.

I think the evidence can lead to only two conclusions about the current IRS commissioner: either he is the most tone-deaf and socially-unskilled administrator in the Federal government, or he wants to make the IRS as unaccountable as possible.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 677. IRS, fighting transparency tooth and nail.

 

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.

Peter Reilly, Don’t Sic IRS On Racist Frat Boys. “Nobody ever suggests that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission or the Department of Education should pitch in and help collect taxes, but for some reason the IRS is seen as the Swiss army knife of social policy, ready to further shred its tattered reputation addressing issues that stump other institutions.”

 

 

William Perez, Need to File a Year 2011 Tax Return? Deadlines and Resources

Kay Bell, Filing tips for the 2015 tax deadline that’s just a month away

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): I Is For Insolvency. And Illinois, but that’s the same thing.

Robert Wood, Of Obamacare’s Many Taxes, What Hurts Most. So many choices.

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for week ending 02/27/15 (Procedurally Taxing). A roundup of developments in the tax procedure world.

Russ Fox begins his last part of tax season hibernation. Take care of yourself and your clients, Russ. I’ve been tempted to hibernate myself, but since now is when people are most interested in this stuff, I keep at it.

 

Picture by Dan Kristan

Picture of Irish countryside by Dan Kristan

 

Richard Auxier, Can Rube Goldberg Save the Highway Trust Fund? (TaxVox). “In principle, the Highway Trust Fund (HTF) is simple. Drivers pay a federal gas tax when they purchase fuel, the revenue goes to the HTF, and the federal government sends the dollars to states and local governments for highway and transit programs. But in practice the system is a mess and a new proposal by a road builder trade group shows just how tangled this web has become.”

News from the Profession. Accountants Share Their Dreams. (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/9/15: The dark side is very powerful. And: conventional unwisdom, unwise candidacies.

Monday, March 9th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20130419-1Christopher Bergin asks Has the IRS Truly Moved to the Dark Side?

Anyone who reads my posts knows that I have always given the IRS the benefit of the doubt in its dealing with exemption applications from conservative political organizations (which is what they are in every way but technically). I have not accused the IRS of influencing the political process. I’ve argued that it simply screwed up, albeit in a bad way, noting that stupidity is not a crime.

But now “criminal activity” has been raised. And not in a casual way, but in an official way.

The IRS’s response to this latest accusation came in a lame statement issued February 27 that essentially says it’s the inspector general’s “responsibility” to look into all this. For those of us old enough to remember the TV show Hogan’s Heroes, that is the equivalent of Sergeant Shultz saying, “I know nothing.”

Except it’s not funny.

If you’ve lost Christopher Bergin, you’ve lost Middle Arlington. You’ve also lost the “no scandal here” argument.

 

20150120-1Conventional unwisdomThe Des Moines Register’s Joel Aschbrenner is doing some excellent work on the new convention center hotel that Polk County and the City of Des Moines are helping to fund.

Researchers: Convention hotels rarely fulfill promises: “‘In a great many cases his forecasts have proven to be off, in some cases wildly off,’ Sanders said.”

Who is at risk if hotel under-performs?

The city has offered a $5 million loan guarantee that will come into play three to five years after opening when the hotel refinances its mortgages, Assistant City Manager Matt Anderson said. Hotels often refinance after they build a customer base and stabilize their business, he said.

If the hotel is under-performing due to lower-than-expected occupancy levels or room rates, or if interest rates have spiked up, refinancing would be more expensive and the city would have to cover the difference.

East Village hotel plan loses one floor: “The developer of a hotel and apartment project that will cover an entire East Village block says the hotel is being scaled back in part because of competition from downtown’s proposed convention hotel.”

The City of Des Moines has been pleading poverty. It runs revenue cameras to pick the pockets of random travelers committing the crime of not quite stopping before turning right on red at an empty intersection. It has collected illegal taxes and fought against refunds all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Yet it thinks it has the resources to help finance a hotel. That has to be terrific news to all of the other hotels downtown.

This isn’t the first time Des Moines has put money in a private downtown business. That hasn’t gone entirely smoothly.

 

Peter Reilly, 1099-C From Out Of The Blue? Don’t Ignore It! Fight It! Peter reminds us that just because somebody issues a 1o99-C saying there was debt forgiveness income doesn’t make it so.

Russ Fox, You Have to Have an Unreimbursed Loss to Claim a Casualty Loss

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): C Is For Commuting Expenses and D Is For Disability Income.

Kay Bell, No day off for tax advice: March’s first weekly tip round-up

Jack Townsend, Certifying Non-Willflness for Streamlined – The Risk. More on the puzzle palace of IRS offshore account enforcement.

Patrick Thomas, Inability to Correctly Calculate CSED – Confusion Leads to Unlawful Results (Procedurally Taxing).

It is a basic concept of law that once a statute of limitation has passed, no action barred by the statute may take place. Yet, as noted in the National Taxpayer Advocate’s 2014 Annual Report, the IRS often engages in forced collection action after the Collection Statute Expiration Date (CSED) has passed.

I’ll just note that the IRS is pretty good about not issuing refunds when the statute has passed.

 

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David Henderson, Rubio-Lee Isn’t Great:

Co-blogger Scott Sumner, over at his TheMoneyIllusion blog, has a post titled “Rubio-Lee is great, so why not make it even greater?”

I don’t agree that Rubio-Lee is great. It has many good features and Scott has listed pretty much all of them, so I won’t repeat them here. It has a feature, that I’ll mention shortly, that is a major negative.

Unfortunately, Scott didn’t mention the worst aspect of Rubio-Lee: the huge tax credits.

 

Tony Nitti, Reviewing The Rubio-Lee Proposal For Tax Reform

 

Hank Stern, Another day, Another CoOp Snafu (Insureblog):

Thanks to a heads’ up from FoIB Josh Archambault, we have this little gem:“The Minuteman Health Inc. Co-op in Massachusetts got more than $156 million and covered only 1,822 people – over $86,000 per enrollee.”But wait, that’s not all!

“HealthyCT Inc. Co-op in Connecticut got more than $128 million and covered only 6,094 people – more than $21,000 per enrollee.”

If that doesn’t give you the warm fuzzies, I have no idea what will.

At least they haven’t gone belly-up, unlike Iowa’s CoOportunity Co-op.
Alan Cole, CRS Report: Medical Device Tax Burden Falls On Consumers (Tax Policy Blog). “Don’t worry, the consumers will ultimately be hit with the tax, and they’ll just have to deal with it because they need their pacemakers!”
Annette Nellen, Obamacare confusion – real and made up. “The current system is too complex, confusing, inequitable, expensive, – and, not providing health care commensurate with the costs.”

Accounting Today, Cover Charge: How the ACA Is Affecting Fees. Spoiler: it’s not lowering them.

 

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Robert Wood, First Win Lottery, Then Defend Suits By Ticket Sellers, Co-Workers, Relatives

Adrienne Gonzalez, To Whom It May Going Concern: My CPA Is Locked Up and They Won’t Let Her Out. (Going Concern). Sometimes imprisonment is a sign to reconsider your choice of preparer.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 669Day 668Day 667

Former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson is running for president. The Washington Post reports that he is running as a Republican on a platform of “bold tax reform.

After leaving the IRS, he took a job as CEO of The American Red Cross. That went badly: “The president and CEO of The American Red Cross (ARC) is out after less than six months – involved in an inappropriate relationship with a female subordinate.”

It seems like a long shot. Perhaps he looked at the scandals surrounding the presumptive Democratic nominee and her husband and concluded that was the path to an unopposed nomination.

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/6/15: Crime Watch Edition. Rashia, still 21.

Friday, March 6th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

It’s the time of the year when exasperated taxpayers and preparers are tempted to say, “bugger all this, I’m going to go for the gusto and cheat on my taxes!” That’s when it’s useful to look in on an old friend of the Tax Update to see how well that’s going.

Rashia says "thanks, Commissioner!"

Rashia says “thanks, Commissioner!”

Let’s look in on Rashia Wilson, who proclaimed herself (on Facebook!) the “Queen of IRS Tax Fraud.” Her reign was cut short by federal identity theft tax refund charges, resulting in a 21-year sentence. And with federal sentences, you have to serve at least 90% of the time.

Ms. Wilson naturally was unhappy with this judicial lèse-majesté, so she appealed, citing procedural irregularities. The trial judge was ordered to reconsider. On further review, the call on the field stands. 21 years.  Robert Wood has more.

Iowa has tax ID fraud too. While South Florida may be the kingdom of tax refund fraud, it has colonies everywhere. Even in Iowa: Cedar Rapids woman charged with filing false tax returns (KWWL.com):

The United States Department of Justice says 33-year-old Gwendolyn Murray is charged with twelve counts of filing false claims for tax refunds, seven counts of theft of government property, and two counts of aggravated identity theft.­ The indictment containing the charges was unsealed on Tuesday.

It is alleged that Murray filed 12 fraudulent tax returns in 2012 and 2013 using other people’s names. She received refunds on seven of those tax returns. The court also alleges that Murray stole the identities of two people.

