Posts Tagged ‘TaxGrrrl’

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

Friday, March 7th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Another argument for electronic filing and payment.

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 302

 

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

William McBride, Camp and Obama Gang up on Savers

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/6/14: My lips are sealed edition. And: more budget!

Thursday, March 6th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner still isn’t talking.  That would seem to make for a dull hearing of the House Committee investigating the harassment of Tea Party organizations by the IRS, but there was some interest.  From the Wall Street Journal:

A House hearing on the Internal Revenue Service scandal ended in acrimony, as the ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D., Md.) accused Republicans of a “one-sided investigation” and GOP members walked out.

Chairman Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) ended the hearing after the lone witness, former IRS official Lois Lerner, declined to answer several of his questions, citing her Fifth Amendment privilege.

Yes, everyone is entitled to the protection of the Constitution, but those of us not sitting on a jury are also entitled to draw our own conclusions.  When the key figure in the scandal fears honest testimony will incriminate herself, you can be forgiven for questioning the President’s assertion that there is “not even a smidgen of corruption” involved.

Take it away, GoGos:

 

Althouse, After Lois Lerner re-asserts the 5th, Cummings yells at Issa and Issa cuts the microphone.  “Issa is closing down the meeting, Cummings asserts what he calls a “procedural question” that’s really a political scolding, and Issa cuts the microphone and walks out. It’s pretty unpleasant.”  Video provided.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 301

TaxGrrrl, Former IRS Official Refuses To Testify Again, Lawyer Blasts “Partisan” Hearing.

Kay Bell, Tempers flare at IRS hearing. Reality show, anyone?

Peter Reilly, Lois Lerner Takes The Fifth Again – Political Theater?:

There are two narratives about this whole mess.  One is that there was something of a left wing conspiracy inside the IRS to pick on the political activity of organizations that were not supposed to be mainly political, which hurt those groups in their effort to prevent the President from being re-elected.  My blogging buddy, Joe Kristan, supports that theory having grown up in Chicago, where all sorts of enforcement is politically motivated.The other narrative is that the whole thing is a phony scandal.  I think that I am the only person left who has looked at this without fully making up his mind.

As Peter notes, I think the science is settled.

 

William Perez, Health Savings Accounts Provide a Tax-Deductible Way to Save for Medical Expenses

 

Economic supergenius

Smidgenless.

Andrew Lundeen, Kyle Pomerleau, The Tax Changes in President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2015 Budget (Tax Policy Blog):

He proposes to expand the child tax credit and the EITC, two of the largest family tax benefits. His budget also proposes to alter retirement plans and create an auto-enrollment IRA program. In order to pay for these expansions, his budget will raise taxes on high-income earners through a series of changes to tax expenditures, most notably placing a cap on the value of itemized deductions.

It will never be enough.  The rich guy isn’t buying.

Renu Zaretsky, Obama’s 2015 Budget Hits Capitol Hill (TaxVox)

Tony Nitti, Tax Aspects Of The President’s FY 2015 Budget . “…in simple terms, the President’s proposal would add a(nother) alternative minimum tax calculation to the current individual income tax regime.”

Paul Neiffer, How Much Longer for Section 1031 Exchanges?  “  Most likely, nothing will happen this year, but in 2015, watch out.”

 

Cara Griffith, California Needs a Dose of Sunshine (Tax Policy Blog):

This issue arose after references to two forms were noticed in an FTB multistate audit technique manual

 By not disclosing forms like this, the FTB is enabling its auditors to take inconsistent positions regarding similarly situated taxpayers. If that’s the case, any guidance the FTB puts out on its application of the unitary business principle is meaningless.

When you have to disclose the standards you apply, you risk being held to them.

 

News from the Profession.  The Latest New Jersey CPA Magazine Cover is a Little Freaky (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/5/14: President proposes $1 million Sec. 1031 cap. And: other doomed stuff!

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Economic supergenius

0-99, 0-414

The President trotted out his old petty tax increases in his 2015 budget yesterday, and a few new ones.  The  new taxes would go towards, among other spending increases, an increase in the Earned Income Tax Credit welfare program for childless taxpayers.

If history is a guide, the Obama budget isn’t going to do well in Congress.  His own party leadership in the Senate has already pledged to pass no budget at all.  When his 2013 budget plan came up for a vote in Congress, it was rejected 99 -0 in the Senate and 414-0 in the House.

Still, it is worth mentioning some of the tax proposals, just so you are aware of them and their low likelihood of passage anytime soon.  Also, in light of the recent Camp “tax reform” proposal, apparently no tax provision is too dumb to get bipartisan consideration, so some of these might even pass someday.

S corporations: the bill would tax as self-employment income 100% of K-1 income from professional S corporations and partnerships of materially-participating owners.  Businesses covered would include health, law, engineering, architecture, accounting, actuarial science, performing arts, consulting, athletics, investment advice or management, brokerage services, and lobbying.  For some reason, regular compensation would no longer be wages, but would instead be self-employment income.  That would wreak havoc on everybody’s 401(k) and profit-sharing plans.

- Like-kind exchange benefits would be capped at $1 million per taxpayer per year.  That won’t be popular with the real estate industry.

The bill also drags out dozens of the old proposals from his prior budgets, including LIFO repeal, ordinary income treatment for carried interests, capping the value of deductions at 28%, and capping build-ups in retirement plans.  Nothing at all is likely to happen before the next election on these proposals, but as many Obama proposals are also included in some form in the GOP Camp plan, they all have to be considered viable next time a major tax bill shows signs of moving.

The TaxProf has a good link-filled roundup.  The official explanation of the revenue-raisers is here.

Other coverage:

Kay Bell, Obama budget proposes more child care help for younger kids

Leslie Book, President’s Budget Proposes Major Procedural and Administrative Changes (Procedurally Taxing).  ”The popular media has generally described the plan overall the way Reuters did in reporting that it ‘stands little or no chance of being approved as is by Congress, where Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, disagree with the president’s policy priorities.’”

 

Des Moines Register, Voters OK increasing franchise fee in Des Moines.  The vote is the result of the city being ordered to repay an illegally-collected utility tax:

The money raised by increasing the franchise fee to 7.5 percent from 5 percent for seven years will be used to pay off about $40 million in bonds issued by the city to pay for the refund and administrative costs.

Among the “administrative costs” is $7 million in legal fees Des Moines was ordered to pay to the winning taxpayer attorneys after a scorched-earth court battle by the city to avoid repaying the illegal tax.  Next time, don’t collect an illegal tax, and pay up if you’re called on it.

 

Alan Cole, True Marginal Tax Rates under Chairman Camp’s Proposal (Tax Policy Blog).  Full of high-income phase-outs, it creates all sorts of goofy marginal rate anomalies:

Marginal Tax Rates Camp Tax Reform

Note the spike in rates at the low-end as a result of the earned-income tax credit phase-out.  That doesn’t even include the effect of the state EITCs that piggyback on the federal credit.  All of this is the opposite of tax reform.  Apparently neither party is ready for reform.

William Gale and Donald Marron, The Macro Effects of Camp’s Tax Reform (TaxVox): “How would Camp’s plan increase growth, and why is the range of estimates so wide?”

 

Paul Neiffer, Additional Tax Reform Items.  ”Remember, this is just a proposal and nothing will happen this year.”

Gene Steurle, A Camp-ground for Tax Reformers (TaxVox).

 

20130419-1Russ Fox, Deadlines for Us, but Not for Them:

For practitioners, the current state of the IRS is such that you can expect a lot of delays in responding to notices. Think months instead of weeks. Expect to have to call the IRS to verify that your response was received, and make sure clients are aware that the IRS is moving like molasses rolling uphill. Make sure anything you send is documented: certified mail with proof of receipt if by mail; if faxing, make sure you have the proof of receipt. Given the lengthy delays our clients are going to be in fear for far longer…

For taxpayers, you need to be aware that expediency is not part of today’s IRS. You have to be expedient in responding to notices but don’t expect the IRS to be expedient in getting back to you. Do not worry if it takes a long, long time to resolve something with the IRS. That’s just par for the course today.

Unfortunately, clients generally assume that if the IRS has sent a letter, that means the practitioner screwed up.  Many people, especially old folks, just pay up when they get an IRS notice.

 

William Perez, Tax-Deductible Relocation Expenses

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): B Is For Basis   

David Brunori, Taxing Coca Cola while Exempting Broccoli is Bad Policy Even for Native Americans (Tax Analysts Blog):

 In any event, several newspapers reported that one of the sponsors of the proposal was himself obese. He decided to change his life and lost 100 pounds. And he did it without any tax increases or help from the government.

Like so many reformed smokers/overeaters/drinkers, he has become annoying about it.

Tax Justice Blog, State News Quick Hits: State Policy Makers Need a Tax History Lesson

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 300.

 

Cheer up!  Filing Your Tax Return Is Terrible — But It Was Worse 100 Years Ago (Joseph Thorndike, Tax Analysts Blog).

News from the Profession.  The Real Loser at the Oscars This Year Was PwC.  (Going Concern)

20140305-1Jason Dinesen shares his Tax Season Tunes:

Here’s a sampling of other tunes I listen to while working when not getting my Gordon Lightfoot fix:

  • Neil Diamond. Generally not his “famous” songs. I detest — and I mean absolutely revile — “Sweet Caroline,” for example. The original recording is okay, but he’s turned it into a hokey, over-the-top, karaoke show-tune over the last few decades. Blech. I like the more introspective songs like “Shilo,” “If You Know What I Mean,” “Stones,” pretty much anything from his relatively new “12 Songs” and “Home Before Dark” albums,  and a host of other Neil Diamond songs that most people have probably never heard of.

  • An mix of songs that include Billy Joel, pop rock from the 60s and early 70s, Elvis, Willie Nelson, Conway Twitty, AC/DC, Juanes, Bon Jovi, CCR, Johnny Cash and Jimmy Buffett.

In case you were wondering, I believe Jason works alone.

