Posts Tagged ‘shooting jaywalkers’

Tax Roundup, 3/9/16: A College Savings Iowa contribution today can reduce 2015 Iowa tax. And: Shoot more jaywalkers!

Wednesday, March 9th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

csi logoYou can still make a College Savings Iowa 2015 contribution. While Section 529 plans provide tax-free earnings for college for taxpayers in all states, Iowans can get an extra tax break for them. 2015 contributions to College Savings Iowa or Iowa Advisor Sec. 529 plans can generate a deduction on Iowa state 1040s up to $3,163 per donee.

For the first time, Iowans can make their 2015 contributions as late as the April 30, 2016 due date of their 2015 tax return. In prior years you had to make the contribution by December 31 to get the deduction.

The $3,163 limit is per donee, per donor. That means a couple with 2 children can get four full deductions for 2015 529 contributions totaling up to $12,652. For a couple at the 8.98% top Iowa rate, that’s a savings of $1,136 on their Iowa return.

This is another of our occasional series of 2016 filing season tips. Collect them all!

 

Jack Townsend, Report on Remarks of AAG Tax and Practitioner Regarding Nonwillfulness and Foreign Account Enablers:

Ciraolo and Bryan Skarlatos questioned whether foreign account holders can remain nonwillful about foreign account reporting obligations at this stage.  The article quotes from her prepared comments (linked above) as follows:

After three very well-publicized voluntary disclosure programs, nearly 200 criminal prosecutions, ongoing criminal investigations and the increasing assessment and enforcement of substantial civil penalties for failure to report foreign financial accounts, a taxpayer’s claims of ignorance or lack of willfulness in failing to comply with disclosure and reporting obligations are, quite simply, neither credible nor well-received. 

This is so wrong. Something that is a big deal in the IRS enforcement bureaucracy can be invisible to a person going about their business, maybe taking a temporary position overseas or getting a U.S. green card.

People get in IRS trouble for having an interest in a foreign account they aren’t even aware of. One practitioner I know had to deal with an immigrant from India who paid thousands of dollars in penalties for not reporting an interest in a foreign bank account that her parents back home put her name on as a joint owner without her knowledge, and without her receiving any income from it. Others find themselves in hot water after get an inheritance overseas that they don’t learn about until after the reporting deadline.

The IRS remains clueless about how many people go through their daily financial lives without pondering whether there is an obscure form lurking to ruin them for non-compliance. The system is broken, but the only answer the enforcers have is to continue the beatings until morale improves.

 

20120906-1David Brunori speaks wisely: If You Need Tax Credits, You Shouldn’t Be in Business (Tax Analysts Blog)

Here’s what got me thinking. Iowa — no paradise when it comes to good tax policy — gave 186 companies tax credits worth more than $42 million last year. Those credits were handed out as an incentive to conduct research and development. There are other credits available for businesses. Oh, and the credits are refundable because, like with poor families receiving the earned income tax credit, R&D credits provide a critical safety net. All right, I’m being facetious.

Iowa’s biggest welfare recipient was technology company Rockwell Collins Inc., which received $12 million. Rockwell is a great company, but it has $5 billion in revenue. Giving money to Rockwell isn’t quite the same as giving money to a shoestring nonprofit feeding the homeless in Des Moines.

In all, 20 companies claimed more than $500,000 in R&D credits, including DuPont Co., Deere & Co., and Monsanto Co. I ask them, where is your pride? Do you really want a government handout?

For a full-throated defense of tax credit corporate welfare, today’s IowaBiz.com blogger, Brent Willett, offers Job creation fuel: R&D policy move is important for Iowa. Not surprisingly, the cost of paying these subsidies in increased taxes on less fortunate and less influential Iowa businesses never comes up. The “job creation” part is also weakly defended.

 

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Russ Fox, Online Gambling Addresses Updated for 2016. Russ performs a valuable service in gathering street addresses of offshore online gaming websites. Online gaming accounts at these sites are “foreign financial accounts” for FBAR purposes, and you need a street address to fill out Form 114. They can be hard to find. Hat’s off to Russ.

TaxGrrrl, Tax Season Proving Confusing (Again) For Taxpayers Affected By Obamacare

Kay Bell, Have you received your Obamacare coverage forms yet? “Recipients of the B or C versions want to hang onto these forms as verification that they did have ACA required coverage, which they tell the Internal Revenue Service about by checking the appropriate box on their 1040EZ, 1040A or long form 1040.”

Michelle Drumbl, The Automated Substitute for Return Procedures (Procedurally Taxing) “The ASFR assessment process takes into account all income reported as earned by the taxpayer, but it ignores reported items that would reduce taxable income.”

Robert Wood, Erin Andrews Wins $55M Peephole Verdict But Faces Heavy IRS Tax Hit

Jim Maule, Buying and Selling Dependency Exemptions for Tax Purposes. “It’s too bad Congress cannot be indicted, convicted, and punished for making a mess of the tax system, continuing to make it worse, and refusing to clean it up.”

 

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Annette Nellen, AICPA Advocacy on IRS Funding. It’s hard to see how the IRS gets more funding when it does such an awful job with the funding it has.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 1035. “The IRS doesn’t know if its data backups are deleted or not created, and doesn’t test to ensure backups can be used if information is lost, even after a “significant” December 2014 incident, according to a Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) report.”

