Posts Tagged ‘Tracy Gordon’

Tax Roundup, 10/22/14: Remembering tax reform.

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

19861022President Reagan signed the Tax Reform Act of 1986 28 years ago today. In hindsight, the tax law that resulted seems like a beacon of simplicity, with its 28% top rates and its lack of a capital gain differential.

Looking hard at the 1986 Act, we can see some warning signs. It enacted a temporary research credit, setting the stage for the semi-annual parade of expiring provisions. It included the current alternative minimum tax, which adds huge complexity to individual compliance. It had some benefits that phased out based on income, such as passive losses for active renters and for some IRA contributors. But at the time those could be seen as flaws to be fixed. Instead, they were weeds that would be cultivated.

I count 47 “major” post-tax reform tax laws in the Tax Policy Center list. Every one of them has done its part to undo tax reform. Most of them are represented on my souvenir bookshelf, which has tax law summaries going back to 1984. The left half of the top shelf takes us from 1984 through the 1986 reforms. The rest of it is tax reform’s undoing.

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While each law did its little damage to the tax law, I look at President Bush’s signing of the 1990 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act as the moment when things really began to unravel. OBRA increased in the top rate to 31%, uncoupled the capital gain rate from the ordinary income rate, and enacted the foul phaseouts of itemized deductions and the standard deduction that dishonestly increased the top effective rate over the top stated rate.

Three Presidents and dozens of bills later, we have individual rates over 40%, considering phaseouts and the Obamacare surtaxes. We have dozens of regularly expiring provisions that require lobbyists to pay homage to the taxwriters every year or two. We have unprecedented complexity that forces even smart taxpayers with simple financial lives to pay to get their returns done. And we have land mines all over the tax law, including foreign reporting provisions that can impose $10,000 penalties on taxpayers who have paid all of their taxes.

It’s all a depressing story. Still, 1986 did happen. Top rates came down from 50% to 28%. The base was broadened and rates reduced. It happened once, so maybe it can happen again.

 

The internet ate my first shot at this post, so just a very quick roundup today.

 

20141003-2Tony Nitti, IRS Sheds Light On The Use Of The Recurring Item Exception

 

Mitch Maahs, IRS Revises Offshore Voluntary Compliance Programs (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

Kay Bell, NY tax scammers copying fake IRS tax call template

Peter Reilly, IRS Collection Action Can Be Delayed For A Long Time

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 531

David Brunori, Tax Ballot Predictions (Tax Analysts Blog)

Tracy Gordon, Bertha and the French Professor: Lessons for Public Private Partnerships (TaxVox)

Richard Borean, Tax Foundation Awards for Outstanding Achievement in State Tax Reform in 2014 (Tax Policy Blog). No Iowans — no surprise.

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/7/14: Sweet pursuit of Tax Fairy turns sour. And: shut up and get used to FATCA!

Tuesday, October 7th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

tax fairy

Isaac Brock visitors: here is a direct link to what you are looking for.

Not so sweet.  A business owner who turned to a man associated with the JoY Foundation “pure trust” scam in pursuit of the Tax Fairy may be regretting his choice of tax advisors after a bad day in Tax Court yesterday.

The taxpayer had an apparently successful S corporation, Specific Enterprises, specializing in cabinet doors.  In 2002, Mr. Joseph Sweet came up with a cunning plan, starting with a liquidation of Specific Enterprises.  Tax Court Judge Nega takes up the story (footnotes and citations omitted, emphasis added):

On December 3, 2002, an entity called RCC Capital Group (RCC) was formed that purported to be a “PRIVATE, NON-STATUTORY, NON-ASSOCIATED, CONTRACTUAL PURE TRUST (CPT)”…

On January 2, 2003, petitioner and RCC entered into an “Asset Purchase Option Contract” (drafted by petitioner) where petitioner purported to grant RCC options to purchase petitioner’s factory building, the land upon which it was located, and equipment. The exercise price for the contract was $1,650,000, and petitioner accepted $21 (presumably the same $21 conveyed to RCC by Brad R. Scott) plus two promissory notes valued at $700,000 and $950,000 in full consideration of the deal. The contract was also contingent upon a separate rental contract, the “Facility Production Contract”, between RCC and Cabinet Door Shop for Cabinet Door Shop’s use of the factory building, land, and equipment… At the behest of petitioner, RCC did not file income tax returns.