 

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

Tuesday, March 4th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

William Perez, Deducting Work-Related Expenses

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

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

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

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

Kay Bell,  Tax moves to make in March 2014

 

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

 

taxanalystslogoTax Analysts Blog is having a tax reform party:

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

Jeremy Scott, Comparing the Camp and Obama Bank Taxes:

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

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

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

Christopher Bergin, Tax Reform Only a Mother Could Love:

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

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

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

 

National Review, via InstapunditThe IRS Is the Problem:

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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 299

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Thursday, February 27th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Alternative Minimum Tax would go away.  About time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Other Things:

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

Jason Dinesen, Glossary of Tax Terms: Depreciation 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

20140226-1

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Jack Townsend, Stolen Identity Refund Fraud in the News

 

William Perez, Reporting Social Security Benefits

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/25/14: Temporary Permanence Edition. And: Reform week?

Tuesday, February 25th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2Some of us just have jobs.  Others have callings.  If you feel you have a calling, it can be very difficult to sway you from your vocation.  Sometimes not even a permanent federal court injunction will do the trick.  

A permanent injunction apparently didn’t stop an Iowan whose calling appears to be to spread the gospel of ESOP.  John L. Henss was already promoting his vision of Employee Stock Ownership Plans when I moved to Iowa as a young CPA in 1985.  By a remarkable coincidence, Iowa had more than its share of tax litigation involving flawed ESOPs over the years (see, for example, here, here and here).

One of the most remarkable cases was the 1992 case of Martin v. Feilen (CA-8, 965 F.2d 660), involving alleged self-dealing and fiduciary breaches among the trustees and administrators of Feilen Meats, an Iowa packer.  Among the defendants was John L. Henss.

Judge Loken authored the decision of the Eighth Circuit on the case, a decision that went badly for Mr. Henss (my emphasis):

Henss was the dominant decision-maker for FMC and the ESOP with respect to all or nearly all the transactions discussed in this opinion. He also holds himself out as an ERISA expert who has structured and provided other services and advice to hundreds of ESOPs. In addition to engaging in the actionable self-dealing we have described, Henss’s trial testimony displayed an appalling insensitivity to the proper role of ESOPs and ESOP fiduciaries. For example, Henss stated repeatedly his view that ESOP fiduciaries are exempt from ERISA’s “prudent man” rule when investing plan assets in an employer’s stock or property.

To summarize, we affirm the district court’s judgment that Henss and Stephen Thielking, and their personal corporations, breached their ERISA fiduciary duties in causing the ESOP to engage in the above-described Transactions Subject to ERISA, and we affirm the district court’s permanent injunction against Stephen Thielking and Stephen K. Thielking, C.P.A., P.C. We modify the permanent injunction against John Henss and John L. Henss C.P.A., P.C., to further enjoin them from acting as a service provider to any ERISA plan. 

So that ended Mr. Henss’ career in the ESOP field, right?  Never underestimate the tenacity of a man with a calling.  His name reappeared in another ESOP case yesterday in Tax Court.  It was a remarkable case, actually, in that a partnership had an Employee Stock Ownership Plan.  But when you have a calling, a lack of a corporation with actual stock won’t stand between you and an ESOP.  But mere tenacity isn’t enough, according to Judge Kerrigan (my emphasis):

Respondent contends that because K.H. Co. was a partnership for tax purposes, it did not have qualifying employer securities. The parties do not dispute that K.H. Co. was a partnership at all relevant times. Indeed, K.H. Co. admits that it filed Forms 1065, U.S. Return of Partnership Income, for tax years ended September 30, 1995 through 2004. Because K.H. Co. was a partnership for tax purposes and did not have any stock, it did not have any qualifying employer securities for purposes of sections 409(l) and 4975(e)(7) and (8) in which the plan could invest. Therefore, petitioner failed to operate as an ESOP pursuant to its terms when K.H. Co. became its employer, sponsor, and administrator. 

But aside from the obvious one, what problems might this ESOP have?  Perhaps the required ESOP stock appraisal, performed for 2000, 2001 and 2002 by none other than John L. Henss.  Apparently “permanent” had already worn off by then.  From the Tax Court:

John L. Henss was chosen to appraise K.H. Co. The administrative record includes appraisals and appraisal summaries for only 2000, 2001, and 2002. Written on “JLH” letterhead, the cover letter of each appraisal states: “At your request, we have prepared an appraisal valuation of KH Company, L.L.C.” The cover letters refer to the “appraised value of common stock of KH Company, L.L.C.” The cover letters are all dated, but none of them are signed.

Mr. Henss’ qualifications are not described in the appraisals. The appraisal summaries state merely: “The undersigned holds himself out to be an appraiser. The undersigned is an accountant who is familiar with the assets being appraised.” Mr. Henss did not sign or date the appraisals or the appraisal summaries. 

     Petitioner claims that Mr. Henss has degrees in English, accounting, and law. Petitioner further claims that Mr. Henss “has been preparing appraisals of stock for employee stock ownership plans for many clients for several years” and that he is the author of a book on ESOPs. Petitioner also contends that Mr. Henss was in all other respects a person who was “independent” as set forth in the statute, the regulations, and the Commissioner’s announcements on the subject.

Section 1.170A-13(c)(5)(i)(A), Income Tax Regs., provides that a qualified appraiser is an individual who includes on the appraisal summary a declaration that he or she holds himself or herself out to the public as an appraiser or performs appraisals regularly. Because there is no signature below the statement on the appraisal summaries that the “undersigned holds himself out to be an appraiser”, the plan failed to meet this requirement. 

Not to mention that he had been enjoined from providing services to ERISA plans — a term that would seem to cover appraisal services.

Whatever the nature of his calling, things haven’t universally gone well in court for clients who have used Mr. Henss.   Perhaps when selecting an ESOP service provider, one might well take federal court injunctions into consideration.

Cite: K.H. Co. LLC Employee Stock Ownership Plan, T.C. Memo 2014-31.

 

taxanalystslogoIt appears the House GOP will release its tax reform plan today.  Tax Analysts Blog is on it:

Martin Sullivan, Can Dynamic Scoring Save Tax Reform? Don’t Count on It

Jeremy Scott, How to Pay for Camp’s Tax Reform Plan

Clint Stretch, The Tax Reform Blame Game

Renu Zaretsky, House GOP Tax Plan Hits This Week; IRS Getting Worked Over But It’s Still Working.  This is a new daily news roundup at TaxVox.

Tax Justice Blog, State Tax Breaks Pile Up.  Government by special favor always has its fans.

 

William Perez, Reporting Unemployment Compensation Benefits

S-SidewalkTony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: 2013 Tax Planning Is Not Finished For S Corporations – How To Purge Problematic Earnings and Profits   

Kay Bell, Most taxpayers support tax preparer competency standards.  I find this a meaningless result, a question posed to people who have given approximately no thought to the issue and who have more developed views of Miley Cyrus than John Koskinen.

Peter Reilly,  New Jersey Gets To Second Guess IRS On Estate Tax Marital Deduction 

TaxGrrrl, Pharrell Williams & The Ultimate Charitable Hat Trick   

 

Liz Malm, Mississippi Lawmakers Consider Firearm Sales Tax Holiday (Tax Policy Blog).  Even for a good cause, sales tax holidays are a bad idea.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 292

Is there nothing the tax law can’t do?  Meanwhile in Canada, You Get a Tax Credit For Not Stinking the Joint Up (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/13/14: Hatching a tax boost. And: spring training!

Thursday, February 13th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


hatch
Jack Hatch, Candidate for Governor,
yesterday introduced legislative text for his tax plan (SF 2164), which would result in a big tax increase for a lot of voters.

First the good points:  It would increase the minimum income subject to tax from the current $9,000 level to $20,000 for single taxpayers, and to $24,500 from $13,500 for heads of household and surviving  spouses.  It reduces the number of tax brackets from nine to four.  And it eliminates the deduction for federal taxes.  It increases the depended credit to $500, from $40.

Unfortunately, the way he adjusts the brackets will result in a big tax increase for taxpayers at not very high income levels.  His 6.2% bracket would kick it at taxable income of $42,091.  Under current law, 6.2% is roughly the highest Iowa effective rate when you take the deduction for federal taxes into account.  Under current law, that starts at $67,230 for 2014.  With a top rate of 8.8%, the Hatch plan means about a 25% increase in the top rate at the highest brackets — and his top rate begins at taxable income of only $88,822.

I did some quick computations on four very simplified taxpayers — single filers with one item of ordinary income.  The results are below:

 

hatch2014

The result is a small tax cut at the lower brackets, but some big increases in higher brackets.  Remember that much of the income taxed at higher brackets is pass-through business income.  That makes it a big tax increase on employers.  It’s hard to see how this will sell.

 

20121120-2Megan McArdle, Latest Obamacare Delay Is Probably Illegal:

That doesn’t mean that the courts are going to step in. Courts don’t just swoop down and body-check the executive branch or Congress every time one of them oversteps its constitutional powers. They wait for someone to sue. And in order to sue, you need to have legal standing, which, Adler points out, no one seems to. It’s not enough to say that your taxes will be higher, or your government measurably less constitutional, because of the government’s actions. You need to prove that you have been substantially harmed, and it’s not clear that anyone can.

Unlike Megan, I think a successful lawsuit is a real possibility.   There are surely employers just over the 100-employee limit who will be at a disadvantage compared to those who are just under, and who therefore don’t have to comply with the mandate.  While I am not a lawyer and far from a specialist in “standing,” that seems like somebody who would have it.

 

TaxGrrrl, The IRS, The Refund Process and That Pesky 1121 Code.  It appears earned income credit refunds are getting held up.  Considering the level of fraud and error in the program, it’s hard to fault the IRS here.

Jason Dinesen, Iowa Charitable “Checkoffs”

Something that a lot of taxpayers (and tax preparers — including me) in Iowa often overlook is the “charitable checkoffs” a taxpayer can make on their Iowa tax return. Taxpayers can choose to donate money on their Iowa return to these causes:

  1. Fish and Wildlife: donations made here go towards Iowa’s Wildlife Diversity Program, which monitor’s the state’s “non-game” wildlife.

  2. Iowa State Fair Foundation: donations made here help fund improvements to the Iowa State Fairgrounds.

  3. Firefighters/Veterans Trust Fund: donations made here are split 50/50 between helping volunteer fire departments with training and helping veterans with things such as job training.

