Posts Tagged ‘tax court’

Tax Roundup, 2/10/16: Tax Court rules out super-duper bureaucrat deduction. And: Don’t rob the preparer!

Wednesday, February 10th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20120801-2You are fined $50 court costs. My accountant prefers it that way.  A good lawyer can make you seriously consider a position that seems absurd at first glance. An Arizona judge whose case showed up in Tax Court yesterday must be a good lawyer.

The case is based on the difference between the tax treatment of business expenses and employee expenses. Business expenses are normally fully deductible. In contrast, expenses incurred by an employee, and not reimbursed by the employer, are only deductible as itemized deductions, and then only to the extent they — when added to other “miscellaneous” deductions — exceed 2% of adjusted gross income. Worse, even if you have enough employee expenses to show up on Schedule A, they are non-deductible in computing alternative minimum tax. That often makes them useless.

Arizona state judge Michael Jones had a clever accountant who saw a potential way around this problem. According to the Tax Court, Judge Jones incurred some out-of-pocket expenses to run his chambers when state budget cuts began to pinch. His tax preparer, a CPA, said that Section 62(a)(2)(C) made these “above the line” business expenses:

(C)Certain expenses of officials

The deductions allowed by section 162 which consist of expenses paid or incurred with respect to services performed by an official as an employee of a State or a political subdivision thereof in a position compensated in whole or in part on a fee basis.

So how did that affect Judge Jones? From Tax Court Judge Holmes (my emphasis, citations omitted):

Maricopa County Superior Court is funded in part by the collection of fees. Individuals must pay the superior court clerk fees for various case filings, petitions, writs, the filing of any documents, and the issuance of any licenses or certificates. The county does not, however, receive fees paid for wedding ceremonies — judges are allowed to collect those directly (although Judge Jones himself did not charge for weddings during the years at issue).

Judge Jones argues that “in a position compensated in whole or in part on a fee basis” means something like “a position funded in whole or in part by fees paid by members of the public for services rendered by judges.” Neither the Code nor the regulations define what “fee basis” means, and the case law is similarly stubborn in its silence.

Judge Holmes ponders the arguments and reaches his decision:

We also have to conclude that the Commissioner’s position is the more reasonable one. An enormous number of government agencies, courts, departments, and boards receive fee income. If Judge Jones’s construction of section 62(a)(2)(C) were correct, all the positions in all these government bodies would be “position[s] compensated in whole or in part on a fee basis.” This would create a caste of employees — those employed as government “officials” — who would be exempt from the rule Congress chose to enact that limits the deductibility of unreimbursed employee expenses. Maybe Congress could do that, but it didn’t do so plainly. Business expenses are also usually thought deductible because they are an ordinary and necessary requirement for producing income. But Judge Jones’s reading of section 62 would uncouple the deductibility of an expense from the income it produces — once a position was funded in part by fees, any employee holding that position would be entitled to unlimited deduction of his unreimbursed business expenses regardless of whether those expenses had anything to do with those fees.

I think Judge Holmes comes to the right conclusion dealing with this obscure provision. If he concluded differently, every public official would be running to their preparers to amend all the open years. Though when it comes to a privileged “caste” of public employees, we’re further down that road than we should be already.

The moral? It’s important to handle business expenses properly. Many taxpayers who own S corporations, for example, pay some business expenses themselves without being reimbursed by the S corporation. Such expenses become “employee” expenses and are routinely lost. By submitting the costs to the employer — their own S corporation — for reimbursement, they become corporation expenses and fully deductible.

Cite: Jones, 146 T.C. No. 3

 

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Accounting Today, Obama Budget Includes Tax Increases and Tax Preparer Regulation. Of course it does.

We need IRS employees to oversee preparers to prevent fraud. IRS Employee Pleads Guilty to $1 Million ID Theft Tax Fraud Scheme (Department of Justice).

Kay Bell, Obama’s final budget is full of big, but unlikely to be fulfilled, tax and spending ideas. It will go over well as his prior budgets.

 

Paul Neiffer, We Knew It Was Coming!:

In doing various tax classes over the last few years, I almost always stated that it would only be a matter of time before the President would ask for this net investment income tax to be applied to S corporation and partnership income whether passive or material.  In the new budget proposal issued by the President, that time has come.

His budget proposes that all income of S corporations and partnerships be subject to the net investment income tax of 3.8%.  This would include any gains from selling any assets inside of these entities or selling the stock or partnership interest.  This will affect farmers who have large gains in the future.

Somehow I don’t think the momentum is there to expand Obamacare taxes.

 

Russ Fox, Can a Resident of a Non-Tax Treaty Country (With Respect to Gambling) Get His Withheld Funds Back? “Canadians are allowed to file a Form 1040NR and claim gambling losses up to the amount of wins, and get a refund. New Zealanders are not.”

Peter Reilly, Is Tax Foundation Unfair To Bernie Sanders? Only if it’s unfair to focus on the destruction that would result from his confiscatory taxes, rather than the magical results he promises when he gives you some of your money back through those wonderful and always efficient government programs.

Lany Villalobos, Patrick Tohomas, The Struggle to Obtain Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (Procedurally Taxing). The government is doing its best to increase tax burdens on offshore investors, while at the same time making it hard for them to even start complying.

TaxGrrrl, Ask The Taxgirl: The Child Tax Credit

Robert Wood, New Excuse: ‘Fear Of IRS Audit Made Me Cheat On My Taxes’ Huh?

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 1007. After five years, one of the prominent 501(c)(4) applications slow-walked through the IRS process is finally approved. Nope, no politics here.

Tax Policy Blog, 2015 Outstanding Achievement in State Tax Reform Awards. None awarded to Iowans, unsurprisingly.

Ajay Gupta, Hillary Clinton’s Wall on the Border (Tax Analysts Blog):

Turns out the inevitable Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, would also build a great, great wall. Unlike Trump’s wall, hers would not deter foreign individuals lacking proper documentation from coming into the country. Instead, it would dissuade U.S. corporations stuck with domestic charters from leaving. And she would have U.S. investors and workers pay for that wall.

Something about grasping politicians loves a wall.

 

Career Corner. Which Popular Accounting Hashtag Should You Use? An Explainer (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

Jim Maule, Stupid Criminals, Tax Version. “According to several reports, including this one, a woman and her son walked into a Liberty Tax Services office in Toledo, Ohio, pointed what appeared to be a gun over which a towel was draped, demanded money, and made off with $280… It turned out that the “gun” was a curling iron. And it also turned out that the staff recognized the two as customers who had used Liberty’s services a few days earlier.”

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Tax Roundup, 2/9/16: Cam Newton lost more than a game in California. And: cats with pink bows!

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20130819-1Welcome to California, Cam! The quarterback for the losing team in this year’s Super Bowl earned a $51,000 bonus for his trouble. Did he really lose money on the deal, after taxes? K. Sean Packard reports that he loses money on the deal. Is that even possible?

Before we get into the numbers, let’s do a quick review of the jock tax rules applied to professional athletes (similar tax rules apply to anyone doing business across state lines, but they are rarely enforced). States tax a player based on their calendar-year income. They apply a duty day calculation which takes the ratio of duty days within the state over total duty days for the year. That ratio is then multiplied by the player’s salary to arrive at a state’s allocable income.

According to the story, Cam Newton will have about 206 “duty days” this year. Cam Newton’s 2016 salary is $20 million. The Super Bowl gave Mr. Newton 7 California duty days. So, the numbers, as I compute them:

7/206=.0339805825.

$20 million x 0339805825 = 679,612 income allocated to California

California’s tax on $679,612 x 13.3% 90,388. Add the 13.3% on his $51,000 allocated to California, which is not included in the $20,000,000 base, and he owes another $230, for a total California hit of $90,618. That will reduce his federal taxes by about $35,885 (39.6% x 90,618), so his net California hit for the 7 Super Bowl days is $54,733. Considering the 40.5% federal tax on his additional $51,000 of wages ($20,655), Mr. Newton takes a $75,388 net tax hit on his $51,000 earned — a combined 147.8% marginal rate.

If Mr. Newton is a North Carolina resident, he would have paid some of that money in resident state taxes. If he is a tax-savvy Florida resident, it’s all loss. Sort of like the game Sunday.

20141208-2We are all Cam Newton. Not all of us can play football at a high level, but all of us can face similar issues working in another state. Contrary to what the article above says, taxes on cross-border visits aren’t just “rarely” enforced. Some states, including California and New York, enforce these taxes with vigor. Entertainers and corporate executives are the easiest targets, but improved data-mining has allowed states to go downmarket in pursuit of income from workers in-state on short assignments — whether on a consulting or accounting job, or on a sales call.

This creates a potential compliance nightmare for employees who work in multiple states. And if you are a resident of a high-tax state, it’s a nightmare that may not even cost you additional tax, because of credits allowed for non-resident state taxes. Just additional time and prep fees — and potentially ugly penalties if you fail to file in a state you visit briefly.

That’s why the Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act would be a good thing. By limiting state taxes on most employees to situations where they spend at least 30 days in a state,  H.R. 2315 would save employees and employers a great deal of pointless compliance hassle. By going to http://www.mobileworkforcecoalition.org/contact-congress/#/ you can tell your Senator to get behind the bill. As Senator Grassley is on the Senate taxwriting committee, he especially needs to hear about it.

Unfortunately for Mr. Newton, it wouldn’t apply to athletes (an unfair exemption, apparently required politically), but it at least H.R. 2315 would keep itinerant accountants out of multi-state tax purgatory.

 

Seventh Avenue, Des Moines, this morning.

 

Russ Fox, IRS Must Pay Fees in Civil Forfeiture Case. “I am not a fan of civil forfeiture as currently practiced: It’s being abused widely by the government. Indeed, some government police agencies consider it a part of their normal funding!” Institute for Justice is also pursuing fees in the case of the Northwest Iowa restaurant owner whose cash was confiscated by IRS. Russ encourages contributions to IJ; I’m a donor.

William Perez, Free Tax Preparation and Tax Problem Resolution Services

Kay Bell, Previous Year of the Monkey stamp offers collectors a nice profit, but a higher capital gains tax rate

Jason Dinesen, Why Yes, I Am “Just” An Enrolled Agent. The EA designation is impressive, and contrary to the attitude of an accountant Jason encountered, CPAs have no cause to be snotty to EAs.

Robert Wood, Hillary’s Wall Street Speech Fees: Hers Or Clinton Foundation’s?. I think that’s a distinction without a difference.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 1006

Joseph Thorndike, Bernie Sanders Wants to Soak the Poor — Just Like FDR (Tax Analysts Blog). “Ultimately, however, the most revealing linkage between Sanders and FDR resides not in a shared impulse to tax the rich, but in a common willingness to soak the poor.” You can’t have a mass welfare benefit paid for only by a class tax.

 

What the Northwest Iowa Community College looked like on my visit two years ago.

 

I can’t find this tax rule in the code. A taxpayer brought a novel approach to determining his income to Tax Court in a case released yesterday. The gentleman is of the tax defier persuasion, feline variation (my emphasis):

The Court inquired whether he had any evidence to submit regarding his receipt of income during 2011 from BDL Films, Partizan Entertainment, Avatar Films, or Western Federal Credit Union. He replied: “I don’t even know what you mean by ‘income.’ I have my own definition of income.” Asked what that definition was, he replied: “It’s a cat with a pink bow. I earned no income. I’m in my own jurisdiction. * * * I am not part of the legal society; I have my own society.”

I suspect that his earnings were not routinely paid in cat, with bows of any color. The Court wasn’t persuaded, either:

The petition that petitioner filed in this Court consists solely of frivolous arguments. We warned petitioner four times — twice in advance of trial and twice during trial — that he risked incurring a significant penalty if he persisted in advancing frivolous arguments. He persisted. He has deluged this Court with gibberish and has wasted the resources of respondent’s counsel and this Court. We will accordingly require that he pay to the United States under section 6673(a) a penalty of $3,500.

$3,500 is a lot of kitty litter.

Cite: Bruhwiler, T.C. Memo. 2016-18

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Tax Roundup, 2/5/16: The IRS isn’t a bank, and a 1099 isn’t what makes income taxable. And: oil companies, money trees.

Friday, February 5th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20151217-1Nice Try. The tax law discourages taxpayers from tapping retirement savings too early with a 10% early withdrawal tax. The tax law also allows an above-the-line deduction for penalties imposed by banks for closing out a CD or savings account before maturity.

They aren’t the same thing.

A Mr. Martin learned that lesson this week in Tax Court. He was 54 years old when he pulled out $55,976.29 from his IRA. He reported the 10% penalty tax, but then he also deducted it on line 30 of his 1040 as a “penalty on early withdrawal of savings.”

I can see the logic, as it does look like, well, a penalty on an early withdrawal of savings. But that’s not how the Tax Court sees it (my emphasis):

Martin argues that the additional tax imposed by section 72(t) is deductible under section 62(a)(9). We disagree. Section 62(a)(9) provides a deduction for an amount “forfeited to a bank, mutual savings bank, savings and loan association, building and loan association, cooperative bank or homestead association as a penalty for premature withdrawal of funds from a time savings account, certificate of deposit, or similar class of deposit.” The section 72(t) additional tax is payable to the federal government, not to a “bank” or similar institution listed in section 62(a)(9). Therefore, it is not deductible under section 62(a)(9). Further, the additional tax imposed by section 72(t) is a federal-income tax. Section 275(a)(1) disallows any deductions for “Federal income taxes” (A deduction for certain other taxes, including State income taxes and some other federal taxes, is allowed by section 164(a).).

