Posts Tagged ‘The Critical Question’

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

Thursday, November 13th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

Greg Mankiw, Tax Fact of the Day::

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

We simply don’t know yet.

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 553

 

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

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/31/14: A little fire won’t stop us!

Monday, March 31st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

There was a little disruption around the Tax Update neighborhood over the weekend.  The 115 year-old Younkers Building, kitty-corner from our quarters in The Financial Center, burned over the weekend.  It was being renovated into apartments and shops when it caught fire early Saturday morning.  Here’s how it looked yesterday from one of our conference rooms:

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While our neighbors in Hub Tower and the EMC Building are closed today, Roth & Company is open for business.  If you need to visit us, you have to enter on the Mulberry Street side; the Walnut side is closed by police order.  You can still reach the parking garage, but you have to come from Mulberry and turn north onto the little stub of Seventh Street left open to allow garage access (it’s normally one-way, Southbound, but it’s one-way northbound until they can re-open Seventh Street, and that doesn’t seem likely for awhile).  We are cut off from the skywalk system, for now. (Update, 8:54: we have Skywalks!  Both to Hub Tower and the EMC building).

Other Tax Update coverage:

Sunday Morning Skywalks.

Goodbye, Younkers Building.

A VISIT(ATION) TO DOWNTOWN YOUNKERS

DOWNTOWN YOUNKERS PICTURES

And some sound advice from Brian Gongol: “Make sure you have an offsite, offline backup of your critical work and personal files. You never know when a catastrophe will strike.”

Roger McEowen, U.S. Tax Court Deals Blow to IRS on Application of Passive Loss Rules to Trusts: “The case represents a complete rejection of the IRS position that trust aren’t “individuals” for passive loss purposes and the notion that only the trustee acting in the capacity of trustee can satisfy the test.”

William Perez, April 1st Deadline to Take Required Minimum Distributions for 2013:

Individuals who reached age 70 and a half years old in 2013 are required to begin withdrawing funds from their tax-deferred retirement plans no later than April 1, 2014. This applies to traditional individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and employer-based retirement accounts, such as a section 401(k), 403(b) or 457 plan.

You can get hit with a 50% excise tax on the required distribution amount if you fail to take it.

Jana Luttenegger, FICA Taxes on Severance Payments (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Kay Bell, Selfies used as tax claim documentation, audit defense.  Not a bad idea.

 

20131206-1Arden Dale, A New Reason to Hoard Assets (WSJ):

In particular, taxpayers are taking advantage of a tax break known as the “step-up in basis,” in which the cost basis of a house, stock or other asset is determined by its current market price rather than when the deceased person acquired it.

Heirs get the step-up when they inherit the asset, and it can save them a lot in capital-gains taxes when they sell.

Gift recipients get only the donor’s basis, while the basis of inherited property is the value at the date of death.  Now that couples can die with over $10 million without incurring estate tax, it often makes tax sense to hold low-basis assets until death so heirs can dispose of them without incurring capital gains taxes.

 

Greg Mankiw,  The Growth of Pass-Through Entities:

Over the past few decades, there has been an amazing shift in how businesses are taxed.  See the figure below, which is from CBO.  Businesses are more and more taxed as pass-through entities, where the income shows up on personal tax returns rather than on corporate returns.  (Here is an article discussing how the mutual giant Fidelity recently switched from one form to the other.)

This phenomenon complicates the interpretation of tax return data.  For example, when one looks at the growth of the 1 percent, or the 0.1 percent, in the Piketty-Saez data, that growth is likely exaggerated because some income is merely being shifted from corporate returns. I don’t know how much.  If someone has already quantified the magnitude of this effect, please email me the answer. If not, someone should write that paper.

This is clearly true.  While I can’t quantify the effect on inequality statistics, it has to make a difference, now that a majority of business income is reported on 1040s:

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

In 1980, corporate returns reported about 2/3 of all business income; by 2010, the Form 1120-share of business income was down to about 43%.

 

Lyman Stone, Maryland Threatens to Confiscate “House of Cards” Set (Tax Policy Blog).  “High taxes and big incentives don’t seem to be working very well in Maryland right now.”  They should follow Iowa’s example and limit filmmaker subsidies to three hots and a cot.

BitcoinMegan McArdle, The IRS Takes a Bite Out of Bitcoin

Annette Nellen, Guidance on taxation of virtual currency

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 326

Tax Justice Blog, Grover Norquist cares a lot about Tennessee taxes. You should too.

Renu Zaretsky, Tax Reform, Tax Expenditures, and Kevin Spacey (TaxVox).  A roundup of tax headlines.

Jack Townsend, Tenth Circuit Opinion on Mens Rea for Tax Obstruction – What Does Unlawful Mean?

 

The Critical Question.  Am I a Hypocrite on Preparer Regulation?  (Jason Dinesen): 

I oppose regulation of tax preparers. But yet, I will tout my own licensing at the expense of an unlicensed preparer if the situation presents itself.

But nobody makes Jason do this, and if somebody wants to pay less for an unlicensed preparer, Jason isn’t preventing that.  If he replaced “but yet, I will” with “I prefer to,” it would be correct.

 

News from the Profession.  Per Criminal, PwC is Preferred Audit Firm for Criminals (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/24/14: WSJ highlights tax season ID theft. And: Shock! Film Tax Credit Corruption!

Monday, February 24th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
The "Chromaro" purchased with ID-theft frauds by a Florida thief.

The “Chromaro” purchased with ID-theft frauds by a Florida thief.

The Wall Street Journal covers identity theft today: “Identity Theft Triggers a Surge in Tax Fraud”   It seems to be designed to tell what a great job the authorities are doing to fight the problem.  It’s nice that they’re stepping up the efforts, but the time to do that was four years ago, when the problem started exploding.  But the IRS was too busy with its attempt to regulate practitioners to be bothered with keeping billions from going out the door to two-bit grifters.  The article refers delicately to the grifters:

The scam, which involves repeatedly filing fake tax returns electronically and receiving refunds within days, is so enticing it is attracting suspects not typically associated with white-collar crime. On Friday, two members of an alleged crack-dealing gang in Miami were indicted on charges they also ran a tax-refund scam on the side. Suspects typically steal lists of names and Social Security numbers. Then they file large numbers of electronic returns claiming refunds, and can start getting money before investigators spot the fraud.

The story notes that stealing from the taxpayers is only part of the damage caused:

The crime creates two victims—the U.S. Treasury and individual taxpayers, who only learn of the fraud when they try to file their legitimate returns. Those taxpayers are stuck with the hassle of proving to the IRS that the previous document was a phony claim.

And the process can drag over years, as an ID-theft victim who works with Jason Dinesen would attest.   It’s a disgrace that the IRS has done so poorly at preventing ID theft, and it is doubly disgraceful that they don’t do a better job helping the victims of IRS negligence.

For your part, don’t help the ID thieves.  Never disclose your social security number.  Keep your tax information secure.  Don’t transmit your social security number in an unencrypted email.  If you want to transmit tax documents electronically, don’t send them as an email attachment.  Use a secure file transfer site, like our FileDrop site.

 

haroldDon’t let the door hit you.  ‘House of Cards’ threatens to leave if Maryland comes up short on tax credits (Washington Post, via Politico):

A few weeks before Season 2 of “House of Cards” debuted online, the show’s production company sent Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley a letter with this warning: Give us millions more dollars in tax credits, or we will “break down our stage, sets and offices and set up in another state.”

That’s the problem with paying people to be your friend.  The price only goes up. In California, the film credit scam industry may be losing a friend, according to Capital Public Radio: Calderon Indicted On Fraud, Bribery Charges:

The Department of Justice announced Friday that State Sen. Ron Calderon (D-Montebello) is facing 24 federal charges including bribery, wire fraud and money laundering. U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte said Calderon solicited and accepted $100,000.

“Ron Calderon, we allege, took the bribes in return for official acts. Such as, supporting legislation to those that would be favorable to those that paid him bribes and opposing legislation that would harmful to them. The indictment further alleges that Calderon attempted to convince other public officials to do the same.”

~Andre Birotte, U.S. Attorney

The legislation centered on a potential film tax credit and regulation of medical billing. Calderon is accused of accepting cash, trips, dinners and jobs for his children.

I think film tax credits, and all incentive tax credits, are fundamentally corrupt, as they provide better treatment for the well-connected at the expense of everyone else. In Iowa, though, they were able to rely on credulous legislators, without resorting to bribes.