It’s good to prosecute ID thieves, but it’s far better to keep them from thieving. It’s eye-opening that 7 of the 12 alleged attempts allegedly succeeded. Criminals aren’t known for their impulse control or their ability to anticipate long-term consequences. If they see somebody get a bunch of cash just from keying in some numbers on a computer, they’re going to want some of that bling themselves, and they aren’t going to ponder the likelihood of a prison sentence first.  The IRS is pretty much leaving the door unlocked and the cash register open.

 

Megan McArdle says the culture of “getting a big refund” is part of the problem in Fewer Tax Refunds, Fewer Scams:

If all returns were submitted at the same time, and refunds were held until they could be cross-checked against the IRS’s copies of W-2s and 1099s, then this sort of fraud wouldn’t work very well; the IRS would know it had two returns and could start the process of figuring out which one was fraudulent before it mailed the check. But we love our early refunds, and people often count on getting that check as early as possible.

She offers wise advice:

However, there’s one thing you personally can do to fight tax fraud, and that’s make sure that you don’t give the government more money than you have to. You should never get excited about a tax refund; all it means is that you gave the government a substantial interest-free loan by withholding too much tax throughout the year. You should aim for your refund to be as small as possible — ideally, zero.

A system that sends $21 billion annually to fraudsters — and that number is rising rapidly — can’t continue forever. Part of this will be a technological fix.  My wife can’t buy a dress at Nordstrom in Chicago without triggering phone calls from two credit card companies.  Meanwhile, the IRS happily wires wads of cash to Rashia. One would hope the IRS could learn something from Visa and Discover.

But the IRS is bad at technology, so part of the fix will have to be slower (and ideally, smaller) refunds. This could include lower penalty thresholds for underpayments so that taxpayers will be more willing to risk owing a bit on April 15 — perhaps combined with withholding tables that leave taxpayers owing a bit, rather than getting refunds.

 

What else can you do to protect yourself? 

  • Be careful with your tax information. Never divulge your bank account or credit card info to strangers over the phone.
  • Assume any unexpected call from a tax agency is a scam.
  • Don’t send copies of 1099s and W-2s as e-mail attachments to your preparer, and don’t email a pdf of your 1040 to a loan officer. That leaves your information exposed.
  • When you transmit confidential information, use strong encryption, or better yet upload it via a secure file transfer site, like the FileDrop system we use at Roth & Company.

 

 

20150105-2Peter Reilly, IRS Grossly Unqualified To Make Determinations About Software Related Exempt Applications. The IRS is grossly unqualified for any number of things that Congress gives it to do. Just a very few that come immediately to mind:

– Determining what is “qualified research” for the research credit.

– Determining the energy properties of “green fuels” for the biofuel subsidies.

– Running the nation’s healthcare insurance finance system.

– Policing political speech by tax-exempt organizations.

An outfit that can’t keep two-bit grifters from cashing in billions in tax refunds annually shouldn’t be looking for new things to do.

 

Kay Bell, Tax identity thief mistakenly sends fake refund to real filer. The police don’t spend their days chasing geniuses.

Jack Townsend, More on Light Sentencing for Offshore Account Tax Crimes.

 

Russ Fox provides a valuable service with Online Gambling Addresses Updated for 2015. Taxpayers with offshore online gambling accounts are required to report them on the “FBAR” report of foreign financial accounts (Form 114). The FBAR requires a street address for the account, and these can be hard to find for gambling websites.

William Perez offers advice on how to Communicate Effectively with Your Tax Preparer. We aren’t always the best company this time of year. Come prepared, be efficient, and you can leave our office before we do something bizarre. Other than what we do for a living, of course.

Jason Dinesen, Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 3: Big Changes in 1917

Jim Maule, The IRS and the Taxpayer: Both Wrong. “The taxpayer argued that because the distribution from the IRA was less than the his investment in the IRA, it should be treated as a return of investment. The IRS argued that the entire distribution should be included in the taxpayer’s gross income. The Tax Court concluded that both the taxpayer and the IRS were wrong.”

 

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Kyle Pomerleau, The Rubio-Lee Plan Would be Good for Everyone, Especially Low Income Earners (Tax Policy Blog):

If you take all the pieces of the Rubio-Lee tax plan together, it actually produces the largest increase in after-tax income for the lowest income earners, not the highest.

According to our analysis, the bottom decile of taxpayers will see an increase in after-tax income of 44.2 percent, a percentage increase in income nearly four times larger than the top 1 percent’s increase in after-tax income. But the plan doesn’t just increase the after-tax income of the top and the bottom. All taxpayers will see higher after-tax incomes due to this plan.

The Rubio-Lee plan, with its elimination of the double corporate tax and its business rate reductions, is the most promising tax reform plan to surface in a long time. But its opponents can never see wisdom in anything that benefits “the rich,” even when it benefits everyone else.

 

Renu Zaretsky, Expensive Plans, ACA Developments, and Exercises in Futility. Today’s TaxVox roundup has links to folks hating on Rubio-Lee, Spanish film tax credits, and more.

Patrick Smith, Supreme Court’s Direct Marketing Case May Have Great Significance in Anti-Injunction Act Cases (Procedurally Taxing)

 

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Spring will come!

 

 

Cara Griffith, The Use of Big Data in Auditing (Tax Analysts Blog). “For state auditors, big data (like other types of data) could be used to better evaluate and select taxpayers for audit.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, 666

 

Why would he want a job with less power? Former IRS Commissioner Mark Everson To Run For President. Yes, Of The United States (Tony Nitti)

Culture Corner. A Tax Shelter Board Game Is a Thing That Exists (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/5/15: More tax credits! Also: ACA on the dock again, and good tax news for gamblers.

Thursday, March 5th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today visitorsclick here for the frosty Iowa tax climate post, or go here for a longer treatment.

 

David Brunori has a wise post about Michigan’s disastrous tax credits: Tax Incentives Cause Trouble For More Reasons Than You Might Think (Tax Analysts Blog). “The history of job creation tax credits in Michigan is a story of corporate welfarism.”

20120906-1That’s just as true here in Iowa, where every legislative session seems to bring a new tax credit, to go with the dozens already on the books. From today’s Des Moines Register: New chemical production tax credit bill advances.

For example, companies like Cargill that produce ethanol and other fuels from corn produce corn oil in the process. The tax credit is geared toward companies that take that oil and other byproducts to create higher-value chemicals. Those higher-value chemicals can then be used to produce plastics, paints or pharmaceuticals.

The legislation would provide a credit of 5 cents for every pound of chemical a company produces. It would not apply to chemicals that are used in the production of food, animal feed or fuel.

These byproducts are already used somewhere. That means the credit would do one or more of the following:

– Subsidize companies that are already making the chemicals.

– Divert the byproducts from their current buyers — producers of food and animal feed, for example — to those who would receive subsidies, forcing the current buyers to find more expensive substitutes.

– Create subsidized competition for companies that already produce chemicals from other sources.

In short, they would take money from existing businesses and their customers and give it to someone with a better lobbyist.

The bill is HSB 98. The bill also contains increases in “seed capital” and “angel investor” tax credits, expanding the Iowa’s dubious role as an investment banker that doesn’t care whether it makes money.

 

supreme courtYesterday was the current Obamacare challenge’s day in the Supreme Court. It’s pretty clear that the four liberal justices will vote to uphold the IRS, and the subsidies to taxpayers outside of state exchanges. Justices Scalia, Alito and Thomas will vote no. The decision is in the hands of Justices Kennedy and Roberts, who aren’t giving much away.

I’ll defer to others for coverage of yesterday’s hearing, including:

Megan McArdle, Life or Death. “This morning, someone on Twitter explained that this case really is different because if the Supreme Court rules the wrong way, thousands of people will die. I find this explanation wholly unconvincing, for two reasons.”

Jonathan Adler, Oklahoma’s response to Justice Kennedy and Things we learned at today’s oral argument in King v. Burwell.

 

Russ Fox, IRS Proposes Session Method for Slot Machine Play and a Revision to the Regulations on Gambling Information Returns:

There’s a lot to like in IRS Notice 2015-21, the IRS’s proposal for a “Safe Harbor Method for Determining a Wagering Gain or Loss from Slot Machine Play.” The proposal is for a daily session for slot machine play where there are electronic records. Let’s say an individual plays slot machines at Bellagio from 10:00am – 12:00pm and from 3:300pm – 5:00pm. That can all be combined into one session per this revenue procedure (if it is finalized).

This is important for gamblers because gambling winnings are included in Adjusted Gross Income, but losses are itemized deductions. If you treat each play as a separate taxable event, then you inflate both the above-the-line winnings and the below-the-line deductions. Increasing AGI causes all sorts of bad things, including making Social Security Benefits taxable, and at higher levels causing a loss of itemized deductions and exemptions and triggering the Obamacare Net Investment Income Tax of 3.8%. Allowing winnings and losses to be netted over a day reduces this inequity.

