Posts Tagged ‘tax reform’

Tax Roundup, 10/22/14: Remembering tax reform.

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

19861022President Reagan signed the Tax Reform Act of 1986 28 years ago today. In hindsight, the tax law that resulted seems like a beacon of simplicity, with its 28% top rates and its lack of a capital gain differential.

Looking hard at the 1986 Act, we can see some warning signs. It enacted a temporary research credit, setting the stage for the semi-annual parade of expiring provisions. It included the current alternative minimum tax, which adds huge complexity to individual compliance. It had some benefits that phased out based on income, such as passive losses for active renters and for some IRA contributors. But at the time those could be seen as flaws to be fixed. Instead, they were weeds that would be cultivated.

I count 47 “major” post-tax reform tax laws in the Tax Policy Center list. Every one of them has done its part to undo tax reform. Most of them are represented on my souvenir bookshelf, which has tax law summaries going back to 1984. The left half of the top shelf takes us from 1984 through the 1986 reforms. The rest of it is tax reform’s undoing.

20141022-1

While each law did its little damage to the tax law, I look at President Bush’s signing of the 1990 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act as the moment when things really began to unravel. OBRA increased in the top rate to 31%, uncoupled the capital gain rate from the ordinary income rate, and enacted the foul phaseouts of itemized deductions and the standard deduction that dishonestly increased the top effective rate over the top stated rate.

Three Presidents and dozens of bills later, we have individual rates over 40%, considering phaseouts and the Obamacare surtaxes. We have dozens of regularly expiring provisions that require lobbyists to pay homage to the taxwriters every year or two. We have unprecedented complexity that forces even smart taxpayers with simple financial lives to pay to get their returns done. And we have land mines all over the tax law, including foreign reporting provisions that can impose $10,000 penalties on taxpayers who have paid all of their taxes.

It’s all a depressing story. Still, 1986 did happen. Top rates came down from 50% to 28%. The base was broadened and rates reduced. It happened once, so maybe it can happen again.

 

The internet ate my first shot at this post, so just a very quick roundup today.

 

20141003-2Tony Nitti, IRS Sheds Light On The Use Of The Recurring Item Exception

 

Mitch Maahs, IRS Revises Offshore Voluntary Compliance Programs (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Kay Bell, NY tax scammers copying fake IRS tax call template

Peter Reilly, IRS Collection Action Can Be Delayed For A Long Time

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 531

David Brunori, Tax Ballot Predictions (Tax Analysts Blog)

Tracy Gordon, Bertha and the French Professor: Lessons for Public Private Partnerships (TaxVox)

Richard Borean, Tax Foundation Awards for Outstanding Achievement in State Tax Reform in 2014 (Tax Policy Blog). No Iowans — no surprise.

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 3/21/14: Reforming S corporations to a frazzle. And: cleaning up at the laundromat!

Friday, March 21st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

S-SidewalkThe legislative process has been likened to sausage making.  Sausage doesn’t get more appetizing if you keep looking at it closely over a period of weeks, and neither does the Camp “tax reform” plan.  Andrew Lundeen and Kyle Pomerleau at the Tax Policy Blog today highlight some gristly features of the grand effort by the head GOP taxwriter:

The proposal leaves in place high tax rates for many S corporations, subjects them to additional payroll taxes, creates new distortions between types of industries, and produces two tax rate bubbles.

They note these major S corporation changes:

Creates Different Tax Treatment for Manufacturing and Non-Manufacturing Industries

Camp’s tax reform package introduces complication with a new 10 percent surtax for non-manufacturing income. To make things more complicated, the additional 10 percent surtax would be calculated on a different income scale: modified adjusted gross income or MAGI. This essentially creates two side by side tax codes, a la the AMT, and individuals and businesses would have to calculate their AGI for one and their MAGI for the other.

As I noted, it doesn’t simplify the code by getting rid of the economically foolish Section 199 production deduction; it just moves it to a different section.

20140321-1

The Difference between Active and Passive Shareholders

The difference between active and passive shareholders is important for determining the marginal tax rates for S corporations under Chairman Camp’s plan.

That’s true now, but you’d expect a “reform” plan to get rid of this sort of gratuitous and difficult-to-enforce difference.

20140321-2

Changes to Self-Employment Taxes: the 70/30 Split Rule for SECA Taxes

Under current law, the IRS requires business owners to pay themselves a reasonable wage in order to prevent people from gaming this income distinction in order to avoid the extra 15.3 percent payroll tax hit.

Camp’s plan would replace the current reasonable wage standard with a 70/30 split, changing the rules for active shareholders. The rule would require that active shareholders of S corporations report 70 percent of their total earning as wage income.

I think it’s just one step on the way to a 100/0 split.

Tax Rate Bubble

Another element of Camp’s tax plan is the creation marginal tax rate bubbles. This occurs when a marginal tax rate, for example, goes from 10 percent to 15 percent and back down to 10 percent. We have a post that discusses the marginal tax rates under Camp’s plan, which you can find here.

When a “reform” plan comes with so many phase-outs and distortions, it’s not actually reforming anything.  I think the Camp plan will come to be seen as a false move and a lost opportunity.

 

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): K Is For Keogh Plans   

20140321-3TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 316

William Perez, Average Sales Tax Rates by State: 2014, highlighting a Tax Policy Blog analysis.

Annette Nellen, Revenues versus tax collections.  “A recent blog post on LinkedIn’s Sales and Use Tax Legislative Updates included a comment from B.J. Pritchett suggesting that what governments collect in taxes should not be called “revenues” because it is not from selling goods and services.”

Tax Justice BlogState News Quick Hits: Don’t Expect Much from Congress.  Always a good idea.

Kay Bell, Senate Finance plans tax extenders vote for week of March 31.  She links to an article quoting a Senate Finance spokeswoman as saying “No decisions have been made on the content of the measure or the timing for a committee session and vote.”

Howard Gleckman, Fiscal Reality Check: Will Congress Pay for the Tax Extenders and the Doc Fix?  Extenders themselves are a scam.  Congress passes them over and over a year at a time so they can pretend that they cost less than they do — funky accounting that would get a public company CFO jail time, but standard procedure in Congress.

 

Jack Townsend, U.S. Attorney Enabler Sentenced for Assisting Offshore Evasion 

 

A new Cavalcade of Risk is up at Insurance Regulatory Law.  The Cavalcade is a venerable roundup of insurance and risk-management posts.  Hank Stern’s contribution, an interview with Neal Halder of Principal Financial Group about their “accelerated underwriting” process for life insurance, is a great read.

Jason Dinesen, Fair Warning: More Baseball Posts to Pop Up this Year.  That’s a good thing.

 

20140321-4Think he reported this income?  Man With Deep Pockets Busted Stealing a Lot of Laundry Money (Going Concern):

Just how many loads of laundry could one do with $460,000 in stolen quarters?

That’s probably not the question asked by public works inspector Thomas Rica, who pleaded guilty this week to stealing that much in quarters from the meter collection room of the New Jersey town for which he worked.

At the laundromats I used back in school, that would have been nearly enough quarters to get your clothes dry.

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 3/7/14: Expanded Iowa 10-and-10 capital gain break advances. And: more rave reviews for Camp plan!

Friday, March 7th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1Expansion of Iowa 10-and-10 gain exclusion advances.  The bill to expand the availability of Iowa’s super-long-term capital gain break cleared its first legislative hurdle this week, as a House Ways and Means subcommittee approved H.F. 2129.

