Posts Tagged ‘State 29’

Tax Roundup, 8/21/2012: Branstad to push income tax rate cuts? Also, tax and marriage. Plus more masterminds!

Tuesday, August 21st, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Will Iowa finally do something about it’s horrendous income tax?  Governor Branstad provided a glimmer of hope, according to the Quad City Times’ Rod Boshart (my emphasis):

Gov. Terry Branstad said Monday that any legislative effort to raise the state’s gas tax would be contingent on Iowa lawmakers approving tax relief for property owners and income earners.

Branstad told reporters he intends to advocate for a reduction in the commercial/industrial property tax rate, a limitation on increases to residential and agriculture property tax rates and a reduction in Iowa’s individual and corporate income tax rates once the newly elected members of the 85th Iowa General Assembly convene their 2013 session next January.

So what does that mean?  It doesn’t sound like a bold call to reform Iowa’s high-rate, high-loophole income tax.  It sounds more like a trial balloon to tie a gas tax increase to income tax rate cuts; the rate cuts, possibly trivial, could provide political cover for a gas tax increase.  I hope I’m wrong.

Be bold, Governor!  Go big!  Go for the Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan!


Meanwhile, it’s business as usual on the Iowa corporate welfare front.  The Iowa City Press Citizen reports:

Development on the Iowa River Landing is moving full steam ahead in Coralville, aided recently by up to $2 million in state tax credits for four companies developing portions of the mixed-use development along Interstate 80.

The Iowa Economic Development Authority board approved the grants at a meeting Friday as part of its Brownfield and Grayfield Redevelopment Tax Credit Program, a series of tax credits the state doles out annually to redevelop properties around the state with environmental issues or other hindrances to development.


A Grayfield is an industrial or commercial property that already has infrastructure, such as a building, in place, but whose use is outdated, Iowa Economic Development spokesperson Tina Hoffman said. Tax credits for Grayfields can be for up to 12 percent of the qualifying investment.

“Grayfields”  then means “just about any place that has ever been developed.”

If a building doesn’t need government help to be built, it shouldn’t get it.  If it does need government money, it probably has no business going ahead in the first place.  The buildings developed with government help will compete with those already in place and paying taxes to help subsidize the new ones.

Related: State 29, Live By The Tax Credit, Die By The Tax Credit


Yesterday we noted how the IRS is being swindled to the tune of billions by petty thieves in Tampa.  News of another criminal mastermind who outwitted Doug Shulman’s IRS to get taxpayer cash comes out of Chicago:

The Department of Justice says 41-year-old Katrina Pierce was sentenced in federal court Monday. She pleaded guilty in January to fraud and aggravated identity theft.

The department says Pierce used a collection of stolen identities to defraud the Illinois Department of Human Services of more than $146,000 in child-care benefits between 2006 and 2010.

Pierce also filed about 180 fraudulent income tax returns from the 2006 and ’07 tax years and collected more than $60,000 in refunds.

We aren’t dealing with criminal geniuses here, but they are smart enough to fool Doug Shulman’s IRS for billions of dollars.  Remember, each of those 180 fraudulent returns come at the expense of a victim like Jason Dinesen’s client, who gets the IRS runaround while the thief gets her cash.


Thinking about a ring?  The Tax Policy Center has some advice for the lovelorn with TPC’s New Marriage Bonus and Penalty Calculator(TaxVox)

Still not sure?  The Tax Policy Blog’s Monday Map asks: Does your state have a marriage penalty?



TaxGrrrl, Romney’s ‘Number’ Is 13.9: What’s Yours?

Anthony Nitti, Leave Romney Alone:

This is who Mitt Romney is, at least in part: a rich guy with rich guy tax problems and rich guy tax solutions. Romney wasn’t obligated to pay any more tax than the law required, and he very likely didn’t. His refusal to overpay the government shouldn’t be an indictment on his ability to lead a government.


Jack Townsend, Judge Apportions Restitution in a Massive Tax Shelter Case:

Judge Baer of SDNY imposed restitution against one of the individual defendants in the massive BDO Seidman tax shelter case, but apportioned the restitution so that the defendant, who pled to a conspiracy count for the large conspiracy, is liable for only a portion of the tax loss.


