Posts Tagged ‘Russ Fox’

Tax Roundup, 6/11/14: IRS Bill of Rights: just words? And: when your state got its income tax.

Wednesday, June 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

billofrightsTalk is cheap.  The North Korean constitution has a whole bunch of rights,  per Wikisource.  For example:

Article 70. Citizens have the right to work. All able-bodied citizens choose occupations in accordance with their wishes and skills and are provided with stable jobs and working conditions. Citizens work according to their abilities and are paid in accordance with the quantity and quality of their work.

Article 75. Citizens have freedom of residence and travel.

Article 78. Marriage and the family shall be protected by the State. The State pays great attention to consolidating the family, the basic unit of social life.

 

So written declaration of rights are just empty words when there is nothing behind them. That’s why I can’t get too excited about the big Taxpayer Bill of Rights announced by IRS Commissioner Koskinen and Taxpayer Advocate Olson yesterday.

Nothing to disagree with on the list, but what will the IRS do to make it more than empty words?  Going down the list:

The Right to Be Informed.  The IRS is infamously secretive.  Will they no longer require Tax Analysts to sue them to make public their positions and procedures?  Will the required compensation for S corproation employee- shareholders be only known to the whim of the examining agent?

The Right to Quality Service.  The IRS continues to get worse at answering taxpayer questions.  It seems like they are worse than ever at dealing with correspondence.  It has become nearly impossible to reach IRS personnel in D.C. by phone to ask technical questions. Is the Commissioner going to change any of this?

The Right to Pay No More than the Correct Amount of Tax.  The nearly-automatic assertion of penalties for every asserted deficiency will have to end for this to mean anything.

The Right to Challenge the IRS’s Position and Be Heard.  The consolidation of appeals offices and their seeming loss of independence will have to be reversed for this to mean something.

The Right to Appeal an IRS Decision in an Independent Forum.  See you in Tax Court…

The Right to Finality.  Does this mean IRS will enable offshore FBAR foot-faulters to come into compliance without facing financial ruin?

The Right to Privacy and The Right to Confidentiality. These are a big ones, and the IRS hasn’t been doing so well at them lately.

The Right to Retain Representation.  Yet the IRS wants to choose who gets to do this for you. When the IRS can shut down your representative, he may not be a really zealous advocate.

The Right to a Fair and Just Tax System.  This is something that the IRS can’t ultimately reach on its own — Congress designs the system — but it could sure do a lot better.  When the IRS routinely assesses $10,000 penalties for filing Form 5271 one day late, when they effectively loot foreign pension accounts of expats for inconsequential paperwork violations, it’s hard to see the fairness and justice.

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Other coverage:

TaxProf has a roundup.

Kay Bell, Would the newly adopted Taxpayer Bill of Rights have prevented the IRS Tea Party scandal?

Robert W. Wood, IRS Reveals Taxpayer Bill Of Rights

Joseph Henchman, IRS Approves List of Taxpayer Rights (Tax Policy Blog).  “My own addition is that much as requiring police to know and inform arrestees of “Miranda” warnings has increased awareness of those rights, so too will this.”

TaxGrrrl,  IRS Releases Much Anticipated ‘Taxpayer Bill Of Rights’  “With the wrap up of filing season, the IRS is now in its peak correspondence mailing season. This was, according to Koskinen and Olson, the perfect time to introduce the rights since they will be mailed out together with those correspondences.”

Russ Fox, IRS Adopts “Taxpayer Bill of Rights;” Will Anything Change?  “Until the IRS comes clean on the IRS scandal, what was released today makes a great sound bite but is otherwise nothing new. The IRS appears to have violated six of the ten rights, and is still stonewalling Congress on the scandal. The IRS’s budget won’t be increased because of today’s press release.”

 

Scott Drenkard, Richard Borean, When Did Your State Adopt Its Income Tax? (Tax Policy Blog):

20140611-1

No, they haven’t been around forever, it just feels that way.  Wisconsin was first.

 

Jason Dinesen, Same-Sex Marriage and Amending Prior-Year Returns.  “A broader way of asking the question is: if someone who’s in a same-sex marriage amends a prior-year return that they had previously filed as a single person due to the Defense of Marriage Act, must that amended return show a filing status of married?”

Tony Nitti, District Court: Lone Sale Of Undeveloped Land Generates Ordinary Income, Jeopardizing Land Banking Transactions   

William Perez, Home Office Deduction

Keith Fogg, Government Drops Appeal in Rand Case (Procedurally Taxing).  This is the case where the Tax Court ruled that a recovery of refundable credits in excess of income tax was not a “deficiency” for computing penalties.

Jack Townsend, Reminder: Category 2 Banks Will Serve Up Their U.S. Depositors .  Consider banking secrecy dead.

Brian Strahle provides a list of state and local tax blog resources. 

 

20140611-2Alan Cole, Japan’s Tax Reforms and its Blockbuster GDP Growth (Tax Policy Blog):

Paired together, theory would predict that these two tax changes create a structural shift in the Japanese economy; the more favorable corporate tax climate would encourage investment, and some income would be spent on that new investment instead of immediate consumption. Over the long term, this will boost Japanese wealth and productivity, and eventually allow for a higher standard of living than before.

The data fit this theory so far; private nonresidential investment grew at a “blockbuster” rate of 7.6% in the first quarter of 2014. 

 

David Brunori, A Coke and a Smile and a Tax (Tax Analysts Blog). ” It would tax a can of Coke, but if you went to Starbucks and dumped five teaspoons of sugar into your latte, there would be no additional tax.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 398

Going Concern, Ex-BDO Vice Chairman Given 16 Months to Think About His Choices. He will retire to a Bureau of Prisons meditation facility.

He was ashen after the sentence was announced.  Gray man sentenced to 18 months for tax evasion

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/10/14: When doing a like-kind exchange, keep the kids away. And: Iowa biofuel credit claw-backs?

Tuesday, June 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2Keep your friends close, and your relatives far away.  The tax law often assumes that any financial transaction between relatives is untrustworthy.  Many transactions that work just fine with a stranger become tax disasters when family is involved.  A New York man got a hard education in this yesterday in Tax Court.

The man was selling property at a $1.5 million gain, and he wanted to use the Section 1031 “like-kind exchange” rules to defer the gain by using the proceeds to acquire new property.  The tax regulations let you do so under the right facts as long as you follow rules on escrowing funds or using a “qualified intermediary,” and you meet deadlines for identifying and closing on the new “replacement property.”

For example (a very simplified example), if you sell an investment property and the proceeds are held by a “qualified intermediary,” and you identify the property within 30 days and close on it within 180 days, using the funds held by the intermediary in the purchase, the gain on the original property is transferred to the new property, to be only recognized if and when that property is sold.  But the IRS insists you go by the book.

These deals only work if you use a “qualified” intermediary.  The taxpayer in this case used his son.  Game over, said the Tax Court:

Petitioner acknowledges that there was no direct exchange of like-kind property; property A was sold and property B was purchased with proceeds from the sale of property A. Petitioner also acknowledges that the intermediary used in the transaction was his son. However, petitioner asserts that he meets the requirements of the regulation’s safe harbor because (1) his son is an attorney; (2) the funds from property A were held in an attorney trust account; and (3) the real estate documents refer to the transaction as a section 1031 exchange. We do not accept petitioner’s argument. The regulation is explicit: A lineal descendant is a disqualified person, and the regulation makes no exception based on his/her profession. Consequently, petitioner’s disposition of property A and subsequent acquisition of property B is not a deferred exchange within the purview of section 1031, and he must recognize income on the gain from the sale of property A.

There are a number of reputable firms that specialize in serving as intermediaries and escrow agents in like-kind exchanges.   They can make a potentially complicated deal go much more smoothly.  And they are probably not your son. Yes, they charge for their services, but when a $1,512,000 taxable gain is at stake, as it was here, it can be a real bargain.

Cite: Blangiardo, T.C. Memo 2014-110.

 

In other legal news, the Supreme Court declined to hear Wells-Fargo’s appeal of a 2013 decision striking down a lease tax shelter designed to generate a $423 million capital loss.

 

20120906-1Iowa wants some tax credits back.  Agweek reports:

 The Iowa Department of Revenue has warned at least one investor who owns shares in Energae LP of Clear Lake, Iowa, that tax credits for the company’s green energy production couldn’t be verified for 2012, and the credits must be paid back.

In a letter dated May 20, 2014, David Keenan, a revenue examiner for the compliance division of the Iowa Department of Revenue, told an unidentified taxpayer from Iowa to pay back $1,131.73. Victoria Daniels, public information officer for the agency, declined to comment on what might have disqualified the credits, or whether the denial affects only 2012. She also declined to comment on whether the department’s decision was focused on just one audited person or whether it will be extended to others who used the credits.

The Department has clawed back credits in cases where ethanol producers have failed or otherwise not met the requirements for the credits.

The article shows that the state subsidies encourage careless investing.  An attorney in a lawsuit on the matter is quoted:

“They offered a dollar-for-dollar tax credit, so people thought, ‘How can you lose?’ They may find out. I hope things come to a head soon because it seems to me there’s a lot of confusion and misinformation in the investing public. I think there needs to be some clarity.”

While this is only one side of the story, it’s easy to see where an investor might overlook due diligence when a “dollar-for-dollar tax credit” makes the deal seem like a free play.

 

The Onion is a satirical publication, but it’s hard to tell sometimes:   States Now Offering Millions In Tax Breaks To Any Person Who Says ‘High-Tech Jobs’

ST. PAUL, MN—In an effort to spur their local economies, many state governments are now offering tens of millions of dollars in tax breaks to any person who simply says the words “high-tech jobs,” according to a survey by the Pew Research Center published Monday. “We must do what it takes to draw potential innovators to the great state of Minnesota, which means granting lucrative tax credits and loan guarantees to any individual—whoever they may be—who utters the phrase ‘high-tech jobs’ in any context whatsoever,” said Minnesota governor Mark Dayton, whose office has reportedly joined numerous other states in doling out tax exclusions, low-interest municipal loans, full income tax exemption for 10 years or more, and other valuable incentives to thousands of people who have spoken such phrases as “biotech,” “innovation center,” “high-skilled workers,” and “tomorrow’s economy.”

If the story were written about Iowa, the magic words would include “renewables,” “wind-energy,” and “fertilizer.”