Iowa allows an exclusion from state taxable income of certain capital gains when the taxpayer meets both a 10-year material participation test and a ten-year holding period test.  This exclusion is available for liquidating asset sales and the individual tax on corporate liquidations, but is not available if the taxpayer is selling partnership assets or corporation stock to a third party, or for sales of less than “substantially all” of a business.

H.F. 2129 expands the exclusion “to include the sale of all or substantially all of a stock or equity interest in the business, whether the business is held as  a sole proprietorship, corporation, partnership, joint venture, trust, limited liability company, or other business entity.”

This would be a big change for Iowa entrepreneurs.  Consider how the current law affects a business started by two partners, with one older than the other.  The older partner retires more than ten years and pays full Iowa capital gain tax when he is redeemed out.  A few years later, the younger partner sells the business and retires himself.  The younger guy gets out with no Iowa capital gain tax under current law.  Under H.F. 2129, in contrast the 10-and-10 exemption would be available in both cases.

A “Fiscal Note” prepared by the Legislative Services Agency on the bill provides some statewide numbers:

Using State and federal tax returns of Iowa taxpayers, the Department of Revenue identified 369 tax returns reporting a capital gain for tax year 2012 where the taxpayer had participated in the business for a minimum of 10 years.

The total capital gain identified on those 369 returns that would be eligible under the capital gains exclusion expansion proposed in HF 2129 is $28.0 million.

Is this a good thing?  I think all capital gains should be tax-free, because they represent either a double-tax on the capital invested in them or, worse, a tax on inflation.  Anything that relieves this is arguably a good thing.  Still, it’s a complex carve-out for a limited class of taxpayers, one that creates a lot of errors by taxpayers who take the deduction erroneously or fail to use it when they are eligible; that sort of thing is almost a definition of bad tax policy. The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan would provide a much better approach.

 

O. Kay Henderson, Two tax cuts passed in 2013 showing up in February’s state tax report (Radio Iowa).  The increase in the Iowa Earned Income Tax Credit is properly understood as an increase in a welfare program and a poverty trap,  not a tax cut.

 

20140307-1Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: Passive Activity/Passive Activity Losses   

William Perez, Need to File a 2010 Tax Return? Deadlines and Resources.  Why 2010?  The statute of limitations for 2010 refunds expires April 15, 2014.

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): C Is For Clothing And Costumes.  Good stuff.    Related: Dress for success, but don’t look to the IRS for any fashion help.

Russ Fox, Your Check Might Not be in the Mail:

I used to live in Orange County, California. Earlier this week a US Postal Service caught fire as it was heading toward an airport after leaving the Santa Ana mail sorting center. So if you mailed something on Monday, March 3rd from ZIP Codes starting with 926, 927, 928, 906, 917 and 918, it might have been burnt to a crisp. All the mail the truck was carrying was destroyed (an estimated 120,000 pieces).

Another argument for electronic filing and payment.

Kay Bell, IRS criminal investigators are putting more tax crooks in jail.  If you are cheating on taxes big-time, you are a lot more likely to get caught than you might think.

 

taxanalystslogoThat means it must be a weekday.  More Arrogance and Secrecy From the IRS  (Christopher Bergin, Tax Analysts Blog):

I don’t know if these apparent political decisions were made by Lerner or others either inside or outside the IRS, because trying to get information out of that agency is like trying to get sweat out of a rock. Over the years, it has fought the silliest things. I’m only half kidding when I say that if you asked the IRS to see the kind of staplers it’s using, it would tell you it doesn’t have staplers.

The IRS will go to great lengths not to be scrutinized. And that breeds an atmosphere of no accountability — which leads to arrogance. We have seen that arrogance consistently throughout the congressional investigations of several IRS officials. And where will it lead us? Not to a good place, especially for those of us getting ready to file our yearly income tax returns. A tax collector that treats its “customers” as guilty until proven innocent is a tax collector out of control. That is precisely what the national taxpayer advocate has been warning about. If IRS officials don’t believe they are accountable to Congress, the rest of us don’t stand a chance.

This is part of an excellent and thoughtful post, written more in sorrow than anger by a long-time observer of the agency; you really should read the whole thing.  I’ll add that all of these seemingly endemic problems in IRS should warn us off the Taxpayer Advocate’s awful idea of giving IRS more control over the tax preparers who help taxpayers deal with the out-of-control agency.

 

Jack Townsend, Fifth Amendment and Immunity in Congressional Hearings.  Good discussion of the law, in spite of his calling the Issa investigations a “witch hunt.”  It’s the job of Congress to oversee federal agencies, especially an agency that has already admitted gross misbehavior here.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 302

 

20130113-3More rave reviews for the Camp “Tax Reform” plan:

William McBride, Camp and Obama Gang up on Savers

Kyle Pomerleau, Are Capital Gains and Dividend Income Tax Rates Really Lower Under the Camp Tax Reform Plan?  “If you take into account all the phase-outs of deductions and benefits in the Camp plan, marginal tax rates on capital gains and dividends are higher than current law at certain income levels.”

Tax Justice Blog, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp Proposes Tax Overhaul that Fails to Raise Revenue, Enhance Fairness, or End Offshore Tax Shelters

 

Roberton Williams, A Web Tool to Calculate ACA Tax Penalties  (TaxVox).  “It is often said the tax is $95, but for many people it will be much more.”

News from the Profession.  Some CPA Exam Candidates Skeptical the Illinois Board of Examiners Can Tell Time (Going Concern)

 

Peter Reilly, Could You Make Tax Protester Theories Work For You?:

If you are willing to entirely discount the quite remote chance of criminal prosecution, it may well be a decent percentage play particularly if you are just about maximizing your current lifestyle rather than accumulating net worth and entirely amoral when it comes to meeting tax obligations…

I still think it is a really terrible idea to enact Hendrickson’s strategy, but that’s just me.

No, it’s not just you, Peter.  And unless your income is generally not subject to third-party reporting like W-2s or 1099s, you will be caught, and then clobbered by back taxes, penalties and interest.

 

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 3/4/14: Des Moines votes on refunding illegal tax. And: life after football!

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20121002-2Des Moines voters decide today whether to approve a legal tax to refund a similar tax imposed illegally.  The Des Moines Register reports:

A special election Tuesday will determine how the city pays back a portion of a franchise fee it illegally collected from 2004 to 2009.

The Iowa Legislature gave Des Moines the authority to temporarily increase its franchise fee — a tax assessed on anyone who connects to electric and natural gas utilities — to pay off the judgment.

However, if voters reject the proposal, city officials will be forced to raise property taxes for at least 20 years in order to issue and pay municipal bonds to cover the court judgment.

When the tax was ruled illegal, the city appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court before finally conceding that it would have to issue refunds — incurring enormous legal bills in the process, including a $7 million bill to the winning lawyers on the other side.  From the District Court opinion awarding the fee:

This case has been in our courts since 2004.  To say it was highly contested would be a gross understatement.  The history of this case shows that the City, while it was entitled to do so, erected one barrier after another in an attempt to prevent the class from being successful in obtaining a refund.  Almost without exception, class counsel was successful in dismantling each of those barriers.

It just goes to show that the city will do the right thing, once it has exhausted all appeals.  Maybe next time they won’t be so quick to enact an illegal tax.