 

IMG_1219Where red-light cameras take you. The Ferguson Kleptocracy (Alex Tabarrok, Marginal Revolution). When the role of law enforcement becomes picking the pockets of the citizenry, bad things happen.

 

 

Scott Drenkard offers a link rich state tax policy roundup: More Research against the Texas Margin Tax, New Kansas Pass-Through Carve Out Data, and Capital Gains Taxes in Washington (Tax Policy Blog). It includes this:

Barbara Shelly at the Kansas City Star has a review of the Kansas income tax exclusion for pass through entities that blew a hole in the budget. Kansas expected 191,000 people to take advantage of the exclusion, but 333,000 people ended up taking it, for a loss of $207 million in revenues. I testified today to the Ohio House Ways & Means Committee on a similar provision being considered by Gov. Kasich.

Imagine that.

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Kay Bell, Alabama’s GOP governor calls for – gasp! – new, higher taxes

Peter Reilly, Government Focusing On Codefendant Hansen As Kent Hovind Trial Commences. More coverage of the young-earth creationist tax case.

Robert Wood, Despite FATCA, U.S. Companies Stash $2.1 Trillion Abroad—Untaxed

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2015): B Is For Bona Fide Residence Test

 

William McBride, Rubio-Lee Plan Cuts Taxes on Business Investment to Grow the Economy by 15 Percent (Tax Policy Blog):

  1. It cuts the corporate and non-corporate (or pass-through) business tax rate to 25 percent.
  2. It eliminates the double-tax on equity financed corporate investment, by zeroing out capital gains and dividends taxes.
  3. It allows businesses to immediately write-off their investments, instead of requiring a multi-year depreciation.

Also:

Second, the growth in the economy would eventually boost tax revenue, relative to current law. We find after all adjustments (again, about 10 years) that federal tax revenue would be about $94 billion higher on an annual basis. This is our dynamic estimate. Our static estimate, i.e. assuming the economy does not change at all, shows a tax cut of $414 billion per year. We believe the dynamic estimate is much closer to reality.

For another (non-dynamic?) view, there’s Howard Gleckman, The Rubio-Lee Tax Reform Plan Raises Important Issues But Would Add Trillions to the Debt. (Tax Vox)

 

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Accounting Today, Senate Report Blames Tax Pros for Unfair Tax Code. I think that’s a little like criminals blaming their victims for their crimes. I agree with Tony Nitti: Senate Report Blames Tax Professionals For Inequities In The Tax Code; Is Completely Insane.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 665.

Joseph Thorndike, Voters Are Confused About the Difference Between Tax Avoidance and Evasion – Because Politicians Blur the Line (Tax Analysts Blog)

 

News from the Profession. PwC Concludes Female Millennials Are Great For Vague, Pointless Research (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). “It’s the 3% that don’t care about work/life balance I’m worried about…”

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/3/15: ‘Tens of thousands’ of returns delayed by ACA. Also: Feds, Iowa provide partial deadline relief for farmers.

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan
Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson

Tax season is saved! Tax Analysts reports ($link) that the IRS is sitting on “tens of thousands” of returns affected by the Obamacare advance premium tax credit:

Speaking March 2 in Washington at an American Payroll Association event sponsored by Bloomberg BNA, Olson said the returns have been “held for quite a long time, since the beginning of the filing season,” because the IRS is still waiting for matching data from state health insurance exchanges. The returns are being held in suspense and the IRS has instructed its employees not to inform taxpayers why their return is being suspended when the taxpayer contacts the Service, she said.

According to Olson, the Taxpayer Advocate Service will not follow the IRS’s instructions to remain silent on the issue because taxpayers have the right to be informed under the taxpayer bill of rights.

More of Commissioner Koskinen’s famous committment to transparency and disclosure. But all is well, right?

Olson said her office has received days of training on the ACA so her employees are prepared when these cases come in. “I think this is one of the most complicated provisions that we’ve ever inserted into the Internal Revenue Code” and I’m “astonished at the complexity of it,” she said.

“I’m very concerned about the filing season,” Olson said, adding that the federal exchange has already sent erroneous reporting information to 800,000 taxpayers.

Just yesterday the IRS, on the due date for farmer and fisherman returns where no estimated tax was paid, waived estimated tax penalties for such taxpayers where they are still waiting on 1095-A forms from their healthcare exchange. This follows the universal waiver of late payment penalties for amounts owed on the advance premium credit, the waiver of ACA penalties on health insurance premium reimbursement plans, and the last-minute waiver of Form 3115 requirements for smaller businesses under the repair regs. It’s an overwhelmed IRS desperately patching up a failing tax season with duct tape and wire.

 

binFeds extend 1040 deadline to April 15 for farmers awaiting form 1095-A; Iowa extends deadline to April 15 for all farmersFarmers are eligible for a special deal that lets them not pay estimated taxes, as long as they file and pay the balance due by March 1. The deadline was yesterday because March 1 was on a Sunday this year.  As we reported yesterday, the IRS issued a last-minute waiver of the deadline for farmers still awaiting their Form 1095-A from an ACA exchange.

Yesterday Iowa followed suit. The Iowa Department of Revenue sent this to practitioners on its email list (I can’t find a link on the Department website; the emphasis is mine):

The Iowa Department of Revenue has granted an extension to all farmers and commercial fishers to file 2014 Iowa individual income tax returns without underpayment of estimated tax penalty.

If at least 2/3 of their income is from farming or commercial fishing, taxpayers may avoid penalty for underpayment of 2014 estimated tax in one of the following ways:

(1) Pay the estimated tax in one payment on or before January 15, 2015, and file the Iowa income tax return by April 30, or

(2) File the Iowa income tax return and pay the tax due in full on or before March 2, 2015.

The issuance of corrected premium tax credit forms (Form 1095-A) from the Health Insurance Marketplace may affect the ability of many farmers and fishers to file and pay their taxes by the March 2 deadline.

Therefore, any farmers or fishers who miss the March 2 deadline will not be subject to the underpayment of estimated tax penalty if they file and pay their Iowa taxes by April 15, 2015.

The Iowa relief is not limited to farmers awaiting a 1095-A. The slightly tricky thing: non-farmer Iowa 1040s are due April 30, but the new farmer deadline is April 15. Be careful out there.

Related: Paul Neiffer, IRS Has Impeccable Timing (As Usual)

 

 

W2All is well.  Tax Analysts reports ($link) Additional Medicare Tax Reporting Is Causing Problems. It quotes Paul Carlino, an IRS branch chief:

Carlino explained that reporting amounts in Form W-2 box 6 that do not equal the 1.45 percent tax on wages has caused confusion among taxpayers, some of whom seek refunds believing their employer withheld an incorrect amount of tax.

Carlino said that another problem is taxpayers who are not having the additional Medicare tax withheld. 

The Additional Medicare Tax is unique among federal payroll taxes in that it is computed at separate rates for married and single filers, requiring a reconciliation on the 1040. That can result in underwithholding.

 

Russ Fox, Don’t Call Us:

When I called today I reached the normal recording, but every time I attempted to obtain help for an individual not in collections (that’s one of the options when calling the PPS) all I got was, “Due to extremely high call volumes that option is not available now. Please try your call again later.”

Well, the IRS has other priorities than your silly tax return, peasant.

 

TaxGrrrl, Tax Checks Go Up In Flames After Mail Truck Burns. Sums up this tax season.

Robert Wood, Obama Immigration Fix: 4M Illegals Who Never Paid U.S. Tax, Get 3 Years Of Tax Refunds. Only about 25% of EITC payments are made improperly. What could possibly go wrong?

William Perez, Moving Expenses Can Be Tax-Deductible

Kay Bell, Jeb Bush reportedly won’t sign no-tax pledge

Soon, my precious, soon.

Soon, my precious, soon.

Peter Reilly, Lois Lerner Out From Under Freedom Path Lawsuit For Now

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 663, quoting James Taranto from the Wall Street Journal: “So the IRS admittedly denied tax-exempt status improperly to at least 176 groups, tried to apply extralegal restrictions to others, and is still delaying approval for those groups that have gone to court in an effort to vindicate their rights.”

 

Alan Cole, How to Dismantle an Ugly IRS Worksheet (Tax Policy Blog):

The difficulty of the worksheet is not the fault of the IRS. If anything, the IRS put a very difficult concept into a one-page worksheet. But even with the worksheet’s good design, it’s still 27 lines. That’s because the underlying tax code it deals with is not elegantly designed.

The post goes on to explain how our system of taxing corporation income twice leads to this complexity.

 

Martin Sullivan, High Hopes for Highway Funding: A Bridge to Nowhere (Tax Analysts Blog). “Congress is talking a lot about long-term solutions to our infrastructure funding problem, but will likely only do another short-term patch.”

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Renu Zaretsky asks Can Expectations Be Too Low? In today’s TaxVox headline roundup. (No, by the way.). The post addresses the low IRS audit rate for businesses, the IRS plan to issue retroactive earned income tax credit to beneficiaries of the executive amnesty for illegal immigrants, and the upcoming Supreme Court arguments in King v. Burwell on whether the IRS exceeded its authority in granting ACA credits in states that didn’t set up exchanges under the act. 

