Posts Tagged ‘Shulman’

Tax Roundup, 6/15/15: IRS declines to make estate tax easy for surviving spouses. And: New ID theft measures!

Monday, June 15th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Due Today: Second Quarter estimated tax payments; returns for U.S. citizens living abroad.

 

Funeral home signIRS declines to make the estate tax portability election easy. There’s no such thing as a joint estate tax return. That means if one spouse has all of the assets, the other spouse’s lifetime estate tax exemption — $5,430,000 for 2015 deaths — can be lost.

Congress changed the tax law to allow a surviving spouse to inherit the deceased spouse’s unused estate tax exemption, for use on when the surviving spouse files an estate tax return. unfortunately, this treatment is not automatic. It is only available if a Form 706 estate tax return is filed for the first spouse to die. The IRS on Friday issued final regulations rejecting any short-cuts in this process.

There are many problems with this approach. The most obvious is the lottery winner problem. A couple might be living in a trailer, and when the first spouse dies, there seems to be no point in filing an estate tax return when their combined assets are a small fraction of the amount triggering estate tax. Then the surviving spouse wins the Powerball, and suddenly the first spouse’s estate tax exemption becomes very valuable — but it’s lost, because no return was filed.

The IRS rejected allowing any pro-forma or short-cut estate tax returns for such situations:

The Treasury Department and the IRS have concluded that, on balance, a timely filed, complete, and properly prepared estate tax return affords the most efficient and administrable method of obtaining the information necessary to compute and verify the DSUE amount, and the alleged benefits to taxpayers from an abbreviated form is far outweighed by the anticipated administrative difficulties in administering the estate tax. In

The IRS did say it would be generous in allowing “Section 9100″ late-filing relief for taxpayers who die with assets below the exclusion amount, but they did not provide any sort of automatic election. The result is a trap for the unwary executors of small estates.

Cite: TD 9725

 

20130419-1IRS announces ID-theft refund fraud measuresThe IRS last week announced (IR-2015-87) steps it promised in March to fight refund fraud in cooperation with tax preparers and software makers:

The agreement — reached after the project was originally announced March 19 — includes identifying new steps to validate taxpayer and tax return information at the time of filing. The effort will increase information sharing between industry and governments. There will be standardized sharing of suspected identity fraud information and analytics from the tax industry to identify fraud schemes and locate indicators of fraud patterns. And there will be continued collaborative efforts going forward.

The most promising of the steps:

Taxpayer authentication. The industry and government groups identified numerous new data elements that can be shared at the time of filing to help authenticate a taxpayer and detect identity theft refund fraud. The data will be submitted to the IRS and states with the tax return transmission for the 2016 filing season. Some of these issues include, but are not limited to:

-Reviewing the transmission of the tax return, including the improper and or repetitive use of Internet Protocol numbers, the Internet ‘address’ from which the return is originating.

-Reviewing computer device identification data tied to the return’s origin.

-Reviewing the time it takes to complete a tax return, so computer mechanized fraud can be detected.

-Capturing metadata in the computer transaction that will allow review for identity theft related fraud.

These are important because they might actually prevent fraudulent refunds from being issued. Measures to help identify fraud after it happens don’t do much, especially when the fraud occurs abroad. Catching the fraudulent returns before the refunds are issued is the only way to really deal with the problem, and the only way to keep innocent taxpayers whose identification has been stolen from having to go through the annoying and sometimes lengthy process of recovering their overpayments.

The sad thing – I see nothing here that couldn’t have been done five years ago, when ID theft refund fraud was already becoming a problem. But the Worst Commissioner Ever was too busy trying to impose preparer regulations on behalf of the big franchise tax prep outfits to pay attention. Priorities.

 

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Bob Vineyard, Best Kept Secrets About Obamacare (Insureblog). “About half of those living in Kentucky and classified as poor were not aware of the basics of Obamacare.”

TaxGrrrl, Spain’s King Felipe Strips Sister Of Royal Title As Tax Evasion Charges Proceed. What good is being regal if things like this happen?

Annette Nellen, Tax reform for 2015? Seems unlikely

Kay Bell, Lessons learned from being tax Peeping Toms

Jason Dinesen, Marriage in the Tax Code, Part 10: Filing Statuses Arrive in 1948

Peter Reilly, Why Is Multi-State Tax Compliance So Hard? “Don’t get me wrong.  I believe that the prudent thing is to try to be in pretty good, if not perfect, compliance.  Just don’t expect anybody to make it really easy any time soon.”

Robert Wood, Beware Tax Cops At Farmers’ Markets

 

20120816-1Joseph Henchman, State of the States: Special Session Edition and Kansas Approves Tax Increase Package, Likely Will Be Back for More (Tax Policy Blog). Mr. Henchman rounds up end-of-session tax moves from around the country. Kansas may have made the biggest changes, including a small retreat from its exemption of pass-throughs from the income tax:

Kansas in 2012 completely exempted the income from such individuals, who now total over 330,000 exempt entities. Efforts to repeal this unusual and non-neutral total exclusion of pass-through income earned a veto threat from Governor Brownback. The guaranteed payments provision is estimated to generate approximately $20 million per year.

Taxing guaranteed payments will hardly plug the fiscal hole created by the blanket pass-through exemption. Joseph concludes: “But overall, it is a grab bag of ideas that does little to address the problems underlying Kansas’s tax and budgetary instability. Absent more fundamental changes, legislators will likely have to return in coming years to address budget gaps.”

 

Norton Francis, How Would the Kansas Senate Close the State’s Budget Gap? Mostly by Taxing Poor People (TaxVox)

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 765The IRS Scandal, Day 766The IRS Scandal, Day 767

 

Career Corner. Reminder: Parents Meddling in Your Careers Will Not Help You (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

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

Thursday, February 12th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Lincoln

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

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

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

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

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

 

Rashia says "thanks, Commissioner!"

Rashia says “thanks, Commissioner!”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

RAC2014

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 644

 

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

 

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

Thursday, January 8th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

It’s all a matter of perspective.

 

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

Wednesday, December 24th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

William PerezQualified Charitable Distributions

Peter Reilly, The Wheels On The Easement Void The Deduction

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

Related: Can political contributions really be taxable gifts?

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/22/14: Lerner speaks, sort of. And: a federal tax amnesty?

Monday, September 22nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner gives an interview. The former IRS officer at the center of the Tea Party disclosure scandal won’t testify under oath, but she sat down for a two-hour interview with Politico: Exclusive: Lois Lerner Breaks Silence:

And she’s a savvy lawyer: She studiously avoided answering fundamental questions about her role in the IRS scandal that could land her in deeper trouble with Congress. During her POLITICO interview, flanked by her husband, a partner at a national law firm, and two of her personal attorneys, she opened up about her life as a pariah, joked about horrible news photos and advice that she disguise herself with a blond wig, and cried when expressing gratitude for her legal team’s friendship.

It is, of course, a public-relations play, designed to make her look like a misunderstood victim of a partisan witch hunt. But it isn’t an especially impressive effort. From the Politico piece:

Several Lerner allies said she was so focused on enforcement that she failed to see the sensitivity of bringing cases against incumbents running for reelection.

But Republicans continue to point to emails in which Lerner inquired about Crossroads specifically, asking her colleagues why the group hadn’t been audited and suggesting the group’s application should be denied. And just weeks before the tea party news broke, after she had seen a draft of the damning inspector general report, she asked colleagues if internal IRS instant messages are tracked and could be requested by Congress.

A little history sheds some light on her “non-partisan” background:

– Before she worked at the IRS, she worked at the Federal Elections Commission, she attempted to get an Illinois GOP senate candidate to withdraw from public life as the price for ending an FEC investigation. The allegations were later dismissed.

– The IRS Commissioner, Doug Shulman, repeatedly denied there was any targeting before the report. Either he knew better, or as a subordinate, she didn’t pass the word up the chain.

– She was in the middle of the Tea Party efforts at an early date. When the Treasury Inspector General Report was about to open the scandal, she did a modified limited hangout, using a planted question to spin the story as just a Cincinnati rogue agent problem.

– She had a hang-up about the Citizens United decision, and her emails show that she was trying to use the tax law to accomplish what the Supreme Court had forbidden.

– The numbers are glaring, showing that conservative groups got much more scrutiny, and it took much longer for their applications to be approved than liberal groups:

targetingstats

Ms. Lerner has, of course, invoked the Fifth Amendment to avoid testifying before Congress about her role in the scandal.

Presumably this interview is the start of a P.R. campaign. I don’t think it will work, but it might get her some good press from outlets inclined to dismiss the scandal.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 500. It features Stonewall Koskinen: The IRS Commissioner Was Supposed to Clean Up the Mess. Instead, He’s Running Interference from Kimberly Strassel of the Wall Street Journal:

 The only thing Mr. Koskinen has seemed remotely interested in turning around is his agency’s ugly story-line. He has yet to even accept his agency did anything wrong, spending a March hearing arguing that the IRS didn’t engage in “targeting” and claiming the Treasury inspector general agreed. This was so misleading the Washington Post gave Mr. Koskinen “three Pinocchios, ” noting the IG had testified to the exact opposite.

He seems intent on de-throning Doug Shulman as the Worst Commissioner Ever.

 

 

get-outRobert D. Flach asks WHAT ABOUT A FEDERAL TAX AMNESTY?

This would be a one-time only offer. The legislation creating the Federal Tax Amnesty Program could so state by forbidding any future Amnesty programs. Or it could state that the federal government would not be able to institute another Amnesty Program during the twenty years after the end of the current amnesty period.

I have my doubts. One Congress can’t bind another, and if it is popular, the pressure for another amnesty will start building as soon as the first one ends. I also worry about the chump effect – people will feel like chumps for complying, and will convince themselves that if they don’t comply, there will be another amnesty anyway. But I might be convinced otherwise, especially if it were combined with tax reforms that would help prevent the need for another one.

