Posts Tagged ‘tax administration’

Tax Roundup, 2/6/14: Mortgage credit program revived for Iowa. And: why your state budget surplus is a mirage.

Thursday, February 6th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

IFA logoThe Iowa Finance Authority has opened a program that will allow some Iowans to claim a credit, rather than a deduction, for mortgage interest.  From an IFA press release:

The Iowa Finance Authority has announced that eligible Iowans may buy a home and reduce their federal income tax liability by up to $2,000 a year for the life of their mortgage.

The 2014 Take Credit Mortgage Credit Certificate program will be available beginning this week through IFA Take Credit Program Participating Lenders. Approximately 585 Iowa home buyers are expected to benefit from the program.

It has been some years since these credits were available in Iowa.

The credits aren’t for everyone.  They are targeted to lower-income borrowers, with income limits varying by county.  IFA has a “quick check” page for users to determine eligibility.  But for those who qualify, they are a handy way to reduce mortgage costs.  The credit is claimed on Form 8396.

 

TaxProf, TRAC: IRS Criminal Prosecutions Up 23.4% in Obama Administration.  This is probably due to the explosion in tax-refund theft that was less of a priority than regulating preparers was for the Worst Commissioner Ever and the Obama Administration.

 

taxanalystslogoCara Griffith, The Myth of the Budget Surplus (Tax Analysts Blog):

There seems to be a lot of good news about state budgets lately. Newspaper headlines have changed from doom and gloom over budget crises during the recession to questions about how states will manage budget surpluses. Unfortunately, there are financial problems lurking beneath the surface, and one of the largest may be the underfunding of state and local government pension and healthcare plans.

Even Iowa’s relatively well-funded pension plan is 20% underfunded actuarially, and even that uses an absurd assumption of 7.5% investment returns.  The Taxpayers Association of Central Iowa has a lengthy, but excellent, analysis.  Public defined benefit plans are a lie.  They are a lie to taxpayers understating the cost of current pension accruals, a lie to public employees about what they will get after retirement, or both.

 

Elaine Maag of TaxVox raises Questions About Expanding the Childless EITC:

The EITC is often criticized for its built-in marriage penalty. Imagine a single mom with three kids who earns $17,500. Prior to marriage, she qualifies for the maximum credit of $6,143. But if she marries someone with identical earnings, the additional income will reduce her EITC to just $3,670.

If the childless EITC were expanded and the husband had his own EITC, he would lose all or part of his benefit when the couple married, magnifying the tax increase this couple would face relative to when they were not married. As long as the EITC phases out at higher incomes and is tied to joint income, this will remain an issue.

Not to mention the massive level of EITC fraud and the punitive marginal tax rates on taxpayers working their way out of poverty.

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

 

Jana Luttenegger, Expired Housing-Related Tax Rules (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  The exclusion for forgiven mortgage debt is the biggie.

William Perez, Finding the Right Filing Status.  If you are legally married, it’s either joint returns or married filing separate.  Single status is unavailable, even for same-sex couples married in a state that allows them to get married who live in a state that doesn’t.  William provides some excellent explanation.

 

20130419-1Janet Novack, IRS: Don’t Call Us, Look It Up On IRS.Gov.  Well, you might actually get a correct answer that way.

Kay Bell, What the ‘Taxman’ does and doesn’t collect 

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 273

Howard Gleckman, The Cruel Political Paradox of Deficit Reduction (TaxVox)

Carl Smith provides Another Update on Rand Cases in Tax Court at Procedurally Taxing.  The Rand cases hold that an “underpayment” for purposes of penalties does not include the portion of refundable tax credits that tax tax below zero.

Going Concern, Pot Taxes May Not Be Such a Cash Cow Due to, Well, the Cash.  Not to mention the disallowance of all non cost-of-goods-sold deduction for legal dealers.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/20/14: If it’s not a scandal, it hurts like one. And: S corporation ESOP play in WSJ.

Monday, January 20th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Iowa didn’t need my services as a juror this week, so  I will be participating in the Iowa Bar Association webinar this afternoon on new developments for 2014.  It starts at noon.  You can register here and find more information here.   I will join Roger McEowen of the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation, and Kristie Maitre, IRS Stakeholder Liason for Iowa.

 

20130419-1If the Tea Party scandal is not a scandal, why would it be so damaging to the IRS?  The TaxProf’s IRS Scandal Roundup for Day 255 has some eye-opening quotes from a high-powered panel from a Pepperdine/Tax Analysts Symposium last week:

Donald Korb (Partner, Sullivan & Cromwell; former IRS Chief Counsel):  I think it is incredibly damaging.  Frankly, I see it as one of the seeds of the next tax shelter era. … And in terms of scandal, I don’t think we really know. We have not been permitted to understand exactly what happened. So, who knows.

George Yin (Edwin S. Cohen Distinguished Professor of Law and Taxation, Virginia; former Chief of Staff, Joint Committee on Taxation):  I think there has been tremendous damage.  Almost without regard to what actually happened.  And I actually despair of finding out what actually happened. …

Donald Tobin (Frank E. and Virginia H. Bazler Designated Professor in Business Law, Ohio State):  I think it is awful. I agree with Don and George.  7 or 8.  I think this is ultimately going to have huge implications. …

Ellen Aprill (John E. Anderson Chair in Tax Law, Loyola-L.A.):  I agree with all of that.  I have myself avoided the word “scandal” because I just don’t know.  And some of the people I know personally.  I don’t think that was their political motivation.  So I’ve used “controversy” and “brouhaha” and everything but tried not to go all the way to scandal. …

Korb: … This is very, very damaging.  Maybe we are at a 9.5

You can already see effects in the reduction of the IRS funding request in the latest budget deal.  While Congress makes the IRS the Swiss Army Knife of tax policy, it continues to cut back its resources.  That can’t end well.  But the GOP sees that the IRS has acted as a tool for its political opponents, and it’s asking a lot for them to fund their opposition.

 

Robert D. Flach ponders whether the Registered Tax Return Preparer designation could be revived as a voluntary credential.  If any group of preparers can unite behind a voluntary credential with self-administered standards, great.  Just keep the IRS out of it.  It’s a poor use of their resources, and they aren’t to be trusted with that sort of power.

 

S imageS imageS-SidewalkESOP S corporation strategy.  The Wall Street Journal (Laura Saunders, via the TaxProf) reports on an S corporation that may have found a way to funnel all of its income to a tax-exempt ESOP via restricted stock for the non-ESOP owners.  Paul Neiffer suspects it may be too good to be true.

It would be a hard needle to thread, giving the severe 409(p) excise tax that can apply to allocations of ESOP shares to owners of closely-held S corporation.  If the strategy does win in the courts, I would expect to see legislation to change the result quickly.

 

Jack Townsend, Eighth Circuit Affirms Offshore Account Related Conviction

 

Joseph Henchman, What Same-Sex Couples Need to Know This Filing Season  (Tax Policy Blog).  He links to a nice Tax Foundation study that tells how each state is approaching same-sex marriage this filing season.

Roberton Williams, Utah Lets Same-Sex Couples File Joint Tax Returns (TaxVox)

Kay Bell, Girl Scout cookies might be tax deductible.  Unfortunately, only if you don’t eat them.

Russ Fox, The Trouble With Bitcoins: Taxation.  ”If you make money with Bitcoins, it is absolutely taxable.”

Jason Dinesen, Issuing 1099s to an Incorporated Veterinarian.  So veterinary services are “medical services.”

So the IRS agrees with Corb Lund.

 

Tax Justice Blog, Oklahoma Shows How Not to Budget.  ”The biggest offender here is one we’ve explained before: the growing trend of funneling general tax revenues toward transportation in order to delay having to enact a long-overdue gas tax increase.”

William Perez, In Honor of Martin Luther King, Jr.  “In 1960, Dr Martin Luther King, Jr., was found not guilty of filing fraudulent state tax returns for the years 1956 and 1958.”  That’s why you don’t want politicized tax enforcement.

TaxGrrrl, Why Justice Matters: The Indictment & Trial Of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On Tax Charges   

 

Annette Nellen, Real revenue sources for tax reform.  ”Where can permanent tax increases be generated to offset the desired permanent tax decrease generated from permanent lower rates?”

Good, we need it.  Bloggers = Media for First Amendment Libel Law Purposes (Eugene Volokh).  “To be precise, the Ninth Circuit concludes that all who speak to the public, whether or not they are members of the institutional press, are equally protected by the First Amendment.”

That’s how it should be.

Peter Reilly, Soldier To Tax Accountant – Rachel Millios EA   

 

News from the Profession.  CPA Exam Pass Rates Basically Went Right Off the Cliff at the End of 2013 (Going Concern).  

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Tax Roundup, 1/7/2014: Koskinen proposes voluntary IRS preparer certification. And: Obamacare, small business incubator?

Tuesday, January 7th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

The new IRS Commissioner, John Koskinen, would like for IRS to oversee a voluntary preparer certification program if their preparer regulation power grab fails in the courts, reports Accounting Today. But he would still prefer the power grab:

“If you could require certification of preparers and some educational requirements, it would help taxpayers feel some level of confidence that preparers actually know what they’re doing, and the vast majority of them do,” Koskinen said during a conference call with reporters after he was sworn in ceremonially Monday by Treasury Secretary Jack Lew with an audience of many IRS employees in attendance. “My sense is that we should be able to provide that same educational training and that background to preparers. If you can’t require it, offer it, and if you complete the information, you get a certificate that says, ‘I have completed the IRS preparer course.’ I think that could be over time very valuable to preparers, and consumers could ask preparers, ‘Have you gone through the IRS training?’ Whatever happens with the court case, we ought to be able to move forward on that and provide taxpayers with as much assurance as we can that the preparers they are dealing with have met some kind of minimum standards.”