 

Career Corner, Here Are Some Coded Phrases You Will Hear During Busy Season (Andrew Argue, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/2/15: Thawing Iowa’s frosty business tax climate. And: film credit post-production!

Monday, March 2nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan
Iowa's business tax climate, illustrated

Iowa’s business tax climate, illustrated

Baby steps towards fixing Iowa’s business tax climate. At IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record’s Business Professionals’ Blog, I discuss some easy steps to make Iowa’s tax climate a little less frosty, along with a few slightly harder ones.

The real easy:

– Eliminate the Iowa individual and corporation alternative minimum tax.

– Have Iowa’s tax law automatically conform to federal changes.

– Tie Iowa return due dates to federal due dates for all returns.

The slightly harder:

– Encourage or require “composite” returns or withholding for pass-through non-resident taxpayers.

– Repeal the deductibility of federal taxes by building the tax advantages into lower tax rates.

– Repeal refundable and transferable business tax credits.

None of this takes the place of a real Iowa tax reform along the lines of the Tax Update Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan, but you have to start somewhere. My next IowaBiz piece will attempt to put some more meat on the bones of the Quick and Dirty plan.

 

The Iowa Film Tax Credit Program is dead, but the lawsuits linger. A disappointed filmmaker wanted more taxpayer money, but the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that the Department of Economic Development had the final say over what expenses would qualify. Ghost Player, L.L.C. and CH Investors, L.L.C. vs Iowa (Sup. Ct. Iowa, No. 14-0339)

 

Kristine Tidgren, March 2 Deadline Extended for Farmers Waiting for 1095-A. Farmers that file by March 1 (today this year, because March 1 was on a Sunday) do not have to pay estimated taxes. “In a last-minute announcement, the IRS has declared that farmers waiting for a corrected 1095-A will have until April 15 to file their returns and pay their taxes. If they file Form 2210-F along with their return, the penalty for failure to pay quarterly estimated tax will be waived.”

Russ Fox, It Was the Sisterly Thing To Do. “Three Wisconsin sisters allegedly decided that tax fraud and identity theft should stay in the family. They’ve been accused of filing 2,000 phony returns by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue.

 

 

Jack Townsend, DOJ Tax Tough Talk About the Violating Trust Fund Tax Withholding and Payment Obligations. It seems that the IRS has become more willing to try to jail employers who fail to pay withholding; this post discusses how it can become a criminal issue. You can’t argue with this: “The solid advice is to withhold, account for and pay over to the IRS.”

William Perez explains The Key Benefits of Health Savings Accounts. “Contributions are tax-deductible when going into the HSA. And distributions can be tax-free when coming out the HSA.”

Jason Dinesen, Financing a Small Business, Part 3 of 5: Tell Your Accountant Before You Spend the Money

Kay Bell, Lions, lambs, warning Ides and luck all apply to March taxes. “Are you a tax lion, aggressively hunting down tax breaks? Or are you a tax lamb, cowering before the complicated Internal Revenue Code?”

Leslie Book, US v Clarke Remand: Allegations of Bad Faith Still Face A High Hurdle (Procedurally Taxing). “The case involved allegations of retaliatory summons issuance following a failure to extend (for a third time) the statute of limitations and allegations that the summons was a way to avoid discovery limitations in a Tax Court TEFRA proceeding that was commenced after the summons was issued.”

Bob Vineyard, Solyndra-care (InsureBlog). While Iowa’s ACA co-op, CoOpportunity, was the first one to collapse, it might not be the last.

 

Liz Malm, Richard Borean, How Does Your State Sales Tax See That Blue and Black (or White and Gold) Dress? (Tax Policy Blog):

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Robert Wood, Finally, Suing IRS Over All Those Emails. “IRS attorneys said the back-up system would be too onerous to search. Yet in recent testimony, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said IRS tech employees told them that IRS management never asked for the tapes.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 660Day 661Day 662. It appears that Commissioner Koskinen is putting the same effort at getting to the bottom of the Tea Party harrassment that Vladimir Putin is putting into finding Boris Nemtsov’s killer.

 

Richard Phillips, Netflix is a Real-Life Frank Underwood When it Comes to Tax Breaks (Tax Justice Blog)

Eric Todor, What if We Funded Public Education Like Affordable Care Act Health Insurance? (TaxVox). “Both seek to promote a form of universal or near-universal coverage – K-12 education for all and mandated health insurance for many. But they go about it in very different ways: one makes government subsidies explicit and the other makes much of them disappear, at least in the budgetary and political sense.”

 

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Peter Reilly, Will Christian Soldiers Be On The Streets Of Pensacola As Kent Hovind Goes To Trial? Peter covers the latest developments in the strange and sad case of the guy who had the “Young Earth Creationist” theme park devoted to the idea that humans and dinosaurs co-existed.

 De gustibus non est disputandum. Form 1040: An Unappreciated Work of Art. (Christopher Bergin, practitioner of dark arts for Tax Analysts).

News from the Profession. Florida Man Drives Porsche on Sidewalk to Make a Point, Gets Arrested. (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). When Grandma started doing that, we took away her keys.

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/27/15: Bartender beats barrister in Tax Court. And more!

Friday, February 27th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2Bartender or barrister, you need to keep good records.  A Nevada bartender, arguing his own case against an IRS attorney, defeated the IRS in Tax Court yesterday. He did it by keeping records.

The IRS said the taxpayer understated his tip income, and it used a generic tip model to assess additional tax. The bartender argued that the IRS model didn’t reflect what happened at the casino where he worked, and that he had the records to prove it:

Petitioner testified about how his bar was set up and what a shift was like during the years at issue. He stated that his bar had only six stools and that customers would often sit at the stools playing poker for several hours and receive several comped drinks as a result. He testified that the only time his bar would be busy was when there was a big convention and then most of the drink sales tips would be on company credit cards rather than cash. He described the difficult [*15] economic times that Las Vegas faced during the years at issue and how his business had decreased as a result.

Petitioner also testified about the typical tipping behavior of his patrons. Most of his drinks served were comps, and he testified that customers rarely tipped on comp drinks and that if they did they might “throw [him] a buck or two” after several hours of sitting at his bar receiving the comped drinks. Petitioner additionally testified that college kids and foreigners rarely tipped.

And the records:

Petitioner argues that he has met his burden because he complied with the recordkeeping requirements of section 6001 and section 31.6053-4(a)(1), Employment Tax Regs., having kept detailed, contemporaneous daily logs which are substantially accurate. Petitioner routinely recorded the amounts of his cash and charge tips on slips of paper at the end of each shift. Petitioner kept these logs and produced them to respondent and at trial.

20130903-1The IRS tried to nit-pick the records, but Judge Kerrigan was satisfied:

Respondent argues that petitioner was not tipped in exact dollar amounts. Petitioner testified credibly that when he was tipped with change he would put the change in a glass jar to be mixed in with the other tips. When he would periodically cash out the change jar, he would give the change to the cashiers who cashed him out at the end of the shift. He also testified that when he cashed out daily his charged tips receipt, he would give the cashiers any change that was generated by those tips. We find petitioner’s explanation credible and do not find the logs inadequate merely because the amounts are recorded in whole numbers.

I think the important lesson here is that he generated the records every day, and that he was able to produce them to the judge. Contrast that with a recent decision involving a Mrs. Hall, an attorney deducting travel expenses:

Mrs. Hall did not maintain a contemporaneous mileage log. Mr. Katz testified that he based the number of miles driven on discussions with Mrs. Hall. Mr. Katz claimed that he reviewed documentation in order to determine the number of miles driven. The documentation that Mr. Hall and Mrs. Hall offered into evidence to substantiate the number of miles driven consisted of seven parking receipts, an equipment lease, a help wanted advertisement, a phone message slip, and a few other documents. The evidence they submitted does not demonstrate that Mrs. Hall incurred mileage expenses in amounts greater than those respondent allowed in the notice of deficiency.

Citations:

Sabolic, T.C. Memo 2015-32

Hall, T.C. Memo 2014-171

 

TaxGrrrl, Opting Out Of The Obamacare Tax: What Happens If You Don’t Pay?. Oddly, the IRS can’t use most of its collection tools to collect the individual mandate. The advance premium clawback is a different story.

Russ Fox, 10 = 2500 ?. “On Monday, I mailed a Tax Organizer to a client here in Las Vegas; she’s about ten miles from where I am. I also mailed a completed tax return to a client in South Carolina. Both will be received today.”

Annette Nellen talks about Taxes Around the World.

Kay Bell, Survey says tax refunds going into savings, paying off debt

Jack Townsend covers Key points of Article on ABA Webcast on Offshore Accounts

 

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Robert Wood, New IRS Scandal Hearings Reveal 32,000 More Emails, Possible Criminal Activity:

But in what was the most disturbing revelation, House Member attendees were told that the IRS had not even asked for the backup tapes when the ‘hard drive crash’ excuse was first used. That contradicted the prior testimony of IRS Commissioner John Koskinen. He had testified to the effect that recovery efforts had been thorough, and that the tapes couldn’t be accessed.