Alan Cole, Tax Policy Must Be Proportionate to Spending Policy (Tax Policy Blog). “This gets to the heart of one of the principles of good tax policy: your tax policy should actually be able to fund the government you want. One way or another, Donald Trump will have to assent to this principle.”

Elaine Maag, Complicated Families: Complicated Tax Returns (TaxVox):

The law is built on the idea that a child lives in a traditional family – married parents with only biologically related siblings. The tax unit it is presumed to include the adults supporting the child.

But increasingly, children live in arrangements that belie that traditional family; children move between homes of divorced or never-married parents in formal and informal custody arrangements; children live with unmarried, cohabiting parents; children live in multigenerational households. In short, children are supported by adults in multiple tax units.

But only one tax unit gets to claim the earned income credit for each child.

 

News from the Profession. Apparently Accountants Are Terrible on the Phone (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

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

Tuesday, January 12th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

The article has this:

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

That’s because it is ridiculously expensive.

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Surely some ethics continuing education would have saved her.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 


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

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

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

Let’s hope so.

 

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/11/15: Extender battle extended to next week; efforts to make some breaks permanent continue. And: Tina, Accidental American.

Friday, December 11th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20151211-1Extending the week. Congress had been scheduled to go home today, but now it looks like the session will drag through the weekend while they try to agree on spending and tax legislation.

Whither the extenders? The Hill reports that hope lives for permanent enactment of several of the important Lazarus provisions that have repeatedly died – most recently at the end of 2014 — and that need to be revived to be used on 2015 returns. From the report:

I understand the current projection is for the House to post the omnibus Monday and vote on it by Wednesday,” Senate Republican Whip John Cornyn (Texas) told reporters. “The goal is to wrap things up by Wednesday evening.”

He said the omnibus would be linked to a package extending expiring tax provisions. Senate negotiators say that package is likely to make several important tax breaks open-ended and place a moratorium on two ObamaCare taxes.

“They seem to be linked, although I can’t tell you whether it will be one vote or two votes, but clearly they’re part of the overall negotiations,” he added.

What would be made permanent? At least the R&D Credit and the $500,000 Section 179 deduction. These would be accompanied by permanent, and maybe increased, earned income credits, child credits, and education credits. How likely is it? The Hill says “Senate sources on Thursday said the chances of reaching a deal on a major tax deal were greater than 50 percent.”

Nothing is certain, though. Tax Analysts reports ($link) Permanent Tax Extenders Deal Continues to Elude Lawmakers. It quotes Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.) as insisting that the child credit be indexed to inflation, and that other obstacles to agreement remain:

Israel noted that ultraconservative Republicans object to including renewable energy tax credits and family credits in the extenders deal, so votes from House Democrats are still essential regardless of what deal Senate Democrats reach with Republicans.

Here I’ll just note that there appear to be no such thing as “ultraliberals” to reporters, while “ultraconservatives” abound.

Rep. Bill Flores, R-Texas, chair of the House Republican Study Committee, said December 2 that his group believes that renewable energy credits should be phased out. “Special interest giveaways like the wind production tax credit and the solar investment tax credit have overstayed their welcome and their usefulness,” he said.

Flores’s group also does not support family credits, which he called “stimulus legacy items” that should not be renewed without heightened verification and oversight.

These obstacles could result in another two-year extension of the expiring provisions, though complete failure remains an option.

Prior coverage:

Ways and Means Chair introduces a Plan B as permanent extender talks continue.

Extender week?

 

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Just how stupid is U.S. foreign taxation? This stupid. A heartbreaking and infuriating piece by Allison Christians shows the brain-dead Kafkaesque nightmare created by Congress and enforced by IRS to “crack down” on overseas taxpayers: Understanding the Accidental American: Tina’s Story. It tells the story of a 62 year-old woman who was born in the U.S. while her parents were students, but has lived all but her first six months in Canada. Ms. Christians makes a powerful case:

Related to that point, I think a taxpayer has a right to learn that her whole financial life is subject to harsh deterrents and penalties solely for the reason that it is not located in the United States, even and especially when she is not located in the United States. Again, I think she has the right to learn that not from blogs or word of mouth, but from the government that seeks to impose these rules on her. I think she’s got a right to be informed about a life-destroying force like PFIC by the government that seeks to unleash that force upon her, and a right to avoid that punishment by making different choices. And if that government can’t or won’t bother to inform her, or address the utter absurdity of stripping a person of their life savings as a consequence of inadequate form filling, I think she’s got a reason to complain that this is a pretty unfair administration of a very complex law — a law designed for millionaires with expensive tax accountants and not for Canadians carefully saving for retirement and not hiding anything from anyone.

When the IRS and the politicians crow about how effective their foreign enforcement efforts are, remember that a lot of it is coming out of the pockets of taxpayers like Tina.

(Via the TaxProf).

 

Kristine Tidgren, Iowa Court of Appeals Says LLC Corporate Veil Properly Pierced (The Ag Docket).

The court found that the trial court’s finding of inadequate capitalization was supported by substantial evidence. In so finding, the court noted the defendants’ history of moving funds between related entities, the lack of LLC assets and employees, and its failure to reduce losses to the plaintiff, despite knowing its funding was inadequate.