Somebody should point out to him that there already is such a program: the Enrolled Agent Program.  If the IRS runs the now-mothballed Registered Tax Return Preparer literacy test as a voluntary program, it will be a crippling blow to the more rigorous and underappreciated EA designation. Before he worries more about the competence of preparers, Commissioner Koskinen should fix his agency first (my emphasis):

“When I look at the impact of the budget and the implications of further cuts or what happens the next time there’s a sequester, the first thing that happens is the waiting time on a phone call goes up and our service goes down,” he said. “We try to get to 70 or 80 percent, but sometimes it gets as low as 50 or 60, which means at 50 percent that half the people who are calling are getting no answer at all and no satisfaction. It just seems to me that’s intolerable. Taxpayers deserve better, so we need to do whatever we can to provide the services that taxpayers need and expect. They ought to be able to dial the IRS number and get an answer promptly, and they ought to be able to get accurate information.”

Even the shabbiest storefront preparer at least processes more than half of its customers.

 

Why Iowa income tax reform will go nowhere this yearvia the Sioux City Journal:

Senate Democratic Leader Mike Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said Senate Democrats would formulate a tax-relief approach geared toward income tax cuts for middle-class Iowans, not the two-tiered plan being pushed by Republicans.

“Nobody in my caucus is going to go along with a scheme that leaves middle-class Iowans carrying more than their share of the tax burden in Iowa so rich people can choose whichever one works the best for them,” Gronstal said.

The idea that the state income tax system is somehow a way to fight The Rich Guy is willfully dumb, with zero-income-tax South Dakota right next door.  Oh, and you know what another word for “the rich” is?  Employers. 

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

 

Megan McCardle poses the question “Will Obamacare Inspire Small-Business Ownership?“:

One theorized benefit of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act is that it will unleash a new era of entrepreneurship. Undoubtedly, there are people in the U.S. who wanted to start a business but feared losing their health insurance. Now that they know they can buy it, presumably they’ll be freed to take risks without fearing that they could end up uninsured and uninsurable.

Unfortunately, we just don’t have that much empirical evidence. European nations with more generous social safety nets have lower rates of entrepreneurship than the U.S. does, even though a thought experiment might suggest that generous welfare programs would encourage people to take more risks. Nor did we see a radical unfurling of entrepreneurial energy in Massachusetts after RomneyCare.

She also points out that Obamacare is a kick in the head for businesses that actually succeed:

Meanwhile, of course, the law imposes significant new penalties for growing a company; anyone with more than 50 employees not only has to provide health insurance for their employees, but they also have to meet a substantial regulatory burden to demonstrate that they’re providing affordable coverage. That might discourage people from growing their firms. 

You know, it just might.

 

Russ Fox, Your Mileage Log — Start It Now (2014 Version).  You would not believe how much it helps in an IRS exam.  And doing it retrospectively when the IRS exam notice arrives tends to go badly.

Peter Reilly, Post Divorce Tax Intimacy Can Be Riskier Than Post Divorce Sex   Ewww…

Paul Neiffer, Roger’s Top Ten. “Roger McEowen from Iowa State University and their Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation (CALT) just listed his Top 10 Ag Law and Taxation Developments for 2014.”

William Perez, Resources for Preparing and Filing Form W-2 for Small Businesses

Robert D. Flach tells us WHAT’S NEW FOR NJ STATE TAXES FOR 2013

Kay Bell, Tax Carnival #124: Happy New Tax Year 2014

20120829-1

 

Martin Sullivan, Goodbye Baucus, Hello Wyden (Tax Analysts Blog): ”On tax reform the current chair of the Senate Finance Committee has been a laggard. Wyden will be a leader.”

Jeremy Scott, A To-Do List for Wyden (Tax Analysts Blog).  Tax Reform, Extenders, and the Tea Party investigation.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 243

 

Joseph Henchman, Parking and Transit Benefits Tax Exclusion Parity Expires Again; Congress Should Consider Permanent Fix.  (Tax Policy Blog).  ”The tax code is probably the wrong place to be subsidizing commuters, and the entire provision ought to be eliminated. If Congress wishes to retain it, it ought to consider a non-expiring unified exclusion of all transportation commuting expenses.”

Tax Justice Blog, Corporate Income Tax Repeal Is Not a Serious Proposal.  Stawmen go up in flames.

Ben Harris, Rethinking Homeownership Subsidies (TaxVox).  He wants to revamp them.  I’d prefer to get rid of them.

 

TaxGrrrl, Cracker Barrel Waitress Serves Up Happiness, Gets Tip & More .  $6,000 more.

The Critical Question: Is College That Guy on eBay Who Never Paid For the Crap You Sent Him? (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/10/2013: Penalize everyone edition! And one for me, one from you.

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 

20120511-2IRS: shoot first, let the Tax Court sort it out later.  One of the most annoying features of exams in recent years is the IRS habit of imposing penalties on almost every underpayment, regardless of the cause or the taxpayers’ history of good compliance.  It’s nice to see a case like one in the Tax Court yesterday that held the IRS went too far.

The taxpayer were a married couple with a 50-year unblemished compliance history.  The wife’s employer switched from issuing paper W-2s to downloadable versions for 2010.  She didn’t get the memo, if there was one, and left her wage income off the couple’s 1040.  The IRS computers noticed and issued a notice and penalty; the taxpayers double-checked with their preparer and immediately paid the extra taxes, but they balked at the 20% underpayment penalty.

The Tax Court pointed out (all emphasis mine):

     Petitioners regard their tax situation as fairly complex, as they receive income from multiple sources, including two subchapter S corporations that lease farmland out of State. Petitioners worry about their ability to prepare accurate tax returns; accordingly, for many years, including 2010, petitioners have hired a certified public accountant (C.P.A.) to assist them in the preparation of their returns.

Petitioners are aware of the importance of recordkeeping, and for many years they have maintained a system for keeping track of documents that will be needed to prepare their returns. Thus, when petitioners received in the mail a tax document such as a Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, Form 1098, Mortgage Interest Statement, Form 1099-R, Distributions From Pensions, Annuities, Retirement or Profit-Sharing Plans, IRAs, Insurance Contracts, etc., or Schedule K-1, Beneficiary’s Share of Income, Deductions, Credits, etc., they would briefly review it and then place it in a dedicated tax file, along with other tax-relevant documents that they collected throughout the year. In February or March petitioners would meet with their C.P.A. and furnish him with their tax file. Once the return had been prepared, petitioners would again meet with the C.P.A. to review the return.

So the taxpayers had a pretty good system in place to ensure compliance.  Yet the missing W-2 fell through the cracks — partly because their preparer thought the wife had retired.

     Petitioners’ failure to notice the absence of a Form W-2 for Mrs. Andersen was an oversight on their part. However, the oversight was at least partially understandable given both the number of petitioners’ tax documents and the fact that Mrs. Andersen never received from either her employer or her employer’s payroll agent a paper copy of a Form W-2, something that she had previously received throughout her career. Nor had Mrs. Andersen received notification from either of those parties that the payroll agent had discontinued issuing Forms W-2 in paper form in favor of making electronic copies available on the Internet.

Petitioners also failed to notice, when they reviewed their return with Mr. Trader, that Mrs. Andersen’s wages were not included on line 7. But when, as part of the review process, petitioners and Mr. Trader compared the 2010 return with the 2009 return, the parties noted the similarity of the amounts of income and the absence of any anomaly, thereby suggesting that no error had occurred. Indeed, the difference between the amounts of income reported on petitioners’ 2010 and 2009 returns was less than $1,000, or two-thirds of one percent of their 2009 income, a difference that would not ordinarily give rise to any suspicion that income had not been fully reported.

So the mistake was one a reasonable human would make.  But the IRS thinks no mistake is reasonable, apparently.  Fortunately the Tax Court held otherwise:

Clearly, petitioners made a mistake. But we think it was an honest mistake and not of a type that should justify the imposition of the accuracy-related penalty. In short, we think that petitioners’ diligent efforts to keep track of their tax information, hiring a C.P.A. to prepare their tax return, reviewing their return with the C.P.A. when it was completed, and prompt payment of the deficiency upon receipt of the notice of deficiency, together with the other facts and circumstances discussed above, represent a good-faith attempt to assess their proper tax liability. Accordingly, we hold that petitioners have carried their burden with respect to the reasonable cause and good faith exception under section 6664(c)(1) and that petitioners are therefore not liable for the accuracy-related penalty under section 6662(a).

So: good records, full cooperation with a reliable preparer, and prompt payment of any underpaid taxes on discovery of the underpayment were key.  It’s ridiculous that it took a trip to Tax Court to get what seems like the only appropriate and fair result.  The IRS should stop being so trigger-happy with penalties.  Maybe a sauce for the gander rule, where the IRS and IRS personnel are as liable for penalties on incorrect assessments as taxpayers are for those on underpayments, would get them to see reason.

Cite: Andersen, T.C. Summ. Op. 2013-100

 

Kyle Pomerleau, CBO Report Confirms that the Federal Government Redistributes a Substantial Amount of Income  (Tax Policy Blog, my emphasis):

They also break down taxes paid and spending received by income quintile. When looked at this way, the redistribution becomes very clear. According to their analysis, those in the lowest quintile received $22,000 in spending minus taxes. In contrast, taxes exceeded spending by $56,000 in the highest quintile.

Source: Congressional Budget Office

Source: Congressional Budget Office

 

When private think tanks like the Tax Foundation issue this sort of report, people favoring higher taxes on “the rich” dismiss it.  CBO numbers are harder to credibly attack as partisan.