Do you believe the Commissioner when he says he needs more money?

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 659.

 

Don Boudreaux links: Dick Carpenter and Larry Salzman, in this new publication from the Institute for Justice, explain how the I.R.S. helps to fuel in the U.S. the uncivilized banana-republic terror that is civil asset forfeiture. (Cafe Hayek)

Jim Maule, Testing Tax Knowledge.

According to a report on a recent NerdWallet survey, “[m]ost American adults get an ‘F’ in understanding income tax basics.”

It would be fun to require members of Congress and candidates for that office to take this survey, or one like it. I cannot imagine the outcome would be any better than that achieved by the 1,015 survey takers.

Nor can I.

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Andrew Lundeen, Corporate Tax Cuts Increase Federal Revenue in the Long Run (Tax Policy Blog):

It’s important to note that this increase in revenue would be in the long run, after the economy has fully adjusted (probably about 10 years in the future). In the early years, federal revenue would fall before investment and growth pick up fully as the economy adjusts to a better tax system.

However, tax policy—all public policy, in fact—should be made with a focus on the long-term.

Unfortunately, politicians buy our votes with our money in the short-term.

 

Joseph Thorndike, Hey, It Could Happen! The Optimist’s Case for Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog). ” It will result from a transparent, flexible, and bipartisan bill drafting process; from strategic use of congressional staff to test the waters of controversial proposals; from skillful deployment of transition rules and other minor bill changes to win support from rank-and-file members of Congress; and from streamlined or fast-track debate procedures.”

 

Renu Zaretsky, The Internet, Drug Profits, and Sacrifice. The TaxVox headline roundup covers the uncertain tax effects of the “net neutrality” power grab.

Kristine Tidgren, Iowa Fuel Excise Tax Set to Increase 10 Cents on Sunday (ISU-CALT)

Matt Gardner, Is the Starz Network Series “Spartacus” a Jobs Creator? (Tax Justice Blog). I’m sure it helped create lots of work for film tax credit middlemen and fixers.

 

I bet the judge gave him a stern talking-to. Bow Man Sentenced for Fraud, Tax Evasion.(Concord Patch).

Caleb Newquist, Actually, Everyone Knows That Having Two Monitors Is Super Boss. (Going Concern).

Only two?

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Tax Roundup, 2/26/15: Fifth circuit bails out abandonment. And: gas up before Sunday, Iowa!

Thursday, February 26th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Fill ’em up Saturday. Iowa’s Governor Branstad signed a 10-cent per gallon gas tax boost into law yesterday. It takes effect Sunday.

Somewhat related: Replacing the Gas Tax with a Mileage-Based Tax (Kyle Pomerleau, Tax Policy Blog).

 

20131212-1Taxpayer wins $20 million bet. Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation had an offer to sell securities for $20 million. It had a $98.6 million cost in the securities, so it wasn’t a great return, but $20 million is still better than nothing. Well, maybe not.

The taxpayer determined to abandon the securities in the belief that the result would be a $98.6 million ordinary loss — generating a tax savings of around $34.5 million. That seemed like a better deal than taking the cash, because the $78.6 million loss would then be a corporate capital loss — deductible only against capital gains, and expiring after five years.

In December 2012 the Tax Court said that Pilgrims Pride made a losing bet, ruling that Section 1234A made the loss a capital loss. Now the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the taxpayer made the right bet, reversing the Tax Court:

The primary question in this case is whether § 1234A(1) applies to a taxpayer’s abandonment of a capital asset. The answer is no. By its plain terms, § 1234A(1) applies to the termination of rights or obligations with respect to capital assets (e.g. derivative or contractual rights to buy or sell capital assets). It does not apply to the termination of ownership of the capital asset itself. Applied to the facts of this case, Pilgrim’s Pride abandoned the Securities, not a “right or obligation . . . with respect to” the Securities.

Taxpayers outside the Fifth Circuit still need to be aware that the Tax Court says abandonment doesn’t turn capital losses into ordinary income, but in the right circumstances, it may still be worth a try. In the Fifth Circuit, abandon with, well, abandon.

I find this from the Fifth Circuit opinion interesting, if not necessarily true:

Congress does not legislate in logic puzzles, and we do not “tag Congress with an extravagant preference for the opaque when the use of a clear adjective or noun would have worked nicely.”

Logic puzzles seem to be pretty common in the tax law. Look at the ACA, which provides a $100 per-day, per-employee penalty for Section 105 plans, while Section 105 itself still rewards employees who participate in these plans with a tax benefit. That puzzles me. But I digress.

When the Tax Court first ruled in this case, I wrote:

Presumably the Gold Kist [a company that ended up owning Pilgrim’s Pride] board didn’t decide to go for the ordinary loss on its own.  Somewhere along the way a tax advisor told them that this would work.  That person can’t be very happy today for advising the client to walk away from $20 million in cash.

That’s one tax advisor who had an excellent day yesterday.

Cite: Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, CA-5, No. 14-60295

Other coverage: Fifth Circuit Reverses Tax Court, Allows $98 Million Deduction To Pilgrim’s Pride (Tony Nitti)

 

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Jason Dinesen ponders What to Do with a K-1 with a Fiscal Year End

Russ Fox, Taxes Impacting the Giants. “There’s an obvious implication here: the big spending Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees have inflated their salaries to cover high state taxes.”

TaxGrrrl, Looking For Your Refund? Need To Ask A Question? Finding Answers At IRS.

Peter Reilly, IRS Denies 501(c)(3) Exemption To Booster Club Due To Inurement. Quoting the IRS denial letter:

However, the money that they make in your name does not go into your general budget. Rather, you keep an accounting of how much revenue each member brings in and permit each member to apply that revenue to the cost of athletic competitions for their children.

Peter explains why that doesn’t work.

 

Kay Bell, More forgiving IRS to waive some bad 1095-A tax penalties

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 658. Today’s big story is the $129,000 on bonuses paid to Lois Lerner while Tea Party applications for exemption languished. I’m sure there’s no connection.

Alan Cole, Putting the Puzzle Pieces Together on Corporate Integration (Tax Policy Blog):

The reason that the traditional American C corporation is in decline is that it has faces multi-part tax, with two successive rounds of taxation for the owners. In contrast, the pass-through structure faces only one. That is why American businesses, when possible, are choosing this tax structure. It is now the dominant legal structure for businesses in America. In that structure, the owners of the corporation simply pay ordinary income tax on all the corporation’s income.

The path ahead to fundamental tax reform almost necessarily must lead through corporate integration. Fortunately, my colleague Kyle Pomerleau has done the research that ties this all together. He has found out how some other countries – like Australia and Estonia – have gone about tying together their corporate taxes and their shareholder taxes into one neat single layer.

So simple it just might work!

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Matt Gardner asks whether Goldman Sachs is Too Big to Pay Its Fair Share of Taxes? (Tax Justice Blog).

 

Cara Griffith, The Pinnacle of Secret Law (Tax Analysts Blog). ” That the Colorado Court of Appeals would seek to shield from public view most of the opinions it issues is appalling.”

Richard Auxier, GOP Governors Flirt with Tax Hikes but Still Wedded to Income Tax Cuts (TaxVox). Governor Branstad went boldly beyond flirting yesterday. Does signing the gas tax boost make Governor Branstad an unfaithful husband?

 

Caleb Newquist, Supreme Court Unhooks Fisherman From Conviction Under SOX Anti-Shredding Provision (Going Concern). “Please practice catch and release.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/24/15: Iowa gas tax boost vote may be today. And: are tax credit subsidies on the way out?

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

It looks like the gas tax increase will come to a vote today, reports the Des Moines Register:

Rep. Josh Byrnes, R-Osage, who chairs the Iowa House Transportation Committee, said Monday he expects a tight vote. He added that talks were continuing among House Republicans.

“I don’t think we’d bring it up for debate if we didn’t think we had the votes,” Byrnes said.

It sounds like a done deal. At least that’s what they want everyone to think.

 

20120906-1Iowa has just announced a big new set of tax breaks for an out-of-state company, in the name of  “economic development.” But are “targeted” tax subsidies on the way out? Ellen Harpel says they might be in Beyond tax credits: creating winning incentive packages (smartincentives.org):

 

Tax credits have become problematic for several reasons:

  • Tax credits are often presented as no-cost incentives. That is, tax credits are not taken (incentives “paid out”) until the company has met certain thresholds and has started paying the taxes against which the credit is taken. However, as this article in the Wall Street Journal points out, the fiscal costs are substantial. It is not clear to us that other taxes expected to be generated by incentivized projects either materialize or are sufficient to fill the budget gap.
  • One reason might be that tax credits are more important to existing businesses than firms new to a location, based on our review of major incentive deals, so an incentivized project may not generate as much new tax revenue as anticipated.
  • Once the tax credits have been granted, states do not know when businesses will choose to take the credit, wreaking havoc on state budgets, possibly for decades depending on the terms of the tax credit arrangement.
  • Some tax credits are refundable (paid back to the company if their tax liability is not high enough to take the credit) or transferable (sold to another taxpaying entity). Film tax breaks often fall into this category, lowering the taxes paid by other taxpayers that are not the direct target of the incentive.