I like the wildlife one best.

 

Paul Neiffer ponders IRS Data by Zip Code and County.  It’s full of interesting stuff, and I hope to post about our local zip codes and their 2011 tax data.

Kay Bell, IRS options after losing tax preparer regulation appeal. Um, do their job, and don’t try to revive the failed power grab?

William Perez looks at the Percentage of Tax Returns Claiming Itemized Deductions.

 

Andrew Lundeen, The Economics of Senator Wyden’s Tax Reform Plan (Tax Policy Blog):

Though the plan does simplify the individual side of the tax code, the most important measure of tax reform plans should be the growth it produces. On that measure, this plan falls short predominately due to its treatment of capital.

It does go the wrong way.

 

Jack Townsend, Article Analyzes Counter-Intuitive Effects of IRS Offshore Penalty Structure.  ”As the authors note, ‘the GAO Report indicates [that] taxpayers with little or no criminal or civil fraud exposure were punished proportionately in higher amounts than those who participated and had true criminal tax exposure.’”

Of course.  You have to shoot the jaywalkers so you can be nice to the real crooks.

 

Peter Reilly, Pilot To Black Panther To Pastor Calls For Financial Transparency In Churches.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 280

 

Career Corner.  If No One Will Hire You, Maybe It’s Because Your Parents Aren’t Offering to Pay Them   (Going Concern).  Probably not, though.

Bleacher Nation, Chicago Cubs Pitchers and Catchers: REPORT!!!  Let’s do this.

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/12/14: Lawless and Unregulated edition. And: Lincoln!

Wednesday, February 12th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130121-2As we reported yesterday, the IRS preparer-regulation power grab failed in the D.C. Court of Appeals.  The three-judge panel unanimously ruled that “The IRS may not unilaterally expand its authority through such an expansive, atextual, and ahistorical reading” of the law.

One grumpy IRS person told us that we would regret it, that Congress will pass a worse IRS-run preparer regulation regime.  While it’s possible, I don’t think Congress is in any mood to give the IRS more power right now (see TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 279).

It’s a victory for taxpayers, for preparers, and for the rule of law.  One hope it is a good omen for future court decisions on the on-the-fly rewrites of the Obamacare effective dates.

My endzone dance is here.  The Tax Prof has a roundup of coverage, as well as a guest op-ed: Johnson: The D.C. Circuit Rejects the IRS’s Regulation of Tax Return Preparerswhich says “At bottom, Loving stands for the proposition that exigency does not excuse illegality.” 

Other tax bloggers weigh in:

Russ Fox, DC Court of Appeals Rules Against IRS: Loving Decision Upheld.  ”The real problem is the huge complexity of the Tax Code, and the biggest villain here is Congress. Rather than regulating tax professionals, we need to regulate (gut) the Tax Code itself.”

Leslie Book, Initial Reactions to the Government’s Loss in Loving (Procedurally Taxing):  ”The government may seek to get Supreme Court review of the matter, or may work with Congress to get specific legislative authority. I offer no views on the odds of the government seeking cert, but its sound beating in two opinions leaves the possibility of obtaining cert and a victory in the Supreme Court seemingly small.”

Joseph Henchman, Big Win for Taxpayers: IRS Loses Effort to Expand Power Over Tax Preparers (Tax Policy Blog).  ”In May 2013, we filed a brief opposing an IRS appeal of a court decision striking down their regulation of small tax preparers.”  That’s the brief I joined, along with fellow tax bloggers Russ Fox and Jason Dinesen.

Trish McIntire, The IRS Lost!  “I don’t know if there can be any more appeals (not a lawyer) but I bet there will be a tax preparer bill in Congress soon.”

 

20130419-1Paul Neiffer, When Farmers Barter.  While bartering is taxable, Paul muses: “Some of these barter transactions are properly reported, however, my educated guess is that much higher percentage is not.”

William Perez, How to Handle Owing the IRS

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Allocation of Partnership Liabilities ”Admit it. Nobody really understands what’s going on in this remote corner of the K-1; typically, most tax preparers just apply the tried-and-true “same as last year” approach to allocating liabilities, and trust that it won’t matter in the end.”  Oh, it does, it does.

Jana Luttenegger, “Extensive Wait Times” Ahead with the IRS (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  And it’s not like they were brief before.

Kay Bell, The pros and cons of tax refunds.  While logically you don’t want to let the taxman sit on your money, clients always seem happiest with a fat refund.  That leads many tax advisors to sandbag a bit on payments.

TaxGrrrl, Yes, Olympic Wins Are Taxable (And Should Stay That Way) 

 

Peter Reilly, Pilot To Black Panther To Pastor Calls For Financial Transparency In Churches 

 

Jack Townsend, Corporate Corruption Case Charged With Swiss Bank Accounts to Hide the Loot 

Tax Trials, The Tax Education of Lauryn Hill

Annette Nellen links to the Video of IRS Commissioner Koskinan on the filing season.

 

The Iowa Department of Revenue has a Facebook page!  It’s a good idea, and they actually answer questions, like this:

 20140212-1

It’s great that they are answering disgruntled taxpayers for everyone to see.  Best thing is that it’s available to anybody, not just Facebookers.  You don’t have to bring yourself to “like” the Department of Revenue to read it.

 

David Brunori, Tax Breaks for Lawyers — No Joke (Tax Analysts Blog):

I read recently in the Kansas City Business Journal that Missouri gave a big law firm $2.8 million in tax incentives to move to Kansas City. I thought there must be some kind of mistake. Certainly, no politician would agree to give citizens’ hard-earned money to lawyers. And certainly, they would not give citizen money to big-firm, wealthy lawyers. But once again, reality trumps good tax policy. The Missouri Department of Economic Development gave the nearly $3 million to attract the international law firm Sedgwick LLP to downtown Kansas City. 

Must be a rough neighborhood if that’s considered an improvement.  Or, more likely, Missouri has completely lost its mind.

 

Tax Justice Blog, The States Taking on Real Tax Reform in 2014.  One blog’s “real tax reform” is another blog’s march to madness.

News from the Profession: Big 4 Dude Says Dudes at His Firm Rewarded For Treating Non-Dudes Like Dudes (Going Concern)

 

LincolnToday is Abraham Lincoln’s birthday.  He was born 205 years ago today in Kentucky, before anybody thought of an income tax.  His presidency saw the first U.S. federal income tax, passed to finance the Civil War.  The Revenue Act of 1861, Section 49, imposed a flat 3% levy “upon the annual income of every person residing in the United States, whether such income is derived from any kind of property, or from any profession, trade, employment, or vocation carried on in the United States or elsewhere, or from any other source whatever” over $800.  It was replaced by a progressive levy in 1862, with a 3% rote on income over $600, with a 5% rate kicking in at $10,000.

The tax expired under its own terms in 1866, after Lincoln’s death.  Lincoln never came back, but the income tax returned to stay in March 1913.

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/11/14: Employer mandate “shared responsibility” delayed for some. And: fresh scam!

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20121120-2It’s such a disaster, we’re only going to force some employers to do it right now. The IRS has issued final regulations on the employer health insurance mandate that delay their impact on companies with 50-100 employees until 2016.  The “shared responsibility provisions” — such a creepy name — will still apply to employers with 100 “full-time equivalent” employees in 2015.  The Wall Street Journal reports:

 Under the original 2010 health law, employers with the equivalent of at least 50 full-time workers had to offer coverage or pay a penalty starting at $2,000 a worker beginning in 2014. Last year, the administration delayed the requirement for the first time by moving it to 2015.

The new rules for companies with 50 to 99 workers would cover about 2% of all U.S. businesses, which include 7% of workers, or 7.9 million people, according to 2011 Census figures compiled by the Small Business Administration. The rules for companies with 100 or more workers affect another 2% of businesses, which employ more than 74 million people.

You’ll look in vain in either Sec. 4980H, the “shared responsibility” tax code section, or Sec. 1513 of the Affordable Care Act, which enacted 4980H, for anything that says the provision can take effect later than 2014.  Once again the administration is making it up as it goes in a tacit admission that Obamacare is a half-baked mess.  I hope somebody with 100 employees sues the IRS on equal-protection grounds to enjoin this politically-motivated selective enforcement.   To me it’s another clue that the individual mandate will also be delayed, and ultimately abandoned.

Paul Neiffer, Some ACA Relief for Employers with 50 to 99 Employees

Jason Dinesen, The Affordable Care Act and Small Businesses   

Martin Sullivan, Forget Obamacare for a Minute. Here’s Some Good News About Health Policy (Tax Analysts Blog).  

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

New filing season, same old scams.  Our area IRS Taxpayer Liason says this email is circulating:

Dear Applicant,

An Income Tax repayment is a refund of tax that you’ve overpaid.
Internal Revenue Service  ( IRS ) has received new information about your taxable
income you’ve overpaid too much tax through your job or pension in previous years.

There was a mistake with your tax, which an error occurred on your tax return,
and therefore your income reduced. Your employer also used the wrong tax code.

You are eligible to receive a refund of $2670.48 USD as your recent tax refund.
IRS will send you a repayment. You’ll get the repayment either by cheque in the post or by bank transfer.

Please click here to get your tax refund on your Visa or Mastercard now.

Note : Your refund can be delayed for a variety of reasons. For example submitting
invalid records or applying after the deadline.

Best Wishes,

IRS Tax Refund Service Team
Internal Revenue Service.

Of course it is a scam.  Some obvious clues: a real IRS notice doesn’t have to tell you that it’s dealing in “USD.”  We say “checks” in the US; you get “cheques” in Canada, the UK, or other old Commonwealth countries.  IRS doesn’t do refunds on credit cards.  And, of course, the most important clue:  the IRS will never initiate contact you with an e-mail or phone call.  If an email says it’s from the IRS, it’s not.

 

TaxGrrrl, Understanding Your Tax Forms: The W-2   

 

haroldHooray for Hollywood!  Movie Producer Peter Hoffman Charged With Film Tax Credit Fraud.  It involves Louisiana, which continues its co-dependent relationship with Hollywood with film tax subsidies.  Iowa, sadder but wiser, now prefers producer room and board subsidies to Film Tax Credits.

