Posts Tagged ‘TaxGrrrl’

Tax Roundup, 12/8/14: Denison! And: Do-or-die week for extenders?

Monday, December 8th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

donnareedThe Tax Update comes to you today from Denison, Iowa, birthplace of actress Donna Reed. It’s also the fertile ground from which sprang the fertile imagination of Kennedy assassination figure Jim Garrison.

Today Denison hosts the seventh session of the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax School. I’m helping out with the Day 1 panel. The last session is in Ames next Monday (register now!).  If you can’t be there in person, that session will also be webcast.

 

Congress wants to finish up its year Thursday, reports The Hill. This article says the Senate is expected to take up the “extenders” bill before it goes home. This could mean that Majority Leader Reid’s comments last week that he might be too busy to bring up the bill are no longer operative. I hope so.

This post from the Tax Policy Blog lists all of the extenders passed by the House last week in HR 5771. The bill revives these provisions through the end of this month, retroactively to the beginning of 2014. Prominent among them are the $500,000 Section 179 limit, 50% bonus depreciation, the research credit and the five-year limit on built-in gains. The bill also includes individual provisions like the exclusion for IRA donations for charity and the deduction for educator expenses and the non-business energy credit.

Paul Neiffer, Senate to Vote on Tax Extenders on Wednesday?

 

20141208-1

Today in Denison, Iowa.

 

Tax reform on the Iowa legislative agenda? The Des Moines Register reports that legislators are at least thinking about it.

Income tax reform will be high on the agenda when the Legislature convenes in January, although many details have yet to be hammered out, key lawmakers said Friday.

However, Democratic and Republican legislative leaders told the Iowa Taxpayers Association they are welcoming a debate on revising Iowa’s income tax system.

This paragraph from the story is why I don’t expect much to happen this session:

State Rep. Tom Sands, R-Wapello, chairman of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, said his preference would be to examine corporate and individual income taxes while exploring ways to simplify the tax system. Senate Majority Leader Michael Gronstal, D-Council Bluffs, said any tax cuts should be focused on helping middle-class Iowans.

Nor does this bode well:

“If it is only to say really rich people get a break that nobody else can use; no, it doesn’t pass muster,” Gronstal told reporters.

If you have to “explore” ways to simplify Iowa’s byzantine tax system, you haven’t looked very hard. The whole thing about “really rich” taxpayers could guarantee that any reform of Iowa’s high rates and complexity won’t pass muster with Senator Gronstal, which is the same thing as not clearing the Iowa Senate.

If they do want to get serious, though, they could do a lot worse than starting with The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform plan, sweeping away vast swaths of deductions and crony credits, eliminating the corporation tax, and slashing rates.

 

Just a few quick links today:

 

20121108-1Russ Fox, Speaking of Efficiency. “Imagine what would happen if every Congresscritter did their own tax returns by hand. The Tax Code would unanimously be shrunk four hours later.”  I think they should have to do it on a live webcast with a running comments feature.

Robert D. Flach, EVERYBODY OUGHT TO HAVE AN IRA

Kay Bell, IRS holding millions of dollars in frozen taxpayer accounts

TaxGrrrl, Whistleblower Alleges Vanguard Cheated On Taxes, Costing Taxpayers More Than $1 Billion

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 578

 

20141208-2TaxSlayer Bowl! Iowa’s highest-paid state employee will lead the 7-5 Hawkeyes to Jacksonville to compete with 6-6 Tennessee in the TaxSlayer Bowl.  I understand the game will be played under standard college football rules. It would help the educational mission of the schools if they modified the rules to reflect the tax theme. If college football had rules like the tax law, we might see some different rules.

– Throughout the game, referees would audit completed plays, with the option of imposing penalties for infractions in the three prior games, with yardage charged in the current game.

– When the play clock runs down, the quarterback can call for one automatic extension.

– When calling an audible, the quarterback will have to request a change in method from the referee.

– When a penalty is called, the referees could not tell the opposing team what the penalty is for under confidentiality rules.

– Penalties can be imposed on coaches who are “responsible persons” with respect to the infraction.

– If you like your football, you can keep your football.

 

 

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

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Related:

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

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

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

 

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

Robert D. Flach, TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE 0% TAX RATE

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

Russ Fox notes A Rare Piece of Efficiency from the IRS

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 573.

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/2/14: Dead provisions to arise for just a few weeks? And: Shocker! IRS Commissioner wants more $$$

Tuesday, December 2nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

lazarus risingCongress to let the Lazarus provisions make it to the end of 2014? The White House’s threat to veto the Senate’s deal to permanently extend some of the perennially expiring tax provisions has killed that proposal. Now it looks like Congress will take up a bill to extend the provisions, which expired at the end of 2013, through the end of this year. That means we get to do this all over again next year. The Hill reports:

The vote on a short-term extension, expected as soon as this week, would come after a veto threat from President Obama derailed a developing $400 billion deal between Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) that would have extended some expired tax breaks indefinitely, as well as others for two years.

Republicans on both side of the Capitol suggested the move showed that a one-year deal was the only proposal with a chance of becoming law.

The article says “practically all” of the provisions that expired at the end of 2013 will be included. The Lazarus provisions that will come back to life include, among many others:

– A $500,000 Section 179 deduction for asset purchases that would otherwise be capitalized and depreciated.

– 50% “bonus depreciation”

– The research credit

– The five-year built-in gain period.

– The allowance of tax-free distributions from IRAs to charities.

The full text of the bill is available here: (HR 5771)

So we will get a 2014 tax law just as 2014 comes to an end. Because there is no election, there is hope that we won’t have to wait until December 2015 to know what the tax law is for 2015. Not exactly a shining moment in tax policy.

The bill also includes technical corrections for tax bills going back to 2004.

Related:

How the White House torpedoed Harry Reid’s tax deal (The Hill)

The Politics and Policy of Tax Extenders (Len Burman, TaxVox). “In theory, allowing tax provisions to expire periodically could precipitate a careful reexamination of the effectiveness of each program in light of our fiscal situation and priorities. In practice, the expiration of popular temporary provisions such as the R&E credit creates a vehicle for all sorts of budget-busting mischief.”

 

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.

TaxGrrrl has posted another installment of her interview with IRS Commissioner KoskinenYou may not be astounded to hear that he wants more money:

With spending cuts already taking a toll on taxpayer services, the agency is bracing itself for another tough season. In fact, Koskinen cites funding the IRS as his biggest challenge since taking office last December.

“It’s a serious problem for us,” he says. “I don’t know who got our $500 million but I’ll bet they’re not gonna give you back the $2-3 billion we would have if we had it.”

Given that the Congress has used the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy, with responsibilities including attempting to run the broken Obamacare machine, it’s not unreasonable to think IRS has increased needs for funds.

That said, the Commissioner has nobody to blame but himself. His tone-deaf and confrontational tone with Republicans investigating the political abuse of the Exempt Organizations function has earned him no friends in the party that controls the purse strings. The sudden appearance of 30,000 Lois Lerner e-mails that he insisted could not be recovered killed any credibility he had left. Only a new commissioner has any hope of turning that around.

The Commissioner also says he has cut spending to the bone:

The agency is already down 3,000 employees last year. Another 2,000-3,000 are on their way out by the end of this year. The current rate of replacement is one new employee for every five employees who leave… 
What gets cut next? The Commissioner is clear that it will be more personnel. That is, he noted, all that’s left.

Well, maybe. I’d be more convinced of that if he decided there just wasn’t enough cash lying around for his “voluntary” tax preparer initiative — a blatant attempt to get around the Loving decision shutting down mandatory preparer regulation.

Related: Robert Wood, Horrible Bosses, IRS EditionPeter Reilly, Restoring Trust In IRS Is A National Imperative

 

buzz20141017Robert D. Flach has posted his fresh Tuesday Buzz, including a link to his post at The Tax Professional on tax preparer civil disobedience in ACA enforcement. I will have more to say about this topic later this week.

William Perez explains Itemized Tax Deductions

Russ Fox, Mundane Tax Fraud Downs Friend of Cicero Town President

Keith Fogg, Appeals Fumbles CDP Case and Resulting Resolution Demonstrates Power of Installment Agreement (Procedurally Taxing)

Jason Dinesen, 5 Things You Didn’t Know About Enrolled Agents

Jack Townsend, More on Willfulness. You can’t break the law if you aren’t trying.

Kay Bell, December to-do list: shopping, family visits and tax tasks

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 572

Andrew Lundeen, Kyle Pomerleau, Less Than One Percent of Businesses Employ Half of the Private Sector Workforce (Tax Policy Blog). “On the other hand, while only 0.4 percent of all firms have over 500 employees, this small group of businesses employs 50.6 percent of the nation’s private sector workforce, with most of those employees working for C corporations.”

News from the Profession. This Timesheet-Addicted Managing Partner Will Make You Grateful Not to Work For Him (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). A charming threat of dismissal issued the day before Thanksgiving will always make you thankful for an updated resume.

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/1/14: Abe Lincoln’s year-end tax wisdom. And: Oh, THOSE e-mails!

Monday, December 1st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today visitors, here is your film tax credit link: Report from the Battle of Scottsdale.

 

Lincoln“If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could better judge what to do, and how to do it.” Abraham Lincoln’s “House Divided” speech.

I hope you all had a good Thanksgiving. Now it’s December, which means it’s time to begin serious tax planning. President Lincoln’s timeless observation applies very much to year-end tax planning.

To do any tax planning, you have to know where you stand before making any year-end tax planning moves. You need to see where your income, deductions and tax payments are likely to be if you do nothing before year-end — in other words, you need to project your 2014 tax return.  You also need to make your best guess at your 2015 taxes.

If you try to do tax planning tricks without doing a projection, you can actually make things worse. For example, if you prepay state and local taxes in 2014, and you are subject to alternative minimum tax in 2014, you accomplish nothing. If you are also not subject to AMT in 2015, you’ve actually increased your tax bill over the two-year period.

The best way to start your projection is with a copy of your 2013 return. Identify income and expense items that are likely to be different in 2014 and 2015. Then review your pay stub and for income and withholding and see where you are likely to end up for the year on those items.  If you have a business, you need to forecast your income at year end. The you know where you are and whither you are tending, and you and your tax advisor can better judge what to do and how to do it.

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 571. It seems the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found Lois Lerner’s missing e-mails on backup tapes that Commissioner Koskinen said didn’t exist. Commissioner Koskinen’s effort to find the missing e-mails rivals O.J. Simpson’s search for the real killer.

Robert W. Wood, In ‘Lost’ Trove Of IRS Emails, 2,500 May Link White House To Confidential Taxpayer Data.

