Posts Tagged ‘Stephen Entin’

Tax Roundup, 10/2/15: What your Health Savings Account can do that your IRA can’t. And: They don’t stay bought.

Friday, October 2nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150803-1Your IRA isn’t an HSA. Last week I was asked whether there was a penalty for taking money from an Individual Retirement Account to pay for surgery. I said there was no penalty, but that it was taxable income. The person who asked was surprised and confused, thinking that penalty and taxation are the same thing. They aren’t.

The Tax Court faced a similar question yesterday. A 47 year-old taxpayer took money from her IRA to pay medical expenses for her non-dependent son. The IRS noticed, presumably via a computer match, and assessed her a 10% early withdrawal penalty, as well as regular income tax. Judge Guy explains the issue:

Generally, if a taxpayer receives a distribution from a qualified retirement plan before attaining age 59-1/2, section 72(t) imposes an additional tax equal to 10% of the portion of the distribution which is includible in the taxpayer’s gross income. Sec. 72(t)(1) and (2). The additional tax is intended to discourage taxpayers from taking premature distributions from retirement plans — actions that frustrate public policy encouraging saving for retirement…

Section 72(t)(2)(B) provides an exception to the imposition of additional tax to the extent that retirement plan distributions “do not exceed the amount allowable as a deduction under section 213 to the employee for amounts paid during the taxable year for medical care (determined without regard to whether the employee itemizes deductions for such taxable year).” Section 213 in turn allows as a deduction “the expenses paid during the taxable year, not compensated for by insurance or otherwise, for medical care of the taxpayer, his spouse, or a dependent…

The “dependent” part was bad news:

The record reflects that petitioner did not claim her son as a dependent for the year in issue and fails to demonstrate that her son met the definition of a dependent provided in section 152. Consequently, we conclude that petitioner is not eligible for the exception under section 72(t)(2)(B) — even assuming that she used the funds in question to pay her son’s medical expenses.

But even if she did qualify to avoid the 10% tax (she didn’t), the withdrawal would still have been subject to income tax.

Health Savings Accounts look a lot like IRAs — they allow tax-free build-up, and they can be tapped penalty free like IRAs for retirement income. But HSA funds withdrawn for medical expenses are tax-free — not just penalty free. As with the IRA, though, the medical expenses have to be the taxpayers, the spouse’s, or a dependent’s. This extra flexibility makes HSAs a better savings vehicle than an IRA for those who qualify.

Not everybody qualifies. You need a “high deductible” health insurance policy to qualify for an HSA. For 2015 a “high deductible plan” is one with an annual deductible of at least $1,300 for single coverage and $2,600 for family coverage.  Annual out-of-pocket costs can’t exceed $6,450 for single coverage and $12,900 for family coverage. The 2015 contribution limits are $3,350 for single coverage and $6,650 for family coverage.

Unlike employer “flex-plan” arrangments, there is no “use it or lose it” feature in HSAs. You can accumulate contributions and save them for a year with large medical expenses, or for retirement. You don’t have to withdraw the funds in the same year as the medical expenses, either; if you had medical expenses in year 1, you can wait until year 2 to withdraw the amount and still have it tax-free.

Cite: Ireland, T.C. Summary Opinion 2015-60

Related Links:

IRS publication 969.

Kiplinger, FAQs about Health Savings Accounts.




Maria Koklanaris, ConAgra Foods, Winner of Largest-Ever Nebraska Incentive Package, Moving to Illinois (Tax Analysts, subscriber link):

ConAgra Foods Inc., recipient of the largest tax incentive package ever awarded in Nebraska, announced October 1 that it would move its corporate headquarters from Omaha to Chicago, cutting at least 1,500 jobs in the process.

As I’ve said before, incentive tax credits are like taking your wife’s purse to the bar to buy drinks for the girls. It cheats the person who’s paying, the girls aren’t impressed, and if you leave with one, she’s not the type to be faithful.


It’s Friday! It’s Buzz Day for Robert D. Flach. Trumpmania figures prominently.

Jason Dinesen, How to Protect a Deceased Person’s Identity. “Thankfully, Congress has now limited access to the Death Master File, which was the cause of much of the identity theft relating to deceased people.”

Paul Neiffer, Form 1099-G Does Not Always Require Schedule F Reporting. “The key thing to remember is just because USDA or a cooperative issues a Form 1099 does not mean the income has to be fully reported on Schedule F and subject to full self-employment tax.”