Pursuant to the “Facility Production Contract”, dated January 3, 2003, Cabinet Door Shop made total rental payments of $273,000 and $126,000 to RCC for 2003 and 2004, respectively, although RCC did not exercise the option to purchase the factory building, land, and equipment from petitioner until some time around March 10, 2004. After receiving these rental payments RCC made total payments to petitioner in the exact same amounts: $273,000 in 2003 and $126,000 in 2004.

In 2003 as part of a separate transaction Cabinet Door Shop made monthly installment payments to petitioner totaling $80,798 for the sale of inventory.

“Pure trusts” are a hackneyed and worthless tax scheme that retains a following among tax deniers. The IRS naturally didn’t like the way this stuff was reported, assessing tax on the sale of inventory and sticking the taxpayer with the income earned in the “pure trust.”  First, the inventory:

Petitioner has not provided any facts or details that permit a reasonable estimate of his basis in the inventory. Although petitioner provided respondent with his personal tax returns and tax returns for Specific Enterprises one day before trial, these returns are mere admissions; and we are unwilling to attach significance to them in the absence of corroborating evidence as to petitioner’s basis in his assets. The record does not establish the cost basis of the inventory. The record indicates only that Cabinet Door Shop paid $80,798 to petitioner for the inventory…  Because petitioner has not provided any pertinent information that would help us estimate his basis in the inventory, the Cohan rule does not apply. Consequently, the entire amount paid by Cabinet Door Shop for petitioner’s inventory is includable in petitioner’s gross income for the 2003 taxable year.

A self-inflicted wound. Surely the taxpayer had basis in the inventory, but apparently he didn’t take the Tax Court proceeding seriously enough to document it.

The “pure trust” fared no better, with all of the “rental payments” received by the trust taxed to the taxpayer instead.  The IRS also won 25% penalties for non-filing of returns for 2003 and 2004.

It’s interesting that no tax is assessed for 2002, the year the corporation was liquidated — a corporate liquidation would normally have triggered a lot of tax. I assume the omission of 2002 from the case implies that a return was filed, starting the statute of limitations, though the Tax Court decision doesn’t confirm this. Considering the whole thing was done to start a tax avoidance scheme, it would seem strange for the gain to be properly reported.

The Moral: Beware of trust schemes that say they make your taxes go away. They are just Sweet nothings. If the Tax Court wants you to document something, don’t give them the information the day before trial. And there is no Tax Fairy.

Cite: Wheeler, T.C. Memo. 2014-204

 

No-longer-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller

No-longer-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven Miller

Worst Acting Commissioner Ever says FATCA may not be worth it, but it’s here to stayTax Analysts reports ($link) on a speech by Steve Miller, who was Acting IRS Commissioner when the Lois Lerner scandal broke. He says that while the FATCA offshore disclosure bill may not be worth its cost, it shouldn’t go away:

“I can’t even say with conviction that I’m sure, looking strictly on a cost-benefit basis, that FATCA’s . . . benefits are going to outweigh the cost,” Miller told a lunch crowd at the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association FATCA Policy Symposium in Washington. “It’s not clear to me that when you look solely at the burden placed on financial institutions and others, versus the amount of revenue that may come into the treasury, that this is going to be a revenue-positive event for the United States.”

And despite the fervent wishes of some in the finance industry, FATCA is here to stay, said Miller, now national director of tax for Alliantgroup. “I don’t see a repeal in the cards,” he said. “FATCA . . . is tied inextricably to offshore evasion work, and that has to be kept in mind as you talk about repeal, as you talk about changes.”

In case you’re wondering, Alliantgroup is a tax consulting company that specializes in tax code complexity exploitation via services like research credit studies.

Miller said he recognized “that the folks in this room are sort of on the wrong end of FATCA implementation and that you’re bearing the cost and not necessarily the benefit of FATCA.”