 

Howard Gleckman, Incoming Senate Finance Chair Wyden Outlines His Tax Agenda (TaxVox):

Speaking in Los Angeles to a conference sponsored jointly by the USC Gould School of Law and the Tax Policy Center, Wyden framed his tax agenda around several key issues:

Narrow the gap between taxation of investment income and ordinary income.

Significantly increase the standard deduction.

Simplify and enhance the refundable Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit.

Revise savings incentives by creating a new investment account for all Americans at birth, shift savings subsidies from high-income taxpayers to low- and moderate-income households, and consolidate and simplify the current tangle of existing tax-preferred savings incentives.

Enhance job training.

Restore Build America Bonds—a short-lived idea that partially replaced tax-exempt state and local bonds with direct federal subsidies. He’d also seek ways to encourage business to funnel overseas earnings into domestic infrastructure investment.

It’s a disappointing agenda from somebody considered a thoughtful center-left voice on tax policy.   Any tax on investment income is best understood as a double-tax, and I don’t think by “narrowing the gap” he means lowering ordinary inocme rates.  His second, third and fourth points are fine, but the “Enhance job training” and “Build America Bond” proposals are just political pinatas to be broken open by insiders.  If you want to see what jobs training dollars really accomplish, I refer you to Iowa’s own CIETC.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 278

checkboxJeremy Scott, Check the Box for Tax Avoidance (Tax Analysts Blog).  

The check-the-box rules allowed multinationals to create entities that were treated one way in a foreign jurisdiction and another by the United States. These entities, so-called hybrids, are at the core of companies like Apple’s tax strategies, and they have been used to bring about obscenely low effective tax rates (2.3 percent on $700 billion in foreign earnings, according to the Obama administration).

I think any corporate above zero is obscenely high.

 

Kyle Pomerleau, Proposal to Exempt Olympians’ Prize Money from Taxation: Good Politics, Wrong Solution (Tax Policy Blog)

Kay Bell, IRS takes a bite out of U.S. Olympic medalists’ winnings

 

Keith Fogg, Holding People Hostage for the Payment of Tax – Writ Ne Exeat Republica (Procedurally Taxing). No, he’s not talking about tax season.

 

News from the Profession: PwC Will Probably Be the First Accounting Firm to Replace Interns With Robots.  (Going Concern).  Makes sense, as they were the first to do so with partners.

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Tax Roundup, 2/10/14: The New Mexico double-dip edition. And: we got it right. We’ll fix that!

Monday, February 10th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

bureauofprisonsTwo bites at the apple were two too many for a New Mexico man.  Evading $25 million in federal taxes is bad enough, but illegally collecting $225,000 in farm subsidies on top of that seems like piling on.  From a Department of Justice Press Release:

Bill Melot, a farmer from Hobbs, N.M., was sentenced to serve 14 years in prison today to be followed by three years of supervised release for tax evasion, program fraud and other crimes, the Justice Department, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Office of Inspector General announced today.  Melot was also ordered to pay $18,469,998 in restitution to the IRS and $226,526 to the USDA. 

Melot was previously convicted of tax evasion, failure to file tax returns, making false statements to the USDA and impeding the IRS following a four-day jury trial in Albuquerque, N.M.  According to court documents and evidence presented at trial and at sentencing, Melot has not filed a personal income tax return since 1986, and owes the IRS more than $25 million in federal taxes and more than $7 million in taxes to the state of Texas.  In addition, Melot has improperly collected more than $225,000 in federal farm subsidies from the USDA by furnishing false information to the agency.  

He had been sentenced to only five years, but the appeals court decided he needed some more time before putting in another crop.

For a little farmer, Mr. Melot got around:

  Additionally, Melot maintained a bank account with Nordfinanz Zurich, a Swiss financial institution, which he set up in Nassau, Bahamas, in 1992, and failed to report the account to the U.S. Treasury Department as required by law.

If the government’s sentencing memorandum is to believed, Mr. Melot isn’t down with this whole paying taxes thing, filing a blizzard of “baseless” motions and attempting to conceal assets.  For example:

Defendant’s disregard for this Court commenced immediately… Within 24 hours of his release, between August 21 to August 24, 2009, Defendant and his immediate family were observed purchasing 19 money orders for $1000 each at a Moneygram counter, which is located at the Walmart in Hobbs, New Mexico.

a. Each money order was for $1,000.
b. Each money order listed “Bill Melot” in the memo line. The money orders also each listed Defendant’s home address, 2805 E. Rose Road.
c. Each money order was payable to Mueller, Inc., a Ballinger, Texas company, which builds outdoor sheds.

Videos from Walmart showed Defendant wearing the same clothing that he wore when he was released from custody. The money orders, along with an additional $5,260.94 in cash, were used to pay off the balance due on a metallic shed for Defendant’s farm, which he claimed not to own in his statement to Pretrial Services. The purchase of this barn flatly contradicted Defendant’s earlier claim of near indigence

The appeals panel seems to have believed the prosecution, as Mr. Melot got the full sentence requested.

Russ Fox has more at Really Big Tax Evasion Leads to Really Long Sentence at ClubFed.

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

Oops.  It appears the Iowa legislature accidentally repealed the state sales tax on heavy equipment purchases in 1998, reports Siouxcityjournal.com:

The inadvertent change – which slipped by the department, the legislative code editors, and lawmakers and their staffs in the vetting process — didn’t come to light until last summer, when an attorney contacted the department about the Iowa Code section. At that time, legal staff at the department and the Iowa Attorney General’s office determined that the 2008 action had “rendered that tax obsolete,” Daniels said.

“It was not the department’s intention, nor do we believe that it was the Legislature’s intention, to remove that tax or repeal that tax,” said Daniels, whose agency has asked lawmakers in Senate Study Bill 3117 to restore the sales tax on heavy equipment retroactive to July 1, 2008. 

Sound tax policy tells the legislature to expand the exemption, rather than repeal it.  The heavy equipment will normally be used in business, and business inputs shouldn’t be subject to sales taxes.  It just shows that the General Assembly can occasionally get it right, but will immediately take corrective action when it finds out.

 

 

William Perez offers An Overview of the Income, Deductions, Tax and Payment Sections of the Tax Return

Kay Bell comes through with 6 steps to help you become the best tax client. She omits step number seven: pay your preparer promptly.  No matter how good you are with the first six steps, omitting step seven disqualifies you from the “best” list.

TaxGrrrl, Delayed Tax Refunds, The EITC & How We’re Getting It Wrong   

 And despite its original intent, if the idea is to encourage taxpayers to work more, the current iteration of the EITC fails miserably. As you earn more, your benefits go down, not up. At some point, the incentive to work more is mitigated by the specter of a lesser credit.

It’s a poverty trap.

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

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

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 277

Sounds like a good reason to me.  Broken Tax Code Offered as Reason for Reform (Annette Nellen)

Peter Reilly, Benefit Of Clergy – Why Special Tax Treatment For Ministers Needs To Go.  Constitutional Does Not Equal Sound Tax Policy”

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions for 02/07/2014 (Procedurally Taxing).  It’s a roundup of tax procedure cases and posts.

Jack Townsend, Germany Moves Against Offshore Bank Evaders 

An unwarranted meattax approach: Scientist Proposes Discouraging Meat Consumption with New Tax (Joseph Henchman, Tax Policy Blog).

Flicker image courtesy Michael Coghlan under Creative Commons license.

Flicker image courtesy Michael Coghlan under Creative Commons license.

 

Career Corner.  No Shirt, No Shoes, No Accounting Degree, No Probl– Actually, Small Problem (Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/7/14: Love it or leave it edition! And: Coralville tax scam.

Friday, February 7th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


20140207-1
Making America a better place to leave.  
2013 Expatriations Increase by 221% (Andrew Mitchel):

We do not believe that the primary reason for the increase in expatriations is for political purposes or for individuals to reduce taxes.  Instead, we believe that there are likely three principal reasons for the recent increases in the number of expatriations:

  1. Increased awareness of the obligation to file U.S. tax returns by U.S. citizens and U.S. tax residents living outside the U.S.;
  2. The ever-increasing burden of complying with U.S. tax laws; and
  3. The fear generated by the potentially bankrupting penalties for failure to file U.S. tax returns when an individual holds substantial non-U.S. assets.

The increase in expatriations may also be partly due to a 2008 change in the expatriation rules.

When a foot-fault can break you, you might not want to play the game anymore.  When they start shooting you for jaywalking, you might not want to be on that street at all.

 

20140106-1It’s never too cold for a tax scam.  From CBS2Iowa.com:

Coralville police say they’re receiving more reports of a telephone tax scam. CBS 2 News first told you about the scam last month. The IRS says the scam targets taxpayers, especially recent immigrants. A caller claims to be an IRS agent and says the victim owes money. The victim is told to repay the money using a preloaded debit card or a wire transfer. If the victim refuses, the caller threatens to arrest or deport them or suspend his or her drivers license. The scammer uses a fake name and fake IRS badge number. The caller has found a way to make caller IDs show the number as the IRS toll-free line. To appear more legitimate, the scammer may also send a fake email or recite part of the victim’s social security number. After threatening the victim, the caller may hang up. A second scammer may later call the victim, pretending to be from the local police department or DMV.

It sounds like the scam described in this IRS web page.  If they haven’t sent you a letter first, the IRS isn’t going to call you.  Nor will they contact you via e-mail.  The IRS gives this advice:

  • If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.
  • If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov.  Please add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments of your complaint.

Paying taxes you actually owe is enough fun without sending extra to scammers.

 

20121120-2

Fiduciary Income Tax Blog, 65-Day Rule — 2014:

Fiduciaries of estates and complex trusts have the option to treat certain distributions as having occurred last year. An election can be made with respect to distributions made within 65 days after the end of a tax year. The 65th day of 2014 is Thursday, March 6.

Think of it as a trust mulligan.  With the 3.8% Obamacare Net Investment Income Tax applying at around $12,000 of trust income, many trusts will want to use the 65-day rule to get the income to beneficiaries whose income is under the thresholds.