Russ Fox, California State Senator Ron Calderon Indicted on Bribery & Tax Charges.  “Mr. Calderon is facing a maximum of 396 years at ClubFed if found guilty on all charges.”

 

premier.gov.ru [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

premier.gov.ru [CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

A victim of politically motivated tax prosecution goes free in Ukraine: Freed Ukrainian ex-PM Tymoshenko rallies protesters (CBC).  She had been imprisoned on politically-convenient tax charges by the toppled would-be dictators there.   With the complexity of the tax law, it is way too easy to indict somebody.  That’s why IRS partisanship is so dangerous.

And yes, it can (and has) happened here.

 

 

 

William Perez has the scoop on Reporting Investment Income and Expenses

Jana Luttenegger, Taxing Olympic Winnings.  (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog) Not a problem for the hockey team.

Kay Bell is right when she says Report all your income even if you don’t get a 1099.  The 1099 is a useful reminder, but income doesn’t become tax free if you don’t get one.

TaxGrrrl, IRS Processing Returns, Refunds Faster Than In 2013.

Roberton Williams notes An Updated Marriage Bonus and Penalty Calculator at TaxVox.

 

 

William McBride, Empirical Evidence on Taxes and Growth: A Response to CBPP (Tax Policy Blog).  The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities has never met a tax increase it doesn’t like, as if there never is a point that giving the mule more to carry slows it down. The McBride post mentions an often-overlooked aspect of our government spending:

The thing is in reality the federal government spends only a small fraction of its budget on public investments, such as roads and airports, and instead spends most of the budget on transfer payments, such as social security and healthcare. Transfer payments are unproductive and even harmful to economic growth, according to most studies. So in practice, income taxes mainly go to transfer payments, and this deal is a clear economic loser, according to the IMF and most academic economists. 

Some folks, like Jim Maule, act like any complaint about the level of government spending and taxes means you are against roads, courts and public order — when most of what the government does is takes money from some people and gives it to other people.

 

Jack Townsend, U.S. Authorities Focus on Swiss Insurance Products Used to Hide U.S. Taxpayer Assets and Income

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 291

The Critical Question.  Sylvia Dion CPA Asks – Where Are The Women? (Peter Reilly)

Going Concern, The Ten Stages of Busy Season.  “You begin to hate every single human being in your office”

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Tax Roundup, 2/14/14: Dallas county leads Iowa AGI. And: will you all be my valentines?

Friday, February 14th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

iowa countiesDallas County leads Iowa’s counties in AGI race; Decatur brings up the rear. The IRS this week released its individual tax return statistics by county and zip code this week.  I can’t resist wading into the data — I could wallow in it all day, but I won’t get paid for that this time of year.  I can get away with a few observations, though.

  • Iowans filed 1,420,569 1040s in 2011, reporting a total adjusted gross income of a little over $54 billion — an average of $53,033 per return.
  • Dallas County had the best 2011, reporting an average AGI of $78,169.  Dallas County is a fast-growing suburban county west of Des Moines.
  • Decatur County, a rural county on the Missouri border, was 99th and last, with average AGI of $35,323.
  • Polk County, Iowa’s most populous county, had average AGI of $59,570.
  •   $54 billion of Iowa’s $75 billion in AGI was wages.  $1.1 billion was interest and $1.2 billion was dividends.
  • Iowans reported $2.093 billion in AGI “business or profession net income.”  When politicians want to increase tax rates on “the rich,” they are taxing Iowa employers, whether or not they realize it.

 

20120906-1Iowa Senate extends NASCAR sales tax break.  When the Iowa Speedway opened in Newton, the Iowa General Assembly gave them a unique gift: they let the track keep sales tax it collects for 10 years.  One of the conditions for the gift was continued 25% ownership by Iowans, which inconveniently went away when NASCAR bought the track last year.

No problem!  The Des Moines Register reports that the Senate is moving swiftly to enact new legislation not only allowing the out-of-state owners to keep the sales tax they collect, but they are extending the deal, which was to expire in 2016, for an additional 10 years.

I’m sure the NASCAR people are fine folks, but so are the people who run every entertainment venue in Iowa that competes for Iowa’s leisure dollars.  Only NASCAR gets this special break.  NASCAR is also the beneficiary of a special federal break for “qualified motor sports entertainment facilities.”   NASCAR is controlled by a single wealthy North Carolina family.  It’s strange how the bipartisan leadership in the legislature gives them special treatment.

 

Wikipedia image

Wikipedia image

Beaned.  The Justice Department has filed a notice of appeal of the extraordinarily lenient tax evasion sentence — community service and no jail time — to the inventor of the Beanie Baby.   (Chicago Tribune)

 

William Perez, What Goes Where on the 2013 Form 1040

Paul Neiffer, John Deere Expects Increase (Hopes For) in Section 179 and Bonus Depreciation.  It’s good for equipment sales.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 281

Jamie Andree, Celebrating Valentine’s Day with Comments on the Innocent Spouse Regulations.  (Procedurally Taxing).  Nothing says “I love you” like claiming innocent spouse relief.

 Tax Trials, Court of Appeals Rules that IRS Cannot Regulate Return Preparers

 

Scott Hodge, How Much More Redistribution is Needed to Make Every Family “Equal”? (Tax Policy Blog).   It will never be enough for some people.

Howard Gleckman, Why is the U.S. Olympic Committee Tax Exempt? (TaxVox).  Probably for much the same reason NASCAR gets special federal and Iowa tax breaks.

 

The Critical Question. Could a flatulence tax on cows slow climate change? (Kay Bell)

News from the Profession.  Turns Out Your Non-Diverse Wardrobe Probably Makes You a Better CPA (Going Concern)

Happy Valentine’s Day!  Infanti: Big (Gay) Love: Has the IRS Legalized Polygamy? (Going Concern).  Will you be my Valentine?  And you, and you…

 

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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


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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.

 

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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, 1/30/14: 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, 1/22/14: 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, 1/13/14: They’re back edition. And: tax fairy doesn’t show up at appeals court.

Monday, January 13th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


20130117-1
The 2014 session of the 85th Iowa General Assembly begins today.
 It doesn’t look like much tax legislation will pass.

The Governor abandoned a plan to allow taxpayers to choose between the current byzantine Iowa income tax and a lower-rate version with fewer deductions and no deduction for federal taxes paid even before the session started.  He instead will focus on lame feel-good initiatives in an election year, reports Omaha.com:

Gov. Terry Branstad is set to unveil his agenda Tuesday during the Condition of the State address. He said his priorities will include expanding broadband Internet access, fighting school bullying and curtailing student loan debt.

The Governor’s opposition will block any tax reform that isn’t sufficiently punitive to the “rich” — which means any reform worthy of the name.  They will try to change some of Iowa’s worst corporate welfare giveaways, reports the Des Moines Register, but the Governor, an inveterate smokestack chaser and ribbon-cutter, can be expected block any restrictions on using your money to lure and subsidize your competitors.

Meanwhile, trial balloons about increasing the gas tax have already deflated.  That means we can expect a quiet session on the tax front, and a continuation of Iowa’s insanely complex and worthless tax system for another year.  But if they change their minds and want to do something useful, it’s always a good time to talk about The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

 

tax fairyTax Fairy seeker loses appeal.  A South Dakota surgeon who looked across the ocean for the Tax Fairy found only grief — and the grief wasn’t alleviated on appeals.  The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals last week upheld the conviction that led to a five-year sentence for Dr. Edward Picardi.

The doctor used a scheme where he “leased” his medical services to an offshore company he controlled to artificially reduce his income by stashing earnings in offshore accounts.  The scheme was promoted to him by an attorney-CPA who has been acquitted of criminal charges in another employee leasing case.

Other taxpayers have avoided fraud penalties from employee-leasing to offshore entities (see here), but not taxes and penalties.  When the best you can say about a tax plan is that you avoided fraud penalties, it’s not much of a plan.  There is no tax fairy.

Prior coverage here.

 

Kay Bell has Important January tax dates, deadlines

 

Lyman Stone, Should Nebraska Follow the Example of Illinois or Indiana?  “The case of Illinois is a great example of how higher taxes can contribute to a worsening business climate, which leads to less jobs.”

Annette Nellen, Marijuana and the Tax Law.  Despite appearances, there is no evidence the lawmakers are smoking something when they write tax laws.