Jim Maule, Taxation of Prizes, Question Three. “The question, however, also referred to the local or state sales tax. The awarding of a prize is not a sale, so the sales tax ought not apply.”

Kay Bell, Hurricane Joaquin intensifies, threatens East Coast…maybe. Maybe you should dust off your disaster recovery plan once in awhile.

Leslie Book, Restitution Based Assessment and Tax Return Preparers: An Uneasy Mix (Procedurally Taxing). On the problems the IRS has in getting restitution from crooked preparers.

Robert Wood, Marijuana Goes Native American And Tax Free




David Henderson, via Don Boudreaux:

Herbert Hoover, in the midst of the Great Depression, more than doubled the top [income-tax] rate to 63 percent and increased the bottom rate by more than nine times to 4 percent.  He did this in spite of the fact that raising income tax rates during a depression lengthens the depression.  Franklin Roosevelt carried on Hoover’s policy throughout the 1930s and increased tax rates further.  By 1940, he had raised the top tax rate to 81.1 percent on incomes over $5 million.

Putting the “great” in the Great Depression.


Stephen Entin, Expensing: The Right Tax Treatment for All Investment Regardless of Financing Arrangements (Tax Policy Blog)

Howard Gleckman, How Investment Managers (And Maybe You) Would Benefit From Trump’s Tax Plan (TaxVox).

Cara Griffith, Idaho Legislators Shamed Into Good Behavior (Tax Analysts) Politicians, bureaucrats and cockroaches prefer darkness.

Carl Davis, Michigan Becomes the 26th State Where Online Retailers like Amazon Must Collect Sales Tax (Tax Justice Blog).


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 876. Lois Lerner and the Wisconsin witch hunt.


The Critical Question. Is Technology Making Accountants Dumb and Lazy? (Chris Hooper, Going Concern).



Tax Roundup, 9/15/15: Today is a big due date. Also: more on preparer regulation, and Outlaw outlawry!

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

e-file logoExtended corporation, partnership and trust returns are due today! E-file is the best way to be sure to timely file. If you can’t, or won’t, e-file, Certified Mail, Return Receipt Requested, does the trick; save the postmark.

If you don’t get to the post office before they take their last smoke break for the day, you can go to the Fed-Ex or UPS store and use a designated private delivery service; be sure the shipping method you select is one of the “designated” ones at the link. Make sure the shipping bill shows that you dropped it off today, and make sure it is addressed to the proper IRS service center street address, as the private services can’t use the P.O. box service center addresses.

Third quarter estimated tax payments are also due today for calendar year filers.

Related: Paul Neiffer, September 15 is Worse Than April 15, “Most people who wait to file on September 15 or October 15 are, shall we say, not quite so efficient with their record keeping and thus, it is much tougher for us to get information and to get the tax return done.” Paul is absolutely right.


20130121-2Russ Fox, The NAEA Won’t Like This Post:

I’m a member of the National Association of Enrolled Agents. Generally, I’m supportive of their policies. However, I am not a fan of mandatory preparer regulation. Other than giving the IRS more money and getting rid of the lowest hanging of the bad preparers, preparer regulation won’t accomplish many positives for the general public.

The NAEA’s support of preparer regulation is baffling. The idea of the IRS certifying all preparers strikes me as a deadly threat to the Enrolled Agent brand.

Right now, EAs are the only professionals who have to pass an IRS administered test, one much more rigorous than the one in the abortive Registered Tax Return Preparer plan under the defunct preparer regulations. EAs also have much more serious continuing education rules.

For all this the EA designation is not nearly as well-known as the CPA designation, which isn’t even a tax-specific credential. The RTRP designation threatens to further obscure the EA brand.  Both EAs and RTRPs will be “IRS approved,” and given their failure to establish the EA brand so far, it’s likely to be impossible to get clients to appreciate the superior EA credential.


buzz20150804Buzz! With Robert D. Flach, a fresh tax blog roundup with Robert’s own inimitable style. Topics include this year’s slow-walk of the extenders legislation and the Senate push to regulate preparers.


TaxGrrrl, Congress May Give IRS Authority To Regulate Tax Preparers:

It’s my feeling that the bad guys are the bad guys: forcing you to take ethics courses doesn’t change that. Incompetent and lazy preparers are incompetent and lazy: forcing someone to sit through continuing education courses (likely while text messaging, trust me, I’ve been a speaker at these things) doesn’t make that person smarter or more conscientious. 