There was one other problem with the return. He won $1,000 at a casino, an amount arguably below the threshold for which casinos most report gambling winnings on a W2-G. They reported it anyway. Again, the Tax Court:

The casino reported on an information return its $1,000 payment to Martin. Martin argues that, because he earned entries into the lottery by playing slot machines, his gambling winnings should be subject to the $1,200 reporting threshold. Thus, Martin argues, the casino should not have reported the gambling  winnings of $1,000 because the payment fell below the $1,200 reporting-requirement threshold for gambling winnings from slot machines.

Martin assumes that gambling winnings that are not reportable on information returns are not includible in gross income. At trial he said that the IRS is “trying to separate the taxation from the reporting when it is undeniably one and the same”. Martin does not see, or refuses to see, the distinction between information-reporting requirements and the imposition of income tax. Whether the casino was required to report Martin’s winnings is irrelevant to the question of whether his winnings are includible in his gross income. The Internal Revenue Code does not exclude a payment from income when the payment is not large enough to require the payor to report the payment on an information return.

A lot of people think that when something doesn’t show up on an information return, it’s tax-free. It just doesn’t work that way.

Cite: Martin, T.C. Memo. 2016-15

 

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Obama seeks oil tax, destruction of self-driving car industryCNBC reports:

President Barack Obama will propose a $10-per-barrel charge on oil to fund clean transportation projects as part of his final budget request next week, the White House said Thursday.

Oil companies would pay the fee, which would be gradually introduced over five years. The government would use the revenue to help fund high-speed railways, autonomous cars and other travel systems, aiming to reduce emissions from the nation’s transportation system.

“Oil companies would pay the fee.” Such a kidder, that President. Apparently the oil companies will pay it by planting more carbon-absorbing money trees out behind their refineries.

It’s a credit to misguided persistence that the President is still pursuing high-speed passenger rail, an idea that California is busy proving once again to be ridiculously expensive and impractical. And somehow I’d feel much safer in an autonomous car from Google or Apple than one from the the same government that brings us the IRS.

 

Scott Hodge, New IRS Data: Wealthy Paid 55 Percent of Income Taxes in 2014 (Tax Policy Blog).

distribution 2014 income

“So while many politicians may argue that the wealthy don’t pay their fair share of income taxes, the data simply does not support that opinion.”

 

Russ Fox, Maryland Suspends Processing Tax Returns from 23 Liberty Tax Service Locations:

For consumers, the advice that Maryland noted in their press release is accurate: “Taxpayers should carefully review their returns for these issues and should be suspicious if a preparer: deducts fees from the taxpayer’s refund to be deposited into the tax preparer’s account; does not sign the tax return; or fails to include the Preparer Taxpayer Identification number “PTIN” on the return.” I’ll add, if you don’t own a business and see business income on your return, there’s a problem.

Indeed.

Kay Bell, Lesson from IRS hardware failure: Be prepared for the unexpected during tax filing season. The hardware went back on line yesterday afternoon. 

TaxGrrrl, Update: IRS Website Back Online, Tax Refunds Unaffected

Peter ReillyIRS And The Tea Party – Scandal Enters A New Millennium. Peter observes The TaxProf’s Day 1000 Tea Party Scandal entry.

Keith Fogg, Discharging Late Filed Returns – A Novel but Unsuccessful Approach. “The case shows the creativity that can come into play in the face of very long odds.”

Robert Wood, Bank Julius Baer Hit With $547M Criminal Tax Evasion Penalty, Two Bankers Plead Guilty

 

Me, Tax credits for a few vs. business deductions for everyone. I take my battle against cronyism and for conforming Iowa tax law to 2015 federal changes to IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record Business Professional’s Blog.

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 1,002. Another supposedly-erased hard drive sought by investigators miraculously reappears.

Megan McArdle, Obamacare’s Cadillac Tax Will Not Survive. The way pieces of the machine keep falling off, you might wonder if it wasn’t very well designed.

Renu Zaretsky, A Budget, Capital, Growth, and TransparencyToday’s TaxVox news roundup covers the Obama oil fee, last night’s Sanders-Clinton debate, and lots more.

News from the Profession. Lying About Your Financial Statements Being Audited Still Frowned Upon (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/20/16: Divorce transfer foot fault wrecks Iowa ESOP. And: efficiency!

Wednesday, January 20th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

tax fairyMarriage explodes, ESOP explodes. S corporations and ESOPs are a tempting mix. To the extent an ESOP holds the shares of an S corporation, it becomes a tax-exempt for-profit business. This is almost like finding a real-life tax fairy. If any other tax-exempt entity holds S corporation stock, it will pay Unrelated Business Income Tax — a form of the regular corporate income tax — on its S corporation earnings.

These features draw tax-fairy seekers to the S corporation ESOP. For a Muscatine, Iowa chiropractor, the quest ended in both tax and romantic failure. The failure reminds us that ESOPs are not to be adopted lightly. It also shows that ESOP failures, unlike some marriages, last forever.

The chiropractor involved incorporated his practice in 1999, made an S corporation election, and immediately established an ESOP. He and his wife were the only shareholders and only ESOP participants.

The marriage broke up in 2007. In 2009, the ex-wife left the company and agreed to give up her ESOP account, then valued at $286,904.53. But they did it wrong. The Tax Court explains (citations omitted):

In addition, once a participant’s benefit becomes vested, it is nonforfeitable under ERISA. In sum, a participant in a section 401(a) plan may not assign or alienate his or her benefit, and at the same time, he or she has a nonforfeitable right to that same benefit.

Pursuant to the May 27, 2009, corporate documents, and relying upon the divorce decree, [Wife] transferred 100% of her ESOP shares and relinquished any rights she had under the ESOP. The ESOP’s June 30, 2009 and 2010, reports [*15] reflect that 100% of the shares allocated to [Wife] on June 30, 2009, were reallocated to {Husband’s] account as of June 30, 2010.

Before April 5, 2007, [Husband] and [Wife]… were also [the corporation’s] sole employees and ESOP participants. Although the 2007 divorce decree dissolved the… marriage, it is insufficient to allow the transfer of plan assets that transpired in this case. Transferring the vested shares from [Wife]’s account to [Husband’s] caused [Wife]’s ESOP account to become alienated from her after it became fully vested. By violating section 401(a)(13), the plan ceased to be qualified. Accordingly, we hold that respondent did not abuse his discretion in disqualifying the ESOP for its 2010 plan year and for subsequent plan years.

Public domain image courtesy Wikipedia

Public domain image of Phoenix courtesy Wikipedia

You might wonder why one mistake in one year wrecked everything. Judge Dawson explains:

In general, a qualification failure pursuant to section 401(a) is a continuing failure because allowing a plan to requalify in subsequent years would be to allow a plan “to rise phoenix-like from the ashes of such disqualification and become qualified for that year.”

That’s the frightening thing about going ESOP. You have to comply with extremely detailed and complex qualification rules every year, every time. This requires significant legal and consulting bills, and even then mistakes can be made. While ESOPs can be useful in the right situations, you have to live with serious compliance costs and risks.

In this case, I’m only surprised that the ESOP lasted as long as it did. Section 409(p) imposes a both the UBIT and a 50% excise tax when “disqualified persons” receive an ESOP allocation. Related taxpayers who own more than 10% of the S corporation, or 20% with family members, are “disqualified persons.” In this case the couple owned 100% of the corporation. The case is silent on this issue, but I don’t understand how this structure could have worked even before the disqualification in light of the Section 409(p) rules. The case does say that they terminated their S corporation in 2005, which would have solved the 409(p) problem after that date.

This is the fourth ESOP disqualification the Tax Court has decided involving the individual named as trustee in this case, who I believe had an Iowa-based practice. This continues Iowa’s unhappy history of involvment in bad ESOPs.

Cite: Family Chiropractic Sports Injury & Rehab Clinic, T.C. Memo 2016-10.

 

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William Perez, Secure Ways to Send Tax Documents to Your Accountant. It is reckless and dangerous to send pdfs of your W-2s, 1099s, etc. as an unencryped e-mail attachment. William offers good advice on how to do it right.

Jason Dinesen, Glossary: Compilation. “In the accounting world, the term “compilation” refers to formal financial statements prepared by a public accountant.”

Robert Wood, IRS Forms 1099 Are Coming, The Most Important Tax Form Of All.

Robert D. Flach, 2015 INFORMATION RETURNS. Robert offers a handy chart of the various information returns, except for K-1s.

Russ Fox, Texas Attorney General: DFS Illegal in Texas. “Texas’s Attorney General, Ken Paxton, issued an opinion today that says that daily fantasy sports (DFS) is illegal under Texas law.”

 

 

Illustration for early draft Bernie Sanders tax plan.

Illustration for early draft Bernie Sanders tax plan.

Water is wet. Bernie Sanders Is Proposing Really Big Tax Increases (Howard Gleckman, TaxVox).

It is hard to grasp the enormity of the tax increases Bernie Sanders is proposing, how far out-of-step he is with recent economic history in the U.S., and what a stunning contrast he presents with Republican presidential hopefuls.

I love when “enormity” is used correctly unintentionally.

While Sanders describes his top rate as 52 percent, top-bracket taxpayers would be paying up to 58 percent rate (the 52 percent base rate, plus the 2.2 percent health premium, plus the Affordable Care Act’s 3.8 percent surtax on investment income, which Sanders would keep).

Be happy he doesn’t take more, kulaks!

Peter Reilly, Bernie Sanders Tax Plan Moderate On Top Income Tax Rate. Well, I suppose compared to beheading high bracket taxpayers, confiscating their estates, and selling their families into slavery, it is.

 

 

Career Corner. Accountant Worked One Day, Allegedly Embezzled $15k (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). Efficiency!

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/8/16: A look at Iowans and their federal income taxes.

Friday, January 8th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20160108-1aSoak the rich? Iowa’s soaking in it! The Iowa Legislative Service Bureau this week published a report on the federal taxes paid by Iowans in 2013. It’s a useful reminder that the politicians running around Iowa talking about how “the rich” pay no taxes are talking nonsense.

This table covers a lot of ground:

 

 

 

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Source: Iowa Legislative Service bureau. Click to enlarge.

Note that for the >$1 million filers, the biggest category is “other income.” Given that they also pay the highest effective rates, it’s clear that this isn’t tax-preferred capital gains or dividends. It’s K-1 income from partnerships and S corporations, or business income from farms or schedule C businesses. In other words, its taxes paid by employers. When you soak the rich, you are soaking employers.

It’s also clear that “the rich” in Iowa are paying a bigger share of their earnings than everyone else. If we count “the rich” as taxpayers with gross income over $200,000, their average federal tax rate as a percentage of gross income — before any deductions — is 22.4%, compared to 7.3% for all other taxpayers.

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Tax Update Chart using Iowa Legislative Service Bureau data. Dollars in millions.

The taxes paid at the top end are a much larger share of the tax paid than of their share of the income: they have 20.8% of the gross income, but pay 44.7% of the taxes. While some politicians may say that’s not enough, remember that much of that is income earned by employers from their businesses. If they have to pay more to the IRS, that’s money they don’t have to hire people, give raises, or grow their business.

Another lesson is that even with the disparity towards the high end, 59.2% of the taxes paid are paid by those in the $25,000-$200,000 gross income range. When the politicians promise to give you stuff paid for by someone else, they lie. They intend to take your money, give you some back, and expect you to thank them.

 

Last night I gave a presentation to IMA chapters across the state over the Iowa Cable Network, mostly on the newly passed extenders bill. You can download the Powerpoint slides I used here.

 

It’s Friday! It’s Buzz Day! At Robert D. Flach’s place. Links all around, including commentary on Turbo Tax ads.

Russ Fox, Substance Over Form. “So today’s petitioner, who represented himself in Tax Court, won that he was an independent contractor, not an employee”

TaxGrrrl, When It Comes To Taxes, Where Not To Win Powerball.

Robert Wood, To IRS, ‘Willful’ Means Penalties Or Jail

Jason Dinesen, How Often Should a Budget Be Updated?

Kay BellRecently issued tax identity theft PINs are valid for 2015 filings despite wrong date in IRS letters to taxpayers

 

 

Alex Durante, New NBER Paper Underscores Need for Corporate Integration (Tax Policy Blog). By “corporate integration, they mean “stop taxing corporation income twice.”

For the convenience of the politicians all concerned how corporate taxes have declined as a share of all federal taxes, they illustrate the obvious:

c corp share of entities

The high C corporation rate and the second tax imposed when corporate earnings are withdrawn as dividends or cashed out on a share sale explain why people set up their businesses in other ways.

 

Howard Gleckman, If Banning Negligent Low-Income Households From Taking Tax Credits Is Such a Great Idea, Why Stop With Them? (TaxVox). Good point.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 974. Today’s link discusses the proposal abandoned by the IRS yesterday to make charities collect social security numbers of their donors.

 

If you are a regular reader, you know better than to click on the link if you get an email like this:

HRscamemail

Be careful out there, people, and be smart.

And have a great weekend.

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Tax Roundup, 12/3/15: Bedbugs and Cadillacs, and tax uses for old-fashioned index cards.

Thursday, December 3rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan
CDC image

CDC image

Drive all night. Mr. Charley told me so. An old joke says that you should spend for nice wheels because after all, while you can’t drive a house, you can always sleep in a car.  A case in Tax Court yesterday involves a taxpayer who may have taken that advice to heart. Fortunately, he also took to heart the tax rules that require you to document your business miles.