TaxGrrrl, Top 10 Most Litigated Tax Issues.  Number one is penalties.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 249

Robert D. Flach offers a SPECIAL OFFER FOR ITEMIZERS!

 

TaxTrials, Famous Fridays: Wesley Snipes, A Lesson in Listening to Bad Advice.  Did he ever.

 

The Critical Question: Massages May Feel Nice, But Can You Deduct Them at the Poker Table? (Russ Fox)

News from the Profession: KPMG Upgrades Its Female Interns From Necklaces to Camisoles  (Going Concern)

 

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

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

This Koskinen isn’t the IRS commissioner

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

 

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

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

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

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

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

You know, it just might.

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

20120829-1

 

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

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

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 243

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/27/2013: Should you prepay your taxes for the deduction?

Friday, December 27th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20111040logoIs it worth paying taxes early to get a deduction early?   Many more taxpayers will have to ask that question this year for the unfortunate reason that the increase in the top regular rate to 39.6% makes their regular tax higher than the alternative minimum tax.  While it’s cold consolation, you can use your deduction for state tax payments when you aren’t subject to AMT.

First you have to make sure you can use the deduction at all.  You can’t use a deduction for taxes paid on your federal return if you don’t itemize, or if you are subject to AMT.  If you pass these tests, then you should ponder if you are going to be in a much higher bracket next year.  Assuming that you are in the same bracket for both years, and that no change in the tax law will affect your deduction, it’s a time-value-of-money question.

The charts below show the tax benefit of prepaying $1,000 of state and local taxes at the federal tax brackets. The first bracket shown is the top Iowa rate, to enable Iowans to determine the value of prepaying federal taxes.  It shows the present value at several key payment dates:

 

January 15: Federal fourth quarter 2013 payments are due

January 31: due date of Iowa fourth quarter estimated taxes.

March 1: due date of first Iowa property tax installment.

April 15: due date of most state individual tax returns.

April 30: due date of Iowa individual tax returns.

September 1: due date of second Iowa property tax installment.

pv tax prepayment3

If the benefit is in green, prepayment makes sense.  If it is red, the time value lost by paying early exceeds the benefit of accelerating the deduction by a year, assuming that the benefit will arrive on April 15.

This chart is only accurate assuming all of its underlying assumptions are met, so use it with caution.   It does illustrate that prepaying January taxes usually makes sense, but prepaying September taxes seldom does.

Come back tomorrow for another installment of our 2013 year-end tax tips series!

 

Howard Gleckman, Finance Chairman In-Waiting Ron Wyden Is A Tax Reformer (TaxVox):

The 64-year-old Wyden, who has a history of proposing creative, ambitious, and sometimes controversial ideas, initially sponsored a tax code overhaul in 2010 with former GOP senator Judd Gregg of New Hampshire. After Gregg retired, Wyden found another GOP cosponsor in Dan Coates of Indiana. Wyden-Coates follows the broad outline of the original Wyden-Gregg plan.

For individuals, it would set three rates—15-25-35. The top bracket would kick in at $140,000 for couples filing jointly. It would repeal the Alternative Minimum Tax, nearly triple the standard deduction, and create a 35 percent exclusion for long-term capital gains and dividends (equal to a rate of 22.75 percent for top-bracket taxpayers). It would eliminate the tax advantages of many employee benefits–but not employer-sponsored health insurance–and simplify tax-preferred savings.

While the plan would preserve most other individual tax preferences, the very large standard deduction would sharply limit the number of taxpayers who take them (even today, fewer than one-third itemize).

Wyden-Coates would cut the corporate rate to 24 percent from 35 percent.

I can think of a better tax reform, but Wyden-Coates would be a huge improvement over what we have.

 

taxanalystslogoCara Griffith, Enabling an Informed Debate (Tax Analysts Blog):

A transparent tax system, in which there are no “secret tax laws,” is a better tax system in that taxpayers more clearly understand the laws they are required to comply with, tax officials can more easily administer the law, and both sides can engage in a more informed debate about tax policy.

I would add that the transparency should extend to subsidies, like Economic development tax credits, that are run through state tax returns.

 

Jason Dinesen, Capital Losses and Tax Planning 

Kay Bell,  Valuing your tax-deductible donations of household goods

Jim Maule, How to Lose a Charitable Contribution Deduction.  If you leave an anonymous gold coin or jewelry piece in a Salvation Army kettle, it does no good on your 1040.

TaxGrrrl, 12 Days Of Charitable Giving: Ride For Reading   “Our featured charity, Ride for Reading, delivers books to children in underserved communities… by bicycle!”

 

 

TaxProf, Court: Home Depot Cannot Use Out-of-State IP Affiliate to Shift Income From Arizona,  Don’t expect state courts to uphold tricks that reduce state revenue.

Arnold Kling describes Two Views of Obamacare, and explains how it is far from a “market approach.”

 

20120514-1The flip side of the “Facebook stock option loophole”: Mark Zuckerberg’s $2 Billion Tax Bill (TaxProf).  People who complain about the deduction for stock option compensation never mention that the same amount is income to the option holders, usually at higher rates.

 

 

Memory Lane beckons at Robert D. Flach’s place with 2013: THE YEAR IN TAXES – PART ONE:

Perhaps tied for the top tax story of the year (with the death of DOMA, which I will discuss later) is the David-versus-Goliath victory of three independent tax return preparers who felt the cost of the IRS mandatory RTRP tax preparer regulation regime, especially the annual CPE requirement, was “prohibitive” for their small practices and joined with the Institute for Justice to challenge the licensing program in federal court in Loving v IRS.

Go, David!

 

The Critical Question: Did Tenth Circuit Help KPMG Weasel Out Of Liability To Buy.com Founder?  (Peter Reilly)

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/11/13: Iowa DOT restricts revenue cameras. And: whither extenders?

Wednesday, December 11th, 2013 by Joe Kristan


gatso
Department of Transportation enacts tax reduction.  
From the Des Moines Register:

Cities and counties would have to prove the need for traffic enforcement cameras on major highways under rules approved Tuesday by the Iowa Transportation Commission.

The new rules — which could take effect as early as February — would force a re-evaluation of all speeding and red-light cameras now placed on interstate highways, U.S. highways and state highways and require any new cameras to first win the Department of Transportation’s approval.

It’s not clear what effect this will have on the revenue cameras, like the one on Eastbound I-235 by Waveland Golf Course, but given the howls from the affected municipal pickpockets who profit from the cameras in the runup to the rules, I suspect it means fewer cameras.   The municipalities like their tax on passing motorists, at least those who aren’t “special.”

Of course they always invoke safety, in spite of inconclusive or contradictory evidence.  But if it really were about safety, you would see them experimenting with other solutions, like all-red phases at red lights and longer yellows.   When they have to say it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.

 

Howard Gleckman,  Whither the Tax Extenders? (TaxVox):

If published reports are correct–and if the deal does not fall apart–Congress would partially replace the hated automatic across-the-board spending cuts (the sequester) with more traditional targets for each federal agency. In effect, it would freeze discretionary spending at about $1 trillion-a-year for the next two years. Without a new agreement the 2014 level would be $967 billion.

The deal would replace the sequester cuts with a grab-bag of other reductions in planned spending and a bunch of increased fees for airline travelers and others.

But the “t” word will go unspoken in this agreement. There will reportedly be no tax hikes in the bargain. But neither will there be a continuation of expiring provisions. And there is no chance they will be extended in any other bill in calendar 2013.

That likely means no action on the “expiring provisions” until after the 2014 elections.  That means we might not know whether a bunch of tax breaks we have gotten used to will be extended into 2014 until next December, or maybe even later.  A few of the biggies:

  • The Section 179 limit on expensing otherwise depreciable property falls to $25,000 next year, from the current $500,000, absent an extender bill.
  • 50% bonus depreciation goes away.
  • The research credit disappears, as do a bunch of biofuel and wind credits.
  • The current five-year “recognition period” for built-in gains in S corporations goes back to ten years, from the current five-year period.

My money is still on an extension of these provisions, effective January 1, 2014, even if enacted later, but my confidence is wavering.

 

20121220-3William Perez, Selling Profitable Investments as Part of a Year-End Tax Strategy. “Taxpayers in the two lowest tax brackets of 10% and 15% may especially want to consider selling profitable long-term investments.”  Why?  Zero taxes on capital gains, as William explains.