It’s another “bootleggers and Baptists” play. Prohibition was supported by do-gooders who naively thought they were making the world a better place, and by bootleggers, who profited from prohibition. Here the Baptist elder is Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen, and the bootleggers are the big national tax prep franchise outfits.


Robert Wood, IRS Offshore Account Penalties Expand, More Banks Sign.

Jim Maule, A New Tax Specialty: Porn:

 According to this report, the Alabama House Ways and Means Committee, trying to deal with a budget shortfall, has approved legislation imposing a 40 percent excise tax on, well, it depends on whose explanation is accepted. Some are calling it a tax on porn.

Well, at least they won’t have trouble recruiting auditors.

Jack Townsend, Another B   S   Tax Shelter Bites the Dust. Fill in the blanks.

Kay Bell, 3 ways to navigate estimated tax penalty safe harbors


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 859

Huaqun Li, Stephen J. Entin, China to Remove Dividend Tax for Long-Term Shareholders (Tax Policy Blog)




Well, they were called the “Outlaws.” David Allen Coe was part of the “Outlaw” country music movement led by Waylon Jennings, Willie Nelson, Johnny Cash, and Hank Williams Jr. Now, like Willie, Mr. Coe has some tax problems. reports:

Country singer David Allan Coe owes the IRS nearly a half-million dollars for taxes due as far back as 1993. The singer pleaded guilty to one count of obstructing the due administration of the IRS on Monday (Sept. 14) and could face three years in prison plus a $250,000 fine.

Coe, known for his hit “Take This Job and Shove It,” owes more than $466,000, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. This includes taxes from 2008 to 2013 when he either failed to file income tax returns or didn’t pay taxes owned. Interest and penalties are part of the figure.

Mr. Coe had a little run-in with the law at a Des Moines area casino a few years back (arrest video here), but the disorderly conduct charges were dismissed. This outlawry promises to be a little more troublesome, but now all he needs is mom, pickup trucks, trains and a drink for a perfect country and western song.



Tax Roundup, 1/27/15: IRS waives late payment penalty for ACA tax credit recapture. And more!

Tuesday, January 27th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20140413-1Be thankful for small favors. Perhaps millions of taxpayers will face an unhappy surprise this tax season thanks to the Affordable Care Act. The ACA provides a tax credit to help taxpayers up to 400% of the poverty level pay for insurance purchased on an ACA exchange. The credit is computed based on an estimate of the taxpayer’s household income and paid directly to the insurance company; the premium paid by the taxpayer is reduced by the same amount.

At tax time, the policyholder-taxpayers have to compare their actual income to the income they estimated when they bought the policy. If the actual income is higher than what was estimated, they may have to repay thousands of dollars in credits paid to the insurers.

Yesterday the IRS provided some cold consolation (Notice 2015-9) for these folks, for 2014 returns only. If they can’t come up with the cash to pay the tax on April 15, the IRS will waive the penalty for late payment of taxes if the amount is reported on a timely return. They are also waiving penalties for underpayment of estimated tax attributable to the credit.

20121120-2Taxpayers claiming the waiver are just supposed to file the return without the payment for the recaptured excess credit. Then when the IRS sends an underpayment demanding payment with penalties, they are supposed to respond with a letter saying “I am eligible for the relief granted under Notice 2015-9 because I received excess advance payment of the premium tax credit.” That will go over well, I’m sure. They also have pay up by April 15, 2016, with interest.

These waivers don’t cover the separate penalty for failing to carry health insurance — the “individual mandate” — because the IRS can’t assess penalties for not paying it in the first place.

Unfortunately, the IRS has not yet issued a blanket waiver for the much more severe penalties on employers with non-compliant premium reimbursement arrangements (“Section 105 plans“). We’ll see if the IRS wants to tangle with the thousands of 2014 waiver requests they will receive if they don’t issue a blanket waiver, one-at-a-time.


Tony Nitti, IRS: No Penalties For Late Repayments Of The Premium Tax Credit

Megan McArdle, Reality Check on Obamacare Year Two

Me: The ACA and filing season. Be afraid.


Robert D. Flach brings you your fresh Tuesday Buzz, including advice about checking information returns and choosing a preparer.