This sort of ruling will make businesses leery of using Iowa entities. An appeal to the Iowa Supreme Court is likely.

 

buzz 20151023-1Friday means Buzz day for Robert D. Flach. Today he covers the legislation requiring IRS to use private debt collectors, preparer regulations and more.

Jana Luttenegger Weiler, Delinquent Taxes May Mean No Passport. “ Imagine the problems for a taxpayer who is unaware of this new rule and not finding out until being stranded in the midst of traveling.”

Jason Dinesen, Choosing a Business Entity: Determining S-corporation Reasonable Salary. “A salary that’s considered reasonable for one corporation may not be reasonable for another corporation.”

Leslie Book, Tis the Season For Tax Procedure Legislation (Procedurally Taxing).  “Under the new legislation, the failure to file penalty may not be less than the lesser of $205 or 100 percent of the amount required to be shown as tax on the return (it used to be $135 or 100%).”

Robert Wood, Three Moves In December To Save Taxes Next April

TaxGrrrl, How Answering A Simple Question Makes You An Easy Target For Identity Thieves

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 946

Nicole Kaeding, Proposed Tax Increases in Alaska. Alaska may get an income tax.

Steven Rosenthal, Hillary Clinton Proposes Tough New Curbs on Corporate Tax Inversions (TaxVox). The “beatings will continue until morale improves” approach.

News from the Profession. Grant Thornton Hoping to Bring Soul-Crushing Disappointment to Charlotte Hornets With New Sponsorship (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/13/15: Thoughts for those facing the due date. And: Ex-Iowa revenue director backs sales tax rule.

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today visitors, click here to go to the YMCA story.

 

20151013-4It’s time. The extended return deadline is Thursday, October 15, and no more extensions are available (unless, perhaps, you are in South Carolina, drying out from the floods, or you are in an overseas combat zone).

Haven’t filed yet? Haven’t even started? Russ Fox has some thoughts for you:

Somewhere, there’s a procrastinator wondering that exact question. He’s likely thinking, “I don’t have to do anything; I have until October 15th!” That’s not a good answer (with one exception [1]).

First, most tax professionals will not be able to fit you in. I took in one new client appointment this week—and he’s filling a cancellation. Determine your income, gather all your documents, and do your best. Tax forms are available online (the IRS website is actually quite good). Commercial tax software, though flawed [2], is a good choice at this point in time.

That makes sense. You really shouldn’t file late. It’s habit-forming, and it’s a bad habit. If you have a refund coming, you will probably lose it if you don’t file in two years — and without a due date deadline, that happens a lot. If you don’t file, you can’t get a 2016 ACA advance premium credit, making you out-of-pocket for the whole thing until you file your 2016 tax return, assuming you get around to that one.

Russ has another comment worth noting:

I disagree with fellow tax professional Robert Flach on his description that all tax software is fatally flawed. For individuals in simple situation it works perfectly. It doesn’t make math mistakes. And it usually allows for seamless electronic filing. I agree with Robert that the ability to look at a return and evaluate what’s on it (does it pass the smell test) is vital but when you’re up against a deadline, you don’t have a choice.

While I am in awe of Robert’s practice of doing his returns by hand, I don’t recommend it for anyone else. While software, like any human endeavor, is “flawed,” it’s much less flawed than a do-it-yourself tax filer without software. Tax software prevents a lot more mistakes than it causes.

 

Speaking of Robert Flach, it’s Tuesday, so he has fresh Buzz! His artisanal mind wanders from the size of the tax law, charity scams, and maintaining small business records. Presumably posted with flawed software!

 

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Mike Ralston, Manufacturers shouldn’t be taxed twice. The President of the Iowa Association of Business and Industry, and former director of the Iowa Department of Revenue, defends the new proposed rules broadening the definition of “manufacturing supplies” exempt from sales tax: “To the best of my knowledge, no one inside the Statehouse has argued that the proposed rule is bad policy.” David Brunori is quoted.

 

Tulsa World, Doug Pielsticker: Sentence more than justified. “Laid-off employees blamed the company’s bankruptcy partly on Pielsticker’s lavish lifestyle, which included a $1.3 million mansion, a Bentley and a wedding with 1,000 guests at Philbrook Museum.” We covered the sentencing yesterday.

 

John Mickelson, Importance of succession planning for privately held businesses (IowaBiz.com).

TaxGrrrl, Be Smart When Being Charitable: IRS Warns On SC Flood Relief Scams

Keith Fogg, The Right Instincts and the Wrong Decision Leads to No Relief as an Innocent Spouse – An Adam and Eve Story (Procedurally Taxing) “Reading the opinion, I realized that I had watched the trial with my students and we had analyzed it in class reaching the same conclusion as Judge Lauber but still feeling sad for the individual who sought relief.”

Peter Reilly, Volkswagen’s Emissiongate May Include Tax Crimes

Jack Townsend, Schumacher, UBS Banker Enabler, Sentenced to Probation Only and Fine. Once again, slapping the real international financial criminals on the wrist while shooting the jaywalkers.

Kay Bell, Some in GOP question Ryan’s conservative commitment; others say he serves the party best as tax-writing chair.  

William Perez, Changes in Tax Deadlines to Take Effect in 2017 (Plus Deadlines for 2015 and 2016). There’s a big one this week.

