Posts Tagged ‘the rich guy’s not buying’

Tax Roundup, 1/18/15: Popular wisdom and tax rates. And more Monday goodness!

Monday, January 18th, 2016 by Joe Kristan
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Math is hard.

Vox Populi. It’s a slow tax news day, with schools and government offices closed and e-filing not beginning until tomorrow. That enabled me to spend a little time with Peter Reilly’s coverage of Disparate Tax Views At Opening Of Bernie Sanders Worcester Office. Peter chatted up Sanders volunteers about their views on the proper top marginal tax rates. He was surprised by his first conversation:

Deb Bock, my first victim, said 15%.  I hadn’t gotten into the listening groove yet so I failed to hide my shock and asked her why she wasn’t backing Ben Carson – “Because he is an idiot.”

Those of us who live in the tax world can easily forget how poor the knowledge of actual tax law, including rates, is among the general public. The Tax Foundation has printed some fascinating surveys about what people think tax rates should be. Here is some information from their 2009 survey, the most recent available on the Tax Foundation website. It shows that Peter’s friend Ms. Bock is close to the  consensus view of what the effective combined federal, state and local effective rate on taxable income should be: 15.6%:

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Source: Tax Foundation

Of course, effective rates are much higher than this, as The Tax Foundation explains in its 2015 Tax Freedom Day explanation:

In 2015, Americans will pay $3.28 trillion in federal taxes and $1.57 trillion in state and local taxes, for a total tax bill of $4.85 trillion, or 31 percent of national income.

That’s just about twice the average effective rate that people think should apply. Because the tax law is very progressive, many taxpayers pay a much higher percentage.

Still, politicians like Mr. Sanders continue to get votes by convincing us that taxes are too low. Of course, they do so by telling people that those taxes will be paid by somebody else.

Related:

Tony Nitti, Bernie Sanders Releases Tax Plan, Nation’s Rich Recoil In Horror. “Democratic Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders took a break from yelling at clouds long enough to release his tax plan today, and it’s, how should I put this…aggressive.”

Me, The rich guy can’t pick up the tab.

 

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Kyle Pomerleau, Congressman Nunes Introduces Business Tax Reform (Tax Policy Blog):

Details of the plan:

-Cutting the corporate income tax to 25 percent;

-Limiting the top tax rate on non-corporate business income to 25 percent;

-Allowing businesses to deduct investment costs when they occur (full expensing);

 

-Eliminating most business tax credits and many deductions;

 

-Moving to a territorial tax system like most developed nations;

 

-No longer letting nonfinancial businesses deduct interest costs but no longer taxing them on interest receipts;

 

-Applying the same tax-rate limitation to individuals’ interest income as now applies to their capital gains and dividend income; and

 

-Eliminating the individual and corporate alternative minimum taxes (AMTs).

This would be a big improvement.

 

Russ Fox, Those “Extra Services” Were Great for Business. A massage business.

Jason Dinesen, Choosing a Business Entity: Wrap-up Post

Robert D. Flach, COME IN TO THE OFFICE AND WALK OUT WITH CASH!

Kay Bell, Finding a charity to volunteer with on MLK Day 2016

Jack Townsend, Prosecuting Corporate Employees and Officers, with Focus on Swiss Banks. “Corporations cannot go to jail; individuals can.”

Jim Maule, Birthdays in the Tax Law (and Obituaries?).

Actually, the tax law uses the phrases “attain the age of” and “attain age” far more often that its occasional use of the word “birthday” but few of us talk about “attaining an age” when we are conversing about the anniversaries of our arrival on the planet.

When was the last time you ever said “attain” out loud?

Robert Wood, IRS Lax Controls Enable Targeting Based On Religion + Politics, Claims Report

 

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Len Burman, Ted Cruz’s Business Flat Tax is a VAT. “It’s also important to point out—as Cruz did in the debate—that his plan also repeals the payroll and corporate income tax.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 982Day 983Day 984.

Tax Justice Blog, Obama Policies Curbed Tax Break for 400 Richest Americans; Choice of Next President Will Reverse or Continue This Shift. Once again Tax Justice Blog entirely misses the point that it’s never the same 400 people who pay tax in any given year.

Career Corner. Let’s Review: Side Gigs, Email, Lunches and Logos (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/20/15: Shock! State tax “incentives” favor the big! And: the 1% surprise.

Tuesday, October 20th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

20120906-1Regulation always favors the big. So do state business incentives. Left-side think tank Good Jobs First demonstrates the big-player bias of state “incentive” tax deals in a new report Shortchanging Small Business: How Big Businesses Dominate State Economic Development IncentivesMaria Koklanaris summarizes the report for State Tax Notes ($link):

Using its own databases and other programs, [Good Jobs First] weeded out awards targeting companies of a specific size, focusing only on those purportedly available regardless of company size. Of those “facially neutral” awards, 90 percent of the dollars went to big businesses, the report said.

“The deals, worth more than $3.2 billion, were granted in recent years by programs that on their faces, are equally accessible to small and large companies,” the report said. “Yet big businesses overall were awarded 90 percent of the dollars from the programs analyzed, indicating a profound bias against small businesses.”

While Iowa’s incentives weren’t among those studied, I am confident the exact same thing is true here. It’s the big and well-connected taxpayers who know how to play the system. They can hire the attorneys and accountants to navigate the system, and the lobbyists to make sure the taxpayer money is steered their way. And it’s the big projects — inherently done by big taxpayers — that attract the politicians. You’ve never heard of a Governor calling a press conference for some little business hiring two people.

A real Iowa tax reform, like the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan, would get rid of all of these breaks for insiders and lower the rates and compliance costs for everyone.

 

New York Times, What Could Raising Taxes on the 1% Do? Surprising Amounts.

Scott Greenberg, No, Raising Taxes on the 1% Will Not Lead to “Surprising Amounts” of Revenue (Tax Policy Blog):

Let’s say, for instance, that Congress decided to raise the effective tax rate of the 1% by increasing the top rate on ordinary income. Currently, the top tax bracket on ordinary income is 39.6%. How high would Congress have to raise this rate, in order to raise the effective tax rate of the 1% to 45 percent?