The state legislature voted to allow Des Moines to impose the tax legally to repay the illegal tax.  Somehow I doubt the legislature would do a similar favor for taxpayers by letting them, say, legally not pay income tax for a few years to help them repay the taxes they had illegally avoided in prior years.  

 

William Perez, Deducting Work-Related Expenses

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): A is for Affordable Care Act

Leslie Book, EITC Snapshot: Overclaims and Commercial Preparer Usage (Procedurally Taxing).  “In fact, there is a steady decline in the use of paid preparers among EITC claimants, while the rate of paid preparer usage overall has remained fairly steady.”

Another reason why preparer regulation to cut fraud is like pushing on a string.

Jack Townsend, The Scariest Tax Form? Scary Is in the Eye of the Beholder.  I think the article he cites, which chooses Form 5471, makes a good case, considering the almost-automatic $10,000 fine for filing it late.

Kay Bell,  Tax moves to make in March 2014

 

TaxProf, Tax Court Issues 63-Page Opinion Debunking Cracking the Code Book

 

taxanalystslogoTax Analysts Blog is having a tax reform party:

Clint Stretch, 10 Reasons Republicans Should Embrace the Camp Tax Bill.  This is pretty faint praise:  “2. If they want a credible claim that Obama and Democrats are responsible for the failure of tax reform, they must pass a bill in the House.”

Jeremy Scott, Comparing the Camp and Obama Bank Taxes:

Including the bank tax in his plan is one of Camp’s most intriguing decisions, if only because the gain for him isn’t obvious, even after a closer look. The tax doesn’t raise much money. It is very similar to an Obama proposal that congressional Democrats didn’t really like, meaning it doesn’t buy the chair any bipartisan support. And it comes about four years too late to take advantage of widespread public anger at financial institutions. All Camp seems to have accomplished is legitimizing a revenue raiser for future use by the progressive caucus and undermining his own party’s opposition to this kind of tax increase.

Just… brilliant.  I prefer ending the “too big to fail” subsidy directly, if necessary by denying deposit insurance to such institutions.

Martin Sullivan, 25 Interesting Features of Camp’s New Tax Reform Plan.  “Biggest disappointment. Camp and fellow House Republicans all but promised to reduce the top rate to 25 percent. They failed.”

Christopher Bergin, Tax Reform Only a Mother Could Love:

Many political observers think the GOP has a good chance of not only increasing its majority in the House, but also taking the majority in the Senate. I’m among those who believe that the Republicans will shoot themselves in the foot before that happens. I’ll bet there are more than a few Republicans this week who fear that Camp just put a bullet in the chamber.

I think the Camp plan will be quietly forgotten long before November, but there is still plenty of time for the GOP to demonstrate its skills with a Glock 40.

Norton Francis, Camp Tax Reform Would Create New Challenges for States (TaxVox).  The repeal of the deduction for state and local taxes and limits on muni bonds won’t win friends in the state capitals.

 

National Review, via InstapunditThe IRS Is the Problem:

Representative Camp’s thou-shalt-not list is fine so far as it goes, and, unlike the IRS bureaucracy, Congress does have the authority to rewrite the law. But his proposal falls short in that it assumes that the IRS is a proper and desirable regulator of political speech. It is not. It is not even particularly admirable in its execution of its legitimate mission, the collection of revenue: Its employees have committed felonies in releasing the confidential tax information of such political enemies as the National Organization for Marriage and Mitt Romney, and the agency itself has perversely interpreted federal privacy rules as protecting the criminal leakers at the IRS rather than the victims of their crimes. 

Instapundit comments: “Abolish governmental immunity and make them personally liable for damages for misconduct.”  Hard to argue with that; it would be a good addition to my “Sauce For the Gander” reforms.  I still don’t understand why a nonprofit should lose its exempt status for being primarily political.  Isn’t freewheeling debate a good thing?  The IRS certainly hasn’t shown itself a neutral observer here.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 299

 

Scott Drenkard, Johannes Schmidt, Guess Which State Has the Highest Liquor Taxes in the Nation? (Tax Policy Blog).  Think coffee.

 

Preparing for life after football.  Two former members of a Sioux Falls indoor football league team may have to change their post-athletic career plans.  From the Sioux Falls Argus:

A federal grand jury has indicted six people for conspiracy to defraud the United States and aggravated identity theft.

Two of those indicted – Undra Stewart Franks, 27, and Donta Moore, 28 – are former Sioux Falls Storm players.

The new federal indictment says Moore, Franks and the others conspired to defraud victims by using names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth stolen from others to file fraudulent income tax returns that claimed false income tax refunds.

Identity theft isn’t just a Florida thing.  If you deal with Social Security numbers at work, treat them as valuable confidential data — because that’s what they are.  Guard your own identity by never giving out your social security numbers, protecting your bank account info, and being sure never to transmit those things in unencrypted e-mails.  If you need to send documents with that info electronically, use a secure file transfer site, like our rothcpa.filetransfers.net.

 

News from the Profession.  10 People Not Cut Out to Be Partner (Going Concern)

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 2/27/14: Doomed Tax Reform Frenzy Edition.

Thursday, February 27th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

President Reagan signs PL 99-514, the Tax Reform Act of 1986.
When I think of income tax reform, I think big.  I think of massive elimination of tax deductionPresident Reagan signs PL 99-514, the Tax Reform Act of 1986.s, with great big rate reductions as consolation for taxpayers that lose their breaks.  I look for elimination of alternative ways of tracking income and deductions, with the idea that one way that everyone can understand is better than special breaks for different industries.  I look to eliminate double taxation of income everywhere, including elimination of capital gain taxes and integration of the corporate and individual systems.

By these standards, the tax reform plan put forth by Dave Camp, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is a disappointment.  While it would make many simplifying changes to the tax law while rates, it would leave behind a system that would still be very recognizable to a Rip Van Taxman who fell asleep in 1993.  It prunes tax complexity, but it doesn’t begin to clear the forest.

Still, politics being what it is, trimming the weed sanctuary is probably the best we can expect.  Maybe better than we can expect.

 

Tony Nitti has already posted detailed walk-throughs of the individual and business parts of the proposal, so there’s no point in me repeating his work.  Instead I will list some of the bigger changes proposed, with my commentary.  I don’t expect anything like the Camp plan to be enacted during the current administration, but I think it gives us an idea of the kinds of changes that could happen after 2016, if the stars align.

Individual Rates.  The bill would have a three-bracket tax system: 10%, 25%, and 35%.  The 35% bracket would replace the current 39.6% bracket, and would only apply to income other than “qualifying domestic manufacturing income.”  Lowering rates is fine, but this would retain the stupid difference between manufacturing income and other income embodied in the current Section 199 deduction.  It’s a complex and economically illiterate break for a favored class of income paid for by higher rates on all other income.

Capital gains and dividends would be taxed as ordinary income, but only after a 40% exclusion.  That would be a 21% net rate on 35% taxable income. (Initially I said 14%, math is hard).

Against the forces that have risen on K Street, there is no victory.

Against the power that has risen on K Street, there is no victory.

Deductions would be trimmed back.  The maximum home mortgage interest debt allowed for deductions would be $500,000, instead of the current $1.1 million.  Medical deductions would go away.  Standard deductions would increase to $11,000 for individuals and $22,000 for joint filers.  Many itemized deductions would reduce taxes only at the 25% rate, rather than the 35% top rate.  Charitable deductions would be simplified, but only deductible to the extent they exceed 2% of AGI.  The deduction for state and local taxes would be eliminated.