But we can always find a dark side.   CBO Finds Growing U.S. Income Inequality (Roberton Williams, TaxVox)

 

William Perez, Selling Losing Investments as Part of a Year-End Tax Strategy.

Tony Nitti, IRS Addresses Deductibility Of Organizational And Startup Costs Upon Partnership Technical Termination.  By saying no.

TaxGrrrl, Tax Scammers Continue To Dial Up Trouble For America’s Seniors.  This is a big problem.  Unless they have contacted you by mail first, the tax folks aren’t going to phone you.  Just hang up.

Paul Neiffer, How $12,000 Becomes $6,000 or less.  By putting it in farmland, if crop prices stay where they are.

 

Stephen Olsen,  IRS says Hom Gonna Getcha on FBAR too.  “The Swiss government and banks are folding like a bunch of cheap patio chairs.”

Phil Hodgen, Voluntary Disclosure and Frozen Swiss Bank Accounts

Brian Mahany,  How To Respond When Your Foreign Bank Asks About Your IRS Compliance

Jeremy Scott, Will FATCA Ever Go Into Effect? (Tax Analysts Blog) “FATCA should be put into effect as soon as possible, and the administration should stop bending separation of powers rules by using delays to functionally repeal unpleasant parts of statutes.”

Nah, just repeal the whole mess.

 

 

20120510-1

Winter Carnival!  Tax Carnival #123: It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Tax Time (Kay Bell)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 215

Um, no, was there one?  Remember the Tax Reform Act of 1995? (Clint Stretch, Tax Analysts Blog“What is certain is that the 1995 hope of creating a tax system that genuinely favors savings and investment is dead.”

It’s always a good Tuesday for a Robert D. Flach Buzz!

 

We hardly knew ye.  Farewell to Feel-Good Tax Reform (Martin Sullivan, Tax Analysts Blog)

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Tax Roundup, 11/13/13: Is more IRS money what we need? And why I’m hoping against hope!

Wednesday, November 13th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olsen

Is more money the answer to “pitiful” IRS service?   That’s what Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson believes, based on a story by Tax Analysts ($link):

National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson in a November 9 speech decried as pitiful the level of IRS customer service given to taxpayers, which she attributed to inadequate funding that has forced the Service to automate many of the most important tax administration functions and skimp on training employees on taxpayer rights.

Everything else being equal, you can do more with more money.  Yet we all face limits to our resources, so we prioritize.  The IRS — at the urging of Nina Olson — has directed resources unwisely to its misguided attempt to boss the tax prep industry.  It has been a debacle so far, and it appears headed to oblivion in the courts.

The IRS has another administrative problem that the Taxpayer Advocate has pointed out.  The tax law is too complicated to effectively administer even with a much larger budget.  The tax law is seen as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy, and like a knife with too many gadgets, it becomes hard to work as a knife.  This chart from Chris Edwards at the Cato Institute illustrates the problem:

irs budget cato 20131113

 

Chris Edwards explains:

The chart shows that the IRS has become a huge social welfare agency in recent decades. Handouts have soared from $4.4 billion in 1990 to an estimated $91.1 billion in 2013 (red line). Handouts are down a bit in recent years because some of the refundable credits from “stimulus” legislation have expired. IRS administration costs have grown from $7.7 billion in 1990 to an estimated $15.3 billion in 2013 (blue line). 

How should we reform the IRS budget? First, we should terminate the handout programs. That would save taxpayers more than $90 billion annually and cut the IRS budget by 86 percent. 

The largest IRS handout is the refundable part of the EITC, which is expected to cost $55 billion in 2013.

So true.  Considering that over $10 billion of the $55 billion is stolen or otherwise issued improperly, the EITC is a nightmare.  There would be plenty of funding available for tax administration if EITC could go away.

But the chart also shows something else: if the tax law was no more complicated than it was in 1990 — and believe me, it was plenty complicated — the IRS administrative budget would be adequate.  But with the IRS transformed into a monster multi-portfolio agency charged with healthcare administration, welfare, industrial policy, environmental enforcement, etc., etc., its budget is hopeless.

 

This will work out well:

This article examines the tax collection process to see how the IRS might enforce the individual mandate under the healthcare reform law. It concludes that resistant taxpayers can generally be forced to pay the tax penalty only if they are entitled to receive refundable tax credits that exceed their net federal tax liability. 

From Jordan BerryThe Not-So-Mandatory Individual Mandate, via the TaxProf.

 

Don’t trust the Tax Foundation?  Maybe you’ll trust the Congressional Budget Office.  A commenter yesterday took issue with a chart I reproduced showing not only the tax burden at different income levels, but the amount of government spending benefiting different income levels:

It’s not “the first chart for any tax policy debate,” it’s the last chart you should want to find on your side of the debate if you want to have any credibility.

If that doesn’t work for you, maybe this one from the CBO will be less objectionable:

cbo table

This chart is more focused on direct transfers, but it says pretty much the same thing.  It also covers 2006, and the tax law has hit the high end harder since then. (Via Greg Mankiw).

 

Scott Hodge, Andrew Lundeen,  54 Million Federal Tax Returns Had No Income Tax Liability in 2011 (Tax Policy Blog)

 

Paul Neiffer,  Sale of CRP Land – Is it Subject to the 3.8% Tax?  It depends a lot on whether an appeals court upholds the Tax Court Morehouse decision imposing self-employment tax on CRP income.  ”And if the Morehouse case is overturned on appeal and the CRP is treated as rents, the land sale will also be subject to the 3.8% tax.”

 

Kay Bell, Tax tips for newlyweds saying “I do” on 11-12-13 or any day

Jack Townsend,  U.S. Banks File Long-Shot Litigation to Block FATCA Reciprocal Requirements

Leslie Book,  Disclosure and the 6-Year Statute of Limitation: S Corp Issues (Procedurally Taxing)

Jason Dinesen,  EAs are Partly to Blame for Our Obscurity  “Yes, we are treated as the red-headed stepchild of the tax world. But a big reason for this is that we ALLOW people to treat us this way.”

Russ Fox, Dan Walters with Another Example of California Dreamin’

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 188

 

Hope lives! 

It’s Time to Give Up on Tax Reform” – Joseph Thorndike, October 29, 2013

When Tax Reform Rises From the Dead, What Will It Look Like?Joseph Thorndike, November 12, 2013.

I should note that his vision of resurrected tax reform is hideous.  If that’s what hope for tax reform comes to, I’ll hope against his hope.

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/8/13: Kyle Orton gets the bad news about the Tax Fairy. And: how many Lithuanians can you fit into a mailbox?

Friday, November 8th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

tax fairyKyle Orton’s old lawyer fails to find the Tax Fairy, departs the tax business.  From a Department of Justice press release:

A federal court has permanently barred Gary J. Stern from promoting tax fraud schemes and from preparing related tax returns, the Justice Department announced today.  The civil injunction order, to which Stern consented without admitting the allegations against him, was entered by Judge Robert Gettleman of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois.  The order permanently bars Stern from preparing various types of tax returns for individuals, estates and trusts, partnerships or corporations (IRS Forms 1040, 1041, 1065, and 1120), among others. 

According to the complaint, Stern designed at least three tax-fraud schemes that helped hundreds of customers falsely claim over $16 million in improper tax credits and avoid paying income tax on at least $3.4 million.  Stern allegedly promoted the schemes to customers, colleagues, and business associates.  The complaint alleges that his customers included lawyers, entrepreneurs and professional football players, and some of the latter, including NFL quarterback Kyle Orton, have sued Stern in connection with the tax scheme, alleging fraud, breach of fiduciary duty and professional malpractice. 

Mr. Stern seems to have led his clients on a merry chase after the Tax Fairy, the legendary sprite who can wave her wand and make your taxes disappear.  Kyle Orton is a graduate of Southeast Polk High School near Des Moines, where the truth about the Tax Fairy apparently was not in the syllabus.

Related: Jack Townsend, Chicago Lawyer Enjoined From Promoting Fraudulent Tax Schemes 

 

20131108-1Maybe Lithuanian apartments are crowded?  USA Today reports:

The Internal Revenue Service sent 655 tax refunds to a single address in Kaunas, Lithuania — failing to recognize that the refunds were likely part of an identity theft scheme. Another 343 tax refunds went to a single address in Shanghai, China.

Thousands more potentially fraudulent refunds — totaling millions of dollars — went to places in Bulgaria, Ireland and Canada in 2011.

In all, a report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration today found 1.5 million potentially fraudulent tax returns that went undetected by the IRS, costing taxpayers $3.2 billion.

When your controls don’t notice something like that, you have a lot more urgent problems than regulating preparers.   Yet Congress and the Administration think the IRS is ready to take on overseeing your health insurance purchases.  What could go wrong?

Tony Nitti is moved to offer the IRS a proposition:

MR. IRS,

REQUEST FOR URGENT BUSINESS RELATIONSHIP

FIRST, I MUST SOLICIT YOUR STRICTEST CONFIDENCE IN THIS TRANSACTION. THIS IS BY VIRTUE OF ITS NATURE AS BEING UTTERLY CONFIDENTIAL AND ‘TOP SECRET’.

Heh.

 

 

S-SidewalkCosting taxpayers by not taking their money.  Tax Analysts reports ($link):

Democrats seeking to raise revenue in ongoing budget talks have circulated a list of tax preferences they would like to see eliminated, including a provision that allows some wealthy individuals to avoid large payroll taxes, the carried interest preference, and the tax break for expenses businesses incur when moving operations overseas. 