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 887. Today’s installment features some guy who think the IRS isn’t meddling in politics enough.

Scott Greenberg, Bobby Jindal’s Tax Plan Would End the Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance Exclusion (Tax Policy Blog):

Some of the features of Bobby Jindal’s recently released tax plan – fewer tax brackets, ending the estate tax, and eliminating itemized deductions – should be familiar from other Republican candidates’ tax plans. But a few elements of Jindal’s plan stand out from the rest of the field. Specifically, Jindal would significantly change the tax treatment of employer-sponsored health insurance plans.

It would replace the employer exclusion for health care with a “standard deduction” for insurance costs.

 

Bob McIntyre, We (Don’t) Need to Talk about Bobby Jindal (Tax Justice Blog). We don’t like him. We’ll pretend he’s not there.

Renu Zaretsky, A Speaker, A Speaker, Their Kingdom for a Speaker. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the House Speaker situation, Hockey free agents, and the upcoming Democratic candidate debate.

Career Corner. The Rise of the Lifestyle Accountant (Chris Hooper, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/7/15: Iowa Dept. of Revenue proposes sound policy, protests erupt. And: skating to a low-tax state.

Wednesday, October 7th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150122-1The Iowa Department of Revenue proposes broad definitions for industrial sales tax exemption. The chief Democratic taxwriter in the Iowa Senate is unhappy.

The Des Moines Register reports:

State legislators will consider a proposal next week that would reduce the tax burden for manufacturers by up to $46 million in a move critics say bypasses the legislative process.

In an effort to avoid a “double tax,” current law exempts from taxation some items used during the manufacturing process and instead taxes the final product. The proposal would expand the number of items that qualify for that exemption.

The policy behind the exemption is sound. As David Brunori points out,

Only bad things happen when businesses pay sales tax. First, the businesses paying the tax pass the burden on to their customers in the form of higher prices. But the tax is hidden. People do not know they are paying it. Politicians, and perhaps the New York Times, may like that lack of transparency, but it is awful government policy. Second, the higher priced products purchased by consumers are often subject to tax. This gives rise to a tax on a tax. That is awful tax policy. Finally, taxation of business inputs artificially keeps sales tax rates low. People think the sales tax rate is lower than it actually is. None of this is good.

Whether the Department has overstepped its authority is a separate question from the tax policy. From the Register story:

But state Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, pointed out the fiscal effects of the legislation on Monday.

“We’ve been told repeatedly by this governor that we can’t afford to educate our kids, and here he goes again with another big tax cut for Iowa’s largest corporations and putting their needs ahead of our kids,” Bolkcom said. “It’s wrong.”

“I don’t remember ever tax policy being made by the rules committee or being made by the executive branch without the consent of the Legislature,” Bolkcom said. “This is a huge tax policy change that (Gov. Branstad) has unilaterally decided.”

Iowa businesses have long complained about the restrictive definition of “equipment” and “property directly and primarily used in processing.” It seems to me that the new definitions are more in line with business reality and the intent of the exemption. Still, I haven’t seen a fight over proposed regulations like this, so I have no idea how this will play out.

Link: Proposed new Iowa rules.

 

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TaxGrrrl, Hockey Players Ice High Tax Teams In Favor Of Tax Savings:

With teams located in Canada and in the United States, high performing hockey players may be able to negotiate their tax home with their team home in order to choose a more favorable tax result. That is, according to a new report released jointly by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation (CTF) and Americans for Tax Reform (ATR), exactly what’s happening.

According to the report, 54% of the 116 Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA) and 60% of players with no-trade clauses who changed teams picked teams with lower taxes.

Sports free agency is an unusual natural experiment on whether state taxes matter. There are always other factors than taxes in choosing a team.  Winning is worth something. Still, it’s pretty much the same job, just with different taxes. The resulting low-tax preference is what you would predict.

 

Kay Bell, Fantasy sports: Gambling or just good, clean online fun?  Either way, taxes are due, but deduction options differ.

Jack Townsend, Swiss Asset Manager Settles Up with DOJ Tax. A $295,000 fine. Another example of second prong of the IRS approach to international tax compliance — shoot the jaywalkers so you can slap the big offenders on the wrist.

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: A Buyer’s Best Friend – Understanding The Section 338(h)(10) Election. “What if a buyer could acquire a target’s stock for legal purposes — thereby keeping the target alive and preserving its non-transferable assets — but acquire the target’s assets for tax purposes, giving the buyer the stepped-up basis in the asset it seeks?”

 

Jim Maule, Putting More Tax Information “Out There” for the Tax Database Thieves:

Until and unless the protection of online data is heightened to a point of 99 percent confidence, the IRS should not create yet another vulnerability, another door through which the robbers can force their way in. In the meantime, why not focus on the problem rather than the symptoms? The underlying cause of some noncompliance is the complexity of the tax laws. Treating the symptoms does not cure the illness.

Agree.

 

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for 8/31/15 to 9/11/15. Procedurally Taxing rounds up recent developments in tax procedure, “heavy on estate and gift this week.”

