Posts Tagged ‘William McBride’

Tax Roundup, 8/28/14: Frequent flying in the Tax Court. And: you don’t need 50 employees to face Obamacare problems.

Thursday, August 28th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20120529-2TaxGrrrl, Tax Court Sides With IRS In Tax Treatment Of Frequent Flyer Miles Issued By Citibank.  TaxGrrrl reports on a case this week where a taxpayer was awarded with “points” for opening a bank account, which could be redeemed for airplane tickets.  A couple who cashed in the points for tickets worth over $600 received a 1099 for them and left it off their 1040.

TaxGrrrl reports:

Thankfully, the Tax Court did draw a distinction between the taxability of “Thank You Points” and frequent flyer miles attributable to business or official travel using Announcement 2002-18 (linked above), wherein the IRS made clear that they would not tax frequent flyer miles attributable to business travel. But that’s where the good news for taxpayers stopped.

TaxGrrrl thinks its a bad result:

In a case of what could be characterized as bad facts making bad law, taxpayers didn’t put up much of an argument for not including the income on the tax return: there was no lengthy brief explaining why it might be excludable. Nor did the IRS say much about the inclusion: they more or less took the position that Citibank’s form was enough to prove income, saying “we give more weight to Citibank’s records.”

The Tax Court made this a “reported” decision, which signals that they will side for the IRS in taxing miles that show up on 1099 information returns.

The tax law certainly allows non-cash transactions to be taxable.  If they didn’t, barter exchanges would rule the world.  It’s also true that at some point trying to tax everything of value doesn’t make sense.  You might value the smile from the cute barista on the skywalk, but that doesn’t mean you should pay tax on the extra value received with your coffee.  The hard part now is knowing when you cross the line.

Cite: Shankar, 143 T.C. 5

 

20121120-2Health Reimbursement Plans a danger under Obamacare.  Health Reimbursement Plans Not Compliant with ACA Could Mean Exorbitant Penalties  (Kristine Tidgren):

As of January 1, 2014, a number of long-time options became illegal under the ACA. Lest employers are tempted to ignore this issue, they should know that offering noncompliant plans subjects them to a possible excise tax of $100 per day per employee per violation. ACA violations are no small matter.

In IRS Notice 2013-54, issued last fall, the Treasury Department and the Department of Labor made clear that such plans are no longer allowed. This prohibition applies to a number of long-used standalone health care reimbursement plans that are not integrated with an ACA-compliant group health care plan. Although some exceptions apply, the ACA has made the following types of reimbursement plans illegal (subjecting their sponsors to the possible $100/day/employee/violation penalty tax):

  • Standalone §105 medical reimbursement plans (including Health Reimbursement Arrangements (HRAs))

  • Employer payment of individual health insurance premiums on a pre-tax basis

  • §125 salary-reduction plans for employee health insurance premiums


If you think that you don’t have to worry about Obamacare because you don’t have 50 employees, think again.


Roger McEowen, Structuring the Business: S Corporation or LLC?.  “But, beyond the requirement to pay reasonable compensation, the S classification provides a means for extracting money out of the business without paying employment taxes – there isn’t any employment tax on distributions (dividends) from the S corporation.”


20130311-1Jason Dinesen, Tax Preparer Ethics: Miscellaneous Deductions:

Is it okay to show the purchase as a miscellaneous deduction if the amount is less than 2% of their income and thus isn’t deductible anyway? That way, the taxpayer sees it on their tax return but technically the government hasn’t been harmed because the amount was too small to actually be deducted. Is this okay?

This can be tempting for a practitioner.  You can “take” a deduction for “subscriptions” that are probably Sports Illustrated and appease a pushy taxpayer without actually reducing taxes.  But Jason makes good points as to why it can make it hard to stop taxpayers from pushing for bogus deductions that actually matter.


Peter Reilly, Bank Out 40 Grand When It Allows Withdrawal Two Hours After IRS Levy.  Oops.

Kay Bell, Be tax smart in combining business and personal travel

Phil Hodgen, Toronto Consulate Wait Times Have Ballooned.  They’re lining up to get out from under U.S. taxation.  Phil offers this advice:

Many of you will want to renounce your U.S. citizenship before year-end. You can go anywhere in the world to do it. Start calling Consulates and Embassies to see what the wait time is.

Our experience is that the Caribbean and Central American countries are often good. Southeast Asia seems to be good as well.

That’s a sad commentary on how we tax Americans abroad.  Congress makes financial life miserable for expats, and then calls them “deserters” for doing something about it.

 

Stephen Olsen, Boeri: Not a citizen, never lived or worked in the US? IRS will still keep your money. (Procedurally Taxing).  Of course they will.  They’re bigger than you.

 

 

Remember, these are the people who think we preparers are out of control and in need of regulation.  IRS Ethics Lawyer Facing Possible Disbarment, Accused of Lying (Washington Times):

A lawyer in the IRS ethics office is facing the possibility of being disbarred, according to records that accuse her of lying to a court-appointed board and hiding what she’d done with money from a settlement that was supposed to go to two medical providers who had treated her client.

Of course, given Commissioner Koskinen’s policy of stonewalling and evasion, she might be just the woman he wants for the job.  (Via TaxProf)

 

 

William McBride, Canada’s Lower Corporate Tax Rate Raises More Tax Revenue (Tax Policy Blog):

The natural question is: How much tax revenue did Canada lose?

Answer: None.

canada corp revenue chart

You shouldn’t assume that the lower rate caused the revenue increases.  Still, when our current rates clearly incentivize tax-saving moves like inversions, you shouldn’t assume rate cuts will be big revenue losers, either.  The revenue-maximizing rate has to be influenced by rates charged in other jurisdictions.

 

Cara Griffith, Is the Dormant Commerce Clause in Jeopardy? (Tax Analysts Blog)  “In matters of state taxation, the dormant commerce clause provides a much stronger defense against discriminatory taxation than the due process clause.”

Kelly Davis, Cumulative Impact of Ohio Tax Changes Revealed (Tax Justice Blog)

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 476

 

News from the Profession.  California Board of Accountancy Moves to Stop Incarcerated CPA From Providing Exceptional Client Service in Prison

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/27/14: Inversions! Fire! Flee! FIRPTA! Edition. And: state credits and the race for Governor.

Wednesday, August 27th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140815-2DOOM! PANIC!  Corporate inversions!  DO SOMETHING!  This isn’t the first time politicians have gotten their dresses over their heads in a pseudo-patriotic panic over legal transactions, as Ajay Gupta explains for Tax Analysts ($link):

FIRPTA is a statute conceived in xenophobia and dedicated to the proposition that not all investors are created equal. It is nothing more or less than the embodiment of a congressional desire to limit the grasp of foreign investors on domestic real estate.

“FIRPTA” is the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act, and it requires buyers of U.S. real estate to withhold 10% of the gross purchase price paid to non-U.S. sellers.  In practice, it functions as a trap for unwary U.S. buyers who fail to withhold, leaving them liable for the withholding liability on top of their purchase price.  It arose out of the panic over a wave of Japanese purchases of U.S. real estate — a panic that we can now see clearly as madness.  Yet FIRPTA lives on, long after the Japanese moved on to other things.

Things like this tell us that the best way to deal with the current panics, like corporate inversions, is to not “do something” that will surely be half-baked and haunt the tax law forever.

 

Megan McArdle, Burger King and the Whopper About Taxes (my emphasis):

As my colleague Matt points out, most Americans — including a lot of journalists who write about this — seem to be under the misimpression that companies that invert, or people who renounce their citizenship, are doing so to get a lower tax rate on income they earn here. And in a few intellectual-property-based businesses, which can make aggressive use of transfer pricing strategies to declare most of their income in low- or no-tax countries, these complaints have some basis. In most cases, however, including Burger King, they’re doing it because the U.S. inexplicably insists on taking a big chunk off the top of all their foreign income, and making their lives miserable in the process.

But, but, deserters!  Traitors!

 

canada flagIf you are wondering why Burger King might be attracted to Canada,  read How Much Lower are Canada’s Business Taxes? (William McBride, Tax Policy Blog):

First, Canada has a much lower corporate tax rate: 15 percent at the federal level plus another 11 percent on average from provincial corporate taxes. Compare that to the U.S. federal corporate tax rate of 35 percent plus an average state corporate tax rate of about 4 percent.

Second, Canada has a territorial tax system, meaning there is no additional repatriation tax on foreign profits. The U.S. has a worldwide tax system, which applies a repatriation tax to foreign profits when those profits are brought back to the U.S. The repatriation tax is basically the difference between the foreign corporate tax rate and the U.S. corporate tax rate, which is typically more than 10 percent. The average foreign corporate tax rate in the developed world is 25 percent.

Third, the U.S. is not particularly competitive in terms of taxing shareholders. Canada integrates its corporate tax with shareholder taxes to avoid double-taxation. In the U.S. it just piles up, so the integrated corporate tax rate on equity financed investment is over 50 percent.