The “provision that allows some wealthy individuals to avoid large payroll taxes” is called Subchapter S.  Form 1120-S K-1 income has never been subject to payroll or self-employment tax.  This bothers the congresscritters (my emphasis):

Commonly known as the “Newt Gingrich/John Edwards” loophole, it is most often used by owners of Subchapter S corporations to avoid the 3.9% Medicare tax on earnings, which costs taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year.  Many S corporation shareholders receive both wages from the S corporation and a share of the S corporation’s profits, but they pay payroll tax only on their wages.

“Costs” taxpayers?  From my point of view, and from that of my S corporation clients, it saves taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars every year — but keeps it out of the hands of grasping politicians, so it’s perceived as a bad thing, by grasping politicians.

The versions of this “loophole closer” proposed in the past have been lame.  When all they have to offer on tax policy is warmed over lameness like these, they aren’t serious.

 

 

TaxProf, Brunson: Preventing IRS Abuse of the Tax System.  The TaxProf quotes a new article by Samuel D. Brunson:

The IRS can act in ways that violate both the letter and the intent of the tax law. Where such violations either provide benefits to select groups of taxpayers without directly harming others, or where the harm to taxpayers is de minimis, nobody has the ability or incentive to challenge the IRS and require it to enforce the tax law as written.

Congress could control the IRS’s abuse of the tax law. Using insights from the literature of administrative oversight, this Article proposes that Congress provide standing on third parties to challenge IRS actions. If properly designed and implemented, such “fire-alarm oversight” would permit oversight at a significantly lower cost than creating another oversight board. At the same time, it would be more effective at finding and responding to IRS abuse of the tax system and would generally preserve the IRS’s administrative discretion in deciding how to enforce the tax law.

Right now the IRS — and by extension the administration in power — can pick and choose what parts of the law it wants to apply.  For example, the current administration has chosen to allow tax credits for participants in federal insurance exchanges, which the law does not authorize, while unilaterally delaying the employer insurance mandate but not the individual mandate.  Somebody should be able to challenge this sort of fiat government.

 

More on the shutdown of Instant Tax Service, a story we covered yesterday:Irwin

Department of Justice press release: Federal Court in Ohio Shuts Down Nation’s Fourth-Largest Tax-Preparation Firm and Bars CEO from Tax-Preparation Business

 

Irwinirwin.jpgPeter Reilly, Ninth Circuit Rules Against Irwin Schiff Sentence Appeal:

Irwin Schiff is probably one of the more famous alternate tax thinkers.  His seminal work “How Anyone Can Stop Paying Income Taxes” is available in hardcover on Amazon for one cent.

Mr. Schiff appealed his sentence on tax crimes on the basis that his attorney failed to raise a “bipolar disorder” defense and what an attorney I know calls the “good faith fraud” defense — the Cheek argument that you really thought the wacky stuff you were saying is true.  Peter wisely notes:

The problem with the Cheek defense is that you have to be smart to raise it, but if you show that you are too smart, then it does not work.

Its a fine line — smart enough to spend “thousands of hours” researching the tax law, but not smart enough to avoid a massive misunderstanding of it.

 

Jana Luttenegger,  IRS Change to Use-Or-Lose Rule for FSA Accounts (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog): “New IRS rules permit employers to allow participants in a health Flexible Spending Arrangement (FSA) to carry over unused amounts up to $500 from one plan year to the next.”

 

Paul Neiffer, Trusts Get Hit with New 3.8% Tax too. And hard.

Kay Bell, It could be time to harvest capital gains and future tax savings

Rush Nigut,  Careful Planning Necessary When Using Retirement Monies to Fund Startup Business

Brian Strahle, IGNORANCE MAY NOT BE BLISS WHEN IT COMES TO ‘ZAPPERS’  These are software apps designed to hide point-of-sale receipts from the taxman.

Phil Hodgen’s Exit Tax Book: Chapter 9 – Estate and Gift Tax for the Covered Expatriate

Catch your Friday Buzz with Robert D. Flach!

TaxGrrrl,  Former NFL Star Cites Concussions, Receives Prison Sentence For Role In Tax Fraud 

Leslie Book,  TIGTA Report on VITA Errors (Procedurally Taxing)

 

Howard Gleckman,  Can Expiring Tax Provisions Save the Budget Talks? (TaxVox).  ”Sadly, it is hard to see how.”

 

Not strictly tax-related, but good reading anyway:  How to Put the Brakes on Consumers’ Debt(Megan McArdle).  Megan points out the wisdom of spending less than you take in, in preference to trying to get the government to cover your shortfalls.

 

News you can use: 3 ways to screw up your next website (Josh Larson at IowaBiz.com)

News from the Profession: Failed PwC Auditor Finds Success in Burning Bridges With This Ridiculous Farewell Email (Going Concern)

 

Quick thinking.  From The Des Moines Register:

A Des Moines man awoke to find a stranger in his living room Thursday afternoon, police said. When the victim confronted the burglar, the suspect reportedly offered to mow the victim’s lawn for $5.

Guy needs to work on his pricing model.

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/5/13: IRS makes audits even more fun. And: the 400!.

Tuesday, November 5th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

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It’s not the same people every year.  High Income, Low Taxes and Never a Bad Year (James B. Stewart, New York Times, via the TaxProf.  A New York Times columnist comes through with all of the cliches about “the rich” in one column.

 Plenty of people did get hit in 2009, including people at the very top. But all things are relative. The fortunate 400 people with the highest adjusted gross incomes still made, on average, $202 million each in 2009, according to Internal Revenue Service data. And this doesn’t even count income that doesn’t show up as adjusted gross income, such as tax-exempt interest.

Yet the top 400 paid an average federal income tax rate of less than 20 percent, far lower than the top rate of 35 percent then in effect.

They also paid a lower rate than the top 1 percent, which were people with adjusted gross incomes in 2009 of at least $344,000. These affluent but hardly superrich taxpayers paid on average just over 24 percent of their adjusted gross income in federal income tax. Even the top 0.01 percent, people earning at least $1.4 million, paid 24 percent.        

You’d get the impression that this is the same top 400 every year, paying low taxes as they go.  That’s a wrong impression.

Most people who have spectacular incomes do so only once, usually because they sell their business or take it public.  That normally is how you hit that top 400.  Yet the “never a bad year” line implies that they have this kind of income year after year.

That income is capital gains, which are taxed at a lower rate.  That’s no mystery or conspiracy, that’s just math.

Furthermore, those capital gains are often one of two taxes on the income.  C corporation income is taxed twice — first on the corporation tax return, and again when retained earnings are distributed as dividends or recovered as capital gains.  And to the extent the capital gains reflect inflation, they are aren’t a tax on income at all; they are a confiscation of principal.

Mr. Stewart is rehashing numbers from 2009, when the top federal rate on capital gains was 15%.  It was increased for 2013 to 23.8%, nearly a 60% increase.   Yet because ordinary income rates went up too, the Famous 400 will always have lower rates, and Mr. Stewart will be able to write the same lame column five years from now.

Of course, many economists think that capital gain rates were too high even before the rate increase.  But maybe that’s true only unless it really matters.


20130419-1The IRS has figured out a way to make audits even more fun!  Tax Analysts reports ($link) “The IRS Large Business and International Division on November 4 released mandatory, stringent new procedures for enforcing information document requests (IDRs) and issuing summonses, allowing examiners almost no discretion even at the manager level.”

The new procedure requires the IRS to issue a summons on a tight deadline when an “information document request” (IDR) isn’t promptly met:

If the IDR response remains incomplete by the delinquency notice deadline, the examiner is required — again without exception — to issue a pre-summons letter within 14 calendar days of the delinquency notice deadline. The pre-summons letter sets another new deadline, which can’t be more than 10 calendar days away unless the director of field operations grants approval.

Former IRS official Larry Langdon warns:

Taxpayers who may have trouble meeting proposed deadlines in a draft IDR “need to immediately escalate that draft IDR before it goes final, because in effect if it goes final, they’re stuck with those dates,” Langdon said. At that point, he added, no amount of negotiation will stop the new enforcement process from proceeding.

Lovely.  Of course the IRS won’t stop conducting audits during busy season, or during client reporting deadline periods, but that’s just too bad, apparently.

Link: LB&I-04-1113-009.

 

Paul Neiffer,  Everything You Want to Know About Net Investment Income Tax (or Not)

If you have 1,000 acres of good farmland, it only takes $250 per acre cash rent to put you over the threshold.  Then, after a few years of cash renting, the farmer elects to sell his farmland.  In this case, almost all of the gain will be both subject to the 3.8% net investment income tax and the 20% maximum federal tax plus state income taxes.

But that year the farmer will be “rich,” so he’s fair game, right?

 

Jason Dinesen, Nebraska Tax Guidance for Same-Sex Married Couples   

William Perez, Estate and Gift Tax Figures for 2014

 

Russ Fox, The Wrong Kind of Education Leads to ClubFed

 A California tax preparer decided he wanted to increase refunds for his clients. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that–I want my clients to get the maximum possible refund allowed under the law. It appears that Kenyon Williams forgot those last three words; he was found guilty of two counts of wire fraud and two counts of aggravated identity theft earlier today.

That “under the law” thing gets in the way of so many great ideas…

 

TaxGrrrl, Saying ‘I Do’ To Tax Planning   What the tax-savvy bride is wearing, and when.

Andrew Lundeen, Scott Hodge, Individuals Receive 91 Percent of Tax Expenditures (Tax Policy Blog):

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Tax Justice Blog, More Illinois Companies Trying to Extort Tax Breaks.  Given Illinois’ newly-increased taxes, it’s partly self-defense, but you can bet they’re shaking down Iowa too.