 

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David Brunori, North Carolina Tax Changes — Sort of Good, Kind of Bad (Tax Analysts Blog):

On the good side, the state lowered the personal income tax rate from 5.75 percent to 5.49 percent. Lowering rates is usually good for the economy and for the people paying taxes. I believe that people know how to spend their money in ways that improve the economy much better than the government does. The state also expanded the no-tax exemption to $15,500, providing more relief for low-income taxpayers. In general that is a good thing.

On the super-negative front, the legislature is giving Hollywood moguls $30 million in each of the next two years to make films in North Carolina. I guess they haven’t read any of the studies showing that film credits don’t work. But why let facts stand in the way of policymaking?

It’s probably only a matter of time before they realize the wisdom of Iowa’s enlightened approach to hosting filmmakers.

 

Joseph Henchman, California Supreme Court Hears Arguments in MTC Case (Tax Policy Blog).

Roberton Williams, New Estimates Of How Many Households Pay No Federal Income Tax (TaxVox). “We now figure it is 45.3 percent, nearly 5 percentage points higher than our 2013 estimate of 40.4 percent.”  Mitt Romney, call your office.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 881. Quoting Victor David Hanson: “What now constitutes actionable criminal behavior in the scandals at the IRS, EPA, ICE and a host of other alphabet agencies are not treated as per se violations of the law. Rather, they are judged according to whether the offender and his crime were deemed progressive and well-intended—or reactionary and thus prosecutable.”

Peter Reilly, Paul Caron’s Day By Day IRS Scandal Has Jumped The Shark – Part 1. Sometimes I think the TaxProf has to reach deep to have something to run every day, but his continued focus on the outrageous IRS behavior is a public service. I’m not sure Peter thinks there is a scandal in the first place.

 

Career Corner. Do PwC Employees Really Like the New Student Loan Perk? (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). No word on whether the spiff is available in cash for those thrifty students who got by without loans.

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/11/15: Iowa Code Conformity, America’s more selective appeal, and your tax dollars at work in the $1 DVD bin.

Wednesday, February 11th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

IMG_1284The Iowa Code Conformity bill goes to the Governor. The Iowa House yesterday approved the Senate-passed bill, SF 126, to update Iowa’s 2014 tax law for the federal “Extender” legislation approved in December. Iowa will conform to the federal legislation, including the $500,000 Section 179 limit, but will not adopt the federal bonus depreciation.

The Governor is expected to sign the bill.

 

Our appeal is just getting more selective. 2014 – More Expatriations Than Ever (Andrew Mitchel):

Today the Treasury Department published the names of individuals who renounced their U.S. citizenship or terminated their long-term U.S. residency (“expatriated”) during the fourth quarter of 2014. 

The number of published expatriates for the quarter was 1,062 (second highest quarter ever), bringing the total number of published expatriates in 2014 to 3,415.  The total for the year breaks last year’s record number of 2,999 published expatriates. The number of expatriates for 2014 is a 14% increase over 2013.  

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC

Chart by Andrew Mitchel LLC

Expatriation is often an inconvenient and expensive process. The willingness of so many to go through the hassle is disgraceful evidence of the burden the “shoot the jaywalker” penalties of the foreign account reporting rules and FATCA impose — on top of America’s unique worldwide taxation regime.

Related: Thousands Renounce U.S. Citizenship Hitting New Record, Not Just Over Taxes (Robert Wood)

 

haroldYour tax dollars at work in HollywoodWhen Sony’s emails were hacked, the companies executives were embarrassed by the emails complaining about “spoiled brat” starlets and other insider dish that was exposed. But Tax Analysts’ Brian Bardwell shows that the state legislators who have approved taxpayer funding around the country for filmmakers also have plenty to be embarrassed about. From the subscriber-only story:

While the broader topic of film incentives comes up daily, it appears that top executives — at Sony, at least — are not usually involved in finding credits for individual projects, but when they are, it may be because the film is unlikely to bring in enough money to justify producing it without a government subsidy.

In other words, taxpayers are financing the marginal direct-to-DVD projects for Hollywood. That comes as no surprise to those of us who followed Iowa’s disastrous Film Tax Credit story. In a story line right out of “The Producers,” inflated expense claims allowed awful films to be made without the need to ever get a paying customer — the sale of the resulting transferable tax credits covered the expenses and generated a profit — not counting the attorney fees and jail time, of course.

 

Kay Bell, Tax fraud concerns in Minnesota, Connecticut & now Florida:

“The personally identifiable information apparently hacked at Anthem is exactly what tax fraud thieves use to make false refund claims that appear to be legitimate,” said Department of Revenue Services Commissioner Kevin Sullivan. Sullivan is suggesting that residents beat tax ID thieves to the punch.

Great.

 

Peter Reilly, Breaking – Repair Regs – AICPA Says Help On The Way – Maybe. “The only thing that I find really encouraging about the AICPA announcement is that I can show it to my partners and justify my wait and see approach, which now apparently has the imprimatur of the AICPA.”

TaxGrrrl, UNRETIREMENT. “The Social Security and tax laws hold hidden traps and rewards for the growing army of well-off folks who just keep on working.”

Leslie Book, Congress Considering Procedural Legislation (Procedurally Taxing).

Jack Towensend, Judge Jed Rakoff Reviews Brandon Garrett’s Book on Too Big to Jail: How Prosecutors Compromise with Corporations

 

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David Brunori, It’s Time to End Property Tax Exemptions — for Everyone (Tax Analysts Blog).