Using tax credits in this manner is not sustainable. To the extent economic development organizations continue to use tax credits, caps and limits will become the norm.

As long as politicians can get media outlets to run headlines like “New $25 million plant will bring 120 jobs to Iowa,” tax credits remain “sustainable” for vote-buying politicians. If they really wanted to help everybody — not just chase smokestacks — they would enact something like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

Related:

IF TRUTH IN ADVERTISING APPLIED TO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AGENCIES

WSJ, Tax-Subsidy Programs Fuel Budget Deficits

 

If Iowa’s tax climate is so bad, why do businesses locate here? A hint may be found here: J.D. Tucille, Florida, the Freest State in the Country? “California, New York, and New Jersey always rank near the bottom of these lists as intrusive, red tape-bound hellholes.”

 

Via the John Locke Foundation

Via the John Locke Foundation

Iowa is #13.

The First in Freedom Index actually draws from a lot of the sources that have been cited here before, including the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of North America as well as Mercatus Center’s Freedom in the 50 States, the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index, and measures put together by the Center for Education Reform, among others. To this, the North Carolina group adds its own weight and emphasis. 

Imagine how attractive Iowa could be without a bottom-10 tax climate.

 

Russ Fox, “Ripping Off Your Refunds” In the Miami Herald. “There is an excellent article in the Miami Herald on the identity theft tax fraud crisis. ”

TaxGrrrl, Tax Professionals Targeted In Latest Bogus IRS Email Scam. You can fool all of the people some of the time.

Robert Wood, Can IRS Seize First, Ask Questions Later? ‘Yes We Can’.

Kay Bell, NASCAR Hall of Fame and homeowner tax breaks collide. Another subsidized municipal boondoggle.

Peter Reilly, Estate Intended For Charity Depleted By Litigation And Income Tax. A sad story, and a cautionary tale for estate planning.

 

20121120-2Hank Stern, More Delays on HRAs:

For example, pre-ACA, small employers could fund “standalone” HRAs that allowed employees to pay for privately purchased health insurance (among other things). This encouraged employees to buy the plan best suited to their needs, and employers could control costs because they weren’t beholden to a group carrier’s annual rate in creases.

Sadly, those days are gone.

Everybody must be forced into the exchanges to participate in the ACA’s cross-generational subsidies.

 

William Perez, Problems with Form 1095-A

Jared Walczak, Will Mississippi Eliminate Its Antiquated Franchise Tax? (Tax Policy Blog). It’s a tax that can be a nasty surprise to a business entering that state.

 

Alan Cole ponders The President’s Revenue Problem (Tax Policy Blog):

It’s popular to claim that you’ll fund a big new government program through a tax on investors. The strong ideological priors of the political press tell us that investors are earning huge amounts of money, and that’s where the income is.

But the math tells us otherwise. Here’s what the tax bases for wage income and capital income actually look like in practice, from my recent report on sources of personal income.

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Tax Update regular readers already know that the rich can’t pick up the tab.

 

Jim PagelsNumber of American Corporations Declines for 17th Straight Year (Reason.com):

The report claims that the reduction in the number of incorporated firms is not so much due to inversions, mergers, or bankruptcy, but rather more firms classifying themselves as S Corporations, in which profits pass directly to owners and are taxed as individual income. Individual rates are typically lower than the U.S. corporate tax rate, currently the highest among members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development at 35 percent federal plus an additional 4.1 percent average rate levied by individual states.

This is why you can’t do a “corporate-only” tax reform.

 

Jeremy Scott, Does the United States Really Need a Tax Revolution? (Tax Analysts Blog): “Those who say that tax reform doesn’t go far enough and that the nation needs a revolutionary change are probably overstating the problem.”

Martin Sullivan, The Tax Reform Supermarket (Tax Analysts Blog). “Slowly but surely, members of Congress are coming to the painful realization that conventional, Reagan-style tax reform is going nowhere.”

 

Howard Gleckman, Better Ways to Link the Affordable Care Act with Tax Filing Season (TaxVox). “But since the ACA insurance is so closely linked to tax filing, it only makes sense to synch that sign-up period with tax season.”  I have a better idea: have health insurance purchases be totally unrelated to tax season, by getting rid of the whole misbegotten ACA.

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 656, quoting the Washington Times:

The White House told Congress last week it refused to dig into its computers for emails that could shed light on what kinds of private taxpayer information the IRS shares with President Obama’s top aides, assuring Congress that the IRS will address the issue — eventually. The tax agency has already said it doesn’t have the capability to dig out the emails in question, but the White House’s chief counsel, W. Neil Eggleston, insisted in a letter last week to House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan that the IRS would try again once it finishes with the tea party-targeting scandal.

Just like it couldn’t possibly find the 30,000 emails that TIGTA dug up from the back-up tapes.

 

News from the Profession. The PwC Partner Who (Sorta) Looks Like Matt Damon and Other Public Accounting Doppelgangers (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/23/15: 800,000 blown ACA reporting forms; tens of thousands of already-filed returns are wrong. And more!

Monday, February 23rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan
The Younkers Building ruins, morning, March 29, 2014.

Be calm. All is well.

Tax Season is Saved! 800,000 Taxpayers Received Wrong Tax Info from Health Insurance Marketplace (Accounting Today):

“About 20 percent of the tax filers who had Federally-facilitated Marketplace coverage in 2014 and used tax credits to lower their premium cost —about 800,000 (< 1% of total tax filers) —will soon receive an updated Form 1095-A because the original version they were issued listed an incorrect benchmark plan premium amount,” said a blog post on the Web site of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. “Based upon preliminary estimates, we understand that approximately 90-95% of these tax filers haven’t filed their tax return yet. We are advising them to wait until the first week of March when they receive their new form or go online for correct information before filing. For those who have filed their taxes—approximately 50,000 (< 0.05% of total tax filers) —the Treasury Department will provide additional information soon.”

It says something about how screwed up this tax season is that the IRS can issue:

– A blanket waiver for the $100 per-day penalty for health insurance reimbursement arrangements;

– A small business waiver the Form 3115 filing requirement for “repair reg” accounting method changes;

– A blanket waiver for late payment penalties for advanced Obamacare tax credit clawbacks;

And still have a filing season full of “mayhem.”

Related: 

Caleb Newquist, You Won’t Mind if Your Tax Refund Is a Little Late, Will You? (Going Concern)

Ellen Steele, The Affordable Care Act Tax Filing Season: A View From the Trenches (TaxVox). “Filing is not simple, even for our volunteers who all undergo rigorous training in tax law.”

Paul Neiffer, Perhaps 800,000 or More Form 1095-A Are Wrong

 

Tax Season is saved! Ripping off your refunds: One little number fuels South Florida’s tax-fraud explosion (MiamiHerald.com

Tax Season is saved! Wow! The IRS Will Pay Out This Much in Fraudulent Tax Refunds By 2016 (Motley Fool)


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Iowa Public Radio, Administration Grants Tax Time Reprieve For Obamacare Procrastinators:

The Obama administration said Friday it will allow a special enrollment period from March 15 to April 30 for consumers who realize while filling out their taxes that they owe a fee for not signing up for coverage last year.The special enrollment period applies to people in the 37 states covered by the federal marketplace, though some state-run exchanges are also expected to follow suit.People will have to attest that they first became aware of the tax penalty for lack of coverage when they filled out their taxes.

Megan McArdle called it. So once again they bend the ACA rules because following the law as enacted would be unpalatable. It’s as if the entire legislation is optional. Here are other made-up-on-the-fly amendments to ACA decreed by the Administration that I can think of off the top of my head:

– Waiving the $100/day penalty for employer insurance reimbursement arrangements.

– Waiving tax penalties for failure to pay the premium credit clawbacks.

– Rolling back the employer mandate penalty by a whole year — two for smaller employers.

– Allowing premium tax credits in states using federal exchanges when the statute only allows them where there is an exchange “established by a state.”

You almost might conclude that they didn’t really think things through very well when they enacted ACA.

IMG_1282

William Perez, Social Security Benefits are Partially Taxable: How Much Depends on Your Other Income.

Roger McEowen, Primer on the Income Taxation of Trusts and Estates (ISU-CALT)

Peter Reilly, You And Your Shadow Do Not A Partnership Make. “I don’t think it is news that you can’t create a partnership with yourself and a disregarded entity, but it is a point that bears repeating.”

Russ Fox, Solely a Way to Go to ClubFed. “As always, the usual warning applies: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you use a corporation sole as a vehicle to avoid taxes, you’re heading down a road that leads to ClubFed.”