A corporation pays 35% federal tax on its net income, leaving 65% for the shareholders.  If it gets distributed to a top-bracket taxpayer, it gets hit at 20%, plus the 3.8% Obamacare surtax. That is a combined effective rate of 50.47% — and that’s low, as it doesn’t count phase-outs or state taxes. Yet congresscritters profess astonishment that anybody would find that a problem worth solving.

 

Howard Gleckman, Could The U.S. Fix Taxation of Multinational Corporations With A Sales-Based Formula? (TaxVox) “Instead of focusing on the real disease—an increasingly dysfunctional corporate income tax—we are obsessing over a symptom—firms such as Burger King engaging in self-help reform by relocating their legal residences overseas.”

Joseph Thorndike, Warren Buffett Is a Tax Avoider. Good for Him. (Tax Analysts Blog). Now Mr. communitarian billionaire who wants high taxes for other people is a deserter too.  Is nothing sacred?

 

20140729-2Paul Neiffer,  $563 Cost a Taxpayer $6,320:

If the taxpayers had simply paid the $563 of additional tax owed on the original assessment, that is all they would have been out-of-pocket.  However, when they went to court, the IRS determined that they had made a math error in their original calculation of AMT and reassessed the tax owed from $563 to $6,883 or an increase of $6,320.  Since this calculation was now correct, the Tax Court honored the IRS calculation and suddenly the taxpayers suddenly owed another $6,320 just for going to court.

Oops.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 475.  It links to this from George Will: “The IRS is the most intrusive and potentially punitive institution of the federal government and it is a law enforcement institution and it is off the rails and it is now thoroughly corrupted.”

And the IRS Commissioner thinks all his agency needs is more money.

 

Kay Bell, IRS, betting that expired state and local sales tax deduction will be renewed, hires firm to calculate Schedule A tables

TaxGrrrl, IRS Still Struggling With Tax Treatment Of Immigrants, Changes Rules Again   

Jack Townsend, BASR Briefs On Issue of Unlimited Statute of Limitations for NonTaxpayer Fraud

David Brunori, Repealing the Bad Franchise Tax is a Good Idea (Tax Analysts Blog).  “Eighteen states still impose a franchise tax; they shouldn’t.”

 

MP branstadBy all means, lets make state tax credits an issue.  The Branstad re-election campaign is making a big deal about how his campaign opponent, Jack Hatch, bottled up a GOP bill that would have reduced developer fees in tax credit deals — fees that Mr. Hatch makes a good living collecting.

Senator Hatch could truthfully explain that his committee snuffed every GOP tax bill last session, so that bill didn’t receive special treatment.  Still, it doesn’t look good.

Yet this ignores the real scandal with state incentive credits: they are inherently corrupt.

For starters, the credits for low-income housing and historic rehabilitation go disproportionately to well-connected insiders who know people and know how to pull strings — at the expense of real estate owners without the connections — and arguably at the expense of renters who might benefit more from housing aid not run through developers.

But also that’s true of the other credits.  Special deals go to Microsoft, Google and Facebook because they are big and they know how to play the system.  Tax credits go to big fertilizer companies for doing what they would do anyway, while other poor schmucks without lobbyists and fixers pay full-freight on their income and property taxes.  NASCAR and the Field of Dreams played on glamour and celebrities to keep sales taxes they collect, while other sellers of amusements have to collect the same sales taxes and turn them over to the state.  And Governor Branstad has handed out these tax credits generously.

I’m fine with the Governor’s criticism of Senator Hatch for tax credit deals; I don’t care for them either.  Still, the Governor should keep his old MP helmet handy, because he is calling down fire near his own position.

 

Claire Celsi, PR is like pork scraps and pickle juice (IowaBiz.com).  Sounds yummy.

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/21/14: IRS says saving the company still “passive;” Tax Court says otherwise And: the $105.82 c-note!

Thursday, August 21st, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Programming note: No Tax Roundup will appear tomorrow, August 22.   I will be up in Ames helping teach the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation class “Affordable Care Act (ACA): What Practitioners Need to Know in the morning.  Webinar registration is closed, but you can still  attend as a walk-in.

 

S imageS imageS-SidewalkYou saved the company.  Big deal.  Apparently pulling the company you started from the brink of failure wasn’t enough to convince the IRS that a taxpayer “materially participated” and could deduct losses on his tax return.

Charles Wade was a founder of Thermoplastic Services, Inc. and Paragon Plastic Sheeting, both S corporations.  After his son Ashley took over daily management of the business, he still owned a significant stake in the company.  He never really retired, though.  From the Tax Court (my emphasis, footnotes omitted in all Tax Court quotes):

With Ashley there to handle day-to-day management, Mr. Wade became more focused on product and customer development. He did not have to live near business operations to perform these duties, so petitioners moved to Navarre, Florida. After the move he continued to make periodic visits to the facilities in Louisiana and regularly spoke on the phone with plant personnel.

In 2008 TSI and Paragon began struggling financially as prices for their products plummeted and revenues declined significantly. Mr. Wade’s involvement in the businesses became crucial during this crisis. To boost employee morale, he made three trips to the companies’ industrial facility in DeQuincy, Louisiana, during which he assured the employees that operations would continue. He also redoubled his research and development efforts to help TSI and Paragon recover from the financial downturn. During this time Mr. Wade invented a new technique for fireproofing polyethylene partitions, and he developed a method for treating plastics that would allow them to destroy common viruses and bacteria on contact. In addition to his research efforts, Mr. Wade ensured the companies’ financial viability by securing a new line of credit. Without Mr. Wade’s involvement in the companies, TSI and Paragon likely would not have survived.

Slacker.  At least according to the IRS, who said that this participation failed to rise to the level of “material participation” and disallowed over $3 million in pass-through losses on Mr. Wade’s return.

The Tax Court took a different view.  Judge Goeke explains :

A taxpayer materially participates in an activity for a given year if, “[b]ased on all of the facts and circumstances * * * the individual participates in the activity on a regular, continuous, and substantial basis during such year.” A taxpayer who participates in the activity for 100 hours or less during the year cannot satisfy this test, and more stringent requirements apply to those who participate in a management or investment capacity.  The record reflects that Mr. Wade spent over 100 hours participating in TSI and Paragon during 2008, and his participation consisted primarily of nonmanagement and noninvestment activities. Ashley managed the day-to-day operations of the companies; Mr. Wade focused more on product development and customer retention.

Although Mr. Wade took a step back when Ashley became involved in the companies’ management, he still played a major role in their 2008 activities. He researched and developed new technology that allowed TSI and Paragon to improve their products. He also secured financing for the companies that allowed them to continue operations, and he visited the industrial facilities throughout the year to meet with employees about their futures. These efforts were continuous,  regular, and substantial during 2008, and we accordingly hold that Mr. Wade materially participated in TSI and Paragon. 

20120801-2It’s notable that the judge did not require Mr. Wade to produce a daily log.  Apparently there was enough testimony and evidence to show that his participation crossed the 100 hour threshold.

The 100 hours might not have been considered enough under some circumstances.  Usually the IRS holds taxpayers to the default 500-hour test for material participation.  This case is unusual in its use of the fall-back 100-hour “facts and circumstances” test. It’s good to see the Tax Court use it, as the IRS seems to think this test never applies.

It’s also interesting that the efforts at “customer retention” were counted.  This could be useful in planning for the 3.8% Obamacare Net Investment Income Tax.  The NIIT taxes “passive” income, defined the same way as the passive loss rules.  A semi-retired S corporation owner who still calls on some of old accounts after turning daily operations over to successors might be able to avoid the NIIT under the logic of this case.  If so, though, it would be wise to keep a calendar to prove it.

Cite: Wade, T.C. Memo. 2014-169

Related:

Russ Fox, A Passive Activity Case Goes to the Taxpayers.  “Hopefully the IRS can get more of these cases right at audit and appeals–they’ll be dealing with many more of these over the coming years.”

Paul Neiffer, More than 100 but Less than 500.  “It is nice to see that a subjective test went in the taxpayer’s favor.”

Material participation basics.

 

How far does $100 go in your city?  Last week the Tax Foundation issued a map showing how far $100 goes in different states.  Now they have issued a new map in The Real Value of $100 in Metropolitan Areas (Tax Policy Bl0g).  It is wonderful — just scroll your cursor over your town.

In Des Moines, $100 is good for $105.82.  In New York, it gets you $81.83.

 

TaxGrrrl, Anna Nicole Smith’s Estate Loses Yet Another Run At The Marshall Fortune

Tony Nitti, Could The IRS Disallow Ice Bucket Challenge Charitable Contributions?  Go ahead, IRS, just try it.  You’re just too popular.