 

William Perez, Understanding Personal Exemptions

Jason Dinesen, Financing a Small Business: 4 Items to Remember.  ”Don’t spend money just to get tax deductions.”

Kay Bell, Federal itemized deduction claims state-by-state

TaxGrrrl, Looking For Your Tax Refund? What You Need To Know So Far For 2014 

 

This Koskinen isn't the IRS commissioner

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

Christopher Bergin, New IRS Commissioner Wants to Move Forward – We Should Let Him (Tax Analysts Blog):

Koskinen needs the time and space to do what everybody agrees must be done: Fix the IRS. The investigations must continue. But the new commissioner needs to move forward as well. That means not avoiding the problems, but going at them in a positive, not in a negative way. That’s what good leaders do. We should give the man a chance to show us he is one.

He could hardly be worse than the last one.

Howard Gleckman, Individual Income Taxes May Soon Generate Half of All Federal Tax Revenue (TaxVox)

CBO explains much of the rise in individual income taxes by expected increases in real incomes produced by a recovering economy, including higher wages, salaries, capital gains, and income to owners of pass-through firms, who report their taxes on their individual returns. CBO also expects a significant increase in distributions from retirement accounts for at least the next few years, driven in part by higher asset values.

Two other reasons: Higher tax rates for upper-income households (including the surtax in the Affordable Care Act) and the phenomenon known as real bracket creep. Tax brackets are adjusted for inflation but not economic growth. For at least the next few years, CBO figures incomes will grow faster than those inflation-adjusted brackets.

Oddly, these projections assume the expiring provisions actually expire.  Not likely.

Joseph Henchman, Response to Jesse Myerson’s Land Tax Idea (Tax Policy Blog).  Nice effort, but I’m not sure you need to respond to somebody who says Communism gets a bad rap.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 274

Jack Townsend, Another Swiss Bank Enabler Indicted in SDNY

J. Richard Harvey, Jr., Surprising Statistics on Corporate Disclosures of Uncertain Tax Positions (UTP) (Procedurally Taxing):

 

The Critical Question: Does the NFL Need a Billion Dollar Subsidy Annually from Taxpayers? (Tax Justice Blog)

Career Corner.  Protip to Government Accountants: If You’re Into Kiddie Porn, You Probably Shouldn’t Watch It At Work (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/5/14: Tax Credits do it all! And: advice from a champion.

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
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.

Tax Credits! Is there nothing they can’t do?  Bill offering tax credits to rehab abandoned public buildings advances (Jason Noble, Des Moines Register):

House Study Bill 540 adds abandoned public buildings to the list of properties eligible for tax breaks under the state’s Redevelopment Tax Credits program, meaning businesses or nonprofits could obtain state aid for such projects as they currently can on renovations of industrial or commercial properties.

It’s an idea that Gov. Terry Branstad highlighted in his Condition of the State Address last month, and appears to have bipartisan support.

This is a back-door appropriation to help out school districts and local governments, but running it through tax return hides it from those pesky taxpayers who foot the bill.  As with Congress, the Iowa General Assembly sees the tax law as the Swiss Army Knife of public policy.

 

20121120-2Arnold Kling exposes the vastness of the Right Wing Conspiracy:

The Congressional Budget Office, a Koch-funded organization known to be affiliated with the Tea Party, writes,

CBO estimates that the ACA will reduce the total number of hours worked, on net, by about 1.5 percent to 2.0 percent during the period from 2017 to 2024, almost entirely because workers will choose to supply less labor—given the new taxes and other incentives they will face and the financial benefits some will receive.

A conspiracy so vast…

 

James Schneider, guest-posting at Econlog, discusses why we pay our taxes in  The Sucker Tax:

Imagine a state of anarchy (a lack of government not a house full of boys). An evil genius announces that he will impose a sucker tax. Everyone will be taxed ten dollars, and the proceeds will be redistributed back to all the citizens in equal shares without reference to who paid the tax. In a certain sense, this tax maximizes unfairness. It serves no other purpose than to punish people in direct proportion to how much of the tax they paid. To make tax compliers feel even more ridiculous, the evil genius announces that he will make no effort to punish “tax cheats.” A fair outcome of the game requires that there be no suckers. This will occur if everyone evades the tax. However, it will also occur if everyone pays the tax. Under this scenario, you probably wouldn’t pay the tax (even if you believed in fairness) because you would assume that no one else was going to pay the tax.

Now imagine that the evil genius announces that unless everyone pays the tax one person will be punished.

Read the whole thing.  I especially like this: “Compliance does not mean consent.”

 

20121220-3TaxGrrrl, Baby, It’s Cold Outside: Surviving The Winter With Some Tax Help From Uncle Sam

Paul Neiffer considers One Possible Section 179 Strategy. A reader asks Paul, “Should I wait to buy section 179 property until the date 179 property is raised from $25,000 to whatever?”  He has a way for farmers to plan around the uncertainty.

William Perez, Filing Form 1040A May Help Parents Qualify for the Simplified Needs Test.  For college financial aid.

Jason Dinesen asks, Why Doesn’t the IRS Push the EA Designation?:

The IRS already oversees the EA program. There’s no new infrastructure to put in place. No new exams to create. The infrastructure and exams already exist.

Yet throughout the IRS’s ill-fated attempts at creating the “Registered Tax Return Preparer” designation, the IRS rarely mentioned the EA program, except as a side note of “CPAs, EAs and attorneys are exempt from the RTRP testing.”

I think it’s because it would be inconvenient to their efforts to regulate all preparers.

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Peter ReillyThe Dog That Did Not Bark – IRS Issues Adverse 501(c)(4) Rulings To Deafening Silence:

An interesting question about the whole scandal narrative is how it would look if it turned out that many of the groups that the IRS “targeted”  were in fact inappropriately claiming 501(c)(4) status.  Tea Party Patriots Inc, for example, spends a lot of energy talking about how all those intrusive questions were harassment, but what if it turns that, in fact, all those phone calls that TPP Inc made telling people that November 2012 was the last chance to stop Obamacare from turning the country into a cradle to grave welfare state could be viewed as political? 

I think Peter is missing the point.  The issue isn’t whether every right-wing group qualified under the standards historically used for 501(c)(4) outfits.  It’s whether the rules were selectively enforced against right-side applicants —  as seems to be the case.   After all, it wouldn’t be OK to examine 1040s of only Republicans even if it turned out some of them were tax cheats.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 272

 

David Brunori, Casino Taxes for Horses or Children? (Tax Analysts Blog):

Horse racing has been a dying sport since Nathan Detroit bet on a horse named Paul Revere in Guys and Dolls. In Pennsylvania, the schools are broke. So naturally, when governments need money, they turn to a moribund pastime to pay the bills. 

For the children!

 

William McBride, New CBO Projections Understate the Average Corporate Tax Rate. “Particularly, the CBO is using as their corporate tax base measure domestic economic profits from the BEA, which includes both C and S corporations, even though S corporations are pass-through entities not subject to the corporate tax.”  Well, that’s just nuts.

Tax Justice Blog, Gas Tax Remains High on Many States’ Agendas for 2014

 

Joseph Thorndike, Debt Limit Debates Are Good for Theater, Not For Policy Reform. (Tax Analysts Blog)

Jack Townsesnd, TRAC Posts Statistics on Criminal Tax Enforcement Related to IRS Referrals   ”[A] surge in IRS criminal investigations referred under Obama has fueled an increase in the number of cases prosecuted.”

 

Answering the Critical Question: What Kids Peeing in the Pool Can Teach Us About Tax Compliance (Leslie Book, Procedurally Taxing)

News from the Profession: McGladrey Interns Are Busy Learning Their Colleagues Are Boring, How to Use an Ice Cream Truck (Going Concern)

 

Nice Work, Champ.  It’s funny how hard it can be for some people to heed their own good advice.  Take this North Carolina man:

Prosecutors said Larry Hill, who coined himself “the people’s champ” for his efforts to keep local children out of trouble, didn’t live by his own message and that his case represented “disturbing hypocrisy.”

In a YouTube clip posted in November 2012, Hill says, “I want all my young people to think before you act. Trouble is too easy to get into, and once you get into trouble, you’ll be all by yourself.”

Federal Judge Earl Britt sentenced Hill to 100 months in prison for conspiracy to defraud the U.S. government and 18 months for filing false tax returns.

If it’s any comfort, Mr. Hill will have plenty of company where he’s going.  But he will have to get used to a more spartan existence:

The judge agreed to the lower sentence of 100 months but said Hill deserved the “most severe punishment to reflect the seriousness of the offense,” pointing out that Hill used much of the money to buy himself expensive jewelry and cars, including a Maserati. The judge also noted that Hill was on supervised release from an insurance fraud prison term when he committed the tax fraud.

That doesn’t make his advice any less sound:

He should follow it sometime.  Russ Fox has more on Mr. Hill.

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/31/14: Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day party edition! And: e-filing begins.

Friday, January 31st, 2014 by Joe Kristan


EITC error chart
Yes, for those of you not already taking the day off to observe it, today is Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day!  Let’s celebrate with a true story of EITC awareness.

Cedar Rapids tax preparer Demetries Johnson displayed her awareness of the credit in a big way:

Defendant DEMETRIES JOHNSON notified some taxpayers seeking her services that she could obtain larger tax refunds than they would otherwise receive.  To obtain refunds, defendant DEMETRIES JOHNSON would knowingly report false information on taxpayers returns. The claims made in the tax returns were false, fictitious, and fraudulent in that the claims for refunds, for example: 1) falsely reported income when little or no income was earned, thereby substantially and materially overstating taxpayers’ income in a manner that made the taxpayer appear eligible for a refund by virtue of the EITC; and 2) falsely included a child or children on taxpayers’ returns who did not in fact qualify under the EITC.  Through submission of these false claims, defendant DEMETRIES JOHNSON increased payments made by the Internal Revenue Service to the taxpayers or to bank accounts controlled by the defendant.

Her awareness ended up earning a two-year prison sentence after she pleaded guilty to tax charges.  Her keen level of awareness isn’t uncommon; a recent Treasury Inspector General analysis showed that 21-25% of the $13 billion of the credit issued annually is claimed “in error.”  No small amount of those errors are deliberate.