The increase in the standard deduction is an excellent idea.  I’m fine with reducing the mortgage interest deduction.   The limiting of deductions to the 25% rate is pointless revenue-raising complexity.  The elimination of the medical deduction will be a real burden on people in skilled nursing care; they are the people who generally can take this deduction.  Taxing them while they burn through their assets paying nursing home costs  will only put them into title 19 that much sooner.

While I am sympathetic with the policy reasons for not allowing a deduction for state and local taxes, those reasons don’t apply to taxes arising from pass-through business income.  State taxes are a cost of doing business for those folks, and should be deductible accordingly.

Alternative Minimum Tax would go away.  About time.

Corporate rates.  The proposal replaces the current multi-rate corporate tax with a flat 25% rate.  Excellent idea, as far as it goes, but it is flawed by the 35% individual top rate; it provides a motivation to game income between the individual and corporate system.

The proposal eliminates a number of energy credits while retaining the research credit.  I think that it would be better to get rid of the research credit and lower rates.  I think the IRS is no more capable of identifying and rewarding research than it is of fairly administering political distinctions.  Unfortunately, the credit seems to be a sacred cow among taxwriters.

Incredibly, the Camp corporate system gets rid of the Section 199 deduction while retaining a similar concept for individual rates.  Here it doesn’t get rid of pointless and economically foolish complexity; it just moves it around in the code.

LIFO inventories go away under the proposal.  As this comes up every proposal, it’s going to happen sometime.

Carried interests become taxable as ordinary income.  This is more complexity, apparently a sop to populist rhetoric.

Pass-throughs would be tweaked.  S corporation elections would be easier to make, and could be delayed until return time.  Built-in gains would only be taxable in the first five years after an S corporation election, instead of ten years.  Basis adjustments on partnership interest transactions would be mandatory, instead of elective.

Fixed assets would have mixed treatment.  While the Secti0n 179 deduction would permanently go to $250,000, depreciation would go to a system more like the pre-1986 ACRS system than the current MACRS system.

20120702-2Cash basis accounting would be more widely available, and fully available to Farmers and sole proprietors.  This is a step in the wrong direction.  Advocates of cash accounting say that it provides “simplicity,” implying that poor farmers just can’t handle inventory accounting.  Meanwhile these “poor” bumpkins play this system like a fiddle, manipulating cash method accounting to achieve results that are only available through fraud to the rest of us.  Modern farm operations with GPS, custom planting and nutrient plans, and multi-million dollar asset bases are as able to handle accrual accounting as any other business of similar size.

There’s plenty more to the plan, but you get the idea.  I find it disappointing that they don’t replace the current system of C and S corporations with a single system with full dividend deductibility.  I find the treatment of preferences and tax credit subsidies half-hearted.  I think there should be fewer deductions, fewer credits, and a much bigger standard deduction.  That’s why I’d never get elected to anything, I suppose.

The TaxProf rounds up coverage of the proposal.  Other coverage:

Peter Reilly, The Only Comment On Camp Tax Proposal You Need To Read – And Some Others

Paul Neiffer, Tax Reform – Part ?????!!!!!  “Since this is a mid-term election year, it has little chance of passing this year, but it is important to note possible changes that Congress is pondering.”

Annette Nellen, Congressman Camp’s Tax Reform Act of 2014 Discussion Draft

Leslie Book, Quick Thoughts on Procedural Aspects of Camp’s Tax Code Overhaul Proposal and the Spate of Important Interest Cases (Procedurally Taxing)

Joseph Thorndike, Democrats and Tax Reform: Can’t Do It With ‘Em, Can’t Do It Without ‘Em (Tax Analysts Blog).  “If you’re a left-leaning populist, what’s not to like?  Well, at least one big thing: The bill doesn’t raise taxes.”

TaxGrrrl, Camp’s Tax Proposal: The First Thing We Do, Let’s Kill All The Lawyers 

Kyle Pomerleau, Andrew Lundeen, The Basics of Chairman Camp’s Tax Reform Plan (Tax Policy Blog).  “We’ll have more analysis on the plan soon – it will take us days to get through the 979 pages of legislative text – but in the meantime, here are the basics.”  They note that the plan uses tax benefit phase-outs based on income — a bad idea that creates hidden tax brackets.

Renu Zaretsky, Tax Reform: one foot in front of the other (TaxVox)

 

Other Things:

William Perez, Last Year’s State Tax Refund Might Be Taxable

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: Depreciation 

Trish McIntire, Brokerage Statements.  “Actually, my problem is clients who don’t bring in the whole statement.”

 

Jack Townsend, Wow! Ty Warner Is Ty Warner is Not Quite the Innocent Abroad 

Janet Novack, Senate Offshore Tax Cheating Report Skewers Credit Suisse And U.S. Justice Department 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 294.  I note that Lois Lerner won’t testify without being immunized from prosecution.  “Not a smidgeon” of wrongdoing, indeed.

 

Finally, Seven People Who Have a Worse Busy Season Than You, from Going Concern.  That’ll cheer you right up.

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 2/26/14: House tax reform plan expands cash basis, boosts 179 limits. And: $133 million employment tax theft.

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Cash basis expansion, permanent Section 179 increase highlight Camp tax reform plan.  The GOP House tax leadership has released their tax reform draft, nicely rounded-up by the TaxProf.  The plan would lower top individual and corporate rates to 25%, while making big changes in business taxation.

They have released two alternate plans for small business taxation.  One plan would tweak S corporation and partnership taxation, making elections easier and easing S corporation penalty taxes.  The other draft would do away with the current pass-through regimes and replace them with a single pass-through tax system.

The Camp draft would also greatly expand the availability of cash method accounting:

20140226-1

I’m not sure how I feel about this.  I do like getting rid of the special rules for farmers and letting everybody have the same opportunity.  I less like the rule giving unlimited cash basis for sole proprietorships, as that would encourage people to keep things on their schedule C for tax reasons even if it is a bad structure otherwise.  Do we really need to preserve cash basis for a $100 million schedule C or Schedule F operation?  If something is that big, the “simplicity” argument doesn’t make sense.

I’m all for getting rid of the Section 263A stuff.

While I doubt that anything will happen with tax reform this year, there is a real possibility that things will start moving after the 2014 elections.

William McBride, Four Things to Look for in Chairman Camp’s Tax Reform Plan (Tax Policy Blog)

Renu Zaretsky, McConnell Throws Cold Water on Camp’s Tax Plan (TaxVox)

 

 

EFTPSTexans sentenced in massive PEO employment tax theft.  From Breitbart.com:

Federal prison sentences were recently handed down to three businessmen by Chief District Judge Fred Biery. The three defendants – John Bean, Pat Mire, and Mike Solis – are going to prison for their roles in a $133 million scheme involving numerous co-conspirators. The FBI and IRS conducted the investigations for the case, which is believed to be the largest criminal tax related case ever prosecuted in western Texas.

Bean and Mire both pled guilty to money laundering and mail fraud conspiracy charges. Solis plead guilty only to a mail fraud conspiracy charge.

The defendants admitted that from 2002 to 2008, they stole more than $133 million from clients of several of the Professional Employer Organizations (PEOs) that they owned and operated.

PEOs actually report client employees as their own, issuing W-2s and filing employment tax returns.  The danger of PEOs is that employers have no way to be sure their employment taxes are being deposited.  If the PEO is stealing them, the IRS will come back to the employers to collect.