William McBride, Earnings Stripping, Competitiveness, and the Drive to Further Complicate the Corporate Tax (Tax Policy Blog)

Roberton Williams, One Downside Of Inversions: Higher Tax Bills For Stockholders (TaxVox)

Kay Bell, How does the U.S. corporate tax rate compare to other countries?  Poorly.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 469

 

David Brunori, Using Local Cigarette Taxes for Schools Is Silly (Tax Analysts Blog).  Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em.  For the children!

Cara Griffith, Was Oregon’s Tax Incentive Deal With Intel Unnecessary? (Tax Analysts Blog).  No, it was absolutely necessary to enable the Governor of Oregon to issue this press release and YouTube announcement.  That’s the point, after all.

 

Quotable:

The United States gets little tax from Americans overseas today. Most of them live in high-tax countries and have no U.S. income tax in any event because of FTCs and the section 911 foreign earned income exclusion. But as we all know, Congress couldn’t care less about this subject, and this is all a non-starter. Better to place your money on a genetically modified flying pig.

Robert L. Williams in Tax Analysts ($link)

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/4/14: Will 401(k) deferred annuities catch on? And: about those oil industry “subsidies…”

Monday, August 4th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

I survived the firm golf day and the Iowa sales tax holiday.  Now back to work.

 

20131206-1Howard Gleckman, A New Way to Invest for Old Age, But How Many Will Buy? (TaxVox).

A few weeks ago, with absolutely no fanfare, the Treasury Department announced what could be a major change in the way we save for retirement. It will now permit people to shift a portion of their 401(k)s or IRAs into a deferred annuity that provides a guaranteed stream of income once you reach old age.

The idea has the potential to fix several flaws in today’s defined contribution retirement plans and it could make it easier for many older Americans to pay for long-term care. But it raises two huge questions: Will consumers understand these complex products, and will insurance companies bother to sell them to a mass market?

It’s an interesting experiment.  There seems to be a belief that taxpayers are dying for a return to the 1950s style defined benefit pension plan, and this provides a way to sort of get there.  Insurance companies can certainly find a way to profit from such products, as deferred annuities are a big business.

But the same arguments that financial advisors often make against commercial deferred annuities likely apply here — you get more security, but only at the cost of cutting your insurance company in on your retirement income.  It remains to be seen whether many people will accept that trade-off.

 

Wind turbineWilliam McBride, Oil and Gas Subsidies or Sensible Cost Recovery? (Tax Policy Blog). Supporters of the mandates and massive subsidies or mandates for ethanol, wind and solar power sometimes say they would give up their subsidies happily if the oil industry gives up its own subsidies.  They rarely identify any actual subsidies.  Mr. McBride exposes the weakness of the renewable fans’ arguments (my emphasis):

However, a new report from Taxpayers for Common Sense seems to suggest it’s all the result of “tax subsidies” that allow oil and gas companies to immediately deduct their investment costs. Titled “Effective Tax Rates of Oil and Gas Companies: Cashing in on Special Treatment”, the report finds that the effective federal corporate tax rate for oil and gas companies is 24 percent on average, “considerably less than the statutory rate of 35 percent, thanks to the convoluted system of tax provisions allowing them to avoid and defer federal income taxes.”

First, there is nothing special about a 24 percent effective tax rate. The average for all corporations is about 22 percent, according to the IRS, so if anything oil and gas companies pay an above average tax rate.

Second, the particular “tax subsidy” the report refers to is intangible drilling costs, which as they explain merely allows companies to immediately deduct, i.e. expense, the costs of drilling. That is not a subsidy, it is the proper treatment of a real and legitimate business cost. The corporate tax is a profit tax, and profit equals revenue minus costs. Labor costs are fully and immediately deductible, so why not other costs?

Taxpayers for Common Sense would prefer these companies delay drilling cost deductions for years and years, because otherwise “these companies are financing significant parts of their business with interest-free loans from U.S. taxpayers.” No, in fact it is the government that is getting interest-free loans from businesses by requiring them to delay deductions for legitimate business costs. 

This “subsidy” — a deduction for a business expense, like every other business gets (and rightly so) — pales compared to the requirement that oil companies sell ethanol,  regardless of whether their customers demand it.  It sure doesn’t compare to the actual government checks that are issued to producers of biofuels and wind power.  The renewables industry would be much smaller if it had to play on the “level playing field” it claims to want.

 

Jason Dinesen, Taxpayer Advocate Says IRS Issues Too Many FAQs.  “But the overall point is, things like FAQs and news releases are  no substitute for coherent, authoritative guidance.”

Kay Bell, States see electronic cigarettes as a new tax source.  Surprise, surprise.

Peter Reilly, State Fails To Force Electronic Payments On Taxpayer With Hacking Concerns  “Taxpayer refused to pay electronically because if the Pentagon can be hacked, so can Revenue Department. Court voided penalty.”

Keith Fogg, IRS Treatment of Penalties Following a Substitute for Return (Procedurally Taxing)

Robert D. Flach has some QUESTIONS ABOUT TAX REFORM

 

taxanalystslogoDavid Brunori, Tax Analysts ($link)

Companies invert because the stupid tax laws provide an incentive to do so. A company’s decision to invert is no different from an individual’s decision to live in a state without an income tax or to buy a house rather than rent to take advantage of a tax break. Yet there are people who actually make the moral and patriotic arguments against inversions. The “it may be legal but that doesn’t make it right” argument is laughable. The patriotic argument — usually made by people who had better things to do than serve their country — is even more laughable. People and companies engage in tax planning because they want to keep more of their money. Invoking the Good Book or channeling Nathan Hale won’t change that.

When they play the “patriotism” card first, they don’t have a good hand.

 

Ajay Gupta, Closed Mind on Open Borders (Tax Analysts Blog):

There is, however, one unquestionable benefit that is properly attributable to an inversion—liberation of cash trapped offshore in controlled foreign corporations. Post-inversion, that money can be moved from a CFC to the new foreign parent, which can then put it to virtually any use, including buying back stock or making other investments in the U.S., without U.S. tax consequences. But for the inversion, any such onshore expenditures would have constituted taxable repatriations.

If you think it’s somehow unpatriotic to use legal means to reduce taxes, I hope you don’t take a $500 charitable deduction for all those clothes you thew away, I mean gave to Goodwill.

 

20140506-1 TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 452

Jack Townsend, Article on British Deal with Swiss to Flush Out Evades and Lost Revenue — Not So Good 

 

You say that like it’s a bad thing.  On Highway Bill, Congress Moves to the Right of Grover Norquist  (Steve Warnhoff, Tax Justice Blog)

Government spending has been cut to the bone.

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/17/14: Hiring witnesses to your tax crimes. And: some folks just aren’t into Valentines Day.

Tuesday, June 17th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Programming note:  The Tax Update will be on the road the rest of this week, so this is probably the last tax roundup this week.  Unless I change my mind.

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

Sure, the more witnesses to my crime the merrier.  What could go wrong?  Every time I see a case in which an employer gets in trouble for evading payroll taxes by paying employees in cash, I have to wonder how much they thought things through.  Every employee becomes a potential informant, and it’s hard to imaging not having either a disgruntled employee turn you in or a careless one reveal the secret in the wrong place.

The Department of Justice yesterday announced a guilty plea yesterday:

   Sonny Pilcher of Casper, Wyoming, pleaded guilty to tax fraud today in the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming, the Justice Department and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced.  The sentencing hearing was set for Oct. 28, 2014 before U.S District Judge Alan B. Johnson.

 According to the charging document, Pilcher attempted to obstruct and impede the IRS.  Pilcher did this by claiming a false bad debt expense of $258,000 on his 2008 Form 1040 tax return, and by paying his employees in cash to evade paying employment taxes.  Pilcher faces a statutory maximum sentence of 36 months in prison, a $250,000 fine and may be ordered to pay restitution to the IRS. 

The inclusion of the “bad debt” in the charge is interesting.  You frequently see cases where people claim a non-business bad debt — which is a capital loss — as an ordinary fully-deductible business bad debt.  While you might see a civil penalty in such a case, I have never seen that called a criminal matter.  This presumably was something more serious than an argument over what kind of bad debt it was.

 

20120801-2If you have a full-time job, you probably aren’t a “real estate professional” who can deduct rental losses.  And if that’s so, don’t embarrass yourself in front of a Tax Court judge.  A taxpayer from California made that mistake in a Tax Court case issued yesterday.

Real estate rental losses are normally passive, meaning that they only are deductible to the extent of passive income (there is a special allowance for taxpayers with adjusted gross income under $150,000).  If you are a “real estate professional,” the losses are not automatically passive, but you have to meet two difficult tests to be one:

– You have to work at least 750 hours in the year in a real estate trade or business which you own, and

– your real estate business has to consume more of your time than anything else you do.