Donald Marron, Time to Fix the Budget Process (TaxVox)

 

tack shelterJeremy Scott, What the Daugerdas Verdict Means for Tax Shelter Promotion (Tax Analysts Blog):

While it might have secured a few convictions, and even jail time, in the KPMG and Daugerdas cases, it also lost face, along with time and resources, for its relatively modest success. Instead of spending many years to secure partial convictions on a few practitioners, perhaps the government’s time would be better spent attacking tax shelter transactions on the front end, at the exam and regulatory drafting levels.

If tax planning and compliance get you prosecuted, you’ll have a hard time getting people to perform tax planning and compliance.

 

Phil Hodgen’s Exit Tax Book: Chapter 6 – Taxation of Specified Tax-Deferred Accounts

Jack Townsend,  India Signs OECD Multilateral Convention on Mutual Administrative Assistance in Tax Matters.  Bank secrecy isn’t.

 

Peter Reilly,  SPLC Calls Family Research Council Hate Group – Should IRS Take Action?  I think SPLC has done quite enough for the FRC already, thank you.  Peter wisely notes “The IRS teaming up with the FBI to identify hate groups does not sound like a confidence inspiring plan to me.”

Carnival Time at Kay Bell’s Place!  Tax Carnival #122: Return to Standard Tax Time

 

Things you didn’t learn in Geography Class: Ireland Is a Bagel (Martin Sullivan, Tax Analysts Blog)

 

News From the Profession: Guess Which Big 4 Firm Allegedly Just Punked Its Rejectees (Going Concern).  When I was interviewing out of school, I knew one visit went badly when they sent me a bill for my hotel room.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/23/2013: The Earned income tax credit thief subsidy feature. And: tax season delayed!

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Some smart people are big fans of the Earned Income Tax Credit. Some see it as a way to help the working poor, and some see it as a less destructive way to achieve the goals of minimum wages.

Yesterday the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reported that from 21% to 25% of the earned income credit was paid improperly for the most recent fiscal year, and that $110 to $130 billion has been “paid improperly” over the past decade. That’s a nice way of saying “stolen.”

 

EITC error chart

Just because there is a lot of theft doesn’t by itself make a program bad — though that kind of loss rate would bankrupt anybody in the private sector.   Most people would send food to starving people in a war zone knowing that local warlords will be plundering some of it. But a program that comes at the cost of sending $11 billion annually to thieves needs to otherwise be a very good thing.   That’s not so clear with the EITC.

The credit does help the working poor — as long as they stay poor. As they work their way out of poverty, it becomes a trap. The phase-out of the credit imposes a punishing unstated, but very real, marginal tax rate.

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.

The EITC is only one program that does this; all “means-tested” welfare programs do this to some degree. It’s not uncommon for this implicit tax rate to exceed 100% at some income levels.

I don’t know what the right answer is (Arnold Kling has some ideas), but increasing the EITC, like Iowa did this year, isn’t it.

 

Oh, Goody. 2014 Tax Season to Start Later Following Government Closure; IRS Sees Heavy Demand As Operations Resume (IRS Press Release)

The IRS is exploring options to shorten the expected delay and will announce a final decision on the start of the 2014 filing season in December, Acting IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel said. The original start date of the 2014 filing season was Jan. 21, and with a one- to two-week delay, the IRS would start accepting and processing 2013 individual tax returns no earlier than Jan. 28 and no later than Feb. 4. 

20131023-1It’s funny how programming IRS computers isn’t “essential,” but barricading open-air monuments is.

Other coverage:

William Perez, IRS Expects to Delay the Start of the 2014 Filing Season

Kay Bell, IRS won’t accept 2013 tax returns until Jan. 28, 2014

Russ Fox, Sigh: 2014 Tax Season to be Delayed up to Two Weeks

TaxGrrrl, IRS Announces Delayed Start To 2014 Tax Season   

 

Robert D. Flach, HOW TO DEAL WITH THE IRS AND LIVE TO FIGHT ANOTHER DAY

Paul Neiffer,  Taxpayers Want Their Cake, Frosting and Candles! Live by the low estate-tax value, die by the low estate-tax value.

Jack Townsend, Has the U.S. Aided International Tax Evasion?

Russ Fox,  Coming Attractions: When the IRS Writes New Law When They’re Not Allowed To.  A federal judge has allowed a suit challenging the IRS unilaterally extending the tax credit for insurance purchased on state-sponsored exchanges to policies sold on federally-run exchanges.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 167

 

President Reagan signs PL 99-514, the Tax Reform Act of 1986.The Tax Policy Blog takes us on a nostalgia tour in  8 Technological Changes Since the 1986 Tax Reform.  Take a trip back to the days of “car phones.”

 

Clint Stretch, Whom Do Tax Reformers Want to Help? (Tax Analysts Blog):

When congressional leaders start talking about tax reform as if it will benefit everyone, someone should be asking: Whom are you trying to help? The answer may be Americans earning more than around $75,000 who have fewer itemized deductions, fewer kids, fewer healthcare benefits, and lower retirement savings than most.

I’m not convinced that’s the right way to look at it.  Getting rid of complexity and lowering rates helps everybody by eliminating dead weight loss and redirecting resources from tax planning and compliance to more useful pursuits.

Andrew Lundeen, A Lot Has Changed in the 27 Years Since the Last Major Tax Reform (Tax Policy Blog).  ”The amount of credits, loopholes, and deductions has increase by 44 percent, from $844 billion (2013 dollars), to over $1.2 trillion (2013 dollars), with much of that growth coming from the expansion of refundable tax credits.”

 

Howard Gleckman, Congress Shouldn’t Forget About Tax Entitlements In Its Search for Deficit Reduction (TaxVox)

 

Tax Justice Blog,  Governor Scott Walker Appropriates State Budget Surplus for Campaign Season Tax Cut.  In Tax Justice World, returning money taken by force of law to the taxpayers is “appropriating” it.

 

David Brunori, Eliminating the Sales Tax Is a Very Good Idea (Tax Analysts Blog) “But ending a tax that preys on the poor and is increasingly difficult to collect may provide the economic boost Rhode Island needs.”

Brian Strahle, BLAMING THE PLAYERS FOR THE RULES.  ”Regardless, most taxpayers are simply trying to comply with the maze and complexity of non-uniform multistate tax laws”

Joseph Thorndike, The Gas Tax Doesn’t Work Because Politicians Broke It (Tax Analysts Blog).  By not raising it, apparently.

 

The Critical Question:  JD Salinger – Was January 27 2010 A Good Day To Die ?  (Peter Reilly)

Career Corner.  First Round Interview Tips for This Fall’s Accounting Recruits (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 7/9/2013: IRS identity-theft assistance edition.

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130419-1Social Security numbers make the world of identity theft tax fraud go around.  Grifters get them from published lists of dead taxpayers, from stolen medical records — anywhere they can.  They use them to steal untold billions from the IRS while creating tax nightmares for the real owners of the numbers.

And the IRS is here to help!

Public.Resource.Org has discovered that the Internal Revenue Service has posted the Social Security Numbers of tens of thousands of Americans on government web sites. The database in question contains the filings of Section 527 political organizations such as campaign committees. This Section 527 database is an essential tool used by journalists, watchdog groups, congressional staffers, and citizens. While the public posting of this database serves a vital public purpose (and this database must be restored as quickly as possible), the failure to remove individual Social Security Numbers is an extraordinarily reckless act.

What does the IRS have to say for itself?  Tax Analysts reports ($link):

     The IRS said that the Service is required to disclose approved exemption applications and information returns, and advises groups to not include SSNs on those forms or attachments. According to a statement dated December 19, 2012, on the IRS website, “By law, with limited exceptions, the IRS has no authority to remove that information before making the forms publicly available. Documents subject to disclosure include attachments filed with the form and correspondence with the IRS about the filing.”

     Malamud (Carl Malamud of Public.Resource.Org) said that he disagreed with the IRS position that it could not redact the SSNs and that it ran counter to privacy laws and federal guidance protecting the disclosure of personal information.

This level of competence and restraint really makes me want the IRS to regulate preparers more.  Oh, and to run the health care system, too.

(Hat tip to Twitterite @kermalou)
Nothing to see here, move along.   IRS supporters 0-for-3 on putting scandal to rest (Daily Caller)

Since it was revealed in May that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) improperly targeted the tax-exempt nonprofit status of conservative groups between 2010 and 2012, defenders of the beleaguered agency have offered three broad attempts to suppress the growing IRS scandal and put the matter to rest. However, each of these three attempts failed outright, and the scandal continues, with tenacious investigations underway by the House Oversight Committee and House Ways and Means Committee.

Sorry, Linda.  (via Instapundit)

 

 

 

Martin Sullivan, Effective Corporate Rate 13 Percent? (Tax Analysts Blog):

Putting all this together it seems reasonable to not revise the general consensus view that worldwide effective corporate tax rates are on-average in the mid-twenties when we are not in the throes of a recession. Moreover, it is important to remember that these broad averages hide a lot of interesting detail. Multinationals in the oil and mining businesses generally pay very high rates. Purely domestic firms generally have an effective rate close to 35 percent. And pharmaceutical and tech companies generally have effective rates much lower than average.

But I thought corporations “never had it so good“!

 

Jeremy Scott, Summers Pushes for Tax Break on Foreign Profits (Tax Analysts Blog)

Jack Townsend, Swiss Court Ruling in Credit Suisse Case.  “The Swiss Federal Supreme Court has ruled, here, that the U.S. “group requests” under the treaty exchange of information provision are permissible if the request includes enough detail to establish grounds for suspicion of tax fraud and the like.”

Donald Marron, Smart Tax Reform Could Shrink the Government (TaxVox).  If it doesn’t, it’s not very smart.






It’s Tuesday, so let’s Buzz with Robert D. Flach!