According to our estimates, Congress would have to raise the top rate on ordinary income to 74 percent, in order to raise the effective rate of the 1% from 33.4 percent to 45 percent. This would be a rate hike of over 34 percentage points, or an 87 percent increase in the top rate.

Oh, I think the amounts of revenue raised would be surprising, to the Times. And disappointing. As I’ve noted many times, the rich guy isn’t picking up the tab, because he can’t.

 

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TaxGrrrl, 11 Things I Wish I Could Tell My Younger Self About Taxes. Plenty of good advice here. It’s all worth reading, but I especially like #7, Planning is important:

Tax planning is important. You should take advantage of tax strategies that can help you lower your tax bill, like seeking out tax credits you might have overlooked or making a contribution to a tax-deferred retirement account. And knowing what’s coming down the pike is also important when it comes to payment: having a good idea of what you might owe and making estimated payments will help you avoid writing a big check at the end (trust me) and possibly being subject to underpayment penalties.

This is true for all taxpayers, but it is especially true for the self-employed, who are much more numerous with the growth of the “gig economy.”

 

buzz20150804Robert D. Flach is up and running with a fresh and pungent Tuesday Buzz roundup. He covers the recent tax season and the right response to callers claiming to be from the IRS demanding payment, among other things.

Jason Dinesen, Choosing a Business Entity: S-Corporation vs. C-Corporation. “The ‘C’ and ‘S’ refer to how that corporation is taxed, not to its legal standing.”

Tony Nitti, Apple To Issue Restricted Stock To Employees: Siri, What Are The Tax Consequences?

Russ Fox, The Future of DFS. “If you watch any sports television, you’ve almost certainly seen commercials for the two leading daily fantasy sports (DFS) sites, DraftKings and FanDuel.”

Robert Wood, Chef Jamie Oliver Calls For Sugar Tax, While Mexico Eyes Soda Tax Cut. We actually already have a pretty high sugar tax.

Keith Fogg, Contesting the Merits of the Underlying Tax in a Collection Due Process Case – A Convoluted Fact Pattern Leads to Wrong Decision (Procedurally Taxing).

Peter Reilly, Massachusetts Hits Staples For $10 Million On Sham Interest Deductions. “This case is a beautiful illustration of my fourth law of tax planning – Execution isn’t everything, but it is a lot.”

 

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 894. On how the President signals Justice Department investigators to back off.

Brian Doherty, Irwin Schiff, R.I.P. (Reason.com). “He was indeed a jolly warrior for a cause he obviously very sincerely believed in, even when it became completely obvious that the federal government was not going to be daunted by his arguments and indeed was going to keep arresting him for practicing them and advocating them.”

Kay Bell, Infamous tax protester Irwin Schiff has died. “His anti-tax tactics live on, as do penalties for those who insist on using them.”

 

Howard Gleckman, Presidential Candidates, “Free Stuff,” and Pixie Dust (TaxVox):

Even in its early stages, the 2016 presidential race looks like it will be remembered for two depressing superlatives. The candidates will spend more money than ever before, and they will promise more costly give-aways than any politicians in history.

Once again demonstrating the wisdom of Arnold Kling.

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Tax Roundup, 2/24/15: Iowa gas tax boost vote may be today. And: are tax credit subsidies on the way out?

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015 by Joe Kristan

It looks like the gas tax increase will come to a vote today, reports the Des Moines Register:

Rep. Josh Byrnes, R-Osage, who chairs the Iowa House Transportation Committee, said Monday he expects a tight vote. He added that talks were continuing among House Republicans.

“I don’t think we’d bring it up for debate if we didn’t think we had the votes,” Byrnes said.

It sounds like a done deal. At least that’s what they want everyone to think.

 

20120906-1Iowa has just announced a big new set of tax breaks for an out-of-state company, in the name of  “economic development.” But are “targeted” tax subsidies on the way out? Ellen Harpel says they might be in Beyond tax credits: creating winning incentive packages (smartincentives.org):

 

Tax credits have become problematic for several reasons:

  • Tax credits are often presented as no-cost incentives. That is, tax credits are not taken (incentives “paid out”) until the company has met certain thresholds and has started paying the taxes against which the credit is taken. However, as this article in the Wall Street Journal points out, the fiscal costs are substantial. It is not clear to us that other taxes expected to be generated by incentivized projects either materialize or are sufficient to fill the budget gap.
  • One reason might be that tax credits are more important to existing businesses than firms new to a location, based on our review of major incentive deals, so an incentivized project may not generate as much new tax revenue as anticipated.
  • Once the tax credits have been granted, states do not know when businesses will choose to take the credit, wreaking havoc on state budgets, possibly for decades depending on the terms of the tax credit arrangement.
  • Some tax credits are refundable (paid back to the company if their tax liability is not high enough to take the credit) or transferable (sold to another taxpaying entity). Film tax breaks often fall into this category, lowering the taxes paid by other taxpayers that are not the direct target of the incentive.

Using tax credits in this manner is not sustainable. To the extent economic development organizations continue to use tax credits, caps and limits will become the norm.

As long as politicians can get media outlets to run headlines like “New $25 million plant will bring 120 jobs to Iowa,” tax credits remain “sustainable” for vote-buying politicians. If they really wanted to help everybody — not just chase smokestacks — they would enact something like The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan.

Related:

IF TRUTH IN ADVERTISING APPLIED TO ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT AGENCIES

WSJ, Tax-Subsidy Programs Fuel Budget Deficits

 

If Iowa’s tax climate is so bad, why do businesses locate here? A hint may be found here: J.D. Tucille, Florida, the Freest State in the Country? “California, New York, and New Jersey always rank near the bottom of these lists as intrusive, red tape-bound hellholes.”

 

Via the John Locke Foundation

Via the John Locke Foundation

Iowa is #13.

The First in Freedom Index actually draws from a lot of the sources that have been cited here before, including the Fraser Institute’s Economic Freedom of North America as well as Mercatus Center’s Freedom in the 50 States, the Tax Foundation’s State Business Tax Climate Index, and measures put together by the Center for Education Reform, among others. To this, the North Carolina group adds its own weight and emphasis. 

Imagine how attractive Iowa could be without a bottom-10 tax climate.