 

Russ Fox, “I’ve tried to tell you the truth every time I’ve been here”. “That quote is from IRS Commissioner John Koskinen during his testimony from earlier this week on Capitol Hill. I have a simple question for Commissioner Koskinen: Why doesn’t that quote read, ‘I’ve told you the truth every time I’ve been here?'”

TaxGrrrl, Back To School 2014: Childcare Expenses

Jack Townsend, Trial Management of the Cheek Good Faith Defense.  Or as an old lawyer I know calls it, the “good-faith fraud defense.”

Kay Bell, Getting old sucks. We can’t stop Father Time, but we can prepare physically, emotionally and financially. And it still beats the alternative.

 

David Brunori talks about Nevada’s Tesla giveaway in State Tax Notes ($link):

Nevada is giving $1.3 billion to a company that is essentially owned by a guy worth $12 billion. I don’t begrudge Elon Musk his money. On the contrary, I admire his ability to create and accumulate great wealth. I just don’t see the need to give him public money. Assuming you ascribe to the belief that horizontal equity requires that similarly situated taxpayers bear similar burdens, Nevada is giving away public money…

I know that the politics of incentives are impossible to overcome. And I have had numerous readers tell me to give my constant ranting a rest. But the political inevitability of tax incentives does not make them appropriate or good.

Tax credit corporate welfare doesn’t just hurt the states that “lose” the competition to bribe companies like Tesla. It hurts all of the businesses of the “winning” state that have to pay full-freight while brazen and well-connected companies like Tesla pay nothing.

 

20140922-1William Gale, Income Tax Changes and Economic Growth (TaxVox) “While there is no doubt that tax policy influences economic choices, it is by no means obvious on an ex ante basis that tax rate cuts will ultimately lead to a larger economy.”

Joshua McCaherty,  Senator Schumer’s Retroactive Tax Bill (Tax Policy Blog). Part of the inversion diversion.

Ajay Gupta, Renouncing the Dogma of Surrey’s Infallibility (Tax Analysts Blog). Sounds like something involving the Pope and Henry VIII, but it’s really about transfer pricing.

A new Cavalcade of Risk is up at Workers Comp Resource Center, with posts from around the insurance and risk-management world.

 

News from the Profession. 15 Reasons Why EY’s BuzzFeed Post Is a Bunch of Malarkey (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/4/14: IRS to ease up on FBAR foot-faulters? And: nanny-state taxes!

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Programming note: The Tax Update will take Thursday and Friday off this week to tend to a family wedding.  We’ll be back as usual Monday.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how much he cares for innocent victims of his FBAR war.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how much he cares for innocent victims of his FBAR war.

Maybe we shouldn’t be shooting jaywalkers?  The IRS may be declaring a cease-fire in its long war on inadvertent foreign account violators.  Tax Analysts reports ($link) that IRS Commissioner Koskinen told a tax conference that it will be modifying its Offshore Voluntary Compliance Initiative:

“We are well aware that there are many U.S. citizens who have resided abroad for many years, perhaps even the vast majority of their lives,” Koskinen told a luncheon audience at the 2014 OECD International Tax Conference in Washington. “We have been considering whether these individuals should have an opportunity to come into compliance that doesn’t involve the type of penalties that are appropriate for U.S.-resident taxpayers who were willfully hiding their investments overseas.”

Gee, you think so?  You really think 25%-300% penalties might not be appropriate for the crime of committing personal finance while living abroad?  What could possibly have given him that idea?

     Koskinen also pointed to taxpayers residing in the United States with offshore accounts “whose prior noncompliance clearly did not constitute willful tax evasion but who, to date, have not had a clear way of coming into compliance that doesn’t involve the threat of substantial penalties.”

“We believe that re-striking this balance between enforcement and voluntary compliance is particularly important at this point in time, given that we are nearing July 1, the effective date of FATCA,” Koskinen said. 

One of the things that made Doug Shulman the Worst Commissioner Ever was his brutal treatment of trivial inadvertent offshore paperwork filing violators.  Hopefully his successor will make coming into compliance voluntarily a transparent, predictable process designed primarily to ensure future compliance.  Something like state programs for non-resident non-filers, where taxpayers pay back taxes, if any, and interest for a limited number of open years would make sense  People are understandably reluctant to come into compliance when it can mean financial ruin.

The IRS has not released any details of this kinder, gentler approach, so curb your enthusiasm for now.

Related: IRS Commissioner Koskinen Announces that Changes — Liberalizations — Are In the Offing for OVDP 2012  (Jack Townsend)  “All in all, this is good news, at least from a hope perspective.”

 

20140409-1Robert D Flach offers YET ANOTHER POST CALLING FOR A VOLUNTARY TAX PREPARER DESIGNATION.  Robert makes his case for a “voluntary” designation for preparers who meet some standard.

Robert says something I agree with:

  Having the IRS oversee the designation is not the best idea.  I have suggested that the voluntary RTRP-like designation be administered by an independent industry-based organization like an American Institute of Registered Tax Return Preparers (see “It’s Time for Independent Certification for Tax Preparers“).

If the IRS has nothing to do with it, fine.  If it does, it will inevitably do special favors for its “voluntary” friends and make like difficult for others.

Robert is a little like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, looking for a brain.  The movie quickly makes clear that the Scarecrow already has a perfectly good brain; all he lacks is a diploma.  Robert, a perfectly good (if old-fashioned) preparer, doesn’t need a diploma to save his clients from the Wicked Witch.

 

TaxGrrrl, After TIGTA Report, Expect More Tax Refund Delays,  The IRS is encouraged to expand its refund offset programs.

Paul Neiffer, Portability Revisited. “With the “permanent” changes in the estate tax laws from about 2 years ago, we now have a permanent provision called portability.  This allows for the unused portion of someone’s estate to be “ported” over to the surviving spouse to be used on their final estate tax return.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 391

 

 

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

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

Joseph Thorndike, Democrats Just Love Their Nanny-State Taxes (Tax Analysts Blog):

The Tax Foundation recently spotlighted a Democratic tax proposal that gives substance to the name-calling: the Stop Subsidizing Childhood Obesity Act, introduced last month by Sens. Tom Harkin, and Richard Blumenthal.

According to its champions, the act would protect children from the predations of junk food purveyors. In particular, it would deny manufacturers any sort of tax deduction “for advertising and marketing directed at children to promote the consumption of food of poor nutritional quality.” It would use the resulting revenue to help fund the Department of Agriculture’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.

That all sounds great. Except for the fact that it’s arbitrary, capricious, and an egregious misuse of tax policy.

The tax law – is there anything it can’t do?

Joseph adds, wisely:

Reasonable people can disagree about what qualifies as a loophole. But by almost any definition, the deduction for advertising junk food is not one.

Once you decide the tax law is a public policy Swiss Army Knife, there’s no logical place to stop.

 

20140411-1Kay Bell, Calories or volume: Which is the better tax on sugary drinks?  Neither.  Some problems just aren’t tax problems.

David Brunori’s righteous anger at taxes on e-cigarettes is now freely available at Tax Analysts Blog: Taxing E-Cigarettes Seems Crazy.  “Yet politicians routinely say that e-cigarettes will lead people to start smoking, or worse — use drugs! Are they daft?”  No, just greedy.

 

Renu Zaretsky, In the Midwest, Across the Pacific, and Down Under.  Tax Custs in Ohio and a rejected tax boost in Missouri are part of the TaxVox headline roundup today.

 

Tax Justice Blog, Will Anti-Tax Yogis Sink Tax-Reform in D.C.?.  If that’s what it takes to get the pic-i-nic basket.

 

This will make the homecoming in 2042 a little less awkward.  WMUR.com reports:

The woman who, along with her husband, held police at bay during a nine-month standoff in 2007 over tax evasion has apologized to the community.

Elaine Brown’s apology appeared in Plain Facts, a monthly publication written by Plainfield residents.

She said she and her husband Ed were trying to advance the “cause of justice.” She went on to say they “failed to take into account the impact we were having on others in the town. We failed to realize the fear, anxiety and impact we were causing these good people.

She was unable to apologize in person because she has been detained — until November 2042, according to the Bureau of Prisons inmate locator.  She should be home in time to invite her neighbors to her 102nd birthday party.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/9/14: Worst-ever edition. And: It’s Scandal Day 365!

Friday, May 9th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

I was grumpy yesterday when I noticed Tax Analysts correspondent @Meg_Shreve’s live-tweeting of a speech by Doug Shulman, the Worst IRS Commissioner Ever.  So I tweet-grumpted, adding “#worstcommissionerever (fixed)” to one of her posts — the “(fixed)” as a perhaps inadequate attempt to inform the Twitterverse that the tag was my addition, not hers (apologies to Meg Shreve).  That earned this response:

 

20140509-1

 

Ah, where to begin?  How about with identity theft?  Doug Shulman took office with a reputation as an information systems maven.  He then presided over an historic IT debacle.  Tax refund fraud — fundamentally a systems failure —  has let two-bit grifters like Rashia Wilson steal tens of billions of dollars in fraudulent refunds over the years.

This problem has been ramping up for years, and only now, with Shulman gone, is the IRS beginning to take effective action to prevent it.  My wife can’t go shopping in Chicago without me getting a call from the credit card company warning me of a suspicious transaction, but Doug Shulman’s IRS could send 655 refunds to the same apartment in Lithuania without batting an eye.

Rashia says "thanks, Commissioner!"

Rashia says “thanks, Commissioner!”

While the theft of taxpayer billions is outrageous enough, the inept treatment of ID theft victims makes it even worse.  Only after Doug Shulman left did the IRS even begin to get this right.