News you can use.  How Not to Commit Tax Evasion (Russ Fox)

 

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No more “comfort rulings” on spin-offs and reorganizations.

Wednesday, June 26th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
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Via Wikimedia Commons

The IRS yesterday announced (Rev. Proc. 2013-32) that it will stop issuing “comfort rulings” on tax-free spin-offs and reorganizations.  It is touted as a cost-saving measure.

For the split-up of a corporation to be tax free under Section 355, it must be done for a “corporate” business purpose, which is by definition subjective.  Because the consequences of a failed spin-off are catastrophic — the same as a taxable sale of the spun-off business, but without any cash to cover the tax — corporations used to get their business purposes blessed as a matter of course.

The usefulness of the rulings had declined in recent years, once the IRS stopped ruling on the validity of “business purposes” stated in ruling requests in 2003 (Rev. Proc. 2003-48).  The rulings have also gotten more costly, and the IRS turnaround can be too slow for a business in a hurry.

Tax Analysts reports ($link) that companies that want a ruling have until August 23 to submit their requests.

It’s unfortunate, as I don’t expect the IRS to make up for the lack of rulings with better published guidance.  It’s another small reason to avoid using corporations when partnership vehicles, like LLCs, are available; it’s much easier and safer to divide a partnership business tax-free.

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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:

20130512-1

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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Yes, let’s talk about the IRS budget.

Thursday, May 2nd, 2013 by Joe Kristan
One place where the IRS spends its money.

One place where the IRS spends its money.

Going Concern tells us that David Cay Johnston Would Like To See More News Articles About More IRS.  He thinks the reduction in IRS funding from the sequester should be treated as a bigger deal.

Fine.  It’s important.   Let’s expand our discussion and talk about how the IRS is spending the money it already has. For example, it is spending lots of money to go to court to expand its power over tax preparers.  It is spending money lobbying Congress to overturn the court decision thwarting its preparer regulation power grab.  If it succeeds, it will spend millions imposing busy work requirements on preparers that will cost taxpayers many millions more while lining the pockets of the big franchise tax prep firms.

It is spending money prosecuting a widow who tried to come clean on foreign bank accounts she inherited.  It spends money beating up on honest taxpayers who innocently run afoul of obscure foreign account rules.

While it spends money on these things, it sends billions of dollars of your tax money to identity thieves each year.  It sends over $10 billion annually to earned income tax credit scammers.  It spends very little to help the honest taxpayers whose identities are stolen, and what it spends isn’t very effective.

So yes, let’s talk about IRS spending.  And let’s talk about what they should be spending it on.  Spending more on not sending money to thieves would be a good start.

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Tax Roundup, February 25, 2013: And the award for the dumbest economic development tax credit goes to…

Monday, February 25th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130225-1

Field of bad dreams.  TheFiscalTimes.com says Iowa is the ninth worst state for taxes:

The Hawkeye State gets a black eye for being the second worst state for corporate taxes, with a 12 percent rate. It also ranks 37th in property taxes, 33rd in individual income taxes and 34th in unemployment insurance taxes.

 They accompany the article with this photo of the “Field of Dreams” — an unwitting illustration of the problems of Iowa tax policy.  The Governor last year signed a proposal giving a special sales tax exemption to a private athletic complex being built around the field, made slightly famous in the Kevin Costner movie.  It’s special carve-outs like this that make for high rates and complicated taxes all around.

 

Speaking of movie-related scams, Instapundit Glenn Reynolds writes in the Wall Street Journal The Hollywood Tax Story They Won’t Tell at the Oscars.  Here he talks about how it worked out in Michigan:

State leaders ballyhooed the plan as a way of moving from old-style industry to new.           

Despite tens of millions of dollars in state investment, the promised 3,000-plus jobs didn’t appear. As the Detroit Free Press reported last year, the studio employed only 15-20 people. That isn’t boffo. That’s a bust. The studio has defaulted on interest payments on state-issued bonds, and the guarantors—the state’s already stressed pension funds—may wind up holding the bag. “In retrospect, it was a mistake,” conceded Robert Kleine, the former state treasurer who signed off on the plans in 2010.

He doesn’t neglect Iowa’s film fiasco:

Iowa ended its motion-picture subsidies in 2010, after officials misused $26 million in state money, leading to criminal charges. According to a 2008 investigation by Iowa Auditor David Vaudt, 80% of tax credits issued under the state’s film-subsidy program had been issued improperly (to production companies that weren’t even spending the money in Iowa, for example).

 

Two film credit recipients are now serving 10-year sentences on theft charges arising from the program.  That’s fine, but I really want to see a groveling public apology from the Governor who signed the program into law, the “economic development officials” who turned the keys to the state treasury over to a former Walgreens photo desk clerk in charge of the program, and to the legislators — all but three out of 150 — who voted the moronic program into existence.

 

 

Sequestration panic at the IRS.  Politico adds IRS cuts to the least of things we’re supposed to freak out about in the face of the tiny impending sequestration spending cuts:
“At a minimum, it’s probably going to take longer for people to get through on the phone; it’s going to take longer for refunds to be processed,” said Floyd Williams, a senior tax counsel at Public Strategies Washington.

Williams, who worked for the IRS for nearly two decades and directed the agency’s legislative affairs office for 16 years, says the sequester could also be a boon to those who purposely commit fraud, or accidentally fill out returns incorrectly.

Good thing the IRS can redirect the employees who had been assigned to the preparer regulation program to do something useful, now that the courts have shut down that futile enterprise.  The IRS can’t stand their good fortune, though; Tax Analysts reports ($link) that the IRS is appealing the court decision.

It would be even better if Congress stopped using the IRS as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy.  Given the agency’s new mandate to take care of our health insurance, their performance at the job of actually collecting taxes is only going to get worse.


Preparers gone bad.  Accounting Today rounds up the week in preparer fraud, including a guy in New Mexico who, while serving time for identity theft-related charges, has been hit with 56 counts of fraud and embezzlement.  That would be overachieving in underachieving.

 

Hak Ghun will travel.  To Club Fed. From DurangoHerald.com:

Durango man pleaded guilty to tax evasion this week in federal court in New Mexico.

Hak Ghun, 62, is facing 12 to 18 months in prison after signing a plea agreement with the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He also will be required to pay $249,567 in restitution to the Internal Revenue Service.

The man was accused of embezzling from a company that had received investments from the Navajo Nation. For those who don’t get the old TV show reference, here you go.


 

Paul Neiffer,  Safe to File After March 1

If a fire is worth fighting, it’s worth fighting in style.  But the firefighter still can’t deduct the Benz.  My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record blog for entrepreneurs.

Janet Novack,  The Forbes 2013 Tax Guide

Peter Reilly, Don’t Be Fooled By E-Mail ‘From IRS’ – But Don’t Ignore Their Snailmail

Jim Maule,  Tax Law Provision Enforceable Even if Unwise.  That would be most of them.  For example…

Tax Effects of the Health Care Act (Missouri Tax Guy)

Patrick Temple-West, Payroll tax’s return hits retailers, and more (Tax Break)


These guys are what I call real public servants.  Vigilantes fighting revenue-driven traffic enforcement (The Telegraph, London).

Breaking:  Women Are Not Men: A New Freakonomics Radio Podcast

Today’s Going Concern employment tip: Accountant on Probation for Embezzlement Still More Employable Than the Average Non-Accountant (Temporarily)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/30/2013: Bah. Humbug. And where states get their cash.

Wednesday, January 30th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130130-4Why so grumpy?  Because it’s the first “official” day of tax season as the IRS begins processing returns.   But only some of them.  The last-minute Fiscal Cliff tax law is delaying the processing of many forms, delaying most business filings until “late February or into March.”  They also have delayed processing of returns with education credits until sometime next month.

Oh, and the streets are a mess.

Kay Bell,  Tax filing on hold for taxpayers who need 31 federal forms

TaxGrrrl, IRS Opens For Business Today, Many Taxpayers Qualify To File For Free

 

Taking your money to give to the well connected.  From Taxing the Rich to Pay for Big Business Tax Credits by Veronique de Rugy:

 

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Taking from the small businesses, giving to the big business with pull.

 

Brian Gongol on the decision of Senator Harkin to not seek an umpteenth U.S. Senate term:

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could start with a blank slate and ask ourselves (as Iowans): Who is the smartest, most dependable, most thoughtful person we could send to an august body of decision-makers who are challenged with bringing wisdom and sobriety to the decision-making process of government?

Like somebody like that would stand a chance.

 

Why bother with a state corporate income tax?  While state income taxes are a reliable source of work for people like me, they do surprisingly little for the states, according to a new report released by the Tax Foundation yesterday.  Nationwide state corporate income taxes accounted for only 3% of 2010 state revenues.  In Iowa, it’s even lower.  Here are the revenue sources from Iowa and some nearby states:

Source: Tax Foundation

Source: Tax Foundation

 

The corporation income tax raises little revenue, is expensive to administer, is exploited by the well-connected and well lobbied, and is almost certainly a job-killer.  Why not go for a low-rate, low-loophole system like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan?

TaxProf,  A Distributional Analysis of the Tax Systems in All 50 States, passing on a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities says state tax systems are regressive.  Keep this in mind:

Source: Heritage Foundation/

Source: Heritage Foundation/

If you only look at the distribution of taxes paid and ignore the value of services and cash payments received, you miss a lot.

 

Janet Novack,  IRS Tips Won’t Protect You From Identity Theft Tax Fraud.

Jack Townsend,  Article on Importance of Jury Instructions in White Collar, including Tax, Crime Cases

Jason Dinesen, An Obligatory 1099-K Post for 2013

Trish McIntire,  Before You Sign.  A timely reminder that you are responsible for what’s on your return, even when you use a paid preparer.