The taxpayer, a Mr. Charley, had a business (“LubriDyne”) that involved devices used to clean hydraulic oil used by injection molders. He bought a used Cadillac with a trunk big enough to hold his demonstration equipment and traveled in it far and wide, according to Judge Paris (my emphasis):

The most effective way for Mr. Charley to pitch LubriDyne was to drive to clients and demonstrate how the equipment worked. He began most trips from his home where he officed and stored his equipment. All of Mr. Charley’s business trips were made in the Cadillac. Many of LubriDyne’s clients were within a four- to five-hour radius of Mr. Charley’s Missouri home although he also visited clients in Colorado, California, and Wisconsin. If Mr. Charley did not return home at the end of each day, he would either spend the night in his car or drive through the night.6When he did stay overnight somewhere, he stayed with friends at their houses. Mrs. Charley did not accompany Mr. Charley on any of his business trips in 2010.

Footnote six explains the aversion to motels:

6 Mr. Charley testified that petitioners had spent $2,500 to rid their home of bed bugs after one hotel stay. Since then, he does not stay at hotels when he travels.

Whether or not you sleep in your car, the tax law requires extra substantiation for travel expenses. From the Tax Court opinion (citations omitted):

Under section 274(d), a taxpayer must satisfy strict substantiation requirements before a deduction is allowed. To deduct expenses related to travel, meals and entertainment, gifts, or listed property, the taxpayer must “substantiate by adequate records or by sufficient evidence corroborating the taxpayer’s own statement”: (1) the amount of the expense (i.e., mileage); (2) the time and place of the expense; (3) the business purpose of the expense; and (4) in the case of entertainment, the business relationship between the taxpayer and the person being entertained. Listed property includes passenger automobiles. To satisfy the requirements of section 274(d) by adequate records, a taxpayer must maintain records and documentary evidence that in combination are sufficient to establish each element of an expenditure or use.

Flickr image courtesy dave_7 under Creative Commons license.

Flickr image courtesy dave_7 under Creative Commons license.

This means the “Cohan Rule,” which enables courts to estimate expenses that are otherwise inadequately documented, cannot be used for car expenses. The IRS said Mr. Charley’s substantiation fell short. The Tax Court explained the taxpayer travel records:

Mr. Charley recorded the point-of-contact, telephone number, date he visited the client, and the client’s business address on an index card. Each index card was created at the time of the travel to that client. Although the mileage from Mr. Charley’s home to each client was not included on the index cards, most of his client’s business addresses included the city and State where the client was located. Some of the index cards record visits to multiple clients in the same geographical area.

The opinion doesn’t say why the IRS objected to the records — perhaps because he didn’t keep an actual travel log in the car? In any case, Judge Paris said the records were good enough (citations again omitted):

The Court finds that Mr. Charley substantiated that he had business mileage expenses for 2010 through his index cards and testimony — although not the amount reported on petitioners’ return.While Mr. Charley’s travel schedule may have been extreme, such extremity is not a bar to deducting otherwise properly substantiated expenses.

Mr. Charley left from his home office to begin each business trip. He would return home that day, drive through the night to return home the following day, or continue to another client in the same geographic location as the first client on the  business trip. Mr. Charley’s index cards contain the business address for almost every client his visited in 2010. Allowing Mr. Charley the mileage for the shortest routes between his home office and his clients’ addresses, the Court finds that petitioners are entitled to car and truck expenses for 13,731 business miles for 2010.

While fewer miles than claimed on the return, it was 13,731 miles more than the IRS allowed.

The Moral: You have to be able to substantiate your travel to deduct it, but there’s more than one way to skin a Cadillac. While IRS loves auto logs, a detailed calendar  or a smartphone app capturing the same information will work. So will old-fashioned 3×5 cards.

Cite: Charley, T.C. Memo 2015-232.

 

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Gang Truce. Congress Reaches Deal on Five-Year Highway Funding Bill (Kyle Pomerleau, Tax Policy Blog). I find bipartisanship often is as helpful to the rest of us as an agreement to split crime proceeds between rival street gangs. The Highway bill is that sort of bipartisanship, with awful revenue raisers including a provision to revoke passports of “delinquent” taxpayers.

Anybody who has worked with the IRS knows that IRS recordkeeping is only getting worse. It can take years to fix an IRS mistake. Inevitably, some taxpayer will fall victim to a computer burp while overseas and be stranded and unable to sort out the mess for weeks. I just hope it’s a Congressman.

 

Robert D. Flach, YEAR-END AND HOLIDAY CHARITABLE CONTRIBUTIONS. “You can no longer say you put a five or ten dollar bill in the collection plate each week.” Not if you want a deduction, anyway.

Russ Fox, Third Party Transcript Requests Reportedly Will No Longer be Processed by the IRS. ” This policy has not been officially published anywhere by the IRS, but based on IRS actions it appears that this policy was put in place because of identity theft concerns.”

Robert Wood, EU Hunts McDonald’s No-Tax Secret Sauce, Could End Love For Tax-Free Royalties

 

Keith Fogg, Legitimate Claim of 5th Amendment on Tax Return Should not Result in Frivolous Return Penalty (Procedurally Taxing). “Citing the 5th amendment on a tax return is something that a tax protestor might do which is why such an assertion makes the list, but it is also something that someone with a legitimate fear of prosecution should do.”

Jason Dinesen, Glossary: Section 179. “As usual, Congress continues to dither on any tax extender bill for 2015.”

Paul Neiffer, A Slow Slog to the Finish Line on Section 179

Jack Townsend, In Summons Enforcement Proceeding, Court Rejects Taxpayer’s Lack of Possession Defense For Foreign Account Documents

Kay Bell, December! Time for shopping, holiday parties and taxes! A good discussion of some standard year-end planning techniques.

 

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Roberton Williams, The ACA Penalty Tax Is Going Up If You Don’t Get Health Insurance. (TaxV0x).

Peter Reilly, What Art Of The Deal Tells Us About Donald Trump And His Tax Views

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 938

 

The Critical Question. What’s Next for Microsoft After Some Expensive Table Pounding? (Tax Analysts Blog)

News from the Profession. Fake Occupants Caused Some Problems in Grant Thornton’s Audit of Assisted Living Concepts (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). Yeah, fake customers are probably not a good thing to find in an audit.

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/24/15: Another Kansas medical practice ESOP blows up. And: tax credits for everything!

Tuesday, November 24th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20151124-1When you fund an employee stock ownership plan, be sure you have an employee. Another strange ESOP failure out of Kansas emerged from the Tax Court yesterday. A Wichita doctor, whom we will call Dr. F, funded an ESOP for his practice with over $400,000 in 2004, supposedly rolled over from his IRA. But, according to the tax court, the doctor wasn’t qualified to participate, and there was no evidence of a rollover. From the Tax Court (emphasis added, citations omitted, doctor’s name shortened by me):

Dr. F. received no compensation from, and was not employed by, petitioner in 2004 or 2005. A total of 53.06 shares of petitioner’s stock was allocated to his account in these years. Respondent determined that these contributions exceeded the section 415(c) limitation because Dr. F. received no compensation from petitioner in 2004 or 2005. Petitioner alleges that the amounts in Dr. F.’s accounts were rollover contributions from Dr. F.’s individual retirement account and should not be considered for purposes of section 415(c).

In order for a distribution to be considered a rollover contribution, the entire amount received must be paid into a qualified trust for the distributee’s benefit no later than the 60th day after the day that the distribution is received. Petitioner has not provided evidence that a valid rollover took place. Further, because the ESOP trust did not have a bank or brokerage account from May 13, 2004, through December 31, 2009, it was not possible for the distribution from Dr. F.’s individual retirement account to have been paid into an account held by the ESOP trust.

Details, details. But details are everything. The IRS cited multiple reasons for the ESOP revocation, and as the court notes, “Any one of the reasons cited in the final revocation letter would be sufficient alone to cause the ESOP and the ESOP trust to fail…” The ESOP also failed to get a qualified appraisal.

This is the second physician ESOP out of Kansas to fail this year in Tax Court. Iowa has long been the capital of flaky ESOPs, but Kansas seems ready to challenge our dubious supremacy. In fairness, though, the trustee of both ESOPs appears to operate out of Northeast Iowa, so we’re keeping our hand in the game.

The Moral? ESOPs are useful for limited purposes, primarily as a succession vehicle for a closely-held business, but they are complex and dangerous, requiring meticulous compliance to avoid catastrophe. They are a poor tax shelter for a closely-held business when the owner wants to maintain control.

Cite: Fleming Cardiovascular PA, T.C. Memo. 2015-224

 

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

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

Joseph Thorndike, Tax Credits Are Easy – And a Loser’s Game for Liberals (Tax Analysts Blog):

Hilary Clinton’s presidential campaign is still churning out tax proposals at a furious pace. Over the weekend, she proposed a new credit for caretakers—intended, according to her campaign, to “provide support for the millions of families paying for, coordinating, or providing care for aging or disabled family members.”

That sounds great – just like every other tax break Clinton has suggested in the past several months. After all, caring for family members can be hard, and it’s often expensive. Caretakers could definitely use a hand.

But is the tax system the best way to provide it? Probably not.

Home caregivers are wonderful people. But Mr. Thorndike notes the problems with such feel-good credits:

Using tax incentives as a form of hidden spending merely serves to further erode support for more direct forms of government action. Small-bore tax breaks breed more small-bore tax breaks. But they don’t foster any serious rethinking of the role of government.

Nor do they produce meaningful results, even for the narrow problems they target.

There’s another argument that the tax-credits-for-everything crowd glosses over. Each feel-good credit throws another social program to an IRS that is collapsing under its current workload. They can’t really want IRS agents evaluating at-home care, yet it’s baked into that cake. If you don’t audit a lucrative tax credit, it becomes a fraud magnet. So IRS, meet Grandma.

 

Howard Gleckman, Clinton’s Caregiver Credit Adds To Her List of Tax Breaks, Sharpens Her Contrast With The GOP. “The likely Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, would aggressively use the tax code to achieve social and economic goals, cut taxes on many middle-income people, and raise taxes on high-income households. Every Republican presidential hopeful would eliminate most existing tax subsidies, lower rates, and give big tax cuts to those with high-incomes.”

 

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Robert D. Flach has fresh Tuesday Buzz! Lots of links, and spicy observations on the use of the tax law to run social programs.

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Reminding You That The Gain On That Sale Of Stock May Be Tax Free. “C corporations are like pit bulls and prostate exams — they carry quite the stigma,  but they’re not nearly as bad as they’re made out to be.”

TaxGrrrl, Guilty On Tax & Conspiracy Counts, Couple Faces New Charges For Revenge. Violating the first rule of holes.

Robert Wood, Al Sharpton’s Charity Hikes His Pay 71%, But Tax Liens, Clinton Imprint Remain.

 

Farley Katz, Joseph Perera, Katy David, Important New Partnership Audit Rules Change Taxation of Partnerships (Procedurally Taxing)

Not only can the partnership owe income tax, the tax will not be based on the income for the year in question, but instead on one or more prior years’ income. Consequently, the economic burden of the tax could be borne by partners who had no interest in the partnership when the income was generated. Conversely, if a partnership overstated its income in a prior year, the benefit of correcting that overstatement will accrue to the current partners, not those who were partners in the earlier year. Finally, if a partnership elects out of the new provisions (assuming it is eligible), the IRS will no longer be able to conduct a centralized audit controlling each partner’s distributive share, but will instead have to audit each partner individually,

Excellent article. These new rules will change the dynamics of partnership exams a great deal when they take effect for 2017 filings.

Jack Townsend, Fifth Circuit Sustains Convictions Despite Trial Judge’s Refusal to Give Proper Cheek Willfulness Instruction

 

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Tyler Cowen, Against a financial transactions tax. He cites a paper documenting that such taxes are unwise:  “This is consistent with earlier findings on Sweden’s transactions tax, and that proposal continues to be one of the more overrated ideas in American Progressive political discourse.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 929

Peter Reilly, Foundation Of Big GOP Donor Loses Tax Court Case Over Political Ads

 

Career Corner. Let’s Discuss: Non-Equity Partners in Accounting Firms (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/19/15: Play sober, play taxable (updated). And: Administration says no to permanent bonus depreciation.

Thursday, November 19th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

20150805-2Gaming while sober: maybe halfway right, but not even halfway exempt. See Update Below. Sobering up is hard to do for alcoholics. That’s why they’re alcoholics in the first place.

One of the hard parts is that many of the things you enjoy may be associated with alcohol.  That’s where GameHearts, A Montana Nonprofit Corporation, came in. The Tax Court picks up the story:

On July 14, 2010, GameHearts filed a Form 1023, Application for Recognition of Exemption Under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. In the Form 1023 GameHearts provided the following description of its activities:

    GameHearts is a public benefit nonprofit organization committed to providing alternative forms of entertainment to adult members of the Kalispell area for the purpose of promoting adult sobriety. The program achieves its directive by providing free and low cost tabletop gaming activities in a supervised[,] non-alcoholic, sober environment, along with access to gaming accessories that are provided without cost to the participants. In fact, beginning players can learn and obtain free gaming materials solely for playing.

 

The IRS was unmoved:

In a June 3, 2013, letter respondent notified GameHearts of the conclusion that, on the basis of the information provided, GameHearts did not qualify for exemption under section 501(a) as an organization described in section 501(c)(3) because GameHearts was not organized or operated exclusively for exempt purposes. Respondent based this determination on the conclusion that (1) GameHearts failed to establish that it benefited a charitable class; (2) GameHearts’ nonexempt activities were more substantial than its exempt activities; and (3) GameHearts did not meet the requirements of section 1.501(c)(3)-1(d), Income Tax Regs., “because it did not limit activities to addicts with a low income.”