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Tax Treatment of Commuting Costs   

Kay Bell, Standard tax deduction amounts bumped up for 2014

Jana Luttenegger, 2014 Mileage Rates (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Jason Dinesen, Philosophical Question About Section 108, Principal Residences and Cancelled Debt  “My question is. what if the homeowner moves out before the foreclosure process is complete?”

TaxGrrrl, You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch: Christmas Tree Tax Proposal Returns 

Russ Fox,  Bank Notice on IRS Tax Refund Fraud.  “While I salute the IRS (and the banks) for doing something, this effort is equivalent to patching one hole in a roof that has over a hundred leaks.”

Robert D. Flach offers SOME GOOD CONVERSATIONS ON TAX PROFESSIONAL ISSUES

 

 

Leslie Book,  TEFRA and Affected Items Notices of Deficiency (Procedurally Taxing).  “In this post, I will attempt to give readers a map as to how IRS can move from shamming a partnership-based tax shelter to assessing tax against the partner or partners that were attempting to game the system.”

 

Kyle Pomerleau, High Income Households Paid an Effective Tax Rate 16 times Higher than Low Income Households in 2010 (Tax Policy Blog).  He provides more commentary on a recent Congressional Budget Office report (my emphasis):

In 2010, the average effective tax rate for all households was 18.1 percent. This is the average combined effective rate of individual income taxes, social security taxes, corporate income taxes, and excise taxes. The top income quintile paid an average effective tax rate of 24 percent.  The lowest quintile had an average effective rate of 1.5 percent. The top quintile’s effective tax rate of 24 percent is 16 times higher than 1.5 percent for those in the lowest quintile.

cbo rates by income group

This is why any federal tax cut “disproportionately benefits the wealthy.”  You can only cut taxes for people who pay taxes.

 

The Critical Question: When Does the Conspiracy End? (Jack Townsend)

News from the Profession: Deloitte Associate Exercises Powers of Persuasion; Scores Firm-Subsidized Xbox One (Going Concern)

 

20131211-1Atlanta county gives money to prosperous media company.  Cobb County, Future Home of the Atlanta Braves, Strikes Out (Elia Peterson, Tax Policy Blog, my emphasis):

The county is projected to have to finance around $300 million for the development.  This includes a one-time $14 million transportation improvement subsidy, a $10 million commitment from the Cumberland Community Improvement District (CID), and payments worth $276 million of a bond issue. The bonds are financed by redirecting funds from two existing taxes (hotel & property taxes) and creating three new revenue sources (a rental car tax, a property tax in the Cumberland CID, and a hotel fee) combined to the tune of $17.9 million annually for the next 30 years.

Liberty Media, the owner of the Braves, despite being a very successful company (owning stakes in SiriusXM, Barnes & Noble, and Time Warner) had their investment subsidized by Cobb County taxpayers. Liberty Media retains most of the rights to the stadium and profits while Cobb County gets next to nothing except the promise of “surefire” economic development (the city won’t even be allowed access to the stadium they built except for special occasions).

Build it and you can’t come!

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/2/2013: Remember the January 15 property tax credit deadline! And: final 3.8% tax regs.

Monday, December 2nd, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130117-1There’s a new deadline this year for Iowa business owners with real property.   Iowa business owners have a January 15, 2014 deadline to apply for the business property tax credit enacted in this year’s legislative session.  Many have yet to apply, reports gazette.com:

Commercial property owners have been slow to apply for a new property tax credit designed to give a little boost to small businesses.

Most business owners who own the property in which the business operates are eligible for the Iowa Business Property Tax Credit.

A $50 million pool of money is available for the first year of the new tax credit. The state legislature included the credit in an historic property tax relief bill signed into law on June 12.

“It is important they get them in now so we can process them,” said Cedar Rapids City Assessor Scott Labus.

Businesses can find the form online here.  It should be filed with the local county assessor’s office. The gazette.com article says the maximum credit for the coming assessment year is $523.

 

Paul Neiffer,  Final Net Investment Income Regs Have Good News For Farmers:

In Final Regulations issued earlier this week, the IRS changed their interpretation of this rule and have now indicated that any self-rented real estate or rental real estate that has been properly grouped with a material participation entity will not be subject to the tax.  In even better news, any gain from selling this type of property will also be exempt from the tax.

Good news not just for farmers, but for any business where the owners rent property to a corporation they control.

 

Tony Nitti, IRS Issues Final Net Investment Income Tax Regulations: A First Look And More   It was a dirty trick to issue them over Thanksgiving, when I wasn’t watching.   I will be posting on some key issues.

 

20130419-1Illinois storm victims get filing relief (IRS news release):

The President has declared the counties of Champaign, Douglas, Fayette, Grundy, Jasper, La Salle, Massac, Pope, Tazewell, Vermilion, Wabash, Washington, Wayne, Will and Woodford a federal disaster area. Individuals who reside or have a business in these counties may qualify for tax relief.

The declaration permits the IRS to postpone certain deadlines for taxpayers who reside or have a business in the disaster area. For instance, certain deadlines falling on or after Nov. 17, and on or before Feb. 28, 2014, have been postponed to Feb. 28, 2014.

The IRS is also waiving the failure-to-deposit penalties for employment and excise tax deposits due on or after Nov. 17, and on or before Dec. 2, as long as the deposits are made by Dec. 2, 2013.

You don’t have to be damaged to qualify, you just have to be located in the affected area.

 

No, that’s not the real threat.  The Muscatine Journal mistakes the painkiller for the ailment:

Tax breaks for wind-power producers are set to expire in a little more than a month, threatening hundreds of manufacturing and energy jobs in the state if nothing is done.

In Iowa, much of the attention has focused on the federal Renewable Fuel Standard in which the federal government guarantees a market for biofuels. But for Iowa’s turbine manufacturers and power companies, it’s the federal production tax credit that takes precedence.

It’s not the loss of the tax credits that threatens these industries.  It’s their inability to survive without subsidies or, in the case of ethanol makers, their inability to sell their product unless people are forced by law to buy it.  The subsidies only dull the recipients awareness of their real ailment.

 

David Brunori, Confusing Tax Cuts with Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog):

But increasing or decreasing tax burdens should not be confused with tax reform. Tax reform should mean something. I define tax reform as meaningful changes to the tax system that comport with the general notions of sound tax policy. The goal should be to make the system fairer, neutral, more efficient, and more stable. The changes should also increase economic development and job growth. And they should ensure that the government raises enough revenue to meet the public service demands of the citizenry. Changing the rates or tinkering at the margins is not reform.

Nor is giving tax spiffs to influential or sympathetic constituencies, but that’s been the Iowa way for some time now.

 

20120529-2Lyman Stone, Missouri Considering “Massive” Incentives for Boeing (Tax Policy Blog):

This is bad tax policy in spades. Governor Nixon rejected a flawed, but still broad, tax cut on the grounds that taxes don’t matter much for businesses, but government services do. Now Missouri policymakers may try to attract one specific company with a “massive” and narrowly-targeted tax break, despite lack of evidence that incentives lead to economic growth, and ample evidence that they create problems.

It’s all about directing funds to insiders with good lobbyists.

 

Cara Griffith, A Change of Culture (Tax Analysts Blog).  She talks about the natural tendency of tax authorities to conceal information and make tax practice an insiders’ game.  She notes that North Carolina doesn’t release private rulings and hasn’t updated public corporate directives since April 2012.  Iowa is better, but they haven’t updated their “What’s new” website since August.

 

William Perez, Updated Form W-9.  With the additional rules of FATCA piled on top of existing foreign withholding rules, you should make sure to get a W-9 from your vendors, depositors and ownership groups.

 

Jason Dinesen reminds us of the Iowa Insurance Premium Deduction

Trish McIntire reminds us that Refund Advances are really expensive loans.

Robert D. Flach, TO PER DIEM OR NOT TO PER DIEM – THAT IS THE QUESTION.

 

Kay Bell offers some Tax-saving moves to make by Dec. 31, 2013

Howard Gleckman,  Obama Will Try to Clarify the Role of Tax-Exempt Groups in Politics.  Your new role in furthering public debate?  Shut up!

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 207

Tax Justice Blog: This Holiday, The Tax Justice Team Is Thankful For…  In other words, watch your wallets, folks.

The Critical Question: Do We Need A Clergy Tax Simplification Act Of 2014?    (Peter Reilly)

Going Concern, 10 Things Accounting Professionals Should Be Thankful For This Year

TaxGrrrl, This Man’s Nuts: Plan To Sell Testicle For New Car Is Taxable   As if there weren’t enough non-tax arguments against this plan.