TaxGrrrl, Credit Cards, The IRS, Form 1099-K And The $19,399 Reporting Hole. “Tucked in the middle of the housing bill was a provision that had absolutely nothing to do with housing: a new requirement that banks and credit card merchants to report payments to the IRS.”

Kay Bell, Don’t become a tax identity theft victim. Good idea.

William Perez, A First Look at TaxACT Free File Edition

Russ Fox, The Form 3115 Conundrum: “This year there’s a conundrum faced by tax professionals: Do we need to file a Form 3115 for every taxpayer who has equipment, depreciation, rental property, inventory, etc.?”

I think we will need many 3115 filings, but I don’t think they are required for everyone. As Russ notes, nobody seems to know for sure.

Robert Wood, How Yahoo’s Alibaba ‘Sale’ Skirts Tax Billions, Buffett-Like.

Peter Reilly, A Free Kent Hovind Might Have Backing For A Bigger Better Dinosaur Theme Park. It really is an amazing world.


Stephen Entin, The President Proposes a Second Tax on Estates (Tax Policy Blog):

The step-up in basis is no loophole. The step-up is needed to prevent double or triple taxation of the same assets. Without it, the president’s plan could result in a 68 percent tax rate on capital gains upon death (the inheritance would be taxed at the 40 percent estate tax rate plus the proposed 28 percent tax rate on capital gains).

It’s worse than that, considering inflation and the fact that those assets were purchased with after-tax income in the first place.

Jeremy Scott, Three Early Signs of What to Expect From Congress (Tax Analysts Blog): “It will be unpredictable.”

IMG_1116TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 628 “The pattern begins with blatant denials — bald lies — and stonewalling. … Next in the pattern, when the lies fail, comes the attribution of responsibility to the lowest level of bureaucrat. …”

Martin Sullivan, Is There Now a Window of Opportunity for Tax Reform? (Tax Analysts Blog). Spoiler: “We will have to wait until 2017 for any real progress on tax reform. And by no means is there any guarantee of movement then.”

Howard Gleckman, Is Dynamic Scoring of Tax Bills Ready For Prime Time?

Sebastian Johnson, Sam Brownback’s White Whale. “Little did Kansas voters know that in reelecting Sam Brownback they were actually voting for a vengeful old sea captain obsessed with one issue above all others – eliminating the state’s personal income tax.”


Career Corner. Stop Using These Played Out Words in Your LinkedIn Profile Immediately (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 1/22/15: Business-only tax reform: do-able, or doomed? And: Are Iowa taxes all that bad?

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan
paul ryan

Paul Ryan

Business-only tax reform? Tax Analysts reports ($link) that the chief taxwriter in the GOP-controlled House is exploring tax reform ideas with the Obama administration:

As Republican taxwriters look for a way to advance tax reform in the face of White House ambivalence, House Ways and Means Committee Chair Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said he would explore a business-only compromise with the Obama administration, as long as it includes passthroughs.

“I’d like to think that there is perhaps an area for common ground there,” Ryan said on Fox News January 20 after President Obama’s State of the Union address. “We’re going to try to explore it and see if we can find something.”

Ryan said Obama’s recent tax proposals, which involve increasing capital gains taxes and implementing a tax on financial institutions to pay for new and expanded middle-income tax incentives, as well as new spending programs, show he is disinterested in comprehensive reform.

I think “as long as it includes passthoughs” is absolutely the right approach. I also think it will be fatal to the reform effort. A majority of businesses and business income is taxed on 1040s as a result of the increased popularity of passthrough structures like S corporations and limited liability companies.

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

Any tax reform effort worthy of the name would bring down rates in exchange for a broader base. As the President seems firmly committed to ever-higher rates on “the rich,” I don’t see how this can happen.


Is Iowa’s business tax climate really that bad? (Me, Is Iowa ready for tax reform? Ready or not, it’s overdue for it:

Even after all of the explaining, the Tax Foundation’s main points remain true. Iowa’s corporation tax rate is the highest in the U.S. (even taking the deduction for federal income taxes into account). In fact, it is the highest in the developed world. Our individual tax rate is high, even considering the federal tax deduction. All of the special breaks make Iowa’s income tax very complex. And while Iowa has many tax credits, they are often narrowly tailored and require consulting and string-pulling to obtain. Many small businesses don’t qualify for the wonderful tax breaks, but they still have to pay their accountants to comply with the resulting complex and confusing tax system.