So the Tax Court got involved. Unfortunately for sober gamers in Montana, the court sided with the IRS:

While it may be laudable, in the light of the administrative record in this case promotion of sober recreation is insufficient justification here for tax-exempt status under a statute that must be construed strictly. The decisive factor here is that the form of recreation offered as therapy also is offered by for-profit entities, and GameHearts even emphasized, in its application for tax exemption, that it would introduce new participants to that for-profit recreational market and “boost the overall market shares of the industry”. We also note that GameHearts received contributions of surplus materials from the industry. While GameHearts itself does not profit from the recreation it offers and could not offer recreational gaming experiences that would compete in the for-profit recreational gaming markets, we conclude nonetheless, consistent with our holdings in Schoger Found. and Wayne Baseball, that recreation is a significant purpose, in addition to the therapy provided, because of the inherently commercial nature of the recreation and the ties to the for-profit recreational gaming industry.

We therefore hold that GameHearts does not operate exclusively for charitable purposes within the meaning of section 501(c)(3). 

In other words, if there’s a market niche for sober gaming in Montana, it should be filled by somebody trying to make money.

Update: Peter Reilly has a well-researched post on this case, and he points out that the “gaming” involved was not casino gambling, which I incorrectly assumed in my initial reading of the article. I have made some modifications to my post to remove implications otherwise, and I thank Peter for his correction and for his in depth story.

Cite: GameHearts, T.C. Memo. 2015-218; No. 20303-13X

 

 

Administration opposes extending bonus depreciation. Tax Analysts reports ($link):

The Obama administration does not support a tax extenders package that would make bonus depreciation permanent, Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew told House Ways and Means Committee Democrats on November 18.

The administration is willing to consider making other tax extenders permanent, including the research credit and small business expensing, as long as the American opportunity tax credit and the expanded child tax and earned income tax credits are made permanent, according to House aides.

Secretary Lew didn’t rule out a “temporary” extension of bonus depreciation, and I suspect that’s what we’ll get.

 

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Russ Fox, IRSAC Report Has Hits and Errors:

IRSAC laments IRS funding. While I agree it would be nice to have the IRS fully funded, the problem was caused by the IRS (and especially Chairman Koskinen) and the IRS scandal. Until the IRS comes clean, Republicans in Congress rightly will not allow full funding.

This is why those who want IRS funding increased should insist on Koskinen’s resignation.

TaxGrrrl, Report Accuses IRS Of Encouraging Illegal Immigrants To File Using False Info, Identity Fraud. Well, increase their budget, then!

 

Jason Dinesen, Choosing a Business Entity: S-Corporation. “S-corporations share many of the same characteristics of partnerships. The biggest difference is, owners who work in the business day-to-day are paid a salary.”

Kay Bell, Start your retirement planning and saving ASAP. Starting in your 20s makes a huge difference as you approach your 60s. 

Robert Wood, Lawyer Faces Up To 50 Years Prison Over Payroll Taxes. Always remit your payroll taxes, no matter who else you need to stiff.

 

Dave Nelson, Preparing for a cyberattack or data breach (IowaBiz.com). “In today’s world of nonstop cyberattacks, companies must prepare for when, not if, they are attacked.”

Leslie Book, International Conference on Taxpayer Rights Kicks off Today. (Procedurally Taxing).

Peter Reilly, Ownership Through LLC Kills Local Charitable Property Tax Exemption. “Disregarded For Federal Purposes Does Not Mean Disregarded For Local Purposes”

 

 

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David Brunori, Business Entities Pay a Lot of State Taxes (Tax Analysts Blog):

In 2014 businesses paid about $142 billion in sales tax, or about 20.7 percent of taxes paid. More distressing is that they paid $5.8 billion more than in the prior year. The sales taxation of business inputs remains one of the greatest tax policy failings of the last 100 years. Business entities should not pay sales taxes on their services. Those taxes get passed on to someone else without their knowledge. Hiding the tax burden goes against every principle of transparent good government.

Iowa’s Department of Revenue has taken a small step to reduce the taxation of business inputs, to the outrage of all sorts of goodthinkers.

 

David Greenberg asks How Has Federal Revenue Changed Over Time? (Tax Policy Blog). This picture sums it up:

taxfoundationchangesinfederalrevenue

The corporation tax continues to decline in importance with the spread in pass-through entities. That won’t change regardless of what economic illiterates would wish.

 

Howard Gleckman, Would Two Year Budgeting Help Break the Fiscal Impasse? I think it would just reschedule the impasses.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 924

Carl Davis, Congress Searches the Couch Cushions for Road Funding Money (Tax Justice Blog).

 

News from the Profession. At Least One SEC Commissioner Has a Sense of Humor (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

20151119-2Things that happened on November 19. Today’s the 152nd anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, when President Lincoln dedicated the Gettysburg battlefield cemetery by saying: “The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.”

81 years later on November 19, another war claimed another young man. A little note and a little remembering here.

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/12/15: W-2 trumps uncertain memory. And: more debate reaction.

Thursday, November 12th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Day 4: Ottumwa! The big first week of The  ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax Schools concludes for the Day 1 teaching team of me, Kristy Maitre and Roger McEowen at Indian Hills Community College in Ottumwa, Iowa today. The Day 2 team of Paul Neiffer, Dave Repp and Patty Fulton will finish up in Red Oak this morning.

It’s been some driving this week:

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If you missed us, there are still four two-day schools left. We hit Mason City next Monday; Maquoketa November 23; Denison December 7; and Ames December 14. The Ames session is available as a webinar. Register today!

 

Sure enough. Few of us (generally only tax preparers) double-check the income reported on our W-2s. We take the employer’s word for it. So does the IRS. That’s the lesson a Californian learned this week in Tax Court.

The taxpayer faced some extra hurdles in filing his 2010 tax returns, according to the Tax Court:

Petitioner was arrested the second week of January of 2011 and was incarcerated until June 2012. Petitioner’s motorhome and van were seized, and he lost all of his records after his arrest and incarceration.

Petitioner did not file a timely return for 2010. On April 1, 2013, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) prepared a substitute for return for 2010 under section 6020(b). The IRS issued a notice of deficiency for 2010 dated July 8, 2013.

Considering the circumstances, you can understand the non-filing, even while realizing he still needed to. But he was nagged by doubts (my emphasis).

As indicated, petitioner conceded all of the income determined in the notice of deficiency with the exception of wage income of $3,767 from Audio Visual Projection Services, Inc., and $404 from Swank Audio Visuals, LLC. These employers issued petitioner 2010 Forms W-2 for the respective amounts. Petitioner explained that because all of his records were lost and his employers often paid him late or not at all, he does not know whether he was paid for all of the work that he performed in 2010.

It’s an interesting defense. He didn’t say he wasn’t paid; he just wasn’t sure. But the court was sure enough (citations omitted, my emphasis):

In unreported income cases, the Commissioner must base the deficiency on some substantive evidence that the taxpayer received the unreported income.  If the Commissioner introduces some evidence that the taxpayer received unreported income, the burden shifts to the taxpayer. The Forms W-2 from Audio Visual Projection Services, Inc., and from Swank Audio Visuals, LLC, are sufficient evidence to shift the burden of proof to petitioner.

We also note that section 6201(d) provides that in any court proceeding, where a taxpayer asserts a reasonable dispute with respect to any item of income reported on an information return and the taxpayer has fully cooperated with the Secretary, the Secretary has the burden of producing reasonable and probative information concerning the deficiency in addition to the information on the return. The key term in the foregoing sentence is “a reasonable dispute.” This Court has concluded that a taxpayer does not raise a reasonable dispute for purposes of section 6201(d) merely by testifying that he is uncertain, cannot remember, or does not know.

Adding insult to uncertain memory, the Tax Court upheld penalties for late filing; being in jail is apparently no excuse.

Cite: McDougall, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-65.

 

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TaxGrrrl bravely live-blogged the GOP debate this week. A handy place to check out what they had to say on taxes.

Kyle Pomerleau, Senator Ted Cruz’s Comment About His Border-Adjusted Tax, Explained (Tax Policy Blog).

Jenice Johnson, Candidates Tax Cuts Unequivocally Skew Toward the Wealthy (Tax Justice Blog). It’s just math. The wealthy pay pretty much all of the taxes, so they will “reap” any tax cuts.

Scott Greenberg, Carson Calls for Eliminating the Mortgage Interest and Charitable Deductions (Tax Policy Blog).

 

Paul Neiffer, When Will We Know Section 179 Amount?. My intrepid tax school colleague ponders the likelihood and timing of the “extender” bill for this year.

Tri-state sales tax webinar! The Iowa Department of Revenue will have a free webinar covering “Sales and Use Tax Basics” for Iowa, South Dakota and Nebraska. It’s easy to get nexus for sales tax. There are plenty of Iowa businesses that need to take care of sales taxes elsewhere.

Ying Sa, My IRS is little (IowaBiz.com). “Many immigrant-owned small businesses begin with a focus on just selling. The rest, such as an income statement, balance sheet and tax compliance, is sometimes unknown to them.”

Insureblog, Worse Insurance, Higher Cost. “The fact is, your insurance is going to get worse and you are going to pay more for it.”

Robert D. Flach, QUESTIONS ANSWERED. Robert answers a reader question on deducting state property taxes.

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2015, #8: Tax-Free Parsonage Allowance Gets A Second Life.

Russ Fox, The Real Winners of the World Series of Poker (2015 Edition). Hint: the winner’s first initial is “I.”

Janet Novack, Here’s How Congress Just Cut Social Security For Baby Boomer Couples. The end of “file and suspend.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 917,

Stuart Gibson, The European Predictability Paradox (Tax Analysts Blog). “Paradox will rule the European tax world, in which certainty will become uncertain and the predictability accorded by advance rulings will become entirely unpredictable.”

Renu Zaretsky, To make money you have to spend money…” Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers the Dell-EMC merger, international tax reform hopes, and lots more.

 

News from the Profession. CPAs Admit That They’re Not Good Business People (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/28/15: Tax Court blocks IRS assessment of Gremlin-era gift tax. And: Impeachment is too good for him.

Wednesday, October 28th, 2015 by Joe Kristan
Wikipedia image ploaded by GrapedApe under Creative Commons license.

Wikipedia image uploaded by GrapedApe under Creative Commons license.

Closing the book on tax disputes arising in the Nixon administration, the Tax Court ruled this week that a taxpayer — the brother of Viacom mogul Sumner Redstone — did not make a taxable gift in 1972 when he transferred corporation shares to a trust as part of a lawsuit settlement.

The facts are confusing. Sumner Redstone’s father Mickey capitalized a business in 1959 but named his sons Sumner and Edward as 1/3 owners. When Edward wanted out and tried to sell his shares, the father refused to provide the certificates, saying that they were held in trust for Mickey’s children. Tax Analysts ($link) explains the result:

Mickey claimed that in 1959, when he created NAI, the shares had been held in an oral trust created at the same time. After months of negotiations, the parties agreed to settle by giving one-third of Edward’s shares to trusts in the benefit of his two children. His remaining shares were sold back to NAI for $5 million.

Edward didn’t consider this a gift, and he never filed a gift tax return for 1972. This left the statute of limitations open on the gift, and the IRS assessed gift tax on Edward’s estate after he died in 2011.

The tax law says there is no gift when property is transferred for full consideration and with no benevolent intent. The IRS says that because the beneficiaries of the trust, Edward’s children, paid nothing for the shares they received in the settlement, the transfer was a taxable gift. The Tax Court disagreed:

The evidence clearly established that Edward transferred stock to his children, not because he wished to do it, but because Mickey demanded that he do it…

Respondent’s argument focuses on whether the transferees provided consideration. But that is not the question the regulation asks. It asks whether the transferor received consideration, that is, whether he made the transfer “for a full and adequate consideration” in money or money’s worth. Sec. 25.2511-1(g)(1), Gift Tax Regs. (emphasis added). We have determined that Edward received “a full and adequate consideration” for his transfer — namely, the recognition by Mickey and Sumner that Edward was the outright owner of 66 2/3 NAI shares and NAI’s agreement to pay Edward $5 million in exchange for those shares. Section 2512(b) and its implementing regulations require that the donor receive “an adequate and full consideration”; they make no reference to the source of that consideration.

Decision for taxpayer.

The Moral? First, there’s no gift to the thief who points a gun at you, and there’s no gift when you transfer shares because you have to.

Perhaps more importantly, gift tax can be assessed forever if you don’t file a gift tax return. If there is any question on whether a gift might have happened, or realistic risk that the IRS will challenge the amount of a gift, it’s wise to file a gift tax return even when it doesn’t appear gift tax is owed. Otherwise the statute of limitations never starts running, and you might be fighting a forty-years war with the tax man.

Cite: Estate of Edward S. Redstone, 145 T.C. No. 11

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 902. A resolution has been introduced to impeach IRS Commissioner Koskinen. While his conduct in office has been awful, I hope they don’t really try to make it happen. It could backfire, and even if he were impeached, there will never be a conviction. I would rather they spend the time and energy reducing the powers of all IRS commissioners by reducing the power of the IRS through tax reform.

Russ Fox, Chaffetz Introduces Impeachment Resolution of IRS Commissioner Koskinen. “My view of this is simple: Mr. Koskinen has become a mouthpiece of the Administration rather than an independent head of the IRS… The IRS’s budget does need to be increased, but that’s not happening until Mr. Koskinen leaves the agency (and the scandal is resolved).