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/20/13: Are reports of the death of Instant Tax Service premature? And: film credits = bait car?

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
"Fez" Ogbasion, Instant Tax Service CEO.

“Fez” Ogbazion, Instant Tax Service CEO.

Is Instant Tax Service still dead?  Maybe not, reports TaxGrrrl: In Apparent Defiance Of Court Order, Fourth Largest Tax Biz In Country Preps For Sale :

Within a week of the Order, [founder “Fez”] Ogbazion was said to be engaged in discussions relating to the sale of the company, an activity that would appear to be barred under the injunction. Todd Bryant, General Counsel for ITS Financial, confirmed via email that “[a]n asset sale is being considered.”

It was a puzzle, though, as to who might be interested in purchasing the beleaguered company.

An insider, it turns out.  TaxGrrrl questions whether that will work, given that the court order seems designed to destroy the company and salt the earth so it can never return.  Judge for yourself (my emphasis):

Based on the foregoing, IT IS HEREBY ORDERED pursuant to I.R.C. §§ 7402 and 7408 that Defendants ITS Financial, LLC, TCA Financial, LLC, Tax Tree, LLC, and Fesum Ogbazion, and their representatives, agents, employees, attorneys, and/or any person or entity acting in active concert or participation with them, are PERMANENTLY ENJOINED from directly or indirectly, by use of any means:

A. Operating, or being involved with in any way, any work or business relating in any way to preparation of tax returns; and, accordingly, Defendants ITS Financial, LLC, TCA Financial, LLC, and Tax Tree, LLC shall cease to operate; and Defendant Fesum Ogbazion shall cease operating, or being involved with in any way, any work or business relating in any way to preparation of tax returns;

B. Acting as tax return preparers; and/or acting or operating as a franchisor of businesses relating in any way to preparation of tax returns;

C. Supervising or managing or assisting tax return preparers; and/or owning, operating, or engaging in work or a business relating in any way to preparation of tax returns;

D. Assisting with or directing the preparation or filing of tax returns, amended returns, claims for refund, or other related documents;

E. Representing before the Internal Revenue Service any person or organization whose tax liabilities are under examination or investigation by the IRS;

F. Organizing, promoting, providing, advising or selling any business or work of tax services;

They seem to be looking for a loophole here by selling assets, rather than stock, though the injunction against “selling any business” would seem to cover that.  I suspect the judge will make things clear in the coming days.

Prior coverage: Judge shuts down Instant Tax Service.

 

Instant Tax, meet Mo’ Money.  Owner of St. Louis tax prep franchise gets 20 months for 20130919-2fraud (stltoday.com):

The owner of a Mo’ Money tax preparation franchise in St. Louis was sentenced to 20 months in federal prison on Tuesday after pleading guilty in July to conspiracy to commit tax fraud and aiding and abetting the preparation of false tax returns.

Jimi Clark, 57, of Memphis, Tenn., and four employees were arrested and indicted in October 2012 on one felony count each of conspiracy to commit tax fraud. All were accused of falsely claiming educational tax credits on at least 47 tax returns for 2009.

Refundable credits like the American Opportunity Credit and the Earned Income Credit are the fuel for the fraudulent return industry.

 

haroldLyman Stone,  California Film Tax Credit Faces Controversy, Delay (Tax Policy Blog):

 A recent FBI sting in California revealed that state Senator Ron Calderon may have taken up to $60,000 in exchange for pushing to lower eligibility requirements for California’s $100-million-a-year film tax incentive program. This isn’t the first time film incentives have been connected to corruption and scandal. Indeed, a scandal about misallocation of film tax credits ultimately led to the demise of Iowa’s program over the last few years.

Sometimes I think that Iowa’s Film Credit Program was just an elaborate “Bait Car” episode that ultimately didn’t run because the stealing was too easy.

 

Elizabeth MalmMaryland Governor Touts Benefits of Film Tax Credits, Despite Evidence to the Contrary  (Tax Policy Bl0g).  Iowa has stopped giving filmmakers money and is instead giving them time, with no apparent bad economic effects.

Kay Bell, Coast-to-coast concerns about film and TV tax credits

 

David Henderson, Saez You: Income Distribution without Key Components of Income.  It turns out one of the most-cited articles on income inequality leaves out a lot of income, particularly government transfers and welfare benefits.  He notes notes, increased transfers are always advocated as a cure for inequality, and yet by the measuring stick used, it can never “help.”

 

Clint Stretch, Turning Down the Heat on Energy Tax Policy  (Tax Analysts Blog).  He notes the new oil and gas boom, and that “Oil and gas tax incentives are not responsible.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 195

Source: The Tax Foundation

Source: The Tax Foundation

Howard Gleckman, Baucus Proposes International Tax Reform But Future Action Remains Uncertain (TaxVox)

According to the plan, passive income from overseas activities would continue to be taxed at U.S. rates. Most income from the sale of goods and services overseas would also be taxed at full U.S. rates. The draft would end the practice of deferral that allows firms to avoid U.S. tax on foreign earnings until they bring those profits home. However, income that is currently parked overseas would be taxed at a 20 percent rate payable over 8 years.

Baucus would move the U.S. closer to a territorial system favored by many multinationals and GOP lawmakers. Under such a system, income is taxed in the jurisdiction where it is earned rather than by the firm’s home country. While the plan does not fix a specific tax rate, staffers say Baucus is aiming to reduce the corporate rate from 35 percent to about 30 percent.

But in the Baucus plan, this shift closer to a territorial tax comes at a price. To limit the ability of multinationals to game the system, the plan would impose a stiff minimum tax on income earned overseas by foreign affiliates of U.S. parent companies.

Reducing the corporate rate is fine, but remember that most business income is taxed on 1040s anymore.

 

Tax Justice Blog,  Statement from CTJ Director Robert McIntyre: Is the Baucus Plan for Multinational Corporations a Prelude to a Middle-Class Tax Increase?

 

Peter Reilly has been playing hooky at the commemoration of yesterday’s 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address.  I’m jealous.

The Critical Question: Hasn’t the Government Done Enough to Mess Up Higher Education Finance? (David Brunori, Tax Analysts Blog)  Well, I’m sure they can always mess it up even more.

News from the Profession. Non-Traditional Holiday Celebrations at Accounting Firms, Care To Add Yours?

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/19/13: Sub-zero edition! And the dark side of non-recourse debt forgiveness.

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2

Tax Court says you can’t go below zero.  At least not in computing penalties.

A taxpayer filed a return showing no tax, but claiming refundable tax credits that generated a refund of $7,327.  That’s why refundable credits are such a sweet deal — you can get a refund of taxes without ever paying them through withholding or estimated taxes.  They are really a form of welfare.

The IRS issued the refund as claimed, but then thought better of it.  The IRS recomputation was that the taxpayer should have showed a positive tax balance of $144.  That meant the taxpayer was supposed to repay the $7,327 refundable credit plus the $144 tax due, for a total of $7,471.  The IRS assessed the difference, plus a 20% penalty on the $7,471 “underpayment.”  The taxpayer didn’t think refunding the refundable credit counted as an “underpayment, and the case went to Tax Court.

The tax imposes an “accuracy related” penalty on deficiencies, based on how much the taxpayer underpays the “tax required to be shown on the return.”  The IRS said the underpayment was the whole $7,471.  The Tax Court said that refundable credits can’t take the tax below zero for this purpose, so the “underpayment” is only $144 for computing the penalty.

 

This seems wrong.  Refundable credit fraud — especially Earned Income Tax fraud — is a multi-billion-dollar problem.  If there is no monetary penalty for claiming bogus credits, the only deterrent for gaming the system is criminal penalties, and given the limits on the IRS ability to prosecute EITC fraud, it’s an empty threat.

The Tax Court seems to agree:

We note that our conclusion breaks the historical link between the definitions of a deficiency and an underpayment; however, it was Congress that made that break.

If the case holds up on appeal, Congressional action is all that can fix it.

Cite: Rand, 141 T.C. No. 12.

 

Peter Reilly, IRS Letter To Senator Boxer On Short Sales Not Good News For Everybody

I hate to spoil a nice celebration, but I am going to risk it.  The position that the IRS outlined in the ruling is probably good news for most people affected by it.  It may not be good news for everybody, though.  In order to understand why you have to understand the IRS reasoning.  Here is the deal.  When debt is secured by property, it is either recourse or non-recourse…

The effect of that section is to make just about all California home mortgages non-recourse…  There are various exceptions to recognizing debt discharge income, such as the insolvency exception.  These will no longer be available.  