If Iowa's income tax were a car, it would look like this.

If Iowa’s income tax were a car, it would look like this.

The post begins an exploration of Iowa tax reform options I will be running at, the Des Moines Business Record’s Business Professional’s Blog. While longtime readers know my fondness for massive changes to the Iowa tax system, I will also be exploring changes on the margin that would improve and simplify Iowa’s tax system in its existing structure that might be easier to pass.


David Brunori, Bad State Tax Ideas Abound – Nebraska, Virginia, and Missouri (Tax Analysts Blog):

Special taxes — those on narrow bases — should be imposed sparingly and only for good reason. The best reason is to pay for externalities. But unlike, say, cigarettes, 99 percent of gun purchases produce no externalities. So they should not be subject to special taxes — unless you really hate guns, gun owners, and the guys from Duck Dynasty.

Not every problem is a tax problem.


Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

TaxGrrrl, Taxpayers Urged To Be On ‘High Alert’ For Fraud During Filing Season:

This week, the Treasury Inspector General for Taxpayer Administration (TIGTA) issued a reminder to taxpayers to beware of scammers making calls claiming to represent the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The scam, which heated up last year, has continued to plague taxpayers.

If you aren’t expecting a call from the IRS, it’s not the IRS.


William Perez, Understanding Form W-2, the Annual Wage and Tax statement

Robert Wood, 10 Surprising Items IRS Says To Report On Your Taxes. As a listicle, it will probably generate traffic to crush Forbes’ servers.

Tax Trials, Fourth Circuit Affirms the Tax Court on Conservation Easement Donation.  “In the end, the Fourth Circuit held that while the conservation purpose of the easement was perpetual, the use restriction on the’ real property is not in perpetuity because the taxpayers could remove land from the defined parcel and replace it with other land.”


Keith Fogg, How Long Does a CDP Case Toll the Statute of Limitations on Collection? (Procedurally Taxing)

Peter Reilly, Bitter CPA Fight Good For Attorneys And Nobody Else. The U.S. Sixth Circuit picks up the tale of one of the worst accounting firm breakups I’ve come across.

Jack Townsend, USAO SDNY Announces Another Offshore Account Client Plea


20141201-1Glenn Hubbard, Obama’s Bad Economic Ideas (Via the TaxProf): “Piling up child tax credits and subsidies for health care over narrow household income ranges, as the president proposes, leads to high rates of taxation on earnings from work as assistance is phased out.” In other words, a poverty trap.

Kay Bell, Obama’s ‘won both’ elections State of the Union quip, Republicans’ many responses to the speech (and gibe)


The Tax Policy Blog has lots on the Presidents’ doomed tax proposals:

Kyle Pomerleau, Andrew Lundeen, The Basics of President Obama’s State of the Union Tax Plan

Scott A. Hodge, Michael SchuylerWhat Dynamic Analysis Tells Us About the President’s Tax Hike on Capital Gains and Dividends

Stephen J. Entin, President Obama’s Capital Gains Tax Proposals: Bad for the Economy and the Budget


TaxVox is also flooding the SOTU zone:

William Gale, David John, Retirement Security a Priority in the 2015 State of the Union

Gene Steuerle, President Obama’s Middle-Class Tax Message in the State of the Union

William Gale, Adjusting the President’s Capital Gains Proposal




TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 623. Today’s installment features an e-mail where scandal figure Lois Lerner shows she’s well aware her unit was under suspicion, and was desparately discouraging further inquiry.

Matt Gardner, Adobe Products’ Acrobatic Tax-Dodging Skills (Tax Justice Blog). I would read that as “skills in meeting their fiduciary duty towards their shareholders.”



Tax Roundup, 12/3/14: House voting on extenders today. Are Senate, White House on board?

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130113-3The House will likely pass one-year extender bill today. Will the Senate and White House go along? Multiple reports say that the House of Representatives is expected to approve HR 5771 today, reviving 55 perennially-resurected tax breaks through 2014. The breaks, which include bonus depreciation, the $500,000 Section 179 deduction, and the research credit, all expired at the end of 2013.

While the fate of the bill in the Senate and the White House are not entirely clear, I expect the House bill to pass, given the lack of alternatives.  The Wall Street Journal reports:

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) used a weekly Senate Democratic luncheon Tuesday to push for an alternative that would extend expiring tax breaks through 2015.