But Miller added, “The future is an improved global set of rules, [and] I have high hopes that it will create a level playing field that will make it much more expensive and risky to hide assets offshore. And that should be some help at least to compliant financial institutions as people consider where to invest their money into the future.”

FATCA has made ordinary personal finance difficult to impossible for Americans abroad. Americans are losing opportunities to work offshore because foreign employers fear FATCA hassles. U.S. citizens who do find work offshore face hassles and headaches just trying to open a bank account. But that’s a small price to pay for “an improved set of global rules,” right?

Of course, a defense of burdensome tax provisions is no surprise coming from an IRS official going out the revolving door to a company whose business depends on helping taxpayers deal with “the burden placed on financial institutions and others.” It makes Glenn Reynold’s Revolving Door Surtax proposal look very tempting.

 

buzz20140909Robert D. Flach has some fresh Tuesday Buzz,  including a link to a discussion of the prospects for tax reform (dismal) and the immediate future for figures in the T.V. show “Real Housewives of New Jersey” (dismal also).

TaxGrrrl has two new guest posts: Steven Chung, The Vehicle Miles Traveled Tax and Dominic Ferszt, The Accidental Tax Invasion. The second post is an excellent summary of the FATCA nightmares Steven Miller says offshore taxpayers should just suck up and get used to.

Kay Bell, Signs of change for sports league tax exempt status

 

Martin Sullivan, Can Multinationals’ Offshore Cash Fund a U.S. Infrastructure Bank? (Tax Analysts Blog). Apparently fixing a tax code debacle may be doable if we create a domestic spending boondoggle.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 516

 

20140729-1Scott Drenkard, North Dakota Democrat Tax Commissioner Candidate Proposes Flat Tax—Big Tax Climate Improvement (Tax Policy Blog). In North Dakota, Tax Commissioner is a statewide elective office.

Imagine an Iowa Democrat proposing what Joseph Astrup proposes:

His plan would flatten and simplify the individual income tax to a single bracket, while lowering the top rate from 3.22 percent to 2.52 percent. The exemption would be raised to $40,000 for singles and $80,000 for married filers.

In fairness, I can’t imagine an Iowa Republican proposing something like this, either. But if an Iowa politician does want to take some inspiration from North Dakota, the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan would be a fine place to start.

 

Tracy Gordon, It’s Not Easy to Escape the Local Pension Vise (TaxVox). Maybe not, but it’s necessary.

Peter Reilly, Tax Court Judge Appreciates Art More Than Your Average Revenue Agent, Which presumably makes a certain art professor appreciate the Tax Court more than the IRS.

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Tax roundup, 8/8/2013: Des Moines, Number 1! And gee, a new tax form.

Thursday, August 8th, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Flickr image courtesy DMPL Special Collections under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy DMPL Special Collections under Creative Commons license

We’re number one! Forbes ranks Des Moines best for business (Des Moines Register):

Forbes said this year it rated the 200 largest metro areas on a dozen factors related to jobs, business and living costs, income growth, quality of life and education of the labor force. Des Moines was the only metro to rank in the top quartile for at least nine of the 12 metrics.

The Forbes piece is here.

 

Oh, Joy.  IRS Releases Draft Form 8960 For Computing New 3.8% Tax On Net Investment Income (Tony Nitti)  Also, Paul Neiffer, IRS Releases Draft Form For New Net Investment Income Tax:

In total, there are 33 lines that you must fill out in order to calculate the tax. If you normally prepare your own tax return and your gross income exceeds $250,000, we would highly recommend having a qualified tax advisor review or prepare this form.

It is a hideously complex tax.  Thanks, Obamacare!  More on it here.

 

Megan McArdle, How the Lone Star State Legalized Highway Robbery.  Civil asset forfeiture is a whimsical and corrupt means of funding government operations.  It should be outlawed, or limited to property owned by a convicted criminal.

 

Robert D. Flach has his Friday Buzz going a day early this week, and he’s on fire:

Regardless of whether or not the EITC actually does any good – it does not belong in the Tax Code!

I agree.  And I don’t think the good it does outweighs the harm, especially when up to 25% of it is issued improperly.