When you give up a house for non-recourse debt, you are considered to sell it for that amount.  That can be a bad thing.   If you don’t qualify for the residential gain exclusion — say, because you haven’t used it as a residence long enough to qualify, or you bought the house to rent — you can have taxable gain, no cash, and no available debt forgiveness exclusion.

 

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.

 

Alan Cole, High Implicit Marginal Tax Rates Make Life Difficult for the Poor (Tax Policy Blog):

The CBO did a great study on this a year ago. It found that the implicit marginal tax rates on some poor folk are frequently above 50%, and sometimes above 80%. That is to say, that when they figure out how to increase their income by a $100, they lose $50 or more in new taxes or lost benefits. 

That’s exactly the sort perverse effect that results from the increase in Iowa’s earned income tax credit, which by itself can put low income taxpayers in a 50%+ bracket.  Take away other benefits and you can see how it could get to 80% or more.

 

Sioux City Journal, Branstad declines to issue a gas tax veto threat.  Probably because he’d like a higher gas tax, even though he likes being re-elected too much to push for one.

 

Ben Harris,  Sorting Through The Property Tax Burden (TaxVox):

Using self-reported American Community Survey data, we find that residential property taxes tend to be close to $1,000 per year, with a small share of households paying substantially more, especially in Connecticut, New Jersey, New York and New Hampshire. In recent years, 48 percent of homeowners paid between $750 and $1,750 in property taxes. About one-third—31 percent—paid less than $750 and 21 percent paid more than $1,750.  Just 3 percent paid more than $4,000, with a miniscule share of homeowners (0.2 percent) paying more than $8,000. 

That seems low, but my clients probably aren’t a representative sample.

 

Jason Dinesen, Missouri Guidance on Same-Sex Marriage

 

Kay Bell, Missouri recognizes same-sex marriages for tax filing only20130121-2TaxGrrrl, Black Market Tax Preparers Continue To Defy IRS :

The solution for tax preparers who didn’t want to register and pay the fee? They simply don’t sign the returns.

And yes, that’s against the rules. But a number of paid tax preparers do it anyway. They are referred to in the business as “black market preparers” or sometimes, “ghost” tax preparers.

And that will happen no matter what regulations the IRS imposes on honest preparers.

 

William Perez, Tax Provisions Expiring at the End of 2013

Tony Nitti, House Republicans Put Tax Reform On Hold To Revel In Obamacare Struggles

I really don’t expect to receive tips from clients–it’s not the norm for tax preparation. I definitely don’t expect to receive $1,458,905 in such gratuities.  

I can’t say I expect that either.  But I would be OK with it!

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 194

Robert D. Flach brings the Tuesday Buzz!

 

The Critical Question: Are Jamaican Credit Unions The Next Tax Haven?  (Brian Mahany)

AOL? Prodigy? Attorney’s License to Practice Law Is Suspended for Failing to Maintain an Email Account  (TaxProf)

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/11/13: Sheldon edition. And: masterminds!

Monday, November 11th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 

Greetings to our Veteran readers for Veteran’s day!  Though perhaps “greetings” doesn’t summon the best memories.

The Tax Update comes to you today from sunny Sheldon, Iowa:

20131111-1

Well, it’s sunny indoors at Northwest Iowa Community College, where I am participating in the Sheldon Session of the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax School.  I’m the “urban” part.  Seats at the remaining schools are going fast, so register today!

 

Joseph Henchman, FBI Says California State Senator Accepted Bribes to Support Film Tax Credits (Tax Policy Blog).  He cites the LA Times:

 According to the affidavit, posted on Al Jazeera’s website, [State Senator Ronald] Calderon [D-Montebello] allegedly accepted $60,000 in bribes from an undercover FBI agent posing as a movie executive and $28,000 more from a medical company owner in exchange for efforts to affect legislation on tax credits for the film industry and on workers’ compensation claims.

That tells you that California is a little more sophisticated than Iowa.  The California guy (allegedly) required money to deliver the keys to the treasury to the film industry.  All the Iowa legislature required was a few autographs and photo-ops with starlets.  Iowa has learned from its mistakes, a little, and now favors jailing filmmakers to subsidizing them.

More from Russ Fox, Another Film Tax Credit Scandal

 

"Fez" Ogbasion, Instant Tax Service CEO.

“Fez” Ogbasion, Instant Tax Service CEO.

TaxGrrrl, Fourth Largest Tax Prep Business In The Country Shut Down By Feds  “U.S. District Judge Timothy S. Black found that ITS had a culture of “fraud and deception.”

My coverage of Instant Tax Service here.

 

Phil Hodgen,  Distributions from foreign grantor trusts and U.S. paperwork.  “This is a Form 3520 “research in a box” blog post for you, BP. Because you asked.”

William Perez, Social Security Wage Base Increases for 2014

Kay Bell, 12 charitable groups that would love to take your tax-deductible Typhoon Haiyan relief donations

Fiduciary Income Tax Blog, Federal Unified Credit for 2014.  $5,340,000.

Jack Townsend, Swiss Bankers Expect to Share Data for Tax Purposes

Robert W. Wood, Lawyer For NFL Players Sidelined Permanently…True Chicago Style?

Annette Nellen, Growing support for lower corporate rate and territorial system.  Good, but remember that the corporate rate doesn’t even cover most business income.

Tax Justice Blog, GE-Sponsored “Territorial” Study Promotes Agenda of Tax Avoidance

Stephen Olsen, Summary Opinions aka Procedure Roundup for 11/08/13.  Excellent roundup for procedure fans.

 

20130410-1

Robert D. Flach, I HATE K-1s!  Robert adds what I will call Flach’s Iron Law: “All K-1s usually arrive late.”  He then proceeds into a fine rant:

While I have not done any specific calculations, I firmly believe that often the additional costs to properly prepare the federal and state income tax returns for taxpayers with K-1 investments is as much as or more than the actual income, or tax benefits if any, generated from the investment.  If the money invested in these limited partnerships were instead invested in related mutual funds I expect the investor would do better.  His/her tax preparation costs would certainly be less.
 
Of course brokers never tell their clients this when selling them the investment.

While K-1s from closely-held businesses are normal and healthy, Robert is exactly right about the kinds of K-1s often seen in investment accounts.

 

Nicotine withdrawal.  Iowa tobacco tax revenue has declined, report says (KTIV.com)

 

Great moments in economic development.  Miami Replaces Tampa As IRS Tax Fraud Capital

 

The Critical Question.  An Isley Brother In Tax Court – Does Tax Crime Pay?  (Peter Reilly).

 

“Mastermind”?  I think the term is overused.  Example: “Mastermind of tax fraud scheme pleads guilty” (Examiner.net).  How did the prosecutor describe the diabolically clever scheme at issue?

“This scheme was based on a nonsensical formula that any honest person would instantly recognize was patently absurd and fraudulent,” U.S. Attorney Tammy Dickinson said in a statement. “Fortunately, the vast majority of these refund claims were detected by the IRS and denied.”

They need a new term for somebody who organizes a really dumb crime.  Disastermaster? Blunderbrain?  Any ideas are welcome in the comments.

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Tax Roundup, 11/7/2013: Cold comfort on 3.8% Investment Income Tax guidance. And how big a penalty for not buying unavailable insurance?

Thursday, November 7th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20121120-2Well, that’s reassuring.  Tax Analysts reports ($link) that David Kirk, an IRS official involved in drafting the final rules on the 3.8% Obamacare “Net Investment Income Tax” that took effect January 1, says the rules are still “in flux” with filing season only two months away:

     As for additional NII tax guidance, Kirk said the final regs will contain “overflow valves, breakers” that will allow the IRS to issue subregulatory guidance to address problems that arise, given that opening a new regulatory project “is a very painful and long process.”

“We’re just going to have to roll this out. We’re going to see how these rules work . . . and there’s always fine-tuning,” Kirk said. 

They’ve had over three years to do this, and now “we’re going to see how these rules work”?  Sounds like another recent Obamacare roll-out.  It makes me really excited about the upcoming filing season.