Kay Bell, House GOP seeks impeachment of IRS commissioner

Robert Wood, Impeach IRS Chief, Say Republicans Alleging Lies, Obstruction

 

William Perez, What Every Small Business Owner Should Know About the Health Care Tax Credit

Peter Reilly, Maureen O’Hara’s Ill Fated Cuban Oil Tax Shelter

 

20151028-2Joseph Henchman is Remembering the Deceased Iowa Pumpkin Tax You Helped End (Tax Policy Blog). “It’s a weird tax system that taxes the same item differently depending on the buyer’s intent. I’m sure Iowa pumpkin patches have better things to do than quiz their customers on future pumpkin uses.”

David Brunori, Billionaires Who Want to Tax Poor People (Tax Analysts Blog) “Second, and just to show you that it really is all about the money, the initiative will impose significant taxes on electronic cigarettes. If people really cared about the health risks of smoking, they would be encouraging — indeed subsidizing — electronic cigarettes.”

Howard Gleckman, Gimmicks Galore Litter the Boehner/Obama Budget Deal (TaxVox) “But one thing seems certain: This deal is far worse for fiscal conservatives that the Grand Bargain that Boehner and President Obama nearly reached in July 2012, a deal the speaker never could sell to his restive caucus.”

Caleb Newquist, Florida Still Cranking Out Unsophisticated Tax Schemes (Going Concern): “If you or someone you know is thinking about concocting a haphazard tax fraud, it may be tempting to go with a tried and true method that goes something like this…”

 

Programming Note: My travel schedule will keep me from posting a Tax Roundup tomorrow. See you Friday!

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/23/15: Tax Court dispenses with pot dispensary deductions. And: IRS scam call, captured on tape!

Friday, October 23rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today newsletter visitors: click here to go directly to the rental loss story

 

Cannabis leaf image via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license.

Cannabis leaf image via Wikimedia Commons under Creative Commons license.

Deductions get stoned. Not in a good way. Attitudes towards marijuana have changed a lot in the last 33 years. A recent Gallup Poll shows that 58% of respondents favor weed legalization. But a tax provision enacted in 1982 continues the Reefer War with full vigor, as the operators of a legal California medical marijuana dispensary learned yesterday.

Section 280E, enacted early in the Reagan Administration, is one of the more clear provisions of the income tax. It reads in full:

No deduction or credit shall be allowed for any amount paid or incurred during the taxable year in carrying on any trade or business if such trade or business (or the activities which comprise such trade or business) consists of trafficking in controlled substances (within the meaning of schedule I and II of the Controlled Substances Act) which is prohibited by Federal law or the law of any State in which such trade or business is conducted.

Marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance under federal law, despite its growing legalization at the state level. That means the only deduction allowed to state-legal weed dispensaries and dealers is their cost of goods sold — their direct cost of their inventory. No rent, salaries, benefits, security, depreciation, or any of the other obvious costs of doing business can be deducted.

Canna Care, Inc., a California dispensary, claimed about $870,000 in business deductions over a three-year period. The Tax Court explains (my emphasis, ditations omitted):

Petitioner argues that its actions cannot be considered “trafficking” for purposes of section 280E because its activities were not illegal under California law. Petitioner claims that this conclusion is supported by memoranda issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) on October 19, 2009, and August 29, 2013, and guidance issued by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) on February 14, 2014.

We have previously held the sale of medical marijuana pursuant to California law constitutes trafficking within the meaning of section 280E… DOJ memoranda and FinCEN guidance released after the years at issue that represent exercises of prosecutorial discretion do not change the result in this case. Petitioner regularly bought and sold marijuana. This activity constitutes trafficking within the meaning of section 280E even when permitted by State law.

The taxpayer also argued that its business activities weren’t entirely about marijuana, and that at least some of the activities should therefore be deductible. The Tax Court said that the taxpayer’s evidence wasn’t sufficient to make that case:

Aside from the sale of medical marijuana, petitioner’s only other source of income was the sale of books, T-shirts, and other items. On the basis of the evidence presented, we cannot determine what percentage of petitioner’s income was from the sale of medical marijuana and what percentage was from the sale of other items. Because of the parties’ stipulation, we find that the sale of medical marijuana was petitioner’s primary source of income and that the sale of any other item was an activity incident to its business of distributing medical marijuana.

No deductions. Victory for IRS.

The Moral: Sometime in the next few years I suspect weed will either cease to be a controlled substance or Section 280E will be amended to allow legal pot sellers to deduct their expenses. Until then, dealers will need to mark up their product a lot to cover the taxes on phantom income. If they have other business activities, they need keep records sufficient to separately track the non-pot profits.

The other moral: Don’t use the tax law to do anything other than measure income and collect taxes. Special carve-outs, whether punitive or beneficial, linger long after the moral panic surrounding their enactment passes. In addition to Section 280E, we remain stuck with other moral panic tax provisions. These include Section 409A, enacted in the Enron panic but punishing ordinary businesses and non-profits trying to compensate their employees, and FIRPTA, enacted to combat the threat of Japanese buying up our precious golf courses. The Japanese have moved on to other things, but FIRPTA still clobbers U.S. real estate buyers who fail to realize they need to withhold taxes on purchases from non-U.S. sellers.

Cite: Canna Care, Inc., T.C. Memo 2015-206.

Related: Russ Fox, Up In Smoke, Again. For more on taxes in the early ’80s, TaxGrrrl has Back To The Future: Taxes Now & Then.

 

Ed Brown’s fortress-house sells at auction, reports WMUR.com. The winning bid was $205,000, though the story makes it appear that the winning bidder may also need to pay some accumulated property taxes.

 

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It’s Friday, so celebrate with fresh Buzz from Robert D. Flach. Year-end planning, IRS inflation adjustments, and the S corporation vs. partnership conundrum figure prominently.

William Perez reports on the updated 401(k) Contribution Limits.

Tony Nitti, IRS Redefines ‘Husband’ And ‘Wife’ In Response to Landmark Same-Sex Marriage Decisions.

Caleb Newquist, Company Accused of Being ‘Pharmaceutical Enron’ Doesn’t Appreciate the Sentiment (Going Concern).

Robert Wood, Stock Options 2.0: Twitter CEO Gives His Own Stock To Employees

Peter Reilly, IRS Should Be Asking For Cooperation Not Volunteering. “Audits of non-compliant taxpayers will have them “busted” which is unpleasant, whereas non-compliant taxpayers not being audited make the rest of us feel like chumps.”

Kay Bell, As Ryan gets ready to take on House Speaker role, Ways & Means members jockey for tax-writing chairmanship

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 897. Administration partisans urge continued political administration of the IRS, as they needed the encouragement.

Alan Cole, This Bill to Repeal Obamacare Taxes Would Grow the Economy (Tax Policy Blog). Just eliminating the ridiculous and costly paperwork of the ACA would be an economic boost.

 

Ever wonder what it sounds like to get a phone call from a scammer claiming to be from IRS? Well, you are in luck! A scammer was kind enough to leave a message on my phone at home, which I recorded and uploaded to the link in this sentence.  I believe it is typical of the recorded-message version of the scam, telling me that the IRS “is filing a lawsuit against you” and telling me to call a number to “get more information on this case file.”

The IRS does not call you to tell you they are suing you. They use the old-fashioned U.S. Postal Service, and if they can’t find you, they will use genuine U.S. Marshals to serve you papers. Believe me, if the IRS is after you, you will know you have a problem, and that knowledge won’t come over the phone.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/21/15: The tax law doesn’t care where you are on the autism spectrum. And: Iowa sales tax rule change praised.

Wednesday, October 21st, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20151014-1No Asperger exception to Section 475. It’s heads they win, tails you lose for capital gains and losses. If you have capital gains, they’re happy to tax them, no matter how many you have. If you have capital losses, you are limited to gains plus $3,000 per year, with the remainder carrying forward — even if you have to outlive Methuselah to use them up at $3,000 annually. Many sadder-but-wider former day traders have found themselves with this problem.

Section 475 offers some taxpayers a way out. If you qualify as a “trader,” a Section 475 election makes your losses fully deductible. It makes your gains ordinary, rather than capital, and it requires you to recognize gains and losses on your open positions at year-end, but that’s not a big deal for day traders. They tend to trade short-term, and short-term gains are taxed at ordinary rates anyway, and marking-to-market isn’t normally a big deal to them.

But Section 475 has a strict election requirement. You have to make the election no later than the April 15 of the year you want the election to take effect. For example, a taxpayer wanting to make the election effective for 2015 tax returns would have to make the election on his 2014 timely-filed 1040 due April 15, 2015.

A New York man claimed he made the election on his 2003 1040. Unfortunately, he made two serious mistakes. See if you can spot them in the Tax Court’s summary:

In 2003 on the advice of his accountant, petitioner intended to file a section 475(f) mark-to-market election. Petitioner, however, did not retain a signed copy of any election or any evidence of mailing it. Petitioner filed his Federal income tax return for the tax year 2003 on July 25, 2005. The 2003 tax return contained a statement that petitioner had made an election pursuant to section 475(f), but did not have a copy of Form 3115, Application for Change in Accounting Method, attached to it.

Error 1: Not keeping a copy of the election (assuming he made it).

Error 2: Not filing until over a year after the due date.

Other cases have shown that the IRS enforces the timely-filing requirements of Section 475 strictly, to keep taxpayers from making the election with the benefit of hindsight.

The Court ruled that he traded enough to qualify as a “trader” under the tax law, but that he blew the election (my emphasis):

We find that petitioner failed to comply with the requirements for the mark-to-market election set out in Rev. Proc. 99-17, supra. The evidence does not show conclusively whether petitioner signed or mailed a Form 3115 in 2003. Petitioner did not submit a copy of any executed version of Form 3115 or any evidence of mailing it. Respondent did not find any record of petitioner’s Form 3115 in his electronic database, but also admitted that in some years not all Forms 3115 received were actually entered in the database. Next, petitioner filed his Federal income tax return for 2003 on July 25, 2005, failing to comply with the filing deadlines.

There’s a lot in that paragraph. Perhaps the most important thing is that the IRS admits that it doesn’t always know what you file, so it’s wise to keep your returns forever in case something like this happens. The other thing is that the deadlines matter.

The taxpayer made an unusual argument to get out of penalties: that his Asperger Syndrome made it impossible to meet deadlines. The Tax Court wasn’t convinced:

For a number of years, including 2002 and 2003, petitioner worked as a high school teacher. There is no evidence in the record that at any time from 2001 through 2006 petitioner filed for a disability accommodation while he was employed as a school teacher. In 2007 petitioner was trading in securities. Petitioner’s work station was equipped with six monitors showing the status of his trades. Petitioner was able to collect, analyze, and organize information to base his trades on. Petitioner understood he had a duty to file tax returns but claims that in 2007 he was “despondent” because of the losses he suffered and could not organize himself to file a tax return timely.

We are sympathetic to petitioner’s plight. We cannot find, however, under these circumstances that petitioner’s mental condition prevented him from managing his business affairs.

This is consistent with other cases where the courts have found that if you are able to deal with the challenges of daily life, you are presumed to be able to file your returns on time.

The Moral: File your returns on time, and keep copies of your filings forever.

Cite: Poppe, T.C. Memo 2015-205

Related: TaxProf, Tax Court: Asperger’s Syndrome Does Not Excuse Taxpayer’s Failure To File Tax Return

 

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David Brunori calls the Iowa proposal to broaden the definition of manufacturing supplies subject to exemption from sales tax The Best Tax Policy Proposal of the Year (Tax Analysts Blog):

Taxing what business entities buy is wrong for two important reasons. First, businesses will try to pass the tax they pay on to their customers in the form of higher prices. Almost all succeed. The customers incur the tax burden without knowing it. That’s wrong. Even for those companies that don’t pass the tax along to customers, some person is unwittingly paying the tax. Second, when consumers pay higher prices, they are sometimes subject to tax. Thus, the sales tax is imposed on a value that includes previous sales tax. You may know it as cascading or pyramiding. But it’s wrong.

And that’s why the Iowa proposal is so refreshingly right. It would expand the types of business purchases exempt from sales tax. My understanding is that there is a debate in Iowa about whether the Department of Revenue can expand the number of exempt business purchases administratively. I don’t know the answer to that. I do know that the proposal represents sound tax policy.

Governor Branstad says expects the proposal to be enacted, reports the Sioux City Journal in Branstad: House GOP won’t buck rule change.

 

Russ Fox, The Wagering Excise Tax and DFS:

I’m focusing on the tax aspects of daily fantasy sports (DFS) this week. It’s beneficial for DFS participants for the activity to be considered gambling. For political reasons (“gambling is a sin”) and regulatory reasons (gambling is regulated, skill contests are not), the DFS sites want to be considered skill games sites. There’s another reason that DFS sites don’t want to be considered gambling: the wagering excise tax.

Picking the right horse at the track is a skill, too, but I’m pretty sure it counts as gambling.

 

Paul Neiffer, What is a Marginal Tax Bracket. A useful explanation for the non-specialist of how tax brackets work.

Kay Bell, Increased e-filing security planned for 2016 filing season. Better at least five years too late than never, I suppose.

Jim Maule, Beachfront House Rental Deduction Washed Out. When you try to deduct what looks like a beach party, you’d better have excellent documentation.

Eric Rasmusen, Law Suit for Billions Against Citigroup Because of Treasury’s 2009 Waiver of Section 382’s Rule about Losing NOL’s after an Ownership Change. The Administration put the fix in for its friends at Citigroup, and now another taxpayer is suing.

 

20151021-2

 

Tax Policy Blog, A Comparison of Presidential Tax Plans and Their Economic Effects.