The Worst Commissioner Ever was just too darned busy to stop ID theft.  He was busy trying to increase IRS power over preparers with a useless, expensive and unilateral preparer regulation regime.  He reversed the longstanding IRS position that the agency had no such regulatory power, only to be unceremoniously slapped down by the courts.   In the meantime, the prospect of the regulations drove thousands of preparers out of the business, increasing taxpayer costs and driving many taxpayers to self-prepare — and surely causing some to fall out of the system altogether.  The IRS wasted enormous resources on this futile power grab — resources that might have been better-devoted, to, oh, maybe the fight against identity theft.

 

He was also busy shooting jaywalkers.  International tax enforcement is considered Doug Shulman’s greatest success — but there was no reason the pursuit of wealthy international money-launderers had to also terrorize American expatriates whose offenses were to commit everyday personal finance.  Many folks have been hit with ridiculous penalties for not filing FBAR reports that they had no idea existed.  These folks are often people who married overseas or moved out of the U.S. as children, but were presumptively treated as international money-launderers when they tried to come into the system, and were hit with enormous penalties — often when little or no tax had been avoided.

It’s hard to imagine that an agency that can find ways to simply wave away the ACA employer mandate couldn’t find a way to allow expats and individuals without criminal intent to come into the international reporting system without risking financial disaster.  The states that allow non-resident non-filers to come in by paying five years of back taxes provide an obvious model.

 

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how big is legacy is.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how big is legacy is.

Then there is the scandal.  When Tea Party groups complained about absurd and abusive IRS information requests, sympathetic Congresscritters asked Doug Shulman if the IRS was targeting Tea Party groups.  The Worst Commissioner Ever testified before Congress that the IRS was doing nothing of the sort:

“There’s absolutely no targeting. This is the kind of back and forth that happens to people” who apply for tax-exempt status, Shulman said.

That statement, of course, became inoperative when the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reported that the IRS was, in fact, picking on the Tea Party groups.  Subsequent revelations have shown that it was exactly a partisan attempt to fight anti-administration groups.  So Doug Shulman either was too lazy and ineffective to know what his own agency was doing, or he knew, or he didn’t care.  He destroyed the credibility of the agency as a nonpartisan enclave of competent technicians.

Now the party controlling the House of Representatives is on notice that the agency wants to see it lose.  That agency can hardly expect generous appropriations as long as that perception remains (and the new Commissioner has done nothing reassuring on that score).   This will damage the agency’s effectiveness for years — all because The Worst Commissioner Ever was unwilling or unable to run a professional, non-partisan agency.

This is a record of administrative ineptitude and negligence that is unbeaten.  No IRS commissioner has so squandered agency resources and reputation.  If another Commissioner has even come close, I’d sure like to know who it was.

 

Meanwhile, the TaxProf has reached a milestone: The IRS Scandal, Day 365.  The biggest item in this edition is the report that the IRS had not destroyed Tea Party donor lists — after saying it had — and that the IRS has audited 10% of Tea Party donors.  This is a staggering audit rate, if true, and is a tremendous scandal in itself if the IRS doesn’t come up with a good explanation.

TaxGrrrl, House Finds Lerner, Central Figure In Tax Exempt Scandal, In Contempt Of Congress

 

20140509-2Jana Luttenegger, Deadline Approaching to Avoid Losing Tax Exempt Status (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). Get those 990-series reports filed!

Trish McIntire, EFTPS – Inquiry PIN.  “The Inquiry PIN will allow taxpayers to check and make sure that their federal tax deposits have been made and catch a problem before it becomes a major issue.”  This should be used by all employers.

Peter Reilly, Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Owner Scores Touchdown In Tax Court.  “It may seem odd to look at a case that ends up with a charitable deduction dis-allowance of nearly $4 million as a victory, but when you consider how taxpayers generally fare in easement cases it really is.”

Leslie Book, Tax Court Jurisdiction to Determine its Jurisdiction: Foreign Taxes and Credits (Procedurally Taxing)

Mindy Herzfeld, International Tax Trending (Tax Analysts Blog)

 

Richard Borean, Tax Freedom Day Arrives in Final Two States: Connecticut and New Jersey (Tax Policy Blog)

Howard Gleckman, Taxing Employer-Sponsored Insurance Would Hike Social Security Benefits But Boost Federal Coffers (TaxVox)

 

Kay Bell, IRS employee arrested after inadvertently following Obama daughters’ motorcade onto White House grounds.  Oops.

Tax Justice Blog, Déjà vu: Oklahoma Enacts Tax Cut Voters Don’t Want.  I’m not sure about the “don’t want” part.

Robert D. Flach has your Friday morning Buzz!

 

News from the Profession.  Deloitte CEO Prefers Traditional Photo Op Over Selfie  (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/6/2013: Iowa preparer gets prison for reporting too much income. And an ID theft nightmare ends.

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

bureauofprisonsSometimes a big refund isn’t a good thing.  A Shellsburg, Iowa man went too far to get his clients big refunds.  The AP reports that Keith Rath was sentenced last week to 21 months after pleading guilty one count of an 8-count indictment.  He was charged with fabricating business income on 1040s.

While it may seem odd that the IRS would have a problem with taxpayers reporting too much income, the Earned Income Tax Credit is the motivation.  If you have around $10,000 of businss or wage income, you can maximize this refundable credit, generating a nice check from the IRS.

The report says the clients were anaware of the fraud.  It seems like you would notice a business on your return that doesn’t exist, but many taxpayers don’t even look, especially if they like the refund being reported.  The taxpayer problably isn’t pleased to have to give that money back.

It is estimated that about 25% of earned income tax credit claims are improper.  That apparently is just fine with the Governor and the Iowa General Assembly, who doubled Iowa’s EITC last year — with a predictible effect of sending around $8 million to Iowa thieves annually, with and without the aid of shady preparers.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 89.

 

Jason Dinesen, Taxpayer Identity Theft — Part 18:

I’ve been telling the story of Wendy Boka and the identity theft nightmare she’s going through with the IRS. Her husband Brian died at age 31 in 2010. Someone stole his identity and filed a fraudulent tax return in his name.

On August 1, 2013, the refund check from the IRS for that 2010 tax return finally arrived in Wendy’s mailbox.

Jason’s series on his client’s identity theft nightmare shows the huge cost of this out-of-control scam.  While the $5 billion mailed annually to thieves is bad enough, it pales compared to the human cost to the taxpayers whose IDs are stolen — the months of frustration, the near-useless bureaucracy, and the financial losses.  The IRS failure to address this, while spending resources on a useless preparer regulation scheme, are what made Douglas Shulman the Worst Commissioner Ever.

Kay Bell, Tax-related identity theft: Its growth and IRS efforts to stop it

 

Me, When you buy business assets, no do-overs. (IowaBiz.com):

The Moral?  No do-overs. You only get one shot at the purchase price allocation when you buy a business. The purchase price allocation needs to be addressed early in your negotiations. If you want to have experts come in for a cost segregation study, you should do it as part of your due diligence before the deal closes, or under agreement after the close with the seller. You can’t unilaterally change the allocation. 

 

Russ Fox, Kansas Joins Bad States for Gamblers in 2014

Robert D. Flach has his Buzz on!

TaxGrrrl profiles fellow tax blogger Peter J. Reilly.

Peter Reilly, Rhode Island Not Giving Historic Credit For Journal Entries.   But journal entries are history, right?

Jack Townsend, IRS Has No Authority To Settle Cases Referred to DOJ Tax Even After They Are Returned

William Perez, IRS Update for August 2, 2013

 

Yes.  Is the Exclusion for Employer-Provided Healthcare Outdated? (Jeremy Scott, Tax Analysts Blog)

Martin Sullivan, Tax Reform: Will the Chairmen Offer Real Plans or Gimmicks?  (Tax Analysts Blog) Bet on gimmicks.

Kyle Pomerleau, More Trouble for Small Businesses in Tax Reform Talks (Tax Policy Blog)

Today, it seems like there is more trouble for pass-through businesses coming from the Democratic Party.

According to Tax Analysts (subscription required), Charles Schumer (D-NY) is quoted as saying “I don’t think we should lower individual tax rates. I think the overwhelming majority of our caucus agrees. We think 39.6 percent is about the right rate.”

Any “reform” that doesn’t lower rates is no reform at all.

 

Tax Justice Blog, Sales Tax Holidays Are Silly Policy:

While one commonly cited rationale for such holidays is that they increase local consumer spending, boosting sales for local businesses, available research concludes this “boost” in sales is primarily the result of consumers shifting the timing of their already planned purchases.

Jana Luttenegger, Sales Tax Holidays in Iowa and around the US

Howard Gleckman, We Make More Than We Think (TaxVox)

Boulevard of Broken Dreams. The AICPA Has Created A Place For Young CPAs To Share Their Woes (and Dreams) (Going Concern)

Answering The Critical Question: Why we all need Dolce & Gabbana to survive the tax evasion drama (Handbag.com)

 

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Long live the Queen!

Thursday, July 18th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130717-1The Facebook “Queen of IRS Tax Fraud” will need to live for a long time to get out of her new palace.  Rashia Wilson, who famously boasted on her Facebook of her fraud prowess, got a 21-year exile in federal prison yesterday in a Tampa federal courtroom.  Tampa Bay Business Journal reports:

A Tampa federal court judge sentenced Rashia Wilson, a Wimauma woman who dubbed herself the “First Lady” and “Queen of Tax Fraud,” to 21 years in prison on charges of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

She also was ordered to forfeit $2.2 million, the proceeds traceable to the offenses, according to a written statement.

I have a feeling that not much of that $2.2 million will be recouped.

Ms. Wilson, perhaps imprudently, put on her Facebook:

YES I’M RASHIA THE QUEEN OF IRS TAX FRAUD.  IM’ A MILLIONAIRE FOR THE RECORD SO IF U THINK INDICTING ME WILL BE EASY IT WONT I PROMISE U!

She also posted the fetching picture in this post with some of your money.