 

Russ Fox, “Ripping Off Your Refunds” In the Miami Herald. “There is an excellent article in the Miami Herald on the identity theft tax fraud crisis. ”

TaxGrrrl, Tax Professionals Targeted In Latest Bogus IRS Email Scam. You can fool all of the people some of the time.

Robert Wood, Can IRS Seize First, Ask Questions Later? ‘Yes We Can’.

Kay Bell, NASCAR Hall of Fame and homeowner tax breaks collide. Another subsidized municipal boondoggle.

Peter Reilly, Estate Intended For Charity Depleted By Litigation And Income Tax. A sad story, and a cautionary tale for estate planning.

 

20121120-2Hank Stern, More Delays on HRAs:

For example, pre-ACA, small employers could fund “standalone” HRAs that allowed employees to pay for privately purchased health insurance (among other things). This encouraged employees to buy the plan best suited to their needs, and employers could control costs because they weren’t beholden to a group carrier’s annual rate in creases.

Sadly, those days are gone.

Everybody must be forced into the exchanges to participate in the ACA’s cross-generational subsidies.

 

William Perez, Problems with Form 1095-A

Jared Walczak, Will Mississippi Eliminate Its Antiquated Franchise Tax? (Tax Policy Blog). It’s a tax that can be a nasty surprise to a business entering that state.

 

Alan Cole ponders The President’s Revenue Problem (Tax Policy Blog):

It’s popular to claim that you’ll fund a big new government program through a tax on investors. The strong ideological priors of the political press tell us that investors are earning huge amounts of money, and that’s where the income is.

But the math tells us otherwise. Here’s what the tax bases for wage income and capital income actually look like in practice, from my recent report on sources of personal income.

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Tax Update regular readers already know that the rich can’t pick up the tab.

 

Jim PagelsNumber of American Corporations Declines for 17th Straight Year (Reason.com):

The report claims that the reduction in the number of incorporated firms is not so much due to inversions, mergers, or bankruptcy, but rather more firms classifying themselves as S Corporations, in which profits pass directly to owners and are taxed as individual income. Individual rates are typically lower than the U.S. corporate tax rate, currently the highest among members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development at 35 percent federal plus an additional 4.1 percent average rate levied by individual states.

This is why you can’t do a “corporate-only” tax reform.

 

Jeremy Scott, Does the United States Really Need a Tax Revolution? (Tax Analysts Blog): “Those who say that tax reform doesn’t go far enough and that the nation needs a revolutionary change are probably overstating the problem.”

Martin Sullivan, The Tax Reform Supermarket (Tax Analysts Blog). “Slowly but surely, members of Congress are coming to the painful realization that conventional, Reagan-style tax reform is going nowhere.”

 

Howard Gleckman, Better Ways to Link the Affordable Care Act with Tax Filing Season (TaxVox). “But since the ACA insurance is so closely linked to tax filing, it only makes sense to synch that sign-up period with tax season.”  I have a better idea: have health insurance purchases be totally unrelated to tax season, by getting rid of the whole misbegotten ACA.

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TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 656, quoting the Washington Times:

The White House told Congress last week it refused to dig into its computers for emails that could shed light on what kinds of private taxpayer information the IRS shares with President Obama’s top aides, assuring Congress that the IRS will address the issue — eventually. The tax agency has already said it doesn’t have the capability to dig out the emails in question, but the White House’s chief counsel, W. Neil Eggleston, insisted in a letter last week to House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman Paul Ryan that the IRS would try again once it finishes with the tea party-targeting scandal.

Just like it couldn’t possibly find the 30,000 emails that TIGTA dug up from the back-up tapes.

 

News from the Profession. The PwC Partner Who (Sorta) Looks Like Matt Damon and Other Public Accounting Doppelgangers (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/2/2013: essential government function edition. And… commas!

Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Wikipedia image courtesy Tallent Show under Creative Commons license

Wikipedia image courtesy Tallent Show under Creative Commons license

A bunch of federal government workers stayed home yesterday, but enough showed up to try to keep some 90-year olds off the grounds of the World War II memorial in Washington.  They will try to stand up to the guys in wheelchairs again today.  That must be one of those essential government functions.

 

Today’s shutdown roundup:

Kay Bell, Government shuts down. Who, besides citizens, will pay?

Janet Novack,  Federal Government Begins First Shutdown In 17 Years 

TaxGrrrl, Congress Marches Towards Shutdown, Spares Military   

Tax Trials, Tax Court Filing Deadlines during Government Shutdown

Joseph Thorndike, The GOP Is Right About One Thing: Ditch the Medical Device Tax (Tax Analysts Blog):

Narrow excise taxes — even when somehow correlated with special benefits — are not a good way to fund major social programs. Broad programs deserve broad taxes.

True.  But the political magic behind ACA was the idea of a “free” mass welfare benefit  — free to you, anyway, because some rich guy gets the tab.  But as Joseph has pointed out, the rich guy isn’t buying.

Len Burman, Would the Government be Shuttered if Obamacare were Romneycare?

Russ Fox,  The Government Shutdown and Taxes

 

Jason Dinesen,  Life After DOMA: Audits of Prior-Year Returns.  Jason explains how audits work for amended returns of same-sex married couples.

William Perez, How Social Security Benefits are Taxed by State

Jim Maule, Failing to Keep Those Records Can Increase Taxes

It is not implausible that the taxpayers paid more than $2,052 for the support of the wife’s mother. Certainly during the time when she was living with them, a portion of the costs of maintaining the taxpayers’ residence constituted support of the wife’s mother. But apparently the taxpayers did not offer any evidence of those costs.

It’s up to the taxpayer to keep the records needed to support your tax return.

 

TaxProf, Supreme Court Grants Cert. to Decide Whether Severance Pay Is Subject to Payroll Tax.  Is being paid to go away taxed the same way as being paid to work?

Peter Reilly, Court Rules Against Slots Playing As A Business 

Tony Nitti, The Real Winner In The Breaking Bad Finale: The IRS   

 

tax fairyPhil Hodgen, Sooner or later, secrecy fails as a tax planning strategy:

Americans: secrecy is a weak tax planning strategy; stop using it.

What seemed like a good idea 10 years ago has now compounded itself into a seemingly intractable dilemma. I know this because people tell me so every day.

Start looking for what is true, not what you want to be true. When you hear the answer, accept it. Swallow and digest the big chunks of truth.