Peter Reilly, IRS To Collect Estate Tax From Beneficiary After More Than A Decade.   “The idea is that if you get assets directly as a result of someone’s death, you may be responsible for some of the estate tax.”

Jason Dinesen,  Life After DOMA: Living in a Non-Recognition State, Part 2  “How will couples in same-sex marriages file their state taxes if they live in a state that doesn’t recognize their marriage?”

Kay Bell, The tax rules on renting your vacation home

Me, Can suing be your “trade or business?”

 

Among other things. IRS failing in efforts to curb ID theft tax fraud   (CPA Practice Advisor)

 

Joseph Henchman, California’s (Not Unusual) Shrinking Sales Tax (Tax Policy Blog):

Why is this happening? Sales taxes were first created in the 1930s as an emergency measure, and they applied only to the purchase of goods because that’s what our economy was back then. Today, the vast majority of our economy is service-based: housing, health care, legal services, accounting services, haircuts, child care, and so forth. Sales taxes haven’t kept up, so their base declines as a share of the economy.

Cara Griffith, Fighting the Fight Against a Local Use Tax in Illinois (Tax Analys Blog):

The tax took effect on April 1 and was expected to raise about $13.8 million in revenue. The tax was designed to encourage county residents to purchase from local businesses. Many businesses in Cook County purchase goods outside the county to avoid the county’s already high sales tax rate.

But there are two problems with the tax: it treats Cook County-based businesses and individuals differently than those outside the county and the county doesn’t have the legal authority to impose the tax. Not surprisingly, a lawsuit quickly ensued.

Maybe they can talk to Des Moines about what happens when you impose an illegal tax.

 

Tracy Gordon, A New Look at State and Local Pension Liabilities (TaxVox)

Speaking of which,  We Are All Going to Pension Hell (Megan McArdle)

FBAR reports may be the least of his problems.  Edward Snowden Is Going to Need Some Expert Expat Tax Advice (Going Concern).

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/1/2013: Sales tax holiday! And bidding for tax trouble.

Thursday, August 1st, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 

Flickr image courtisey gaudiramane under Creative Commons license

Flickr image courtesy gaudiramane under Creative Commons license

Iowa sales tax holiday!  The silly Iowa sales tax holiday for clothes is tomorrow and Saturday.  From the Iowa Department of Revenue website:

  • Exemption period: from 12:01 a.m., August 2, 2013, through midnight, August 3, 2013.
  • No sales tax, including local option sales tax, will be collected on sales of an article of clothing or footwear having a selling price less than $100.00.
  • The exemption does not apply in any way to the price of an item selling for $100.00 or more
  • The exemption applies to each article priced under $100.00 regardless of how many items are sold on the same invoice to a customer

While it is touted as a “back to school” holiday, there is no classroom requirement.

Sales tax holidays are silly gimmicks and bad tax policy.  Yet if you are a careful shopper, you can save on a new outfit in Iowa and take it to Louisiana for their September 6-8 sales tax holiday on firearms.

Links:

Cara Griffith, Back-to-School! Time for a Holiday (Tax Analysts blog)

Kay Bell, 12 states have sales tax holidays this weekend

Details on Iowa’s sales tax holiday

Map of U.S sales tax holidays.

 

Going, going, gone.  An Iowa auctioneer was sentenced to 48 months in prison this week after pleading guildy to tax fraud and social security fraud, reports WOWT.com:

Fifty-five-year-old Robert Duncan was sentenced by U.S. District court judge John Jarvey after entering a guilty plea. That plea came back in March.

Duncan admitted to defrauding the SSA, filing a false income tax return and making a false statement to a financial institution.

The former owner and auctioneer for Bob Duncan and Associates, was also ordered to pay restitution to the Social Security Administration in the amount of $218,755.10, and to the Internal Revenue Service in the amount of $42,254.00.

Not good.