Those who scam the system are especially aware that the credit is “refundable.”  If you claim more credit than you owe in taxes, the IRS will send you a check for the excess.  Like all refundable credits, it attracts fraudsters.

Come to think of it, maybe “awareness” isn’t the real problem with the Earned Income Credit.

 

Flickr image courtesy Shock264 under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy Shock264 under Creative Commons license

When you buy a round, it’s always popular Wind industry fears slowdown as Congress considers future of popular tax credit  (Des Moines Register).  The recipients of wind subsidies delivered through the tax law are annoyed that there is a delay in getting their free stuff.

The headline says the wind turbine subsidy is “popular,” but nothing in the article backs that up, or even repeats the claim.  I suppose it’s as popular with the Warren Buffet-controlled utility that is a big recipient of the credit as the Earned Income Tax Credit was with Demetries Johnson’s clients.

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 267.  He highlights today’s Peggy Noonan piece:

 Meanwhile, back in America, conservatives targeted and harassed by the Internal Revenue Service still await answers on their years-long requests for tax exempt status. When news of the IRS targeting broke last spring, agency officials lied about it, and one took the Fifth. The president said he was outraged, had no idea, read about it in the papers, boy was he going to get to the bottom of it. An investigation was announced but somehow never quite materialized. Victims of the targeting waited to be contacted by the FBI to be asked about their experience. Now the Justice Department has made clear its investigation won’t be spearheaded by the FBI but by a department lawyer who is a campaign contributor to the president and the Democratic Party. Sometimes you feel they are just laughing at you, and going too far.

For a case where a key figure promptly hid behind the Fifth Amendment, the FBI was sure quick to conclude there was no crime.

 

William Gale, Benjamin Harris, David John, State of the Union Speech Promotes New Retirement Savings Vehicles (TaxVox):

 Similar to the R-Bond discussed in a recent AARP Public Policy Institute paper written by William Gale, David John and Spencer Smith, MyRA would allow individuals to save in a government bond account similar to the one offered as an option to federal employees through the Thrift Savings Plan. The details are unclear (there’s a WhiteHouse fact sheet here), but MyRA would allow new savers and those with small balances to accumulate retirement savings without either having to pay administrative charges or face market risk.

Just inflation and government policy risk.

 

20130916-1TaxGrrrl, IRS Officially Opens Tax Season Today, Begins Processing Returns and Refunds

William Perez, IRS’s Electronic Filing Systems Opens January 31

Kay Bell, Are you ready to e-file your federal tax return? Here’s how.

Trish McIntire, IRS Notice Prevention

 

Fear the Family (and other related parties).  My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record Business Professionals Blog.

 

Kyle Pomerleau notes A Few Contradictions in President Obama’s State of the Union Address (Tax Policy Blog)

Keith Fogg, Does Treasury’s Policy Restraining Referrals to Low Income Tax Clinics Harm Individuals and the Tax System? (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert D. Flach serves up his last Buzz for awhile as he begins his tax season hiatus.  It’s his 43rd tax season.  If I hit my 43d tax season, it will be in my 68th year.  I admire Robert’s endurance, but I have no plans to match it.

 

haroldDirector of Chartered firm among 13 charged over £2.5m film tax fraud (ifaonline.co.uk).  I think film tax credits are the bait car of tax incentives.

Useless tool.   Treasury Nominee Dynan Calls Home Buyer Tax Credit ‘Useful Tool’ (Tax Analysts, $link).  Not only should her nomination be rejected on the basis of her approval of the failed and fraud-ridden credit, she should be presumed self-disqualified from any public position ever.

While I think the court decision ending tax-free treatment for cash parsonage allowances is likely to stand, not everyone agrees.  Zelinsky: The First Amendment and the § 107 Parsonage Allowance (TaxProf)

 

Tax Trials continues its “Famous Fridays” series with Pete Rose, Gambling Winnings Are Income Too.

News from the Profession: PwC Doing Its Part to Keep Dog Tails Wagging in Northeast Ohio (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/30/14: Gas tax increase advances. And: IRS starts to accept 1040s, but not issuing refunds yet.

Thursday, January 30th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

They’re still trying to increase Iowa’s gas tax, reports William Petroski of the Des Moines Register:

An Iowa House subcommittee voted 5-0 today to approve a 10-cent increase in the state’s gasoline tax, although the proposal still faces steep odds of winning final approval this session.

The bill, managed by Rep. Josh Byrnes, R-Osage, would raise the fuel tax by three cents the first year, an additional three cents and following year, and four cents the third year. When fully implemented, the tax increase would generate $230 million annually for city, county and state roads.

It’s always hard to increase taxes in an election year.  There is a good argument that gas taxes are the way to pay for roads, and that Iowa’s tax needs updating, but so far Iowa’s road spending is in line with most other states, and the talk of a “crisis” isn’t convincing everyone.

 

Iowa Farmer Today, Little action expected on taxes in Legislature.  It quotes my co-presenter at the Farm and Urban Tax Schools, Roger McEowen:

McEowen, head of the Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation (CALT) at Iowa State University, says it is always possible the state might do something to clean up its tax code, but it appears unlikely this year.

“Frankly, I don’t think anything important is going to happen on taxes, not in this legislative session,” he says.

It is a sentiment echoed by many other legislative observers.

Like me.

 

 

20130419-1TaxGrrrl, IRS Accepting Returns As Part Of Test Program, Not Issuing Refunds Early

Trish McIntire, Yes, You Have to Wait.  If you haven’t received your W-2, you can’t file using your last 2013 pay stub.

Jason Dinesen, Iowa Firefighter/EMS Tax Credit.  A $50 spiff to volunteer firefighters and EMS people. One more feel-good provision that clutters up the tax law but is too small to enforce.

Brian Strahle, SALT PRACTICES: WHAT PEOPLE THINK, BUT DO NOT SAY.  ”SALT” is “State And Local Taxes.”

Paul Neiffer looks at the predictably expensive and absurd farm bill: How To Make an Extra $100 Per Acre!  It brings to mind the old joke:  ”How did the farmer double his income?  He bought a second mailbox.”

Related: Billionaires Received Millions From Taxpayer Farm Subsidies: Analysis (Huffington Post)

William Perez, Earned Income Credit Recipients by State

 

 

Phil Hodgen, How Many Appointments in Buenos Aires to Expatriate?  The State Department doesn’t always make it easy to shed U.S. citizenship.

Brian Strahle, FATCA and Unintended Consequences.  A story of an American in Switzerland who is losing the ability to commit personal finance because of this anti-”fatcat” legislation.

 

taxanalystslogoDavid Brunori, A Sales Tax Conundrum (Tax Analysts Blog):

The sales tax has been a blessing and a curse. One of its great virtues is that it is collected by the vendor, which then remits it to the state. Neither the taxpayer nor the tax agency has much to do except pay and collect. The vendor does the work. The success of the sales tax for the last 90 years is largely attributable to vendor collection. But if the vendor doesn’t collect and remit the appropriate tax, it is liable for the amounts. The vendor will have to pay the unremitted tax and could face severe penalties and even criminal charges.

So if a vendor is unsure about the status of an item it’s selling, it will collect the tax. Better to collect and remit tax not owed than to face the consequences of a mistake.

David notes that online vendors will have to deal with many states, with very confusing rules, and that over-collection of sales taxes is the inevitable result.  Not that the states mind.

Cara Griffith wonders, Are State Tax Authorities Hiding the Ball? (Tax Analysts Blog).  ”I’ve noticed an emerging trend in some state departments of revenue – a move toward secret law. In a time when transparency has become a buzzword, some revenue departments are doing what they can to avoid transparency.”

 

William McBride, State of the Union: Corporations Continue to Flee (Tax Policy Blog)

Tax Justice Blog, Why the Business Tax Reform Proposal in Obama’s SOTU Is Not as Great as It Sounds

Kay Bell, Taxes touched on lightly in State of Union via EITC, MyRA

Joseph Thorndike, The War on Wealth Is Not New.  (Tax Analysts Blog).  True.  And it has always been dishonest, disgraceful, corrupt, and impoverishing.

 

The Critical Question.  What Happens When You Mix a Seedy Strip Club, an Unsophisticated Taxpayer and the Tax Court? (Going Concern).  I’m sure if it was one of those real elegant and distinguished strip clubs, there wouldn’t have been a problem…

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/29/14: E-cigarette panic! And: SOTU, SALY.

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Via e-cigarettepedia.com

Via e-cigarettepedia.com

Jeff Stier, Iowa should tread carefully on e-cigarette rules, on the weird impulse to restrict and tax water vapor:

Restricting the use of e-cigarettes, known as “vaping” for the vapor they emit, would undermine the very goal of this law.

First, it wouldn’t reduce exposure to environmental smoke, better known as second-hand smoke, because there is no smoke. There isn’t even any first-hand smoke.

More important, a ban on vaping in public places would damage public health because it would make e-cigarettes a less convenient alternative to cigarette smoking. It would also send the implicit (and incorrect) message that they are also equally dangerous, not only to the user, but to those exposed to the vapor.

All true.  There are two explanations for the why politicians have their dresses over their heads over what amount to very small room vaporizers.

First, because people vaping look a little like smokers, and smoking is a great sin these days, they must be sinning, and sin must be stopped.  For the children!

The second explanation is more cynical, so it probably is true.  The state has a nicotine addiction.  Iowa collected $227 million in tobacco taxes in 2013.  If smokers use e-cigarettes to quit, that money dries up.  We can’t have that.

 


EITC error chart
Tax Analysts’ 
headline ($link) on its story about the tax proposals in the State of the Union doesn’t exactly scream Hope and Change:  ”Obama Proposes EITC Expansion in State of the Union, Otherwise Reiterates Old Tax Proposals.”

One hopes that Congress will do something to keep 20-25% of the EITC from being issued “improperly” to grifters before it increases the theft pot.  We can expect the President’s other tax proposals to go nowhere, as they went nowhere when he was in better political shape.  The dead-on-arrival proposals include disallowing more of the Section 199 deduction for f0ssil fuels and tax credits to “build fuel infrastructure” and to subsidize alternative fuels.