 

TaxGrrrl’s Interview with Commissioner Koskinen: Miserable, Awful & Delayed: Commissioner, Tax Advocate Talk 2015 Tax Season:

Already, the Commissioner is anticipating that the IRS will only be able to answer about 53% of calls – after a wait time of about 34 minutes – for the upcoming fiscal year. That’s just about half – but, the Commissioner confirms, “It could be worse.”

 

But the Commissioner still thinks he has the spare resources for a “voluntary” preparer regulation scheme.

Russ Fox, One Ringy Dingy, Two Ringy Dingies… “Yes, I was on hold for two hours today on the IRS Practitioner Priority Service before my call was picked up.”  Good thing his call was a priority, then.

 

Tony Nitti, The Four Tax Breaks (And Two Senators) That Killed The Tax Extender Deal. The immigration action is also implicated.

Robert D. Flach, OOPS – THEY DID IT AGAIN! “Well, it is December. And the idiots in Congress have not yet dealt with the issue of the ‘tax extenders’.”

Kyle Pomerleau, Why Not Just Get Rid of Them All? (Tax Policy Blog). “While most tax extenders are wasteful, there are a few that are worth keeping and would actually be part of a flat tax.”

 

20140814-1Kristine Tidgren offers A Few Year-End Tax Planning Tips for Farmers.

Alan Perez, Tax Planning for Clergy. The post includes a nice checklist for clergy tax planning.

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: How to Properly Calculate Taxability of a Federal Refund on Your Iowa Tax Return

Peter Reilly, Motocross Racing With Tax Deductible Dollars Works This Time

Keith Fogg, IRS Makes Novel Use Of Outside Contractors—To Audit Microsoft (Procedurally Taxing):

The IRS has changed the regulation concerning who can participate in an examination to include private contractors.  It has hired a private law firm as an expert.  Microsoft appears to be the first examination using private contractors to become public.  The issue deserves attention in order to determine if this represents a new and better way to examine complex returns or a capitulation of what was previously considered a governmental function.

I’m still waiting for the people who got all upset about the IRS using private collection agencies to say something about this.

 

Jeff Stimpson of Accounting Today has posted his “In the Blogs” roundup for the week. Lots of good tax links.

Annette Nellen discusses Inflation adjustments in the tax law. “Our federal income tax is not consistent regarding the need to prevent bracket creep for all taxpayers.”

Kay Bell, IRS’ positive public perception picking up a bit. It would be hard to make it sink lower.

Jack Townsend notes the WAPO Article on Expatriate Taxation – The Mayor of London.

20141201-1

Cheap liquor likely to remain a focus for alcoholics. Nonresident Income Taxes Likely to Remain a Focus for State Tax Authorities (Cara Griffith, Tax Analysts Blog). The post discusses states aggressive assessment of non-residents who sneeze near state lines, and the so-far failed push for Congress to provide uniform rules.

Alan Cole, Confusing Income with Taxable Income (Tax Policy Blog): “The rest of America is quite a bit richer, and quite a bit better at earning capital income, than Wonkblog gives it credit for.”

Joseph Thorndike, The Best Hopeless Idea in Washington (Tax Analysts Blog). That would be a carbon tax.

Norton Francis, What Falling Oil Prices Will Mean for State Budgets (TaxVox)

 

No Takers for the Brown house. The IRS can’t seem to unload property seized from Ed and Elaine Brown after their armed tax protest standoff. It seems buyers want some assurance that they won’t be killed by stray booby-traps.

Career Corner, So You Failed the CPA Exam Before the Holidays, Now What? (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/25/14: Administration complicates extender negotiations. And: Instant Tax Service has to stay dead.

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Programming note: The Tax Update will be on the road for Thanksgiving starting Wednesday. Have a great weekend, see you Monday. 

 

Economic supergenius

Nice Section 179 deduction you have there. Hate to see something bad happen to it.

Extenders as extortion. The administration yesterday complicated the negotiations on the extension of the perpetually-expiring tax provisions by demanding an extension of the refundable child credit and a permanent expansion of the fraud-ridden earned income tax credit, the New York Times reports.

It’s obnoxious to throw a new welfare program provision into the extender negotiations at this late date, but a lame-duck administration has nothing to lose by trying. While I still think the $500,000 Section 179 deduction will be extended retroactively to January 1, this makes me a lot more nervous.

If anything good comes of this extortion attempt, it’s that it highlights the unwisdom of passing tax provisions temporarily if you don’t really want them to be temporary. Every time you need to re-enact them, you open yourself up to just this sort of shakedown.

Other coverage from The Hill: White House skeptical of possible deal on tax breaks and Lew: Avoid ‘wrong approach’ on tax breaks

Related:

TaxGrrrl, 10 Expired Tax Provisions That Might Affect You In 2014 and Kay Bell, Congress fighting over which business and individual tax extenders to make permanent

 

"Fez" Ogbasion, Instant Tax Service CEO.

“Fez” Ogbazion, Instant Tax Service CEO.

Appeals court says Instant Tax Service has to stay deadThe Sixth Circuit has upheld the 2013 ruling that put Instant Tax Service out of business. ITS, which had 150 franchise operations in a number of states, primarily in low-income inner-city locations, had shown up frequently in stories alleging shady tax prep practices (like this).

ITS was found to have encouraged its franchisees to prepare “stub returns.” These are returns preparered off of year-end pay stubs, rather than W-2 forms. The injunction also found that the franchisor used deceptive pricing and marketing practices.

ITS and its owner, Fez Ogbazion, argued the injunction was improper and overbroad. The appeals court considered the ITS appeal on the stub return issue:

Defendant Ogbazion agreed during his testimony that “[i]f you prepare a tax return using a pay stub, it’s not always accurate and does not always have all of the information on there,” and “[w]hen using a pay stub to prepare a tax return, the income information can be off for a variety of reasons.” …  And ITS employee Boynton, who had been a tax return preparer before she became a manager, agreed during her testimony that she was “aware that tax returns prepared using pay stubs are inaccurate more often than not,” that “the last paycheck stub varies from a W-2 more often than not,” and that “the income reflected on a return prepared on a pay stub can vary from income reflected on a return prepared based on a W-2.”

The court found that the District Court correctly evaluated the stub return issue:

It is clear from this evidence that pay-stub filing often results in understatement of tax liability, and ITS knew it. It is also clear from this and other evidence that pay-stub filing was common at ITS franchises. The district court’s conclusion that understatement of tax liability “inevitably results” may have gone further than we would go, but it is a plausible account of the evidence in the record as a whole.

The Moral? Wait for your W-2 before filing. Don’t try to file off of your pay stub. And if your preparer offers to prepare a return without waiting for your W-2, find another preparer.

Cite:  United States v. ITS Financial LLC et al (CA-6, Case No. 13-4341)

 

Tax Analysts has published a story covering the film tax credit panel I was on last week: NCSL Task Force Needs More Persuading on Merits of Film Incentives

 

20141125-2We’ve done a little blogroll updating. We’ve cut some blogs that haven’t been updated in months, and added Tax Litigation Survey and Forbes tax blogger Robert W. Wood.

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) of 2014: #5-Is The Sale Of A Right To Buy Land Ordinary Income Or Capital Gain?

William Perez, Excluding Foreign Wages from US Taxes

Robert Wood, Jersey Shore’s Mike ‘The Situation’ Sorrentino Tax Evasion Trial Delayed

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for 11/07/14 & 11/14/14 (Procedurally Taxing). A roundup of tax procedure issues, including a report on IRS hiring of a private law firm to help it audit Microsoft.

Peter Reilly, AAA Does Not Revive With New S Election – Explained By Jelly Beans. Another reason not to terminate an S corporation election carelessly.

Jack Townsend, Credit Suisse is Sentenced: Is It just a Wrist Slapping (Harder than UBS But Is It Enough)?

Jason Dinesen, From the Archives: Win a Home On TV, Find a Tax Collector in the Attic

 

Andrew Lundeen, Kyle Pomerleau, Pass-through Businesses Earn More Income than Corporations (Tax Policy Blog) “Pass-throughs now earn over 60 percent of all net business income.”  It includes this great chart:

20141125-1

This means higner income taxes on “the rich” are really higher taxes on business and employment.

 

Eric Toder, Reforming Corporate Taxation (TaxVox) “The U.S. corporate tax system is broken.”
Annette Nellen, EU’s New VAT “MOSS” – Relevance for MFA? “MFA” is the Marketplace Fairness Act, the effort by states to collect taxes on internet commerce.

 

Jeremy Scott, New GOP W&M Members Send a Mixed Signal (Tax Analysts Blog):

The House Ways and Means Committee is undergoing a major transition. Committee Chair Dave Camp is leaving Congress at the end of the year and will be replaced by Rep. Paul Ryan. That means the end of an era and a possible major reshuffling of committee priorities. But Ways and Means is also getting four new Republican faces. The backgrounds of the new members don’t really send a clear signal on what to expect from the House on tax policy next year.

I hope they figure things out fast.

 

The Wall Street Journal has posted an Expat Finance & Tax Guide. It collects in one place WSJ pieces on expat-related topics, including FATCA nighmares and renouncing citizenship.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 565.

 

News from the Profession. Why Public Accounting Is Really Just One Long Kegger (Leona May, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/24/14: Report from the Battle of Scottsdale.

Monday, November 24th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

haroldBattle report from a skirmish in the state tax policy wars. I was in Scottsdale Friday to join Joseph Henchman of the Tax Foundation to talk about state film tax incentives. We were on a panel with three advocates for incentives — two from the film industry and one a retired head of a state film office. Our audience was a panel from the National Conference of State Legislators, mostly legislators heading state taxwriting committees.

Joseph did a nice job explaining that all of the studies not financed by the film industry show tax credits for films to at best an inefficient way to create jobs, and at worst job killers when other possible uses for the funds are considered.

The incentive boosters were big on stories, about all the jobs “created” by taxpayer money, all the happy stories of communities getting together to make a movie, and so on.

My role was to tell a different story — the story of Iowa’s embarrassing and disastrous Film Tax Credit program.  I told how the Iowa legislature enacted the program, with two different 25% transferable credits, with little debate and almost no opposition (three “no” votes out of 150 legislators) in 2007. By 2009, film trucks were everywhere and the local paper was running fanzine-like articles gushing over the “sightings” of celebrities.