If you have a full-time day job, it is nearly impossible to rise to that standard (unless you have a pretty undemanding day job).  That didn’t keep the intrepid Californian who had three rental properties — all single-family houses — from giving it a try, as the Tax Court judge explains (my emphasis):

Even if we assume that petitioner worked 1,760 hours and 1,752 hours in 2009 and 2010, respectively, for Northrop Grumman, we do not accept his activity log coupled with this testimony relating to the rental activities as reliable or credible. A review of the activity log and testimony relating to the rental activities leads us to the conclusion the petitioner did not spend more hours at the real estate activity than at his full-time employment at Northrop Grumman. According to petitioner’s logs he spent almost every spare hour in those years working on the rental properties, including 10 hours on July 4 of each year, 12 and 10 hours on February 14, 2009 and 2010, respectively, and 9 and 10 hours, respectively, on December 25 of each year.

Hey, not everybody is a romantic.  And I’ll keep Christmas in my own way, thank you very much!

Although he managed three rental properties in each year, throughout 2009 alone petitioner’s records reflect that he repaired or worked on the sprinkler systems on any of the given properties on 64 separate occasions, and throughout 2010 he worked on sprinkler systems on 20 separate occasions. In addition, on March 16 and 17, 2009, the records reflect eight hours to prepare and deliver an eviction notice to be filed in court. Coincidentally, on March 15 and 16 of the next year, petitioner’s records reflect that he performed the very same activity for the same exact amount of time. A review of petitioner’s activity logs leads to the conclusion that the logs are inaccurate and exaggerated.

Maybe he just wasn’t very good at sprinkler systems?  Whatever you might think of Tax Court judges, you can be sure that they didn’t get their jobs by being gullible.

Cite: Bogner, T.C. Summ. Op. 2014-53.

 

 

20130114-1Kristy Maitre, Treasury Issues Changes to Circular 230 (Treasury Decision 9668):

Many individuals currently use a Circular 230 disclaimer at the conclusion of every e-mail or other writing.  Often the disclaimers are inserted without regard to whether the disclaimer is necessary or appropriate.

Treasury said they anticipate that the removal of the requirement will eliminate the use of a Circular 230 disclaimer in e-mail and other writings because Section 10.37 rules on written opinions don’t include the disclosure provisions in the covered opinion rules.

Good news.  I always thought the routine disclaimers were futile and I never used them.  They seemed like the email equivalent of a rabbit’s foot — it might make you feel better, but it still was mere superstition.  Yet I bet that we’ll still be getting emails from our fellow practitioners with the Circular 230 disclaimer years from now.

Russ Fox, Soon: No More Circular 230 Notices

 

Jason Dinesen, Iowa Taxes: Filing Separately and Allocating Dependents.  “In general, a typical married couple can allocate the dependency exemptions in whatever manner they choose.”

William Perez, Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit

Peter Reilly, Paul Reddam’s KPMG Tax Shelter Stunk In More Ways Than One 

TaxGrrrl, World Cup Mania: Figuring Out FIFA, Soccer & Tax.  So there’s a soccer tournament, I hear.

Robert D. Flach starts Tuesday with a Buzz!

 

20140513-1Martin Sullivan, Big Deal by Low-Tax Medtronic Has Even Bigger Implications (Tax Analysts Blog).  “The main benefit to Medtronic after the inversion will be that the billions of profits it generates outside the United States each year can now be deployed to pay dividends and to buy other U.S. companies without paying U.S. tax.”   Sounds like good corporate stewardship to me.

William McBride, Medtronic Embarks on Self-help Tax Reform (Tax Policy Blog).  “The high U.S. corporate tax rate is causing serious economic distortions, chasing away businesses, investment and jobs. The only way to deal with it effectively is to bring the corporate tax rate down to competitive levels, which is the path chosen by virtually every other country.”

 

Renu Zaretsky,  Tax Freedom, Tax Avoidance.  The TaxVox headline roundup covers the Medtronic inversion and internet taxes.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 404

Kay Bell, IRS says possible Tea Party emails lost in computer crash. “Conspiracy or clowns?”

 

News from the Profession.  Here’s Your Authoritative Guide for Likening Game of Thrones to Public Accounting (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/22/14: IRS teams up with Bernie Madoff. And: more on the new e-file ID rules.

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan
Bernie Madoff

Bernie Madoff

The IRS wants in on Bernie Madoff’s action.  The Tax Court is going to think about it.

Bernard Kessell died in July 2006.  He might have died content believing he was leaving a healthy investment portfolio for his heirs.  After all, just one part of the portfolio had issued its most recent month-end statement showing a value of $3,221,057.  That statement was issued by Bernie Madoff.

Of course Mr. Madoff was arrested in 2008 and is now residing in federal prison on charges arising from the Ponzi scheme that victimized Mr. Kessell and so many others.  The real value of the securities in Mr. Kessell’s Madoff portfolio was zero.

But the IRS isn’t letting that get in the way.  The agency says Mr. Kessell’s estate should pay estate tax on the value that Mr. Kessell died thinking he owned, rather than the zero actual value.  It wants to piggyback on Mr. Madoff’s fraud to tax an estate value that wasn’t there.

The IRS asked the Tax Court for summary judgment that the asset to be taxed was the account itself, not the vaporous underlying assets, and that because Mr. Madoff hadn’t been unmasked, a willing buyer would pay full sticker for the lying value on the Madoff statements.  The Tax Court court wasn’t willing to go along on summary judgement:

We cannot say on the record before us, however, whether that agreement constituted a property interest includible in Decedent’s gross estate separate from, or exclusive of, any interest Decedent had in what purported to be the assets held in the Madoff account. This question is best answered after the parties have had the opportunity to develop the relevant facts at trial. We will therefore deny respondent’s motion on this point.

As to the issue of the value, Judge Kroupa had this to say (citations omitted).:

     Respondent argues that a Ponzi scheme, by its very nature, is not reasonably knowable or foreseeable until it is discovered or it collapses. Respondent notes Mr. Madoff’s particular skill and that his Ponzi scheme was not disclosed until it collapsed in December 2008. Respondent then reasons that Mr. Madoff’s Ponzi scheme was knowable or foreseeable only at the point when it collapsed — when the amount of money flowing out of Madoff Investments was greater than the amount flowing in. For purposes of this motion, at least, we disagree.

Some people had suspected years before Mr. Madoff’s arrest that Madoff Investments’ record of consistently high returns was simply too good to be true. Whether a hypothetical willing buyer and willing seller would have access to this information and to what degree this information would affect the fair market value of the Madoff account or the assets purportedly held in the Madoff account on the date Decedent died are disputed material facts.  Thus, we will deny respondent’s motion on this point as well.

The rule on how assets are valued is in Reg. Sec. 20.2031-1(b):

 The fair market value is the price at which the property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither being under any compulsion to buy or to sell and both having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts.

Most folks would consider the fact that the account was invested in a Ponzi scheme to be one of those relevant facts.  I guess that’s why most of us don’t work at IRS.

Cite: Estate of Bernard Kessel, T.C. Memo. 2014-97.

 

20130121-2The AICPA doesn’t care for the “voluntary” IRS preparer regulation proposal.  The Hill.com reports:

That system, the AICPA argues, would create implied government backing for those preparers who comply with the standards, while punishing those who do not.

“The proposed voluntary system would undoubtedly leave the impression among most taxpayers that certain tax return preparers are endorsed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS),” according letter.

Further, nonbinding standards would fail to root out bad actors, according to the group.

“As a practical matter, any voluntary regime constructed would still not address the problems with unethical and fraudulent tax return preparers,” the group contends.

All excellent points.  The AICPA has figured out that the “voluntary” program would eventually be voluntary like United Way contributions were “voluntary” when I was a green staff accountant at a national accounting firm.  They were voluntary, but amazingly, participation in the drive was always 100%.  Maybe the AICPA leaders still remember their staff accountant days.

I would add one more point.  Commissioner Koskinen and Taxpayer Advocate Olson never tire of telling us how underfunded the IRS is.  If so, why are the diverting some of their already inadequate resources to start a new nonessential program?  The obvious answer is they are trying a back door power grab now that the courts have barred the front door.

Going Concern: The AICPA Voiced “Deep Concerns” About the IRS’ Voluntary Tax Preparer Proposal.  “This means war…”

Larry Gibbs, Recent Developments in the IRS Regulation of Return Preparers (Procedurally Taxing).  A long guest post by a former IRS Commissioner about the power grab he never tried.

 

Russ Fox, New Identification Rules Go Over Like a Lead Balloon:

In this morning’s post, Joe Kristan told his readers to call the IRS. I agree; I urge all tax professionals to speak to or email their IRS Stakeholder Liaison.  

Russ quotes a new post by Jason Dinesen, I Was Wrong: We SHOULD Be Outraged About the New IRS E-File Requirements, which Jason followd up with Questions to Ponder About New IRS E-file Requirements.  I love Question 8: “How many ID thieves use a tax pro?”

Robert D. Flach has a special Thursday Buzz!, which includes Robert’s take on “voluntary” preparer regulation and the new IRS e-file requirements.