In other words, there is no Tax Fairy

 

 

Jack Townsend,  Article on DOJ’s Swiss Bank Initiative

Keith Fogg, Representing Clients in Tax Court (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert D. Flach, SOME REMINDERS

 

News from the profession.  BREAKING: Commas To Be Added to the CPA Exam (Going Concern).  “We are adding a comma to the calculator on the CPA Exam. The comma is meant for large numbers such as 1,000 and above to make them easier to read.”  Calculators.  With commas. In my day when we took the exam, we had “fingers.”

 

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Tax Roundup, 9/18/2013: No, the rich guy still isn’t buying. And non-phony scandals.

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

taxanalystslogoJoseph Thorndike gets a lot wrong in Two Cheers for a Government Shutdown (Tax Analysts Blog), but he gets one important thing exactly right (my emphasis):

 Democrats have been much less willing to defend discretionary government spending — the kind of spending that will grind to a halt during a shutdown. The discretionary portion of the federal budget has been slashed to the bone in recent years, and it’s slated for more slashing in the years ahead.

Those cuts are bad for the country in any number of ways. But until Democrats make the case against them, they’ll keep coming.

And here’s the most important point: Defending the value of discretionary spending also means defending the taxes that pay for it. Yet Democrats have been unwilling to defend taxation for decades. Ronald Reagan really was a transformative president — he changed not only the way Republicans talked about taxes, but the way Democrats talked about them, too.

Democrats have always liked taxing the rich. But for decades, they understood that you couldn’t tax only the rich. Anyone who thinks seriously about solving our long-term budget problems comes to the inescapable conclusion that taxes are going up for everyone. At least they will be going up if we hope to continue with a federal government that looks anything like the one we have today.

20121226-1Democrats have to embrace that fact. They have to defend the value proposition of progressive government, not just the feel-good politics of progressive taxation. 

I don’t buy for a moment that discretionary spending has been “slashed to the bone.”  Just visit your friendly money-bleeding post office, airport TSA line, high-speed rail boondoggle, solar subsidy disaster…  But he is exactly right when he points out that the rich guy isn’t buying.

 

Chart by the Tax Foundation

 

When the “Rogue Agents in Cincinnati” defense of the IRS in the Tea Party scandal was discredited, those attempting to minimize the scandal fell back to new defensive positions:

There is no evidence of partisan bias, and

Progressive groups were targeted too.

These assertions appear in a USA Today Story (via Instapundit), IRS list reveals concerns over Tea Party ‘propaganda’.

 Newly uncovered IRS documents show the agency flagged political groups based on the content of their literature, raising concerns specifically about “anti-Obama rhetoric,” inflammatory language and “emotional” statements made by non-profits seeking tax-exempt status.

More than 80% of the organizations on the 2011 “political advocacy case” list were conservative, but the effort to police political activity also ensnared at least 11 liberal groups as of November 2011, including Progressives United, Progress Texas and Delawareans for Social and Economic Justice.

Progressive outfits are unlikely to be caught by a screener looking for “anti-Obama” rhetoric. Given that “over 80%” of the groups picked for extra screening are right-side, it’s hard to accept that there is no political bias in the screening process.  Prior revelations have shown that the few left-side groups that were picked for extra scrutiny got very gentle treatment compared to their right-side counterparts:

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Nothing phony about this scandal, no matter how much some people devoutly wish otherwise.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 132

Russ Fox,  IRS Scandal: Lerner, Others Re-Enter Spotlight

 

 

Lynnley Browning, Complying With U.S. Tax Evasion Law Is Vexing Foreign Banks (via the TaxProf).   It’s one more reason why foreign banks are closing their doors to U.S. expats, and why Americans abroad are turning in their passports.

 

Paul Neiffer,  IRS Has Two Sets of De Minimis Rules.  He is discussing final regulations issued last week on what purchases need to be capitalized, rather than written off as expenses:

The first set applies to companies with applicable financial statements (i.e. an audit) and allows the company to expense any fixed asset purchase that does not exceed $5,000.  The second set allows any other taxpayer to expense any fixed asset purchase that does not exceed $500.  Personally, I would have hoped this number would be closer to $2,500, but $500 is better than none.

The Regulations also provide for guidance to IRS agents that they can reach an agreement with a taxpayer during audit to use a de minimis number higher than the ceiling in the Regulations.

I think the distinction between audited financial statements is nonsensical, but at least taxpayers know where they stand.

 

Jason Dinesen: Having a Side Business in Multi-Level Marketing Doesn’t Make Personal Expenses Deductible.  It’s amazing how many people believe that it does.

 

Kay Bell,  Tax deadlines extended to Dec. 2 for Colorado flood victims

Tony Nitti, IRS Provides Tax Relief To Victims Of Colorado Storms   

Trish McIntire,  Disasters and Chutes and Ladders

TaxGrrrl,  2014 Tax Brackets, Exemption Amounts Likely To Save Tax Dollars   

William Perez,  Top Tax Rate Paid by Sole Proprietors by State

Brian Mahany,  Do You Have The Right To Rely on IRS Forms? Court Says “Maybe”

David Brunori, The Conundrum of Taxing Lots of Kids (Tax Analysts Blog)

 

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Phil Hodgen, Simplicity:

Reaching for $1,000X of tax savings frequently costs you $2,000X in accounting and legal fees to make the IRS all warm and fuzzy on your tax returns. We saw this last week where a prior year tax election was made that saved $5,000 (!) of tax, but so far has cost $40,000 to fix. Not to mention the time distraction for the principal of the venture.

That’s why I don’t care for things like C corporations that try to manipulate their income to use the lower tax rates when income is under $100,000.  You can save maybe a few thousand in taxes if you do it just right, but at the cost of professional fees and management time best spent elsewhere.

 

The Critical Question: Is the Spies Element for Evasion (i) Tax Deficiency or (ii) the Criminal Tax Number? (Jack Townsend)

 

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Tax Roundup, 1/24/2013: Tax increases for everyone, anyone? And more bad news for tax season!

Thursday, January 24th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 

Tax Foundation graphic.