But his Republican counterpart on the committee, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, brushed that aside, saying time was running out. Mr. Hatch—on whom Mr. Wyden frequently relies when crafting deals—came out in favor of the short-term fix, saying the only alternative he would support at this point was the one worked out between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R., Mich.) and drew a White House veto threat last week. If the Senate advanced a new version, “there will be no bill” because “the House is going to leave,” Mr. Hatch said.

The full text of Sen. Hatch’s statements can be found here.

The Hill reports that the White House appears ready to go along with the House bill. Given the way the White House threatened a veto of the House-Senate deal that would have extended some of the breaks permanently, I think the lack of a veto threat means the President is likely to sign this version. While there appears to be some unhappiness with the House bill — Senator Grassley is not a fan of the one-year approach —  I expect the lame-duck Senate to pass it anyway. Unfortunately, it’s not clear when the Senate will act.

Congress has for years passed these provisions for one or two years at a time because Congressional budget rules allow them to pretend they are less expensive than they really are. Unfortunately, that often leaves taxpayers uncertain as to what the tax law is for the year until the year is almost over — or, in 2012, until the year was over. That makes it hard to evaluate the economics of important fixed-asset decisions. The abortive House-Senate deal would have ended this game for several key provisions, but the White House chose scoring cheap political points over an improved business tax environment.


Paul Neiffer, Is an One-Year Extension of Section 179 all we get?!

Howard Gleckman, How To End the Tax Extender Drama: Stop Calling Them Extenders—And Make Congress Pay For Them

Kay Bell, Tax extenders compromise: OK expired breaks for 2014 only


20121108-1Peter Reilly, Repair Regs – A Hellish Tax Season And Refunds Of Biblical Magnitude. Peter discusses the need, or not, for massive filing of useless accounting method changes to implement the new “repair regulations.” He also touches on a potential boon for owners of commercial real estate.


William Perez, What You Need to Know about the Premium Assistance Tax Credit

Russ Fox notes A Rare Piece of Efficiency from the IRS

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2014: #4-IRS Rules on Self-Employment Income Of LLC Members.


Robert Wood, What IRS Calls ‘Willful’–Even A Smidgen–Can Mean Penalties Or Jail

TaxGrrrl, Feeling Spendy This Year? ’12 Days Of Christmas’ Slightly More Expensive


microsoft-appleSound Advice. David Brunori offers Advice for the New Republican Legislative Majorities (Tax Analysts Blog). It’s full of sound advice, but I especially like this:

Republicans should become the party of virtue, courage, and honesty when it comes to taxes. They should fight crony capitalism, as there is nothing more abhorrent to the free market than the government picking winners and losers. Yet state governments do just that all the time. The proliferation of tax incentives represents horrible tax policy. That politicians can decide economic policy through tax incentives is more akin to a Soviet five-year plan than to Adam Smith’s invisible hand. True conservatives should fight attempts to use tax policy to further economic objectives. Broad-based taxes and low rates will always serve the conservative cause better than the existing nonsensical tax laws. Standing on principle to ensure a broad tax base is hard — and neither party has been able to do it. But it is a stand worth taking.

That would be wonderful advice here in Iowa, but our newly re-elected GOP governor has been up to his mustache in crony tax breaks to chase high-profile businesses. Meanwhile Iowa’s home-grown businesses don’t get the big subsidies. They are dragged down by the highest corporation tax rate in the developed world, baroque complexity, and a bottom-ten business tax environment.

A real pro-business tax reform in Iowa might look something like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform.


TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 573.


lizard20140826Leslie BookH&R Block CEO Asks IRS To Make it Harder to Self-Prepare Tax Returns and Why That is Good for the Tax System.  “Yet, as I explain here, I think the changes he proposes would likely be good for the tax system because they could enhance visibility and accountability, principles the IRS should emphasize with issues that tend to have sticky error rates.”

H&R Block has been trying to pad its income for years on the backs of retail taxpayers. Its former CEO authored the illegal tax preparer regulations system the IRS tried to force on the industry — a system that would have run many of Henry and Robert’s competitors out of the buisness. Now they want to force the lowest-income earners through their doors.

I think the right approach to advice from an outfit that so shamelessly promotes its interests at the expense of taxpayers may be to carefully note it, and to do exactly the opposite.