Patrick Temple-West,  Mickelson and the sports star migration, and more (Tax Break)

William McBride, CRS: Tax Rates Do Matter for Profit Shifting (Tax Policy Blog)

Joseph Thorndike, The Income Tax Is Inquisitorial — Get Over It(Tax.com) May he have a good National Research Project exam in his future.

Robert Goulder, French Budget Minister Caught In Tax Probe (Tax.com)

That wouldn’t take much.  Payroll Tax Cuts May Boost the Economy More than You Think (Howard Gleckman, TaxVox)

 

Bad news, good news:  The Twinkie is Dead! Long Live the Twinkie! (Megan McArdle).

News you can use.  Tax Law Warning: Don’t Cut Mom a Rent Break (Jim Maule)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/7/2013: Economist says Iowa’s problem is income tax, not property tax. And: thieves don’t report all of their income?

Monday, January 7th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

O. Kay Henderson reports that maybe the Branstad focus on property taxes is misplaced in Economist: Iowa income taxes not competitive:

A Midwestern economist says Iowa policymakers should focus on cutting income taxes rather than property taxes. Ernie Goss, an economist at Creighton University in Omaha, says Iowa’s income tax rates are fifth highest in the country.

“In terms of what Iowa needs to look at, in my judgement, given what’s going on in Kansas, what’s about to go on in Nebraska — Iowa’s neighbors — you need to look at income taxes, in terms of being more competitive,” Goss says.

Iowa property taxes are too high, but income taxes  matter more for many taxpayers.  While property taxes are a big deal to companies that own real estate, like a manufacturer or a big insurance company, income taxes can mean a lot more to a start-up or a tech company.  Fortunately the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan is ready to go!

 

Making a dent in the deficit!  A chart shows how much the tax increases on “The Rich” will reduce the $1.2 trillion federal deficit (new taxes in green, deficit in red)

Fiscal cliff taxes vs deficit

Either the government spends a lot less, or taxes go up a lot for everyone. The rich guy isn’t buying

 

The IRS isn’t buying, either.   Tax Analysts reports Better IRS Enforcement Could Net $1 Billion More a Year, Says GAO ($link).   $1 billion is less than 1/1000 of the deficit.  They won’t audit their way to solvency.

 

Breaking tax news from the Eisenhower administration:

Amity Shlaes,   Think Obama’s Tax Hikes Are Low Compared With Rates Of The 1950s? Think Again.  (Via Instapundit)

Andrew Biggs,  Were taxes really higher in the 1950s?

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It’s Monday.  Do you know if your payroll taxes have been remitted?  Another sad story of a payroll service provider who decided he needed taxes withheld from his clients more than the IRS did.  Digtriad.com reports that Arthur Weiss of Winston-Salem, North Carolina is going away for 15 years:

Case documents show Weiss operated professional employer organizations (PEOs), which provided payroll-related services to client companies. For his client companies, Weiss agreed to pay the employees, withhold and remit federal and state taxes, prepare and file the federal and state employment tax returns  and provide workers compensation insurance (WCI).

Weiss did pay the employees and withhold the employment taxes, but he failed to remit the employment taxes, keeping them for his personal use.

PEOs that file taxes under their own names and ID numbers have a hidden danger: their clients can’t verify that the IRS has received their payments via the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS).  Employers can use EFTPS to monitor payments when they use a payroll service that reports employee taxes under the employer’s own name and Tax ID number.  This makes it necessary for taxpayers to investigate PEO-type providers very carefully before trusting them with payroll services.  If your payroll taxes are stolen by your payroll provider, the IRS will come after you to collect.  Not many employers can afford to pay payroll taxes twice.

Russ Fox has more.

 

Few thieves report their income honestly.  From WHOTV.com:

Disgraced former Peregrine Financial CEO Russell Wasendorf Sr. is in jail awaiting sentencing for embezzling over $200-million in customer funds, fraud, and lying to federal regulators.

Now the state says he may have also cheated on his taxes.

Records show the [Iowa Department of Revenue] filed an assessment in November against Russ  and Connie seeking $14.1-million in unpaid taxes and penalties to Iowa.

Good luck collecting anything.

 

Fiscal Cliff Notes:

TaxProf,  WSJ: The Stealth Tax Hike — Why the New $450,000 Income Threshold Is a Political Fiction

Elected representatives at work.  Tim Carney: Baucus rewards ex-staffers with tax breaks for their clients:

Tax breaks for Hollywood, NASCAR, windmills, algae and multinational corporations ended up in the “fiscal cliff” bill thanks to President Obama, according to Senate Republican sources. But they were spawned by a web of lobbyists, donors and staffers surrounding Democratic Sen. Max Baucus of Montana.

Baucus’ Finance Committee passed a bill in August extending 50 expiring deductions and credits for favored industries. At Obama’s insistence, the Baucus bill was cut and pasted word for word into the cliff legislation.

But it’s all for our own good, I’m sure.

William Perez, President Signs the American Taxpayer Relief Act into Law

The ‘fiscal cliff’ bill and Iowa entrepreneursMy new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record blog for entrepreneurs.

Paul Neiffer,  Up to Ten Capital Gains Tax Rates for 2013!

Janet Novack,  The Forbes Guide To The Fiscal Cliff Tax Deal

TaxGrrrl,  10 Things You Should Know About The Fiscal Cliff Deal

 

Kay Bell,  Ravens, Redskins and tax revenue

Brian Strahle,  Minimize Restructuring Costs with State Tax Due Diligence

Peter Reilly,  War Tax Resisters – Don’t Call Them Frivolous.

Patrick Temple-West,  Inquiry into tech giants’ tax strategies nears end, and more (Tax Break)

Kaye A. Thomas,  American Taxpayer Relief Act

Tax Trials,  Senate Confirms Two New Tax Court Judges

Robert D. Flach ponders whether he should rename his Buzz roundup of tax news.  Don’t do it, Robert!

 

Make up your minds!

Tax Analysts, New Congress’s Partisanship, Inexperience May Hurt Chances for Tax Reform 

The Hill:  Tax reform more likely after ‘fiscal cliff’ agreement, say House Republicans. (Via Instapundit)

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/8/12: Ottumwa gets a Ponzi scheme. Also: Service, it’s in our name.

Monday, October 8th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

“Inheritance investment?” Are you serious?

Ottumwa man pleads guilty to tax charges in connection with Ponzi scheme.  Known to TV viewers of a certain age as the home of Radar O’Reilly, Ottumwa, Iowa now also has its own Ponzi scam.  CBSNews.com reports:

An Ottumwa, Iowa investment manager is likely heading to prison after pleading guilty to charges of wire fraud and tax evasion stemming from a $1.1 million Ponzi scheme.

John Francis Holtsinger pleaded guilty Friday during a hearing in federal court in Des Moines as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.

The plea deal says that Mr. Holtsinger told people that he would invest their money, and he instead spent most of it.  On what?  Things that might be sold to recover funds for the investors?  The indictment doesn’t offer much hope for recovery (my emphasis):

Of the $493,000 in funds received from investors, only $155,000 was transferred to an investment account at Interactive Brokers.  The remainder was deposited into accounts controlled by Holtsinger and used by him to further his scheme and for his personal use including, but not limited to, legal expenses, cas withdrawals, payment of living expenses, trips, accessing web-based “dating” sites, and other purposes different than he represented to investors.

Interesting scare quotes around “dating.”  In any case, it’s not an investment likely to produce anything that his victims would want.

The indictment and plea deal together show that there were warnings to his investors.  He wasn’t a registered investment advisor, for starters.  And this from the indictment should have triggered BS detectors:

After conducting trades on behalf of investors for a short period of time, Holtsinger offered and sold investments to the investors in the form of promissory notes.  He represented that the notes would yield high returns with no risk including, but not limited to, what he called an “inheritance investment” that would be invested through his mother and pay out upon her death.  The “inheritance investment” required a $20,000 deposit and was to pay annual returns of 9% with automatic liquidation and payout if the investment dropped below 3% of its initial value.

The “high returns with no risk” fairy is the Tax Fairy’s evil twin sister.   When she shows up, it’s time to back away quickly from whoever brings her into the room.  Other red flags:

- When he couldn’t come up with cash, he came up with excuses, like “informing investors… that their funds had been frozen as a result of actions taken by state or federal authorities.”

- After learning he was being investigated, “…he attempted to convince investors to lie to law enforcement and under oath regarding the purpose of the funds they had given to him.  The defendant instructed these individuals to describe their payments to him as ‘interest-free loans,’ when in reality they were investments.  The defendant also threatened that anyone who cooperated with law enforcement would not be repaid.”

Unfortunately, the not getting repaid part was already true.  The plea deal says that Mr. Holtsinger faces a four-to-seven year sentence.

 

Service: It’s in our name.  Victims of Identity Theft Get Little Help From IRS

Service: It’s in our name (II):  Report Fraud to the IRS? Watchdog Says IRS Flubs Over 100,000 Tips Annually (Robert W. Wood,Forbes).

They can take it, but they can’t dish it out.   Indiana Public Officials Indicted for Tax Fraud and Other Offenses  (FBI press release)

Andrew Mitchel, Form 1099 for Payments to Foreign Contractors for Services?

One question that often comes up is how a domestic U.S. business should treat payments to a foreign contractor for services performed outside the U.S.  Is a Form 1099 required?  Is withholding required?

As long as the foreign contractor is not a U.S. person and the services are wholly performed outside the U.S., then no Form 1099 is required and no withholding is required.

Jason Dinesen,  Connecting Strange Baseball Rules to Taxes   The infield fly rule is involved.

Martin Sullivan,  Ways and Means Chairman To Cut Corporate Interest?