TaxProf,  NY Times: it Is Time to Raise Taxes on Everybody — Including the Middle ClassPaul Caron links to a New York Times Op-ed:

To make ends meet, both parties agree, spending must be drastically cut. Under the White House budget proposal, discretionary spending on everything except the military is projected to shrink to its smallest share of the economy since the Eisenhower administration by the beginning of the next decade. Though he has resisted Republican demands to slash entitlements, President Obama remains willing to look for further savings from Medicare.

This is not, however, the only option we have. There is an alternative: raising more money from all taxpayers, including the middle class.

Nobody wants to talk about this. … Yet Americans would benefit from a discussion of this possibility.

It’s not true that “both parties agree” that spending must be drastically cut.  It’s not clear that either party, as a whole, admits it, and at least one party remains in firm denial.  The President’s campaign was all about spending money and sending the bill to the rich guy.  Still, it’s nice that finally somebody at the New York Times admits that the rich guy isn’t buying.  He can’t.

 

Janet Novack,  As IRS Tax Filing Season Begins, Bad News For Honest Taxpayers.  She20130121-2 speaks with Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson.  The article has some depressing truth:

Customer service at the Internal Revenue Service is dismal and deteriorating. (Only 68% of telephone callers who wanted to talk to a human at the IRS last tax filing season eached one, and then only after an average 17 minute wait.)  The epidemic of identity theft refund fraud hasn’t yet been contained.  Hope for a major reform that might simplify the tax code is waning.

The article also has some serious nonsense about last week’s ruling shutting down the IRS preparer regulation power grab:

“If the injunction stands, the taxpayers of the United States will be grievously harmed,” IRS National Taxpayer Advocate Nina E. Olson told Forbes. “The practical effect of not having some kind of consumer protection for taxpayers going to return preparers is enormous. And I say that seeing all the return preparer fraud, and the return preparer negligence, and the return preparer inadvertent mistakes that happen.”

Enormous?  More like what we did forever until two years ago.  If anybody has evidence that last year’s tax preparers were significantly more accomplished and accurate than they were before the regulations, they haven’t shared it.  And the idea that the RTRP literacy competency test and minimal CPE requirement would have changed that is silly.

Ms. Olson believes that depriving consumers of choices in preparers is in their interest because the diminished choices would be better.  That flies in the face of all we know about regulation.  The net result would be higher prices, driving more taxpayers to do their returns and driving some on the margins out of the system altogether, while sending more business to the big franchise tax prep outfits.

 

Robert D. Flach, TAX RETURN PREPARER REGULATION, LICENSURE, AND/OR CERTIFICATION.  Robert’s magnum opus on how tax preparers should be regulated.

While I agree that having the Internal Revenue Service regulate tax preparers is not the best option – it is without a doubt a far superior option to having Congress legislate regulation.  My opinion of the intelligence, competence, and ability, or rather lack of intelligence, competence, and ability, of the current members of Congress is well known.
The optimal source of tax preparer regulation/licensure/certification, whether mandatory or voluntary, would be an independent industry-based organization, not unlike the AICPA or ABA, such as the National Institute of Registered Tax Return Preparers that I have proposed.

Robert also calls me out:

As I have asked in response to Joe’s assertion, would you want a “casual” electrician wiring your kitchen, or a “casual” dentist filling a cavity, or a “casual” architect designing your home?

If I do, what business is it of anybody else?  If I want to pay a talented handyman neighbor or cousin to install a ceiling fan for me, why is it anybody’s business?  Why should he be not allowed to take my money just because he doesn’t have an electrician card from the Bureau of Electrical and Mortuary Science?  As TaxGrrrl noted yesterday, occupational licensing is taking over the economy, and that’s not a good thing.

 

TaxGrrrl, With A Week To Go, IRS Talks Opening Day and Refunds

 

Cara Griffith, Have State Income Taxes Run Their Course? (Tax.com)

The corporate income tax is inefficient and a not sufficiently stable source of revenue for states. It should be eliminated. The individual income tax is likewise not a particularly stable source of revenue for states, and while counterintuitive, progressive tax systems do not work well at the state-level. Income redistribution, to the extent that it should be a goal at all, should not be undertaken at the state-level. So  in a perfect world, yes, the state individual income tax should be eliminated as well.

Christopher Bergin agrees.

 

Good. Another bid to ban traffic enforcement cameras in Iowa. (O. Kay Henderson, via The Beanwalker).  Traffic cameras are your local government’s most sincere way of showing their contempt for you.

 

Trish McIntire,  Form 8332 and Fairness.  How the IRS enables bitter ex-spouses.

Paul Neiffer,  Why Imputed Interest Matters For 2013 (And Beyond)

Kaye A. Thomas,  Another Demutualization Case

Robert W. Wood, Golfer Phil Mickelson Is Not Alone In Fleeing Taxes (Via Kerry Kerstetter)

Peter Reilly, Why Phil Mickelson’s Remark Was Really Dumb

Brian Mahany, Is FATCA In Trouble? Unfortunately, NO

Joseph Henchman,  CBPP’s Misleading Chart on Debt Stabilization (Tax Policy Blog).  A study in cherry-picking.

Jen Carrigan, Should Capital Gains Be Taxed Differently? (Guest post at The Missouri Taxguy blog).

Patrick Temple-West,  Firms keep stockpiles of ‘foreign’ cash in U.S., and more

Tax Trials,  District Court Decision Prevents IRS from Regulating Certain Tax Return Preparers

Kay Bell,  Fiscal cliff tax provision could help stem fraudulent refund claims by prisoners

 

News you can use:  Passing the CPA Exam While Billing Over 2500 Hours in a Year Is Way Harder Than Having a Baby(Going Concern).  Also less useful and not as smart.

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Tax Roundup, 12/27/2012: Why the rich don’t like being soaked. And how to make a fortune by copyrighting your name!

Thursday, December 27th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

 

From a Tax Foundation chartbook, “Putting a Face on America’s Tax Returns”

What happens as you ratchet up the top rate. A timely explanation of the effect of raising already high tax rates from Megan McArdle:

Taking your tax rate from 5% to 10% decreases your after tax income by 5.26%.  But by the time your tax rate is 50%, you’re only keeping half of your income.  So increasing the tax rate by 5% decreases your after-tax income by 10%: you used to take home 50 cents out of every dollar, but now you only take home 45 cents.  