Identity thieves like Ms. Wilson are milking the U.S. Treasury to the tune of maybe $5 billion annually.  While Rashia Wilson was buying $90,000 cars and throwing $30,000 birthday parties with your money, The Worst Commissioner Ever was leading IRS efforts to create a worthless preparer regulation bureaucracy while hassling Tea Partiers and terrorizing innocent Americans abroad.  Priorities, I guess.

Related: Jason Dinesen, Taxpayer Identity Theft — Part 17

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Tax Roundup, 5/22/2013: Don’t blame me, I’m only the boss. Also: tornado tax relief.

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how bad he feels about politcal harassment under his watch.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how bad he feels about politcal harassment under his watch.

The Worst Commissioner Ever returned to Washington yesterday to testify before a Senate committee on the IRS scandal.  He bravely took responsibility for the targeting of disfavored political groups and apologized to the victims.

Well, not exactly:

 I certainly am not personally responsible for creating a list that had inappropriate criteria on it. And what I know, with the full facts that are out, is from the inspector general’s report, which doesn’t say that I’m responsible for that. With that said, this happened on my watch. And I very much regret that it happened on my watch.

In other words, I was just the boss, and you can’t blame me for what those crazy kids in Cincinnati do.

 

Just exercising the right they encouraged the Tea Partiers to use – silence.  The IRS functionary who announced the scandal in response to a planted question isn’t going to answer real ones.  From the Wall Street Journal:

Lois Lerner, the head of the Internal Revenue Service office that targeted conservative groups, intends to invoke her constitutional right against self-incrimination and decline to answer questions about the matter when questioned by a congressional committee Wednesday.

Ms. Lerner, director of the tax-exempt-organizations division at the IRS, notified the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform through her attorney that she wouldn’t answer questions on the matter, according to a committee spokesman.

When it comes to the Bill of Rights, better late than never.

 

Is Washington a suburb of Cincinnati?  Oversight from Washington, All Along    (Eliana Johnson)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 13

Watchdog.org, Top 10 quotes about Obama’s #scandalpalooza

Via Don Boudreaux, The Real Lesson of the IRS Scandal (Richard Epstein) and The Autocrat Accountants    (Mark Steyn)

Patrick Temple-West,  White House knew of IRS scandal in April, and more (Tax Break)

Clint Stretch, Targeting tax-exempts and tax reform (Tax Analysts Blog)

Joseph Thorndike, A World Without 501(c)(4)s (Tax Analysts Blog)

Russ Fox, Ms. Lerner Knows the Fifth (IRS Scandal Update)

 

In other news:

Kay Bell, Tornado-ravaged areas of Oklahoma declared major disasters, leading to special tax relief from IRS

Trish McIntire,  Oklahoma DIsaster- Tax Relief.

TaxGrrrl, IRS Announces Tax Relief For Oklahoma Tornado Victims

 

Paul Neiffer, Will Excess Farm Loss Rules Apply With New Farm Bill?

Jason Dinesen, How to Allocate the Deduction for Federal Estimated Tax Payments on Your Iowa Tax Return

Robert D. Flach, TRUE TAX TIME TALES – IRA WITHDRAWALS

 

Brian Strahle,  MARYLAND:  WYNNE CASE UPDATE

On Friday, May 17, 2013, the Maryland Court of Appeals denied the comptroller’s motion for reconsideration in Comptroller v. Wynne,  which struck down the state’s application of credits against pass through income from S corporations; however, the court stayed implementation of the ruling to allow the comptroller to petition the U.S. Supreme Court for certiorari.

Peter Reilly,  RVania Resident Taxed By New Mexico.  State tax problems of folks who live on the road.

 

Kaye Thomas,  Self-Directed IRA Implodes.  The same case I discussed here.

 

 Jack Townsend, Tax Perjury and FBAR Charges Related to Illegal Income Fake Art Case

Jim Maule, Taxation is Not Theft.  It’s not theft when the government does it.

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/16/2013: Acting-out edition. And a real Iowa economic development initiative.

Thursday, May 16th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
No-longer-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller

No-longer-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller

So the Worst Acting Commissioner Ever is gone.  From The Wall Street Journal:

 President  Barack Obama  forced the resignation Wednesday of the acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service in connection with the inappropriate targeting of conservative political groups.

“Americans are right to be angry about it and I’m angry about it,” Mr.  Obama said in announcing the departure of acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller, who took over the post in November. “The IRS has to operate with absolute integrity.”

Mr. Miller’s resignation is necessary, given the evidence that he hasn’t been honest about IRS harassment of right-side political organizations, but it won’t be sufficient to quell the scandal.   Yesterday’s line, that the scandal was the work of “two rogue employees” in Cincinnati, is risible in light of the involvement of the D.C. and Laguna Niguel offices in the harassment.  That is, unless the two rogue employees were Doug Shulman and Steven Miller.

The TaxProf rounds up a big day in big media coverage: The IRS Scandal, Day 7.  Other blog coverage:

 

Tony Nitti, IRS Takes Time Away From Bullying Tea Party To Release Snoop Lion’s Tax Lien:

So in my view, the problem here isn’t so much that the IRS “targeted” a particular type of taxpayer — because that’s what the IRS does – but rather that in targeting the Tea Party, the Service is reflecting a political bias, something an arm of the government simply cannot do.

I think that’s about right.  Given the long delays in Tea Party applications, while similar applications by left-side groups were routinely approved, it’s pretty hard to believe that it wasn’t discrimination against right-side viewpoints.

 

Christopher Bergin, Scandal, Scandal, Scandal (Tax Analysts Blog):

Among the many ridiculous tasks our politicians pile on the tax collector, the agency has been charged with determining whether political organizations applying for 501(c)(4) status are too political and to do that without getting political. Sounds like a winner to me. Last Friday, the IRS admitted it failed in performing that task. What a surprise.
The IRS also fails in administering a social welfare program known as the earned income tax credit. And just think of how well it will administer the myriad of rules it will have to deal with once the new health care system becomes fully operational.

But we can trust them to regulate preparers, right?

Victor Fleischer raises related point in a New York Times piece.  While I think some of the focus on “institutional” issues is a way to change the subject from political bullying, I don’t mind if it leads people to realize that the tax law is for collecting taxes, not the Swiss Army Knife of public policy.

Howard Gleckman at TaxVox clings to the “botched processing” line: The IRS and the Tea Party: Treasury Report Finds Big Bungling but Small Scandal

Joseph Henchman, President Obama Obtains Resignation of IRS Acting Commissioner; Takes Effect in June (Tax Policy Blog)

TaxGrrrl, Acting IRS Commissioner Miller Out In Midst Of IRS Tax Exempt Scandal

Kay Bell, Obama fires IRS Acting Commissioner

Peter Reilly, Have Some Sympathy For IRS Cincinnati Gang That Couldn’t Sort Straight

Going Concern, Acting IRS Commissioner Is Gonna Take Off Now

Me, So the Worst Acting Commissioner Ever is done.  Too bad, they just finished his official portrait.

 

 

In other news:

Minnesota Budget Deal Includes $2 Billion Tax Hike (Elizabeth Malm, Tax Policy Blog):

The budget adds another income tax bracket on single filers earning $150,000 or more annually. The state’s top rate will now be 9.85 percent, making it the fourth highest top rate in the country. Politicians are spinning this as only affecting the “top 2 percent,” but that misses the point.

Pushing more of the tax burden onto a smaller, wealthier group is poor policy, not because I care about rich people more (an absurd and inaccurate, but unfortunately common, assertion), but because those incomes are volatile. Income tax revenues that derive a large share of receipts from the wealthiest are unstable, and there’s a lot of research to back that up (a few examples can be found here and here). This point is exacerbated by the fact that lawmakers might also throw in an additional temporary income tax surcharge on those earning $500,000 or more.

This will do more for Iowa’s economic development than anything the Iowa economic development bureaucracy ever will.

 

Tax Justice Blog, State News Quick Hits: Why a Revenue Uptick is Not a Surplus, and More

You’re as young as you feel.  A Rhode Island man pleaded guilty yesterday to charges arising out of an alleged kickback operation involving the Navy.

At age 81.

Maybe there are federal prisons with shuffleboards.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/13/2013: Modified limited hangout edition. And a tax blog hijacking!

Monday, May 13th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130419-1If the IRS hoped Friday’s “apology” for giving extra special attention to tax-exemption applications of right-side groups would settle things, they’re very disappointed this weekend.  The Washington Post reports that the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration will soon issue a report saying Friday’s apologizer, IRS Director, Exempt Organizations, knew this was going on in 2011.  Meanwhile, in 2012 IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman was still testifying that IRS was not picking on the Tea Party.

So not only was the Shulman era at IRS grasping, incompetent and casually cruel, it was dishonest.

The Tax Prof has a fresh roundup, The Deepening IRS Scandal.

Another Washington Post story has this:

At various points over the past two years, Internal Revenue Service  officials singled out for scrutiny not only groups with “tea party” or “patriot” in their names but also nonprofit groups that criticized the government and sought to educate Americans about the U.S. Constitution, according to documents in an audit conducted by the agency’s inspector general.

The documents, obtained by The Washington Post from a congressional aide with knowledge of the findings, show that the IRS field office in charge of evaluating applications for tax-exempt status decided to focus on groups making statements that “criticize how the country is being run” and those that were involved in educating Americans “on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.”

Yes, we sure need to keep an eye on those wingnuts who want to educate people on the Constitution and Bill of Rights.  Dangerous lunatics, they are!

There is so much blog coverage of this that I won’t even try to round it all up.  A few links from our blogroll:

Megan McArdle,  Why Did the IRS Target Conservative Groups?

Going Concern, Footnotes: Tea Party Patriots to IRS: Drop Dead

TaxProf,  Schmalbeck on the IRS ‘Targeting’ of Conservative Groups, where an academic gives a “nothing to see here” take, one that is already largely overtaken by events.