But trouble was brewing. By spring 2009 the legislature was realizing that they had enacted an open-ended subsidy that threatened their ability to do anything but fund Hollywood. About the same time a tipster sent a letter to the Department of Economic Development saying a filmmaker was bragging around Los Angeles about how she was making money through the “Half-price Filmmaking” program, using pretend expenditures to get tax credit funding well in excess of her cost in making (bad) movies. An audit was commissioned, and soon the program collapsed in disgrace when the audit revealed amazing mismanagement and breathtaking looting of the program. A follow-up audit by the state auditors office showed that 80% of the credits that had been granted were either improper or fraudulent.  Good times.

The Tax Foundation crew was impressive. Joseph and his Tax Foundation colleague Elizabeth Malm seemed to know every legislator. Joseph seemed to be aware of every detail, even correcting my posture as I sat listening to the questions. I think he was a little concerned I might be a loose cannon and go off on the legislators; I can’t deny the temptation, but I knew that wasn’t my place.

The legislators agreed to set up a panel on setting standards for evaluating the cost-effectiveness of tax incentives. That’s a better response than I expected, and I hope something comes of it.

 

Only time for a few quick links today.

 

20140728-1Robert D. Flach starts the short holiday week with a special Monday Buzz!

Russ Fox tackles the important question: Would the Proprietors of “I Married an Idiot” Commit Tax Fraud?

Peter Reilly, Should President Obama Offer Amnesty For Legal Residents Behind On Taxes? I think he should offer a blanket amnesty for Americans abroad enmeshed in the FATCA/FBAR nightmare.

Paul Neiffer, Take Advantage of Low Rates! Low IRS minimum interest rates, that is.

 

Robert Goulder, Magnum Opus: “Paying Taxes 2015: The Global Picture” (Tax Analysts Blog)

Hauqun Li, An Introduction to Forms of Business Organization and Taxation (Tax Policy Blog)

Donald Marron, Bigger, Cleaner, and More Efficient: A Carbon-Corporate Tax Swap

 

TaxGrrrl, Those Not-So-Lost IRS Emails: Up To 30,000 Lerner Emails May Have Been Recovered

Kay Bell, Possible break in hunt for Lois Lerner’s lost IRS emails

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 564

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/20/14: ACA and filing season pessimism revisited.

Thursday, November 20th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Programming note: The Tax Update will take tomorrow off. I will be in Phoenix tomorrow on a panel on state film tax credits sponsored by the National Conference of State Legislators.  The panel will include, among others, Joseph Henchman of the Tax Foundation. Normal programming resumes Monday.

 

guillotineACA frenzy! Thanks to a kind Twitter mention from Megan McArdle (who you really should follow at @asymmetricinfo), my Tuesday post on ACA and filing-season dread made it to a wider audience than usual, including the readers of Real Clear Politics. A cousin who I normally only see at family weddings and funerals saw it and sent me a note (Hi, Bob!), so I know it really got around.

It has also generated questions in the comments and the Twitterverse that are worth addressing. We’ll start with this from Alan in the comments:

In a few months when people receive their W2’s they will get a real shock when all the employer paid share of the company paid share of health care plan is included in their gross pay and now they must pay taxes on all that extra income.

Obamacare is ugly, but it isn’t that ugly. While many (but not all) employers will disclose the cost of coverage on W-2 box 12 (code DD), it will not be included in W-2 Box 1, “taxable wages.” From IRS.gov, Employer-Provided Health Coverage Informational Reporting Requirements: Questions and Answers:

Q1. Does the cost of an employee’s health care benefits shown on the Form W-2 mean that the benefits are taxable to the employee?

A. No. There is nothing about the reporting requirement that causes or will cause excludable employer-provided health coverage to become taxable. The purpose of the reporting requirement is to provide employees useful and comparable consumer information on the cost of their health care coverage.

20121120-2From Ms. McArdle on Twitter:

Any chance it won’t be that bad?

I suppose that depends on what “that bad” means. Blood seeping from the walls, shape-shifting brain-eaters from Planet Zargon, cats and dogs living together– probably not that bad. But there’s still plenty of bad to go around. The things that worry me:

- Many taxpayers will not have the information handy to determine their health insurance status for all 12-months of 2014. Only those who buy insurance on the exchanges will have Form 1095, the information return on insurance status.  Others are supposed to get information from employers, but they are likely to lose track of it, especially this first year.

- Lacking any matching documents, taxpayers will be tempted to claim coverage where there is none, or maybe wasn’t for part of the year, to avoid penalties. There won’t be an easy way to verify this. Preparers will either have to take taxpayers at their word or send them back for proof (or, inadvertently, to another preparer). It’s always bad when taxpayers feel they should lie to preparers. Yet as the IRS will often have no way to detect false claims of coverage, they will feel like chumps for telling the truth.

- Taxpayers with penalties for non-coverage will be irate when they find they get no refund. As Ms. McArdle wisely put it, “I do not have hard figures on this, but my basic experience in personal finance and tax reporting suggests that approximately zero percent of those affected will be expecting the havoc it will wreak on their tax refund.” Experience shows that the taxpayer’s first instinct is that the preparer screwed up.

- It will be even worse when we have to tell people to repay advance health-care tax credits paid to insurers to lower consumer out-of-pocket costs. This can happen when actual taxable income exceeds the amounts estimated when coverage was obtained on the exchanges. As the taxpayer never “saw the money” — it was paid to the insurer, not to the taxpayer directly — she may not be easily convinced that she has an excess benefit to repay.

20140521-1- Preparers haven’t had to deal with this before. Any new tax provision has a learning curve, and this is a complicated one that will apply to almost everyone. In many cases, preparers will mess up, being human. Getting it right will take extra time that is hard to come by during tax season.

- This doesn’t even touch the problems that many small employers are going to be dealing with as they realize their Section 105 individual coverage premium reimbursement plans, and their cafeteria plans funding premium payments on individual policies obtained by employees, are considered non-compliant under the ACA “market reforms.” At $100 per employee, per day, the penalties could be ruinous. While taxpayers are encouraged to report the penalties on Form 8928 and zero them out with a “reasonable cause” claim, we don’t know yet how generous the IRS will be in granting reasonable cause relief. Figuring out what to do here will be time-consuming and nerve-wracking for taxpayers and preparers, unless the IRS issues a blanket penalty waiver for 2014 (as it should).

On top of all this, we will probably have another late “extender” bill like we had two seasons ago, which made for an awful tax season by itself. Maybe things will go well this season, but so many things seem likely to go wrong that it’s hard to be optimistic.

 

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2014: #6-The IRS (Finally) Figures Out The Real Estate Professional Rules. It’s an excellent lesson on the tax rules covering “real estate professionals” and passive losses — and by extension, the 3.8% net investment income tax.

TaxGrrrl, Al Sharpton Denounces Claims He Owes Millions In Taxes To IRS, New York.

Jack Townsend, Another UBS/Wegelin Related Indictment in SDNY

Peter Reilly, Kent Hovind And Creation Science Evangelism – How Not To Run A Ministry. When it gets you imprisoned, you may well be doing it wrong.

Kay Bell, Former GOP VP candidate Paul Ryan to head House tax panel

Jason Dinesen, I Don’t Have Time to Write Grant Proposals or Meet with Donors … But Give Me Money Anyway!  OK, then…

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Work proceeds in clearing the ruins of the Younkers department store, which burned in March.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 560.

Cara Griffith, Bad News for State Public Pension Plans (Tax Analysts Blog). “New research has come out revealing the level at which state public pension plans are underfunded, and it’s not good news.”

The denial of reality in administering public pensions is amazing. Public defined benefit plans are a lie. Either the public is being lied to about how much current public services cost, or current employees are being lied to about their retirement benefits. Maybe both.

 

20140910-1Alan Cole, Extenders and the Opportunity for Tax Reform (Tax Policy Blog):

The Examiner characterizes many of the extenders as “repugnant carve-outs.” This is undeniably true, but it is also the case that some – but not all – of the tax extenders are genuinely good policy. Particularly, Bonus Depreciation and Section 179 are important for moving the tax code towards proper treatment of new investment.

In any case, the current system of pretending tax provisions are “temporary” to hide their true cost is dishonest and should end.

Renu Zaretsky, “Dead Reform Walking:” On Fairness, Immigration, and Spending. The TaxVox headline roundup covers developments in the Marketplace Fairness Act, extenders and immigration, among other things.

 

News from the Profession. KPMG Gives the Department of Homeland Security a Clean Audit Opinion Because of Course They Did (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). “I don’t know about you but I feel safer already.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/19/14: Mayor of London, U.S. tax delinquent. And: sticks, stones, and IRS.

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Boris Johnaon and an unidentified IRS agent.

Boris Johnson and an unidentified IRS agent.

I thought the Revolution was fought to get away from the English, not to tax them. From Robert W. Wood comes a story that says volumes about how absurd America’s system of worldwide taxation is:

London’s Mayor Boris Johnson is English, but being born in New York means he’s American too. Turns out he never gave up his U.S. citizenship, as the BBC confirmed. Sure, he threatened to renounce in a column for the Spectator, but he renewed his U.S. passport instead.

And on his recent book tour, in a Diane Rehm Show Interview, November 13, 2014, Mr. Johnson even said a thing or two about the American global tax regime. He thinks it is outrageous to tax U.S. citizens everywhere no matter what. He hasn’t lived in the U.S. since he was 5 years old, he notes. Still, the IRS wants money.

Only the U.S. tax law is stupid enough to consider Boris Johnson an American taxpayer. Of course, the U.S. tax law says he’s taxable on his worldwide income as a U.S. Citizen, and that means he’s delinquent on U.S. tax on everything he’s ever earned. Of course, the IRS also claims FBAR penalties on “foreign” financial accounts that would render the Mayor of London a pauper.  He could renounce his U.S. citizenship, but Mr. Wood notes that “When you exit you must certify five years of U.S. tax compliance to the IRS. And any tax for the current or prior years must be paid.”

Boris Johnson is only the most prominent victim of a system supposedly designed to catch international financial fraud, but that works much better in making financial criminals and paupers out of ordinary people for committing personal finance while abroad. And yet there seems to be no movement at all to fix this horrible system. Because Swiss banks, or something.

 

20140106-1William Perez, Excluding Foreign Wages from US Taxes

Paul Neiffer, Another Section 179 Update:

Whenever, I indicate that we should know what the final number should be around Christmas or even New Years, I get emails back saying doesn’t Congress know that taxpayers really can’t make informed equipment decisions without knowing what Section 179 is.

The quick answer is that “Congress does not care!”

So true.

 

Russ Fox, IRS Clarifies Electronic Signature Requirements:

The IRS released a new version of Publication 1345 today (html version only is available for now). Included in it is the following:

Note: An electronic signature via remote transaction does not include handwritten signatures on Forms 8878 or 8879 sent to the ERO by hand delivery, U.S. mail, private delivery service, fax, email or an Internet website.