 

The IRS did nothing wrong, and besides they did it to lefties too!  That has been one line of argument by the “nothing to see here” folks who pooh-pooh the IRS harassment of Tea Party groups.   Now NPR, not known as a friend of the Tea Party, has run the numbers, and it looks like… the IRS harassed conservative outfits, and pretty much left the left side alone:

 7-30-13-irs-targeting-statistics-of-files-produced-by-irs-through-july-29-2-

Nothing to see here, move along…  For example, Ways and Means–still distracting with false scandals (Linda Beale).

Other coverage:

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 84.

Sioux City Journal, Iowa-based group at center of new IRS accusations

 

Tax Justice Blog, What the President Really Said about Business Tax Reform:

What the President just proposed is not much different from his previous proposals.

That’s the problem.

William McBride, Obama’s Grand Bargain a Roundabout Way to Raise Corporate Taxes (Tax Policy Blog)

William Perez, Some Senators Release Their Blank Slate Tax Reform Ideas

Jim Maule,  Polishing Subchapter K: Part I.  Prof. Maule has some ideas for partnership taxation.

 

Tax Trials, Tax Court Reasserts Position on Conservation Easements

Missouri Tax Guy, Business Structures, Choosing your Entity

                                                              

Peter Reilly, North Carolina Declares Cash Register Zappers Contraband .  The government doesn’t like skimming software.

Robert D. Flach has some thoughts on THE IRS AND NJDOT WEBSITES

 

Tony Nitti, MLB Trade Deadline Winners And Losers: The Tax Edition.  Through no fault of his own, Bud Norris goes from income tax-free Texas to high-tax Maryland.  On the positive side, he won’t be playing for the Astros any more.

Tracy Gordon, Detroit’s Pension Blues, and America’s (TaxVox)  Defined benefit pensions for public employees should be outlawed, and their assets converted to defined contribution plans.

The Critical Question: Were ‘Real Housewives’ Stars Targeted For Prosecution Because Of Their Celebrity?  (TaxGrrrl).  If you are going to cheat on your taxes, it may be wise to not put your life on television.

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/6/2013: 4.5% Iowa tax? Flat chance. And hidden dangers of an IRS exam.

Wednesday, February 6th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130206-1Shock!  David Osterberg doesn’t like the 4.5% flat Iowa Income tax proposal!  State Tax Notes tracked down former Senate Candidate and Cornell College Econ Prof* David Osterberg for his views on the proposal to create a flat 4.5% income tax in Iowa alongside the current income tax.  Not surprisingly, he doesn’t like it ($link):

     The founder and executive director of the Iowa Policy Project said a Republican-sponsored House bill to create a flat personal income tax option would shift more of the tax burden to low-income residents.

     But David Osterberg said he is not too concerned because he doesn’t think the proposal has a shot at passing the Senate, where Democrats hold a majority…The proposal is “part of this ideology that says we somehow have to take  care of the top 1 percent and things will be good,” Osterberg said. “I don’t think low-income people believe that — we sure don’t.”

State Tax Notes also tracked down Tax Foundation Economist Elizabeth Malm:

     “Iowa’s current income tax system has nine brackets, with rates ranging from 0.36 percent of income to 8.98 percent of income,” Malm said in an e-mail to Tax Analysts. “In 2012, this made Iowa the fifth highest top income tax rate in the country, among those states that levy PITs.”

     Without additional information, Malm declined to say whether the plan is regressive. She did say, however, that the proposal would fail to simplify the tax code because it keeps the current system intact.

     “I’m guessing the rationale behind allowing taxpayers to choose between the two systems is to ease concerns that the flat 4.5 rate would hit low-income individuals harder,” Malm said.

Wrong guess.  The rationale is almost surely to avoid provoking the powerful lobby group Iowans for Tax Relief, which holds sacred the current Iowa individual deduction for federal taxes paid.  Proposing the flat tax as an alternative, rather than a replacement, finesses that problem — but at the cost of adding more complexity.  In this form, the flat tax is what I call an “Alternative Maximum Tax.”

*Disclosure: I once borrowed his shotgun at Cornell.  It had dust bunnies in the tubes.

 

David Brunori, Who Pays? Who Cares? You Should (Tax.com):

No matter your views on government, there is no justification for asking the poor to pay more than the rich. I do not favor dramatically increasing the tax burdens on the wealthy, particularly income tax burdens. But there are a lot of policies that can be enacted that could even the playing field. Broader base consumption taxes, less reliance on excise taxes, and larger income exemptions for low wage taxpayers would go a long way.