 

And some other coverage:

Connor Simpson,  Why the IRS Abruptly Apologized to the Tea Party  (via Instapundit):

The report doesn’t shay whether or not Shulman was informed about the Tea Party questioning, but it does show the IRS’s chief counsel was. It’s standard procedure for the counsel and commissioner to discuss this  sort of thing before a Congressional hearing.

If so, The Worst Commissioner Ever can only plead incompetence instead of lying to Congress.

Reason.com has a bunch of posts at their Hit and Run blog, including  Matthew Feeney,  IRS Scrutiny Extended Beyond Tea Party Groups (Reason.com); Jesse Walker,  A Brown Scare at the IRS?; Matt Welch,  NY Times: IRS Targeting of Tea Party Only Proves Republicans Are Desperate  “It’s the inability to see discrete news events for what they are, rather than what they might mean for the neverending scrum between Teams Red and Blue.”

Jonathan Adler,  IRS Scrutinized Teaching the Constitution (Volokh Conspiracy)

Professor Bainbridge, Wider Problems Found at IRS – Twisting slowly in the wind

William Jacobson,  IRS anti-Tea Party scandal gets real — senior IRS officials aware of targeting (Update – Chief Counsel knew and targets expanded to groups “educating on the Constitution and Bill of Rights”)

Katrina Trinko, Rubio: IRS Commissioner Should Resign Immediately (The Corner)

Ann Althouse has more.

And here’s my take from Friday, if you missed it:   Look at a celebrity return?  You’re fired!  Harass a Tea Party outfit?  Carry on.

 

In other news:

Nina Olson, IRS Taxpayer Advocate, has an article in Tax Analysts (via the TaxProf) affirming her support for taxpayer regulation.  Ms. Olson has done much good work as Taxpayer Advocate, but her support for increased preparer regulation is economically uninformed and hopelessly wrongheaded.

 

Russ Fox,  IRAs and Owning a Business Through an IRA and  What Can Go Wrong?  Nevada Democrats Want to Give Tax Breaks to Movie Industry

Peter Reilly,  Brooklyn Grandmother Wins On Dependency Exemption.   Just in time for Mothers Day!

TaxGrrrl,  IRS Set To Close Next Week.  Bad news: it’s only temporary.

 

Trish McIntire,  Max and Dave Looking for Reform

Nick Kasprak,  Do Tax Cuts Pay for Themselves?

Patrick Temple-West,  Falling deficit alters budget debate, and more

Linda Beale,  Orrin Hatch on tax reform at the ABA–a predictable right-wing rant

 

Andrew Mitchel,  Barnes Group – Structured Repatriation Was a Dividend.  In spite of the best efforts of national tax firms.

Phil Hodgen,  Decline of American Civilization, Form 8938 Edition.  “Let’s just bury the world in useless paperwork, shall we?”  That does appear to be the plan.

 

Kay Bell,  IRS reports gains in criminal tax, other financial investigations

Jack Townsend, Cheating is Cheating, Except When Offshore Accounts Are The Means, followed up with More on Conviction Rates in Tax Cases.

Janet Novack,  Independent Contractor Enforcement: There’s More Than The IRS To Fear.  Plenty of state rules and taxes also come into play.

Jim Maule,  The Complexities of Tax: Is This Really Necessary?  “A recent IRS private ruling, PLR 201318003, illustrates how the special low rates for capital gain adds layer upon layer of complexity to the tax law.”

 

I’d like to report a hijacking.  It looks like somebody at Tax Analysts forgot to renew their ownership of the  tax.com domain name.  Going there this morning gets this:

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Tax.com is (has been?) home to the great group blog featuring, among others, David Brunori, Christopher Bergin, David Cay Johnston, Martin Sullivan, Cara Griffith and Clint Stretch.  I hope this is only a temporary hijacking.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/21/2013: Preparer regs struck down. What’s next?

Monday, January 21st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130121-2After most of us stopped paying attention Friday afternoon, a federal judge in Washington D.C. stunned the tax world by striking down the IRS effort to regulate tax preparers.  U.S. District Court Judge James Boasburg ruled that the IRS lacks the legal authority to impose the RTRP program.

So now what?

I expect the IRS to appeal the ruling to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, but that would take months.  It seems unlikely that Judge Boasburg would stay his own ruling in the meantime, and I doubt that an appeals court will either.

Dan Alban of the Institute for Justice, the legal team behind the suit, told Accounting Today:

“Anything that’s part of the RTRP regulations is struck down by this decision today,” Alban explained. “The PTIN is a separate regulation and it’s done under separate statutory authority. It’s a ‘shall issue’ type of permit. If you pay the fee, if you pay that amount of about $65, you’ll get a PTIN. The IRS was going to make the PTINs conditional on having the RTRP credentials, but now they’re not allowed to do that. It will go back to how it was last year, when you had to get a PTIN, but anyone could get one and you didn’t have to pass an exam or complete any continuing education.”

So no PTIN refunds, but no testing or CPE requirements, and, presumably, no more RTRP designation.  This would seem to end the need to get IRS approval for CPE programs, a requirement that has shut down many local CPE programs, like those offered by the organization of Iowa Enrolled Agents.

As of this writing, the IRS has yet to comment.

So who wins?  Small unenrolled preparers are big winners.  They are now free of the brain-dead RTRP bureaucracy.  Enrolled Agents are also big winners.  The RTRP designation threatened to kill the EA brand by confusing taxpayers about the difference between enrolled agents, with their much stricter testing and CPE requirements, and Registered Tax Return Preparers.  But the biggest winners are taxpayers, who will not have their costs increased by an IRS-imposed guild system that would reduce the availability of tax preparers while doing nothing to increase their quality.

The losers?  The IRS, which loses its ability to bully preparers with the extrajudicial discipline system of the new regulations.  The big national preparers, who were instrumental in drafting the rules because they promised to weaken their competitors.  And, retrospectively, Doug Shulman, the former IRS commissioner who masterminded the requirements.

 

When at first you get enjoined, try, try again.  In 2010 a Kansas City-area man was enjoined from setting up a bunch of tax shelter plans, finding that the man “Deliberately Advised His Clients to Break the Law, and Helped Them Go About Doing so.”  Apparently he dusted himself off and went right back to work.  From a Department of Justice Press release:

The Justice Department announced today that a federal court has permanently barred Cash Management Systems, a Virginia corporation, from promoting two tax schemes that allegedly involve disguising wages as tool-reimbursement or tool-rental payments. Also subject to the civil injunction order were Cash Mangement’s marketing arm, Xell Enterprises, incorporated in Kansas; its principals, Bruce Lemay and Richard Herson Mills; and Allen Davison, of Overland Park, Kan. According to the government complaint, Davison provided legal opinion letters regarding the schemes and served on Cash Management’s board of directors.

 Judge Eric F. Melgren of the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas entered the permanent injunction, which the defendants consented to without admitting to the allegations against them. Davison was enjoined from promoting other tax schemes in 2010.

No, you can’t give a tax free “tool allowance” to employees.  And just because somebody was enjoined from promoting other tax schemes doesn’t mean this one works.

 

In case you were wondering: Iowa explains sales tax treatment of Groupons.

Gongol, The people who pay a tax aren’t always the people who give the money to the government:

Companies that make medical devices are paying a 2.3%  excise tax to help fund the Federal health-care program. A lot of people undoubtedly think that means the 2.3% will come straight out of the company’s profits (and this in turn can lead to strongly populist instincts about sticking it to the people making a profit in health care). But the people who pay for a tax aren’t always the ones who cut the checks to the IRS.

So true.

Paul Neiffer, IRS Announces April 15 Farmer Deadline

Russ Fox, Farmers & Fishermen Get Relief From Catch-22 Situation

Jack Townsend,  Tax Court Applies Willful Blindness to Find Civil Fraud by Clear and Convincing Evidence.  A discussion of the Fiore case, which I discussed last week.

TaxGrrrl, Why Justice Matters, Revisited

Richard Morrison,  Louisiana Tax Reform: Sizing up the Jindal Plan (Tax Po0licy Blog)

Roberton Williams,  How the New Tax Act Affects the Alternative Minimum Tax (TaxVox): “One curiosity that won’t please high-income taxpayers: the new Obamacare taxes on investment income don’t count in determining whether you owe  AMT.”

Robert D. Flach,  RULES FOR DEDUCTING NON-CASH CONTRIBUTIONS

Jana Luttenegger, IRS Offers Options if You Can’t Pay Your Taxes (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Kay Bell, Tax filing preparation checklist

Brian Strahle,  Is Your Company Paying Too Much Virginia BPOL?

Dan Meyer, Identity Theft: When a Rogue Tax Preparer Could Cost You More than a Filing Fee

 

OK, taking bribes is bad, but not putting them on your 1040 is really beyond the pale.  C. Ray Nagin, Former New Orleans Mayor, Indicted on Federal Bribery, Honest Services Wire Fraud, Money Laundering, Conspiracy, and Tax Charges.  

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Tax Roundup, 1/14/2013: Big webcast today! Meanwhile, outlook bleak for Iowa income tax policy.

Monday, January 14th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130114-1New law webcast today!  I will be participating in a webcast today on the new Fiscal Cliff law and other recent tax developments.  The webcast, sponsored by the Iowa Bar Association, will start at noon.  I will join Roger McEowen of the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation, and IRS Taxpayer Liason Christy Maitre.   Cost:  $35 for IBA tax school attendees and attendees of any 2012 CALT Farm and Urban Tax School; $35; $75 otherwise.  Agenda here, registration page here.  2 hours of timely CPE and Tax Update fun!