Thus, if a client signs a signature document in ink, hands it to me, mails it to me, faxes it to me, or uploads it to me via our web portal (or even if he emails it to me), it’s not an electronic signature and I don’t have to check id, etc. (So, mom, I don’t need to see your ID.)   

That’s good news.

 

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Kay Bell, States continue efforts to tax e-cigarettes as vaping grows. E-cigs threaten the states’ tobacco settlement gravy train. That’s why politicians hate them. All of the vaporous public health claims used against E-cigarettes is just blowing smoke.

 Peter Reilly, What’s In A Name? Should Naming Rights Reduce Charitable Deductions?

TaxGrrrl, Top Ten Area Codes Making Spam Calls: Are They Dialing You Up? If you aren’t expecting a call from the IRS, it’s not the IRS.

Robert D. Flach, DON’T BE A NON-FILER! “It is much “more better” to submit a balance due return with no payment than to submit nothing at all.”

Jack Townsend, IRS Documents On OVDI/P From FOIA Request.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 559

Alan Cole, Obamacare’s Contradictory Tax Incentives (Tax Policy Blog):

All too often, the motives behind Obamacare’s taxes are incoherent. We don’t like the distortion towards employer-provided health insurance, so we levy taxes on it. But we also do like the distortion towards employer-provided health insurance, so much so that we will actually mandate it!

The real motivation was to pass something and let IRS work out the details.

Howard Gleckman, Will Obama’s Executive Action on Immigration Kill Tax Reform? Hint: You Can’t Kill Something That’s Already Dead (TaxVox)

 

Hello, IRS readers! Apparently the IRS reads the blogs. Legal Insurrection reports that the IRS is trying to avoid disclosing names of their personnel in a lawsuit because of things said about Lois Lerner in that blog’s comments:

In a federal FOIA lawsuit by Judicial Watch seeking records of Lerner emails and IRS efforts to retrieve the emails, the IRS used two of the comments to the Legal Insurrection Reader Poll post to justify the IRS no longer disclosing the identities of IRS personnel.

Here are the awful comments:

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Juvenile? Sure, but pretty tame stuff for political blogs. Go hang out at Daily Kos if you think otherwise. By the standard the IRS is using here, you would have to conceal the names of just about anybody remotely connected with the government or politics. I’ve been called a “hamburger chomping, malleable moron in the comments,” with no ill consequences other than now I’m self-conscious at McDonalds.

But all the same, be nice in the comments here.

 

Career Corner. Your Open Office May Be Making You a Crappy Worker (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern).

 

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

Monday, November 17th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

 

Just links today.

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

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

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

Are we excited yet?

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

20131112TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 557

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

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

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

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

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Tax Roundup, 11/13/14: Ottumwa Day! And: Elections and State Tax Policy.

Thursday, November 13th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Ottumwa, Iowa: An old Southeast Iowa industrial and railroad town, home of fictional Corporal Radar O’Reilly, and today host of Day 1 of the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax School. I’m helping out on the Day 1 panel for this year’s schools, along with CALT Director Roger McEowen and former IRS Stakeholder Liaison Kristy Maitre.  We’ll spend the morning on the ACA and it’s compliance requirements and penalties. We’ll spend the rest of the day trying to distract everyone.

It’s cozy and warm in our conference room at Indian Hills Community College.  That’s good, as it’s chilly outside.

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We’re in Mason City on Monday, and in Denison and Ames next month. There’s still time to register! And if you can’t make it to Denison, Mason City or Ames, the December 15-16 Ames session will be webcast.

 

David Brunori, What Do the Recent Elections Mean for State Tax Policy? (Tax Analysts Blog):

Taxes mattered more in Kansas than anywhere else. Gov. Sam Brownback (R) won there comfortably. The tax cuts of Republican Govs. Rick Snyder in Michigan, Paul LePage in Maine, and Scott Walker in Wisconsin were the focus of opponents’ campaigns, and those governors survived as well. The GOP challengers in Illinois, Maryland, and Massachusetts promised to either cut taxes or never raise them. They won. The message was clear: Tax cuts sell politically. One need not be Nate Silver to predict that state political leaders seeking to reduce tax burdens will be emboldened by this election.

I don’t think that’s so true here in Iowa. Now safely re-elected to a sixth term, our GOP governor is making noises about increasing the gasoline tax. But maybe he will go bold and convince a split legislature to go big on income tax reform — maybe starting with The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

Greg Mankiw, Tax Fact of the Day::

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The big difference is the reliance on other countries on a Value Added Tax, which shows up in the Consumption Taxes bar.

 

Howard Gleckman, Now is the Perfect Time to Raise Gas Taxes (TaxVox).  “Gas prices are at their lowest levels in years and dropping. Consumers would barely notice if they had to pay a bit more now at the pump.”

 

Andrew Lundeen, Kyle Pomerleau, Economic Growth Has Slowed Since 2000 (Tax Policy Blog). “Since 2000, GDP growth in the U.S. has been persistently low, averaging about 2 percent. This is much lower than the economic growth we saw in the past.”

20141113-3Kay Bell, Tax extenders outlook cloudy in the 2014 lame duck session:

Will there still be some insistence by the GOP on longer-term approaches to expired tax laws in this Congressional session’s waning hours?

Just what is the level of Democratic support of permanence vs. temporary laws?

And just how much pressure will lobbyists be able to exert to gain support of their favorite provisions, especially since some of the members making decisions now will not be around next year?

We simply don’t know yet.

There’s a lot of incentive for congresscritters to pass temporary provisions. They get to pretend they are less expensive than they really are, and they force lobbyists to show up and genuflect every year or two.

Russ Fox, London Calling: The Real Winners of the 2014 World Series of Poker. The Royal Exchequer trumps a royal flush.

TaxGrrrl, Internet Tax Ban Ending Soon: Speaker Boehner Hopes To Keep Internet Tax Free

Keith Fogg, Reinhart Part II – Extending the Statute of Limitations on Collection by Virtue of Being Out of Country (Procedurally Taxing)

20140729-1Paul Neiffer, Final FUTA Tax Rates by State

 

A new Cavalcade of Risk is up at Terms and Conditions. This edition of the definitive roundup of insurance and risk-management posts covers a lot of ground, including Hank Stern’s Rubber, Road and Lyft: Insurance Crisis? on ride sharing and insurance.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 553

 

The Critical Question. Just What the Hell is Goodwill Anyway? (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going  Concern).

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/12/14: IRAs, IRS, and the Liar’s Paradox. And: mass benefit, class tax.

Wednesday, November 12th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Bluto20140910

You trusted us.

The Liar’s Paradox, IRS Version. If somebody says “I am lying,” can he be telling the truth? It’s a puzzler. So are many tax law rules, like the rules governing IRA rollovers.

The tax law does not subject an IRA withdrawal to tax if it is reinvested in an IRA within 60 days. It can only be done once each year. The IRS publication on such “rollovers” said from 1984 though 2013 that the one year restriction applied to each IRA, so a taxpayer with multiple IRAs could make multiple rollovers.

Alvin Bobrow made multiple IRA rollovers in 2008 consistent with this guidance. On examination, the IRS said the once-a-year rule applied per taxpayer, not per IRA, and assessed him tax and penalties.  The Tax Court upheld the assessment and penalties, in spite of the published IRS position. This is a classic example of the unfair, penalty-happy nature of the IRS examination process, too often abetted by the courts.

While manifestly unfair, the IRS long ago won the right to bait-and-switch via its publications. As the Tax Court said years ago, “well established precedent confirms that taxpayers rely on such publications at their peril.”

Even the IRS apparently is a little embarrassed by this. On Monday it issued Announcement 2014-32, saying it would not enforce the position it took in Bobrow for distributions before 2015. That seems fair to other taxpayers, if not to the Bobrows.

But here is where the liars paradox comes in. Announcement 2014-32 is mere “administrative guidance,” just like an IRS publication, and it has no more legal standing. Technically, nothing but a sense of self-restraint keeps the IRS from saying “fooled you!” on examination, just like they did in Bobrow. Does that make anyone else a little nervous?

 

The Tax Foundation has issued a wonderful new publication, A Visual Guide to Business, Taxes, and the Economy. It is full of wonderfully-illustrated insights on the economy and taxes. I love this illustration:

 

Source: Tax Foundation, "Business in America Illustrated"

Source: Tax Foundation, “Business in America Illustrated”

The chart shows that most business income subject to tax is reported on 1040s, not on corporate returns. That means every increase in taxes on high-income individuals is a tax on businesses and a tax on employers — not just on some guy lighting cigars with $100 bills.

 

20131209-1Paul Neiffer, Sheldon Iowa is Cold. It is indeed, at least this week.

Andrew Mitchel, New Rules for Canadian RRSPs & RRIFs

Kay Bell, A question for Congress on Veterans Day: Will the business tax break for hiring returning military members be renewed?

Jason Dinesen, Same-sex Marriage, Amended Tax Returns and Filing Status. “So if you’re in a same-sex marriage and you’re amending a 2011 or 2012 tax return, you can file that amended return as married or keep your filing status as single.”

Peter Reilly, Tax Court Goes To Webster For Definition Of Construction – And Watch That NAICS Code. The courts have been placing an undeserved significance on the business code you put on your tax return.

TaxGrrrl, 14 Ways To Show Your Thanks To Our Military On Veterans Day. “Here are 14 ways to show your thanks to our vets – and some of them come with a nice tax benefit to boot.”

 

20130121-2Good. IRS Power To Regulate Tax Practitioners Slipping Away (Christopher Rezek, Procedurally Taxing). The author appears to think this is somehow a bad thing.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 552

 

Joseph Thorndike, Democrats Getting What They Deserve on Medical Device Tax (Tax Analysts Blog):

If Democrats eventually face a funding crisis for Obamacare, they have only themselves to blame. After all, they should have known better. It was a Democrat, Franklin Roosevelt, who conclusively established that broad spending programs deserve broad taxes.

Precisely. You can’t fund a mass entitlement with a class tax, but that’s exactly what Obamacare tries to do.

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/10/14: DOL nixes many employer health reimbursement setups. And: Sheldon!

Monday, November 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Good morning from beautiful, if frigid, Sheldon, Iowa, where I am on the Day 1 panel of the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax School. A good crowd has braved the brisk north winds and forecasts of snow — so now it’s up to us to make them glad they did.