His budget also provides for a hodgepodge of other tax incentives.  His revenue-raisers include repealing LIFO inventories, slower depreciation for aircraft, changing grantor trust rules so they are treated the same for income and tax purposes, and limiting the size of retirement accounts — all doomed absent an unlikely comprehensive tax reform.

Related:  Tax Policy is MIA in the State of the Union (Howard Gleckman, TaxVox). “The president perfunctorily restated his support for business tax reform but added no new twist to make his plan any more acceptable to congressional Republicans.”

Good Jobs First, a left-side think tank, has released Show us the Subsidized Jobs, a report on state tax incentives.  Iowa only scores 27%, largely because there is no online disclosure of recipients of the Industrial New Jobs Training program and the Iowa New Jobs Tax Credit.  I would give Iowa zero percent, because these hidden subsidies wouldn’t exist in a well designed tax system.  They should be repealed and replaced by the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

Broadbandits.  Speaking of corporate welfare, SSB 3319 was introduced yestarday in the Iowa Senate.  Among other ways to pay providers for something they will do anyway if customers want it, the bill includes a 3% credit on the cost of “new installation of broadband infrastructure.”  Just one more step away from simplicity and transparency.

 

20111040logoDavid Henderson, Marginal Tax Rates: Singing Taxman to My Class:

Think about the Beatles’ earnings. Late 1963 was when they first started making real money. Then in 1964, they hit it big. Presumably they didn’t spend it all but started investing, figuring that they would get interest and dividends on their investments. They probably did. But those returns would be taxed at the 95% rate. When would they start noticing this? Probably some time in 1965. Thus the 1966 song. 

And we all know what an economic dynamo the UK was then.

Martin Sullivan, The Obama Administration’s Backdoor Bailout of Puerto Rico (Tax Analysts Blog):

But here’s a little secret that the powers that be inside and outside government don’t want you to know: The Obama administration has already provided a multibillion-dollar bailout to Puerto Rico. Nobody in the major media outlets has noticed because the issue is highly technical.

And because Look!  Justin Bieber!

 

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Why You Should Never Hold Real Estate In A Corporation? 

William Perez, Filing Requirements for Tax Year 2013

TaxGrrrl, ‘Same Love’ Grammy Wedding: Married Is Married For Tax Purposes

Leslie Book, Corbalis v Commissioner: Tax Court Holds it Has Jurisdiction to Review Interest Suspension Decisions (Procedurally Taxing)

 

Scott Hodge, President Obama Signs Executive Order to Increase Minimum Wages Paid by Federal Contractors (Tax Policy Blog).  Spending our money to show us how generous he is.

Tax Justice Blog, Has the Tax Code Been Used to Reduce Inequality During the Obama Years? Not Really.   They’ve tried, but it doesn’t work.

Jeremy Scott, BEPS Project Should Include Digital Economy Permanent Establishment (Tax Analysts Blog).   Should companies be taxable in a country because they have a “digital permanent establishment”?  I say they shouldn’t be taxed at all.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 265

Jack Townsend, DOJ Tax AAG Keneally Reports on Swiss Banks Joining DOJ Swiss Bank Program

Kay Bell, Mortgage tax break contributes to fading American dream.

 

Robert D. Flach is a sensible man:

I did not watch the State of the Union address last night.  Instead I watched the wonderful film GAMBIT with Michael Caine and Shirley MacLaine on TCM.

I ate a delicious dinner and had pie for dessert, with the TV off.  My view of the whole SOTU thing is well-reflected here.

 

Career Corner: You Can Run But You Can’t Hide. Therefore, Sabotage Your Coworkers (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/22/14: Let’s pay it for Hollywood! And: choosing a preparer.

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

haroldTaking your money and giving it to Hollywood.  Oscar Nominees Cash In On State Tax Subsidies (Howard Gleckman, TaxVox):

Each of the nine movies nominated for this year’s Oscar for best film may already have taken home a pile of tax subsidies. Seven brought back state goodies from the U.S. and two got cash for their work in the U.K.

And, according to data collected by the Manhattan Institute, the winner is….Wolf of Wall Street. The $100 million black comedy about (irony alert) over-the-top greed among sleazy stockbrokers got a 30 percent tax credit for making the movie in New York State.

The Empire State isn’t even the most generous when it comes to doling out tax incentives to filmmakers. In Louisiana, moviemakers not only get a 30 percent credit against overall in-state production costs but also an additional 5 percent payroll credit. Even better, filmmakers with no state tax liability can monetize the credits by selling them to firms that do owe Louisiana tax or even selling them back to the state at 85 percent of their value.

Iowa used to do this, until its film tax credit program collapsed in scandal and disgrace following revelations that filmmakers were charging fancy cars and personal items to Iowa taxpayers under the guise of “economic development.   Further revelations showed that millions of dollars of pretend expenses were used to claim the credit, taking advantage of credulous administration and almost non-existent oversight.

More from Howard Gleckman:

No doubt these credits are good for filmmakers. And I’m sure residents get a kick out of seeing Leonardo DiCaprio shooting a scene in their neighborhood (assuming they are not steamed over the related traffic jam). But is there an economic payoff in return for these substantial lost tax revenues as supporters claim?

Most studies conclude there is not.

It’s amazing that politicians think Hollywood deserves their taxpayers dollars.  Fortunately, Iowa film subsidies now are limited to housing and meal expenses for filmmakers.

 

Jason Dinesen, Deducting Miles Driven for Charity.  ”Taxpayers can take a deduction of 14 cents/mile for mileage driven in giving services to a charitable organization, or taxpayers can take a deduction for the actual cost of gas and oil associated with giving services to a charitable organization.”

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: The Sneaky Tax Consequences of Real Estate Repossessions 

 

Choosing a preparer?

Kay Bell, Time to pick the proper tax pro.  She gets one thing wrong about the IRS:  ”For years, the agency has been trying to set up a system under which it register and test tax preparers to help ensure that they meet a minimum competency level.”

No, the agency simply wants to expand its control over preparers and help powerful friends in the big tax prep franchises.  The “minimum competency level” stuff is a weak pretext.

Robert D. Flach, IT’S THAT TIME OF YEAR AGAIN – CHOOSING A TAX PREPARER:

Contrary to the popular “urban tax myth”, unfortunately perpetuated by uninformed journalists and bloggers, just because a person has the initials “CPA” after his/her name does not mean that he/she knows his arse from a hole in the ground when it comes to preparing 1040s.  

True.  But a lot of the best prepaers are CPAs.  Not everybody needs a CPA.  Many folks just need somebody who knows a little more than they do to help them put the W-2 income in the right place.  But if you are doing a complex business return — even on a 1040 — a CPA may be your best bet.

That’s not to say only CPAs are competent preparers.  Enrolled Agents can be very good, and there are many very competent unregulated preparers, like Robert.  I think the competence curve between CPAs and unenrolled preparers would look something like this:

competence curve

The more complex your return, the more likely it is that you will want to bring in an Enrolled Agent or a CPA, but if you already have a strong unregulated preparer who is taking care of your tax needs, you’d be foolish to switch.

 

Paul Neiffer, Average is Important for 2013 Tax Filing.  Farm income averaging, that is.  Another example of a provision that would result in frivolous return penalties for anyone but farmers.

Fairmark.com: Share Identification Under Attack

 

20121120-2Tea Party: Resolved: Obamacare Is Now Beyond Rescue.  Oh, wait, that wasn’t the Tea Party.   It was a debate audience on New York’s Upper West Side.  

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 258

William Perez, The Number of Sole Proprietors has been Rising for 30 Years

Tax Justice Blog: CTJ Submits Comments on the Finance Committee Chairman Baucus’ International Tax Reform Proposal.  They have very different, and largely opposite, concerns from the Tax Foundation.

Jack Townsend, Tax Notes Article on IRS 2013 Victories in Offshore Evasion

 

gatsoNext: automated pedestrian jaywalking camera fines, for our own safety:  NYC Cops Allegedly Beat Up Jaywalking Elderly Man, Refused to Tell Son Which Hospital He Was In (Ed Krayewski, Reason.com)

But I thought it was about traffic safety, not money…  Council members: Traffic camera revenue helped keep property taxes down, pay for public safety.

 

The importance of philanthropy: Warren Buffett Offers $1 Billion For Perfect March Madness Bracket  (TaxGrrrl)

 

The Critical Question: A Meat Tax? Seriously?  (Joseph Thorndike, Tax Analysts Blog).

News From the Profession: Guy Who Couldn’t Hack Two Years in Public Accounting Needs Validation He Isn’t a Loser (Going Concern)

It’s Academic!  How Not to Use Your Faculty Laptop (TaxProf)

 

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

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

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Via the TaxProf.

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

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

Max Baucus

Max Baucus

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

 

Paul Neiffer, Section 179 Update (or Not):

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

By Memorial Day 10 Billion to 1

By Labor Day 10 Million to 1

By the November Mid-Term elections 500 to 1

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

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

After December 31, 2014 5 to 1

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

 

HelmsleyTaxTrials, Leona Helmsley, Angry Employees Strike Back:

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/17/14: Envy as a principle of tax policy. And: my maybe webinar!

Friday, January 17th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

taxanalystslogoJoseph Thorndike, the tax historian at Tax Analysts, asks: What if the Income Tax Is All About Envy? Would That Be So Bad?.

The short answer: yes, it would.  The primary purpose of a tax is to fund the operations of the government.  Asking the tax to do anything else makes it worse at its main job, while imposing wealth-destroying distortions on the economy.  Also, as we noted the other day, increasing taxes on “the rich” has coincided with an increase in inequality.  It’s not clear at all that taxes at any non-catastrophic level can “help” inequality.

But its a slow news day, so let’s spend a little time on a longer answer.  Joseph thinks that inequality on its own is bad, even when “the poor” are well-off in real, but not relative, terms:

In other words, even if a rising tide lifts all boats, the relative size of everybody’s boat still matters. If some boats are much bigger than others, then a society is vulnerable to political instability.