With a non-PEO payroll service, the payroll tax returns are prepared for employers, who issue and sign them.  More importantly, non-PEO employers can go online using the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System and verify that their payroll taxes are being paid.

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

TaxProfThe IRS Scandal, Day 293.  Among the items in his daily scandal roundup is a Wall Street Journal editorial, Liberals vs. the IRS: Even the Left Doesn’t Want the Tax Man Regulating Speech:

In the Nation magazine, Nan Aron of the liberal judicial lobby the Alliance for Justice writes that 501(c)(4)s aren’t merely groups like Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS, but are “made up of over 86,000 mostly small organizations nationwide” that are active participants in civic life.

“They weren’t invented in the last election cycle; they’ve been around for generations. Their purpose isn’t to hide donors, it’s to advance policies,” Ms. Aron adds. “These groups are involved in elections, because it’s often impossible to advance a policy cause without being involved in the political process.”

There’s no principle that would justify suppressing political rights of 501(c)(4) outfits that can’t apply equally to other exempt outfits.  Furthermore, there’s no real reason to impose taxes on political outfits.  The answer to speech you don’t like is more speech of your own, not suppressing what you don’t want to hear.

TaxGrrrl, IRS Proposed Rules For Nonprofits Alarm Conservatives and Liberals Alike   

 

IRS fights ID theft with one hand, helps it out with the other.  From PC World:

This tax season you may have more to worry about than how much you owe. A new study from Identity Finder finds the IRS is not properly protecting social security numbers in some tax returns…

The research revealed an alarming failure to safeguard sensitive data. Identity Finder uncovered an estimated 630,000 Social Security numbers exposed online in form 990 tax returns.

The most affected group were tax preparers–many of which used their personal SSN rather than their PTIN (preparer tax identification number). However, directors, trustees, employees, donors, and scholarship recipients were all impacted as well. 

It’s fair to point out that preparers have some responsibilty — they are often including SSNs unnecessarily, especially their own.  But that doesn’t excuse the IRS.

 

uni-logoSome UNI workers filing taxes finding Social Security numbers have been used (WCFcourier.com):

According to UNI officials, more than 20 employees have received “error” messages when filing their individual tax returns online, and their returns were rejected. Others who have yet to file say they called the Internal Revenue Service and found their Social Security numbers had been used. One person reportedly received a refund check at home from the IRS though they hadn’t filed a return yet.

UNI officials are playing down the possibility of identity theft, but that’s how I’d bet.  Any organization that collects social security numbers needs to be very careful with them, restricting access and shredding documents on disposal.

Jack Townsend, Stolen Identity Refund Fraud in the News

 

William Perez, Reporting Social Security Benefits

Kay Bell, Don’t fall prey to the Dirty Dozen tax scams of 2014

David Brunori, Great Opportunity for Tax and Public Finance Students (Tax Analysts Blog). “We are conducting our first student writing competition. You should encourage students who have written quality papers to submit them to studentpapers@tax.org.”

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 1/21/14: Weaponizing the IRS. And: whither Section 179?

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

The new, “weaponized” IRS is a focus of Glenn Reynolds, the Instapundit, in a USA Today Column:

Since then, of course, the new “weaponized IRS” has, in fact, come to be seen as illegitimate by many more Americans. I suspect that, over time, this loss of moral legitimacy will cause many to base their tax strategies on what they think they can get away with, not on what they’re entitled to. And when they hear of someone being audited, many Americans will ask not “what did he do wrong?” but “who in government did he offend?”

This is particularly true since the Obama administration is currently changing IRS rules to muzzle Tea Partiers.

While I don’t think it’s that bad yet, it’s headed that way if things don’t change.  And, as Glenn points out, it’s not changing:

Meanwhile, the person chosen to “investigate” the IRS’s targeting of Tea Party groups in 2010-2012 is Barbara Bosserman, a “long-time Obama campaign donor.” So the IRS’s credibility is in no danger of being rebuilt any time soon.

I think this is a terrible and shortsighted mistake by the Administration.  So much of its agenda, especially Obamacare, depends on effective IRS administration, but as the recent budget agreement proved, the GOP isn’t going to fund the IRS when it thinks that’s the same as funding the opposition.

The USA Today piece makes broader points about the effect of the loss of faith in civil servants as apolitical technocrats; read the whole thing.

Via the TaxProf.

Andrew Lundeen at Tax Policy Blog has two new posts on tax reform.  In Tax Reform Should Simplify the Code and Grow the Economy, he says:

We need to eliminate the biases in the code against savings and investment, so individuals have the incentive to add back to the economy, and businesses have the capital to buy new machines, structures, and equipment – all the things that give workers the ability to be more productive and earn higher wages. And we need a tax code that is simple and understandable, so taxpayers know exactly what they pay and why. 

Max Baucus

Max Baucus

We’ve been going the wrong way now for 27 years.  In Responses to Senator Baucus’s Staff Discussion Drafts, he curbs his enthusiasm for the tax reform options offered by outgoing Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus:

Generally speaking, we found that the tax reform proposals in these drafts go in the wrong direction. Our modeling shows that they damage economic growth, hurt investment, and, in many instances, violate the principles of sound tax policy: simplicity, transparency, neutrality, and stability.

The post links to a point-by-point examination of the Baucus proposals.

 

 

TaxProf, Martin Luther King, Jr. and the IRS:

This past year, much ado was made about the so-called “IRS-Gate” and concerns that the Obama administration may have used the agency to target Tea Party and other right wing groups. … [W]hat often is not stated during the Martin Luther King Holiday weekend is that King, early in his leadership of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), was routinely subjected to IRS audits of his individual accounts, SCLC accounts as well as accounts of his lawyers, first starting during the administration of President Dwight Eisenhower and continuing through the Kennedy administration.

If you audit me, I shall become more powerful than you can possibly imagine…

Kay Bell, IRS abuse of power, now and in MLK’s day. “Overall, the IRS is paying for its operational indiscretions by receiving less money and more restrictions on how it does spend what funds it has.”

 

Paul Neiffer, Section 179 Update (or Not):

 Here are my official updated odds on when we might know what the actual 2014 Section 179 amounts will be:

By Memorial Day 10 Billion to 1

By Labor Day 10 Million to 1

By the November Mid-Term elections 500 to 1

Between the November Mid-Term Elections and December 15, 2014 25 to 1

After December 15, 2014 and before January 1, 2015 1 to 1

After December 31, 2014 5 to 1

I give about 5 to 1 odds in favor of the current Sec. 179 deduction being extended to $500,000 for 2014, and I think that Paul is right that it is most likely to occur during the lame-duck session.  I think odds are about 50-50 on an extension of 50% bonus depreciation. It’s too bad the Feds have closed Intrade, as this would be a betting market I would like to follow.

 

HelmsleyTaxTrials, Leona Helmsley, Angry Employees Strike Back:

Their mistreatment of employees and squabbles over bills are the stuff of legend and left prosecutors rife with eager witnesses when it came time for trial.

Helmsley was just as arrogant about her taxes, famously telling her housekeeper: “We don’t pay taxes, only the little people pay taxes.”  Helmsley participated in several schemes to avoid paying millions of dollar in income and sales taxes.  

Sometimes that sort of thing comes back and bites you; read the post to see how it bit Helmsley.