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Elections are over I. Branstad says Iowa road funding a top priority, raising fuel tax on the table (Omaha.com)

Elections are over II. FAQs about Affordable Care Act Implementation (Part XXII) The Department of Labor has issued new guidance on small-employer plan arrangements. The guidance, issued just after the election, puts strict limits on the ability of employers to bypass group plan rules by reimbursing premiums or using Health Reimbursement Arrangements under Section 105. As plans doing that have been marketed to small employers in Iowa and elsewhere, this could be an expensive development for employers; violating these rules carries a $100 per day penalty for each affected employee.

The FAQ discusses premium reimbursement arrangements: (my emphasis):

My employer offers employees cash to reimburse the purchase of an individual market policy. Does this arrangement comply with the market reforms?

No. If the employer uses an arrangement that provides cash reimbursement for the purchase of an individual market policy, the employer’s payment arrangement is part of a plan, fund, or other arrangement established or maintained for the purpose of providing medical care to employees, without regard to whether the employer treats the money as pre-tax or post-tax to the employee. Therefore, the arrangement is group health plan coverage within the meaning of Code section 9832(a), Employee Retirement Income Securi20121120-2ty Act (ERISA) section 733(a) and PHS Act section 2791(a), and is subject to the market reform provisions of the Affordable Care Act applicable to group health plans. Such employer health care arrangements cannot be integrated with individual market policies to satisfy the market reforms and, therefore, will violate PHS Act sections 2711 and 2713, among other provisions, which can trigger penalties such as excise taxes under section 4980D of the Code. Under the Departments’ prior published guidance, the cash arrangement fails to comply with the market reforms because the cash payment cannot be integrated with an individual market policy.(6)

This means that employers cannot have employees submit their insurance bills for reimbursement; doing so is considered a disqualified group insurance plan. The closest the employer can do is give an employee a raise without restriction, giving the employee the option of buying insurance.

The FAQ pretty much embalms Sec. 105 plans as substitutes for group plans.

A vendor markets a product to employers claiming that employers can cancel their group policies, set up a Code section 105 reimbursement plan that works with health insurance brokers or agents to help employees select individual insurance policies, and allow eligible employees to access the premium tax credits for Marketplace coverage. Is this permissible?

No. The Departments have been informed that some vendors are marketing such products. However, these arrangements are problematic for several reasons. First, the arrangements described in this Q3 are themselves group health plans and, therefore, employees participating in such arrangements are ineligible for premium tax credits (or cost-sharing reductions) for Marketplace coverage. The mere fact that the employer does not get involved with an employee’s individual selection or purchase of an individual health insurance policy does not prevent the arrangement from being a group health plan. DOL guidance indicates that the existence of a group health plan is based on many facts and circumstances, including the employer’s involvement in the overall scheme and the absence of an unfettered right by the employee to receive the employer contributions in cash.(12)

DOL LogoSecond, as explained in DOL Technical Release 2013-03, IRS Notice 2013-54, and the two IRS FAQs addressing employer health care arrangements referenced earlier, such arrangements are subject to the market reform provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including the PHS Act section 2711 prohibition on annual limits and the PHS Act 2713 requirement to provide certain preventive services without cost sharing. Such employer health care arrangements cannot be integrated with individual market policies to satisfy the market reforms and, therefore, will violate PHS Act sections 2711 and 2713, among other provisions, which can trigger penalties such as excise taxes under section 4980D of the Code.

It is difficult to determine the policy reasons behind this. As best I can tell, it seems to be that the DOL wants employees to be covered either under traditional group plans set up under the small business exchanges, or on individual plans purchased through the regular exchanges. Whatever the policy justification, it’s bad news for any employers using such arrangements, as the rules are already in effect for 2014.

Paul Neiffer has more at DOL Plays Hardball (Don’t Shoot the Messenger)!

If you are dealing with any vendor offering Section 105 plans that are attempting to make payment of health insurance premiums for more than one employee deductible by the employer and exempt from payroll taxes, be extremely careful.  As you can see from this Q #3, the DOL takes a dim view of these arrangements.

One last area of concern that was not addressed by the DOL is what happens with S corporation shareholders who have health insurance premiums reimbursed.  Under the self-employed health insurance deduction rules, there is a requirement for reimbursement; under the DOL Q&A, these reimbursements may run afoul of the ACA requirements.  If we get further clarity on this, we will let you know.

I understand this as restricting S corporation 2% owners to group plans, without a reimbursement option, but I suspect clarification is forthcoming.

Additional coverage from ISU-CALT: Updated! Heal.th Reimbursement Plans Not Compliant with ACA Could Mean Exorbitant Penalties.

 

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Sheldon scene, 2013. It’s slightly less cold this year.

William Perez, What You Need to Know about Reporting Payments Using Form 1099-MISC

Kay Bell, IRS taxpayer service outlook, short- and long-term, is bleak

Robert Everett JohnsonIRS Seizure of Assets Using Anti-Structuring Laws (Procedurally Taxing). It is a guest post by an attorney for the heroic Institute for Justice, which is defending the Arnolds Park, Iowa resturaunteur whose cash was stolen by the IRS.

TaxGrrrl, IRS Warns Taxpayers To Be Diligent As Identity Thieves Add New Twist To Phone Scam.

Russ Fox, Since the Dead Vote, Why Can’t They Get Tax Exemptions? “Cook County has begun to make sure that seniors are truly alive when taking the exemption.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 550. Todays links hit heavily on the failure of the agency to even look for the missing Lois Lerner e-mails in its servers or backup tapes. Yet Commissioner Koskinen just doesn’t understand why Republican appropriators don’t want to entrust him with a bigger budget.

Career Corner. Gentlemen, If Your Firm Offers Paternity Leave, Take All Of It (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). Yes, it gives you lots of time to interview for that new job you’ll be needing.

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/7/14: The crime of deducting Cal Ripken’s bat. And more!

Friday, November 7th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

bauders

Accounting Today visitors, the godawful link you seek is here.

The principal owner of a local pharmacy has pleaded guilty to two felony counts arising from an investigation of illegal sales of painkillers. Mark Graziano pleaded to one drug conspiracy count and one count of tax evasion. The Des Moines Register story covers all you might want to know about the drug charges. Naturally, we’re more interested in the tax angle.

Surprisingly to me, the tax charge is unrelated to the drug charge.  It involves instead the alteration of business credit card records to conceal purchases of personal non-deductible things.  From the plea deal:

Beginning sometime prior to 2008, and continuing into 2012, Defendant used the business credit card to make purchases which were solely for the personal benefit of the Defendant. Such purchases included airline travel and cruises, jewelry, vehicles, and sports memorabilia and other collectibles.

The pharmacy paid a local accounting firm to write up the business financial statements.

Prior to providing the monthly credit card statements to the accounting firm, Defendant altered the credit card statement by (1) deleting the personal benefit purchases, and (2) increasing the amounts represented as additional inventory from wholesale distributors. Defendant would then provide the altered credit card statements to the bookkeeper, who entered that information…

The deal says that Mr. Graziano was 68% owner of the pharmacy corporation, an S corporation. That means not only was he deducting personal expenses on the business return, but he was also charging 32% of the cost of his toys to his minority owners.

The plea deal says that Mr. Graziano will forfeit sports memorabilia to fund reimbursement of unpaid taxes. It’s an interesting collection. From the indictment:

graziano memorabilia

It seems he was an old-school basketball fan.

The plea deal doesn’t say how he altered the statements, but I would guess he downloaded them and made the chenges on his P.C., to get away with it so long. He might still be doing it if his co-defendant hadn’t unwisely reported a non-paying illegal drug customer to the customer’s parole officer.

Fortunately, the pharmacy will remain open. His sister will acquire his interest, according to the Des Moines Register story. The pharmacy still operates an old-time soda fountain serving delicious homemade ice cream. Des Moines would be a little less without that.

The moral? If the company has a business credit card, the statements should not go to the card user. They should be opened by someone else in the office, someone who might wonder why a pharmacy needs all those ball bats.

 

Home sweet homestead. Illinois County Uncovers $9.4 Million in Fraud Revenue with Analytics (Govtech.com). Using data mining techniques, a contractor helped Cook County identify improper property tax homestead exemption claims.

 

20140826-1Robert D. Flach serves up your Friday morning Buzz! He buzzes about everything from IRAs to muni bond losses.

TaxGrrrl, IRS Warns Taxpayers To Be Diligent As Identity Thieves Add New Twist To Phone Scam. If you aren’t expecting a call from IRS, it’s not the IRS.

Peter Reilly, Technology Officer Denied Capital Gain Treatment On Sale To Google

Kay Bell, Most of 2014’s tax ballot questions approved by voters

Robert Goulder, Apple’s Financial Disclosure: The Lockout Effect at Work (Tax Analysts Blog). “Apple recently disclosed that its stockpile of offshore profits has increased to $137 billion. That’s money the company can’t fully use without suffering massive tax costs. If you’ve ever sought an illustration of the lockout effect run amok, this is it.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 547

Scott Drenkard, Richard Borean, Corporate Net Operating Loss Carryforward and Carryback Provisions by State (Tax Policy Blog)

Richard Auxier, Voters Hate Gas Tax Hikes—That’s a Problem for States *TaxVox). If Governor Branstad proposes one, that probably means he really plans to retire.

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/6/14: You pretend to complete the form, we’ll pretend to care. And: election mania!

Thursday, November 6th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Accounting Today visitorsthe godawful link you seek is here.

 

20120905-1Don’t worry about getting it right, just make it look good. IRS personnel trying to appease angry practitioners at an AICPA Tax Division gathering had some strange and annoying things to say yesterday.

Practitioners are upset at the IRS insistence on Form 3115 accounting method change applications with 2014 returns from everyone moving into compliance with the new rules on repair and capitalization costs.  Tax Analysts reports ($link):

Participants in the tax methods and periods panel at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants fall Tax Division meeting in Washington said that some taxpayers don’t want to pay the high costs associated with going through years’ worth of records to calculate a precise section 481(a) adjustment required under the final regulations (T.D. 9636). The cost of that level of compliance could be more than the entire cost of preparing their returns, practitioners said, adding that the taxpayers are considering filing their method changes with corresponding section 481(a) adjustments of zero.

The piece cites Scott Dinwiddie, special counsel, IRS Office of Associate Chief Counsel (Income Tax and Accounting):

Taxpayers were taking aggressive positions, so the government didn’t want to provide an across-the-board cutoff in the final regulations, he said. Instead, it required 481(a) adjustments as a way to allow field agents to examine taxpayers’ aggressive positions, he said.

So because some taxpayers were taking positions you didn’t like, you want to require everyone to do a bunch of wasteful and meaningless busy work during our busiest time of the year. Got it.