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 397.  The stories today mostly cover a huge illegal transfer of confidential 501(c)(4) taxpayer data to the FBI.  The House committee investigating the Tea Party scandal revealed  communications between Lois Lerner and FBI representatives arranging the illegal transfer.  This is a big deal, making it clear that the activities involving Ms. Lerner weren’t accidental, and were far more sinister than the “phony scandal” crowd would have you believe.

Russ Fox, Perhaps This Is Why Lois Lerner Is Taking the Fifth.  “Based on what I just read, if anyone is expecting the IRS’s budget to increase this year, well, that has as much chance as it snowing here in Las Vegas tomorrow. (The high is expected to reach just 105 F.)”

Leslie Book, Exploding Packages and IRS Disclosure of Confidential Tax Return Information (Procedurally Taxing)

 

Robert D. Flach brings your fresh Tuesday Buzz!

Kay Bell, Lowest U.S. property tax bill? Probably $2 in coastal Georgia

 

Jack Townsend, Court Holds Online Poker Accounts are FBAR Reportable:

The two issues were:  (1) whether the accounts with the three entities were “bank, securities or other financial account[s]” that must be reported on an FBAR; and (2) whether each of the three accounts was in a foreign country  The Court answered both questions yes.

A potentially expensive result for a lot of folks, if it holds up.

 

Gerald Prante, Deductions for Executive Pay Is Not a Subsidy. (Tax Policy Blog)  “Essentially, IPS and ATF are starting from a baseline that assumes all executive pay should be capped at $1 million and any deviation from this is a subsidy.”

 

taxanalystslogoJeremy Scott, Whistleblower Highlights Undue Influence at the IRS (Tax Analysts Blog)  “He claimed that granting credits for the use of black liquor was opposed by most of chief counsel, but that a few senior managers changed the policy, allowing paper manufacturers to take advantage of a true tax loophole.”

But we are supposed to trust them to regulate preparers without fear or favor.

 

Tax Justice Blog, State News Quick Hits: Keeping Score? Real Tax Reform 0. Tax Cuts 2

Martin A. Sullivan, How Not to Tax the Rich (Tax Analysts Blog).  “The liberal case for corporate taxation has been severely weakened by capital mobility.”

Renu Zaretsky, Repatriation, Havens, and Tax Reform Abroad.  The TaxVox daily headline roundup talks about extenders, tax havens and the costs of repatriation tax holidays.

 

Peter Reilly, Confidence Games – How The Most Prestigious Accounting Firms Raided The Treasury: 

 Now thanks to Tanina Rostain and Milton C. Regan, Jr. you can read all about it in “Confidence Games – Lawyers, Accountants, and the Tax Shelter Industry”. It is a sad story with no heroes and only one villain, who is colorful enough to be engaging – Paul Dauugerdas, who is still awaiting sentencing on his second conviction (He got a do-over on his trial due to juror misconduct).  The book is a must read for all tax professionals and others may enjoy it too.  

Sounds like a buy to me.

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/9/14: The great Illinois privatized tax shakedown. And lots more!

Monday, June 9th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The wedding was beautiful, and great fun.  Introducing the new married couple.

 

Illinois sealGreat moments in state taxation.  Tax Analysts has a disturbing story ($link) about how an Illinois law firm is using the “qui tam” recovery procedures of the state’s False Claims Act against out-of-state taxpayers.  In a “qui tam” proceeding, an outside party, known as a “relator,” can file a lawsuit alleging fraud against the state and then share in the recovery — up to 25%, according to the story.

And they actually may be hurting state tax collection efforts, according to the story:

“The cases have clearly interfered with the administration and enforcement of tax law and may have even ultimately cost the state money, though it’s impossible to quantify how much,” said Mark Dyckman, the Illinois Department of Revenue’s deputy general counsel for sales tax litigation.

The story says the firm involved “is responsible for 99 percent of the qui tam tax litigation in Illinois.”

The story says Illinois may encouraged the suits initially, apparently thinking it could get some easy money out of the deal.  In other states where the firm tried the same thing, state Attorneys General won dismissals of the initial suits, discouraging further efforts.  The firm is also incentivized by the ability of a relator to share in outsized false claim penalties:

Second, while the treble damages for back taxes under false claims acts naturally attract the most attention, [taxpayer attorney Jordan] Goodman said the civil penalty — generally $5,000 to $10,000 per false claim under the federal law and $5,500 to $11,000 per false claim under the Illinois statute — can be just as oppressive, depending on what counts as a false claim. If each monthly sales tax return is a false claim carrying a $10,000 penalty, and 12 returns are filed in one year, that’s a $120,000 penalty. If every failure to collect taxes on shipping and handling is a false claim, and the business averages 10 sales into the state per month for 120 false claims, that’s a $1.2 million penalty for the year, which can turn into $12 million for the 10-year period covered by the false claims act.

Wikipedia image of Tams

Wikipedia image of Tams

The story says that one tactic used by the Illinois law firm is to make out-of-state purchases over the internet, and then to file suits if no sales tax is collected.  As the law covering remote sales remains unclear, it’s difficult to consider these items “false claims.”  That’s especially true in suits in which the taxpayer either was following published guidance or an audit settlement with Illinois.

These cases have apparently been going on since 2002, and the legislature and the state have yet to stop what would appear to be a purely abusive and parasitic practice.  If there ever was a case for universal application of a “sauce for the gander” rule, in which a losing plaintiff had to pay the same amount of penalties asserted against the winning defendant, this would be it.

 

Alligator bait.  The New Orleans Advocate reports on a Film tax credit promoter sentenced to 70 months.  It’s remarkable what high quality entrepreneurs these state tax giveaways attract.

 

20130114-1The ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Education is setting up a “Tax Place” feature on its website.  They seek your input.

Paul Neiffer reminds us that FBAR Filing Deadline is Near

Peter Reilly, CPA Faces Prison For Letting Client Deduct Personal Expenses.  It makes you want to carefully consider the work you want to take on.

Russ Fox, Back to the Past: Poker Sites and FBARs. Poker Sites Are Again Reportable Foreign Financial Accounts.  More incomprehensible foreign tax enforcement.

 

Cara Griffith, Protecting Confidentiality When Information Is Exchanged Between Tax Authorities  (Tax Analysts Blog)

TaxGrrrl, As NBA Finals Continue, Tax Incentives Lure 76ers Into New Jersey   

 

 

20140321-3TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 396

Kyle Pomerleau, CTJ and U.S. PIRG Mislead with New Report on Corporate Taxes (Tax Policy Blog):  “USPIRG also doesn’t mention that their ideal corporate tax code has been tried in other countries with negative results. New Zealand attempted ending deferral as USPIRG suggested. The results were devastating to their economy.

Tax Justice Blog, Tax Foundation’s Dubious Attempt to Debunk Widely Known Truths about Corporate Tax Avoidance Is Smoke and Mirrors.  Never let the facts get in the way of what is “widely known.”

 

Howard Gleckman, Are Domestic Partnerships A Way For Heterosexual Couples To Avoid The Marriage Tax Penalty?   (TaxVox) This sort of thing makes makes me question the usefulness of “nudge” strategies to use the tax code to encourage behavior.  There are always perverse unintended consequences.

 

News from the Profession.  Public Accounting Firms, Ranked by CEO Hotness (Going Concern).  A tallest midget competition.

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Tax Roundup, 6/2/14: Tax moralism and moral panics. And: IRS, abetter of theives, scourge of victims!

Monday, June 2nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

taxanalystslogoTax Analysts’ Tax Notes and State Tax Notes are part of my healthy breakfast, and today they are especially delicious.  The only bad part, for me, is that they are subscription publications, making them hard to share in full.  I can give you morsels, though.

Joseph Thorndike has an excellent discussion of the hollow moralism of tax debates, though he ends up defending it.  In the course of discussing an article by Allison Christians on the role of moralism in tax debates, he comes up with gem after gem.  He quotes Learned Hand’s discussion of the issue, which I find conclusive:

Over and over again courts have said that there is nothing sinister in so arranging one’s affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everybody does so, rich or poor; and all do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands: taxes are enforced exactions, not voluntary contributions. To demand more in the name of morals is mere cant.

That never stops politicians, as Joseph points out:

     More recently, President Obama’s proposal for a “Buffett rule” clearly falls within that tradition of tax moralism (although in this version of the morality play, the billionaire plays the hero rather than the villain). Like the AMT, the Buffett rule is a rear-guard action to defend the fisc against the predations of aggressive avoiders.

But those sorts of Rube Goldberg tax contraptions are an admission of failure. They take for granted that the existing tax base and its statutory rate structure cannot be defended. But the efficacy of those second-best tax systems — at least when measured in terms of fairness — is anything but self-evident. And their costs in terms of complexity and opacity are substantial. 

If you move away from the law, to a system of “morality” in paying taxes, you lose your way.  Who decides what is moral?  Politicians?  Don’t make me laugh.  It’s hard enough to follow the law, given its ridiculous complexity.  If you then require taxpayers to meet subjective standards of whatever pressure group feels like calling a press conference that day, you make taxes pretty much impossible.

One point not mentioned is the conflicting moral obligations of taxpayers.  A rich individual has moral responsibilities to his children, his business and his own community.  The IRS can’t be the supreme moral agent.  And a corporation has moral and legal obligations to its shareholders, customers and employees that conflict with any “moral” obligation to the fisc.  Given that pensions are mostly invested in corporation stock and bonds, their “moral” obligation to give politicians more money for buying votes is hard to take seriously.

 

e-cigFor dessert, David Brunori chimes in on e-cigarettes and politicians

 I get the rationale for tobacco taxes. You smoke, you get sick, society has to pay for your medical care. That’s consistent with the classic rationale for excise taxes. Those taxes are legitimate only if used to pay for externalities — that is, the societal costs that aren’t borne by the market.

Of course, cigarette taxes in particular have never really been about externalities. If they were, every penny of revenue would go to smoking-related healthcare. Instead, dozens of states earmark some cigarette tax revenue for education (I still can’t believe teachers who rely on cigarette tax revenue for their raises aren’t leaving cartons of Lucky Strikes on their kids’ desks). 

Ah, but giving away cartons of cigarettes on a teacher’s salary?  Of course, my mom was a teacher, and I remember as a kid buying her cigarettes at the store.  But she never shared them, and I never picked up the habit.

David adds:

Taxing e-cigarettes is a money grab. If people use e-cigarettes instead of real cigarettes, the state loses money. The vested interests like the public employee unions and the myriad government contractors can’t have that. But proponents won’t admit the money-grabbing motive.