Russ Fox:  Not Only Were the Employees Outsourced, The Taxes Went Away, Too.  An “professional employer organization” that let employers outsource their payroll function is accused of swindling clients out of their payroll taxes:

From San Antonio comes word of a company that allegedly took care of small businesses’ taxes in a way that’s, well, arresting.  John Bean apparently owned a professional employer organization named “Synergy Personnel.”  Most PEOs become the actual employer and, for a fee, they relieve a small business of the duties of personnel including the payment of taxes.  Mr. Bean’s company allegedly had a unique and (if proven) very illegal method of dealing with those taxes: They didn’t.  The FBI and IRS allege that Mr. Bean’s company kept the money for taxes and workers’ compensation insurance.

The IRS will still want the taxes from the company’s clients.  Cases like this remind us how wise it is for employers to set up with EFTPS, the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, even if they outsource the payroll function.  You can go online with EFTPS and make sure your tax deposits are really going to the IRS.  Nobody wants to pay their payroll taxes twice.  If your PEO arrangement doesn’t support this, you are taking a potentially-expensive leap of faith.


Peter Reilly, DOMA Takes the Security Out of Social Security for Married Gay Seniors


Kay Bell, 401(k) fee disclosure info due Aug. 30

William Perez, IRS Offers Tips for Correcting Tax Returns

Crisis!  Peter Luger: Steak Prices May Soar As Drought Culls Herds.  (via Going Concern).


Tax Roundup, 8/2/2012: You pay for everything. If you pay less, where’s my benefit? Plus beating the sales tax holiday to death, but missing the film credit story again.

Thursday, August 2nd, 2012 by Joe Kristan

TPC: Romney Plan Would Cut Taxes for Rich, Raise Taxes on Middle Class and Poor.  (Tax Prof).  Some news, folks: if spending doesn’t come down drastically, taxes are going up for the middle class and the poor anyway.  If you raised the rates on “the rich” to 100%, it still wouldn’t cover what the government is spending now.

How Did the Tax Code Get So Progressive? (William McBride, Tax Policy Blog) talks about the TPC study:

The main thing missing here is the context of our current federal income tax code.  Imagine a society with 5 people, where the two richest people pay all the taxes, the middle person pays nothing, and the two poorest people actually have a negative tax rate, meaning the rich are paying them through the tax code.  Then any cut in the tax rate will disproportionately benefit the rich guys.  This is the federal income tax code, in a nutshell.  According to the CBO, the top 20 percent of households pays 94 percent of federal income taxes.  The bottom 40 percent actually have a negative income tax rate, and the middle quintile pays close to zero. 

An illustration:


If “the rich”  pay all the taxes, then of course tax cuts will disproportionally benefit them.

We’ve cut government spending to the bone!  The bone just seems to keep getting bigger (Donald Marron, TaxVox)

 If you look at the two lines on the chart, you can see that spending on “goods and services” isn’t going up much.  That means they’re just taking a lot more of your money to give to their friends.

Still no media coverage of the last film tax credit trial.  Seeing that the Des Moines Register just jacked up home delivery for my usually-unread papers to $25 per month, it would be nice if they actually covered something.  Well, there’s this: Celeb tweets to Gabby Douglas.  Of course, they all missed the real story when the film tax credit was enacted, so at least they’re consistent.

Missouri Taxpayers paying taxes to cover the K.C. Royals payroll taxes.  (, via Going Concern)

In case you haven’t heard, Iowans, the Annual sales tax holiday is Friday and Saturday (Dar Danielson, Radio Iowa). It applies for clothes and shoes. Jason Dinesen reminds us about Back to School Supplies and the Iowa Tuition and Textbook Credit.

Big charitable contribution, no deduction?   My new post at covers traps in appreciated property charitable contributions.

Phil Hodgen is back from a scouting trip to Quetico Provincial Park, the Canadian side of the Boundary Waters wilderness, with Basis step-up on assets inherited from nonresident

Sort-of related: more pictures from my recent Boundary Waters scout trip.

Peter Reilly, IRA Rollovers – Let’s Be Careful Out There

Patrick Temple-West, Essential reading: Payroll tax cut on track to quietly expire (Tax Break)

Trish McIntire, Drought, Farms and Taxes.