 

20140321-3TaxGrrrl, Still Looking For Your Tax Refund? Errors, 4464C Letters And Other Explanations

Peter Reilly,  Tax Court Threatens To Sanction Courtroom Commando Mac MacPherson.

Kay Bell, NYC arena Madison Square Garden pays no property taxes

Me, IRS Releases Applicable Federal Rates (AFR) for June 2014

 

William McBride, High U.S. Corporate Tax Rate Chases Away Companies, Jobs and Tax Revenue (Tax  Policy Blog).  If it didn’t, it would be a fascinating case of economic actors failing to respond to incentives.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 378

Renu Zaretsky, Relief, Credits, Cuts, and Roads.  The TaxVox daily headline roundup talks about new tax relief for Minnesotans and the continuing worthlessness of film tax credit programs for everyone but filmmakers.

Cara Griffith, Should Taxpayers Challenge States if They Fail to Enact Rules? (Tax Analysts Blog):

State regulations are often vague or ambiguous, and authorities can use that to their advantage. But states should not be permitted to simply take the position that is in their best interest. They should be required to provide guidance and clarification on the positions they intend to take and, even better, clear-cut examples of how that position will be applied. And if a position will be applied to an entire industry, the state should issue a rule.

States prefer Calvinball rules.

 

Tax Justice Blog, Junk Economics: New Report Spotlights Numerous Problems with Anti-Tax Economic Model.  I suspect the biggest problem is that TJB doesn’t care for any model that doesn’t justify infinitely-high tax rates.

 

Des Moines, sometimes you are just adorable:

adorable des moines

Des Moines has started posting commute travel times, just like a big city.  On a bad day, it could be as much as 2 minutes to downtown from here.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/19/14: The Roth dilemma. And: risks in enlisting the bookkeeper in your tax crimes.

Monday, May 19th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

IRAIs it better to get a tax benefit now and pay taxes later on retirement income, or vice-versa?  Bloomberg econobogger Megan McArdle ponders the question in To Roth, or Not to Roth:

In theory, the calculation is easy: Figure out whether your tax rate is likely to be higher now or in the future. If you’re young, the answer is likely to be “future”; if you’re in your peak earnings years, you’re probably looking at a lower tax rate when you’re retired.

But while the theory is simple, in practice, things are considerably more complicated. Personal finance is less about math than psychology . . . and tax policy, in this case. What will the tax rate on your income be when you retire — higher or lower than your current tax rate?

“Roth” IRAs and 401(k)s offer no current tax reduction, but if the account is left untapped long enough, there is never an income tax on the earnings.  It’s not always a tough choice.  Many young people face a marginal income tax rate of zero.  To the extent a low-earning young taxpayer benefits from a 401(k) plan or saves in an IRA, you might as well go with a Roth version, as there is little or no current benefit anyway.

As you climb the income ladder, it quickly becomes a more difficult decision.  When my company first had a Roth option, I opted in for a year.  Then it occurred to me that I was making a bet on much higher tax rates in the future at much lower income levels.  That seemed like a losing bet (but see this) and I switched back to the traditional 401(k) with current tax savings.

Megan also notes a real, if hard to quantify, problem with betting on future benefits (my emphasis):

We’re running some substantial deficits, and we’ve made some big promises to retirees. Those obligations will have to be paid for somehow, and by “somehow,” I mean “With higher taxes on someone.” What are the chances that you’ll be that someone? Pretty high, if you save a lot for retirement.

That makes a Roth sound like a pretty good bet. But unfortunately, the same logic that suggests higher income taxes in the future also suggests that a hungry-eyed Congress might settle on all those fat tax-free retirement accounts as a way to balance the books. What Congress giveth, Congress can taketh away. Can you really count on that income being tax-free when it’s finally time to collect it?

If you think no politician would be so brazen, just remember:  “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period. If you like your health care plan, you’ll be able to keep your health care plan, period. No one will take it away, no matter what.

 

20121120-2Good thing the ACA solved the problem of the uninsured.  Report: 230,000 Iowans still lack health care coverage (Des Moines Register).  Good thing we destroyed the health insurance industry and imposed a whole series of punitive and complicated taxes.

 

Russ Fox, Deadlines for Us, But Not for Them (Part 2), “Later this week it will be seven months since my reply was received. Another nine-week hold has been put on collection activities as the IRS admits that there is correspondence waiting to be reviewed. If we go nine more weeks it will be over nine months since I responded.”

Another reason for a sauce-for-the-gander rule, applying the same rules to the IRS that they apply to us.

Robert D. Flach has a similar state-level example from New Jersey in THE DFBs!

We are told (highlight is mine) -
“New Jersey wrongly notified about 2,000 taxpayers that they underpaid their 2013 taxes, but the state won’t notify them about the error unless the taxpayer asks, possibly causing taxpayers to send the state money that wasn’t owed.”

Tar and feathers.

 

20140507-1Peter Reilly, Real Estate Dealer Or Investor – Can’t Switch At Drop Of Hat.  ” One of the more challenging questions in income taxation of real estate transactions is whether a taxpayer is a dealer or an investor.”  Investors get capital gains, dealers don’t.

TaxGrrrl, Tax Extenders Bill Stalled In Senate.  The latest move in the dance to the inevitable last-minute re-extension of the perpetually-expiring tax breaks.

 

Jack Townsend, Booker Variances are More Common in Tax Crimes. Why? And Do They Disproportionately Benefit the Rich?   He discusses variations from federal sentencing guidelines, including the shockingly-light sentence given Beanie Babies tycoon Ty Warner.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 375

William McBride, Top 10 things to Know about Investment and Tax Policy.  (Tax Policy Blog).

Number 2: “Investment in the U.S. has yet to fully recover from the recession and remains near a record low.”

Number 10: “Of the ways to change tax policy to improve investment, expensing generally provides the greatest “bang-for-the-buck” because it applies strictly to new investment.”

 

Renu Zaretsky, Tax Mistakes, Collections, and Breaks.  Today’s TaxVox headline roundup covers a proposal to revive the use of private collectors in federal tax collection and “Affordable Care Act subsidy mistakes now could mean huge tax confusion later.”

Annette Nellen asks What’s missing from Camp’s tax reform proposal?  She has suggestions.

 

20120517-1The new Cavalcade of Risk is up at Waterwayfinancialgroup.com.  The venerable roundup of insurance and risk-management posts includes Hank Stern on the possible perils of ride share. There is risk in letting other people use your car, as anyone who has seen Animal House knows, and those risks may not be covered under your car policy.

 

 

News from the Profession.  Another EY Associate Taking a Stab at Reality TV (Going Concern)

Honor among fraudsters.  Owners of a nostalgia-themed restaurant chain in Pennsylvania and New Jersey went up the river on tax charges last year.  Now comes word that the inside accountant who (allegedly) helped them cheat on taxes also (allegedly) helped himself.  From Philly.com:

An indictment unsealed today charges 58-year-old William J. Frio, of Springfield Township, with conspiracy, filing false returns, loan fraud, and aggravated structuring of financial transactions.

Prosecutors say Frio, who has been providing accounting services to Nifty Fifty’s since 1986, conspired with the popular chain’s owners in a scheme that used skimmed cash to help themselves and associates avoid paying taxes.

He also allegedly used his role as Nifty Fifty’s accountant to embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars from the organization.

Aside from the obvious risk of going to jail, there are other complications that arise when businesses cheat on their taxes.  Unless your business is tiny, you need some help from your accounting staff.  When your bookkeeper is willing to defraud the government, don’t be shocked if he isn’t perfectly honest with you.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/14/14: Earned income credits, still busted. And: extenders advance.

Wednesday, May 14th, 2014 by Joe Kristan
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.

Nope.  Still busted.  From WashingtonExaminer.com comes an update on what some call America’s most successful anti-poverty program:

The Treasury Department has released its latest report  on the fight against widespread fraud in the Earned Income Tax Credit program. The problem is, fraud is still winning. And there’s not even much of a fight.

“The Internal Revenue Service continues to make little progress in reducing improper payments of Earned Income Tax Credits,” a press release from Treasury’s inspector general for Tax Administration says. “The IRS estimates that 22 to 26 percent of EITC payments were issued improperly in Fiscal Year 2013. The dollar value of these improper payments was estimated to be between $13.3 billion and $15.6 billion.”

Wait.  Didn’t the President sign a bill in 2010 to fix all this?

The new report found that the IRS is simply ignoring the requirements of a law called the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act, signed by President Obama in 2010, which requires the IRS to set fraud-control targets and keep improper payments below ten percent of all Earned Income Tax Credit payouts.

Whatever the EITC does to help the working poor, it is a boon to the Grifter-American community.  Fraudulent EITC claims are a staple of ID theft fraud and low-tech tax cheating in general.

It’s worth noting that the high rate of improper EITC payouts has not gone down in spite of the ever-increasing IRS requirements for preparers who issue returns claiming the credits.  This should give pause to folks who think IRS preparer regulations will stop fraud, though it won’t.