Iowa, like many other states, is a partner in the tobacco industry as a result of a shakedown settlement agreement with the big tobacco companies.  The industry continues to operate, with the politicians getting a cut of the revenue (nice vice racket you got there, hate to see something bad happen to it).  The moral panic over e-cigarettes is really about protecting this franchise.

 

20130419-1We’ll let them steal your money, and then we’ll punish you for it.  IRS freezes tax ID theft victims’ return – then hits them with late penalties. (Cleveland.com)

Pat Pekarek and her husband, Roger, discovered someone filed taxes using Roger’s Social Security number last year, after the IRS rejected their e-filed joint return.

The Pekareks, who live in Parma Heights, dutifully followed the IRS’ instructions to send their return by mail with documentation proving they were the real Pekareks. The IRS immediately froze their account, along with a credit that Pat Pekarek expected to use toward this year’s taxes.

A year later, the account remains in the IRS deep freeze – along with the credit. And now, even though it was the IRS freeze that kept the credit on ice, the agency is demanding the Pekareks cough up back taxes and pay late penalties.

The IRS has let identity theft get completely out of control, while spending its time and energy trying to regulate law-abiding preparers and harassing uncongenial political groups.  And they’ve managed to neglect and abuse the victims while doing so.  Good thing they are responsible for our health insurance system too.

 

William Perez, Foreign Bank Accounts due June 30th.  New form, and now you have to e-file.

TaxGrrrl, Las Vegas Man Cheated IRS, Taxpayers Using False Home Buyer Credits:  “Refundable credits are traditionally a magnet for fraudulent claims and this one was no different: initial reports indicated that nearly 100,000 refunds were perhaps inappropriately distributed, with $600 million of taxpayer credits labelled “suspicious” in 2009 (despite those numbers, Congress kept extending the credit).”

Jack Townsend, Accountant Sentenced For Tax Crimes; Conduct Included FBAR violations .  “The gravamen of Duban’s conduct is that he assisted the persons related to the automobile dealership in running nondeductible personal expenses through the corporation.”

Scott Schumacher, Winning the He-Said-She-Said Case (Procedurally Taxing)

Tony Nitti, S Corporation Shareholder Must Reduce Basis For Non-Deductible Corporate Loss 

 

20140401-1Lyman Stone, Response to Politico: Taxes and the Texas Miracle (Tax Policy Blog):

But long-term tax policies do matter. Stable, neutral, non-distortionary tax policies, offering low tax rates on broad tax bases, can support economic growth. Firm site selection is one channel, through which taxes affect economic decisions on the margin. There is robust evidence that taxes (while certainly not the only or even the largest factor) do matter for site selection. And, as one of the few site selection variables policymakers can directly control, it makes sense for them to be concerned about the role of taxes.

But not in the form of paying people to be your friends via tax credits.

 

Annette Nellen, Is tax reform on or off? Odd activities in the House last week

Kay Bell, Debate continues about tax havens and punishment fairness

 

Renu Zaretsky, Holes, Holidays, Hurricanes, and Tax Bills (TaxVox).  “The Illinois legislature passed a budget with revenue holes and no spending cuts.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 388

Me, 2 million served.  An arbitrary milestone, achieved!

 

Russ Fox, No, Fido & Lulu Can’t Own Your Business:

All corporations have to have a Board of Directors. That board handles various business items of the corporation. Now, in a tightly controlled corporation you might just have one board member–yourself. But Mr. Zuckerman elected a strategy that I haven’t seen before (and I doubt I’ll see again): He named his pets as board members.

They were probably as independent as any number of human board members.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/29/14: Supreme Court ponders crediting city income taxes on state returns. And: more jeers for “voluntary” preparer regulation.

Thursday, May 29th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

supreme courtThe U.S. Supreme Court will decide a case on whether states must allow a credit for taxes paid to municipalities.  The Supreme Court yesterday agreed to hear an appeal of Maryland v. Wynne, where a Maryland court ruled that the state must allow a credit against Maryland taxes for taxes paid in non-Maryland cities by Maryland residents.

State generally allow their residents credits for taxes paid to other states, to the extent the taxes don’t exceed resident-state tax on the same income.  Iowans compute this credit on Form 130.  This keeps residents with out-of-state income from doubling-up their state taxes.  Municipal taxes don’t necessarily get the same treatment.  An Iowa Department of Revenue representative outlined the state’s position:

Iowa Code section 422.8(1), which provides for the out-of-state tax credit, only refers to tax paid to another state or foreign country.  “State” is defined in Iowa Code section 4.1(32) as including the District of Columbia and its territories.  Therefore, based on the Iowa statute, Iowa would take the position that the out-of-state tax credit is not allowed for municipal taxes.

I have no idea how the court will rule on this.  Both Maryland and the Obama administration urged the court to take the case, which might indicate the court is sympathetic to them.  Or it might not.  For its own reasons, the Court may be looking for a vehicle to clarify the law of multistate income tax.

A brief from an organization of municipality attorneys describes the Maryland holding being appealed:

1. First, in order to avoid substantial interference in interstate commerce, the dormant Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution requires every state and subdivision thereof to give its residents a full tax credit for all income taxes paid in another state or subdivision; and

2. Second, the receipt of Subchapter S pass-through income in Maryland is “interstate commerce” which is being substantially affected by Maryland’s tax structure, in violation of the dormant Commerce Clause.

Both of those points seem perfectly reasonable to me.  If the court rules against the taxpayer, states may try to raise money be limiting their credit for taxes paid to other states.

In any case, it would be prudent for Iowans who have paid taxes to non-Iowa municipalities to file protective refund claims for open years.  For taxpayers who extended 2010 returns, that year is still open; otherwise, 2011 is the earliest open year.  The court will hear the case in its term beginning in October.

The TaxProf has a coverage roundup.  TaxGrrrl reports in Supreme Court Agrees To Hear Landmark Case On Whether States May Tax Income Earned In Other States, with a good discussion of the history of the case.

 

20130121-2Another supporter of preparer regulation comes out against “voluntary” certification.  The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants came out against the IRS “voluntary” preparer certification system this week.  Now the National Association of Enrolled Agents, which like the AICPA was a fan of the now-defunct IRS mandatory preparer regulation scheme, has also come out against the “voluntary” program proposed by Commissioner Koskinen.  Robert D. Flach reports:

It appears that the main objection of NAEA to the current IRS proposal is the replacement of the original initial competency test used in the pre-Loving mandatory RTRP program with a “50-question ‘knowledge based comprehension test’ to be created by individual CE providers”.

It goes on to say -

“CE by itself, even in combination with a ‘knowledge based comprehension test’, fails to provide a taxpayer with any assurance that the person preparing his or her return is even minimally competent to do so.”

I think this is just another way for the IRS to help its friends at the national tax prep franchises to get something to put on their windows without helping taxpayers.  Considering its limited financial resources, it is absurd for the IRS to be taking on a new program.  Taxpayers can already choose CPAs or Enrolled Agents if they want “certified” preparers, and nothing stops unenrolled preparers from setting up their own system.  You have to have a lot of unwarranted faith in IRS goodwill to believe that the “voluntary” program won’t really be mandatory, as the IRS gives little perks to the “volunteers” and little hassles to everyone else.

 

 

Kay Bell, Actual auto expenses or standard mileage rate? Which business deduction method will cut your taxes more?

William Perez, IRS.gov’s Direct Pay.  “Unlike the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), people using Direct Pay do not need to register to use the service.”

 

20140328-1Russ Fox, Punt Blocked; National Audit Defense Network Heading to ClubFed.

Cara Griffith, How Much Knowledge Is in an Audit Manual? (Tax Analysts Blog).  “Yet while the IRS and several states make their audit manuals available online, other states, including Louisiana, do not. Taxpayers should not have to make a public records request to obtain manuals that will provide guidance on how a state conducts an audit. ”

Leslie Book, TEFRA Outside Basis and Tax Court Jurisdiction (Procedurally Taxing). “Periodically, like a kid forced to eat spinach, I will tackle TEFRA developments.”

Peter Reilly, Z Street Suit On IRS Israel Targeting Can Move Forward. “This lawsuit much like Teapartygate confirms me in my view, that the evaluation of whether an organizations purposes should allow it exempt status is not something that the IRS should be doing.”

Jack Townsend, Zwerner Jury Verdict — FBAR Willfulness for 3 Years

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 385

 

guillotineAndrew Lundeen, France’s 75 Percent Tax Rate Offers a Lesson in Revenue Estimating (Tax Policy Blog):

Since elected, French President Francois Hollande has raised the income tax, corporate tax and VAT. The government forecasted that these tax increases would lead to an increase in revenue of 30 billion euros.

As reported by the BBC, those estimates were off by about half:

“The French government faces a 14bn-euro black hole in its public finances after overestimating tax income for the last financial year.”

You can’t expect people just to stand still for something like that.

 

Adele Morris, Three Options for Better Climate Policy (TaxVox) Carbon Taxes, State carbon taxes, or no carbon tax.

 

Going Concern, IRS Throws Hissy Fit About Not Being Able to Regulate Preparers, Gives Up On Everything.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/27/14: IRS not so severe on e-file identification? And driving the extra mile to save on taxes.

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

e-file logoThe IRS may end up less ridiculous than they appear to be in writing.  We mentioned last week the new IRS Publication 1345 rules for e-file tax firms that by their terms appear to require practitioners to card their in-office clients and run credit checks on clients who mail or upload their tax information.  Our local “stakeholder liaison (the IRS representative who works with practitioners) called me and said she has been told by higher-ups that the requirements will be less severe than they look.  She also called Jason Dinesen, who reports:

This IRS this afternoon confirmed to me and other practitioners who had been making the IRS’s lives miserable the last few days that: the new e-file rules apply only to electronically signed e-file authorizations. And “electronically signed” means signed by some means other than pen-to-paper.

I hope this is true, but I will feel better when the IRS puts it in writing.  After all, you aren’t protected form penalties by oral advice.  But even if it is true, it seems even sillier than the original rule.  The whole idea is to prevent identity theft, but it’s a rare ID thief who hires a practitioner to steal identities.  It would be rarer still for one to go through the trouble of using an e-signature return.  That’s why I’m not fully convinced by the liaison; it just would create a requirement so onerous for a narrow set of returns that few people will file that way.

Related: Tax Roundup, 5/21/14: Practitioner Pitchforks and Torches edition. And: math remains hard!