Stephen Entin, No Mystery that Investment Slump Hurts Workers, Lowers Productivity and Wages (Tax Policy Blog)


News from the Profession. Why Is Everyone in Public Accounting Obsessed with Sports? (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)



Tax Roundup, 11/17/14: Sundog weather is shorts weather!

Monday, November 17th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

It’s 7F outside here in Mason City, Iowa. Warm enough for shorts, it seems.


This gentleman was scraping his windows outside North Iowa Area Community College, where I am part of the Day 1 panel of the  Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax School. I wonder what this guy wears in the summer.

It’s cozy and warm here in the conference room, where 165 attendees are beginning two days of the finest continuing education available today in Cerro Gordo County. There are two sessions left after today, in Denison and Ames; the Ames school will be webcast.  Register today!


Just links today.

Russ Fox, The Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Upcoming Tax Season:

If you’re a tax professional here’s a warning: The 2015 Tax Season will be one you’re almost certain to remember for all the wrong reasons. If you’re a client of a tax professional be forewarned: Your tax professional will be even more grouchy than usual next year. Why? The upcoming tax season will likely be the worst in 30 years.

There are four reasons for this: tax extenders, budget issues the IRS faces, the Affordable Care Act (aka ObamaCare), and the new property capitalization/repair regulations.

Are we excited yet?


Mason City Sundog Morning. It's cold here today.

Mason City Sundog Morning. It’s cold here today.

Robert D. Flach, IT AIN’T FAIR – SELECTIVE INFLATION ADJUSTMENTS. “If it is appropriate to index some tax items for inflation why shouldn’t ALL deductions, credits, thresholds, etc. be indexed for inflation?”

Paul Neiffer, Direct Deposit Limits. “In an effort to combat fraud and identity theft, new IRS procedures effective January 2015 will limit the number of refunds electronically deposited into a single financial account or pre-paid debit card to three.”

Jim Maule, Soda Sales Shifting? “Does anyone seriously think that the soda tax will reduce the number of obese people in Berkeley, or raise enough revenue to make the cost of administering and complying with the tax worthwhile?”

I’ll believe it’s about health when these people tax their own “unhealthy” habits, like double caramel lattes.

Kay Bell, Navajo lawmakers approve 2% sales tax on snacks, sodas

TaxGrrrl, NFL Flagged With Another Challenge To Tax-Exempt Status Because Of Redskins

Annette Nellen, The Election, 114th Congress and Fate of Tax Reform

Keith Fogg, TIGTA Report on ACS Details the Impact of Shrinking Budget on Tax Collection Efforts (Procedurally Taxing)


20131112TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 557

Robert Goulder, The Ghost of Captain Renault (Tax Analysts Blog). “What? There’s corporate tax avoidance going on in Luxembourg? You don’t say?”

Sebastian Johnson, State Rundown 11/14: Here Comes the Judge (Tax Justice Blog). Kansas school funding and Maryland’s attempted double-taxation are on the docket.

Stephen Entin, Tax Policy Is Child’s Play (Tax Policy Blog). “The enactment of tax reductions or regulatory changes that make it possible to profitably employ more capital is like landing on a ladder… Enacting adverse policies that force a reduction in the amount of capital that people are willing to maintain is like hitting a chute.”

Renu Zaretsky asks How Quickly Can Lame Ducks Move Before the Holidays?  The Tax Vox headline roundup is heavy on gas tax talk and extenders.


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

Tuesday, May 6th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

Oh, but it isn’t that bad:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Other Coverage:

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

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


Flickr image by Christian under Creative Commons license.

Flickr image by Christian under Creative Commons license.

Kay Bell, 5 tax tips for Cinco de Mayo

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Mindy Herzfeld, International Tax Trending (Tax Analysts Blog)

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


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



Tax Roundup, 1/2/2013: Yay, we didn’t fall off the cliff! Too bad we’re still doomed.

Wednesday, January 2nd, 2013 by Joe Kristan

So tax season can go on.  The IRS will have to activate some of the “reserved” boxes on its forms, but with the passage of HR 8 yesterday, filing season should be able to continue without catastrophic disruption.  I summarized the key pieces yesterday here.

So what did they accomplish?  They permanently “patched” the alternative minimum tax, and that is a real accomplishment.  Far better to repeal a deeply dishonest tax, but at least now they have stopped placing a time bomb in the tax law set to go off every year or two.

They raised the top marginal rate on “the rich” to something over 40%, with a stated top rate of 39.6% and the dishonest phase-outs of itemized deductions and personal exemptions.  They redefined “rich” as single filers with incomes over $400,000 and married taxpayers over $450,000.