If you were surprised that Gerard Depardieu decided to leave France rather than pay the new 70% top rate, think of it this way: the rate increase was only 30%, but it was going to cut his income in half. Yes, that would still leave him with more money than you and I live on.  But people don’t think this way: if the government came and took half your after-tax income away, that would still leave you with more money than a middle-class family in Bangalore lives on, and you would still be hopping mad, not to mention panicking about how the mortgage was going to get paid.  Even if they only took half of your marginal after-tax income away–an extra 50% of every dollar you made over $40,000 say–you would be pretty upset, because you’ve probably already earmarked uses for those dollars.

With the people in the highest-income states already pushing a 50% marginal rate under current law (and also, under what I take to be the negotiation outcome desired by most of the Democratic Party), every 10% tax hike is a 20% decrease in the after-tax value of extra work.

Applying that analysis to Iowa, the combination of the fiscal cliff and the Obamacare 3.8% “net investment income” tax can reduce the after-tax value of additional income of a top-rate Iowa taxpayer by 12.24%  — about 1/8.   For Iowa businesses that pay their taxes on owner returns — that is, partnerships, LLCs and S corporations — that’s a 1/8 reduction in their cash flow, their ability to finance expansion, their ability to service new debt.  It’s also a 1/8 reduction in the returns to taking a chance on a new product, a new location, a new employee.  That makes for fewer chances taken.

Worse, soaking the rich doesn’t even begin to solve the spending problem or close the deficit, no matter how hard you try.  The rich guy isn’t buying.

 

Fiscal Cliff Notes

Veronique de RugyA Little Symbolism to Fight Fiscal Denial (The Corner)

TaxGrrrlTreasury Advises That U.S. Will Hit Its Debt Limit In 5 Days

 

Cara Griffith,  The Promise of Tax Stability (Tax.com).  For one company, anyway; tough for the rest of Oregon.

Peter Reilly,  Retired IRS Officer Launches Petition Against Clergy Tax Benefit

Robert D. FlachWHAT’S NEW FOR NJ INCOME TAXES FOR 2012

Anthony NittiThe Top Ten Tax Cases Of 2012, #1: Obamacare Is Constitutional Because The Individual Insurance Mandate Is Both A Penalty And A Tax. Wait…What?

Romney won?  How You Can Lose Money on Paper And Still Win at Tax Time Like Romney (TaxGrrrl). 

As bad as today’s news is, it could be worse.  And it was, actually, as Don Boudreaux reminds us in  Cataloging Our Progress: Men’s Business Wear (Cafe Hayek)

 

Yeah, that’ll work.  Man jailed in federal tax fraud, bills paper for using his ‘copyrighted’ name.   A convicted tax cheat sent a $6 million invoice to the local paper for using his name twice in a news story reporting his guilty plea on tax charges.  Doesn’t he know that if he collects they’ll send him a 1099? (vindy.com)

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Tax Roundup, 12/24/2012: the coming preparer crash. Also: a modest fiscal cliff proposal.

Monday, December 24th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

20121224-1IRS preparer rules may create a catastrophic preparer shortage.  A press release last week from the IRS urging preparers to take the new Registered Tax Return Preparer examination saves the real news until the end (my emphasis):

So far, there are more than 48,000 preparers who have earned RTRP certificates. There also has been an increase in the number of people taking the enrolled agent exam.

Starting Jan. 1, 2014, only registered tax return preparers, enrolled agents, CPAs and attorneys will be authorized to prepare and sign federal individual returns.

There are currently 739,000 tax preparers with 2012 PTINs. Approximately 350,000 of them are subject to the new testing and CE requirements.

It’s likely the population of authorized return preparers will crash.  That will increase demand for the big national tax preparation franchises, which probably was the real goal the new regulations — written by a former president of H&R Block.  A reduction in preparer supply will increase prices.  It will cause some taxpayers on the margin to prepare their own returns, and some to stop filing altogether.  Hardly a step forward for tax administration.

UPDATE, 12/27: The IRS Regulates Mom-and-Pop Tax Preparers Out of Business, Just in Time for Tax Season!

 

Tyler Cowen: point out that the rich guy isn’t buying.  The economist makes an interesting suggestion for the GOP now that “Plan B” has failed (my emphasis):

 To see how this could work, consider this script: Let’s say the Republicans decide to largely give in to what the President Obama is proposing. There is, however, a catch: the president has to agree to raise marginal tax rates on all income classes, not just on the rich.  The tax increase would be one-quarter of a percentage point, or some other arbitrary small amount, with larger increases possible for higher incomes, as has been discussed. The deal also stipulates that both the president and Congress must publicly acknowledge that current plans for government spending can’t be financed unless taxes on most or all income groups climb further yet, and by some hefty amount.

This highlights the frivolous, depressing and maddening nature of the “Fiscal Cliff” crisis. They will solve nothing, regardless of the outcome.  The President resolutely ignores the continuing fiscal catastrophe.  Nothing he proposes pays for more than rounding error in federal spending.  His only concern is scoring political points, not solving the problem.  A demoralized GOP lacks the nerve, and perhaps the conviction, to call for the spending cuts needed to approach fiscal sanity.

Of course,  “The Rich” simply don’t have enough money to pay for our incontinent government.

 

Joseph Henchman:  Switzerland “Debt Brake” As Consensus Policy Option for America? (Tax Policy Blog)

 

Fiscal Cliff Notes:

Kay Bell,  Average tax bill increase if we fall off the fiscal cliff? $3,446

Patrick Temple-West,  Boehner’s budget ‘Plan B’ collapses, and more (Tax Break)

Janet Novack,  Obama Plays The Adult In The Room–Before Leaving For Hawaiian Holiday

Peter Reilly,  All I Want For Christmas Is An AMT Patch.  Me too.

Trich McIntire,  Congressional Con

Jim Maule, Tax Pledges: Never Say Never.

 

He’s a little people now.  From an FBI press release:

John J. McCauley Jr., 54, owner and co-operator of McCauley and L’Europa  Public Adjusters LLC and PIA Restoration LLC in Providence Rhode Island, and longtime Rhode Island state legislator, was sentenced today to 27 months in federal prison for conspiracy to defraud the United States of more than $500,000 and filing false tax returns…

Like some other politicians, he can take the taxes, but he can’t dish them out.  He was Deputy Speaker of the Rhode Island House, according to this report.