City governments are usually looking for payments in lieu of taxes rather than ending exemptions. And the nonprofits — particularly universities and hospitals — tenaciously oppose paying. To be sure, some municipalities and exempt organizations have reached a compromise on payments in lieu of taxes, particularly in Boston. But in the vast majority of the nation, universities, nonprofit hospitals, and property owned by religious organizations are exempt from tax.

I propose we end those exemptions. First, let’s be honest — if you narrow the tax base by exempting some property, everyone else pays more. So in Brunswick, Maine, people and businesses pay more property taxes because Bowdoin College doesn’t. And sometimes they pay a lot more.

Sometimes it can be confusing. Des Moines officials will freely complain about the big hospitals not paying property taxes, but they lacked enthusiasm when the two big non-profit hospitals in town opened new hospitals in the suburbs.

 

Scott Drenkard, Richard Borean, How Many Cigarettes Are Smuggled Into Your State Each Year? (Tax Policy Blog). A lot more since they jacked up the cigarette tax a few years ago.

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The threat of lost cigarette revenue is the real reason state officials are so horrified by the vaporous health risks of e-cigarettes.

 

Renu Zaretsky, Tax Preferences, Investigations, and Settlements. Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers Senator Hatch on tax reform, financial supergenius Bernie Sanders on Social Security, and more Swiss bank tax troubles.

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 2/10: Semi-Encouraging News (Tax Justice Blog)

Joseph Thorndike, When It Comes to Tax Reform, History Tells Us What Might Happen – And Why It Probably Won’t (Tax Analysts Blog). “The 1986 reform happened not because it was wise and prudent and necessary, but because it worked politically. And even then, only barely.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 643

 

News from the Profession. The Annual Close: The Year in Adverse Accounting Jokes (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern).

 

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

Thursday, January 15th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

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

 

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related coverage: 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Tim Todd, Unsubordinated Mortgage Prevents Charitable Deduction for Conservation Easement

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 616

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/14/14: Iowa tax credits expected to pay out $361 million this year. And: Fix FBAR!

Tuesday, October 14th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Extended 1040s are due tomorrow!

 

20120906-1$521 million for the well-connected and well lobbied. The Des Moines Register reports on a new set of estimates from the Iowa Department of Revenue:

Iowa would have to pay about a half-billion dollars for tax credits during a 12-month period should every recipient come to the table asking for their awards.

The state has a tax credit liability of $462 million for the 2015 fiscal year, which started July 1 and runs until June 30, 2015, according to an Iowa Department of Revenue report.

For the 2016 fiscal year, the state’s tax credit liability is expected to hit $521.2 million.

But it’s not so bad as all that:

The Revenue Department said it only expects $361.4 million worth of tax credits to be claimed in fiscal 2015 and $402.8 million to be claimed in fiscal 2016.

Compare the $361 million in expected tax credit giveaways to expected receipts, net of refunds, from the entire Iowa corporation income tax in fiscal 2015 of $413.5 million. A good chunk of this is actually in the form of cash grants via the Iowa research credit. Iowa persists in giving these away even though a commission tasked with finding out whether they do any good was unable to say they were worth anything.

Iowa couples its regime of special favors for special political friends with high individual rates, and the highest corporation tax rate in the U.S., for those of us lacking lobbyists or state house connections.  Far better to slash individual rates, get rid of the near-worthless corporation income tax, strip out loopholes and deductions, and make everybody’s tax life easier.  It’s time for The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

passportAllison ChristiansPaperwork and Punishment: It’s Time to Fix FBAR (Tax Analysts, Via the TaxProf). A righteous takedown of one of the worst features of an awful tax law:

The FBAR penalty structure is harsh at best and tremendouosly unfair at worst. An FBAR failure or mistake attracts a one-size-fits-all punishment, which rapidly escalates according to a formula that is known only to the IRS. The instructions claim that a taxpayer can avoid penalties by showing a “reasonable cause,” but they also state that a “non-willful” mistake or failure carries a $10,000 penalty, regardless of the amount of money actually at stake…

It cannot be noted without irony that for a regime created to catch hard-core financial criminals, FBAR now criminalizes something we would hardly consider a serious crime — namely a paperwork mistake.

It’s IRS policy to shoot the jaywalkers so they can slap the real international financial criminals on the wrists.  Read the whole thing.

 

Paul Neiffer reminds us that you have Less Than Two Full Days to Get Your Return Filed

It’s a quiet Buzz day at Robert D. Flach’s place. 

Kay Bell, Federal holiday effects on federal taxes,

Stephen Olson has the Summary Opinions for 10/03/14, rounding up developments in tax procedure at Procedurally Taxing.

 

20121022-1TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 523

Me, The C corporation dilemma and how not to solve it. My latest at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record’s Business Professionals’ Blog. I discuss the C corporation double-tax, and a failed effort to solve the problem with a “midco transaction” in advance of a sale of the business.

 

How is that even possible? District Court Sets The Bar Lower For Accountants Than Attorneys (Peter Reilly)

News from the Profession. Center for Audit Quality Managed to Find Some People Confident in Audits (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/8/14: Koskinen warns of another hellish filing season. And: FATCA “tormenting” offshore taxpayers.