 

20140527-1TaxGrrrl, On Memorial Day, A Look At Surviving Family Military Benefits   

If you’re a serious poker player, you might want to check out Staking and the 2014 WSOP: Nothing Has Changed.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 383

Lyman Stone, New State-Level Price Data Shows Smaller State Real Income Differences (Tax POlicy Blog):

Federal tax progressivity has strange consequences. People who are “poor” in one state could be “rich” in another without changing the dollar amount of their income. So the progressive nature of the federal income tax can lead to poor- or middle-class people in high-price states paying taxes equivalent to what significantly richer (in real, standard-of-living terms) people would pay in low-price states.

It costs more to be rich in New York than Des Moines.

 

Renu Zaretsky, The ACA, Extenders, and More Swiss Banks.  The TaxVox headline roundup includes a link to a NY Times piece on a recent IRS ruling to prevent “dumping” of employees on state exchanges through tax-free reimbursement plans. Just one more hasty patch on a leaky system.

Robert D. Flach comes back from a long weekend with your Tuesday Buzz!

News from the Profession. California Board of Accountancy Says the Early Bird Gets the CPA Exam Worm (Going Concern)

 

20140527-2Going the extra mile to save on taxes.  An Alaska doctor should get points for endurance, anyway, even if it turns out that he is a tax cheat.  The Justice Department accuses Michael Brandner, an Anchorage doctor, of evading taxes through offshore accounts.  According to the Department press release, the physician literally was operating under-the-radar (my emphasis):

According to court documents, Brandner engaged in a scheme to hide and conceal millions of dollars of assets from the Alaska courts and from his wife of 28 years who was divorcing him.  Shortly after the divorce was filed, Brandner left Alaska and drove to Central America after converting assets into five cashier’s checks worth over $3,000,000.

Driving from Alaska to Panama isn’t for the faint-hearted.  Driving their with $3 million in cashiers checks — that’s impressive, in a crazy sort of way.  If he is convicted, his sentence should include time served on the road.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/22/14: IRS teams up with Bernie Madoff. And: more on the new e-file ID rules.

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Bernie Madoff

Bernie Madoff

The IRS wants in on Bernie Madoff’s action.  The Tax Court is going to think about it.

Bernard Kessell died in July 2006.  He might have died content believing he was leaving a healthy investment portfolio for his heirs.  After all, just one part of the portfolio had issued its most recent month-end statement showing a value of $3,221,057.  That statement was issued by Bernie Madoff.

Of course Mr. Madoff was arrested in 2008 and is now residing in federal prison on charges arising from the Ponzi scheme that victimized Mr. Kessell and so many others.  The real value of the securities in Mr. Kessell’s Madoff portfolio was zero.

But the IRS isn’t letting that get in the way.  The agency says Mr. Kessell’s estate should pay estate tax on the value that Mr. Kessell died thinking he owned, rather than the zero actual value.  It wants to piggyback on Mr. Madoff’s fraud to tax an estate value that wasn’t there.

The IRS asked the Tax Court for summary judgment that the asset to be taxed was the account itself, not the vaporous underlying assets, and that because Mr. Madoff hadn’t been unmasked, a willing buyer would pay full sticker for the lying value on the Madoff statements.  The Tax Court court wasn’t willing to go along on summary judgement:

We cannot say on the record before us, however, whether that agreement constituted a property interest includible in Decedent’s gross estate separate from, or exclusive of, any interest Decedent had in what purported to be the assets held in the Madoff account. This question is best answered after the parties have had the opportunity to develop the relevant facts at trial. We will therefore deny respondent’s motion on this point.

As to the issue of the value, Judge Kroupa had this to say (citations omitted).:

     Respondent argues that a Ponzi scheme, by its very nature, is not reasonably knowable or foreseeable until it is discovered or it collapses. Respondent notes Mr. Madoff’s particular skill and that his Ponzi scheme was not disclosed until it collapsed in December 2008. Respondent then reasons that Mr. Madoff’s Ponzi scheme was knowable or foreseeable only at the point when it collapsed — when the amount of money flowing out of Madoff Investments was greater than the amount flowing in. For purposes of this motion, at least, we disagree.

Some people had suspected years before Mr. Madoff’s arrest that Madoff Investments’ record of consistently high returns was simply too good to be true. Whether a hypothetical willing buyer and willing seller would have access to this information and to what degree this information would affect the fair market value of the Madoff account or the assets purportedly held in the Madoff account on the date Decedent died are disputed material facts.  Thus, we will deny respondent’s motion on this point as well.

The rule on how assets are valued is in Reg. Sec. 20.2031-1(b):

 The fair market value is the price at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither being under any compulsion to buy or to sell and both having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts.

Most folks would consider the fact that the account was invested in a Ponzi scheme to be one of those relevant facts.  I guess that’s why most of us don’t work at IRS.

Cite: Estate of Bernard Kessel, T.C. Memo. 2014-97.

 

20130121-2The AICPA doesn’t care for the “voluntary” IRS preparer regulation proposal.  The Hill.com reports:

That system, the AICPA argues, would create implied government backing for those preparers who comply with the standards, while punishing those who do not.

“The proposed voluntary system would undoubtedly leave the impression among most taxpayers that certain tax return preparers are endorsed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS),” according letter.

Further, nonbinding standards would fail to root out bad actors, according to the group.

“As a practical matter, any voluntary regime constructed would still not address the problems with unethical and fraudulent tax return preparers,” the group contends.

All excellent points.  The AICPA has figured out that the “voluntary” program would eventually be voluntary like United Way contributions were “voluntary” when I was a green staff accountant at a national accounting firm.  They were voluntary, but amazingly, participation in the drive was always 100%.  Maybe the AICPA leaders still remember their staff accountant days.

I would add one more point.  Commissioner Koskinen and Taxpayer Advocate Olson never tire of telling us how underfunded the IRS is.  If so, why are the diverting some of their already inadequate resources to start a new nonessential program?  The obvious answer is they are trying a back door power grab now that the courts have barred the front door.

Going Concern: The AICPA Voiced “Deep Concerns” About the IRS’ Voluntary Tax Preparer Proposal.  “This means war…”

Larry Gibbs, Recent Developments in the IRS Regulation of Return Preparers (Procedurally Taxing).  A long guest post by a former IRS Commissioner about the power grab he never tried.

 

Russ Fox, New Identification Rules Go Over Like a Lead Balloon:

In this morning’s post, Joe Kristan told his readers to call the IRS. I agree; I urge all tax professionals to speak to or email their IRS Stakeholder Liaison.  

Russ quotes a new post by Jason Dinesen, I Was Wrong: We SHOULD Be Outraged About the New IRS E-File Requirements, which Jason followd up with Questions to Ponder About New IRS E-file Requirements.  I love Question 8: “How many ID thieves use a tax pro?”

Robert D. Flach has a special Thursday Buzz!, which includes Robert’s take on “voluntary” preparer regulation and the new IRS e-file requirements.

 

20140321-3TaxGrrrl, Still Looking For Your Tax Refund? Errors, 4464C Letters And Other Explanations

Peter Reilly,  Tax Court Threatens To Sanction Courtroom Commando Mac MacPherson.

Kay Bell, NYC arena Madison Square Garden pays no property taxes

Me, IRS Releases Applicable Federal Rates (AFR) for June 2014

 

William McBride, High U.S. Corporate Tax Rate Chases Away Companies, Jobs and Tax Revenue (Tax  Policy Blog).  If it didn’t, it would be a fascinating case of economic actors failing to respond to incentives.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 378

Renu Zaretsky, Relief, Credits, Cuts, and Roads.  The TaxVox daily headline roundup talks about new tax relief for Minnesotans and the continuing worthlessness of film tax credit programs for everyone but filmmakers.

Cara Griffith, Should Taxpayers Challenge States if They Fail to Enact Rules? (Tax Analysts Blog):

State regulations are often vague or ambiguous, and authorities can use that to their advantage. But states should not be permitted to simply take the position that is in their best interest. They should be required to provide guidance and clarification on the positions they intend to take and, even better, clear-cut examples of how that position will be applied. And if a position will be applied to an entire industry, the state should issue a rule.

States prefer Calvinball rules.

 

Tax Justice Blog, Junk Economics: New Report Spotlights Numerous Problems with Anti-Tax Economic Model.  I suspect the biggest problem is that TJB doesn’t care for any model that doesn’t justify infinitely-high tax rates.

 

Des Moines, sometimes you are just adorable:

adorable des moines

Des Moines has started posting commute travel times, just like a big city.  On a bad day, it could be as much as 2 minutes to downtown from here.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/21/14: Practitioner Pitchforks and Torches edition. And: math remains hard!

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140521-1The new identification rules for remote signatures aren’t going over well.   (See update below.)  At a CPE event yesterday former IRS Stakeholder Liaison Kristy Maitre outlined the new e-filing identity match requirement we are supposed to meet (now!  for extended 2013 returns!).  These include “third-party verification” of identities of our long-time clients if they don’t visit the office.  The ones that visit, we only need to see their papers.

The 250 or so practitioners present didn’t appreciate the joke at all.  They asked the obvious question: how do we even comply with this?  It’s not at all clear how we get “third-party verification.”  I can pretty much guarantee that nobody is complying with that requirement now, because few are aware of it, and the ones that are don’t know where to start.

While the requirements are supposed to be part of the IRS war against identity theft, this effort is like responding to the attack on Pearl Harbor by bombing Montreal.  Identity thieves don’t waltz into tax prep offices and pay us to prepare fraudulent refund claims.  They prefer TurboTax.

Yet, there may be a method to the madness, suggested by one practitioner.  What if some outfit is gearing up to provide third-party verification services — say, one of the national tax prep franchises?  And the IRS has quietly created their revenue stream with this absurd rule?  You might say this preparer is cynical; I say he’s been paying attention.

So let’s fight.  Kristy is collecting comments and questions to send to her erstwhile IRS colleagues to try to stop this nonsense.  Send your comments to ksmaitre@iastate.edu.  I believe the IRS will back off if we brandish the electronic torches and pitchforks.

Update, 11:30 a.m.  I received a call from an IRS representative this morning saying that they have been getting phone calls as a result of this post (well-done, readers!).  She tried to reassure me by telling me that the third-party verification doesn’t apply to in-person visits.  I knew that.  I told her that as I read the rules, there are either “in-person” or “remote” transactions, with no third category of, say, “I’ve worked with this client for many years and they’re fine.” She didn’t disagree, though she still thinks I’m overreacting.  She did say IRS field personnel are  “elevating” the issue and seeking “clarification” from the authors of these new rules, including what “authentication” means for in-person visits and what a “remote transaction” is that would require third-party verification.  Keep it up, folks!