 

TaxProf, Deconstruction Deduction:  Home Disassembly and Charitable Donation Rather Than Demolition Yields Big Tax Savings

Jason Dinesen, New Preparer Requirements on Earned Income Credit = Higher Fees for Clients

12 Days of Charitable Giving 2012: Fisher House Foundation

Jack Townsend, Evasion of Payment Statute of Limitations Runs from the Last Affirmative Act

Russ Fox,  Fat Joe Takes the Rap

Merry Christmas!  TaxVox’s 2012 Lump of Coal Awards  (Howard Gleckman)

Wow.  From the TaxProf:

Yesterday morning, my son was on a bus on I-80 with 52 other Grinnell College students heading to the Des Moines airport to fly home for the Christmas holiday when the driver suffered a fatal heart attack.  The bus veered off the highway to the right, into a snowbank from the 12 inches of snow that fell in Iowa last Thursday.  Miraculously, none of the students were injured, and after being transported to the hospital in Newton, Iowa, Grinnell arranged for alternative transportation for the students to the airport.

My older son drove that route yesterday coming home from school in Chicago.  Happily, his trip was unexciting.  I hope all of you who are traveling this week arrive safely.

 

That would be sexy indeed.  Too Sexy for Iowa  (The Other McCain).

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Tax Roundup, 12/5/2012: Happy Repeal Day! Too bad it’s not the tax code.

Wednesday, December 5th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Happy National Repeal Day!

 

Either we cut spending or everyone will pay more taxes.  This post by Veronique de Rugy puts together in one handy package some points I have been trying to drive home about budget and tax policy.  It’s all worth reading, but some key items include:

 In my opinion, the problem with the fiscal-cliff debate has been that no one is acknowledging the fact that there is no way out of raising taxes on everyone eventually unless Congress gets serious about addressing our long-term fiscal problem, by restraining spending.

“The Rich” simply don’t have enough income to foot the bill.  But borrowing temporarily hides the problem:

This, by the way, is why I thought the Bush years were so toxic. Cutting taxes while increasing spending dramatically — Bush increased real spending by 60 percent, as opposed to Clinton’s increase of 12.5 percent — is a recipe for large deficits leading more taxes later or certainly intense pressure to raise taxes.

What will taxes look like when the bill comes due?

This weekend, Mark Steyn gave us an idea of what that tax bill would look like. He writes:

A couple of years back, Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute calculated that, if Washington were to increase every single tax by 30 percent, it would be enough to balance the books — in 25 years. If you were to raise taxes by 50 percent, it would be enough to fund our entitlement liabilities — just our current ones, not our future liabilities, which would require further increases.

Finland shows how high taxes have to be to adequately fund a lavish welfare state, as I have noted:

Finland has an extensive welfare state and most years pays for it without budget deficits.  It does so with income taxes that reach a 2012 top rate of 29.75% at €70,301, which is about $57,021 at current exchange rates.  For a US taxpayer filing single, the 28% rate doesn’t start until taxable income reaches $85,651, and not up to $142,701 on joint returns.  On top of that, Finns pay a 23% Value-added tax on most purchases — a tax that is not tied to income.  But there’s more!  There is a mandatory 4.7% payroll tax on employee gross wages, plus another 18.3% “paid” by the employer — but that necessarily reduces what they can pay the employee after-tax.

I’m not sure all that would go over well here, but that’s what we’re headed for.  Anybody who says rich people can pay for all of the free government stuff is either clueless or lying.  The rich guy isn’t buying.

 

Megan McArdle,  Who Gets More Damaged If We Go Over the Fiscal Cliff?  At least there’s a drink at the bottom.

At least the weather’s nice.  Oh, maybe not…  Top Federal Marginal Tax Rate Will Exceed 50% in California, New York, and Hawaii in 2013 (TaxProf)

Amy Feldman,  Getting ready for the Medicare tax on investment income   (Reuters)

Don’t think he actually plans to pay the higher taxes he supports.  Warren Buffett Makes Money On Tax Breaks He Discredits (Steve Stanek, IBD)

Joseph Thorndike, Moral Abdication Dressed Up Like Hard-Nosed Realism (Tax.com)

 

But think of the intangible benefits of the Iowa film tax credit program! Film financier sues state over unpaid film credits (AP)  The producer of one of the films involved in the suit pleaded guilty to felony chargesarising from tax credits for the film.

Joseph Henchman,New York Times Tells the Tale of Michigan’s Bankrupt State-Backed Film Studio (Tax Policy Blog Oh, and Happy 75th Birthday to the Tax Foundation! 

 

Kay Bell, Tax Carnival #109: Tax Stocking Stuffers

TaxGrrrl,  12 Days of Charitable Giving 2012: Be An Elf

Russ Fox,Nominations Due for 2012 Tax Offender of the Year.  ‘Tis the Season!

Must be a Cubs fan. Hapless Mr. Williams Loses Again (Jack Townsend)

Nor do I.  No, I Don’t Plan to Take the RTRP Exam (Jason Dinesen). 

Jim Maule, The Hidden Government Spending Game.  Spending doesn’t become something else just because you run it through a tax return.

Trish McIntire, Do You Have a Spare $2,350?  You do?  Good, you may need to send it to the IRS in April if Congress doesn’t “patch” the Alternative Minimum Tax for this year.

Peter Reilly, Hobby Losses – Need To Convince Tax Court You Love Money More Than The Game

Robert D. Flach has his Wednesday Buzz roundup of tax posts up!

 

 

Holistic auto healing?  Cadillac chiropractor sent to prison for tax fraud  (Mlive.com)

The Critical Question:  Bartlett: The Fiscal Cliff and the Debt Limit — What Would Lincoln Do? (TaxProf)

Judge Holmes Quote of the day. 

Allison T. O’Neil, the ex-wife of Michael J. O’Neil, does not want to pay a penny of their joint 2005 federal tax liability because, she says, it [*2] would be inequitable to make her do so.

2 Michael recalls providing Allison with $6,000 to $10,000 per month. Allison recalls getting only $6,000 per month.

Cite: O’Neil, T.C. Memo 2012-339

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Tax Roundup, 12/3/2012: Medicare 3.8% tax guidance issued. Meanwhile, to the cliff!

