Might the Iowa legislature lead on income tax reform? If it’s going to happen, they will have to, as Governor Branstad only wants to talk about property taxes this year. O. Kay Henderson reports:
During a recent interview with Radio Iowa, Governor Branstad made it clear he is focused on cutting property taxes.
“Sure, I’d like to see the income tax reduced, too, but in terms of my priority — and I’ve been working on this for a couple of years and we’re really trying to perfect it — our focus is going to be on significant property tax reduction and replacement,” Branstad said a month ago.
Some legislators are more ambitious, reports Henderson:
Representative Tom Sands, a Republican from Wapello, is the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee that writes tax policy.
“I think there is some pressure building from Iowans to cut both income taxes — look at some reform as well as a cut to the individual income tax,” Sands says. “We’re hearing from corporations as well, on the income side.”
I doubt anything good will happen with income taxes this session. The Iowa Chamber Alliance even wants to to go the wrong way, pushing more tax credits for the well-connected. No organization seems to be pushing for the rest of us. But The Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan is ready to go if the legislature needs some ideas.
Nick Kasprak, Monday Map: State Gasoline Tax Rates, 2013 (Tax Policy Blog):
Robert D. Flach, CHOOSING A TAX PREPARER. I suppose I should be upset by this:
Contrary to the popular “urban tax myth” perpetuated by uninformed journalists, 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.
But I’m not. It’s true, if roughly stated.
Robert goes astray in his next paragraph:
Only those individuals who possess the “EA” (Enrolled Agent) or “RTRP” (Registered Tax Return Preparer) designations have demonstrated competency in 1040 preparation by taking an IRS-sponsored test, and are required to remain current in 1040 law by taking a minimum number of hours in continuing professional education (CPE) in federal income taxes each year.
False. The RTRP test is open book. It demonstrates that somebody can read. It’s a literacy test, an empty exercise to justify the IRS power grab over the preparer industry. It’s different with Enrolled Agents, like Jason Dinesen and Russ Fox, who have to meet much stricter standards than RTRPs. One of the underreported nasty consequences of the RTRP designation is that it damages the EA brand.
I also disagree with the implied conclusion that CPAs who prepare returns are less competent as a group than EAs or RTRPs. Some are incompetent, no doubt, but many tax CPAs are highly-skilled. I think the competency curve for non EA preparers vs. CPAs would look something like this:
There are excellent non-CPAs and there are incompetent CPAs. Still, I think as a group the CPAs who do tax for a living will tend to be more competent.
My rule of thumb for choosing a preparer: buy as much preparer as you need, but no more. Many taxpayers who only have wage and investment income and routine itemized deductions will do fine with an RTRP (and would have done fine with an unenrolled preparer without the new IRS preparer regulations). If you have business income, a multistate return, or a complicated financial life, your needs go up; you need a high-end RTRP like Robert, or an EA, or a CPA. As your business gets bigger, you are more likely to want to hire a good CPA. And when Robert gets to the bottom line of his post, I think he agrees.
But be careful which one you hire: Lawyer, Accountant Implicated in Estate Fraud Case (Brian Mahany)
Trish McIntire, Preparer Conflict of Interest
I speak again on the basic relative unfairness of the treatment of many, if not most, in the IRS’s offshore voluntary disclosure initiatives.
They have to shoot the jaywalkers so they can slap the real offenders on the wrist.
You pay more in taxes this year than last year. How do you like your tax cut? At Tax.com, Jeremy Scott tries to convince us that we just got a tax cut:
The income tax rates, the estate tax, and the alternative minimum tax patch are all here to stay. And, according to the Tax Policy Center’s (TPC’s) preliminary study on distributional effects, the act essentially provided a big tax cut for almost everyone.
Funny, everybody’s taking home less. How does that work? My emphasis:
Using the Congressional Budget Office’s old baseline (which assumed that the Bush tax cuts would expire for everyone) and looking at the effects of the tax cut in 2018, the TPC says that the average taxpayer will receive a $2,335 tax cut under ATRA.
I see. Because the tax increase could have been bigger, we got a tax cut. I’ll see if I can cut staff accountant pay and convince them they got a raise because we didn’t cut more.
Janet Novack, Obama Vows Republicans Won’t Collect ‘Ransom’ For Raising Debt Limit. No, they’ll ultimately let the President continue the insane spending pace.
Avoiding Excess Credit Card Interest Should Not Be A Taxable Event. But it can be, if you get the bank to forgive unpaid interest that would be non-deductible.
Robert Goulder, Taxes & Corruption: Another Greek Tragedy (Tax.com)
Martin Sullivan, IRS: Women At Work (Tax.com):
According to the latest IRS Data Book 60,623 of the agency’s 104,402 employees in 2011 were women. That 66 percent is far more than the 44-percent figure for government’s total civilian labor force and the 47-percent figure for the overall US civilian workforce.
Ben Harris, Should Louisiana Dump Its Income Tax for a Bigger Sales Tax? (TaxVox)
News you can use. FYI: Attorneys Think Auditors’ Legal Confirmation Letters Are a Giant Waste of Time (Going Concern)