It’s also notable that Iowa recently increased its piggyback EITC to 15% of the federal credit — increasing the annual cost of the credit by an estimated $35 million.  Assuming Iowans are just as honest as other Americans, that means about $8 million of additional stimulus to the Iowa grifter economy.

Finally, the phase-out of the EITC functions as a hidden high marginal tax rate on the program’s intended beneficiaries, the working poor.  The effective marginal rate in Iowa exceeds 50% at some income levels.  Combined with other income-based phase-outs, the EITC becomes a poverty trap.

 

Related: Arnold Kling,  SNEP and the EITC. “My priors, which I think are supported by the research cited by Salam, is that trying to use a program like the EITC for social engineering is a mug’s game.”

 

 

Extenders advance in Senate.  Tax Analysts reports ($link)

Legislation that would extend for two years nearly all the tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013 cleared a procedural hurdle in the Senate May 13.

Senators voted 96 to 3 to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to H.R. 3474, a bill to exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate employees with healthcare coverage through the Veterans Benefits Administration or through the military healthcare program TRICARE.

The bill is the legislative vehicle for the tax extenders. It will be amended to include the text of the Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act of 2014 (S. 2260) and likely that of the Tax Technical Corrections Act of 2014 (S. 2261), both of which the Senate Finance Committee passed April 3 via voice vote.

The bill that passes will probably look much like the Senate bill.  The House has advanced bills to make some of the perpetually-expiring provisions permanent, but the President, pretending that they won’t get passed every year anyway, says permanent extension is fiscally irresponsible.

Among the provisions to be extended yet again, mostly through 2015, are the research credit, new markets credits, wind and biofuel credits, bonus depreciation, and increased Sec. 179 deductions.  The five-year built-in gain tax recognition period is also extended through 2015.

Related: TaxGrrrl, Senate Moves Forward To Extend Tax Breaks For 2014

 

20120906-1O. Kay HendersonKnoxville Raceway ceremony for state tax break of up to $2 million:

Governor Terry Branstad went to Knoxville today to sign a bill into law that gives the Knoxville Raceway a state tax break to help finance improvements at the track.

“This is a great facility,” Branstad told Radio Iowa during a telephone interview right after the event. “Last year, in 2013, they attracted 211,000 visitors, so it’s a big tourism attraction and it’s a good investment and it’s great for the state to partner with the community for a project of this magnitude.”

Here’s how that partnership works: the racetrack will charge sales tax to its customers, and keep the money.  Only two other businesses are special enough to get this sweet deal.  Tough luck for the rest of us who don’t have the good connections and lobbyists.

 

Walnut st flowersJana Luttenegger, Updated E-Filing Requirements for Tax Preparers (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  “The handbook is not exactly clear.

Jason Dinesen, Things Tax Preparers Say: S-Corporation Compensation.  “But too many business owners — and their accountants — treat S-corps like a magic wand that can just make taxes disappear completely.”

Kay Bell, IRS fight to regulate tax preparers officially over…for now

Peter Reilly, Can Somebody Explain Tax Shelters To Thomas Piketty?  In the unlikely event that the Piketty recommendations are ever enacted, Peter notes that “there will be a renaissance of shelter activity.”  Peter provides a “Cliff Notes” summary of this year’s big forgettable book I’ll never read, which I appreciate.  Also: Peter uses the tax-law-as-Swiss Army Knife analogy that I am so fond of.

Robert D. Flach, STILL MORE CLIENTS SCREWED BY THE TAX CODE.  “The list of taxpayers screwed by our current Tax Code is not a short one.  Today I add taxpayers with gambling winnings.”

 

20130110-2Howard Gleckman, How “Dead Men” Fiscal Policy Is Paralyzing Government (TaxVox).  He reviews a new book, Dead Men Ruling, by Gene Steurle:

“We are left with a budget for a declining nation,” Gene writes, “that invests ever-less in our future…and a broken government that presides over archaic, inefficient, and inequitable spending and tax programs.”

All this has happened due to a confluence of two unhappy trends: The first is what the late conservative writer Jude Wanniski memorably described almost four decades ago as the “Two-Santa Theory.”

The Santas are the two parties, each of whom pick our pockets to fill our stockings.

 

Alan Cole, The Simple Case for Tax Neutrality (Tax Policy Blog).  “When states give preferential rates of sales tax to certain goods, the most visible result is the legal bonanza that follows from trying to re-categorize goods into the preferred groupings. ”

David Brunori, Repealing the Property Tax Is an Asinine Idea (Tax Analysts Blog). “Public finance experts are almost unanimous in their belief that the property tax is the ideal way to fund local government services… Most importantly, the property tax ensures local political control.”

William McBride, What is Investment and How Do We Get More of It? (Tax Policy Blog).  “Full expensing for all investment, according to our analysis, would increase the capital stock by 16 percent and grow GDP by more than 5 percent.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 370

News from the Profession.  AICPA Tackling the Important Issue of Male CPAs Wanting It All (Going Concern). 

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/28/14: No connection found for Iowa broadband credit. And: it can take a long time to recover from tax season.

Monday, April 28th, 2014 by Joe Kristan


20120906-1
Truly we live in the age of wonders.  
A new set of economic development tax credits made it to the floor of the Iowa House on a Friday — and failed.  It’s a wonder that they actually showed up on a Friday — and to reject corporate welfare, to boot.

Before we get excited, it would be wrong to believe that the Iowa General Assembly has suddenly come to its senses about tax incentives.  It appears that many of the “no” votes on HF 2472 were from people who felt it wasn’t a big enough giveaway, reports the Des Moines Register:

Democratic leader Mark Smith, D-Marshalltown, said his members voted against the bill because they felt it didn’t go far enough in incentivizing and stimulating the expansion of high-speed Internet service.

Governer Branstad was unhappy:

“Rather than coming together to pass common sense legislation to increase broadband access in rural Iowa, Iowa House Democrats have turned their backs on rural Iowans and those who are under served,” Branstad said. “Today, the Iowa House Democrats played the worst of political cards; the Washington, D.C., hand of ignoring what is in the best interest of the taxpayers for political purposes.”

But nine Republicans also voted no in the 44-51 vote against the bill: Heartsill (Marion), Mawell (Poweshiek), Pettengill (Benson), Salmon (Black Hawk), Shaw (Pocahontas), Sheetas (Appanoose), Upmeyer (Cerro Gordo), Vander Linden (Mahaska), and Watts (Dallas).  If four of them had voted with the Governor, the bill would have passed.   The Des Moines Register didn’t bother to ask the Republicans why they voted no, but O. Kay Henderson did:

Representative Guy Vander Linden of Oskaloosa was among the nine Republicans who voted no.

“The ‘Connect Iowa’ bill, in my mind, doesn’t connect any Iowan, let alone every Iowan,” Vander Linden said.

Vander Linden faulted the bill for the way it handed out tax breaks to companies.

“We don’t say they need to meet any requirements in terms of our capacity, speed — anything. All we say is: “If you will put broadband infrastructure in place in any unserved or underserved area…we’ll give you all these benefits,” Vander Linden said. “That, to me, sounds like a blank check that I’m not willing to sign up to.”

Lack of standards and accountability hasn’t stopped tax credit giveaways before.  And they actually worked on a Friday, too. Yes, it truly is an age of wonders.

 

20140307-1Jason Dinesen, I Get Very Sad When a Client Gets Involved in Multi-Level Marketing.:

The reason I get sad nothing to do with taxes or fears that the client will be over-aggressive with deductions.

The reason I get sad is: so few of them actually make money.

 

Russ Fox, Your Dependents do have to be Your Dependents…

Kay Bell, Storm season 2014 arrives with a vengeance. Disaster victims should seek tax recovery help after the skies clear

TaxGrrrl, Now That Tax Day Has Passed, How Long Should You Keep Those Tax & Financial Records? 

Paul Neiffer, Are You Still Running Windows XP?! I finally upgraded to Windows 8.1 at home this weekend — a virtual machine on an iMac running Parallels Desktop.  It was the smoothest Windows installation I’ve ever done — it actually went without a hitch the first time through.

 

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 354

Renu Zaretsky, Tax Shelters, Tax Fights, and One Way to Reform a Zombie.  The TaxVox headline roundup includes an update on House taxwriter plans to work on an “extenders” bill this week.

Tax Justice Blog, Lawmakers Will Move Tuesday to Approve Hundreds of Billions in Business Tax Breaks — and Still No Help for the Unemployed.

William McBride, Corporate Exits Accelerating, Taking Jobs with Them (Tax Policy Bl0g).  Rates matter.

 

IMG_2493U.S. residents must pay U.S. tax, regardless of celestial citizenship.  A Minnesota couple hasn’t gotten the message, according to PioneerPress.com:

Living in the “Kingdom of Heaven” will not get you out of paying taxes, according to federal prosecutors.