 

No good will come of this.  The 2013 session of the 85th Iowa General Assembly begins today, and the outlook for improvement in Iowa’s tax system is bleak.  Iowa business groups have firmly embraced a state tax incentive policy based on taking money from all of us to bribe well-connected businesses to do things they would do anyway.  From the Sioux City Journal:

Business groups like the Iowa Chamber Alliance, a non-partisan coalition representing 16 chambers of commerce and economic development organizations, are supporting a variety of tax credits to retain, grow and attract investments in the state. Those credits include restoring the $185 million cap on economic development tax credits that currently stands at $125 million for fiscal 2013.

Jason Hutcheson, chief executive officer of the Greater Burlington Partnership, said tax credits are a highly effective tool that deliver a high return on investment and are essential to retain, expand and recruit businesses and to attract technology and research. ICA members also are lobbying legislators to spend at least $25 million for business development incentives after the line item was shrunk to $15 million for the current fiscal year.

The politicians shed crocodile tears about just being forced to go along with a system based on them granting special favors:

Senate GOP Leader Bill Dix of Shell Rock said there is opposition to government choosing winners and losers with taxpayer-funded incentives, but he added, “There’s no question in my mind that an incentive policy is the world we live in. I don’t appreciate that and wish it wasn’t the case, but we do need a policy that includes incentives.”

You know what would be a real incentive to grow a business in Iowa?  A much simpler tax system with lower rates, one eliminating the corporate income tax altogether.  Something like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

Instead, Iowa has a horrible system built around complexity and high rates, made less painful — even lucrative — for those with the connections and lobbyists to score targeted tax credits.  The legislators hear from those people — not from the more numerous businesses  who quietly set up shop in South Dakota or other more friendly tax climates.

20130114-2

The Iowa Research Credit is refundable, so Iowa writes a check when the credit exceeds the computed tax. The $45.2 million in corporate research credits claimed in 2010 resulted in $43 million in refunds.

The best we can hope for from the legislature is prompt action on “coupling” legislation to conform Iowa’s 2012 tax law to the federal changes passed earlier this month.  The 2012 filing of many Iowa returns is on hold until they do so.  We’ll see if they can even accomplish that much.

 

What does the Worst IRS Commissioner Ever do for an encore?  He becomes a guest scholar at the Brookings Institution, which may never recover (TaxProf)

Scott Drenkard, Governor Jindal’s Bold New Tax Plan  (TaxPolicy Blog).  Could you live with a higher state sales tax if the income tax goes away?  Even if it taxes accounting services?  Tempting.

Paul Neiffer, Good News – Certain Credits Offset AMT

Jack Townsend, The Big Boys Get Better Treatment in Our Tax System Than Do Minnows

Joseph Thorndike, Peggy Noonan and the Beleaguered 1 Percent

TaxGrrrl, Ask the taxgirl: Filing Your Tax Return Early

News you can use: States to seniors: Good times may be ending, and more (Patrick Temple-West, Tax Break)

The Critical Question: Your Money Or Your Life – Which Can You Deduct ? (Peter Reilly)

That’s what they say, anyway.  White House says no to Death Star.  (Kay Bell)

At least she knows her constitution.  Miss Iowa takes fifth! (TheBeanwalker.com)  UPDATE!!!  Miss America Contestant Says Marijuana Should Only Be Legal For “Recreational Use and Health Care” (Mike Riggs, Reason.com).  So don’t smoke at the office.

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/3/2012: Medicare 3.8% tax guidance issued. Meanwhile, to the cliff!

Monday, December 3rd, 2012 by Joe Kristan

The IRS issued proposed regulations for the 3.8% Obamacare tax on investment income Friday.  I will do detailed posts on the in the coming days as I study them.

I’ll note two important items from my first overview of the proposed rules:

  • The rules allow taxpayers a free opportunity to redo their activity “grouping” elections for the passive loss rules for 2013. “Passive” business activities are subject to the the 3.8% tax.  Because “passive” status often depends on how much time a taxpayer spends working in a business, how different operations or locations are grouped can determine whether they are passive.
  • The rules appear to allow you to pro-rate state income taxes in determining “net” investment income.  That’s taxpayer-friendly, but it adds another level of complexity.

For an initial take on the rules, see Anthony Nitti at Forbes.

Related:   Obamacare: it’s a tax!

 

David Brunori of Tax Analysts on the fiscal cliff discussion:

     Everyone knows that taxing the very rich will have no perceptible effect on the deficit. It’s all for show. The president and Democrats in Congress can say they stuck it to the millionaires and billionaires. Fairness will abound. The Republicans can tell the world that they are reasonable people willing to compromise on issues as important as taxes. But Americans will still get more government than they are willing to pay for.

     Some liberals have called for us to go over the cliff and to raise taxes across the board. Like Norquist, they are miscalculating. If everybody had to start paying more, there would be a lot more questioning of massive defense spending, egregious subsidies for industries, and entitlements run amok. But for now, we must be content with the rich paying more so we can get more than we deserve from our government.

You can’t pay for mass welfare benefits with a class tax.  The mania for taxing “the rich” is a distraction from the enormous tax increases on everybody that will be required.  The Rich Guy’s not buying.

 

Why the fiscal cliff is such a big fall.  The Bush Tax Cut Issue in One Chart (Ed Krayewski, Hit and Run):

He adds:

And for those who would say “well of course the government has to spend more when the economy is hurting” only one question applies: has it helped? If you think so, I’ve got a tiger-repellant rock to sell you.

Related:  ‘Fiscal Cliff’ follies: Why it may pay to take deductions early.  My latest post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record blog for entrepreneurs.

Nobody’s serious I:  No ‘fiscal cliff’ deal without higher rates, Geithner says (CNN via Going Concern)

Nobody’s serious, II: Grassley and King push for extension of Wind Energy Tax Credit

 

Iowa admits its capital gain forms were a mess.  A protest rejection released by the Iowa Department of Revenue highlights how badly the Iowa 1040 has been designed with respect to the Iowa deduction for capital gains on the sale of businesses an business real estate.

The taxpayer had excluded regular capital gains from a brokerage account on her tax return.  Iowa properly rejected the deduction, but admitted her mistake was understandable:

Your position relies on the Department’s instructions for completing the tax return.  We found that you are not the only one that made this mistake, so our instructions now clarify that these types of capital gains do not qualify for the deduction as shown above.  In any event, the instructions are not controlling.

Iowa now has better wording on the deduction line and a flow chart to walk taxpayers through whether they should claim the deduction.  It’s a big improvement, but it should be better.  There should be a separate form to compute the deduction, with a checklist to complete to demonstrate eligibility.

The state examines every capital gain exclusion claim.  Taxpayers should be able to submit the information the state asks for with their returns to preclude the examination; even if it would have to be paper-filed, it would save the state the time and money spent on unneeded exams.

Related:  Iowa Capital Gain Break: how it works when you rent property to your business

 

NY Times: States and Cities Shovel $80 Billion/Year in Tax Incentives to Companies, With Little Proof of Their Effectiveness  (TaxProf):

A Times investigation has examined and tallied thousands of local incentives granted nationwide and has found that states, counties and cities are giving up more than $80 billion each year to companies. The beneficiaries come from virtually every corner of the corporate world, encompassing oil and coal conglomerates, technology and entertainment companies, banks and big-box retail chains.

The cost of the awards is certainly far higher. A full accounting, The Times discovered, is not possible because the incentives are granted by thousands of government agencies and officials, and many do not know the value of all their awards. Nor do they know if the money was worth it because they rarely track how many jobs are created. Even where officials do track incentives, they acknowledge that it is impossible to know whether the jobs would have been created without the aid.

It’s a chump’s game, and we taxpayers are the unwilling chumps.  These things are to economic growth what steroids are to long-term fitness.

 

When you don’t remit withheld taxes, it might not just be a matter of getting your payments caught up.  A New Jersey couple that ran an engineering firm failed to remit over $500,000 in withheld taxes to the IRS.  They were sentenced last week to 44 months in prison after being convicted of charges arising out of the nonpayment.  From the Department of Justice Press Release:

Evidence was also introduced that the DeMuros converted withheld funds for their business and personal use, including more than $280,000 in purchases from QVC, Home Shopping Network and Jewelry Television.

No doubt it was of the best-quality.  Oh, and the couple still has to pay over $1.3 million in restitution to the IRS.

Doug Shulman is no longer IRS Commissioner, but his legacy remains:

 ABC News: Alarming Rise in IRS Refund ID Thefts, Few Prosecuted: GAO Report

Dayton Daily News,  IRS says tax fraud attempts up 39 percent

Greg Mankiw,   Some Advice on Tax Planning

Richard Morrison,   The Tax Rate Paid by the Top 1% Is Double the National Average (Tax Policy Blog)

The Critical Question:  Will the Payroll Tax Cut Fall Silently Off the Cliff? (Elaine Maag, TaxVox)

Kay Bell:  Time to spend down your medical flexible savings account (FSA)

Paul Neiffer,  Senator Baucus Urges Extension of Current Estate Tax Laws

Jim Maule,  Passing the Tax Responsibility Buck

Peter Reilly,  Who Should Be Accelerating Income Into 2012?

Patrick Temple-West,  Most Americans face lower tax burden than in 1980, and more (Tax Break)

Robert D. Flach,  DAMNED IF THEY DO AND DAMNED IF THEY DON’T.

Tragedy:  Lindsay Lohan Has Yet To Settle Tax Bills With IRS, Faces Account Seizures (TaxGrrrl)

The Tax Update is also on Twitter (@joebwan) and Facebook!

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Tax Roundup, 11/9/2012: Don’t let the door hit you, Commissioner.

Friday, November 9th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

So long, Worst Commissioner Ever.