Related:

Russ Fox, Yes, Mom, I Need to See Your ID

Jana Luttenegger, Updated E-Filing Requirements for Tax Preparers

Jason Dinesen, Hold the Phone on the IRS E-file Outrage Machine 

Me, Welcome back, loyal client. IRS says I have to verify that you aren’t a shape-shifting alien.

 


20140521-2TaxProf, 
The IRS Scandal, Day 377.

News from the Profession.  Crocodile Injured By Falling Circus Accountant in Freak Bus Accident (Going Concern)

Kay Bell, National Taxpayer Advocate joins fight to stop private debt collection of delinquent tax bills.  I’d rather she fight to keep the IRS from implementing its ridiculous e-file verification rules.

TaxGrrrl, Congress, Ignoring History, Considers Turning Over Tax Debts To Private Collection Agencies

Jim Maule, It Seems So Simple, But It’s Tax.  “People are increasingly aware that the chances of getting away with tax fraud are getting better each day.”

Missouri Tax Guy,  NO! The IRS did not call you first.

 

Tax Justice Blog, Legislation Introduced to Stop American Corporations from Pretending to Be Foreign Companies.  How about we just stop taxing them?

Kyle Pomerleau, Tom VanAntwerp, Interactive Map: Where do U.S. Multinational Corporations Report Foreign Taxable Income and Foreign Income Taxes Paid? (TaxPolicy Blog).  Holland does well, as does Canada.

Howard Gleckman, Tax Chauvinism: Who Cares Where a Firm is Incorporated?

So we are left with a sort of financial chauvinism. It is important to some politicians to be able to say that a company is a red-blooded American company. But when it comes to multinational firms in a global economy, why does that matter? 

Because, ‘Merica!

 

Andrew Mitchel now has some online tax quizzes for your amusement.  If they are too tough, the next item might restore your self-esteem.

 

20120905-1If you can’t answer these questions, taxes are the least of your problems.  Tackle these quizzlers (via Alex Taborrok):

1. Suppose you had $100 in a savings account and the interest rate was 2% per year. After 5 years, how much do you think you would have in the account if you left the money to grow.

More than $102. Exactly $102,. Less than $102? Do not know. Refuse to answer.

2. Imagine that the interest rate on your savings account was 1% per year and inflation was 2% per year. After 1 year, would you be able to buy.

More than, exactly the same as, or less than today with the money in this account? Do not know. Refuse to answer.

3. Do you think that the following statement is true or false? ‘Buying a single company stock usually provides a safer return than a stock mutual fund.’

T. F. Do not know. Refuse to answer.

I won’t give away the answers, but I shouldn’t have to.  Sadly, most people find these questions hard.  From Alex Taborrok:

Only about a third of Americans answer all three questions correctly (and that figure is inflated somewhat due to guessing). The Germans and Swiss do significantly better (~50% all 3 correct) on very similar questions but many other countries do much worse. In New Zealand only 24% answer all 3 questions correctly and in Russia it’s less than 5%.

At least that helps explain Vladimir Putin’s popularity.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/20/14: Credit Suisse, felon. And: yes, tax credits are subsidies.

Tuesday, May 20th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

 

credit suisse logoThe big news in the tax world today is the Credit Suisse guilty plea.  From the Wall Street Journal:

Credit Suisse Group became the first financial institution in more than a decade to plead guilty to a crime Monday when the Swiss bank admitted it conspired to aid tax evasion and agreed to pay $2.6 billion to settle a long-running probe by the U.S. Justice Department. The criminal charge filed Monday in federal court outlined a decades-long, concerted attempt by Credit Suisse to “knowingly and willfully” help thousands of U.S. clients open accounts and conceal their “assets and income from the IRS.”

This has to make some folks nervous:

While Credit Suisse isn’t turning over names of account holders as part of the agreement, they are handing over information that Deputy Attorney General James Cole said would lead to specific account holders.

Swiss bank secrecy is dead, and bank secrecy anywhere is pining for the fjords.  Proceed accordingly.

The TaxProf rounds up coverage.

Jack Townsend, Credit Suisse Pleads to One Count of Conspiracy to Aiding and Assisting 

 

Wind turbineI hate it when I have to disagree with somebody I respectbut I have to disagree with this from A. Barton Hinkle, writing about wind energy credits:

A tax credit is just that: a credit against the amount a taxpayer owes. As the IRS explains, a tax credit “reduces the amount of tax for which you are liable.” That is vastly different from a direct grant, in which the government takes money from Jones and gives it to Smith. In the case of a tax credit, none of Jones’ money goes into Smith’s pocket. Rather, Smith gets to keep more of his own money. Smith’s tax credit doesn’t cost Jones a cent.

Let’s assume that Jones and Smith are competitors.  Because of the tax credit, Smith can charge less than he otherwise would and still makes more than Jones.  Jones finds his margins are squeezed.  This tax credit absolutely costs Jones money.  A big enough credit to Smith can put Jones out of business.  And in a free market, there’s a Jones for every Smith.

Yes, some tax credits are more egregious than others.  Refundable credits, like the Iowa research credit, and transferable credits, like the defunct Iowa film credit, are the worst.  They are little more than government scrip generated by filing tax returns.

Non-refundable credits are slightly less bad, because they are only available to people who actually pay taxes.  Still, they are economically equivalent to special-purpose vouchers issued by governments that can be applied to pay taxes — limited purpose subsidies.  If the government issued vouchers that could only be used to, say, buy housing or cell phones, nobody would dispute they are subsidies.

Special purpose deductions are less distortive still.  But all special tax favors have a common flaw — they all involve the government allocating investment capital.  The 20th Century proved that to be a poor idea.  And running the subsidies through a tax return doesn’t make them any less subsidies; they only become easier to hide.

Related: Governor’s press conference praises construction of newest great pyramids

 

20140520-2Jason Dinesen, If You’re a Sole Proprietor, There’s No Such Thing as a “Salary” for Tax Purposes:

When a sole proprietorship accounts for its net income, it does so by taking gross income minus expenses. Those expenses DO NOT include draws. So, the proprietor is taxed on the net income of the business and gets no deduction for the draws.

You may think that’s obvious, but I’ve had to explain this to clients.

 

Russ Fox, One Good Crime Deserves Another.  “Oft evil will shall evil mar.”

Kay Bell, I’ll take tax code section 179 for $500, Alex

Peter Reilly, TIGTA Alimony Report May Cause Crisis Of Conscience Among Tax Professionals .  “I have to tell Terry that the IRS will notice the discrepancy, but the odds are 25 to 1 that they won’t do anything about it.”

Robert D. Flach is right on time with his Tuesday Buzz.  He notes the AICPA oppostion to the proposed “voluntary” preparer regulation system:

Clearly the AICPA is afraid, and rightfully so, that a voluntary RTRP certification would take 1040 business away from its members – because the designation would identify individuals who have proven competence specifically in 1040 preparation.  Currently the taxpayer public erroneously thinks that the initials CPA are an indication of a person’s competence in 1040 preparation, which is simply not true. 

I can’t speak for the AICPA, but I think they are right to oppose it.  In addition to destroying whatever is left of the Enrolled Agent brand, I think the “voluntary” program will be voluntary in the same way that donations to United Way were voluntary at a prior employer.  “It’s voluntary, and we always have 100% participation.”  And considering how bad the IRS is at what it is supposed to be doing, it really doesn’t need to take on new tasks.

 

Keith Fogg, Private Debt Collection – An Idea Whose Time Will Never Come (Procedurally Taxing).  “My concerns about the proposal fall into four broad categories mentioned above: training, accountability, system impact and proper incentives.”

I would permit private collection in limited circumstances —  for undisputed debts that the IRS isn’t bothering to collect.  With proper controls, I think it could work.  There is nothing magical about having official government employees do it.   But the Treasury Employees Union will make sure it never happens.

 

taxanalystslogoJeremy Scott, The Medical Device Excise Tax Derails Extenders (Tax Analysts Bl0g).  “Political games involving the medical device excise tax threaten to completely derail the passing of an extenders package in the near future.” Come on, the extenders are just a political game to begin with, using Calvinball rules.

Renu Zaretsky, A Pleading Bank, a Rejected Offer, and Taxing Gas and Pot.  The TaxVox headline roundup covers Uruguay’s nurturing a surprising local industry.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 376

Alan Cole, When Broad Bases Are Actually Narrow Bases (Tax Policy Blog):

If I rent out my property to you, I pay taxes income used to buy the property, and I pay taxes on the rental income derived from it. In contrast, if I lived in the property myself, I would not have to pay the additional layer of taxes. It’s the same house either way, but because people are eager to “broaden” the base, they end up taxing it twice in some circumstances, and only once in others. A true “broad” base is a tax on personal expenditures – one that ultimately falls on the people who actually consume.

That’s precisely why “preferential” capital gain rates are really just piling on, and why the proper rate for them is probably zero.

Going Concern, The AICPA Has Nuked The CPA2Biz Brand in Favor of CPA.com.  Now if they can just do something about that disturbing mascot.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/19/14: The Roth dilemma. And: risks in enlisting the bookkeeper in your tax crimes.

Monday, May 19th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

IRAIs it better to get a tax benefit now and pay taxes later on retirement income, or vice-versa?  Bloomberg econobogger Megan McArdle ponders the question in To Roth, or Not to Roth:

In theory, the calculation is easy: Figure out whether your tax rate is likely to be higher now or in the future. If you’re young, the answer is likely to be “future”; if you’re in your peak earnings years, you’re probably looking at a lower tax rate when you’re retired.

But while the theory is simple, in practice, things are considerably more complicated. Personal finance is less about math than psychology . . . and tax policy, in this case. What will the tax rate on your income be when you retire — higher or lower than your current tax rate?

“Roth” IRAs and 401(k)s offer no current tax reduction, but if the account is left untapped long enough, there is never an income tax on the earnings.  It’s not always a tough choice.  Many young people face a marginal income tax rate of zero.  To the extent a low-earning young taxpayer benefits from a 401(k) plan or saves in an IRA, you might as well go with a Roth version, as there is little or no current benefit anyway.

As you climb the income ladder, it quickly becomes a more difficult decision.  When my company first had a Roth option, I opted in for a year.  Then it occurred to me that I was making a bet on much higher tax rates in the future at much lower income levels.  That seemed like a losing bet (but see this) and I switched back to the traditional 401(k) with current tax savings.