Now, you can object that all the people with little boats are just feeling envious. But that doesn’t make the envy disappear; moral indignation may be satisfying, but it’s not a particularly effective means of keeping the peace. What’s needed, if you’re trying to fend off revolution, is some sort of actual policy response to feelings of relative deprivation.

I think Joseph greatly overstates the risk of well-fed people rising up against their neighbors just because they have nicer cars and houses.  People with something to lose tend to be risk-averse, and few things are riskier than revolution.   Still, that’s not something I can empirically demonstrate.

Equality in action in the Soviet Union on the Belomor Canal

Equality in action in the Soviet Union on the Belomor Canal

One thing that is indisputable is that catastrophe happens when a government makes “equality” its driving principle.  It was tried extensively in the 20th century, and tens of millions became equally dead as a result.  Given that history, equality as an end in itself has no moral force.

In our current politics, inequality is the cynical rallying cry of a President who lives in a mansion and plays golf at exclusive resorts pretty much every week.  He presides over a listless economy, enormous deficits,  and a health reform plan that is a debacle.  He’s out of ideas, so he’s reduced to saying it’s the rich guy’s fault.  Given the approval ratings he’s getting out of it, revolution seems a long way off.

 

Scott Hodge and Andrew Lundeen, High Income Taxpayers Earn the Majority of All Pass-Through Business Income (Tax Policy Blog).  They make a point that can’t be repeated too often:

It is often said that raising top tax rates will have little effect on business activity because only 2 percent of taxpayers with business income will be impacted. However, the more economically meaningful statistic is how much overall business income will be taxed at the highest rates. In 2011, the vast majority (70 percent) of pass-through business income was reported by taxpayers earning more than $200,000. Millionaire tax returns earned 34 percent of all private business income while taxpayers with incomes below $100,000 earned just 14 percent.

20140117-3

Indulging in envy-driven rate increases on “the rich” means weakening businesses and their ability to hire and grow — reducing opportunities for their would-be employees in the name of “equality.”

 

Perspective.  The brilliant Arnold Kling quotes Laurence Kotlicoff on the U.S. Budget:

In a podcast with Russ Roberts, he says,

I think we are probably in worse fiscal shape and any developed country. The reason, Russ, is we’ve been piling up debts for over 6 decades; and when I say ‘we’ I’m referring to Republican and Democratic administrations and Congresses. And we’ve been hiding them. We’ve been keeping them off the books and using economic labels, words, to pretend that they are not real liabilities of the government…we have all these obligations to something like 30-40 million current retirees and close to 80 million baby boomers who are about to start collecting Social Security benefits if they haven’t already. All those obligations are not reported as part of the government’s debt, so we are missing those off-the-book obligations.

But the real economic emergency is inequality. Or austerity. Or something.

Of course, that “something” is probably those  Tea Party extremists who actually want the government to live within its means.  How dare they.

 

Kay Bell, Filing patience can prevent a big tax mistake.  Hurrying your refund by taking out a refund anticipation loan can be an expensive mistake.

Russ Fox, We Will Soon be Able to Efile Past Due Individual Tax Returns.  Good news.  While everybody should file on time, not everybody does, and anything that helps non-filers come in from the cold is a good thing.

 

20130114-1Programming Note:  I am scheduled to participate in a Tax Update Webinar Monday sponsored by the Iowa Bar Association from noon to 1:45 pm.  Registration information is here – $40 to get a great start on your 2014 CPE/CLE.  Other speakers are Roger McEowen of the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation, and Kristy Maitre, Iowa’s IRS Stakeholder Liason.

While I hope to be there, I can’t guarantee it.  I am on federal jury standby this month, and I won’t know until after 5 p.m. tonight whether I will be hanging out in the jury room at the Des Moines Federal Courthouse instead of at the webinar.  They haven’t needed me these first two weeks, but I suppose past performance is no guarantee of future results here.  If I am on jury duty, the Tax Update may go quiet for awhile.

Update, 1/18: not called for a jury next week, so I will be on!

 

TaxGrrrl, IRS Free File To Open January 17, Two Weeks Before Tax Season Officially Opens 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 253.  He quotes an op-ed by an attorney for the Tea Party outfits, who says: “Let’s all be very clear: The FBI did not conduct an “investigation” into the IRS scandal.”  Of course.  Lookouts don’t investigate.

Robert D. Flach brings the Friday Buzz!

 

News from the Profession.  Life at Deloitte May or May Not Involve Time Spent on Your Knees (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/16/14: Bill would widen Iowa 10-year gain break. And: Obamacare tax credits survive challenge.

Thursday, January 16th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


20130117-1
Iowa Capital Gains Exclusion for stock sales?  
The first income tax bill in the hopper in this session of the Iowa General Assembly is HSB 502, which would expand the current tax break for extra-long term capital gains to stock and partnership interest sales.

Iowa currently allows taxpayers to exclude some capital gains from income when the taxpayer meets each of two 10-year requirements:

- They have to have held the property for at least ten years, and

- They have to have materially participated in the business for at least ten years. Material participation is determined under the federal passive activity rules.

If those requirements are met, a taxpayer can exclude gain on the sale of “substantially all of the assets” of a business, or on the sale of real estate used in the business.  But unless the gain is recognized in a corporate liquidation following an asset sale, stock gains aren’t eligible for the break.  Gains on the sale of partnership interests are never excluded

HSB 502 would extend the break to a sales of “substantially all of the taxpayer’s stock or equity interest in the business, whether the business is held as a sole proprietorship, corporation, partnership, joint venture, trust, limited liability company, or another business entity.”

The provision makes sense to the extent that such a break shouldn’t be dependent on the way you organize your business.  What doesn’t make sense is the way the exclusion is limited by the ten-year material participation requirement.  There is a strong economic case to not tax capital gains at all, but I can’t think of any reason that case is affected by material participation.

The biggest argument against the exclusion is that it is a carve-out of the income tax base for a very limited class of taxpayers that adds to the complexity of the Iowa income tax.  I would favor a broader, or even complete, capital gain exclusion.  I would also be OK with taxing all capital gains in exchange for repeal of the corporation income tax and reduction of the individual rate to under 4% as part of the Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

The bill has been referred to a subcommittee of the Iowa House Ways and Means Committee.  While I expect no major tax legislation to move this year, limited provisions like this could advance.

Related: Iowa Capital Gain Deduction: an illustration

 

20121120-2TaxGrrrl, Another Legal Threat To Obamacare Shot Down In Federal Court:

When the Regulations were published, those refundable tax credits which were intended for participants in state exchanges were extended to those individuals under the federal exchanges. The plaintiffs filed suit, arguing that making the credits available to those on the federal exchanges was beyond the scope of the law. The plaintiffs sought, through the lawsuit, to prohibit the IRS from enforcing the Regulations as written.

The D.C. U.S. District Court upheld the regulations yesterday on summary judgement.  An appeal to the D.C. Circuit is likely.

 

 David Henderson quotes economist John Cochrane:

Our current tax code is a chaotic mess and an invitation to cronyism, lobbying, and special breaks. The right thing is to scrap it. Taxes should raise money for the government in the least distortionary way possible. Don’t try to mix the tax code with income transfers or support for alternative energy, farmers, mortgages, and the housing industry, and so on. Like roughly every other economist, I support a two-page tax code, something like a consumption tax. Do government transfers, subsidies, and redistribution in a politically accountable and economically efficient way, through on-budget spending.

But that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.

So wise, and, sadly, so true.  Mr. Cochran has a lot of wise things to say; read the whole thing.  Lynne Kiesling passes on more Cochrane wisdom in Cochrane on ACA’s unravelling: parallels to electricity.

 

Robert D. Flach, TWO RECENT TAX POSTS WORTH DISCUSSING.  ”The idiots in Congress must understand that the purpose of the Tax Code is to raise the money needed to run the government – PERIOD.”

Trish McIntire talks about Choosing A Tax Pro.  ”Just because your previous preparer did something a certain way doesn’t mean that another preparer will run their office the same.”

William Perez, Free Tax Preparation Services

 

HarvestHarvest
harvest
Paul Neiffer, Grain Gifts – How Are They Taxed?:

Since there is no cost allocated to the grain that is gifted, there is no charitable deduction to report.  Rather, since you are reducing your schedule F income by the amount of grain given, this essentially results in your charitable deduction.  You are not allowed to deduct both on schedule F and on schedule A.

Only one deduction counts.

 

Jason Dinesen, Got 1099s to Issue?:

A 1099 may need to be issued if:

  1. You paid $600 or more in total to any 1 person during the year for services provided to your business. This also applies to payments made to businesses organized as partnerships. However, a 1099 does NOT need issued for payments made to a corporation. Payments made to an LLC may or may not require a 1099, depending on how the LLC is taxed.

  2. You paid $600 or more in total to a law firm during the year, regardless of how the law firm is organized. In other words, even if the law firm is a corporation, you would need to issue it a 1099 if you paid the firm $600 or more.

  3. You paid $600 or more in rental or lease payments to an unincorporated person or partnership during the year (similar rules as listed under item #1).

And the deadline is looming.

 

Jack Townsend, Switzerland’s Quixotic Efforts to Close the Stable Door After the Horse Has Left the Barn.  Consider Swiss bank secrecy most sincerely dead.

 

20130419-1Kay Bell, IRS’ fiscal year 2014 budget takes a big hit

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 252

TaxTrials, Wesley Snipes, A Lesson in Listening to Bad Advice

Keith Fogg, Forum Shopping in the Tax Court – Small Tax Case Procedure and the Rand Decision. (Procedurally Taxing).  Issues when a tax deficiency results solely from refundable tax credits.

Tax Justice Blog, What to Watch for in 2014 State Tax Policy

Scott Drenkard, Open Sky Policy Institute: “Illinois is not an Example for Other States”.  Not exactly going out on a limb, but worth noting.

Roberton Williams, Tax Complications for Same-Sex Couples in Utah (and Elsewhere) (TaxVox)

Cara Griffith, Is Connecticut Ignoring Supreme Court Precedent? (Tax Analysts Blog).  Who do they think they are anyway — Iowa?

 

News from the Profession: How To Not Tick Off Your Public Accounting Colleagues Without Being a Clown About It (Going Concern)

 

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