TaxGrrrl, Marriage Or Divorce Can Be A Name Changer

Kay Bell, Tax moves to make in August 2012

The New Jersey Tax Guy is fleeing to Pennsylvania.  Good luck with the move, Robert!

Asking the tough questions: Why Am I Paying for a Prancing Horse? (Christopher Bergin, and  Should Our Olympic Heroes Pay Tax on Their Winnings? (Anthony Nitti)


Tax Roundup, 7/3/2012: A solution to ID-theft refund fraud? Plus lots of Obamacare, and Zombies!

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012 by Joe Kristan

And yet our leaders don’t lift a finger to stop it. Olson: Death master file data encourages tax fraud (

In making public the death master file, the Social Security Administration is actually facilitating tax-related identity theft, said Nina Olson, taxpayer advocate for the Internal Revenue Service. Olson testified June 28 before the House Judiciary subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security.

There are some legal questions as to whether or not SSA can restrict access to the DMF, which includes recently-deceased individuals’ full names, social security numbers, dates of birth, dates of death, and the states and zip codes of the last address on record, said Olson.  

“For that reason, I strongly support legislation to restrict public access to the DMF. However, I believe the SSA has at least a reasonable basis for seeking to limit public access to the DMF and if legislation is not enacted, I encourage SSA to act on its own,” she said.

This has been common knowledge among practitioners for years.  Many parents have had the heartbreak of child death compounded by identity theives filing refunds for their dead kid off the master file, leading to long paperwork duels with the IRS.  Yet IRS Commissioner Shulman has been too busy creating a government-controlled class of tax preparers to care.

So maybe citizens are taking matters into their own hands?  “Signs of tax refund fraud found in home of man targeted in shooting” (Tampa Bay Times)  More from

Taxpayer Advocate Service Warns Congress About Late Tax Changes (Tax Policy Blog):

With wholesale changes to American tax law scheduled for January, many tax analysts are rightly concerned about the serious complications that will arise, both for individuals and the IRS. Tax Analysts published an article (subscription required) on June 28th covering a report by the Taxpayer Advocate Service, which argued that Congress’s “continual enactment” of tax law in late 2011 delayed millions of tax returns, a disturbing trend that threatens to add a significant compliance burden to the public at large. 

Just one more reason to require congresscritters to prepare their own returns in a live, archived webcast with a rolling comment bar to enable us to provide running commentary and, um, encouragement.  Update, 7/11/12: full article available here.

What the tax changes in Obamacare mean for entrepreneurs in 2013.  My latest post at, the Des Moines Business Record blog for entrepreneurs.

TaxGrrrl: Professionals Offer Thoughts, Perspective on Supreme Court Health Care Ruling

State 29: Obamacare Screws Families Who Use Health Flex Spending Accounts In 2013

Anthony Nitti: The Clock Is Ticking on the Investment Income Surtax. What Should You Do?

William Perez, Tax Impacts of the Supreme Court’s Health Care Decision

Martin Sullivan: The Economic Case for Unlocking Foreign Profits (

Peter Reilly, prepared for anything: Zombies And The Estate Tax – Law Professor Questions How Dead Are The Undead ?

Today in History: Union troops at Gettysburg broke Pickett’s Charge 149 years ago today, marking the “high water mark” of Vampire power in the U.S.

Because boredom isn’t frightening?  Yes Auditors, It Is Possible to Explain Your Job Without Scaring People Away (Going Concern)


Tax Roundup, 4/26/2012

Thursday, April 26th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Overstating basis isn’t understating gross income, rules the Supreme Court.  This means that the statute of limitations for many turn-of-the-20th Century-era tax shelters is three years, rather than the six year statute for substantial understatements of gross income.  More from Going Concern, Peter ReillyJack Townsend and the Wall Street Journal.  The TaxProf has a roundup.  (U.S. V. Home Concrete & Supply, LLC)

Since their original proposal isn’t going anywhere anyway.  Tax Analysts reports ($link) that Tom Harkin is “open to considering alternative ways to pay for a student loan interest bill other than taxing subchapter S corporations.”  The proposal we covered yesterday would only reduce student loan rates for one year.  It’s never a good idea to enact a permanent tax to cover an expense temporarily.