Russ Fox,  Gillette Decision Upheld, But Beware.  Important news for taxpayers with California activity.

Kay Bell,  Pastors’ tax break for housing under renewed fire

TaxGrrrl,  WWJD*? Pulpit Freedom Sunday Likely to Bring Slams Against Obama, Romney

Anthony Nitti,  Crunching Numbers on a Hypothetical Cap on Deductions

William McBride,  More on How to pay for Romney’s Tax Cuts

Trish McIntire,  EFTPS Changes

Daniel Shaviro,  Follow-up on the financial transactions tax

Jim Maule,  Say One Tax-and-Spending Thing, Do Another

Robert D. Flach has a new Buzz tax roundup.

The Tax Update is so awesome, our comment trolls have Pulitzers.

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Tax Roundup, 8/20/2012: Meet the criminal masterminds that outwit Doug Shulman’s IRS.

Monday, August 20th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Doug Shulman, protecting the taxpayer

You are sending $5.2 billion annually to identity thieves, courtesy of Douglas Shulman’s IRS.  What sort of criminal masterminds are outwitting IRS internal controls to pick your pockets?  Tampabay.com tells the story of one modern-day Professor Moriarty:

More than 10,000 people remain on a waiting list for federally subsidized housing in Hills­borough County.

Not LaSandra Gamble, 27-year-old mother of five.

Last summer, between housing, utilities and food stamps, she drew benefits of $2,363 a month, Tampa Housing Authority files show.

Yet, in August 2011, she put down $9,000 on a black 2006 Lexus GS430, police said. Three days later, they said, she put down another $9,000, this time on a red 2007 Lexus ES 350. Combined, the monthly payments were nearly $2,000.

Gamble, in an interview, said police have it wrong. She said she got the cars because she was involved with the car dealer.

“I didn’t have to put nothing down,” she said. “We were in a relationship.”

Legally, she was in a relationship with her husband, 33-year-old Angelo Juan Pedrosa, whom she had married a year earlier.

Police got involved Oct. 8, when they stopped Pedrosa driving the black Lexus. Pedrosa is a convicted cocaine dealer. Along with marijuana residue, the officers reported finding $6,000 and a dozen debit cards in other people’s names.

Reloadable debit cards, sold online, carry Visa or MasterCard logos. Some people use them to shop on the Internet, control spending or get around poor credit. Tax thieves use them to collect refunds from the IRS.

Police filed a report with the IRS.  Ms. Gamble denies any involvement with tax fraud.

The gist of the TampaBay.com story is that the multi-billion dollar refund fraud — much of which is based in Tampa — is largely the work of thieves who are also collecting money from you through public assistance, and a motley array of petty thieves.   And Doug Shulman’s IRS is helpless to stop them.

Or maybe they just have priorities other than protecting your tax money.  Priorities like expanding the power of the bureaucracyAn opinion piece in today’s Wall Street Journal by Chip Mellor of the Institute for Justice (via the TaxProf):

Under new regulations imposed last year—without congressional approval—the IRS now requires all paid tax preparers to become “registered tax return preparers” by paying extra fees, passing a government exam, and taking continuing-education classes annually. (Exempted from the mandate are attorneys, CPAs and politically powerful “enrolled agents.”) Big tax-preparation firms such as H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt supported the licensing scheme, as did lobbying groups representing CPAs and others who are exempted from new regulation. 

So while petty thieves loot the Treasury, rest assured that Doug Shulman’s IRS is doing what it can for the well-connected.  For a taste of what it Doug Shulman is doing for those whose identities are being stolen (darn little), check out the newest installment in Jason Dinesen’s saga of a client’s identity theft nightmare.

 

Billy Hamilton of State Tax Notes has a fine history of the Iowa Film Credit up today.  Unfortunately at the moment it is only available to State Tax Notes subscribers (here).  He uses a “film noir” theme to tell the story:

Unless all of the main characters are dead, life continues past the closing credits, and in Johnny’s case, that means arrest and a return to the Big House. But filmmakers and audiences seldom bother with what is, in effect, the story after the story.

     That probably helps to explain why there was minimal press attention when opening arguments began on July 23 in the trial of the last of 10 defendants charged in the Iowa film tax credit scandal that erupted three years ago and was a hot topic at the time in Iowa, in the movie community, and in tax circles.

If you get a chance, read the whole thing.

 

Peter Reilly, Should We Care About Romney’s Unreleased Tax Returns?:

The business culture that both Romney and Warren Buffett have  operated in, as have I at a much less ethereal level, considers overpaying taxes to be irresponsible.  That is the story of Romney’s tax returns.

I’ve not encountered a business culture that considers overpaying taxes to be “responsible.”  Peter’s post is worth reading for the “It’s a Wonderful Life” references alone.

 

Tax Policy Blog: Usain Bolt Serves the UK an Olympic Hangover and At least 90 Percent of Americans Have a Lower Income Tax Rate than Romney

Kay Bell: Romney’s tax returns take 2

Robert D. Flach has been busy, with a new “Buzz” and a look at RYAN’S TAX RETURNS.

Anthony Nitti, Tax Policy Center Fights Back

Jack Townsend, Swiss Banks Rat Out Their Employees to U.S.

TaxDood, Usain Bolt Serves the UK an Olympic Hangover

TaxGrrrl is moving her offices this week, so she makes the best of it with Moving Right Along: Deducting Work-Related Moving Expenses

Good news for Iowa’s Mississippi River towns: Illinois Adopts Strip Club Tax (Russ Fox)

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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 (Fiercegovernmentit.com):

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 TBO.com.

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 IowaBiz.com, 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 (Tax.com)

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)

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Obamacare: it’s a tax!

Thursday, June 28th, 2012 by Joe Kristan
http://www.rothcpa.com/misc/20090617-2.jpg

Flickr image of “The Ultimate Swiss Army Knife” by redjar

The Supreme Court surprised just about everybody today by holding that the Affordable Care Act was not a permitted exercise of C ongressional Commerce Clause power, but it was still valid as a tax.  That means the Act remains in place unless the other two branches pass a repeal.  As a practical matter, then, nothing changes.  All of the new taxes and penalties — oops, it’s all taxes now — will take effect as scheduled. 

The most important of these from a tax planning point of view may be the Act’s 3.8% tax on “unearned” income. This tax will apply to interest, dividends, rents and capital gains starting in 2013 for taxpayers with AGI over $250,000.  It also applies to “passive” income from pass-through trades or businesses.  Examples will include inactive family owners in a family business.  The law applies the “passive loss” rules in determining whether the 3.8% tax applies.  This will incentivize owners of profitable businesses to claim they are “materially participating” in the business.  Up to now, such taxpayers often didn’t have to take a stand on whether they were passive, as long as the business was profitable.   Look for a lot of family members with big K-1s to start pulling down W-2 income where they never had done so, to  bolster their case for being non-passive.

There is also a .9% additional surtax on salary income and self-employment income when wages exceed $250,000 on a joint return ($200,000 single).  This will increase the attraction of using S corporations and keeping the salary below these thresholds, sending out the rest of the income on the K-1 free from these penalties.

If the bill isn’t repealed, the penalty tax on individuals who fail to buy health insurance will take effect in 2014.  For the first year it applies at the greater of a laughably small $95 per year in 2014, or, if greater, 1% of “household income” — the aggregate incomes of all members of the household required to file tax returns.  That will rise to $695 per year by 2016 or 2.5% of household income, if greater, by 2016.  Strangely, the IRS can’t collect this tax without the taxpayer’s help.  If the taxpayer doesn’t fork it over voluntarily, or have a refund against which to apply it, the IRS can’t use its collection tools — levies, seizures and so on —  to collect it.  That means a lot of people will make sure to fiddle their W-4s  so they never have an overpayment on their 1040s.

 Maybe the most depressing aspect of the decision is the way it seems to endorse using the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy.  Things that Congress can’t enact any other way are now possible if they can somehow be crammed into the tax law.  The tax code is already groaning under its load of responsibilities for industrial policy, health policy, welfare policy and housing policy, for starters.  The IRS Commissioner is now sort of a super cabinet member with a portfolio that dwarfs most of the “real” cabinet departments.  Of course, the IRS is ill-suited to this role, resulting in poor policy administration and poor tax administration.  Thanks, Justice Roberts!

Related:

Tax Policy Blog: Supreme Court Problematically Defines Individual Mandate as “Tax” and Roundup of Reactions to Supreme Court Health Care Ruling

Althouse: Chief Justice Roberts writes an opinion limiting the commerce power and the spending power.

Philip Klein: The Supreme Court’s Obamacare ruling — abridged

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A politically motivated tax prosecution in Oklahoma?

Monday, June 25th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Federal judge dismisses tax fraud case. The judge ruled that the prosecution case was so weak that the defense didn’t even need to make a case. More disturbing, the case may have been politically motivated:

Several Oklahoma Panhandle ranchers and the assistant secretary of the Oklahoma Commissioners of the Land Office testified during the trial as government attorneys tried to support allegations that Parker had engaged in elaborate schemes to hide certain assets and evade paying more than $1.2 million in taxes, penalties and interest.

Parker contended all along that he didn’t scheme to hide assets, but that properties were owned by limited liability corporations established by his children to protect assets and for estate planning purposes. One of those properties was a Cimarron County ranch.

“It was ridiculous,” said Michael Minns, Parker’s attorney. “The government put a bunch of people on the stand to complain that the Parkers took their land.”

Apparently the defendant had outbid longtime holders of public land leases. Too bad there’s no way the defendant will ever get repaid for the time, expense and stress caused by what are at best weak charges, and which may have been politics by other means.  It shows why politicians who joke about using the IRS for political purposes aren’t funny.
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