Renu Zaretsky, “There’s no cut like a tax cut… There’s no cut like a tax cut…” Today’s TaxVox tax headline roundup covers the continuing fiscal pain in Kansas and the IRS patting itself on the back on ID theft after letting it spiral out of control for years.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 895

 

Quotable: 

Our media outlets dismiss the opponents of the Ex-Im bank or people who want to wind down Freddie and Fannie as Tea Party nut cases. If you want to stop crony capitalism, what we need are fewer influential media outlets and more Tea Party nut cases.

Arnold Kling

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/19/15: Keeping a calendar pays off big for Brooklyn apartment owner. And: Irwin Schiff dies in prison.

Monday, October 19th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150811-1Marking time pays. If you ever think owning income property is easy money, a Tax Court case last week might make you think twice. But the case also shows how keeping track of the time you spend can make a big difference if the IRS questions your rental losses.

The taxpayer couple owned “a four-floor mulifamily house” in Brooklyn. The couple lived on the first two floors, and rented out the two remaining floors as two apartments. He had a day job involving construction, but he also had his hands full with the apartment.

The couple claimed just under $70,000 of rental losses between 2010 and 2011. The IRS challenged the losses. The IRS has a good track record in rental loss cases because the tax law sets a high bar for deducting them. Such losses are automatically “passive,” and deductible only to the extent of “passive income,” unless you are a “real estate professional.” To be a real estate professional, you have to

  1. work more than 750 hours in a real estate trade or business during the year, and
  2. Your real estate work has to take more time than anything else you do.

It’s that second test that usually trips up people with day jobs. The taxpayer here, though, had an advantage, as Special Trial Judge Panuthos explains:

For purposes of the requirement in section 469(c)(7)(B)(i) [the real estate professional test], a real property trade or business includes construction and reconstruction. Sec. 469(c)(7)(C). 

So that meant the rental activity didn’t have to take more time than the day job. But the real estate professional rule doesn’t automatically make a rental loss deductible. The taxpayer still had to show that he “materially participated” to avoid the passive loss rule. Material participation is generally based on time spent working on the activity during the year, with 500 hours annually being the most common threshold used.  Fortunately, the taxpayer kept track of his time:

We used petitioner’s contemporaneous activity log to calculate the amount of time that he spent on the rental property. We included the amount of time petitioner recorded in his contemporaneous activity log for the work related to the tenants’ apartments and two-thirds of the amount of time petitioner recorded in his contemporaneous activity log for the work related to the common areas. On the basis of these calculations, we conclude that petitioner spent 1,008 hours performing services with respect to the rental activity for 2010. Because the 1,008 hours meets the more-than-500-hour requirement of section 1.469-5T(a)(1), Temporary Income Tax Regs., supra, petitioner meets this requirement for the 2010 taxable year. Accordingly, petitioner materially participated in the rental real estate activity for 2010, and petitioner’s 2010 rental real estate activity was not a passive activity.

That’s a lot of time. So much for the idea that rental income is easy money. The taxpayer’s records also carried the day for 2011. In total, the recordkeeping saved the taxpayer $25,174.60 in taxes and penalties that the Tax Court overturned.

The Moral? Keeping a daily calendar of your time is the best antidote to an IRS passive loss examination. It may seem like a hassle, but as this case shows, it can turn out to be the best investment of time you can make if the IRS comes for a visit.

Cite: Simmons-Brown, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-62.

 

Irwin SchiffTax Protester Schiff dies in prisonIrwin Schiff, a prominent figure among those denying the general application of the income tax, died in prison last week, reports Peter Reilly. Mr. Schiff, 87, had been diagnosed with lung cancer while serving a 13-year sentence for practicing what he unwisely preached. Peter’s humane and thoughtful coverage includes this:

When I first encountered Schiff’s arguments in the nineties I was so impressed by how well put together they were, that I found it difficult to believe that they were constructed by someone who believed them, as citations always checked out, but were wildly out of context.  Irwin, however, has proved his sincerity.  That doesn’t make his arguments right, but it does merit some grudging admiration.

Mr. Schiff’s story shows that however sincerely you believe that the income tax doesn’t apply to you, your sincerity does little good when the IRS, the U.S. Marshals, the federal judges, and the Bureau of Prisons think it does. And they do.

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Russ Fox, That Was the Year that Was. Russ reflects on the filing season ended last week:

Calling the IRS was almost a joke. The “Practitioner Priority Service” hold times were so bad that I’d hate to think of what they were for regular numbers. Unfortunately, I see no improvement possible with the IRS budget until the IRS scandal is resolved. That’s not going to happen until we have a new President, so we have probably two more years of misery in dealing with the IRS.

At least.

Robert D. Flach, NO COST OF LIVING INCREASE FOR SOCIAL SECURITY RECIPIENTS FOR 2016

William Perez, Where to Find and How to Read Tax Tables

Annette Nellen, Responsible Governance – Tax break bills vetoed! “What happened – On 10/10/15, Governor Brown vetoed nine bills that either created or expanded a tax credit or exclusion or exemption.”

 

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Alan Cole, How Do Property Taxes Vary Across The Country? (Tax Policy Blog). The post feature a handy interactive map showing the average property tax deduction taken in each U.S. county in 2013.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 891Day 892ay 893. Day 892 covers the connection between Lois Lerner and a bureaucrat behind the outrageous Wisconsin “John Doe” investigations of conservative organizations.

Howard Gleckman, The Debt Limit: Here We Go Again (TaxVox).

Kay Bell, GOP presidential candidates tax trash talk on Twitter

Robert Wood, Execs Get 10 Years Prison Over Company Taxes? Yes, Here’s How. Robert covers the Arrow Trucking saga.

TaxGrrrl, As TIGTA Continues To Warn On IRS Scams, New Treasury Scams Surface. “In one version, scammers advise that an individual has been awarded a grant or a similar sum of money and in order to collect, the individual needs to provide personal information or a sum of money to ‘release’ the funds. It sounds a little bit like those lottery scams making the rounds but the use of the name of the Office of the Treasury seems to make individuals believe that it’s more legitimate”

 

News from the Profession. A Noncomprehensive List of Morale Boosters for Accounting Firms (Leona May, Going Concern). “Accounting firms, who generally eat their young, are all competing for ‘who has the best perks’ in race to scoop up all of the competent new hires.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/14/15: The return’s not joint without that Jane Hancock. And: Iowa supplies rule advances.

Wednesday, October 14th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

1040 signature blockSignatures matter. A Tax Court case yesterday reminds us that even though they seem like an afterthought, the IRS cares whether you sign your paper return.

A busy executive mailed the family’s 2000 1040 near the October 15, 2001 extended due date. Possibly through a miscommunication, his wife failed to sign the return before he took it to the office to mail near the deadline. The Tax Court takes up the story (citations omitted):

Sometime after the Andover Service Center received the original 2000 return, respondent returned it to petitioners. The Internal Revenue Manual (IRM) requires the examining agent to perform certain actions before sending a return back to a taxpayer. The examining agent must attach certain forms explaining to the taxpayer why the return is being sent back, what needs to be done with respect to the tax return, and when is the deadline to comply and resubmit the return.

Petitioners claim they received a date-stamped original 2000 return with some red ink marks on it but did not receive any attached correspondence. The date on the stamp was October 15, 2001.

They never signed or re-submitted the return, and it apparently didn’t occur to the taxpayers to ask their CPA why they got it back:

[The husband] explained that he was not alarmed to have received back the original tax return with some red ink marks on it because he requested copies of his tax returns from time to time for various business reasons.

That doesn’t sound right. They had a tax preparer who would normally keep copies of client tax returns. Why would anyone go through the hassle of getting one from the government when you can call your tax man?

The tax year came up for audit, and the taxpayers tried to get 2000 dismissed on the grounds that the 3-year statute of limitations had expired. The statute only starts to run once a return is filed, and the IRS said that with only one signature, there was never a legitimate joint return. The Tax Court discussed and rejected two taxpayer arguments on why the return should count: the “substantial compliance doctrine” and the “tacit consent” doctrine. The first one was easy: filing with only one signature is not “substantial compliance” when both are required.

The “tacit consent” doctrine is more interesting. Again from the Tax Court:

At the outset of our discussion of the tacit consent doctrine, we note that courts generally apply this doctrine when one spouse signs a joint return for both spouses and it is later shown that the other spouse has tacitly consented to the joint return filing.  Most of the cases that petitioners cite follow this general pattern.

This happens in real life more than I care to think about. But Judge Laro ruled that it didn’t fit here where there is no second signature at all:

Extending the application of the tacit consent doctrine to cases such as the current case has the potential of creating an exception that would swallow the rule. We believe sufficient administrative mechanisms are already in place to deal with such situations. Existing procedures described in the regulations and the IRM provide how to handle documents when one of two required signatures is missing. At the very least, a nonsigning spouse who did not intend to file a joint return may be alerted that something is wrong.

Decision for IRS.

The Moral? It’s always best to get both signatures. Better still to not run to the deadline, where it’s easy to miss one. Best of all is to e-file, so the IRS has no manual signature issues in the first place, and your signed e-file authorization is safely in the hands of your e-file originator.

Cite: Reifler, T.C. Memo. 2015-199

 

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Iowa rule on sales tax of manufacturing supplies passes first test. The legislative rules committee yesterday split 5-5 on a party-line vote on a Democratic objection to the rule. The split vote allows the rule to go forward, and probably means it will become final, according to this report by O. Kay Henderson.

The rule would flesh out the definition of consumable manufacturing supplies that are exempt from Iowa sales tax. This has been a contentious issue for years, one that has been a large portion of disputes at the Iowa Department of Revenue. Good tax policy favors a broad definition, as good sales tax policy doesn’t tax business inputs in the first place. But it turns out that the people who most benefit from tax receipts — state employees — don’t care for things that deprive them of their cash flows. From the report:

“I don’t believe it’s ever been done, to use the rule-making process to cut taxes. That seems like a heck of a precedent,” says AFSCME Council 61 Danny Homan, head of the union that represents the largest share of state workers.

He says all 150 legislators should vote on the proposal and Homan accuses Branstad of abusing executive power to try to cut taxes for corporations.

“After, on July 2, the governor vetoed $55 million in one-time appropriations for schools and vetoed funding for the MHIs in Clarinda and Mount Pleasant,” Homan says. “It seems like he’s got money to reward his friends, but he doesn’t have money for education and he doesn’t have money for folks that are suffering from mental illness.”

There is so much wrong with the idea that all of this money is the Governor’s to give out, and that the only problem is that he isn’t giving it to state employees. It’s a great example of why public employee unions as bargaining units are an awful idea.

 

William Perez, Do Your Home Improvements Qualify for the Residential Energy Tax Credits? “Homeowners who install solar panels or make other energy-efficient improvements to their home may qualify for a federal tax credit.”

Jason Dinesen, Are Tax Preparers Who Operate on Volume Doomed? It would be a blessing, actually.

Peter Reilly, A Twisted Tale Of New Jersey Use Tax,

TaxGrrrl, Losers Like Me: Fantasy Sports Sites Like FanDuel Attract Billions And Scrutiny As Popularity Grows

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Daring To Take On The Section 263A Adjustment. A key part of the 1986 tax reform process, it is a monument to the baneful tax policy consequences of the tax revenue scoring process.

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Scott Greenberg, NY Times Reporter Casts Doubt on Financial Transactions Taxes (Tax Policy Blog). They are an awful idea.

Howard Gleckman, How A Carbon Tax Could Have Prevented The Volkswagen Diesel Scandal (TaxVox)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 888. Today’s link discusses a GAO report on how the IRS has failed to enact safeguards against continued political bias in IRS operations.

 

And finally: With first Wrigley clinch, Cubs move on to NLCS.

 

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

Friday, October 2nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

The “dependent” part was bad news:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related Links:

IRS publication 969.

Kiplinger, FAQs about Health Savings Accounts.

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Robert Wood, Marijuana Goes Native American And Tax Free

 

20151002-1

 

David Henderson, via Don Boudreaux:

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

Putting the “great” in the Great Depression.

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/23/15: Certified mail > Stamps.com. And more!

Wednesday, September 23rd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

certifiedTiming is everything. While electronic filing solves proof of filing questions for many returns, not everything is e-filed. While the IRS “mailbox rule” holds that things mailed by the due date are considered filed on time, it’s up to the taxpayer to prove timely mailing. I recommend Certified Mail with a post office postmark and return receipt requested, though a shipping slip from a “qualified private delivery service” also works.

But not a Stamps.com postmark. A taxpayer sent a petition to the Tax Court, which does provide for electronic filing of petitions. The taxpayer used certified mail, and the date on the Stamps.com mark was on time, but the petition arrived late. That went badly (my emphasis):

In the instant case, the “sender’s receipt for certified mail” was not postmarked by a USPS employee but rather was handwritten by an employee of petitioner’s counsel. Therefore, sending the petition by certified mail afforded petitioner no guarantee of a timely postmark, and he assumed the risk that the postmark would bear a date on or before the last day of the 90-day period prescribed for filing the petition. Unfortunately for petitioner, the Stamps.com “postmark” upon which he relies is superseded by USPS Tracking data, which tracking data serves as a postmark, see Boultbee v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2011-11, and is therefore conclusive in determining whether the petition was timely mailed, see sec. 301.7502-1(c)(1)(iii)(B)(3), Proced. & Admin. Regs. In the instant case, USPS Tracking data demonstrates that the petition was not timely mailed.

The Moral: you want to protect yourself using certified mail, you should make a trip to the post office. Marking the certified mail slip in the office mailroom doesn’t do the job; neither does a postage meter or Stamps.com

Cite: Tilden, T.C. Memo. 2015-188.