Jack Townsend, Another UBS Customer Pleads

Rashia says "thanks, Commissioner!"

Someday this may seem quaint.

TaxGrrrl, What If Tax Refund Theft Isn’t Really About Refund Theft?:

In the case of Anthem, the hack was massive. Potentially 80 million customers had their data compromised, prompting the state of Connecticut to warn taxpayers that it might be to their advantage to file their taxes early.

That, security experts say, isn’t the work of a small time hack. It’s not folks working out of a van with stolen laptops or a teenage kid in a basement. It’s bigger. It’s been suggested that the hack could be related to an international crime group or perhaps even an international government. I spoke with experts in tech and security arenas – who, like Jim, wished to remain anonymous – and they’ve suggested that they would not be surprised to find that the hacks were orchestrated by the Chinese government.

Have a nice day.

David Henderson, From 2007 to 2012-13, The Income Share of Top 1% Fell (EconLog).

Andrew Lundeen, A Cut in the Corporate Tax Rate Would Provide a Significant Boost to the Economy (Tax Policy Blog). “The corporate tax rate is, in effect, a tax on corporate investment; a high corporate tax rate discourages investment, whereas a low corporate tax rate encourages investment.”

20150223-1

David Brunori ($link): 

A California company that makes cans is demanding a 20-year, 100 percent property tax exemption in return for opening a plant in Iowa. The plant will employ 120 people. The company, Silgan Containers, makes metal cans (think the containers that hold vegetables and dog food). I’m sure it’s a great company. But why should it be relieved of paying its just share of taxes? And if its demand is met, what does the Iowa government say to the companies that are already in place and employing 120 or more people? There is nothing good about this.

“Economic development” is pretty much taking money from you and your employees to lure and subsidize your competitors.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 653The IRS Scandal, Day 654The IRS Scandal, Day 655

Kay Bell, All of 2015’s best picture Oscar nominees got tax break help. We would like to thank all of the chumps, er, taxpayers of the various states that help us buy these $168,000 swag bags. We wouldn’t want to do it without you.

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/16/15: Titanic saved! Well, except for the iceberg thing. Or, the regs are dead, long live the repair regs!

Monday, February 16th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20140925-2So is the tax season saved? The IRS gave us a big “never mind” Friday afternoon with the issuance of Rev. Proc. 2015-20, letting taxpayers of the hook for countless Forms 3115 under the “repair regs.”

The main points:

“Small” trades or businesses — those with either average 3-year gross receipts under $10 million or assets under $10 million — can adopt the most common methods under the repair regulations without having to file an accounting method change. In fact, the Rev. Proc. requires no special statement or disclosure to adopt the new methods.

The “Small” tests are based on the size of the “trade or business,” not the size of the taxpayer. This means taxpayers who exceed these limits may still qualify if their component “trades or businesses” qualify.

Taxpayers may pay a price for not filing a 3115. If you skip the 3115 for the common method changes, you aren’t allowed to get the most lucrative one – the “late partial disposition election” for real estate and machinery improvements. This is the one Peter Reilly notes as having the potential to generate “biblical” deductions. That means if you want to claim this biblical deductions for any trade or business, you need to file the most common method changes for all of them, regardless of whether they qualify otherwise under Rev. Proc. 2015-20

For the details of the new rules, I have two dedicated posts:

IRS drops “Form 3115″ requirement for smaller taxpayers under tangible property rules, and

List of Rev. Proc. 2015-20 method changes.

No Walnut STPeter Reilly says John Koskinen Saves Tax Season With Form 3115 Relief For Small Business. Well sure.  Except maybe for the entirely out-of-control epidemic of identity theft refund fraud, the continuing confusion and almost certain widespread inicidence of the new individual mandate penalty, the sticker shock that millions will face when they recompute their ACA exchange plan tax credits, and the financial disaster looming for small businesses for the horrible crime of reimbursing employee health insurance. But other than that, yes, it’s all hunky-dory.

Other Coverage: 

Russ Fox, IRS Announces Small Business Relief for Form 3115 (Property Regulation Issue)

Tony Nitti, Repair Regulation Relief: What Does It Really Mean? (Not As Much As You Think):

You don’t have to file a Form 3115. But remember, the three safe harbors that we started with 4,000 words ago — the $5,000/$500 de minimus, small building, and routine maintenance exceptions — are annual elections that apply only on a go forward basis. These still must be attached to the returns.

Paul Neiffer, You Don’t Need to File Those Form 3115s After All

 

20150205-1

William Perez has Your Helpful Guide to Capital Gains Tax Rates and Losses

Jason Dinesen, Handling Franchise Fees on a Tax Return. He gives an example involving a $5,000 franchise fee: “The $5,000 franchise fee is considered an asset. The $5,000 is deducted over 180 months (15 years). This is true even though the franchise agreement is only 5 years long.”

Annette Nellen, Taxable income of a marijuana business. That’s pretty much the same as gross income.

Jana Luttenegger Weiler, Facebook Allows Users to Designate “Legacy Contact”

Kay Bell, 5 things to check when hiring a tax preparer

Stephen Olsen has his newest Summary Opinions, rounding up recent developments in tax procedure (Procedurally Taxing).

"Boris Johnson -opening bell at NASDAQ-14Sept2009-3c cropped" by Boris_Johnson_-opening_bell_at_NASDAQ-14Sept2009-3c.jpg: *Boris Johnson -opening bell at NASDAQ-14Sept2009.jpg: Think Londonderivative work: Snowmanradio (talk)derivative work: Off2riorob (talk) - Boris_Johnson_-opening_bell_at_NASDAQ-14Sept2009-3c.jpg. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons - http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Boris_Johnson_-opening_bell_at_NASDAQ-14Sept2009-3c_cropped.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Boris_Johnson_-opening_bell_at_NASDAQ-14Sept2009-3c_cropped.jpg

Via Wikipedia.

Robert Wood, Savvy London Mayor Boris Johnson Paid IRS, Is Now Renouncing U.S. Citizenship. Considering what it costs him, it’s not surprising.

TaxGrrrl, Filing As Single Or Married: When ‘It’s Complicated’ Isn’t A Choice On Your Tax Return. As a filing status, that is.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 648

Renu Zaretsky, No Hitting the Brakes for Tax Breaks… Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers early movement on extending the “expiring tax provisions.”  Remember, they only got extended through the end of last year. Also links to discussions on Section 529 deductions, tax reform, and the romantic side of spreadsheets.

 

News from the Profession. Nearly Half of Accountants Surveyed Hooked Up With a Colleague (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/12/15: The Federal $21 billion thief subsidy; the Iowa $37 million corporation subsidy.

Thursday, February 12th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Lincoln

Accounting Today visitors: click here for the post on the updated auto depreciation limits.

Happy Lincoln’s Birthday. President Lincoln signed the first U.S. income tax into law in August, 1861, to cope with costs of the Civil War and the loss of income from customs collections in the rebellious states.  Wikipedia says the tax was initially 3% on income over an $800 exemption. Right away they started tinkering, and adding expiring provisions:

The income tax provision (Sections 49, 50 and 51) was repealed by the Revenue Act of 1862. (See Sec.89, which replaced the flat rate with a progressive scale of 3% on annual incomes beyond $600 ($12,742 in 2009 dollars) and 5% on incomes above $10,000 ($212,369 in 2009 dollars) or those living outside the U.S., and perhaps more significantly it was explicitly temporary, specifying termination of income tax in “the year eighteen hundred and sixty-six“).

The rates were increased again in 1864 to a top rate of 10%, but it actually was allowed to expire after the end of the war.

For some reason, this early version of the income tax isn’t a big topic in history books. Something else must have been going on then.

 

Rashia says "thanks, Commissioner!"

Rashia says “thanks, Commissioner!”

April 15, the thieves holiday Tax-refund fraud to hit $21 billion, and there’s little the IRS can do (CNBC):

Tax-refund fraud is expected to soar again this tax season, and hit a whopping $21 billion by 2016, from just $6.5 billion two years ago, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

And the problem—which the agency admits is growing quickly—is compounded by an outdated fraud-detection system that has trouble identifying many attempts to trick it.

$21 billion. The entire tax system of the state of Iowa raises maybe $8 billion, and the IRS issues $21 billion annually to thieves. Not counting earned income credit fraud, of course.

I’m no IT expert, but saying the IRS is helpless sounds like a cop-out. Even with obsolete technology, the IRS has been slow to stop obvious fraud, such as multiple (say, hundreds of) refunds going to a single bank account. The agency allowed this crisis to spin out of control years ago. Practitioners certainly knew about it during Doug Shulman’s execrable term as IRS commissioner, but he spent his efforts trying to regulate practitioners and harass the Tea Party, while grossly failing at the more basic duty of not wiring money to theives. Commissioner Koskinen obviously hasn’t solved the problem. I think it’s fair to conclude that they just haven’t considered it their biggest problem.