 

Roberton Williams,  How Big is the Penalty if You Don’t Get Health Insurance? (TaxVox)

The basic penalty is $95 in 2014—if you’re unmarried with no dependents and your income is less than $19,500. If your income is higher, you’ll owe more: 1 percent of the amount by which your income exceeds the sum of a single person’s personal exemption and standard deduction in the federal income tax. That’s $10,000 in 2013. But be warned: Income equals adjusted gross income (AGI—that number on the last line on page 1 of your tax return) plus any tax-exempt interest and excluded income earned abroad. If you make $30,000, your penalty will be $200.

Still with me? Good, because it is about to get more confusing.

If you like the penalty you have, you can keep the penalty you have.  Until next year, anyway.

 

Christopher BerginACA + IRS = Perfect Storm (Tax Analysts Blog)

And what lies ahead? The perfect storm: The IRS and the ACA brought together by a hapless Congress that tasked the nation’s tax collector with administering portions of our new healthcare system.

I can see a day coming when a taxpayer gets a letter from her insurance provider canceling her healthcare coverage and then a letter from the IRS informing her that she owes additional taxes under the ACA. Apparently our government thinks that two nightmare bureaucracies must be better for us than one.

You think this is about “us,” friend?

 

200px-Isleys-mrbiggs-eternal.jpg

Ron Isley is a lot better at music than he is at taxes.  He has served time on federal tax charges, and yesterday he lost a Tax Court bid to get his back taxes reduced under an “offer of compromise” he agreed to, but which the IRS rejected before it became final.  The ruling turns on a lot of technicalities involving the rules for accepting compromises in criminal tax cases.

The Tax Court decision wasn’t a total loss, in that they are allowing Mr. Isley to argue against tax levies and to pursue a compromise of his 2009 and 2010 taxes.

Cite: Isley, 141 TC No. 11.

Prior coverage here.

 

Jason Dinesen,  Life After DOMA: Watch Your Withholding 

Annette Nellen, Many tax questions on same-sex federal tax filings

William Perez, The Additional Medicare Tax, Part 4

Tony Nitti,  On Eve Of Twitter IPO, Misguided Senators (Again) Attack Tax Deduction For Stock Option Compensation  Exercising stock options convert corporation income taxed at 35% to individual income taxed at 40.5%, plus payroll taxes.  And yet the congresscritters act like this is some kind of loophole.

 

Russ Fox congratulates The Real Winners of the 2013 World Series of Poker.  It’s not the guys with the cards in their hands.

Now there’s a business plan!  BlackBerry Pins Recovery Hopes On Rumored $1 Billion In Tax Refunds  (TaxGrrrl)

 

potleafpotleafpotleaf20090722-2.jpgWouldn’t you? Colorado Voters Reject $1 Billion Income Tax Increase (Elizabeth Malm, Tax Policy Blog).

But other taxes…  Coloradans agree to a high tax to get high (Kay Bell)

Tax Justice Blog,  Tax Policy Roundup for the 2013 Election

 

 

 

Phil Hodgen’s Exit Tax Book, Chapter 8 – Taxation of Nongrantor Trust Interests

 

The Critical Question.  Is There One ‘Right’ Apportionment Formula? (Cara Griffith, Tax Analysts Blog): 

It could almost be a case in which one state adopted it on the grounds that it would create jobs and increase investment in the state. Then other states followed suit, not because single-sales-factor apportionment produced more accurate results, but because it was perceived as making a state’s tax laws more competitive or business friendly. But while single-sales-factor apportionment may benefit some businesses, it is far from being universally beneficial for taxpayers. In the end, if state officials are truly concerned with making their state more attractive to businesses, perhaps they should consider retaining — or returning to — the three-factor apportionment method and focus on a less burdensome corporate tax system overall.

Iowa was the first state to adopt single-factor apportionment.  It applies to the highest tax rate in the nation, helping make Iowa’s corporation tax both onerous and useless.  A repeal of the corporation income tax would be the best way of making the corporation tax “less burdensome.”

 

Because they may one day make money?  Why Twitter May Have to Pay Income Taxes One Day (Victor Fleisher, via The TaxProf)

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/21/2013: Obamacare and Iowa small business. And the spiritual side of tax credit fraud!

Monday, October 21st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

Tomorrow is the 27th Anniversary of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986.  I assume many of you will leave work early today to prepare for the festivities.

20121120-2Things may not be going well for Obamacare when the Des Moines Register finds itself  coping with the concept of unintended consequences, in Few small businesses sign up for tax credits:

 The Affordable Care Act offers a tax credit to entice more small businesses to offer health insurance. But few small-business owners have taken advantage of it so far. And the law could have the unintended effect of prompting small businesses to drop coverage, which would make their employees eligible for individual subsidies on the new health insurance exchanges, insurance experts and business owners told The Des Moines Register.

The article gives a surprisingly realistic view of how Obamacare looks to employers, and why the much-touted small employer tax credit doesn’t work for many employers:

Jesse Patton, a West Des Moines insurance broker and president-elect of the Iowa Association of Health Underwriters, said the tax credit’s confusing rules narrow its appeal.

The credit is available for employers that have fewer than 25 employees making an average of less than $50,000.

“But you start to get a reduction in that credit if you’re over 10 employees and over $25,000 income,” he said.

Also, business owners can’t take the credit for any family members, and many small firms include relatives. Patton’s eight employees include himself, his wife, his son and his daughter-in-law.

“That’s typical for a small business,” he said.

And jumping through the hoops isn’t free:

“Unfortunately, when everybody gets through all of that formula, which is complicated, and pay their accountant $600 to do it, they’d be better off to just take the normal tax deduction versus the credit,” Patton said.

When even the Des Moines Register is starting to get the point about the unintended consequences of Obamacare, it’s in trouble.

 

Megan McArdle has an excellent summary of the current state of the Affordable Care Act in Four Things We Think We Know About Obamacare.  It’s worth reading the whole thing, but this tax nugget is important:

The penalty for being uninsured next year is $95. Again, this is partly true. In fact, the penalty for being uninsured next year is $95 or 1 percent of your income, whichever is higher. So if you make $75,000 a year and you decide to go without insurance, the penalty will be $750. There are a number of things you can do to avoid having to pay it, from deliberately getting your utilities shut off to under-withholding taxes from your paycheck so that they don’t have a refund from which to take out the penalty. But that number is what will go on the books at the Internal Revenue Service, not the $95 you’ve probably heard.

If it remains somewhere between difficult and impossible to buy through the exchanges, this poses an obvious problem.

 

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Joseph Henchman, Illinois Supreme Court Strikes Down “Amazon Tax” (Tax Policy Blog):

Most of the legal challenges to these laws have focused on whether the state power exceeds constitutional limits under the Commerce Clause, but the Illinois Supreme Court focused on this disparity between Internet advertisers and traditional advertisers. Ultimately, the court concluded that because the law requires Internet-based performance marketers to collect tax, but does not require that of traditional performance marketers, it is a discriminatory tax on Internet-based commerce in violation of the federal Internet Tax Freedom Act…

Janet Novack, Illinois High Court Shoots Down Amazon Sales Tax Law; Will SCOTUS Step In?   

 

Paul Neiffer, IRS Releases List of Counties Eligible for Another Year of Livestock Deferral

Kay Bell,  IRS is back and asks for patience as it reopens its doors.  Hey, IRS, do unto others…

Jana Luttenegger, IRS Back to Work, What to Expect (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog):

After 16 days of not opening mail, not processing returns, and not answering phone calls, the IRS is expecting it will take some time to get back to “normal” operations. In fact, the IRS issued a statement urging taxpayers with non-urgent matters to wait to call the IRS. I can only imagine what the call traffic will be like after a 16-day shutdown.  

Not to mention whether the answers you get when you call will be any more accurate.

 

Howard Gleckman, One Modest Path to a No-Drama Budget Deal (TaxVox)

Jack Townsend, Swiss Bank Frey to Close

Brian Mahany, FATCA, FBAR and Opt Outs

 

Leslie Book, Larry Gibbs on Loving v IRS.  Shockingly, a former IRS commissioner thinks IRS commissioners should have all the power they want.

Russ Fox,  One Down, One to Go: DOJ Gets an Injunction, Asks for Another.

One of the more humorous (to me) aspects of the Loving case was hearing the IRS argue that it has no means of disciplining rogue tax preparers. That’s just not true. If I deliberately prepare a bad return, I can be sanctioned and penalized. If I prepare a series of bad returns, the Department of Justice can attempt to have me barred from preparing federal tax returns. As noted at the end of one of the two press releases I’m linking to in this article, “In the past decade, the Justice Department’s Tax Division has obtained more than 500 injunctions to stop tax fraud promoters and tax return preparers.”