 

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Quotable: 

I’ve read so many blog posts taking victory laps on Obamacare, but surely something is wrong when our most scientific study of the question rather effortlessly coughs up phrases such as “but most uninsured will lose” and also “Average welfare for the uninsured population would be estimated to decline after the ACA if all members of that population obtained coverage.”  The simple point is that people still have to pay some part of the cost for this health insurance and a) they were getting some health care to begin with, and b) the value of the policy to them is often worth less than its subsidized price.

-Tyler Cowen (Marginal Revolution), The incidence of the ACA mandates

Alan Cole, The Cadillac Tax is Still Probably Raising Deductibles (Tax Policy Blog).  “The news website Vox today covered the issue of rising deductibles in the U.S. health care market. As with their past coverage of the issue, there is a curious omission from the piece: the Cadillac tax.”

 

Jason Dinesen, The Difference Between Not-for-Profit and Tax-Exempt. “Not-for-profit is a legal term,” but “Tax-exempt is a federal tax term.”

Robert Wood, Who Pays Tax On Business Sale? Ask Warren Buffett. Warren likes taxes paid by other people.

TaxGrrrl, 2015 Tax Season ‘Miserable’ For Many Taxpayers: Will It Get Better In 2016?

Russ Fox, Kiplinger’s Tax-Friendly and Least Tax-Friendly States: Bring Me (Mostly) the Usual Suspects. Iowa’s somewhere in the middle. Delaware is rated best, California worst.

 

Kay Bell, Senators seek Treasury Secretary’s help in hiking IRS budget. I’m sure they’ll get it.

Peter Reilly, Tax Rules Forbid Churches From Endorsing Candidates, Will IRS Take Action? “If Pope Francis starts “feeling the Bern” will the taxman show up at St. Patrick’s Cathedral?”

Robert D Flach, IT’S NOT ALL OR NOTHING AT ALL. “Once again the idiots in Congress have put off dealing with the now infamous ‘tax extenders’. And once again these idiots will probably extend the entire lot for at least one more year at year-end.”

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 867

David Brunori, Don’t Be Fooled — Services Should Be Subject to Sales Tax (Tax Analysts Blog) “Most services aren’t subject to sales tax in most states. From a tax policy perspective, that’s no good. The sales tax should fall on all final consumption — preferably at a very low rate. So everything we buy should be subject to tax.”

Howard Gleckman, Senate Democrats Would Take Some Small Steps To Clean Up Energy Tax Breaks (TaxVox) “The government is still picking winners and losers—it is subsidizing clean energy—but at least it would no longer hyper-manage the process by creating one set of subsidies for hydrogen and another for solar panels.”

Matt Gardner, It’s Not the Real Thing: Coca-Cola Hit with $3.3 Billion Tax Bill for Fake “Foreign Income” (Tax Justice Blog).

 

Cause: The Most (Montana) And Least (Washington) Fair State & Local Tax Systems (TaxProf)

Effect: Crackdown On Luxury Car Owners Dodging Taxes With Montana Registration (CBS Minnesota)

 

The Dangers of Video Games. PAC man says 1MDB left US$975m loan off the books, suggests fraud (Malaymail Online)

 

Speak for yourself, buddy. Your Firm’s Website Sucks; How to Help Improve It and Boost Your Career at the Same Time (Brian Swanson, Going Concern).

 

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/22/15: A resounding call to document your mileage. And: preparer regulation, IRS service, lots more!

Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

No Walnut STYou know you’re having a bad day in Tax Court when:

After concessions, the remaining issue relating to deductions claimed on petitioner’s Schedule A is whether she is entitled to deduct an additional $1,616 of mileage expense that she claimed as part of her unreimbursed employee business expense deduction. The answer is a resounding no.

I’m pretty sure that the Tax Court judges never read their opinions out loud, so I don’t think it was literally resounding. Still, it’s fun to imagine Judge Marvel calling the court into session, calling out a booming “NO!” and then adjourning.

The “no” may hae been resounding because of a little error the Judge detected in the taxpayer’s evidence. The taxpayer claimed mileage deductions for going between work locations. Travel expenses have to meet the special substantiation requirements of Sec. 274(d), where the taxpayer maintains evidence, such as calendars or mileage logs, to prove the deduction. This taxpayer went through a lot of effort generating a log from her work history. However…

Petitioner testified at length regarding how she prepared the reconstructed log. She testified under oath that she had worked for both ATC and MSN throughout 2007 and carefully explained her work assignments for each employer, including her work assignments for ATC from January through September 2007. Unfortunately for petitioner, the document that ATC provided to her summarizing her work history with ATC shows that she did not start her employment at ATC until October 2007. That document demolished any credibility that petitioner’s reconstructed log and her sworn testimony might otherwise have had. [emphasis added]

The Moral? No matter how much effort goes into reconstructing your unreimbursed work mileage, it doesn’t help you if you didn’t actually have the job.

Cite: Spjute, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-58

 

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Bryan Camp has a long piece in Tax Notes today ($link) arguing that the IRS can and should “cut and paste” its way into a new preparer regulation regime. I won’t argue the legalisms, though I think if the IRS thought it plausible, it would have tried it already.

I will point out that in an article with 101 footnotes, there is no discussion of additional costs to the taxpayers, or whether the benefits exceed those costs. He discusses evidence that “unregulated” preparers make more errors, and he assumes that regulation will fix the problem. That’s not necessarily so. It’s hard to imagine the perfunctory examination and CPE requirements of the old RTRP program would improved preparation. You can make somebody take a test, but you can’t make them competent.

Mr. Camp also ignores the unintended but predictable effects of the inevitably-increased price of preparation on the quality of tax returns received by IRS. If prep price goes up, more taxpayers will do their own returns, almost certainly at a higher error rate than from paid-for preparation. Other taxpayers will drop out of the system rather than pay higher prep costs.

In short, regulation advocates assume regulation will solve the problems of inaccurate returns. That’s unproven but unlikely. It is likely, though, that it will increase taxpayer costs and push customers away from paid preparers, which creates a new set of problems.

Related: Leslie Book, AICPA Defends CPA Turf and Challenges IRS Efforts to Regulate Unenrolled Preparers (Procedurally Taxing)

 

buzz20140909Robert D. Flach has fresh Buzz today, with links ranging from silly tax proposals to silly home office deductions.

Paul Neiffer, What About Those AFRs? “Periodically I will get a question from a client asking me ‘How much interest they have to charge on a loan to their child or some other related party?’. ”

Kay Bell, Meet Obamacare deadlines or pay the higher tax price. “If you don’t file last year’s return, you won’t be able to claim an advance premium tax credit to help you pay for your 2016 Obamacare coverage.”

William Perez, What Tax Documents to Bring to Your Accountant?

 

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Making Sense Of Partnership Book-Ups. A primer on adjusting capital accounts to reflect the price paid when partners enter or leave a partnership.

Russ Fox, We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Phone Calls.

So let’s translate this into reality. In the 2013 fiscal year, 22,363,345 phone calls were attempted to various IRS toll-free lines; 15,609,615 were answered (69.8%). In the 2015 fiscal year, 22,013,468 phone calls were attempted to various IRS toll-free lines; 8,277,064 were answered (37.6%). As for the time on hold allegedly decreasing to 23.5 minutes, perhaps that’s after excluding all the time some of the 7 million people who called but whose calls were dropped or who hung up spent on the phone.

I think the IRS cuts in customer service are a sort of “Washington Monument Strategy” of cutting the most visible and useful aspects of taxpayer service to pressure Congress into providing more funds. I’ll believe the IRS is serious about its customer service issues when the IRS takes its 200 employees who spend all of their time doing Treasury Employee Union work and puts them on the phones.

Robert Wood, Let’s Tax Churches. I’m sure that won’t be controversial…

Peter Reilly, The Tax Code Explained & Why It Matters In This Presidential Race (No, It’s Not 70K Pages)

Jack Townsend, Wyly Brothers Seek Bankruptcy Relief from Disgorgement Order from Offshore Shenanigans

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 866

Martin Sullivan, Donald Buffett? (Tax Analysts Blog). Looking for tax wisdom in all the wrong places.

Renu Zaretsky, Inversions, Schools, and Supermarkets. Today’s TaxVox roundup covers the ground from tax increases in Chicago to tax favors for supermarkets in Baltimore.

 

Sebastian Johnson, Progressive Era Reform Can Be Anything But Progressive (Tax Justice Blog). “Supermajority requirements and tax and spending limits, two frequently proposed ballot measures, are not designed to promote the well-being of states.”

The point isn’t the well being of the state; it’s the well-being of the citizens.

 

News from the Profession. Accountant Hiding on the Appalachian Trail Has the Mugshot to Prove It (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). “If you were an accountant accused of making off with about $9 million of your employer’s money, I can think of few places better to hide than the wilderness.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/11/15: The pitfalls of putting loss generators in a tax-exempt entity. And: Robert remembers a client.

Friday, September 11th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20150911-2When the income isn’t taxable, the losses aren’t deductible. Some stockbrokers like to buy publicly-traded natural resource partnerships as IRA investments. I dislike them because those partnerships can trigger Unrelated Business Income Tax in an otherwise tax-exempt IRA.

An attorney in Virginia illustrated another problem with IRA partnership investments in Tax Court yesterday. From the opinion by Judge Haines:

Petitioner maintained a traditional IRA during 2009 and used it to buy and sell various securities, including shares of two master limited partnerships that were involved in the oil and gas pipeline and storage industry–Atlas Pipeline Partners, L.P. (Atlas), and Crosstex Energy, L.P. (Crosstex). Petitioner received a Schedule K-1, Partner’s Share of Income, Deductions, Credits, etc., from Atlas reporting a $66,075 ordinary business loss for 2009. The Schedule K-1 indicated “Trad IRA VFTC as Custodian” and stated that the partner was an “IRA/SEP/KEOGH”. Petitioner reported this loss on the Schedule E,  Supplemental Income and Loss, attached to his 2009 Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return. Petitioner received a Schedule K-1 from Crosstex reporting a $22,793 ordinary business loss for 2009 and stating that the partner was an “IRA/SEP/KEOGH”. Petitioner also reported this loss on the Schedule E attached to his 2009 Form 1040.

This would have been a remarkable result, if it worked. Individual owners of publicly-traded partnerships have their K-1 losses automatically disallowed under the passive loss rules. Unlike other passive losses, those from publicly-traded partnerships can’t offset other passive income; they can only offset future income from the same partnership, until the partnership is sold.

Within an IRA, though, the losses are never allowed. The tax law allows IRAs to earn income without current tax. The idea is to help taxpayers accumulate funds for retirement. Any tax is deferred until you withdraw funds from the IRA. The downside of this is that losses are also deferred. The only way to deduct a loss from IRA investments is to completely close out the IRA. That only works if you have made non-deductible contributions to the IRA, giving you basis. From IRS.gov, Publication 590b:

If you have a loss on your traditional IRA investment, you can recognize (include) the loss on your income tax return, but only when all the amounts in all your traditional IRA accounts have been distributed to you and the total distributions are less than your unrecovered basis, if any.

Your basis is the total amount of the nondeductible contributions in your traditional IRAs.

You claim the loss as a miscellaneous itemized deduction, subject to the 2%-of-adjusted-gross-income limit that applies to certain miscellaneous itemized deductions on Schedule A (Form 1040). Any such losses are added back to taxable income for purposes of calculating the alternative minimum tax.

Our attorney was having none of that. From the Tax Court:

Petitioner argues, in part, that an IRA has “all of the attributes of a grantor trust and is therefore a pass through entity which makes all items of income, deduction and credit treated as belonging * * * [to him] and reportable on * * * [his] individual tax return”.

I’m sure he would have taken that same principled position if those K-1s generated a bunch of taxable income.

Petitioner advances various tax policy arguments which he believes support this position. For example, he contends that restricting an IRA holder’s ability to deduct a loss that occurs when an investment held by  the IRA is sold thwarts congressional intent to encourage individuals to save for retirement. He also claims that requiring retirees to completely liquidate their IRAs in order to recognize a deductible loss is “unreasonable, arbitrary, capricious and completely unworkable for savers dependent upon IRA/SEP income for their retirement.”

Unfortunately, heads-I-win, tails-you-lose only works for the IRS. Again from the Tax Court:

While petitioner may not agree with the way the law is written and may have reasons that he believes support changing the law, we cannot do that for him.

Silly lawyer. Only the Supreme Court can rewrite tax law.

The Moral: IRA investments in partnerships can give you the worst of both worlds. You can make a tax-exempt entity taxable (or much worse, if you invest in the wrong partnership), but your losses are almost never useful.

Cite: Fish, T.C. Memo 2015-176.

 

Jared Walczak, Liz Malm, Where Does Your State Stand on State & Local Debt Per Capita? (Tax Policy Blog):

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This is one measure where Iowa looks pretty good.

 

MOE BARRYRobert D. Flach, NEVER FORGET. Robert remembers a client who died 14 years ago today in New York.

Kay Bell, Fantasy football payouts mean real income taxes. Don’t worry, it’s made up for by the lowered income taxes of employers resulting from lost productivity during Fantasy season.

Jim Maule, Tax Client and Tax Return Preparer Meet Up in People’s Court.  “[A] preparer ought not accommodate a client who wants a return that does not comply with the law. It’s that simple.”

Peter Reilly, Jeb Bush And The Spirit Of 1986. “Somebody should tell Jeb Bush that tax accountants don’t write the Internal Revenue Code and it is a lot shorter than he thinks it is.”

Keith Fogg, IRS Inaction in Prior Years Provides Path to Penalty Relief for Substantial Understatement Penalty – Fire and Rain (Procedurally Taxing).