This should be the highest IRS priority, certainly more so than the “voluntary” preparer program. It should also be the highest oversight priority of the tax writing committees in Congress, who should be able to find a way to find the necessary funding in a way that keeps the Commissioner from diverting it to pet projects. Of course, the history of IRS technology upgrades isn’t very encouraging.

It’s possible that the solution will also require taxpayers to wait longer for refunds. It takes a lot longer to get a refund when your identity is stolen anyway, so it’s probably worth taking a little more time. But when technology exists to enable the credit card company to call me when my wife is buying an expensive dress in Chicago, the IRS ought to be able to notice someone like Rashia Wilson before she fills her purse with Benjamins.

Related: TurboTax Fraud May Impact Federal Returns Too, FBI Investigating (Robert Wood)

 

Iowa’s $37 million corporate subsidy programNot everybody knows that the State of Iowa mails subsidy checks to business taxpayers, including $11.7 million just to one. Iowa’s research credit is “refundable,” which means once it wipes out your Iowa tax, the state sends you a check for any remaining credit.

The total 2014 Iowa research credits claimed was $56,918,030 for 2014, according to the newly-issued Iowa Research Activities Tax Credit Annual Report for 2014. (Hat tip: Iowa Fiscal Partnership). Sixteen companies claimed $42 million of the credit, according to the report:

RAC2014

I know everybody thinks they have earned whatever cash they have coming from the state, and I’m not shy about claiming refundable credits for my clients. When the state offers you cash, you’d be foolish not to take it. Still, there’s no way this makes any sense from a tax policy perspective.  The money sent to a few taxpayers should be used to lower rates for everyone, or to help eliminate the futile Iowa corporation income tax.

 

William Perez, Last Year’s State Refund Might be Taxed on Your Federal Return

TaxGrrrl, IRS Releases Latest Version Of Its Mobile App – And Something’s Missing. Service!

Russ Fox, A Bipartisan Tax Bill? I’ll Drink to That! “It’s to end age discrimination against bourbon and whiskey.”

Peter Reilly, Lois Lerner’s Old IRS Team Looking Anti-tech. “…now I’m thinking there might be a full blown Luddite cult operating in there.”

Jason Dinesen, Tips For Financing a Small Business: Part 1 of 5 — There’s Going to Be Paperwork, Deal With It

Kay Bell, Got your tax refund yet? IRS issued 7.6 million in January

 

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Principal Park, home of the Iowa Cubs. About 2 months until opening day!

 

Andrew Lundeen, Proposed Tax Changes in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2016 Budget (Tax Policy Blog). “In total, the plan includes $2.4 trillion in proposed tax increases offset by $713 billion in new credits, deductions, and other offsets, for a total tax increase of nearly $1.7 trillion over the next ten years.”

Cara Griffith, Series LLCs: The Next Generation of Passthrough Entities? (Tax Analysts Blog). I think they will continue to be the wave of the future, as they have been for years now.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 644

 

Career Corner. Interruptions at the Office: Good or Bad? (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). Bad, unless cookies are implicated.

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/10/15: Iowa House may vote on conformity today. And: pass-through isn’t the same as “small.”

Tuesday, February 10th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1284Iowa Conformity Update: No action yesterday in the Iowa House on SF 126, the Senate-passed bill that conforms Iowa income to federal rules, except for bonus depreciation. The house version of the bill, HF 125, is scheduled for debate today in the Iowa House. That means we may have a vote today.

Update, 9:15 a.m. SF 126 passes Iowa House, 94-0. The Senate-passed bill was substituted for HF 125 on the floor and approved. It now goes to the Governor, who is expected to sign.

 

Kyle Pomerleau, Some Pass-Through Businesses are Significant Employers (Tax Policy Blog):

In the United States, most businesses are not C corporations. 95 percent of businesses are what are called pass-through businesses. These businesses are called pass-throughs because their income is passed directly to their owners, who then need to pay individual income taxes on it. Contrast this with C corporations that need to pay the corporate income tax on its income before it passes its earnings to its owners. Combined, pass-through businesses employ 55 percent of all private-sector workers and pay nearly 40 percent of all private-sector payroll.

When business income is taxed on the 1040 and income tax rates are raised, the business has less income to hire and grow.

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Not recognizing the fact that pass-through businesses can be large employers can bring about poor policy choices. For example, increases in the top marginal individual income tax rate will not only hit individuals with high wage income or business income, it may hit a significant number of large employers who are organized as pass-through businesses. Conversely, some policies that are aimed at helping small businesses, such as state-level pass-through business income tax exemptions, could incidentally benefit large established businesses.

Unfortunately, no individual rate is ever high enough for some people.

 

younker elevatorsHoward GleckmanTax Subsidies May Not Help Start-Ups as Much as Lawmakers Think (TaxVox):

But the biggest reason startups may be unable to take advantage of tax subsidies is that they often lose money in their early years. In theory, generous preferences such as Sec. 179, the research and experimentation credit, or even the ability to deduct interest costs are all available to startups. In reality, many cannot use them because they make no profit and, thus, pay no tax.

Firms can carry net operating losses forward for up to 20 years but these NOLs are far less valuable than immediate deductions for three reasons—money loses value over time, some firms never generate enough income to take full advantage of their unused losses, and some lose their NOLs when they are acquired. A 2006 Treasury study found that at least one-quarter of these losses are never used and others lose substantial value.

One way to help this problem would be to increase the loss carryback period. Businesses can only carry net operating losses two years. Corporations in Iowa and some other states can’t carry them back at all.

Consider a business that has income in year one, breaks even in years 2 and 3, and loses enough to go broke in year four. It never gets the year 1 taxes back, even though over its life it lost money.

An increased loss carryback period would be especially useful to pass-through owners, enabling some of them to get tax refunds to keep their businesses alive. But once the government has your money, they hate to give it back.

Loosening the “Sec. 382″ restrictions on loss trafficking would also help. A struggling business would be more likely to get investment funds if the investor could at least count on using some otherwise wasted tax losses. But the government is more interested in protecting its revenue than in helping struggling businesses.

 

Department of Foreseeable Unintended ConsequencesTax Analysts Jennifer DePaul reports ($link):

 While a joint session of the New York State Legislature on February 9 heard Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s $142 billion budget proposal, the governor released more details about several tax measures included in his budget plan.

Among them was a proposal designed to crack down on tax scofflaws by suspending the driver’s licenses of debtors who owe the state as little as $5,000.

This means taxpayers with relatively small balances due will be deprived of their legal transportation to get to work. This means some taxpayers will have to quit their jobs and never get caught up with their debt, leading to a financial death spiral. Others will try to get to work, get locked up for driving on a suspended license, lose their jobs because they didn’t show up, and go into a financial death spiral. It’s a recipe for locking more people into the underclass because their Governor wants their money faster.

Related: Brian Doherty, Drivers License Suspensions Slamming the Working Poor for No Particular Good Reason in Florida  (Reason.com); Megan McArdle, Cities Dig for Profit by Penalizing the Poor

 

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Russ Fox, Harassing IRS Agents Isn’t a Bright Idea. “Speaking of ways to get in trouble with the IRS, one is to harass an IRS agent. They don’t like it (and it’s a crime).”

Tony Nitti, Are You Exempt From The Obamacare Insurance Penalty?

Robert Wood has 7 Reasons Not To File Your Taxes Early, Even If You’ll Get A Refund. “Measure twice, cut once.”

Paul Neiffer, How Do Repair Regulations Affect My Farm Operation? It does. Find out more when Paul helps present a webinar on the topic for the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation February 18.

William Perez, How Dividends Are Taxed and Reported on Tax Returns

 

Peter Reilly, Tax Court Hammers IRS CI Who Went Out Into The Cold. The strange, sad saga of Joe Banister.

Leslie Book, Some More Updates on IRS Annual Filing Season Program and Refundable Credit Errors. Leslie thinks that preparer regulation would help. I believe the persistent high rate of incorrect EITC payments in spite of increasing IRS initiatives to bug preparers and force them to document due diligence for EITC clients shows that preparer regulation won’t solve this problem.

Jason Dinesen, Send a 1099-C to a Non-Paying Customer? Updated. Probably unwise.

IMG_1282 

 

Jeremy Scott, Finance Committee Review of 1986 Act Smacks of Desperation (Tax Analysts Blog):

The Senate Finance Committee will try to use history as a guide to break the logjam on tax reform. The Republican-led body will hold a February 10 hearing featuring former Finance Chair Bob Packwood and former Sen. Bill Bradley, who will talk about the process that led to the historic legislation that redefined the tax code and has left its imprint on the minds of would-be tax reformers for almost three decades now. However, looking back at 1986 appears more desperate than inspired because most of the factors that existed then are almost totally absent now.

I think all this Congress can accomplish is to not make things work, and to lay the groundwork for a tax reform that might be enacted in a more congenial political climate.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 642.

 

Career Corner. Let’s Discuss: Wearing Headphones at the Office (Jesstercpa, Going Concern). You can tell you are moving up in the CPA world if you get an office with a door, and you can use actual speakers. Unless you are in one of those hideous “open offices,” of course.

 

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