They just want to be able to do it by themselves without any of that messy due process stuff.

 

Peter Reilly, Was JD Salinger Facing A Major Estate Tax Problem ? 

TaxGrrrl, How Twitter Hopes To Reduce Its Tax Bill (In 140 Characters Or Less)   
The cobbler’s children always go barefoot.   Attorney Who Claimed Tax Expertise Sentenced to 20 Months in Jail for Understating His Income (TaxProf)

The Critical Question:  Would You Prepare Your Home For A Disaster If It Were Tax Deductible? (Tony Nitti)

 

 

Flickr image courtesy Natesh Ramasamy under Creative Commons license.

Flickr image courtesy Natesh Ramasamy under Creative Commons license.

The sacred side of earned income tax credit fraud.  A Washington tax preparer found an unusual way to get in touch with the spirit world, reports seattlepi.com.  Cleo Reed is scheduled to be sentenced today for preparing fraudulent returns claiming imaginary earned income credits:

Writing the court, Assistant U.S. Attorney Arlen Storm noted Reed had many of his clients claim income for “household help” while claiming to be self-employed. Reed did so for two undercover IRS agents and three fake clients.

During their encounter, Reed explained he pays his recruiters $500 for each young woman with a new child they bring to him, Storm told the court. Agents identified three recruiters who’d brought Reed dozens of clients.

Investigators later determined Reed filed at least 1,305 fraudulent returns in three years, and that the IRS paid out $4.3 million on those claims, Storm continued.

Refundable tax credits are a magnet for fraud, but they are also a path to holiness, it seems:

Writing the court, Reed has denied paying others to recruit clients and claimed he operated in “an ethical manner.” He went on to claim he was only helping his clients “achieve the American dream.”

“I had a spiritual calling to give aid, support, and guidance to the underemployed, disabled, and veterans of this great land,” Reed said in his letter to the court.

Somehow I think this is one religious belief system that the Bureau of Prisons won’t feel compelled to accommodate.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/16/2013: Extension season is over, now what? And the joy of infinite marginal tax rates.

Wednesday, October 16th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20111040logoI hope you don’t have to.  Filing Tax Returns after the October 15th Deadline (William Perez):

You’ll need to mail in your return to the IRS, whether you prepare the return yourself or hire an accountant. That’s because the IRS’s electronic filing servers start going offline after October 15th to prepare for the next filing season.

If you are filing after October 15 this year, my first advice is to file quickly, as you are likely to never file if you don’t get it done now.  My next advice is to make sure it doesn’t happen next year.

Most people who file late make it harder than it needs to be.  90% of the stuff that could possibly go on their returns comes from third parties — things like W-2s, 1099s, mortgage interest and property tax statements, and thank-you notes from charities.  People who can’t seem to file on time should get a big envelope.  They should put these items in the envelope as they come in starting in early January.  They should seal the envelope on February 28 and give it to their preparer.  For most taxpayers, that is all you need to get a reasonably accurate return.

The procrastinators want to go through their checkbooks and find every last $10 charitable gift, and then they never get around to it.  When they finally do, it’s almost certainly a poor use of their time, and when it causes them to file late, it costs them a lot more than that last $10 deduction will save.

Related:  2012 Tax Season Officially Bites the Dust (Paul Neiffer)

 

 

Implicit marginal ratesAlan Cole, Obamacare Puts Infinite Marginal Tax Rates in Action (Tax Policy Blog):

The moment your modified AGI reaches 400% of the poverty line, you instantly lose a subsidy that could easily be worth $15,000. This is a discontinuity in public policy with respect to income. It is a place where an infinitesimal change can result in disastrous consequence for a taxpayer. At 400% of the poverty line, the marginal tax rate is infinite.

It’s an extreme example of the way means-tested welfare benefits can impose high hidden tax rates on poor and middle class taxpayers — punishment ignored by advocates of higher benefits in the name of “compassion.”  More from Arnold Kling.

 

Tony Nitti,  A Quick Look At Expiring 2013 Tax Provisions: What To Do Before Year-End

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 160

 

Kyle Pomerleau, What is the Debt Ceiling and Why Does it Matter? (Tax Policy Blog) ‘

Howard Gleckman, The U.S.May Not Default on Friday But Washington Is Still Playing A Dangerous Game

Joseph Thorndike, Debt Limit Fights Are All the Same – Except for This One (Tax Analysts Blog)

But in fact, the nation’s fiscal shortfall can’t be permanently finessed with any sort of measures, be they ordinary, extraordinary, or even superhuman. Default will happen — the only question is when.

Have a nice day.

 

 Jason Dinesen,  If EAs are Liechtenstein and CPAs are the U.S., What are the Unenrolled?   That’s not fair to CPAs; I don’t know any who’ve been shut down for the last two weeks.

 

Leslie Book, Potential Storm Over Removal Power of Tax Court Judges (Procedurally Taxing):

Kuretski is like one of the many thousands of CDP cases where the parties disagree on some aspect of a collection determination, but also has one very big wrinkle: the taxpayers are using the case as a vehicle challenging the constitutionality of the President’s powers to remove Tax Court judges under Section 7443(f).

I didn’t know the President could do that.

 

2014 State Business Tax Climate IndexTax Justice Blog, State News Quick Hits: Criticism of “Business Climate” Rankings Grows, and More.  Most of the criticism comes from politicians in states with poor business tax climates, and their allies, for some reason.

 

Brian Mahany, High Intrigue in Florida FBAR Trial!

Lush Caribbean islands, secret unreported Swiss accounts, tens of millions of dollars and a husband who disappears into the night. Is this the plot of a new best seller suspense novel? No! It’s some of the events unfolding in a Ft. Myers federal court room where prosecutors say that Patricia Hough conspired to defraud the IRS and filed false tax returns.

I prefer a boring life, at least compared to something like this.

 

Kay Bell, Supreme Court says ‘no’ to NY strip club’s tax relief plea.

The Critical Question: Do Women in Accounting Really Have More Opportunities Than They Did Ten Years Ago? (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/14/2013: Tomorrow’s the day for filing extended 1040s! And Pope Francis won’t get you off the hook.

Monday, October 14th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20111040logoTomorrow’s is it.  Extended 1040s are due tomorrow.  There are no further extensions available. Get ‘er done!  As Russ Fox says, It’s One Minute Before Midnight….  Russ has some excellent advice for last minute filers.

Related:

TaxGrrrl, Shutdown Or No, IRS Filing Deadline Remains October 15.

Kay Bell, 4 Oct. 15 tax deadlines: 1 filing, 3 retirement related

 

Some folks have, well, unorthodox ideas of how the tax law works.  Destry James Marcotte of Illinois, for example.  Mr. Marcotte was indicted on charges of claiming improper tax refunds.  As part of his defense he filed an “AFFIDAVIT” that testifies to his approach to taxes.   It starts off:

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There are 14 pages of this sort of thing, including:

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And:

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The Pope Francis thing is an innovation in the tax law, but too much of one for the U.S. District Court of Illinois, where Mr. Marcotte was found guilty of tax charges.

The Moral:  Mr. Marcotte went through a lot of work here.  All in all, it would have been easier to file his returns correctly.  No matter how much crazy he put into his tax filings, it wasn’t enough.  He’s likely to get some time in federal prison to ponder his next tax planning moves.

 

 

2014 State Business Tax Climate IndexLyman Stone, Taxes and Economic Outcomes: Indiana and Wyoming Edition (Tax Policy Blog)

At least for this sample, when we look at apples-to-apples comparisons of similar states, taxes matter. They aren’t the only variable, something we make clear in the Index report, but they are a significant variable that legislators can control directly. 

Taxes may not be everything, but it defies everything we know about economics to say they are nothing.

 

Tax Trials, Tax Court Reverses Itself on Qualified Appraisals for Façade Easements

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 158

Jack Townsend,  HSBC Depositor Convicted.  Bank secrecy isn’t what it once was.

Brian Mahany, It’s Too Late To Close Your Foreign Account – FATCA Post

Stephen Olsen,  Procedure Roundup for 10/11/2013 (Procedurally Taxing)

 

Robert D. Flach has a special Monday Edition Buzz.

The Critical Question: Judge Orders Man To Stay Dead Despite His Insistence He’s Alive: Could You Be Next? (TaxGrrrl) and Jim Maule, Do Dead People Pay Taxes?

 

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