Today is the last day in office for IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman.  He gave a validictory speech to the AICPA reciting what he sees as his accomplishments — primarily the crackdown on international tax evasion and alleged progress in IRS technology.  He left out what I consider his most important achievements.  These include:

Wasting IRS resources, practitioner time, and taxpayer money on a futile taxpayer regulation regime.  The new program will expand IRS power over practitioners and help clear the field of competitors for H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt, which is the real goal.  It will increase the cost for taxpayers to have their returns done, driving some to do their own returns without help and others to drop out of the system.  It certainly won’t improve compliance by enough to justify the cost.

Identity theft refund fraud has become an epidemic on his watch.  While he was busy grabbing regulatory power over preparers and beating up on Americans abroad (see below), street thieves learned that they could steal billions from the taxpayers through ID-theft fraud and debit cards.  It’s a $5 billion annual problem, and only in the last few months has the service stirred itself to begin to address the issue.

The IRS crackdown on international tax fraud has ended up terrorizing thousands of innocent taxpayers.  U.S. citizens employed abroad and accidental citizens who have long since set up residence in other countries — generally owing no U.S. tax  — find themselves hounded and threatened with ruinous fines for failing to comply with busy-work paperwork requirements that they had never heard of.

There’s more, of course.  The IRS Taxpayer Liaison office is being gutted and the Taxpayer Advocate office emasculated, taxpayer service only gets worse, the K-1 matching and self-employment income initiatives send millions of wrong notices to taxpayers, and it’s never been more difficult to get answers out of Washington.   With his replacement to be appointed by a President who loves regulatory excess, taxpayers can only brace themselves for more of the same.

 

TaxProf, Voters Say Yes to Marijuana, IRS Says No, linking to a Forbes piece by Robert Wood.  False move by IRS.  If we all were stoned, the tax law might appear to make sense.

Going Concern,   Chuck Schumer Is Willing to Give John Boehner a Few Days to Warm Up to Higher Taxes

Martin Sullivan,  Tax Reform 2.0 (Tax.com):

 Get rid of the AMT. Simplify rules for pensions and retirement saving. Simplify education incentives. And in our effort to maintain distributional neutrality, don’t reinstate the Pease provision and personal exemption phaseout (as proposed by Obama). And don’t install new phaseouts of itemized deductions (as suggested by Romney). These are just hidden marginal rate increases.

Kay Bell,  Tax compromise or coded tax talk?

Paul Neiffer,  ObamaCare Here To Stay (At least 4 more years)

Especially those of GM, Chrysler, windmill companies…   CEOs vow to work with Obama team, and more   (Patrick Temple-West, TaxBreak)

Phil Hodgen,   Fideicomiso private letter ruling offers some hope:

This is an immensely sane step in the right direction.  Fideicomisos are title-holding mechanisms required by the Mexican Constitution.  A Mexican bank holds title to your real estate but otherwise takes no responsibility whatsoever for anything.  Trustees are required to protect and preserve assets for the beneficiaries.  A fideicomiso does not behave like a trust at all.

Anthony Nitti,   Continuing The Countdown: The 8th Most Noteworthy Tax Case Of 2012

Jim Maule,  Tax Collection Obligation is Not a Taxing Power Issue

Peter Reilly,   Hurricane Sandy Tax Relief – More Than Meets The Eye

Today? Right now?  RETIRE A MILLIONAIRE!  (Robert D. Flach)

 

Have a great weekend!

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Tax Roundup, 11/8/2012: Denison Day! And some things to look forward to.

Thursday, November 8th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

The Tax Update is on the road in beautiful Denison, Iowa, birthplace of Donna Reed!

 

I’m speaking at the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax School.  There’s still time to register for the remaining five sessions!

 

“‘There are a lot of sales right now,’ explains Steve Bruere, president of Peoples Co. in West Des Moines.”  From IowaFarmerToday.com:

“I see a drop off (in the number of sales) after the first of the year.”’s one logical response to the looming increase in capital gain rates. 

With potential sellers concerned they may have to pay a 20 percent capital gains tax rate instead of 15 percent, and with many of them questioning what other tax changes may be coming, there has been a push to sell now.

The logic says if you were seriously considering a land sale, you would make sure it happened before the end of the year, Bruere says.

Actually, the rate will probably be 23.8%, including the new Obamacare tax on investment income.

More to look forward to:  “The IRS Small Business/Self-Employed Division plans to increase its audit activity for passthrough entities beginning in 2014, SB/SE Commissioner Faris Fink said November 7,”  reports Tax Analysts ($link).  But if you operate a C corporation, don’t be smug:

SB/SE is planning a one-year National Research Program project to study areas of noncompliance. Under the project, the division will examine 2,500 returns from corporations with assets of less than $250,000, Fink said.

Something to look forward to, like a colonoscopy appointment.

 

The Election is over. Now what?

TaxProf, Boehner Would Accept ‘New Revenue’ Under ’Right Conditions’

Going Concern, Hold the Phone, John Boehner Didn’t Say Anything About Taxes Going Up

 Martin Sullivan,   Wanna-Be Tax Reformers Need a Dose of Reality (Tax.com)

Daniel Shaviro,  Boehner on the possible terms for a fiscal cliff deal

Kay Bell,  Investors sell stock ahead of fiscal cliff, plus locking in 15 percent capital gains

Patrick Temple-West,  How far can Obama push on key issues including tax increases, and more

Anthony  Nitti,  With The Election Over, We Can Finally Do Some Meaningful Tax Planning. Six Year-End Steps To Consider.  #6 is bold planning indeed.

 

In other news… 

Robert D. Flach,  DEDUCTING SANDY

William Perez,  New Jersey Tax Relief for Hurricane Sandy

Linda Beale,  Tax Relief for Victims of Sandy

Richard Morrison,   Chart of the Day: Can Taxing Millionaires Eliminate the Deficit?  (No).

Brian Strahle,  How Virginia Based Companies Can Reduce Their State Income Tax Liability

TaxGrrrl, IRS Commissioner Says Public Goodbye After Election 2012

Jack Townsend,  Commissioner’s Swan Song – Excerpts on Offshore Bank Initiatives

 

Tomorrow is Doug Shulman’s last day as IRS Commissioner.  So how is the fight against tax refund fraud going?

Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor went public with her irritation at the slow pace of the investigation into a piece of the tax fraud scourge spreading among street criminals. Authorities say hundreds of millions of dollars in bogus income tax returns have been processed from the Tampa area alone.

“We have an individual that we know did in the ballpark of $9 million in tax fraud,” Castor said in February. “He was arrested and charged in September. And there’s no reason for us to believe that he’s slowed down at all.”

In March, Tampa Police Detective Sal Augeri testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee in Washington about tax refund fraud and described the Simmons case without naming him.

“We have no reason to believe he has stopped committing this crime,” Augeri said then.

Russell B. Simmons, the man referred to above, pleaded guilty this week to tax fraud. He has to give up ill-gotten goods, including “… a $60,000 Bentley coupe and diamond jewelry that included a $30,000, 18-karat gold Rolex watch with a diamond dial; a 14-karat gold men’s bracelet with 2,420 diamonds; a 14-karat chain and “RS” pendant with 703 diamonds; and a 14-karat ring with 110 diamonds.

Every day the IRS let the identity thief continue to operate, he created new little nightmares, like those experienced by Jason Dinesen’s client, for the innocent taxpayers whose identities he stole.  Meanwhile, Commissioner Shulman was focusing IRS resources on creating a big, expensive and futile preparer regulation bureaucracy.  A man has to have priorities, after all.

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Tax Roundup, 11/5/2012: Last week for the commissioner!

Monday, November 5th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Soon-to-be-former-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman

Little disasters every day, courtesy Doug Shulman’s IRS.  We shouldn’t be surprised that the federal government is once again making a hash out of disaster relief.  They can’t even handle one-victim disasters at the IRS.  Jason Dinesen has posted two more installments (9, 10) of the infuriating saga of a client’s struggle with identity theft after her husband died.  From the latest installment:

I then proceeded to point out that it’s been 33 months since Brian died, 18 months since we filed the tax return, and 12+ months since we sent the original Form 14039 to the IRS. Again, can’t they use common sense and wrap this up?

The answer was, no.

Contrast that with the prompt issuance of a tax refund to the identity thief over a year ago.

Jason’s client ID theft problem was almost certainly the result of a glaring problem that has been known in the agency for years involving the use of social security numbers of recently-dead taxpayers published by the government by identity thieves.  The IRS is only now taking steps to fight it, while billions of tax dollars continue to go out to the thieves annually.  Meanwhile, they’ve found time to institute an expensive and futile preparer regulation scheme and power-grab.  They have their priorities, after all.

One thing voters of all parties can look forward to this week is the Friday expiration of the term of Doug Shulman, The Worst IRS Commissioner Ever.

 

Richard Morrison,   Chart of the Day: Trends in Business Income (Tax Policy Blog)

 

Brutal Assault on Reason Watch: 

TaxGrrrl,  Election Day Primer: Comparing the Obama and Romney Tax Plans

TaxProf,  Johnson: Tax Reform and the Presidential Election

Kay Bell, Voters get their say Nov. 6 on 30 tax-related state ballot initiatives

Joseph Thorndike,  Muzzling CRS is a Bad Idea — Even for Republicans (Tax.com)

Len Burman,  Which presidents spend the most? You might be surprised. (TaxVox)  For some reason he stops in 2001.

Paul Neiffer,  Get Ready For The New Medicare Tax Increase on Earned Income

Anthony Nitti,  Victims of Superstorm Sandy May Be Able To Exclude Assistance Payments From Taxable Income

Jack Townsend notes an Article on Erosion of Swiss Secrecy

Peter Reilly,  Unfair Tax Court Decisions On Life Insurance Are Tip Of Unclaimed Property Iceberg

Missouri Tax Guy,  Advantages of Filing a Tax Return Extension

Robert D. Flach,  TOP TEN LIST ADDENDUM.  This is so true:

More than half of the balance due notices that are sent out by the Internal Revenue Service and state tax agencies are incorrect.  If you receive such a notice send it to your tax professional ASAP.