They raised the top dividend and capital gain rate to something over 24%, taking into account the 3.8% Obamacare levy, the 20% rate on the rich, as newly defined, and the phase-outs of deductions and personal exemptions.  In doing so, they left the top rate at 15% (or 18.8%) for other taxpayers.

They delivered another kick in the teeth to successful entrepreneurs.  Taxpayers who operate successfully as pass-through entities represent much of the income hit by the new tax rates, and much of business income in general.  They have that much less after tax income to take chances on new locations, new employees, new products.  That means there will be less of all of these.


Source: Tax Foundation, “Putting a Face on America’s Tax Returns: A Chartbook

Most people don’t realize just how big a part of the economy pass-throughs run by “the rich” are.  This might give you an idea:


Source: Tax Foundation, ‘Putting a Face on America’s Tax Returns: A Chartbook”

This isn’t exactly going to help hiring.

They once again passed the dishonest batch of “expiring provisions.”  These provisions, from the windmill subsidy and research credits to special breaks for speedways, are passed with annual expiration dates, enabling the politicians to pretend that they are temporary so they don’t have to face the real costs of these breaks for their freinds.

What they failed to accomplish is just as important.  They failed to pass the wretched ideas of dollar caps on itemized deductions or a limit on the rate benefit of the deductions.  They failed to apply the top rates to incomes of $200,000 and up, which was their initial plan.

Most importantly, they utterly failed to address the ongoing fiscal catastrophe.  The new revenues will barely touch the $1.2 trillion annual deficit.  It’s not clear whether there will even be any deficit reduction when all of the pieces of the deal are added together.  That means we careen almost immediately to a new debt-ceiling battle and ultimately to a confrontation with arithmetic.

Perhaps that will ultimately be the benefit of this deal, though not one that is intended.  The President finally got his tax hikes on “millionaires and billionaires,” and they won’t do a thing to deal with the fiscal crisis.  If people finally realize that the choice is between bringing spending and entitlements under control or higher taxes on everybody, there might actually be some value to this mess.  After all, the rich guy isn’t buying.


Fiscal Cliff Notes

TaxProf, House Approves Fiscal Cliff Tax Deal

Tyler Cowen, Ross Douthat asks

If a newly re-elected Democratic president can’t muster the political will and capital required to do something as straightforward and relatively popular as raising taxes on the tiny fraction Americans making over $250,000 when those same taxes are scheduled to go up already, then how can Democrats ever expect to push taxes upward to levels that would make our existing public programs sustainable for the long run?

Greg Mankiw, President rejects his bipartisan commission

Stephen Entin, Measuring the Economic and Distributional Effects of the Final Fiscal Cliff Bill (Tax Policy Blog)

Howard Gleckman, Congress Kicks the Fiscal Can off the Front Stoop (TaxVox)

William Perez,House Approves the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012

Journal of Accountacy, Congress passes fiscal cliff act

Andrew Mitchel, Senate Fiscal Cliff Bill Includes Retroactive Reinstatement of CFC Look-Thru Rule

Kay Bell, House passes tax bill to avoid fiscal cliff

Paul Neiffer, Some Major Tax “Goodies” in Senate Bill For Farmers!


Joseph Thorndike, Is Obama the Worst Legislative Negotiator of the Last Century?

Finally, this from Daniel Shaviro, a tax man of the left, on the fiscal cliff and the larger budget picture:

The biggest problem, as others have noted, is that Obama appears to be a once-in-a-generation lame and inept bargainer, who can take even a strong hand and not get all that much, because he is so predictably ready to fold.  But again this is not mainly an issue about the New Year’s Eve deal itself, which is more or less defensible as a one-off solution.  Rather, it’s about the debt ceiling crisis to come in a few weeks.

That is the one that really counts.  I think the Administration should play that, not merely as hard as they are saying they will now, but about 20 levels harder.  I would not just refuse to negotiate, but would have Administration officials use words such as treason, sabotage, and terrorism.

Mr. Shaviro is a very bright man.  He knows that the present fiscal course is unsustainable.  The solutions are some mix of spending less or taxing more.  If a guy that smart is ready to equate “spending less” with “treason, sabotage and terrorism,” the debate will get very ugly.  Maybe we aren’t far behind Argentina and Greece.