Megan also notes a real, if hard to quantify, problem with betting on future benefits (my emphasis):

We’re running some substantial deficits, and we’ve made some big promises to retirees. Those obligations will have to be paid for somehow, and by “somehow,” I mean “With higher taxes on someone.” What are the chances that you’ll be that someone? Pretty high, if you save a lot for retirement.

That makes a Roth sound like a pretty good bet. But unfortunately, the same logic that suggests higher income taxes in the future also suggests that a hungry-eyed Congress might settle on all those fat tax-free retirement accounts as a way to balance the books. What Congress giveth, Congress can taketh away. Can you really count on that income being tax-free when it’s finally time to collect it?

If you think no politician would be so brazen, just remember:  “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.

 

20121120-2Good thing the ACA solved the problem of the uninsured.  Report: 230,000 Iowans still lack health care coverage (Des Moines Register).  Good thing we destroyed the health insurance industry and imposed a whole series of punitive and complicated taxes.

 

Russ Fox, Deadlines for Us, But Not for Them (Part 2), “Later this week it will be seven months since my reply was received. Another nine-week hold has been put on collection activities as the IRS admits that there is correspondence waiting to be reviewed. If we go nine more weeks it will be over nine months since I responded.”

Another reason for a sauce-for-the-gander rule, applying the same rules to the IRS that they apply to us.

Robert D. Flach has a similar state-level example from New Jersey in THE DFBs!

We are told (highlight is mine) -
“New Jersey wrongly notified about 2,000 taxpayers that they underpaid their 2013 taxes, but the state won’t notify them about the error unless the taxpayer asks, possibly causing taxpayers to send the state money that wasn’t owed.”

Tar and feathers.

 

20140507-1Peter Reilly, Real Estate Dealer Or Investor – Can’t Switch At Drop Of Hat.  ” One of the more challenging questions in income taxation of real estate transactions is whether a taxpayer is a dealer or an investor.”  Investors get capital gains, dealers don’t.

TaxGrrrl, Tax Extenders Bill Stalled In Senate.  The latest move in the dance to the inevitable last-minute re-extension of the perpetually-expiring tax breaks.

 

Jack Townsend, Booker Variances are More Common in Tax Crimes. Why? And Do They Disproportionately Benefit the Rich?   He discusses variations from federal sentencing guidelines, including the shockingly-light sentence given Beanie Babies tycoon Ty Warner.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 375

William McBride, Top 10 things to Know about Investment and Tax Policy.  (Tax Policy Blog).

Number 2: “Investment in the U.S. has yet to fully recover from the recession and remains near a record low.”

Number 10: “Of the ways to change tax policy to improve investment, expensing generally provides the greatest “bang-for-the-buck” because it applies strictly to new investment.”

 

Renu Zaretsky, Tax Mistakes, Collections, and Breaks.  Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers a proposal to revive the use of private collectors in federal tax collection and “Affordable Care Act subsidy mistakes now could mean huge tax confusion later.”

Annette Nellen asks What’s missing from Camp’s tax reform proposal?  She has suggestions.

 

20120517-1The new Cavalcade of Risk is up at Waterwayfinancialgroup.com.  The venerable roundup of insurance and risk-management posts includes Hank Stern on the possible perils of ride share. There is risk in letting other people use your car, as anyone who has seen Animal House knows, and those risks may not be covered under your car policy.

 

 

News from the Profession.  Another EY Associate Taking a Stab at Reality TV (Going Concern)

Honor among fraudsters.  Owners of a nostalgia-themed restaurant chain in Pennsylvania and New Jersey went up the river on tax charges last year.  Now comes word that the inside accountant who (allegedly) helped them cheat on taxes also (allegedly) helped himself.  From Philly.com:

An indictment unsealed today charges 58-year-old William J. Frio, of Springfield Township, with conspiracy, filing false returns, loan fraud, and aggravated structuring of financial transactions.

Prosecutors say Frio, who has been providing accounting services to Nifty Fifty’s since 1986, conspired with the popular chain’s owners in a scheme that used skimmed cash to help themselves and associates avoid paying taxes.

He also allegedly used his role as Nifty Fifty’s accountant to embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars from the organization.

Aside from the obvious risk of going to jail, there are other complications that arise when businesses cheat on their taxes.  Unless your business is tiny, you need some help from your accounting staff.  When your bookkeeper is willing to defraud the government, don’t be shocked if he isn’t perfectly honest with you.

 

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

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


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

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

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

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

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

Oh, but it isn’t that bad:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Other Coverage:

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

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

 

Flickr image by Christian under Creative Commons license.

Flickr image by Christian under Creative Commons license.

Kay Bell, 5 tax tips for Cinco de Mayo

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Mindy Herzfeld, International Tax Trending (Tax Analysts Blog)

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

 

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/5/14: The Iowa Legislature’s tax grade: D minus, again.

Monday, May 5th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

The Iowa Legislature has gone home to get re-elected.  As usual, they left the Iowa tax law a little worse than they found it.  They did pass a few new special breaks for their friends and for politics, but they did nothing to simplify Iowa’s high-rate, high-complexity system full of hidden treats for the well-lobbied.

The bills passed include:

A refundable $2,500 adoption credit (HF 2468).  Refundable credits are always a bad idea.  There was apparently no discussion over whether the credit is really needed, or a better use of money than alternate programs, but because a legislator had an expensive adoption, it became a priority.

Sales tax rebates for the Newton racetrack (SF 2341and the Knoxville Raceway (HF 2464).  The bills let each track keep sales taxes they collect — a sweet deal, and an advantage for two taxpayers over every other taxpayer.

Biodiesel tax credits.  SF 2344 gives biodiesel producers two cents per gallon of taxpayer money, in the form of refundable credits, through 2017.  The credit was to expire at the end of 2014.  This is necessary to keep taxpayer dollars flowing to producers until the next time the credit is set to expire, when they will extend it again, just one more time, I promise.

20120906-1HF 2448 passed, providing for easier qualification for the “High Quality Jobs Program” tax credit and a new “Workforce Housing Tax Incentives Program,” which will provide tax credits to housing developers meeting certain conditions designed, no doubt, by one of their lobbyists.  This will do away with the hobo camps that have not sprung up around job sites around the state.

The only really useful thing they passed was the “code conformity bill (HF 2435) to conform Iowa income tax law to include federal tax law changes made in 2014.  In some years they have failed to do so until the end of the session, leaving taxpayers and preparers guessing at the tax law for most of the filing season.

Of course, it could have been worse.  Not every special interest bill passed.

The most prominent failure was that of HF 2472, a bill to provide tax credits for expanding broadband service.  This was a priority of Governor Branstad, killed by a coalition of Democrats who say they wanted bigger credits — but who may have just wanted to hand the Governor a defeat — and Republicans who thought the bill was badly designed.  S.F. 2043, which would have provided a special tax exemption to employee-held stock gains, failed to move.  A proposal to provide a tax credit for student loan payments went nowhere.  A crazy proposal  (H.F. 2270) to pay doctors with tax credits for “volunteering” — at their average hourly rate! — died.

Not everything that died was awful.  HF 2129, which would have expanded the Iowa “Ten and Ten” capital gains break to sales of business interests, never made it out of committee.  Nor did SF 2222, which would have repealed the Iowa inheritance tax.

 

They also failed to pass SSB 3216, the bill to update the Iowa tax appeals system and to remove the Director of the Department of Revenue from the process.  Maybe they can do better next time by also enacting an Iowa tax court.  It seems reasonable to have, say, three district judges from around the state convene as a tax court.  They could give taxpayers a shot at a judicial forum where the judges will have actually heard an income tax case before.

Most importantly, they didn’t even try to address Iowa’s highest-in-the-nation corporate tax rate, its high individual tax rate, or the baroque complexity of Iowa’s income tax for everyone -- other than by making it a little worse with a few new special breaks for special friends.  That means the legislature gets another D-, in my report card, with only the timely passage of the code conformity bill saving them from an F.

But who knows? Elections coming this fall could bring in a few more legislators less intent on taking your money and giving it to friends with lobbyists, to build on the tiny signs of progress seen this session.  Who knows, maybe someday a real tax reform, like the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan, will actually get a hearing.

 

20140505-1The Iowa legislative summary took too long, so only a few quick links this morning — I’ll try to catch up tomorrow:

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 361

Russ Fox, Yes, Mom, I Need to See Your ID.  This one I will spend more time on — the IRS, without consultation, plans to make e-filing much more difficult and expensive for everyone, to punish us for their failure to stop ID-theft fraud.

Philip Panitz, Welcome to America, Now Give Us Your Money! (A guest post on Janet Novack’s Forbes blog).  An excellent summary of how the tax law clobbers immigrants, and one I should spend more time on.

Kay Bell, Representatives want to prevent Los Angeles Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling from deducting his $2.5 million NBA fine.  Not every problem is a tax problem, guys.

TaxGrrrl, Union: Privatizing The Sale Of Alcohol Will Kill Children, Lower Tax Revenue.

 

 

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

Tuesday, April 29th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

A scene from the heydey of Iowa energy independence.

A scene from the heydey of Iowa energy independence.

 

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

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 355

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

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

20140429-1

 

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

 

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

 

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/28/14: No connection found for Iowa broadband credit. And: it can take a long time to recover from tax season.

Monday, April 28th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


20120906-1
Truly we live in the age of wonders.  
A new set of economic development tax credits made it to the floor of the Iowa House on a Friday — and failed.  It’s a wonder that they actually showed up on a Friday — and to reject corporate welfare, to boot.

Before we get excited, it would be wrong to believe that the Iowa General Assembly has suddenly come to its senses about tax incentives.  It appears that many of the “no” votes on HF 2472 were from people who felt it wasn’t a big enough giveaway, reports the Des Moines Register:

Democratic leader Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown, said his members voted against the bill because they felt it didn’t go far enough in incentivizing and stimulating the expansion of high-speed Internet service.

Governer Branstad was unhappy:

“Rather than coming together to pass common sense legislation to increase broadband access in rural Iowa, Iowa House Democrats have turned their backs on rural Iowans and those who are under served,” Branstad said. “Today, the Iowa House Democrats played the worst of political cards; the Washington, D.C., hand of ignoring what is in the best interest of the taxpayers for political purposes.”