Tax Court behind the times?Powerful but obscure Tax Court lags on access” (Reuters)

Jason Dinesen ponders “What to Do About Student Loan Debt?”  My advice: don’t incur it, especially to earn a major that won’t help you pay it back.  Don’t expect those of us who have saved for our own kids to graduate debt-free to want to help you pay your loans.  And allow student debt to be discharged in bankruptcy, but only if the colleges themselves have to pay part of the defaulted amount.  State 29 has some pungent thoughts.

Kay Bell: Made a tax mistake?  Make amends!

Paul Neiffer asks out loud a question usually only whispered: What is the Right Equipment Size?

World’s least-promising crime strategy: impersonating an internal auditor (Going Concern)

Senator Cardin unnecessary because we have smart phones. “Senator Cardin: Tax Simplification Unnecessary Because We Have Computers” (Tax Policy Blog)


We shall not all die, but we shall all be changed.

Friday, March 9th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

State 29 is back, under new management. Sometimes outrageous, always interesting, the old management for years provided the only blog commentary on Iowa current events worth following. I wish new management the best. Welcome back!


Economic development, one lawsuit at a time

Monday, December 6th, 2010 by Joe Kristan

hh2.jpgSupporters of the beleaguered Iowa film credits talk about the jobs provided by the film industry. Clearly it has created work for the Iowa legal industry.
The Des Moines Register reports that taxpayers will write a check to “a Hollywood film company” to settle credit claims that went unpaid after the program was suspended in September 2009.

The settlement is on top of $315,828 in tax credits already awarded to After Dark Films, which made the horror movies “Husk” and “Fertile Ground.” Both films are expected to be released in January.

That should have bought employment for an attorney or two. That’s on top of the “intangible” benefits of the program, as described by a breathless Des Moines Register columnist:

But some benefits can’t just be measured on a dollar-for-dollar basis. The movies provide employment to local actors, construction crews, artists, caterers, drivers and a host of others. They expose non-Iowans to what the state has to offer. More intangible is the benefit of interactions in a state that can be cut off from the trends and centers of power. Not to mention the excitement factor. We’ve relied on caucuses every four years to bring action and celebrities to town. Now, sightings are anytime, any place.

So much excitement that it’s hard to get too upset that $26 million of the $32 million of tax credits already issued were issued improperly.


Cyber monday hangover: have you paid your consumers use tax?

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010 by Joe Kristan

The Tax Policy Blog has a seasonal reminder: if you don’t pay sales tax on your online purchases, you are supposed to pay consumers use tax to your home state. But more than likely, you will just make your state revenue officers sad:

But officials know from political and administrative experience that use taxes are practically unenforceable, and the only other way to get the revenue — forcing out-of-state companies to collect the taxes — has been severely limited. Brick-and-mortar retailers have also claimed unfairness at their having to collect sales tax while their online and out-of-state competitors escape the same obligation. Of course, the proposal on the table is to impose a greater obligation on out-of-state and Internet companies: force them to collect thousands of different sales taxes, while brick-and-mortar retailers need to track only one.

But the law is the law, and if you are in a complying mood, you can download the Iowa Consumers Use Tax Return and file away.
More from Kay Bell and State 29.


Another guilty plea in Iowa film fiasco

Friday, November 26th, 2010 by Joe Kristan

A Minnesota filmmaker has pleaded guilty to charges arising from film credits for “The Scientist,” a film brought to market thanks to the Iowa Film Credit Program. Matthias Saunders of Minneapolis pleaded guilty this week to first-degree theft. Filmmaker Zach LeBeau had earlier agreed to cooperate with processors in exchange for having charges against him dropped.
This leaves Wendy Weiner Runge and Tom Wheeler as the still-exposed targets of this series of indictments. Ms. Runge, President of Polynation Pictures, faces one count of ongoing criminal conduct and 11 counts of “fraudulent practice.” Mr. Wheeler faces a charge of “misdeanor malfeasance in office.”
Whatever the merits of the case against Ms. Runge, if any, it’s hard to believe that she is the only person out there who should be worried. The State Auditor reported that fully 80% of the tax credits issued under the program were issued improperly, with millions of dollars milked from the state for imaginary or grossly-inflated expenses and through the use of strawmen LLCs to funnel cash improperly out-of-state.
Where filmmakers criminally bilked the state, charges are in order. Still, the charges will do nothing to recover the tens of millions of taxpayer dollars shoveled down the rathole thanks to feckless legislators and careless administration by the Governor’s office and its sub-agencies. The best we can hope is that lawmakers will be a little less eager to go along the next time Harold Hill wants tax money for his new project for River City.
Related: States Slashing Film Tax Subsidies
Prior coverage: It’s a bad idea even when they aren’t looting