Monday, December 3rd, 2012 by Joe Kristan

The IRS issued proposed regulations for the 3.8% Obamacare tax on investment income Friday.  I will do detailed posts on the in the coming days as I study them.

I’ll note two important items from my first overview of the proposed rules:

  • The rules allow taxpayers a free opportunity to redo their activity “grouping” elections for the passive loss rules for 2013. “Passive” business activities are subject to the the 3.8% tax.  Because “passive” status often depends on how much time a taxpayer spends working in a business, how different operations or locations are grouped can determine whether they are passive.
  • The rules appear to allow you to pro-rate state income taxes in determining “net” investment income.  That’s taxpayer-friendly, but it adds another level of complexity.

For an initial take on the rules, see Anthony Nitti at Forbes.

Related:   Obamacare: it’s a tax!

 

David Brunori of Tax Analysts on the fiscal cliff discussion:

     Everyone knows that taxing the very rich will have no perceptible effect on the deficit. It’s all for show. The president and Democrats in Congress can say they stuck it to the millionaires and billionaires. Fairness will abound. The Republicans can tell the world that they are reasonable people willing to compromise on issues as important as taxes. But Americans will still get more government than they are willing to pay for.

     Some liberals have called for us to go over the cliff and to raise taxes across the board. Like Norquist, they are miscalculating. If everybody had to start paying more, there would be a lot more questioning of massive defense spending, egregious subsidies for industries, and entitlements run amok. But for now, we must be content with the rich paying more so we can get more than we deserve from our government.

You can’t pay for mass welfare benefits with a class tax.  The mania for taxing “the rich” is a distraction from the enormous tax increases on everybody that will be required.  The Rich Guy’s not buying.

 

Why the fiscal cliff is such a big fall.  The Bush Tax Cut Issue in One Chart (Ed Krayewski, Hit and Run):

He adds:

And for those who would say “well of course the government has to spend more when the economy is hurting” only one question applies: has it helped? If you think so, I’ve got a tiger-repellant rock to sell you.

Related:  ‘Fiscal Cliff’ follies: Why it may pay to take deductions early.  My latest post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record blog for entrepreneurs.

Nobody’s serious I:  No ‘fiscal cliff’ deal without higher rates, Geithner says (CNN via Going Concern)

Nobody’s serious, II: Grassley and King push for extension of Wind Energy Tax Credit

 

Iowa admits its capital gain forms were a mess.  A protest rejection released by the Iowa Department of Revenue highlights how badly the Iowa 1040 has been designed with respect to the Iowa deduction for capital gains on the sale of businesses an business real estate.

The taxpayer had excluded regular capital gains from a brokerage account on her tax return.  Iowa properly rejected the deduction, but admitted her mistake was understandable:

Your position relies on the Department’s instructions for completing the tax return.  We found that you are not the only one that made this mistake, so our instructions now clarify that these types of capital gains do not qualify for the deduction as shown above.  In any event, the instructions are not controlling.

Iowa now has better wording on the deduction line and a flow chart to walk taxpayers through whether they should claim the deduction.  It’s a big improvement, but it should be better.  There should be a separate form to compute the deduction, with a checklist to complete to demonstrate eligibility.

The state examines every capital gain exclusion claim.  Taxpayers should be able to submit the information the state asks for with their returns to preclude the examination; even if it would have to be paper-filed, it would save the state the time and money spent on unneeded exams.

Related:  Iowa Capital Gain Break: how it works when you rent property to your business

 

NY Times: States and Cities Shovel $80 Billion/Year in Tax Incentives to Companies, With Little Proof of Their Effectiveness  (TaxProf):

A Times investigation has examined and tallied thousands of local incentives granted nationwide and has found that states, counties and cities are giving up more than $80 billion each year to companies. The beneficiaries come from virtually every corner of the corporate world, encompassing oil and coal conglomerates, technology and entertainment companies, banks and big-box retail chains.

The cost of the awards is certainly far higher. A full accounting, The Times discovered, is not possible because the incentives are granted by thousands of government agencies and officials, and many do not know the value of all their awards. Nor do they know if the money was worth it because they rarely track how many jobs are created. Even where officials do track incentives, they acknowledge that it is impossible to know whether the jobs would have been created without the aid.

It’s a chump’s game, and we taxpayers are the unwilling chumps.  These things are to economic growth what steroids are to long-term fitness.

 

When you don’t remit withheld taxes, it might not just be a matter of getting your payments caught up.  A New Jersey couple that ran an engineering firm failed to remit over $500,000 in withheld taxes to the IRS.  They were sentenced last week to 44 months in prison after being convicted of charges arising out of the nonpayment.  From the Department of Justice Press Release:

Evidence was also introduced that the DeMuros converted withheld funds for their business and personal use, including more than $280,000 in purchases from QVC, Home Shopping Network and Jewelry Television.

No doubt it was of the best-quality.  Oh, and the couple still has to pay over $1.3 million in restitution to the IRS.

Doug Shulman is no longer IRS Commissioner, but his legacy remains:

 ABC News: Alarming Rise in IRS Refund ID Thefts, Few Prosecuted: GAO Report

Dayton Daily News,  IRS says tax fraud attempts up 39 percent

Greg Mankiw,   Some Advice on Tax Planning

Richard Morrison,   The Tax Rate Paid by the Top 1% Is Double the National Average (Tax Policy Blog)

The Critical Question:  Will the Payroll Tax Cut Fall Silently Off the Cliff? (Elaine Maag, TaxVox)

Kay Bell:  Time to spend down your medical flexible savings account (FSA)

Paul Neiffer,  Senator Baucus Urges Extension of Current Estate Tax Laws

Jim Maule,  Passing the Tax Responsibility Buck

Peter Reilly,  Who Should Be Accelerating Income Into 2012?

Patrick Temple-West,  Most Americans face lower tax burden than in 1980, and more (Tax Break)

Robert D. Flach,  DAMNED IF THEY DO AND DAMNED IF THEY DON’T.

Tragedy:  Lindsay Lohan Has Yet To Settle Tax Bills With IRS, Faces Account Seizures (TaxGrrrl)

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