None of these are incompatible with lower top tax rates.

Tracy Gordon,  The Downside of States as Laboratories for Tax Reform (TaxVox)

 

Needed, but impossible.  Tax Notes has a sad-but-true headline that brilliantly summarizes the state of our national tax policy: Urban Institute Panelists Agree Tax Reform Necessary but Unlikely. ($link)

Linda Beale, More on PTINs for previously unregulated tax return preparers:

We have seen considerable evidence of tax return preparers who do not understand the tax laws or who intentionally misapply them (in the home office deduction, etc.).  It is imperative that those who assist others in preparing tax returns demonstrate minimal competency in the tax law as demonstrated by the qualifying exam.

The “qualifying exam” is open book — really more of a literacy test.  The IRS can make preparers show they can read.  They can’t make them competent.  When you consider the Big 4 tax shelter scandals, and the hopeless complexity of the tax law, it’s funny to say that the problem is really “people who do not understand the tax laws.”

 

Peter Reilly, Future Baseball Commissioner Tackles Tax Laws As Complex As Infield Fly Rule

Tough tax return choice for 2012: Pay more now to save later?  My new post at IowaBiz.com, the Des Moines Business Record Blog for Entrepreneurs, discussing whether maximizing 2012 deductions is really a good idea.

Jason Dinesen, Taxpayer Identity Theft — Part 12 .  More Kafkaesque obstacles to resolving an identity theft for his client.

William Perez, IRS Provides Further Disaster Relief for Hurricane Sandy

Kay Bell, Tax Carnival #112: Super Bowl of Taxes

Jim Maule, Tax Ignorance As Persistent as Death and Taxes

Missouri Tax Guy:  Missouri does not mail  Form 1099-G.  You have to get it online.  One more little blow to tax compliance for small taxpayers.

Trish McIntire, Low Cost Tax Preparation Options

TaxGrrrl,  U.S. Postal Service To Eliminate Saturday Delivery: Will It Save Tax Dollars?  Next they’ll shut down the Pony Express.

Patrick Temple-West, Waiting on the phone for the IRS, and more (Tax Break)

Ellen Kant, William McBride, Super Bowl Tax Bill (Tax Policy Blog)

Russ Fox,  Will the Third Time be the Charm for Appeals?  A case where the “independent” IRS appeals function failed twice.

Howard Gleckman, Can the Income Tax Fund the Government We Want?  (TaxVox).  I can’t speak for “we,” but it could easily cover all of the government I want.

 

The Critical Question: Et Tu, Sarkozy? (David Goulder, Tax.com)

If they can spell their address, tax cheating should be easy for them: Massapequa Restaurant Owners Sentenced for Tax Fraud (Massapequa Patch).

Isn’t that conspiracy?  Tax fraud: We have a plan, authorities say (Myfoxtampabay.com)

Screwed either way.  Taxpayer Sues IRS, Claims Agent Coerced Him Into Having Sex to Avoid Adverse Audit  (TaxProf).

 

But not hotirsagent.com?  I guess there really are stupid easy ways to earn internet money.  A Kansan found one, but then got in trouble by not paying his taxes.  KFDI.com reports:

Dallen Harris, 39, pleaded guilty to one count of tax evasion. He reported a taxable income of a little more than $164,000 in 2010, when it was actually more than $1 million. 

Harris’ income came from Internet domain names, according to court ecords from a related civil forfeiture case in federal court. The government is seeking to forfeit Harris’ houses, cars and bank accounts in that case. The domain names included celebritysextape.tv, adultkingdom.net, Porntesters.com, hardcorefilms.tv, celebritynakedpic.com and sextape.com. 

No, I won’t link to any of those.  It doesn’t sound like they need any help generating traffic anyway.

 

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A center-left case against state corporate income taxes

Tuesday, May 18th, 2010 by Joe Kristan

From Tracy Gordon at the Tax Policy Blog: Take the State Corporate Income Tax

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