Wednesday, October 8th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
The Younkers Building ruins, morning, March 29, 2014.

The Younkers Building ruins, morning, March 29, 2014.

Here we go again. We know from bitter experience that Congress might cause tax season delays by passing an election-year “extenders” bill at the last minute. IRS Commissioner Koskinen gave official warning yesterday in a letter to the head of the Senate Finance Committee:

This uncertainty, if it persists into December or later, could force the IRS to postpone the opening of the 2015 filing season and delay the processing of tax refunds for millions of taxpayers. Moreover, if Congress enacts any policy changes to the existing extenders or adds new provisions, the IRS would have to reprogram systems and make processing changes, which would result in longer delays. If Congress waits until 2015 and then enacts retroactive tax law changes affecting 2014, the operational and compliance challenges would be even more severe — likely resulting in service disruptions, millions of taxpayers needing to file amended returns, and substantially delayed refunds.

It was just such retroactive changes that made the 2013 filing season so awful. Add the first go round for Obamacare penalty computations on tax returns, and we can look forward to an even more wonderful tax season in 2015.

I predict that we will get a last-minute passage of the Lazarus provisions that keep dying and being resurrected, sometime in December. Of course, it could drag into January again. I expect pretty much all of the expiring provisions, including bonus depreciation, to be included. But I never rule out Congress dropping the ball entirely.

Other coverage: Richard Rubin, IRS Warns of Tax-Filing Season Delays If Congress Stalls 

Joint Committee on Taxation, list of expiring provisions 2013-2024 (pdf).

 

20140815-2Taxpayer Advocate: FATCA “Tormenting” TaxpayersTaxpayer Advocate Nina Olson doesn’t seem to be a fan of FATCA. She spoke to the Financial Markets Association yesterday, and it sounds like she foresees bad things ($link, my emphasis.):

“This is a piece of legislation that is so big and so far-reaching, and [has] so many different moving pieces, and is rolling out in an incremental fashion . . . that you really won’t be able to know what its consequences are, intended or otherwise,” Olson said. “I don’t think we’ll know that for years. And by that point we’ll actually be a little too late to go, ‘Oops, my bad, we shouldn’t have done this,’ and then try to unwind it.”

Wait, this was passed by our duly elected representatives. What could possibly go wrong?

Olson also questioned the penalty regime underlying FATCA. The law provides for a $10,000 penalty for failing to disclose a foreign bank account, and up to $50,000 for failing to disclose after IRS notification, she said. For someone with a $51,000 unreported foreign bank account, that could be a $60,000 penalty.

IRS policy states that penalties should be objectively proportioned to the offense, Olson said. “Putting a $60,000 penalty on someone for failing to report a $51,000 account does not seem to me like a penalty that is proportioned objectively to the offense,” she said.

Olson observed that a similar disproportionality emerged in recent IRS offshore voluntary disclosure initiatives, when the highest proportionate fines fell on the smallest accounts. In 2009 the median unreported balance for the smallest accounts was $44,000, she said. The lowest-balance account holders paid an FBAR penalty almost six times the actual tax due, she said. Yet the top 10 percent, with a median unreported balance of $7 million, paid a penalty roughly half the amount of tax owed, she said.

This is actually in keeping with the longstanding IRS policy of shooting jaywalkers while slapping the real international tax evaders on the wrist.

How could our legislative supergeniuses have come up with such an insane and unfair system? Look at the name of the legislation — “FATCA.” For fat cats, get it? They passed it claiming to be going after fat cats, but drafted it in a way that beats up on everybody working or living abroad attempting to commit personal finance. But because they “intended” to go after fat cats, they absolve themselves of guilt for the collateral damage, the financial devastation of the innocent and unwary, the retirements ruined. And they smear the rare politician who points out the insanity of FATCA with accusations of being soft on tax evasion.

 

canada flagThere was some rare good news on the offshore tax compliance front yesterday when the IRS made it easier to get favored tax treatment on Canadian retirement accounts:  IRS Simplifies Procedures for Favorable Tax Treatment on Canadian Retirement Plans and Annual Reporting Requirements:

The change relates to a longstanding provision in the U.S.-Canada tax treaty that enables U.S. citizens and resident aliens to defer tax on income accruing in their RRSP or RRIF until it is distributed. Otherwise, U.S. tax is due each year on this income, even if it is not distributed.

In the past, however, taxpayers generally would get tax deferral by attaching Form 8891 to their return and choosing this tax treaty benefit, something many eligible taxpayers failed to do. Before today’s change, a primary way to correct this omission and retroactively obtain the treaty benefit was to request a private letter ruling from the IRS, a costly and often time-consuming process.

Many taxpayers also failed to comply with another requirement; namely that they file Form 8891 each year reporting details about each RRSP and RRIF, including contributions made, income earned and distributions made. This requirement applied regardless of whether they chose the special tax treatment. The IRS is eliminating Form 8891, and taxpayers are no longer required to file this form for any year, past or present.

But in case you think the risk of fiscal catastrophe related to Canadian accounts is past, the IRS warns:

The revenue procedure does not modify any other U.S. reporting requirements that may apply under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and section 6038D. See FinCEN Form 114 due by June 30 of each year, and Form 8938 attached to a U.S. income tax return for more information about the reporting requirements under the BSA and section 6038D.