Will new Governor stop Iowa’s crazy train?

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010 by Joe Kristan

Just Maybe. State 29 passes on this from the Cedar Rapids Gazette about the proposed $318 million Chicago-Iowa City Amtrak route:


Taking your money and giving it to me = tax cut!

Friday, April 30th, 2010 by Joe Kristan

President Obama likes to say that he has actually cut taxes. State 29 takes a look at his “cuts.” Almost all of them are either soon-to-exprire or expired “stimulus” measures or tax subsidies for preferred constituencies. That’s the government grabbing your wallet, taking $20 out of it, giving five bucks to a bum, and then bragging about its generousity.
Meanwhile the government is spending at a rate that will lead to either killer tax rates, fiscal collapse, or both. So be grateful for those ‘tax cuts’ until they come back for them.


Is the Iowa City Chamber of Commerce more useless than an empty train?

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010 by Joe Kristan

You can drive to Iowa City to Chicago on a $30 tank of gas in maybe 4 hours, with plenty of gas left over. Starting May 4, you can take that one-way trip on the Megabus for as little as $1 at a scheduled time of under four hours.
So what does the President of the Iowa City Chamber of Commerce really want? A passenger train to Chicago requiring at least $256 million of subsidies just to start running (you know it will cost more), plus subsidies forever just to get the ticket cost to $42.
Flickr image courtesy Hunterrrr under Creative Commons license
State 29 explains:

Involved with this guaranteed money-burning scam is former Rainforest apologist Nancy Quellhorst, who will believe any massively-inflated attendance figures shoved under her eyelids as long as the taxpayer is getting fleeced.
Some consultant was paid to lie and suggest that 120,000 people a year will take the route between Iowa City and Chicago for $42. That’s 329 people a day. That projection seems ridiculously high for a route that can be driven in less time for about $30 with a normal car. If you have passengers then the driving costs go even further down.
And they want the Feds to spend $256 million in order to maybe/possibly get $5 million in revenue per year? (120,000 x $42). That sounds like a complete disaster.

Sounds like disaster because it is disaster.
Prior coverage:
Crazy Train
Iowa: no crazy train for you!


Look – a talking goat!

Thursday, April 8th, 2010 by Joe Kristan

Tom Wheeler, the designated fall guy for the Iowa film fiasco, gave a long interview this week to the Des Moines Register. Mr. Wheeler has been indicted for “non-felonious misconduct in office,” which seems to be the same as a charge of criminal ineptitude.
Mr. Wheeler spent the interview deflecting blame:


Film fiasco: What did the Department of Revenue know, and when?

Monday, April 5th, 2010 by Joe Kristan

It looks like Iowa taxpayers may have spent many millions subsidizing pretend filmmaking expenses, according to a long investigative piece in yesterday’s Des Moines Register. And, the story hints, this might have been done with the knowledge and approval of “officials” at the Iowa Department of Revenue.
The pretend expenditures were through “sponsorships.” Somebody would agree to “sponsor” the film — say, by promoting it on a website — in exchange for being named in the film credits. They would assign some tremendous value to the sponsorship and to being named in the credits, and the Iowa Film Credit would award tax credits based on this value — with no cash (other than taxpayer cash for the credits) ever changing hands. The story reports that one producer claimed credits based on $12.4 million of these sponsorships – which, the way the film program was run, could have resulted in over $6 million of tax credits that the producer could sell for real money. If so, the State of Iowa assigned $6 million of tax receivables in exchange for — nothing.
Film trucks burning taxpayer money in Downtown Des Moines in early September, 2009, just before the film credit scandal exploded.
Oh, say the producers, there was real value there. There’s an easy way to prove it, then. If a film producer really receives sponsorships of $12.4 million in services in a business exchange, he is required to report it as taxable income. The rules that allow tax-free exchanges don’t cover “sponsorships,” so the amount would show up on as taxable income. On the other side, the taxpayer could deduct only the actual cash expenses incurred — the cost of adding the “sponsor” name to the film credits. If that value was real, then it needs to show up on the producer’s federal income tax return. If it’s not there, he is lying either to Iowa or to the IRS.
The scandal has led to criminal charges against Tom Wheeler, former director of the Iowa Film Office. His attorney says she’s ready to drag the Department of Revenue into the mess:

Angela Campbell, his defense attorney, does not dispute that Wheeler approved a range of activities as eligible for tax credits when no cash was actually spent.
However, she said, he did that after receiving direction and approval from officials within the Department of Revenue and others at the Iowa Department of Economic Development.
“If Revenue said it’s OK, Tom didn’t have the authority to disagree,” she said.

So far no published rulings from the Department of Revenue have surfaced blessing cash-free film credits. While you have to take what the defense says with a grain of salt, it will be ugly if it turns out that the Department of Revenue really was blessing this raid on the state treasury. It looks as though there remains more dirt to surface:
Jeffrey S. Thompson, a deputy state attorney general who is among those leading the state investigation, said prosecutors are “working to take whatever actions we can under the law to recover money for the state or hold people accountable.”
Thompson hinted the full story of what went wrong in Iowa’s film office is still unraveling.
“When Iowans find out the extent of this, they are going to be outraged,” he said.

Wow. If it’s more outrageous than what’s already been reported, there should be riots when it comes out.
While it’s nice that the Des Moines Register is digging into this story now, it would have been better if they had provided more than fanboy coverage of the credit when it was first enacted. State 29 has a must-read post on the failures of Iowa’s media in the film credit fiasco. Bonus: he calls me a “busy capitalist pig/tax blogger guy.” I think that will be the new Tax Update motto.
Related: The Iowa ‘let’s pretend’ film tax credit
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‘You live by the tax credit. You die by the tax credit’

Friday, March 5th, 2010 by Joe Kristan

A Keokuk biodiesel built with hundreds of thousands of dollars in “green jobs” subsidies and tax credits — all to harvest another tax credit — sells for $55,000 at auction, giving State 29 a chance to explain how “green jobs” really work:

Gee, let’s blame it on the nation’s financial sector….. or the soybean market….. or the oil industry….. let’s blame it on ANYTHING except what was really going on: a bunch of guys in small town Iowa who tried to exploit a Federal tax credit put there by politicians obsessed with “green jobs” and other nonsense.

If it can’t live without a tax credit, it’s not a business, it’s a government program.


Dollars for dishwashers

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010 by Joe Kristan

Iowa burned through its allottment of fun bux to encourage purchases of “energy efficient” appliances in only a few hours yesterday. Our government supergeniuses, expecting the pile of our money to last two weeks, were again caught off guard again by the shocking phenomenon that people will line up for free money. Imagine that.
State 29 has more.

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Spending has been cut to the bone!

Friday, January 29th, 2010 by Joe Kristan

Whenever the government wants more of your money, politicians say they can’t possibly get by with less, because they have already cut spending as far as they possibly can. Then things like this come along:

John Frew, Gov. Chet Culver’s chief of staff, said Thursday that he has been approached by Sioux City lawmakers who want to consider options for buying the 51-year-old John Morrell & Co. plant so the building can be torn down and the area redeveloped.
“We’d like to help them find the money to do that,” Frew said in an interview with The Associated Press. “There could be a variety of ways to do it.”

Yes, there could be a variety of ways to do that. For example, the people who own it right now just might want to figure out how to best get cash out of their investment, clean up the site, hire a real estate broker, and put it on the market. But if they think they can get a bunch of rubes from the government to use your money to take it off their hands for more than it’s worth, they’ll try that, too.


State not dead

Wednesday, January 27th, 2010 by Joe Kristan

State 29 is back!