On Tuesday, Tami Mae May, 55, was indicted in U.S. District Court in Minneapolis on 15 counts of filing fraudulent tax returns and a single count of obstruction of due administration of internal revenue laws, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

Through 2013, she claimed “zero income,” signed under altered certifications, said both she and her husband were not citizens of the United States but were instead permanent residents of the “Kingdom of Heaven,” and reported false withholdings in an attempt to claim “hundreds of thousands of dollars in fraudulent … refunds,” the U.S. attorney’s office said. 

I need to research where the Bible says you can recover cash from the IRS as a result of a divine passport.

 

20140330-1Practitioners everywhere are putting their lives together after another tax season.  Yes, it’s rough, but it’s unlikely you will still be sorting out this tax season two years from now, like an Iowa woman who is just getting her 2012 tax season put to bed.

Here’s what this North Liberty tax practitioner faced in 2012:

The co-owner of a local tax service has been accused of using more than $22,000 from the business’s savings account to cover her credit card bills and her husband was arrested for allegedly causing a drunken disturbance at a local elementary school.

According to an Iowa City police criminal complaint, an investigator met with a co-owner of C & M Tax Service. The other co-owner is 31-year-old Melissa M. Frost of North Liberty.

But it was worse than that:

Police said Frost’s husband, 33-year-old Cory A. Frost was also arrested on Friday. Cory Frost went to North Bend Elementary in North Liberty at 2:45 p.m. to confront an employee there concerning a “situation with his wife,” according to North Liberty police Lt. Diane Venega. It is unclear if that situation is related to Melissa Frost’s arrest.

[…]

When police found Frost, he smelled of alcohol and appeared to be intoxicated. Police said Frost had a blood-alcohol content of .204 percent. He was previously convicted of public intoxication.

KCRG provides an update:

A North Liberty woman accused of stealing money from her own business entered an Alford plea as part of a plea deal with prosecutors.

Melissa Frost, 34, entered the pleas on two separate counts of tampering with records last week, according to online court records. Under the Alford Plea, Frost admits no guilt but acknowledges there is likely enough evidence to convict her.

As part of the deal, Frost received a sentence of probation and deferred judgement, which means she could have the conviction expunged from her record if she fulfills the terms of her probation.

So however bad your tax season was, this is a reminder that somebody, somewhere, probably had it worse.

 

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Tax Roundup, 4/2/14: CPA Revenge edition! And more.

Wednesday, April 2nd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20140330-1Mutually assured destruction.  Accounting firm breakups can generate bad feelings.  Bad feelings can generate bad ideas — like filing bogus 1099’s on your erstwhile colleagues.  That went badly for an Ohioan in a U.S. District Court case reported in today’s Tax Notes ($link). 

When Waldman, Pitcher and Co. broke up, it wasn’t amicable. Lawrence Waldman felt ill-used by departing partners Kenneth Pitcher  and Michael Enders.  Some background from the District Court judge:

This case arises from the acrimonious break-up of the successful accounting firm Waldman, Pitcher, and Co., P.S.C. The individual parties in the present case were formerly partners in that firm. The break-up has spawned numerous related lawsuits, various audits by the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”), numerous complaints of improper conduct to various professional oversight groups, and protracted contentious litigation of the present case.

Mr. Waldman apparently attempted to enlist the IRS in his fight, using an assignment of uncollected receivables in the break-up agreement (footnotes and other references omitted):

In January 2010, Waldman & Co. issued 1099-MISC forms to Pitcher and Enders personally for tax year 2009, for non-employee compensation in the amount of $111,535.00 for Pitcher and $13,260.00 for Enders. It is undisputed that Waldman and his company had not collected any of the AR/WIP money reflected on those 1099 forms (doc. no. 134, ¶¶ 18-19). Waldman was admittedly angry at Pitcher and Enders and has repeatedly characterized their departure as effectively “stealing” two million dollars from him. As a prominent and experienced CPA, Waldman was familiar with the matching program of the IRS and knew that issuing these 1099s to Pitcher and Enders personally would likely result in IRS audits of their personal income tax returns. Waldman & Co. benefitted by taking a corresponding tax deduction for the reported amounts.

The unhappy 1099 recipients fought back:

In February and March of 2010, Pitcher and Enders complained to the IRS’s Office of Professional Responsibility (“OPR”) that Waldman had issued 1099s containing information that Waldman knew to be inaccurate. They asserted that Waldman had done this “to exact a revenge that he couldn’t otherwise exact during our negotiations.” They filed similar complaints with the Accountancy Board of Ohio and Ohio Society of CPAs . Those groups declined to take disciplinary action against Waldman.

20120509-1It then got even uglier:

In February 2011, Waldman & Co. issued “corrected” 2009 1099s to the plaintiffs, reflecting “zero” for their nonemployee compensation. At the same time, he issued “corrected” W-2s to Pitcher and Enders reflecting increased amounts in Box 1 . For Pitcher, an additional $199,290.00 of reported income was included, reflecting the $111,535.00 for the accounts receivable assigned to KPE, $27,755 for the amount paid to KPE by Waldman & Co., and $60,000.00 for attorney fees paid by Waldman & Co. to plaintiffs’ attorneys… For Enders, an additional $13,260.00 was included, consisting of $13,260.00 for the accounts receivable assigned to KPE. Waldman & Co. took a tax deduction for the increased amounts listed on the corrected W-2s, even though such returns indicated that no federal income taxes had been withheld.

I suppose if you are going to make up compensation on W-2s, you may as well be consistent and deduct the pretend expense.

Much litigation later, the District Court ruled for the departing accountants Pitcher and Enders:

Given his education, knowledge, and business experience as a CPA, [Mr. Waldman] could not have reasonably believed that these information returns were proper to file. He filed these information returns “willfully” in order to obtain tax benefits and harass the plaintiffs. Despite having “settled” a previous lawsuit over the plaintiffs’ departure from the firm, Waldman was dissatisfied and stubbornly believed the plaintiffs had “stolen” two million dollars from him by leaving his firm with clients. In taking on the role of whistleblower, he deliberately misused the IRS reporting system.

A lot of good it did them.  They were each awarded $15,000 in damages, but not attorney fees:

In light of the unusually hostile litigation history between the parties, the Court observes that plaintiffs have certainly played a significant role in creating the bitter circumstances of this case. This case has also been marked by needlessly contentious discovery battles, repetitive briefing, and unfortunate personal attacks. In view of the animosity between the parties, the Court in its discretion declines to award attorneys’ fees to the plaintiffs. The Court is aware that, absent such an award, this may be a Pyrrhic victory for plaintiffs. Nonetheless, the Court is convinced that this is a just result under the unusual circumstances of this case.

It’s hard to believe that the plaintiffs came out ahead on this, especially when their time is taken into account.

The Moral: breaking up is hard to do, even for accountants.

Cite: Kenneth B. Pitcher et al. v. Lawrence Waldman et al., DC-SD Ohio, No. 1:11-cv-00148

 

20140307-1Jason Dinesen, Life After DOMA: Estate Tax   

Kay Bell, No April Fools’ joke: No capital gains taxes for some investors

William Perez, Extended Time for Choosing When to Deduct Colorado Flooding Losses

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): R Is For Royalties   

Leslie Book, What is a Fair CDP Hearing: Courts Push Back on IRS

 

William McBride, French Economist Wants Top Tax Rate of 80 Percent to Fix Inequality (Tax Policy Blog).  No, it’s not an April Fools joke, and some people who should know better take this serously.  The “French economist” is Thomas Picketty, who is big into the whole “inequality” hand-waving being used to distract us from our real problems.   The post illustrates the folly of the whole war on millionaires with this chart:

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He could have added that an increasingly progressive tax system has coincided with increasing inequality.

 

Howard Gleckman, House Republicans Punt on Tax Reform (TaxVox): “…it effectively turns its back on the tax reform plan drafted by Dave Camp, the GOP chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee.”

Tax Justice Blog, ITEP Predicts Illinois Tax Reform Debate…and Then Puts Crystal Ball Away

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 328

Name that Party!, tax edition.  Instapundit has a recurring gag poking fun at news stories of corrupt politicians whose political affiliation is left mysteriously unstated.  Here’s an example from the tax world: Gary councilman sentenced to prison.

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/28/14: Trusts beat IRS. And: Seven-bedroom poverty!

Friday, March 28th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Trusts won big over the IRS yesterday.  The Tax Court ruled that trusts can “materially participate” in business activities.  Taxpayers who materially participate in an activity don’t have to pay the Obamacare net investment income tax on income from the activity.  I have a full writeup, Tax Court decision cuts 3.8% Obamacare Net Investment Income Tax for many trusts.  

 

20120912-1FATCA: giving the government more ways to shoot jaywalkers.