Robert Wood, Marijuana Taxes Go Up In Smoke On Sept. 16. In Colorado, for one day only. Mark your calendars!

TaxGrrrl, Over 2,000 Businesses Send Letter To Congress Demanding Attention To Tax Extenders Bill. They’ll get to it when they get to it, peasants!

Russ Fox, How Should Multiple Buy-Ins for a Poker Tournament be Handled on a W-2G? I have no idea what he’s talking about, but I’m sure many of you do.

Jack Townsend, Another Swiss Bank Obtains NPA Under DOJ Swiss Bank Program. If you want to skip taxes with the help of offshore bank secrecy, it’s not likely to work.

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Joseph Thorndike, Don’t Bother Fixing the Tax Code Unless You Fix the IRS Too (Tax Analysts Blog). “Because even a good tax law will fail when administered by a bad agency.”

Howard Gleckman, The Cost of the Bush Tax Cuts, and What It Might Mean (TaxVox). “My colleagues at the Tax Policy Center plan to have their own estimates of the distributional and revenue cost of his plan soon. But there is no doubt the plan is a huge tax cut.”

Bob McIntyre, Bush and Trump’s “Populist” Tax Rhetoric Is All Talk (Tax Justice Blog).

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 855

News from the Profession. AICPA Survey: College Students Overconfident, Exaggerate, Delusional, Etc. Etc. About Their Personal Finance Skills (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/9/15: Meredith HQ stays in Iowa despite taxes. And: Walter Mitty, Chiropractor — not Ghostbuster.

Wednesday, September 9th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

 

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A part of the Meredith campus in Downtown Des Moines.

Meredith Corporation will keep its headquarters in Des Moines, reports the Des Moines Register. The Des Moines-based media company yesterday announced its acquisition by Media General, a Virginia-based company. From the Register report:

Virginia-based Media General will acquire Meredith in a cash-and-stock sale, forming a new company — Meredith Media General — that will combine Meredith’s list of women-focused magazines and 17 local TV stations with Media General’s 71 TV stations and digital media assets.

“We have our corporate headquarters in Des Moines, my management team … we all live in Des Moines, our staff are in Des Moines. We will continue to be in Des Moines,” Lacy said. He will serve as CEO and president of the new company.

Meredith Media General will be incorporated in Virginia, but have corporate offices in both Richmond, Va., and Des Moines.

It’s an interesting compromise. With the CEO of the combined company already located in Des Moines, it’s unsurprising that he will run things from here, everything else being equal.

Yet not everything is equal. Des Moines is an expensive place tax-wise to run a corporate headquarters, according to the Tax Foundation’s Location Matters report. Iowa is the 4th most expensive state in which to locate a corporate headquarters, while Virginia is the 12th cheapest. 20150901-1

Fortunately for Des Moines, non-tax factors apparently outweighed the tax issues. These might include the in-place infrastructure for Meredith’s publishing arm, including Better Homes and Gardens and Martha Stewart Living. Still, those 900 Des Moines Meredith jobs might be more secure with a better tax environment. Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan, anyone?

 

Tony Nitti, Child’s Unauthorized Incorporation Of Father’s Business Proves Costly In Tax Court. “Raising kids comes with some well-known hazards: sleepless nights, spit-up stained clothes, and of course, the occasional flailing elbow to the genitalia. What you probably don’t anticipate upon the miracle of childbirth, however, is that one day your kid will take it upon himself to incorporate your business via the internet, costing you tens of thousands in tax deductions.”

Robert D. Flach, THE NATP TAX FORUM AND EXPO IN PHILADELPHIA – PART I. “The one thing that is missing from the NATP Tax Forum offering is the IRS perspective.”

Kay Bell, Tax scam callers now spoofing telephone numbers

TaxGrrrl, IRS To Refuse Checks Greater Than $100 Million Beginning In 2016

 

Scott Greenberg, The Carried Interest Debate is Mostly Overblown (Tax Policy Blog). Mostly? Almost entirely.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 854

Career Corner. 5 Ways Accountants Can Protect Themselves from the Accountapocalypse (Chris Hooper, Going Concern)

 

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Who knew being a Chiropractor could be so exciting? James Thurber created the character Walter Mitty, “… a meek, mild man with a vivid fantasy life: in a few dozen paragraphs he imagines himself a wartime pilot, an emergency-room surgeon, and a devil-may-care killer.”

A Minnesota chiropractor, a Mr. Laudon, seems to have reprised the Mitty role on his tax return. If his Tax Court testimony is to believed, chiropractic practice can be pretty exciting. From the Tax Court:

He said that his patients often called him a psychiatrist, chauffeur, physician, peace officer, or even a pheasant hunter.2 Some of Laudon’s stated reasons for making these trips strain credibility: for example, driving to a “schizophrenic” patient who was — on more than one occasion — “running scared of demons” down a rural Minnesota highway, or driving to a patient’s home in a Minneapolis suburb — expensing 261 miles — because he had received a call from police that she had overdosed on OxyContin prescribed by her physician. Laudon claimed to have driven hundreds of miles per day — sometimes without a valid license — to see patients, but several of these trips were for medical procedures he was not licensed to perform.

Laudon contends that the Commissioner failed to classify certain deposits as nontaxable, including insurance payments for damage to several vehicles, one of which was involved in a “high speed police chase” with a man “high on meth and cocaine.”

IMG_1583Note that footnote 2, we’ll get to that in a minute. I never knew that a chiropractor could have such an exciting life. Law enforcement, mental health, high-speed chases — even exorcism, it seems.  Is there anything he couldn’t do? Well, back to footnote 2:

But not a ghostbuster. The Commissioner rhetorically asserted that some of Laudon’s trips might have made more sense if he was claiming to be a ghostbuster. Laudon then disclaimed any employment as a ghostbuster. In his reply brief the Commissioner conceded that Laudon was not “employed or under contract to perform work as a ghostbuster during the tax years at issue in this case.” We therefore need make no finding on the existence of a market for “supernatural elimination” in west-central Minnesota. See “Ghostbusters” (Columbia Pictures 1984).

In case you couldn’t tell, this is a Judge Holmes opinion.

Walter Mitty’s dreams didn’t go well, as his fantasy life had him in front of a fantasy firing squad. Things went badly for our chiropractor too. The court found both his documentation and his credibility lacking, including this about his mileage logs:

Laudon claimed to have driven hundreds of miles per day — sometimes without a valid license — to see patients, but several of these trips were for medical procedures he was not licensed to perform. Even his testimony about multiple entries in the logs where he wrote “DUI” was not credible: He claimed that these were not references to being stopped by police while under the influence, or driving while his license was suspended, but instead were his misspellings of a patient named “Dewey” — a supposed patient of his. He testified that he took one business trip to pick up a patient left stranded due to a domestic dispute with his girlfriend. And he even testified about trips he made to test his patients’ urine:

    Absolutely we do * * * [test urine]. It’s part of the — I believe it’s Federal, you know, that they have — we have to abide by that. It’s specific gravity. You’re basically, looking for sugar, let alone height, weight, blood pressure. Make sure they’re not drunk, doing illegal drugs.

We find Laudon not credible in his testimony regarding his business mileage, and this finding affects our views of his testimony’s credibility on every other issue in the case.

The taxpayer reported taxable losses from 2007-2009 ranging from $60,000 to $84,000. That alone is a challenge to credibility. The IRS added $346,000 to his income for the three years, and the Tax Court upheld the IRS with only minor changes. Among the disallowed expenses were “a Microsoft Xbox 360, Nintendo Wii, and numerous pieces of hair-salon equipment.” So, a barber, too.

The Moral? There might be more to that mild-mannered chiropractor than you imagined. But if there is, he needs to keep good records when the IRS comes calling.

Cite: Laudon, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-54

Russ Fox is also on the case: Ghost Hunter, Pheasant Hunter, or Deduction Hunter: No Matter, He Loses at Tax Court

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/12/15: Bad news: blogging doesn’t make your vacation deductible. And more great stuff!

Wednesday, August 12th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

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Accounting Today visitors: the due date post is here.

Road Trip! I had a great time on vacation last month, but it would have been sweeter if I could figure out a way to deduct it. Maybe if I mentioned it here at the Tax Update Blog? Alas, a Tax Court case this week thwarts my cunning scheme.

The Tax Court takes up the story:

In June 2008 petitioner’s adventure began. Over the next 5-1/2 months, petitioner made his way across the continents of Europe and Africa and even made a foray into the Middle East.

Throughout his journey petitioner updated his blog with anecdotes and pictures from his travels. While petitioner included details about some of the sites he saw, places he stayed, and food he ate, many of his explanations do not give enough details for a reader to find the specific site, lodgings, or restaurant described. For example in petitioner’s Paris blog entry he states: “[W]e hit up The [sic] BEST ice cream in Europe. * * * there are a couple of places that serve it and pricing is much higher at one (the ‘tourist’ one as Jeff put it) than at the other one. We walked past the tourist one, which had a huge crowd and walked down the street about half a block to the other one.” Petitioner does not give any more details about where in Paris the best ice cream in Europe can be found.

Petitioner did keep copies of all his receipts, flight confirmations, lodging confirmations, tour confirmations, rail passes, shuttle confirmations, bank statements, tour vouchers, credit card statements, and other miscellaneous receipts from the trip.

The problem wasn’t so much the recordkeeping, then, but the business plan:

Petitioner realized as he traveled, and even more so after he returned to the United States, that the market was already saturated with international backpacking blogs and that his plan for generating income through affiliate sales from his blog would not be profitable. Petitioner then shifted his focus to writing books about his travels and the insights he gained while traveling.

One way to ease the pain of a bad business plan is to deduct the losses:

Petitioner timely filed his 2008 Federal income tax return (return). He listed “world travel guide” as his principal business on the Schedule C, Profit or Loss From Business, attached to the return. On the Schedule C, petitioner did not report any business gross receipts or gross income. He claimed total expenses of and reported a net business loss of $39,138. As part of his net business loss, petitioner claimed deductions for travel expenses of $19,347, deductible meals and entertainment expenses of $6,314, and other expenses of $5,431.

The IRS threw a wrench in this part of the business plan by disallowing the loss under the Section 183 “hobby loss rules.” These rules disallow losses on business activities not really entered into for profit. The Tax Court reviewed nine factors that are used to distinguish a real business from a hobby, and found against the taxpayer (my emphasis::

Petitioner did not maintain any books or records for the activity. He had no written business plan and no estimate as to when his Web site would be operational, when his books would be published, or when he would begin to earn income from the activity. Although petitioner documented and retained receipts for his travel-related expenses, merely maintaining receipts is not enough to indicate a profit motive…

Furthermore, petitioner did not investigate the activity before embarking on his trip. Petitioner incurred over $39,000 in expenses before doing any research into the activity’s profitability. This is an indication that the activity was not engaged in for profit.

My favorite part of the opinion is this footnote, where the court tells us what a “blog” is:

“Blog” is a truncation of the expression “Web log”, which is a regularly updated Web site or Web page written in an informal or conversational style and typically run by an individual or small group.

So now we know.

The Moral? Travel may be broadening, and fun, but not necessarily deductible. Before spending $39,000 on it, you might want to figure out how to earn it back first.

Cite: Pingel, T.C. Summ. Op. 2015-48.

 

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Tony Nitti, Teacher Fails To Qualify As Real Estate Professional: Who Can Pass The “More Than Half” Test?. Tony discusses the case we covered here yesterday.

Paul Neiffer, Don’t Use Your Product When Preparing a Tax Return. I think it depends a lot on the product, but Paul gets more specific in the text: “…it is apparent that you should not be using marijuana when preparing your income tax return.”

Jack Townsend, Two U.S. Return Preparer Enablers Sentenced for Offshore Account Conspiracy.

Russ Fox, There’s Innocent FBAR Violations, and There’s This. But jailing an occasional real tax violator doesn’t justify shooting jaywalkers.

 

Robert Nadler, Spousal Abuse Continues to Provide a Powerful Basis for Innocent Spouse Relief (Procedurally Taxing).

Robert Wood, Trump, Taxes, Tampons, And Snoop Dogg

TaxGrrrl, Defendants Sentenced For Stealing 9,000 Identities, Including Army Soldiers

 

David Brunori, Taxing Beer (Tax Analysts Blog):

The lowest excise tax rates are in Wyoming, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Missouri, and Oregon. To put it in context, Tennessee taxes beer at $1.29 a gallon. Wyoming’s tax is $0.02 a gallon. Buy your beer in Cheyenne.

I wonder if Jack Daniels has an effective lobby in the Tennessee statehouse.

 

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Joseph Henchman, Ten Years of the North Carolina Lottery (and Why It’s In Part a Tax) (Tax Policy Blog):

The Lottery was set up ten years ago as a state enterprise to generate revenue for education programs. 50 percent of gross sales are paid out as prizes, 7 percent paid to retailers as a commission, 8 percent to pay for operations (including advertising, which cannot exceed 1 percent of total revenues), and 35 percent to the state for education funding. Additionally, winners pay income tax on their prizes. The odds are not great – table games in casinos have much better odds – but the Lottery has no real competition as it is state-sanctioned.

Think of it as a tax on people who are bad at math.

 

Howard Gleckman, Clinton Would Tinker With, Not Rewrite, the Tax Code. (TaxVox). And what the tax law really needs is more tinkering, right?

Kay Bell, Is Obamacare headed back to the Supreme Court yet again? I think Justice Roberts has made it clear that he will find a way to protect the mess from all challenges.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 825. Today the Prof links to Peter Reilly’s concession that just maybe Lois Lerner ran a biased shop.

 

News from the Profession. New Study Validates Old Accountant Joke (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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