Dinwiddie said that, barring a situation in which the taxpayer has taken aggressive positions in the past or has in no way applied a proper capitalization method, the IRS is unlikely to have much interest in examining a taxpayer’s section 481(a) adjustment now.

So we pretend to file an accurate Form 3115, and they pretend to care. Well, you have to admit that considering the budget and enforcement restraints on the IRS, this approach is… absolutely insane. Taxpayers have to pay for a bunch of nonsense compliance, and the IRS doesn’t care whether it’s right. The IRS still has to incur processing costs. I’d love to see the IRS cost-benefit worksheets on this one.

 

20120810-1The TaxProf has a roundup of observations on the whether tax reform can happen in the new Congress, including this from William Gale:

It is a good bet that the new Republican Congress will continue to talk about tax reform. That is safe ground for Republicans generally. And, of course, seemingly impossible things do sometimes happen. But I wouldn’t bet on tax reform. 

A wise non-bet.

 

TaxGrrrl, What Matters Most When It Comes To Tax Reform? Hint: It’s Not Control Of Congress:

What is interesting, however, is that most of the significant tax policy changes in the modern era are more closely tied to the length of presidential terms. Every president has a budget – and an agenda – but real shifts in rates and policies tend to happen during a second term (or en route to a second term) no matter which party is in control. 

I don’t expect it to happen this time.

 

Scott Drenkard, What Do the 2014 Midterm Election Results Mean for State Tax Policy? “My prediction is that this means that taxes will be one of the biggest, if not the biggest issue in state policy next legislative session, and that tax reform will become even more of a bipartisan issue.”  I’m afraid that’s not true here in Iowa.

Russ Fox, Nevada Goes Deep Red. “Do you remember 1928? Well, that was the last time Nevada had a Republican governor, a Republican State Assembly, a Republican State Senate, and Republicans holding all major statewide offices.”

Paul Neiffer, A Christmas Present?! “They will meet over the next six weeks or so and around Christmas time we will get the final tax package.”

 

 

20120702-2Arnold Kling’s characteristically wise observation on the election results:

Conventional wisdom is that, relatively speaking, Democrats have a structural advantage in Presidential elections, because those elections attract more turnout. In other words, they do much better among disengaged voters. One could spin this positively for the Democrats, saying that they get support from the weaker segments of society. One could spin this negatively and say that they rely on a segment of the electorate that is poorly informed and easily bamboozled, which I believe is the case. The counter to that would be that Republicans also rely on a segment of the electorate that is poorly informed and easily bamboozled, which I also believe is the case.

While I don’t agree with all of what he says, the whole post is brief and well worth reading. So is this from Don Boudreaux:

I advise freedom-loving and free-market-appreciating Americans (of which I am unashamedly one) to be good Tullockians about the results of yesterday’s landslide wins for the G.O.P.  The Republicans who won those elections are, after all, politicians – and it is the rare politician, of whatever party, who reliably puts principle above personal interest.  As a rule, politicians are untrustworthy, duplicitous, and cowardly; they are people who have an unusually powerful craving for power and fame; and the successful among them typically posses an unusual talent for camouflaging their craving for power and fame as a saintly calling to ‘serve the people.’

Pretty much. But some are less bad than others, enough so that I do bother to vote.

Renu Zaretsky, Don’t Call It a Comeback… Yet.  The TaxVox headline roundup is full of post-election links, including news of Berkeley, California, passing an idiotic soda tax. When they start taxing mocha lattes, I’ll believe they’re such taxes are about public health than moral vanity.

 

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And some folks are actually talking about things other than the election:

Jana Luttenegger, Even Startups Need to Have the Conversation (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).

Jason Dinesen tells us A Little Bit About Sole Proprietorships, Part 1

William Perez, Dividends: Taxes and Reporting

Robert D. Flach recounts EXPLAINING MORTGAGE INTEREST AND INVESTMENT INTEREST FOR A CLIENT

Jim Maule discusses how Mortgage Loan Modification Can Imperil Interest Deduction

Stephen Olsen at Procedurally Taxing as a new round of Summary Opinions., with links to news from the world of tax procedure.

Jack Townsend, The Honorable Jed Rakoff on Why Innocent People Plead Guilty. He quotes Judge Rakoff: “…the guidelines, like the mandatory minimums, provide prosecutors with weapons to bludgeon defendants into effectively coerced plea bargains.”

Kay Bell, 5 tax record keeping questions … and answers!

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 546

News from the Profession. McGladrey Reminds Audit Staff to Stay Billable This Busy Season (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/31/14: Halloween! And: mortgage interest? Put it on the tab.

Friday, October 31st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140325-1The deduction for home mortgage interest is hugely popular among those with huge home mortgages. Taxpayers get to deduct all of the interest paid on loans used to buy a home, up to $1 million in principal; they also get to deduct interest paid on the first $100,000 in home equity debt.

But there is a technicality: the interest needs to be “paid.” That was a problem for a California couple in Tax Court yesterday.

The couple bought a home in 1991 for $300,000. They refinanced it for $600,000 in 2007. Then 2008 happened, and they got a loan modification in 2010. Tax Court Judge Lauber explains:

The modifications included a reduction of the interest rate, a change in the payment terms, and an increase in the loan balance. Immediately before the modifications, the outstanding loan balance was $579,275; after the modifications, the new balance was $623,953. The difference (equal to $44,678) resulted from adding the following amounts to the loan balance: past due interest of $30,273, servicing expense of $180, and charges for taxes and insurance of $14,225.

The taxpayers added the $30,273 to the $9,253 the bank put on their 1098 mortgage interest statement for 2010. The IRS noticed the difference and disallowed the $30,273.

20121031-2The Tax Court sided with the IRS:

Petitioners are cash basis taxpayers. It is well settled that “[a] cash-basis taxpayer ‘pays’ interest only when he pays cash or its equivalent to his lender.”

 Through the loan modification agreement, the $30,273 in past-due interest on petitioners’ mortgage loan was added to the principal. No money changed hands; petitioners simply promised to pay the past-due interest, along with the rest of the principal, at a later date. Because petitioners did not pay this interest during 2010 in cash or its equivalent, they cannot claim a deduction for it for 2010. They will be entitled to a deduction if and when they actually discharge this portion of their loan obligation in a future year. 

In short, you can’t just add interest to the loan balance and get a deduction. That has obvious implications for “reverse mortgages.”

As the taxpayers make the payments, they will have some additional factors to consider. Their original purchase price was $300,000 for the house. Unless the additional borrowing was used for renovation or expansion of the home, it is “home equity indebtedness.” Interest on only the first $100,000 of equity debt will be deductible — and only for regular tax, not AMT.

Cite: Copeland, T.C. Memo 2014-226.

 

mst3k-lanternWilliam Perez, The Tax Audit Success Story and Tips from Audit Experts

Jason Dinesen, Same-sex Marriage and State Taxes: 2014

Kay Bell, 2015 income tax rates, income brackets

TaxGrrrl, IRS Announces 2015 Tax Brackets, Standard Deduction Amounts And More

Robert D. Flach has A SCARY THOUGHT for Halloween. “What if the 114th Congress turns out to be made up of most of the same idiots as the 113th Congress!”  It will be.

 

Leslie Book, AICPA Suit Against IRS Voluntary Education and Testing Regime Thrown Out of Court (Procedurally Taxing)

Tax Trials, Tax Court Preserves Taxpayer Protections against Arbitrary and Capricious Appeals Rulings

 

Arnold Kling  on “middle class” tax credits:

Brooks endorses the reform conservative Room-to-Grow idea of showering middle-class families with tax credits. I see that as political posturing. If I could be in charge of tax reform, we would get rid of credits and deductions, and we also would move away from taxing income and instead toward taxing consumption. Note, however, that tax reform is not one of my top three priorities.

Except for the last sentence, I agree with it all.

 

6fpw32atDon Boudreax on the Arnolds Park IRS cash seizure:

I challenge anyone to justify, or even to excuse, such an abuse of power.  (HT a dear and wise and passionate friend.)

Words normally do not escape me, but I can find none that adequately convey the anger and sense of injustice that course through me when I read of seizures such as this one.  Best to let the matter speak for itself, which it surely does to anyone this side of Frank Underwood in decency and civility.  Fortunately, the great Institute for Justice is on the case.

Oh, I’m sure that things like that could never happen if the IRS had a bigger budget.

 

Andrew Lundeen, Tens of Thousands Protest Internet Tax in Hungary (Tax Policy Blog) Would-be dictators come up with wacky ideas.

20141027-2Matt Gardner, Obscure Law Allows Wealthy Professional Sports Team Owners to Reap Tax Windfalls (Tax Justice Blog) . He doesn’t care for intangibles amortization.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 540

 

News from the Profession. Grant Thornton to Have Rat Problem for Foreseeable Future (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

Tony Nitti, Want To Do Your Part To Help Fight Ebola? Skip Your Next Vacation. OK, I’m skipping my next vacation to Liberia.

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Tax Roundup, 10/29/14: Iowa Business Tax Climate worsens. And: Ex-IRS man does a Reddit AMA.

Wednesday, October 29th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

41st out of 50. Iowa reclaimed its bottom-10 standing among the states in the 2015 Tax Foundation Business Tax Climate Index released yesterday. Iowa’s standing fell one spot from 2014.

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The Tax Foundation report mentions Iowa’s highest-in-the-nation corporation tax rate, its high individual rates, and its complicated tax system.  Iowa was rated as having the second-worst corporation tax system.

The Tax Foundation explains how the worst states got that way:

The states in the bottom ten suffer from the same afflictions: complex, non-neutral taxes with comparatively high rates. New Jersey, for example, suffers from some of the highest property tax burdens in the country, is one of just two states to levy both an inheritance and an estate tax, and maintains some of the worst structured individual income taxes in the country.

Even though Iowa’s complex and dysfunctional income tax is a long-standing embarrassment, it has been a non-issue in the current race for Governor. While he has occasionally said Iowa needs a better tax code, Governor Branstad’s administration has more avid about handing out tax credits to buy ribbon-cuttings than about fixing a tax law that burdens businesses lacking the pull to swing special deals. The tax law as it is seems to suit the Governor’s needs well enough now.

His opponent, Senator Hatch, is a big beneficiary of tax credits in his development business. As he makes a good living out of the tax law, he is an unlikely candidate for tax reform.

The report does hold out hope. North Carolina’s ranking jumped from 44th to 16th as a result of reforms enacted this year. If they can do it, maybe Iowa can too. The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan, which would eliminate the corporation tax and drastically reduce individual rates by getting rid of Iowa’s rats nest of politically-convenient deductions and credits, would be a great place to start.