 

William Perez on an important topic: Tips for Securely Sending Tax Documents To Your Accountant.  First, don’t send anything with your Social Security Number in an unencrypted email.  Like many firms, Roth & Company offers a secure upload platform to send sensitive information.  If your tax firm has one, use it.  They are the safest way to transmit confidential information and files.

 

Phil Hodgen wonders whether there is a Delay in approving renunciations at State Department?  It’s harder to shoot jaywalkers when they are running away.

Missouri Tax Guy goes back to basics with An Introduction to the Double-Entry Bookkeeping System.  Just remember, Debits are on the door side.

Andrew Mitchel has posted a New Resource Page: 2013 Developments in U.S. International Tax

 

Kay Bell, $4 billion more tax breaks for Boeing from Washington State. Taxing you to give money to folks with good lobbyists.

Jim Maule is appropriately annoyed by the use of the term “IRS Code.”  It’s the Internal Revenue Code, and it’s written by Congress, not the IRS.  Remember that when you vote.

Keith Fogg, Qualified Offers – Is it meaningless to offer what you think a case is worth? (Procedurally Taxing)

Jack Townsend, The New Provision for Tax Restitution and Ex Post Facto

 

The Critical Question: Is Kent Hovind A Tax Protester?  It doesn’t seem like a more promising career path for him than his forays into evolutionary biology.

TaxGrrrl, Hot Tub Tax Machine: News Anchor Takes Plea In Scandal.

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 10/22/13: Birthday edition! And an unappealing appeal.

Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013 by Joe Kristan

The Internal Revenue Code of 1986 celebrates its 27th birthday today.

President Reagan signs PL 99-514, the Tax Reform Act of 1986.

The authors of the Tax Reform Act of 1986 felt so good about their work amending the Internal Revenue Code of 1954 that they gave it a new name.  And it had some wonderful features compared to what we have now:

– Top marginal rate of 28%, with no stupid phase-outs of itemized deductions or exemptions.

– No capital gain-ordinary income rate differential – tolerable with low marginal rates, and a great simplifier of tax planning.

– It eliminated a whole bunch of complexity, including investment tax credits, and it simplified the life of preparers everywhere by making miscellaneous itemized deductions subject to a 2% of AGI floor, saving us the pain of telling clients they can’t deduct the Swimsuit Issue as an investment expense.

Sure, it had more complexity than I’d care for.  The complicated passive loss rules came in then, on top of existing complicated at-risk rules.  Phase-outs of the passive loss rules imposed hidden marginal tax brackets that helped inspire many awful imitations, like the phase-outs reenacted this year of itemized deductions and personal exemptions.   The 1986 Act brought us inventory capitalization rules, and it left in place the alternative minimum tax.  But at the time, it looked like a good start at much better tax policy.  Now it looks like a high-water mark.

 

Martin SullivanTax Policy In a Knowledge Based Economy (Tax Analysts Blog):

The skeptical accounting profession rarely allows worker training, brand-building, software, and business restructuring to be capitalized, but in so doing it is unwittingly keeping the most important sources of value out of view of managers and stockholders.

Actually, smart managers and investors know about these things, but financial statements aren’t very good at measuring them.

 

20120801-2Tax Court leaps back to work, releasing seven new cases on its first day back after the shutdown.  They include a Judge Holmes case illustrating how good news on the estate tax return can mean bad news on a later income tax return; that case will get its own post this week.

 

TaxGrrrl, Losing Your Identity In Five Easy Steps. Step One: Go To The Doctor.  “And it can all start out with something as simple as handing out your Social Security number at the doctor’s office”

Jason Dinesen, Incorporate Your Life? Not So Fast  “…simply having a business entity DOES NOT make everything in your life tax deductible.”

William Perez, Payment Plan Options. “The IRS will automatically grant a payment plan if your balance owed is under $50,000 and the monthly payments will fully pay the outstanding balance in 72 months or less.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 166

Jack Townsend,  Ex Top UBS Banker Arrested; Likely to be Extradited

Kay Bell, Amazon tax now out in Illinois, coming Nov. 1 to Wisconsin

 

Not only is it the birthday of The Code, it’s Buzz Day at Robert D. Flach’s place!

The Critical Question (Really): Is Obamacare in a Death Spiral? (Megan McArdle): “Another week has passed, which apparently means that it’s time for another terrifying article from Sharon LaFraniere, Ian Austen and Robert Pear on the federal health-care exchanges.”

 

SuccessDetermined Iowa City man may be first in state to buy insurance via glitch-plagued public exchange (Des Moines Register):

Voss said Monday that he tried more than 100 times before finally being able to sign onto healthcare.gov, type in his personal information, compare insurance plans, and purchase a policy. 

I wonder if Amazon.com ever tried that?

 

20121226-1Speaking of train wrecks,  McCoy gives up on train funds (Des Moines Register).  An Iowa legislator gives up on spending $310 million to build a money-losing, slower and more expensive competitor to the Megabus.  Now he can concentrate on getting that downtown zeppelin port that is so critical to the economic future of Des Moines.

 

The Cougars of Madison County. No, Francesca Johnson isn’t back on the prowl.

 

Hey, I said I’m sorry!  That you want to put me in jail.  A New Mexico man convicted of tax crimes and of collecting fraudulent farm payments maybe should have left well enough alone, if you can think a five-year prison sentence is well-enough.  But Billy Melot appealed, with potentially dire consequences.  DailyJournal.net reports:

A southern New Mexico farmer and businessman could face more time in prison because a federal appeals court on Monday tossed out his five-year sentence for failing to pay more than $25 million in federal taxes and fraudulently collecting farm subsidies.

However, the court said a federal district court judge erred in calculating Melot’s sentence by concluding that he had accepted responsibility for his crimes. Judges have the discretion of imposing a less severe sentence when they make that determination.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, the court said, Melot had potentially faced more than 20 years in prison.

The appeals court opinion noted that if Mr. Melot accepted responsibility, he had a funny way of showing it:

Since his conviction, Melot has tenaciously opposed the Government’s efforts to collect the restitution he was ordered to pay by the district court, attempting to thwart the collection of more than $18 million in outstanding income tax assessments and more than $6.5 million in outstanding excise tax assessments. In 2012, a federal magistrate judge issued a certification of criminal contempt against him in the ancillary collection proceedings, finding he “actively and intentionally participated in a scheme to fraudulently create a third party interest in his properties with the intention of defrauding the Court, sabotaging the orderly administration of justice and delaying the United States’ lawful efforts to recover the judgment as ordered by the Court.”

Mr. Melot is 61 years old.  If his sentence is stretched to 20 years, he won’t have much time to enjoy any money he keeps away from the feds.

 

Share

Tax Roundup, 7/11/2013: Tax reform frenzy edition! And sometimes a life sentence is lenient.

Thursday, July 11th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Phil Gramm

Phil Gramm

There’s a lot to like in a Phil Gramm WSJ piece yesterday.  Like this:

Fourth, business subsidies and credits should be eliminated. Ending subsidies to fund lower tax rates improves the efficiency of capital allocation. The sine qua non of tax reform is a more efficient allocation of investment capital. If the tax breaks that create crony capitalism are allowed to survive, then tax reform failed.

Unfortunately, the piece is titled “A GOP Game Plan for Tax Reform.”  I think it’s good enough for both parties, but probably too good for either.

 

Howard Gleckman, Not All Curbs on Tax Preferences Are Created Equal (TaxVox):

Because politicians seem unwilling to confront specific individual tax preferences, it is likely that any broad-based tax reform will be based on across-the-board curbs on deductions, credits, and exclusions. 