In other words, you can still be assessed a penalty of 50% of the account balance for not filing an FBAR report on the accounts, or a $10,000 penalty for not disclosing a balance on Form 8938 foreign financial asset form. But if you get ruined by these penalties, consider it a sacrifice on the altar of “an improved set of global rules,” you fat cat.

Russ Fox has more: IRS Simplifies Reporting for RRSPs and RRIFs.

 

20141008-1William Perez, Missed the Tax Deadline? Here’s what penalties might apply

Donnie Johnson, Liz Malm, What Does Yesterday’s Supreme Court Same-Sex Marriage Appeal Denial Mean for Same-Sex Couple Tax Filers? (Tax Policy Blog). Maybe taxpayers in Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin could learn from Jason Dinesen’s work here in Iowa.

Kay Bell, Gambling pays out a $38 billion bonus to tax collectors.

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: IRA

KCCI, Pharmacist’s trial has been moved to next year. The owner of Bauder’s Pharmacy, facing tax and other charges arising out of alleged illegal sales of painkillers, is now set to go on trial in February.

 

Howard Gleckman, How Asset Building Tax Subsidies Miss Their Targets (TaxVox):

Nearly one-third of all federal tax expenditures–$384 billion in 2013 alone– is aimed at various forms of asset building, such as retirement savings, higher education, and home ownership. Yet, according to research by several of my Tax Policy Center and Urban Institute colleagues, these tax breaks do little to help low-and middle-income households build wealth.

Gee, you might conclude that maybe not every problem is a tax problem.

 

Two more TaxGrrrl Guest Posts: The IRS’s Uncharitable Treatment Of Charitable Contributions (Andrew VanSingel) and Roadways And Taxes (Charles Horn III).

David Brunori, Last Stand for Soda Taxes — Hopefully (Tax Analysts Blog). “If they can’t get folks in uber-liberal San Francisco and Berkeley to vote for soda taxes, they should just hang up their hats.”

Sebastian Johnson rounds up some more Tax Proposals on the Ballot this Election Season at Tax Justice Blog.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 517

Jeremy Scott, Will the EU Commission Crack Down on Irish Tax Deals? (Tax Analysts Blog).

 

News from the Profession. Some Big 4 Alumni Just Can’t Quit Their Old Firms. (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). No problem for me.

 

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IRS makes it less risky for U.S. residents to start reporting foreign accounts.

Thursday, June 19th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The IRS has announced updated procedures for taxpayers to file overdue FBAR foreign account disclosures.  These reports are required of taxpayers who have foreign accounts with balances that exceed $10,000 at any time during the year.  Penalties can reach 50% of the highest account balance per year of willful violations.

The new rules provide a streamlined procedure for U.S. residents to begin reporting FBAR non-filing.  The procedure had been available only to non-residents.  It also has eliminated the inane $1,500 cap on unreported taxes from foreign accounts.  Tax Analysts reports ($link):

     In addition to permitting resident U.S. taxpayers to use the streamlined program, the IRS has also eliminated the $1,500 tax threshold and the risk questionnaire. Taxpayers must certify that previous compliance failures were not willful.

Under the revised program, all penalties will be waived for nonresident U.S. taxpayers and resident taxpayers will be subject only to a miscellaneous offshore penalty equal to 5 percent of the foreign financial assets that gave rise to the tax compliance issue.

[Attorney Caroline] Ciraolo said practitioners will be pleased that the streamlined program will now be available to residents that previously did not qualify because they were living in the U.S. at the time they initially attempted disclosure. 

This liberalization is combined with higher penalties in some cases.

This looks like a positive development, though I still think it should be more liberal.  A no-questions asked policy for taxpayers with liabilities under a reasonable threshold, with only interest charged on late taxes, would be even better — especially given the extra penalties on those who come in only when it is clear their banks are going to turn over their names anyway.  There are requirements for submitting back foreign account statements, which may not be available.

The IRS doesn’t appear to be applying the relief retroactively, so taxpayers who have already come in voluntarily and paid ridiculous penalties are played for chumps.  And the real problem — worldwide taxation under the U.S. tax system — remains.  A Wall Street Journal report sums it up:

One potential drawback: Taxpayers who come forward in the future may end up faring better than those who heard about the U.S. campaign in the past and presented their case to the IRS then. For example, experts said, taxpayers from the latter group who owed more than $1,500 in taxes could have paid a penalty as high as 27.5%.

In addition, taxpayers abroad face the risk of double taxation, said John Richardson, a Toronto lawyer who works with U.S. taxpayers living in Canada. “The problem is that, penalties aside, the U.S. tax laws are very punitive for U.S. citizens abroad,” he said.

Links:

Commissioner Koskinen news release

IRS news release, IRS Makes Changes to Offshore Programs; Revisions Ease Burden and Help More Taxpayers Come into Compliance 

Streamlined offshore resident procedures

Streamlined U.S. resident procedures

Jack Townsend has a summary and more useful links to the updated IRS procedures.

Accounting Today has a useful article with an oxymoronic headline, IRS Eases Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program for Non-willful Tax Evasion.  If it’s not willful, it’s not evasion.

And remember, the FBAR report for 2013 accounts on Form 114 is due June 30.

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