Other coverage:

TaxProf, 2015 Business Tax Climate: Chilliest in Blue States

Russ Fox, The 2015 State Business Tax Climate Index: Not Much Has Changed

 

20120906-1David Brunori, Yes, More Problems with Tax Incentives (Tax Analysts Blog):

People who have studied tax incentives know everything that’s wrong with them: They don’t work (companies choose where to locate for other reasons); they’re unfair (some companies get them, others don’t, and their benefits inure to the haves rather than the have-nots); they’re inefficient (government bureaucrats can’t make decisions better than the market). There are many more.

We also know why politicians support incentives, despite the mountains of criticism from people who know of what they say. Traditionally, it comes down to fear and greed. No politician wants to lose a company on his watch. Similarly, every politician wants to cut the ribbon opening a new plant. Then there is just cowardice. Taking a stand on principle is a rare commodity.

Indeed.

 

Iowa saved from giving away $30 million in corporate welfare. Iowa loses $1.4 billion fertilizer plant to Illinois (Des Moines Register) “Previous news reports have said both Iowa and Illinois offered Cronus tax incentives of about $30 million.”

 

William Perez, How Saving for Retirement Can Reduce Your Taxes

Robert D. Flach reports on THE SAVER’S CREDIT NUMBERS FOR 2015. This is an underused credit that rewards frugality by lower-income taxpayers.

Jason Dinesen, IRS Oops on E-Services E-mail. “That’s quite a mistake to “inadvertently” send an e-mail to practitioners, implying that online services were available again when they really aren’t. Especially since the IRS doesn’t intend to send a follow-up retraction to all of us who got the original e-mail.”

Jim Maule, How Not to File a Tax Court Petition “First, stand in line and get that hand-stamped postmark. Second, avoid the need to learn the first lesson by treating the petition as due EIGHTY days after it is mailed. That provides a cushion of time, an allowance for unforeseen circumstances, and contingency insurance.”

Jack Townsend, IRS CI Modifies Its Policy Regarding Forfeitures for Structuring on Bank Deposits for Legal Source Deposits.

TaxGrrrl, IRS Announces PTIN Renewals, Registration For Voluntary Certification

Peter Reilly, There Is An Accountant Art Expert – Who Knew?

Kay Bell, Desert island bipartisanship, sort of, on new reality TV show. Apparently a reality show left two Senators stranded on a desert island for six days. A good start.

 

20121116-1iabiz

 

Howard Gleckman, Is There Any Chance Congress Will Pass Business Tax Reform Next Year? (TaxVox). “The chances are not zero. But the odds are very long.”

William McBride, White House Claims U.S. Effective Corporate Tax Rate is Competitive (Tax Policy Blog). Yes, the way the Giants were competitive last night in Kansas City.

 

News from the Profession. Things You Should NOT Say to a Brand New CPA (Leona May, Going Concern).

 

Recently-retired IRS agent Michael Gregory did an “ask me anything” on Reddit. It apparently didn’t impress everyone, if this report is to be believed:

Gregory accused Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), who has been leading the investigation of IRS misdoings, of playing politics with IRS funding, which led one Reddit user to offer a “summary” of Gregory’s comments:

From what I’ve seen so far

Lerner did nothing wrong
Darrel Issa is the devil
Throw more money at the IRS
Lack of criminal charges proves everything was just peachy and not politically driven
It’s all congress’ fault
Patriots pay taxes
The flat tax will let evil millionaires kill and eat babies

The IRS couldn’t ask for a better ‘leaker’

Other Reddit users agreed, with one complaining, “[Gregory] might as well have titled this AMA ‘having left the IRS, I am free now to reveal the IRS would be perfect if Congress just paid us more.’ I get that the IRS may be underfunded but this leaker might as well be an IRS lobbyist.”

The IRS seems to have taken the funding issue into its own hands.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/27/14: IRS visits Arnolds Park restaurant, tips itself.

Monday, October 27th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120703-2IRS Commissioner Koskinen likes to say there is nothing wrong with the IRS that a bigger budget can’t cure. A story out of Arnolds Park, Iowa might cause one to question that. The New York Times reports:

For almost 40 years, Carole Hinders has dished out Mexican specialties at her modest cash-only restaurant. For just as long, she deposited the earnings at a small bank branch a block away — until last year, when two tax agents knocked on her door and informed her that they had seized her checking account, almost $33,000.

The Internal Revenue Service agents did not accuse Ms. Hinders of money laundering or cheating on her taxes — in fact, she has not been charged with any crime. Instead, the money was seized solely because she had deposited less than $10,000 at a time, which they viewed as an attempt to avoid triggering a required government report.

Banks are required to report “suspicious” deposits under $10,000 because they might be done to evade a required IRS filing. As they get in trouble for non-reporting, they are likely to overreport. And in these cases, that’s all the IRS required before stealing the cash. The victims have legal recourse, but it requires them to sue the federal government, owner of the largest law firm in the world; legal bills routinely run into tens of thousands of dollars.

So, without any evidence, or even suspicion, of a crime, the IRS uses some of its allegedly precious and constrained enforcement resources to steal money from a little Iowa restaurant. The story cites other cash seizure nightmares. One involved an Army sergeant saving for his daughters’ education. Others involved legitimate but cash-intensive businesses.

If this is what the IRS accomplishes with insufficient resources, imagine how much they could steal with full funding.

(via Instapundit)

Related:

Tax Justice Blog,  New Movie Aims to Scare Public by Depicting IRS as Jack-Booted Thugs. Where would anybody get that idea?

Dan Mitchell, Another Example of Government Thuggery – and another Reason Why Decent and Moral People Are Libertarians

Russ Fox, SARs Leading to Forfeiture: The IRS Oversteps

 

20141027-2Jason Dinesen, How Non-Residents or Part-Year Residents Report Federal Refunds on Iowa Tax Returns. One more complication from Iowa’s deduction for federal taxes.

Robert D. Flach, DON’T TRY TO BUY A HOUSE OR CONDO WITH ONLY 5% DOWN!. And don’t try to subsidize that either.

William Perez, Self-Employed Retirement Plans, “If you have self-employment income, then you can take a tax deduction for contributions you make to a SEP, SIMPLE, or a solo 401(k) retirement plan.”

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2014: #9-Tax Court Further Muddies The ‘Dealer Versus Investor’ Issue

 

TaxGrrrl, Fundraising Campaign Ends For ‘Ebola Free’ Nurse, Donors Encouraged To Contribute To Charity

Jana Luttenegger, 2015 Retirement Plan Limits Announced (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Paul Neiffer, 2015 Social Security Wage Base Increases to $118,500

Kay Bell, 6 year-end tax tips for small businesses

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions (Procedurally Taxing). Recent cases on whistleblowers, interest abatement, and art valuation.

 

 

Andrew Mitchel, 2014 Third Quarter Published Expatriates – Third Highest Ever. FATCA and the IRS holy war on Americans abroad takes its toll.

20141027-1

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 536

 

David Brunori on the inherently corrupt nature of corporate welfare tax incentives, like those so popular with Iowa politicians ($link):

I have no doubt there are more instances of companies contributing to politicians and getting economic development payouts. I’m not naïve. Corporations donate money to governors and lawmakers and expect a return on their investment. While the governors cited above were Republican, corporations and business interests don’t discriminate. Indeed, Lockheed Martin donated lots of money to Democratic governors.

We likely won’t find a smoking gun e-mail reading, “Dear Governor, your check is in the mail, please process my multimillion-dollar handout. Your friend, CEO.” Politicians and business leaders are too smart for that. But growing evidence of tax incentives being granted by politicians who receive money should give everyone pause. It’s unlikely to be a coincidence.

But, jobs! For the middlemen, fixers and lobbyists, anyway.

 

Joseph Henchman, Michigan Senate Advances Film Tax Credit Extension Bill (Tax Policy Blog). Because Detroit has no greater need than to give money to Hollywood.

 

News from the Profession. Meet the Guy Who Prefers Falafel Over PwC (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/24/14: IRS attorney says revolving door spins away billions. And: pass-through isn’t always small.

Friday, October 24th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130129-1Taxes are for the little people without connections. A sensational open letter to the top Treasury tax brass from an IRS attorney alleges that the agency routinely shuts off promising examinations of big well-connected taxpayers. From Raw Story (via the TaxProf):

In a letter to Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew, IRS commissioner John A. Koskinen, and IRS chief counsel William Wilkins, Jane J. Kim, an attorney in the IRS Office of the Chief Counsel in New York, accused IRS executives of “deliberately” facilitating multi-billion dollar tax giveaways. The letter, dated October 19, will add further pressure on the agency, which is under fire for allegedly targeting conservative and Tea Party groups.

The letter describes three cases where Ms. Kim says the IRS walked away from large well-founded assessments of big corporate taxpayers raised by whistleblowers. The story implicates the revolving door between big law and accounting firms and the top levels of the IRS as a key to the strange taxpayer friendliness.

Bill Henck, who has worked for over 26 years in the IRS Office of the Chief Counsel, agreed. “The senior executives drive the train on all this and pal around with lobbyists,” he said. “Treasury was involved with both the Elmer’s Glue scam and the black liquor taxability issue. IRS executives look out for themselves, which usually means protecting corporate interests, since they hire lobbyists and are close to politicians.”

Backing up Henck’s concerns, the private sector lawyer and ex-IRS attorney explained that since 1998, IRS restructuring has focused on bringing in “outside people.” This led to the employment of an extra layer of executives who were previously “partners from big accounting firms.” Citing active IRS criminal agents, the ex-IRS attorney said: “Almost every large firm or corporation has a person inside the IRS. It’s a revolving door, with the top two or three management layers all from big accounting and law firms, and this is why they won’t work big billion-dollar cases criminally. Private bar attorneys are, in effect, controlling the IRS. It’s a type of corruption – that’s the word used by one IRS agent I’m in touch with whose case was shut down by higher ups without cause.”

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

That brings to mind Commissioner Koskinen’s view of the revolving door:

So I’ve always said the best testimonial to a good place to work is people are forever coming in and trying to steal your people. And so I would be delighted to have young people come here for two or three years and some of them get recruited away because they were so good and the training is so good, because the more of that that happens, the more people are going to stand in line to get here. And as I say, the experience is, because it would be a great place to work, is the capture rate would be terrific.

So the Commissioner thinks the revolving door is a good thing. That probably means Ms. Kim’s letter isn’t exactly going to trigger reforming zeal from Mr. Koskinen. And don’t expect that you can skip out on taxes without your own mole in the IRS, chump.

 

 

Robert D. Flach has your fresh Friday Buzz! Including depressing news that Congresscritters are going to wait until January 2015 to enact the tax laws for 2014.