But nine Republicans also voted no in the 44-51 vote against the bill: Heartsill (Marion), Mawell (Poweshiek), Pettengill (Benson), Salmon (Black Hawk), Shaw (Pocahontas), Sheetas (Appanoose), Upmeyer (Cerro Gordo), Vander Linden (Mahaska), and Watts (Dallas).  If four of them had voted with the Governor, the bill would have passed.   The Des Moines Register didn’t bother to ask the Republicans why they voted no, but O. Kay Henderson did:

Representative Guy Vander Linden of Oskaloosa was among the nine Republicans who voted no.

“The ‘Connect Iowa’ bill, in my mind, doesn’t connect any Iowan, let alone every Iowan,” Vander Linden said.

Vander Linden faulted the bill for the way it handed out tax breaks to companies.

“We don’t say they need to meet any requirements in terms of our capacity, speed — anything. All we say is: “If you will put broadband infrastructure in place in any unserved or underserved area…we’ll give you all these benefits,” Vander Linden said. “That, to me, sounds like a blank check that I’m not willing to sign up to.”

Lack of standards and accountability hasn’t stopped tax credit giveaways before.  And they actually worked on a Friday, too. Yes, it truly is an age of wonders.

 

20140307-1Jason Dinesen, I Get Very Sad When a Client Gets Involved in Multi-Level Marketing.:

The reason I get sad nothing to do with taxes or fears that the client will be over-aggressive with deductions.

The reason I get sad is: so few of them actually make money.

 

Russ Fox, Your Dependents do have to be Your Dependents…

Kay Bell, Storm season 2014 arrives with a vengeance. Disaster victims should seek tax recovery help after the skies clear

TaxGrrrl, Now That Tax Day Has Passed, How Long Should You Keep Those Tax & Financial Records? 

Paul Neiffer, Are You Still Running Windows XP?! I finally upgraded to Windows 8.1 at home this weekend — a virtual machine on an iMac running Parallels Desktop.  It was the smoothest Windows installation I’ve ever done — it actually went without a hitch the first time through.

 

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 354

Renu Zaretsky, Tax Shelters, Tax Fights, and One Way to Reform a Zombie.  The TaxVox headline roundup includes an update on House taxwriter plans to work on an “extenders” bill this week.

Tax Justice Blog, Lawmakers Will Move Tuesday to Approve Hundreds of Billions in Business Tax Breaks — and Still No Help for the Unemployed.

William McBride, Corporate Exits Accelerating, Taking Jobs with Them (Tax Policy Bl0g).  Rates matter.

 

IMG_2493U.S. residents must pay U.S. tax, regardless of celestial citizenship.  A Minnesota couple hasn’t gotten the message, according to PioneerPress.com:

Living in the “Kingdom of Heaven” will not get you out of paying taxes, according to federal prosecutors.

On Tuesday, Tami Mae May, 55, was indicted in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis on 15 counts of filing fraudulent tax returns and a single count of obstruction of due administration of internal revenue laws, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Through 2013, she claimed “zero income,” signed under altered certifications, said both she and her husband were not citizens of the United States but were instead permanent residents of the “Kingdom of Heaven,” and reported false withholdings in an attempt to claim “hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent … refunds,” the U.S. attorney’s office said. 

I need to research where the Bible says you can recover cash from the IRS as a result of a divine passport.

 

20140330-1Practitioners everywhere are putting their lives together after another tax season.  Yes, it’s rough, but it’s unlikely you will still be sorting out this tax season two years from now, like an Iowa woman who is just getting her 2012 tax season put to bed.

Here’s what this North Liberty tax practitioner faced in 2012:

The co-owner of a local tax service has been accused of using more than $22,000 from the business’s savings account to cover her credit card bills and her husband was arrested for allegedly causing a drunken disturbance at a local elementary school.

According to an Iowa City police criminal complaint, an investigator met with a co-owner of C & M Tax Service. The other co-owner is 31-year-old Melissa M. Frost of North Liberty.

But it was worse than that:

Police said Frost’s husband, 33-year-old Cory A. Frost was also arrested on Friday. Cory Frost went to North Bend Elementary in North Liberty at 2:45 p.m. to confront an employee there concerning a “situation with his wife,” according to North Liberty police Lt. Diane Venega. It is unclear if that situation is related to Melissa Frost’s arrest.

[…]

When police found Frost, he smelled of alcohol and appeared to be intoxicated. Police said Frost had a blood-alcohol content of .204 percent. He was previously convicted of public intoxication.

KCRG provides an update:

A North Liberty woman accused of stealing money from her own business entered an Alford plea as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.

Melissa Frost, 34, entered the pleas on two separate counts of tampering with records last week, according to online court records. Under the Alford Plea, Frost admits no guilt but acknowledges there is likely enough evidence to convict her.

As part of the deal, Frost received a sentence of probation and deferred judgement, which means she could have the conviction expunged from her record if she fulfills the terms of her probation.

So however bad your tax season was, this is a reminder that somebody, somewhere, probably had it worse.

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/23/14: The Tax Fairy isn’t named “VEBA.” And: frivolous IRS notices!

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

tax fairyThe Tax Fairy, that fickle goddess of painless massive tax reduction, is often sought in the misty fens of the welfare benefit sections of the tax law.  A U.S. District Court in California has deprived the Tax Fairy’s believers of one guide for their hunt.

CPA Ramesh Sarva and Kenneth Elliot led Tax Fairy seekers to Section 419, which provides for VEBAs — “Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association” plans.  Properly operated, VEBAs enable employers to make deductible contributions to a plan that buys insurance for employees.

A company associated with Mr. Sarva and Mr. Elliot, Sea Nine, told employers that they could use VEBAs to get around the tax law rules against deducting most life insurance premiums.  Their customers deducted contributions to VEBAs and used them to buy whole-life insurance policies with high cash value accumulation on the business owners’ lives.  The owners then borrowed the cash values.  The purported result was a deduction, followed by tax-free access to the deducted cash via borrowing cash values.

Tax Fairy guides can always find willing customers: “…small business owners with high net worth (often doctors with small but lucrative medical practices),” according to the IRS complaint. It has not gone well for the Tax Fairy adherents:

Sarva has successfully marketed at least 33 separate VEBAs plans to a variety of small business owners.  All of these participants have been or are currently being audited by the IRS.  13 of these participant audits have been completed and have resulted in total tax adjustments of $3,500,519.

In other words, it doesn’t work.  The IRS warned people off of such plans as early as 1995, and the scheme was firmly shot down by a U.S. Court of Appeals in 2002 in the Neonatology Assoc. P.A. case.  In fact, Neonatology  was a Sea Nine client.  Undaunted, Sea Nine kept selling the idea, selling the plans through “a network of affiliated third parties” including “independent certified publica accountants (“CPA”) and financial planners.”   At least they did until yesterday, when they consented to a permanent injunction yesterday against further Tax Fairy hunts.

Sea Nine had clients all over the place; the complaint lists clients in California, Florida, Alabama, and Hawaii, all with big IRS exam adjustments.

A side note: This is another example of why preparer regulation will be little use in keeping practitioners on the straight and narrow.  The defendant was a CPA and as such faced much stricter credentialing than anything contemplated by the IRS.  Yet he continued to sell these plans for years after it should have been obvious that they didn’t work.

The Moral?  There is no Tax Fairy, and just because somebody has gotten away with something for a long time doesn’t mean they’ve found her.  Also: you can make somebody take a test.  You can make them somebody take CPE.  But you can’t make a bumbler competent or a scammer honest.

 

20130419-1Russ FoxIRS Prematurely Asking for Money:

A few years ago, the IRS routinely sent notices to taxpayers who filed tax returns prior to April 15th but didn’t pay their taxes until April 15th. After complaints from taxpayers and tax professionals, the IRS supposedly stopped this practice. Unfortunately, they’ve started it up again.

Another illustration of why we need a “sauce for the gander” rule that would require the IRS to pay a penalty to taxpayers when it takes such frivolous positions, same as a frivolous taxpayer would pay to IRS.

 

TaxProf, TIGTA: IRS Gave $1 Million in Cash Bonuses to 1,100 Employees Who Owe Back Taxes.  Trust me, they won’t do that for you.

Lyman Stone, More Film Tax Incentives Not a Solution for California (Tax Policy Bl0g).  No, not for California, but certainly for its filmmakers, fixers and middlemen.

Howard Gleckman, Should Congress Curb Donor Advised Funds?  They are a much more convenient and cost-effective than their alternative, private foundations, so Congress can be expected to put a stop to that.

 

Jim Maule, When It’s Too Late to Change One’s (Tax) Story

Kay Bell, Rough roads ahead as Highway Trust Fund runs out of money

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 349

Joseph Thorndike, It’s Good to Be the (Ex) President. But It Wasn’t Always. (Tax Analysts Blog).  “Until 1959, retiring chief executives got precisely nothing in the way of retirement benefits: no Secret Service protection, no administrative support, and certainly no money.”

News from the Profession.  McGladrey’s Latest PCAOB Inspection Reveals McGladrey Is Not Grant Thornton (Going Concern)

 

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

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

microsoft-apple

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

Tax Freedom Day 2014 Map_0

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

Brian Mahany, Is the IRS Whistleblower Program a Failure?

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

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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 348

 

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

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

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

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

 

20120620-1

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

Monday, April 21st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

She notes that different troubles require different solutions.

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

 

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

 

Greg Mankiw,Transitory Income and the One Percent:

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

-Quoting a NY Times article by Mark Rank

Occupy… yourselves!

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Locust Street, Des Moines

Locust Street, Des Moines

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/11/14. Why we extend. And: Tax Doctor, Tax Fairy?

Friday, April 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

4868Some folks just don’t like extensions.  Maybe they want their refund NOW.  Maybe they have never extended their return before, and they think it is somehow against the rules.  Some people believe an extension invites the IRS to come in and audit them.  And some people think they are just so special that they can bring in a complex return missing K-1s on April 10th and the preparers should just drop everything and get them filed somehow.

There isn’t much to do for the last category, except perhaps medication, or a thrashing by a crazed sleep-deprived preparer, but for more sensible folks, a basic understanding of extensions might help.

Extensions aren’t against the rules; the rules specifically provide for them.  Even in simpler times, tax administrators knew that it isn’t always possible for a busy person to put together all of the pieces of a tax return by April 15.

You still should pay up.  While extensions give you more time to file your tax return, they don’t give you extra time to pay.  The tax law asks you to estimate your tax liability and penalizes you  if you don’t have at least 90% of your taxes paid in by the April 15 deadline; the penalty is 1/2 percent per month.