Good.

 

Alan Cole, A Tax Bias toward Mega-Corporations (Tax Policy Blog):

The world would have been a better place if McDonald’s had paid higher dividends instead of buying pizza ovens and advertising time for pizza people didn’t want. The money might then have been put to better use by other corporations – perhaps even one that actually specializes in making pizza.

But if McDonald’s had paid out a dividend, it would have subjected the money to an immediate round of taxation. In this way, the tax code favors projects like McPizza; it encourages companies to hold onto their capital instead of freeing that capital up for other companies to use. In a better world, it would be neutral between the two.

I still hope they’ll consider a corporate tax with a full dividends-paid deduction.  It would solve the “lock-in” problem and make debt and equity financing equally attractive while eliminating the double-tax on corporate income.

 

Robert D. Flach, MY CORRESPONDENCE WITH THE WHITE HOUSE ON TAX REFORM – CONTINUED

 

Megan McArdle, The Employer Mandate: A Necessary Impossibility:

The alternatives are to delay the whole bill, or resign ourselves to hemorrhaging wads of cash.  The IT expert’s instinct to hold things together with some inelegant intermediate kludge won’t work.  All the elements of the law are so tightly coupled that pulling one out makes the whole machine go haywire.

Obviously, the preference of the law’s supporters is to hemorrhage cash.  Just go ahead and hand out subsidies indiscriminately, the better to build political support to block repeal.  But this seems . . . well, I’m struggling for kinder words, but I can’t find any.  It seems wildly irresponsible. Not to mention a fundamental betrayal of the promises that were made to get the law passed in the first place.

Have a nice day.

 

Cara Griffith, Are We Getting Anywhere?  

What appears to be happening is that, depending on the taxpayer, state taxing departments are taking a variety of positions in the hope that they will find the one that works best or results in the most tax dollars.

That certainly describes the Iowa approach.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 63

Kay Bell,  IRS wants to trade bonuses for furlough days as House appropriations subcommittee cuts IRS’ fiscal 2014 funds

 

Russ Fox, Foreign Gamblers Get Equal Footing

TaxGrrrl, Hot Tips For Safeguarding Business & Tax Records   Scanning and off-site back-ups feature prominently.

Phil Hodgen, Opt out (of the OVDI) and get out (of the USA)

Jack Townsend,  HSBC India Depositor Sentenced

Brian Mahany, Late Filed Income Tax Returns May Not Be Dischargeable

Peter Reilly, Claim Citizens United Attorney Broke Charity Tax Law Doesn’t Hold Up

 

Going Concern, Yes, the House Bill That Bans Auditor Rotation Is Terrible But There May Be an Upside.

He faces a life sentence.  Russian Court Finds Dead Lawyer Guilty of Tax Evasion (RIANovosti)

Share

An alternative maximum tax for Iowa?

Wednesday, October 24th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Governor Branstad yesterday floated a trial balloon for his upcoming tax reform proposals. He suggested a new tax plan that would exist side-by-side with Iowa’s current complex and loophole-ridden mess.  Donnelle Eller reports in today’s Des Moines Register:

Gov. Terry Branstad suggested Tuesday letting Iowa taxpayers decide whether they want to pay a flat tax rate or deduct federal taxes under the existing tax system.

Branstad told business executives who make up the Iowa Partnership for Economic Progress Board that discussions are early and models were being used to determine what the flat tax rate proposal should be.

The plan resembles that of Iowans for Discounted Taxes.  Their web page describes their proposal:

 The legislation needs to offer you the opportunity to file with all your deductions, or with your new “discount” at the rate of only 5.32% on EARNED income. You would pay 0% on your interest income, dividends, pensions, Social Security, and, JUST LIKE BILL CLINTON DID FOR HOMEOWNERS, 0% on all capital gains.

It’s unlikely that the Governor would pursue a plan that exempted investment income, given the likely response telegraphed by Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal in the Register article:

 “Democrats agree that the state treasury can afford tax cuts. We think any tax cuts we do ought to be targeted toward helping growing small businesses and the middle class,” he said.

Of course “targeting” tax benefits is how we got to the horrendous tax system Iowa has now.  Politicians like to “target” tax breaks to their friends and preferred constituencies.  That means they target the wallets of everyone not lucky or well-connected enough to get the breaks.

The Governor’s trial balloon, which I’ll call an Alternative Maximum Tax, has its own problems.  The obvious one is that it would just add one more computation to an already difficult tax return.  Taxpayers would compute their taxes under each system and file whichever return produced the lowest tax.

It would seem to make more sense to just put in one simpler tax system and throw out the old one.  Why is the Governor taking this strange approach?  Possibly as a way to get around the dead-ender opposition to ending the deduction for federal taxes on Iowa’s return, led by the powerful Muscatine advocacy group Iowans for Tax Relief.  If the old mess is left as an option, perhaps a parallel simpler system with lower rates and no federal deduction could pass muster in Muscatine.  Then maybe the old system would eventually wither away.    Somehow, I don’t think the withering would ever happen, and we’d end up with an even worse system.

There’s still time for the Governor to go bold.  The time is now for the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform!

Other coverage: Rod Boshart,  Branstad favors giving Iowans choice of tax breaks

Share

Budgeteering

Tuesday, February 14th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

The President’s new budget is out. It’s not worth a lot of busy season time, as very little of it will be enacted (thank goodness). And really, this budget is to “budgeting” what a Ghirardelli’s catalogue is to dieting. The TaxProf has a good roundup if you want the details, but Veronique De Rugy tells you all you really need to know about the tax proposals:

Remember in the president

Share

Does 20 percent trump 9 percent?

Friday, October 28th, 2011 by Joe Kristan

GOP Presidential contender Rick Perry has made a bit of a splash with an optional “Flat Tax”‘ proposal. I don’t like optional tax computations because in real life they mean everyone has to compute their tax one more way to find which way gets the best result. Think of it as an Alternative Maximum Tax. It also fails to eliminate all the deductions that it could, leaving rates higher than they would need to be.
That said, it’s great that tax proposals are part of the campaign. We’re overdue for a tax overhaul, and even though none of the plans up for grabs will ever be enacted, we are probably seeing some of the pieces of the next tax system come together.
More coverage:
TaxProf
Tennessee Tax Guy
Going Concern
Dan Meyer
Also:
Robert D. Flach

Share

Tax Reform Carnival!

Friday, October 21st, 2011 by Joe Kristan

I haven’t heard about the massive parties scheduled to honor the 25th Birthday of the Tax Code tomorrow, but I’ve been out of town, so I probably just missed the news. No doubt they will look something like this:
20110317-2.png
If you choose a more sedate way of observing the holiday, the tax blog world is all over it already, so there’s your party. I’ll round up their observations in this impromptu Tax Reform Carnival. I’ll add to this list of blog observations as I notice them; if I miss yours, please put the link in the comments and I’ll add it to the party.
Going Concern, Joe Kristan: Who’s Afraid of Tax Reform?
Tax Prof: Graetz: Tax Reform 1986 — A Silver Anniversary, Not a Jubilee
TaxVox, Howard Gleckman: Five Lessons from the 1986 Tax Reform Act
TaxVox, Gene Steurle: Does the Tax Reform Act of 1986 Offer Lessons for Future Reform?
Robert D. Flach (Forbes guest post): Wandering Tax Pro Remembers The Tax Reform Act of 1986
Tax Policy Blog, Scott Hodge: Happy Anniversary Tax Reform Act of 1986
TaxGrrrl: I’m From the Government and I’m Here to Help
Update, 10/22
TaxProf, Forbes: Today’s 25th Anniversary of the Tax Reform Act of 1986
Kay Bell, 25 years of tax reform. More on the way?