Kay Bell, Some retirement plan contribution, AGI limits go up in 2015

Brett Bloom, Dismantling a Partnership: The IRS’s Toolbox (Tax Litigation Survey)

William Perez, How to Plan for, Minimize, and Report the Self-Employment Tax

TaxGrrrl, IRS Gets Big Win In Court As Judge Dismisses Tea Party Targeting Cases

Peter Reilly, National Organization For Marriage – No Recovery Of Attorney Fees In Case Against IRS

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 533

 

Kyle PomerleauPass-Through Businesses are not Always Small Businesses (Tax Policy Blog). This article is a good read for anyone who thinks increases in top rates don’t hurt business because most pass-throughs are small. While that may be true, there a lots of large ones:

Compared to c corporations, pass-through businesses are still much smaller on average. The same Census data shows that 1.6 percent of corporate businesses employ 100 or more employees and 0.36 percent employ 500 or more employees. 44 percent employ between 1 and 100 employees.

However, in absolute terms, there are about as many pass-through businesses with 500 or more employees than there are traditional c corporations. According to the Census, there are approximately 9573 pass-through businesses with 500 or more employees and 9434 c corporations with 500 or more employees.

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Source: Tax Foundation

So when you increase taxes on high-income individuals, you are also increasing taxes on employers, which isn’t likely to do good things for employment.

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Robert Goulder, FATCA Envy Spreads Across Hemisphere (Tax Analysts Blog) Other countries just might want to poke into foreign accounts the way we do.

Howard Gleckman, Why Tax Lawyers and Tax Economists Can’t Communicate (TaxVox)

 Megan McArdle,  Can’t Afford a House? Don’t Buy One. Wise advice, but politicians think we should have a program to buy a pony for everyone.

Tax Justice Blog asks What Horrors Await Us in Congress after the Election?  And will they be better or worse horrors than the current bunch of congresscritters?

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/21/14: Gander gets sauced! And: IRS Commissioner’s prophecy of tax season doom.

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Flickr image by Sage under Creative Commons license

Flickr image by Sage under Creative Commons license

Gander, Meet Sauce. An alert reader points out something wonderful I had missed — a ruling awarding attorney fees and costs of $257,885 to the return preparers who successfully challenged the IRS preparer regulations. It’s a rare and welcome example of the IRS being held accountable for being unreasonable with taxpayers. And the court said the IRS was being unreasonable (all emphasis mine; some citations omitted):

In the present case, the reasonableness of the government’s position can be measured by the familiar guideposts of statutory interpretation: text, legislative history, statutory context, and congressional intent. In each of those dimensions, the interpretation of § 331(a)(1) advocated by the government was deficient. Indeed, on several key points, such as the proper meaning of the word “representatives,” the IRS offered no support whatever for its interpretation. The Court therefore finds that the government’s position was not substantially justified.

Losing the battle over whether its position was justified, the IRS dipped into its seemingly bottomless supply of chutzpah to challenge the amount:

As an initial salvo, the IRS argues that it was unreasonable and excessive for Plaintiffs to request compensation for over 1,700 hours spent advocating an interpretation of the statute that Plaintiffs themselves contend is obvious.

Our position was reasonable! OK, it was so unreasonable that even a cave man could litigate against it!

The Court declines the IRS’s request for across-the-board cuts to Plaintiffs’ award. The choice of a hatchet is particularly inappropriate here for several reasons. First and foremost, Plaintiffs prevailed at every stage of this litigation and achieved the entirety of their requested relief. Degree of success is “the most critical factor” in evaluating the reasonableness of a fee award.  Second, the IRS understates the complexity of this case. To be sure, this Court and the D.C. Circuit both concluded that Plaintiffs’ was the only reasonable interpretation of 31 U.S.C. § 330(a)(1). That conclusion, however, was apparent largely as a result of Plaintiffs’ thorough research and well-reasoned briefs.

Hah.

The only thing that would make it better would be if the IRS were assessed a penalty for taking a frivolous or negligent position. Maybe someday. But congratulations to the plaintiffs and the Institute for Justice for pulling off a legal end-zone dance.

 


Cite: Loving, Civil Action No. 12-385 (DC-District of Columbia)

And if you think that preparers can now do whatever they please, read Tax preparation business owner sentenced for tax fraud:

Charles Lee Harrison has been ordered to federal prison following his conviction of willfully aiding and assisting in the preparation and presentation of a false tax return, announced United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson along with Lucy Cruz, special agent in charge of Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI). Harrison, the owner of a tax preparation business in Houston and Navasota, pleaded guilty June 16, 2014.

Today, U.S. District Judge Lynn N. Hughes, who accepted the guilty plea, handed Harrison a 36-month sentence to be immediately followed by one year of supervised release. He was further ordered to pay $396,057 in restitution.

I’m confident Mr. Harrison feels quite regulated at the moment.

 

Oh, Goody. “So we have right now probably the most complicated filing season before us that we’ve had in a long time, if ever. ”

-IRS Commissioner John Koskinen in an interview with Tax Analysts October 17 ($link)

The Commissioner also had an interesting idea for large partnerships ($link):

Our position is the most significant thing we can do to break that bottleneck — and I think it’s supported by a lot of people in the private sector — would be to say we need to amend [the 1982 Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act] and say we can audit a partnership,” Koskinen said. “And when we make an adjustment to the tax quantities, the partnership will absorb that that year,” he said, adding that the reporting would take place on the partnership’s Schedule K-1 for that year and the adjustment would automatically flow through to the partners.

Koskinen added that even though that statutory change would effectively shift the tax liability from those who were partners in the year under audit (and who benefited from the improper tax position) to the current partners, “that happens with mutual funds all the time. . . . People are used to buying and selling investments, recognizing whatever the tax and investment situation is.

Maybe that makes some sense for large partnerships, but it would be horrible for small ones, as anybody buying a partnership interest would also be buying three open years of audit exposure.

 

buzz20140923It’s Tuesday. That means Robert D. Flach is Buzzing with links from around the tax world!

Jason Dinesen, Iowa Tax Filing Deadline is October 31: Claim Your $54 Credit Before Then

Paul Neiffer, Will ACA Require You To Include Health Insurance as Wages. Spoiler: no.

Matt McKinney, Can I force my Iowa corporation to buy my stock? (IowaBiz.com). A common question from minority owners of closely-held corporations.

Tony Nitti, The Top Ten Tax Cases (And Rulings) Of 2014: #10 – IRA and Qualified Plan Rollovers Are More Treacherous Than You Realize.

TaxGrrrl, Suspected Nazi War Criminals Collected Millions In Social Security Benefits After Fleeing The U.S.

William Perez, Payroll Taxes: A Primer for Employers

Peter Reilly, Taxpayer Barred From Communicating With CPA Still Hit With Late File Penalty. Weird and unjust.

Kay Bell, Jury doesn’t buy ‘vow of poverty’ as excuse for not filing taxes. Well, this tax evasion conviction will help the defendant fulfill the vow.

 

 

20141021-1Martin Sullivan, A Double Bias Against Infrastructure (Tax Analysts Blog)  He doesn’t mention the biggest problem: When most of government spending is just transfers from some taxpayers to others, it squeezes out everything else.

Donald Marron, A “Normal” Budget Isn’t Really Normal (TaxVox): “From 1975 to today, the federal debt swelled from less than 25 percent of GDP to more than 70 percent. I don’t think many people would view that as normal. Or maybe it is normal, but not in a good way.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 530

 

News from the Profession. AICPA Seeks to Better Weed Out Losers, Misfits with Evolved CPA Exam (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern). Good thing I passed the exam before this development.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/20/14: Extension season is over. Now what? And: do your part for Boeing!

Monday, October 20th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

We are now in the sweet spot of the tax year. We are done with extended 1040s, and it’s too early to get most people to do year-end tax planning. That’s why this is the continuing education season for most of us.

The Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax Schools begin next week. I will be speaking on the Day 1 program for all schools, starting October 28 in Waterloo, Iowa. Tour stops also include Maquoketa, Sheldon, Red Oak, Ottumwa, Mason City, Denison and Ames. Who said public accounting lacks glamour?

Now to get those slides prepared…

 

Government is just a word for things we do together. Like subsidizing big corporations. Using information from Good Jobs First, Veronique de Rugy of the Mercatus Institute provides a chart of the biggest known recipients of state subsidies:

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Meanwhile, everyone else pays a little higher tax rate to grease Boeing’s landing gear. I believe that the damage caused to the taxpayers who don’t get these subsidies makes losers out of the states that win tax incentive bidding wars.

 

20140805-3Kay Bell, 2014 tax planning starts with your tax bracket

Annette Nellen, Premium Tax Credit Problems, “This is a big deal because the PTC serves to help make health insurance affordable to individuals with income between 100% and 400% of the federal poverty line.”

TaxGrrrl, Apple Seeds Perk Wars, Adds Egg Freezing As Employee Benefit.  Is that a tax-free benefit? It makes me wonder about their work-life balance.

Peter Reilly, UnFair: Exposing The IRS – Does Not Make Strong Case Or Decent Documentary. Peter watched the movie so you don’t have to.

Tax Trials, Tax Court Preserves Taxpayer Protections against Arbitrary and Capricious Appeals Rulings

Russ Fox, Copying Steven Martinez’s Idea Is Not a Good Choice. If you think you need to murder nine witnesses to stay out of jail, you probably won’t stay out of jail.

 

 

The Tax Prof reports that Linda Beale will resume tax blogging after going off the air as a result of the death of her husband. My condolences to Linda and her family.

Jim Maule, Putting the Brakes on Tax Breaks. “Never do indirectly through taxes what can and should be done directly.”

 

Andrew Lundeen, Most Common Jobs by Income Bracket (Tax Policy Blog). The professions do well.

Richard Auxier, Ahead of the Midterms, State Economic Trends Present Mixed Signals (TaxVox). “A September Pew Research poll found that while Americans’ assessment of job opportunities had improved, 56 percent reported their family’s income was falling behind the cost of living.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 529

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Quotable. Tax Analysts David Brunori  on a proposed film credit for the music industry in New York ($link):

Like their film equivalents, tax breaks for musicians are bad tax policy. Even if music producers were swayed by taxes, those breaks would be bad policy. Why musicians? Why not cab drivers? Orthodontists? Flamenco dancers? New York lawmakers, many of whom wanted to be Billy Joel growing up, will probably say yes to this terrible idea.

While I have a rooting interest in the music industry, the tax credit idea is awful.

 

News from the Profession. Let’s Watch This Audit Senior Quit His Job in the Most Fabulous Way (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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