Why bother with an extension if I can’t delay payment?    Probably the most important one is that if you are short of cash, the penalty for late payment on a return that you didn’t bother to extend is 5% per month — ten times the penalty for late payment on an extended return.  It forces you to at least take a stab at guessing your liability, helping you identify what pieces you have to gather to complete your extended return.  It also keeps you in compliance, and once you stop filing on time, it can be a hard habit to break.

But won’t it get me audited?  There’s no evidence that an accurate extended return filed during the extension period is any more likely to be audited than it would be filed on April 15.  The IRS selects returns based on what’s on them, now on whether they are extended.

There’s plenty of evidence that returns with errors are more likely to get extra IRS attention.  A return thrown together at the last minute is more likely to have errors than an extended return done during normal working hours by somebody who’s had some sleep.    For what it’s worth, I have extended my own return every year since 1991 with no IRS examination (knock wood).

Efile logoEfile logoe-file logoHow do I extend?  You file Form 4868 either on paper or electronically, along with any necessary payment, by April 15.  The IRS has more details here. It’s common to pay in enough to also cover your first quarter estimated tax payment with the extension.  It gives you some cushion in case you find more 2013 income while completing your return, and you can apply your return overpayment to your  2014 estimated tax when you do file your 2013 1040.

States have their own rules.  Iowa automatically extends your return without the need to file an extension form if you are at least 90% paid-in by the April 30 due date.  If you need to send them some money to get to 90%, you send it with Form IA 1040-V.

Our series of 2014 Filing Season Tips goes right through April 15.  Check back tomorrow for another one!

Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #3: Be Suspicious!

 

tax fairyBelief in the Tax Fairy peaks at tax time.  The Tax Fairy is that magical sprite who will make all of your taxes go away painlessly while your sucker friends still send checks to the tax man.  It’s amazing what Tax Fairy adherents will believe.  Consider a Californian who worked as a software consultant.  He was put in touch with a “Tax Doctor” (my emphasis):

Early in 2006 petitioner’s friends recommended that he talk to the “Tax Doctor Corporation” (Tax Doctor) operated by a person representing himself to be Dr. Lawrence Murray (Murray). Petitioner spoke with Murray and members of Murray’s staff. Petitioner’s discussions with Murray and his staff consisted mostly of “a bit of a sales pitch”. They explained how they would handle his tax return preparation, what the tax savings would be, and the “structure” they would use.

Murray proposed setting up two corporations and preparing petitioner’s individual and corporate Federal income tax returns. Murray explained to petitioner that one corporation would be “operational” and the other would focus on “management”. Petitioner was unsure at trial which corporation was the operations entity and which was the management entity. Under the agreement with Murray petitioner would pay the Tax Doctor, as a fee for setting up the structure, the amount of the tax savings generated by the use of the structure. 

What could go wrong?

His C.P.A. told him that she was willing to incorporate his business activity but she would not do what the Tax Doctor had proposed because it was very aggressive. Petitioner, despite the advice of his C.P.A., decided to accept the proposal of the Tax Doctor.

I don’t need a CPA, I have a Tax Doctor!

Petitioner filed his 2006 Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, showing taxable income of zero. Nev Edel, one of the corporations the Tax Doctor formed for petitioner, filed a Form 1120, U.S. Corporation Income Tax Return, for the fiscal year ending (FYE) November 30, 2007. Nev Edel reported gross receipts of $285,785, total income of $291,669, and total deductions of $295,214. The largest single deduction was $237,600 for “contracted services”. Smoge Corp., the other corporation the Tax Doctor formed for petitioner, filed a 2006 Form 1120S, U.S. Income Tax Return for an S Corporation. Smoge Corp. reported total income of $186,640 and total deductions of $188,644. The largest single deduction was $172,166 for “contracted services”.

Somehow things went awry.

Murray was prosecuted and convicted in 2010 of Federal crimes associated with the preparation of his own returns and the returns of others.

This presumably led to IRS attention to our consultant’s returns, and a big assessment.  The taxpayer tried to avoid penalties because he relied on the Tax Doctor in good faith.  The Tax Court thought otherwise:

The advice of the C.P.A., who had no financial stake in the outcome of petitioner’s return positions, should have put petitioner on notice that additional scrutiny of Murray’s advice was required.

The moral?  If your tax professional, who does this for a living, says something is bogus, they just might be right.  And there is no Tax Fairy.

Cite: Somogyi, T.C. Summ. Op. 2014-33.

 

20140411-1William Perez, Six Things to Do Before April 15th

Kay Bell, What are ordinary & necessary business expenses? It depends

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 337.  More a boatload than a smidgen today.

That’s OK, you can just send me a gift card. Christopher Bergin, The Gift That Is Lois Lerner (Tax Analysts Blog):

Something bad happened here. And however bad her behavior, the problem isn’t Lerner. The problem is a culture that allows what she did to continue and that probably allows behavior that’s much, much worse.

Andrew Lundeen, What Could Americans Buy with the $4.5 Trillion They Pay in Taxes? (Tax Policy Blog).  A nice gift card, perhaps.

TaxGrrrl, House Committee Votes To Hold Lerner In Contempt, Others Push For Criminal Prosecution

Joseph Thorndike, How Dave Camp’s Failure Might Be Michael Graetz’s Victory (Tax Analysts Blog)

Peter Reilly, Clergy Out In Force To Defend Their Housing Tax Break   

Sports Corner: David Cay Johnston vs. Tax Girl on Twitter: PLACE YOUR BETS (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/10/14: Still plenty of time for an IRA! And Iowa Tax Freedom Day looms.

Thursday, April 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

IRAWhen the tax deadline is looming, taxpayers looking for the Tax Fairy to wish away their tax problems often overlook the old-fashioned IRA.  You can still make 2013 IRA contributions through April 15.  An Individual Retirement Account contribution may be able to score you a 2013 deduction (or even a tax credit) for 2013; even if you don’t qualify for current tax savings, they are a nice and cheap way to build-up tax-sheltered savings.

IRAs come in two flavors: “traditional” and “Roth.”  Traditional IRAs build up their income tax-free, but earnings on them are taxable when they come out.  If you meet certain conditions, your traditional IRAs come with sprinkles: – a tax deduction.  If you don’t get the deduction going in, your principal is tax-free going out.

Roth IRAs never offer a deduction, but they leave a sweeter aftertaste: if you hold them long enough, income on Roth IRA assets is never taxed.  And unlike traditional IRAs, you are never forced to start withdrawing funds from the IRA, so the tax-free build-up can go on indefinitely.

Both traditional and Roth IRAs require you to have wage or self-employment net income.  The limits for contributions are the lesser of your taxable compensation or $5,500 ($6,500 if you were 50 by December 31, 2013).  You can contribute to a traditional IRA at any income level, but deductions phase out at higher income levels if you (or your spouse) are covered by a retirement plan at work.  The availability of Roth IRA contributions phases out at higher income levels regardless of whether you participate in another retirement plan.

One very useful way to use Roth IRAs is for teenagers and young adults.  A parent can fund a Roth IRA for them based on part-time job income — no matter what parent income is.  This starts a tax-free retirement fund for the young earner at a very age, giving the power of compound interest lots of time to do its magic.  And from what I’ve seen, parental Roth funding is much appreciated by the recipients.

While time is short, you can still fund a 2013 IRA if you make your contribution no later than April 15.  You can set one up at your friendly community bank or online with a mutual fund company on you lunch hour.  No, it probably won’t make your 2013 taxes go away, but it can be a nice step towards financial security for you or your kids.

This is the latest of our 2014 Filing Season Tips — a new one every day thorugh April 15!

Russ Fox, Bozo Tax Tip #4: Honey, You Don’t Exist!: “Perhaps it’s something in the water, but this year Aaron and I have seen multiple cases of individuals who have ignored that marriage license and filed as single if married.”

 

Kyle Pomerleau, When is My State’s Tax Freedom Day?  (Tax Policy Bl0g) Iowa’s is this Sunday.

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Kristy Maitre, How to Report National Mortgage Settlement Payments

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): X Is For XD   

Paul Neiffer, Trusts Can Get You in Trouble

Jason Dinesen, Tax Court Case Involving Radio DJ Strikes Close to Home for Me, Part 2 

 

Hey, preparers: are you ready to trust the IRS to regulate your livelihood?  A Week Before Tax Day, IRS Misses Crucial Windows XP Deadline (Washington Post, via the TaxProf)

Kay Bell, Computer problems for IRS, Canadian tax agency

 

20140401-1Alan Cole, Mainstream Economics Support Low Taxes on Capital Income (Tax Policy Bl0g): “The overwhelming bulk of the evidence is that taxes have a negative effect on economic growth, and that the effect is particularly strong on tax bases that include capital income.”  But, the rich!  Inequality!

Donald Marron, Seven Tax Issues Facing Small Business (TaxVox): “America’s tax system is needlessly complex, economically harmful, and often unfair.”

Cara Griffith, Guidance Today, Gone Tomorrow (Tax Analysts Blog).  “A recent Arkansas court opinion points out what might be a troubling trend in state taxation: the inability of taxpayers to rely on administrative guidance because the state can retract or supersede it on a moment’s notice.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 336.  It was a big day, with evidence that Lois Lerner was working behind the scenes with the ranking Democrat on the Ways and Means Committee to harass the opposition.

Tax Justice Blog, Is the Obama Administration Blocking International Efforts to Address Corporate Tax Avoidance? 

William Perez, Tax Reform Act of 2014, Part 4, Tax Credits

 

Hank Stern, The ObamaTax Domino Effect.  “While we’ve all seen the horrendous rate increases caused by the ObamaTax (including on our 1040’s), thee are other victims.”

“Pro-business” isn’t “pro-market,” a distinction utterly lost on Iowa officials.

David Brunori: I’ll Raise a Glass to Lower Booze Taxes (Tax Analysts Blog) “Jack Daniels is not bourbon, by the way, but Tennessee whiskey. There is apparently a difference, but frankly, after the first glass, I can never tell.”

Next: legislators are terrible at legislating.  GAO Went Undercover to Discover Tax Preparers Are Terrible at Tax Preparing (Going Concern)

 

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

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

William Perez, Tax Freedom Day 2014.  April 21.

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

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

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

 

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

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

TaxGrrrl, House Committee Gunning For Criminal Charges In IRS Scandal

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 335

 

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

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

Jim Maule, How Shocking is Tax Evasion?

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

 

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