Share

999

Wednesday, October 12th, 2011 by Joe Kristan

Herman Cain has emerged as a leading candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination, at least this week, so his “9-9-9″ plan for tax reform is getting more attention. It is designed to lead to enactment of the “Fair tax” national retail sales tax, which strikes me as a terrible idea, but the interim 9-9-9 plan, which includes something that looks something like a VAT, has some promise. TaxGrrrl and Daniel Shaviro take a closer look.

Share

Hopeless candidate, sensible proposal

Thursday, September 1st, 2011 by Joe Kristan

Jon Huntsman is chasing the Republican Presidential nomination by pursuing Republican voters who think they are just too darn smart for Sarah Palin. This has developed him a loyal following of about two people.
Now he’s made a bold move to expand his base to the much larger, if still insignificant, population of tax nerds. He has actually made a sensible tax proposal, as the Tax Prof reports:

Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman today released a 12-page jobs plan with these tax components:
Simplify The Personal Income Tax Code And Lower Rates. Rather than nibble around the edges of the existing tax code, Gov. Huntsman will introduce a revenue-neutral tax plan that eliminates all deductions and credits in favor of three drastically lower rates of 8%, 14% and 23%. Eliminating deductions and credits in favor of lower marginal rates will yield a simpler and more efficient tax code, decreasing the burden on taxpayers.
Eliminate The Alternative Minimum Tax. Under the new simplified plan, Gov. Huntsman will eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax, which is not indexed for inflation and is penalizing an increasing number of families and small businesses.
Eliminate The Taxes On Capital Gains And Dividends In Order To Eliminate The Double Taxation On Investment. Capital gains and dividend taxes amount to a double-taxation on individuals who choose to invest. Because dollars invested had to first be earned, they have already been subject to the income tax. Taxing these same dollars again when capital gains are realized serves to deter productive and much-needed investment in our economy.
Reduce The Corporate Rate From 35% To 25%. The United States cannot compete while burdened with the second-highest corporate tax rate in the developed world; American companies and our workers deserve a level playing field. With high unemployment, it is important that we not push corporations and capital overseas. We need employers to be based in America if they’re going to provide jobs to Americans.

It akes a lot of sense; you can tell because Linda Beale hates it. More from Going Concern and Instapundit.

Share

Execs tell Congress: Low rates > targeted tax breaks

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011 by Joe Kristan

An underreported story in the L.A. Times:

Executives from four large U.S. companies told lawmakers that they would give up lucrative tax breaks in exchange for significantly lowering the 35% corporate rate, spurring efforts to overhaul the tax code.
Executives from Boeing Co., Sears Holding Management Corp., Emerson Electric Co. and Perrigo Co., a leading pharmaceutical manufacturer, said Thursday that they prefer the simplicity and certainty of a rate as low as 25% over the complexity of calculating frequently shifting tax breaks.[…]

Tax Analysts coverage of the story ($link) shows that these executives are even willing to give up sacred cows like the research credit:

Other panelists, however, singled out popular tax expenditures like the research credit as an example of expenditures that corporations would relinquish for a reduced corporate income tax rate. The complexity of the research credit and the nearly annual debate over whether it should be extended make Boeing prefer a “significantly lower rate,” [Boeing President James] Zrust said. Last year, Boeing spent almost $4 billion in research and development, he added.
The research credit has also created several compliance headaches for Boeing. According to Zrust, more than 30 IRS agents are working on a continuous audit of the company. In December 2010, the company resolved an IRS audit that involved several issues, including the research credits from 1998 to 2003, he said.

So there is a constituency for a tax reform with a broad base and low rates. But there will be opposition, based on this from the Times:

But 17% said they preferred to keep their tax breaks no matter how much the rate was cut

Opposition would include whole industries, like the “renewable energy” industry and the low-income housing credit lobby — not to mention the industry of tax credit consultants. Like all tax reform efforts, the next round of tax reform will pit those riding the gravy train against those who are pulling it. But the willingness of a big research credit recipient like Boeing to trade its breaks for lower rates is a good sign. At the state level, the Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan shows the way.
Via Tax Policy Blog.

Share

Why Iowans for Tax Relief and Grover Norquist are misguided about tax reform

Thursday, May 12th, 2011 by Joe Kristan

Some folks otherwise in the free-market camp have a blind spot when it comes to targeted tax breaks. Both Grover Norquist and Iowans for Tax Relief tend to support targeted tax breaks for specific industries or types of taxpayers as “tax cuts,” and to oppose eliminating such breaks as “tax increases.”
Veronique De Rugy of the Mercatus Center is puzzled by this approach:

I realize that I am risking being ostracized by some, but I have to say that I find it very strange that conservatives would defend tax breaks, and industry tax breaks in particular. For one thing, tax breaks make the market less efficient and rarely lead to lower prices for consumers. In addition, they are one of the reasons why the tax code is so complicated

She quotes Peter VanDoren and Jerry Taylor of the Cato Institute:

Whether you call them “subsidies” or “purple roses,” what

Share

Corporation tax reform: what about pass-throughs?

Friday, March 4th, 2011 by Joe Kristan

The Obama administration has focused its tax reform talk so far almost exclusively on corporation tax reform – to the extent that the Treasury Secretary has even floated the idea of eliminating pass-through business taxation. Pass-throughs, like S corporations and partnerships, do not pay tax; they instead “pass through” their taxable income to their owners, who report the income on their own returns.
The elimination of pass-throughs is almost certainly stillborn. Corporation tax reform — a lower rate with fewer deductions and credits — is much more possible. TaxVox has a good Howard Gleckman post about some of the problems it would pose:

Corporations would lose the benefit of some tax breaks but in return may pay at a top rate of as low as 25 percent (Obama has yet to propose a plan so I am guessing here). Non-corporate businesses would lose those same deductions and credits, but get no benefit from the corporate rate cut. In fact, Obama would have very successful pass-throughs, whose owners pay the top individual tax rate, pay even more.
He

Share

Is federal tax reform making progress?

Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011 by Joe Kristan

Donald Marron at TaxVox sees hope:

Any reform creates losers as well as winners

Share

Yes, temperance. Now pour me another drink.

Friday, February 18th, 2011 by Joe Kristan

From Howard Gleckman at TaxVox:

In recent weeks, the president has had a lot to say about the need to eliminate tax loopholes and cut tax rates, especially for corporations. Yet his 2012 budget is filled with new tax breaks for favored activities.

All of this is what my Tax Policy Center colleague Gene Steuerle long-ago dubbed tax deform. Instead of broadening the tax base and getting government out of economic decision making, Obama is proposing to narrow the base and wade hip-deep into those choices. For Obama, fossil fuels are bad, alternative energy is good. So he takes away the oil and coal subsidies but adds new ones for solar and wind.

President Obama isn’t the first politician to pay lip service to tax reform while carving loopholes for favored causes, and he won’t be the last. As in so many things, most of us will be better off with a broad base and lower rates, but those whose base would be broadened are the ones willing to pay for the lobbyists to keep that from happening.

Share