I would love to see an accounting of how much revenue the government steals from taxpayers who write checks because they are afraid of the revenue agencies, or because the amounts are known to be wrong, but the taxpayer doesn’t think they are worth the fight.

 

Bad News you can Use:  Bad News for German Poker Players (Russ Fox)

 

Richman, Dumdum man.  The story you are about to read is true.  Then names have been left the same to protect the humor.  CBSlocal from Chicago reports:

He wasn’t too smart about paying federal income taxes, and now Rimando Dumdum man is going to prison. 

WBBM’s Bernie Tafoya reports the 44-year-old Morton Grove tax preparer, who came to the U.S. from the Philippines in 1989, owned a company called “Richman Tax Solutions.”

Apparently it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a Richman to get a tax return right.  But all things are possible:

According to his plea agreement, he helped clients illegally trim an average of $1,400 from their tax bills. In all, between his clients’ returns, and his own tax fraud, Dumdum cheated the federal government out of $232,000 in all.

However, prosecutors said he likely helped clients evade $3.5 million in taxes, citing an audit showing his company falsified 99 percent of the tax returns it filed.

The way he looks out for the 99%, he should be a favorite of the Occupy people.  I wonder if the 1% of his customers who didn’t get phony returns feels cheated somehow.

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Tax Roundup, 10/23/2012. News of the obvious edition. And…look! Dead squirrels!

Tuesday, October 23rd, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Refundable credits are vulnerable to fraud, and IRS can’t recover the fraudulent payments.  The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration discovers the obvious,  reports Accounting Today (my emphasis):

A new report released Monday by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration on refundable tax credits found that they are highly vulnerable to fraud. Refundable tax credits such as the EITC, the Additional Child Tax Credit, the First-Time Homebuyer Credit, and the American Opportunity Tax Credit for education also provide valuable tax breaks for low-income taxpayers and the middle class.

I call foul.  To say the “First-Time Homebuyer Credit” provides “valuable benefits for low-income taxpayers and the middle class” is lazy and dishonest propaganda.  That’s just the Accounting Today reporter’s assertion, and it appears nowhere in the TIGTA report.   The credit poured money into a declining housing market with little effect, other than blowing $30 billion.  The policy behind the other credits is at best arguable, and the benefits aren’t clearly “valuable” to taxpayers as a whole.

TIGTA initiated its audit to determine the effectiveness of efforts by the IRS to recover refundable credits disallowed during post-refund examinations and to consider options the IRS could implement to decrease the issuance of erroneous refundable credits. 

“Because of the susceptibility of these credits to fraud, and the low success rates in recovering erroneous credits once refunds have been issued, the IRS should take every reasonable step possible to identify potentially questionable credits and validate those credits before associated refunds are issued,” said TIGTA Inspector General J. Russell George in a statement.

So Doug Shulman’s IRS isn’t taking every reasonable step to keep from sending cash to thieves?  He’s been too busy terrorizing innocents abroad and setting up a vast, expensive and useless preparer regulation bureaucracy, apparently.

 

Attorney: West Des Moines firm’s outstanding liabilities to be paid soon (Des Moines Register).  The payroll service provider facing large bills for not remitting client payroll taxes timely says they will make good on them:

A West Des Moines human resources provider has paid its 2012 tax liabilities and has the funds necessary to pay off more than $4.8 million liabilities within the next three months, an attorney for the businessman said today

The Internal Revenue Service since 2006 has issued at least 15 tax liens against John Vratsinas and his collection of companies, InFocus Partners, Iowa Construction Logistics and ICL Staffing, according to court documents.

That’s good news for clients who might otherwise have to pay their payroll taxes twice, first to the payroll company and then to the IRS.  The taxman wants its payroll taxes, even when the payroll company already has received them.   Of course payroll providers shouldn’t fall behind on payroll taxes in the first place.  A wise employer will enroll in EFTPS and go online to monitor that the taxes are being paid, even when they outsource the job.

Also from the West Des Moines Patch: Attorney for West Des Moines Payroll Outsourcer Says 2012 Taxes Paid

Related Tax Update coverage here.

 

The TaxProf mentions an academic paper “Ranking State Tax Systems: Progressivity, Adequacy, Efficiency.”  From the abstract:

A good tax system must raise sufficient revenue – and do so fairly, efficiently, transparently, and coherently. How do the tax systems of the states stack up in terms of fairness, adequacy, and neutrality? To answer this question, we assess each state’s relative performance in terms of progressivity, growth, and administrative and economic efficiency.

Iowa rates 32nd by their measure. I think “progressivity” is a poor tool for measuring state tax systems.”Progressivity” is just a weasel-way of saying “high rates,” which create distortions and inefficiency, like in Iowa, while punishing pass-through businesses.  Any measure that rates the horrendous New York tax system as #1 is absurd.

 

Russ Fox, Bad States for Gamblers

Patrick Temple-West,  Essential reading: Democrats threaten payroll tax cut consensus, and more (Tax Break)

Trish McIntire,  Tax Backup.  Maintain your records.

Kay Bell,  Kiddie tax, gifts and other tax-related items do get 2013 inflation adjustments

William Perez,  IRA Contribution Limits for 2013

 

Brutal Assault on Reason Watch: 

TaxGrrrl,  Final Presidential Debate – Live Blog

Janet Novack,  10 Reasons Reagan Could Cut The Top Tax Rate To 28%, But Romney Can’t

Peter Reilly,  Debate Proceeds Despite Green Party Lawsuit – Hear Jill Stein On Defense Here

Anthony Nitti,  Clearing Up Confusion Created By The Debates: President Obama’s Tax Proposal And The Fate Of The Small Business Owner.  Anthony unfortunately repeats the pointless fact that increasing the Obama plan only affects “2.5 of small business owners.” That’s true when you rate your Shacklee-selling neighbor the same as a business with dozens or even hundreds of employees.

As the Tax Foundation notes, the Obama plan affects a much higher percentage of pass-through income, a more important measure than the number of Schedule C 1040s.  Anthony dismisses this as just a concern of hedge-funds and private equity millionaires.  My pass-through clients would disagree.

 

The Critical Question:  So Jason … How’s that Guidebook About Same-Sex Marriage and Taxes Coming?  (Jason Dinesen)

Stretch your coffee break:  How to Weaponize Office Supplies (Bloomberg Business Week, via Instapundit)

So the dog can do this, but I can’t?  Man cited for backyard squirrel hunt (KCCI.com)

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Tax Roundup, 10/11/12: Don’t let the door hit you edition.

Thursday, October 11th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Hey, everybody, those extended 1040s are due Monday!  

Doug Shulman shows how much he cares.

Doug Shulman steps down November 9.   (TaxProf). Meanwhile, his legacy lives on:

Federal authorities Wednesday stepped up their assault on the viral-like crime of identity theft and tax fraud, arresting dozens of South Florida suspects on charges of filing fake returns totaling millions of dollars.

  Three homes were raided Wednesday in an effort to crack down on rampant tax fraud in the Tampa Bay area.

Under Commissioner Shulman’s watch, identity theft tax refund fraud has reached epidemic proportions.  The IRS mails perhaps $5 billion of your hard-earned tax dollars to thieves annually, while creating nightmares for taxpayers whose tax lives are disrupted and refunds held up.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Shulman has spent his time terrifying innocent Americans who have foot-faulted their obscure information reporting responsibilities and imposing a useless but expensive preparer regulation regime.  Way to go, Commissioner.

 

Attorney for West Des Moines payroll service says firm will catch up on unremitted client taxes (West Des Moines Patch)

No. If Europe Adds a Financial Transactions Tax, Will We Follow? (Linda Beale)

Martin Sullivan,  Don’t Count on Dynamic Scoring (Tax.com).  Meanwhile, William McBride, in How Far we are from the Enlightenment (Tax Policy Blog), doesn’t seem to fully agree with Mr. Sullivan.

Patrick Temple-West,  Essential reading: Romney pledges to keep tax deductions for mortgages, and more

Peter Reilly,  Three Candidates And Carried Interest:

I sometimes think that I am the only person who writes about taxes in a non-technical publication, really understands what “carried interest” is all about and does not find it particularly upsetting. 

I guess that makes the Tax Update a technical publication.  I don’t think carried interests — profits interests in partnerships — are bad things, and I think the proffered “cures” are.

Daniel Shaviro,  1986-style tax reform: a good idea whose time has passed

Anthony Nitti,  Tax Court: In Order to Take A Worthless Debt Deduction, the Debt Need Actually Be Worthless

Kay Bell,  5 tax-saving deductions & credits

Ain’t that the truth:  Return Still Not Done (Trish McIntire)

Paul Neiffer,  Is the True US Deficit $76 Trillion Instead of $16 Trillion

Need continuing education?  Registration is open for this year’s fall tax schools at the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation.  I’m on the Day 1 teaching schedule.  Yes, there’s farm stuff, but there’s plenty for us city folk too.

News you can use: If You Equate Long Hours with Hard Work Then You Aren’t “Committed” But You May Be a Dumbass (Going Concern)

 

This won’t work out well.  From Post-Gazette.com

Joseph E. Gump’s trial for evading taxes from 2003 through 2006 had been set to start Tuesday. But Mr. Gump told the court last week that he would plead guilty, prompting the judge to cancel a call for 50 prospective jurors.
Then Mr. Gump wrote to U.S. Judge Terrence F. McVerry’s staff saying that a guilty plea “would be a lie” and demanding a trial.
Why?
He said he understood that any prison sentence will likely be less if he pleads guilty, but said he did not believe he engaged in any evasion.

Mr. Gump was accused in a 2011 indictment of indicating “none” as his taxable income for four years during which he earned a total of $250,333 and owed a total of $49,370. He has argued in court filings that the income tax can only be legally levied on federal lands.

Good luck convincing a jury that files returns every April of that.
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