 We submit these comments in the hope that they will help lawmakers and the public understand that FATCA, while intended to catch tax evaders, is poised instead to impose serious and unjustified harms on people who live around the world as non-resident U.S. citizens and green card holders, as well as their family members and business associates.

After all, you have to shoot the jaywalkers so you can slap the real international tax evaders on the wrist.

Quoted text from “Submission to Finance Department on Implementation of FATCA in Canada” by Allison Christians and Arthur Cockfield, via the TaxProf.

 

William Perez, Tips for Same Sex Married Couples Filing Their Tax Returns.

Kay Bell, Donating and deducting gifts to current, past disaster victims

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): N Is For Name Change and Taxes From A To Z (2014): O Is For Overpayment

Steven Rosenthal, You Could Owe Capital Gains Taxes When You Spend Bitcoin (TaxVox)

Tax Trials, IRS Releases Guidance on Convertible Virtual Currency: Bitcoin Treated As Property for Federal Tax Purposes

Scott Schumacher, Does Equity Have a Role in Offers in Compromise? (Procedurally Taxing)

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William McBride,New Study Finds U.S. Multinationals Pay Extremely High Effective Tax Rate. (Tax Policy Blog). Since Iowa corporate rates are the highest in the U.S., that makes us number 1 in the world, baby!

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 323

Tax Justice Blog, Tax Cuts Fall Flat in Idaho

False choice.  The Drive for Tax Reform: Hitting the Breaks or the Gas?  (Renu Zaretsky, TaxVox)

Career Corner.  The More Money Your Parents Made, the Less Likely You Are to Become an Accountant (Going Concern)

 

monk mountainIf all poverty were like this, monasteries would be more popular.  A Pennsylvania taxpayer is accused of trying the old “I’m a church” dodge.  From Lehighvalleylive.com:

Erik Von Kiel, formerly of Macungie, falsely told the federal government he was a minister with a Utah-based religious organization, and that he had renounced any interest in property or income, authorities said.

He did so while concealing his salary and assets, including a seven-bedroom Macungie home he bought with his wife in 2006 and later sold for $175,000, according to court documents.

Seven bedrooms?  Not bad for poverty.  Probably more accessible than many monastic residences, too.

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/18/14: Now it gets serious. And: a foolproof plan goes awry.

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

 

Flicker image courtesy Michael Coghlan under Creative Commons license.

Flicker image courtesy Michael Coghlan under Creative Commons license.

OK, we’ve got all of the corporations done or extended.  Now it gets serious.

For the last several years, our 1040 practice has become more and more a three or four-week death sprint.  Most of our individual returns are business owners or executives, or their families.  That means most of them are waiting on K-1s.  Ever since the enactment of the reduced dividend rate, it has taken longer every year for brokerages to issue their 1099s.  It’s common for “corrected” 1099s to come out several weeks after the originals.  So it just takes longer for our clients to assemble their 1040 data.

While the start of the returns is delayed, April 15 is still April 15.  That means all of the most complicated returns hit in the four weeks after the corporate return deadline.  This isn’t good for many reasons — not least of which is that you don’t want a bleary-eyed tax pro helping you deal with big-dollar decisions, like the grouping options under the passive activity rules that kick in this year.

What I’m getting at: if your tax pro recommends an extension, don’t object.  This stuff is hard — if it wasn’t, you wouldn’t be paying someone else to do it.  You don’t want to risk an expensive mistake by rushing things.  There is nothing to the myth that extensions increase your risk of getting examined.  I have extended my own 1040 every year for 20+ years without an exam.   Errors, on the other hand, absolutely do increase your audit risk.

Your tax return is worth the wait.

 

Russ Fox, The Flavor of the Season

 

20140303-1Paul Neiffer, Real Estate Includes Land but Not For Depreciation Purposes.

William Perez, Alternative Minimum Tax

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): I Is For Internal Revenue Code

Leslie Book, Insider Trading and Forfeiture of Millions in Stock Gains Runs into Section 1341 and Issue Preclusion (Procedurally Taxing)

Janet Novack, Former Qwest CEO Could Score $18 Million Tax Refund For Forfeited Insider Trading Profits

Kay Bell, College bowl tax audits and Colorado pot taxes.

 

Marc Ward, Annual Financial Statements Must Now be Delivered to Shareholders:

One of the changes to the Iowa Business Corporation Act that went into effect this year is a new requirement that corporations deliver financial statements to their shareholders. These financial statements must include a balance sheet, an income statement and a statement of changes in shareholders’ equity.  The financial statements must be sent within 120 days of the end of the fiscal year.

I did not know that.

 

taxanalystslogoJeremy Scott asks, Would a Republican Senate Improve the Chances for Tax Reform? (Tax Analysts Blog):

Republican chances for retaking the Senate have improved… 

And that would be good for tax reform proponents, even those who don’t support GOP policies or want to see Republicans in office. Senate Democrats aren’t interested. And they aren’t going to work with a Republican House at all. Tax reform takes a lot of legislative groundwork, and right now at least, the GOP is the only party with any real interest in doing it.

There is, of course, another factor.  I don’t think President Obama will sign anything big coming out of a GOP Congress.

William McBride, Some Questions Regarding the Diamond and Zodrow Modeling of Camp’s Tax Plan. (Tax Policy Blog).

Eric Todor, Who Should Get the Tax Revenue from Apple’s Intellectual Property? (TaxVox)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 313

 

Great moments in tax evasion.  A Texan who was worried about being sentenced to prison came up with an ingenious plan: hire someone to murder the sentencing judge.  Because then the court system would just forget about him, or something.

Somehow that plan went awry, and Phillip Ballard was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison yesterday for his trouble. Mr. Ballard is 72.  This will impact his retirement options.  (via Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/3/2014: For whom does the AMT toll this year? And Lois Lerner: will she or won’t she?

Monday, March 3rd, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Laura Saunders, Beware the Stealth Tax; How to minimize the damage of the alternative minimum tax:

…the AMT now applies to eight times as many taxpayers as it did 20 years ago, and common AMT “triggers” often are less esoteric than in the past. “They can be as simple as having three or more children, taking a large capital gain, or—especially—deducting state and local taxes,” says Dave Kautter, managing director at American University’s Kogod Tax Center, who studies the AMT.

20140303-1

That’s pretty much what I see in our practice.  AMT is rare for taxpayers with income under $100,000, and usually occurs in large families.  It can be impossible to avoid AMT in the $200,000 – $500,000 income range, especially in a state with an income tax.  Above $500,000, it typically involves large capital gains.  Both AMT and regular tax have the same 20% tax on capital gains, and the AMT doesn’t let you deduct the related state income taxes, so the AMT will kick in.

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Ann Althouse,  Who put “acute political pressure” on Lois Lerner “to crack down on conservative-leaning organizations,” and why did Lerner need a “plan” to avoid “a per se political project”?:

I think it must mean that it was a political project and they were hard at work figuring out how to make it not look like what she knew it was. That’s a smoking gun.

Phony scandal.  Nothing to see here…

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 298

WSJ, No Change: Former IRS Official to Take the Fifth.  “A lawyer for former Internal Revenue Service official Lois Lerner said Sunday that she will decline to testify about IRS targeting of grass-roots conservative groups, contradicting a top GOP lawmaker.”  Presumably because there’s not a smidgen of wrongdoing.

 

TaxProf, Mulligan: ObamaCare’s Multiple Taxes Are Shackling the Job Market.  The TaxProf quotes from the University of Chicago’s Casey Mulligan: 

Once we consider that the new law has an employer penalty, too, the labor market will be receiving three blows from the new law: the implicit employment tax, the employer penalty and the implicit income tax. Regardless of how few economists acknowledge the new employment tax, it should be no surprise when the labor market cannot grow under such conditions.20140106-1

It’s funny how the same people can argue for high tobacco taxes to curb smoking insist that employment taxes won’t curb hiring.

 

Jason Dinesen,  Accounting for the 0.9% Medicare Surtax on Iowa Tax Returns

Kay Bell, Delayed Tax Refunds, TC 570 And An Important Distinction .  Don’t jump to conclusions about your delayed refunds.

William Perez, Resources for Filing Corporate Taxes for 2013.  “March 17th, 2014, is the due date for filing corporate tax returns.”

 Kay Bell, 5 ways to maximize tax-deductible business entertainment

Russ Fox, Former Chairman of Woodland Park, NJ Democratic Committee Bribes His Way to ClubFed

Jack Townsend, IRS CI Is Looking at Renunciations of Citizenship Just in Case .  Looking to take one last shot at the fleeing jaywalkers.

 

Jim Maule, Find Some money, Pay Some Tax:20131017-2

Every now and then we read of someone finding something valuable. This time, it’s a California couple who found a stash of gold coins on their property. According to this story, the couple found eight cans containing 1,400 coins, valued at approximately $10 million.

The joy of the moment is tempered, of course, by the existence of income taxes, both federal and state. Must the couple pay tax? Yes. The value of the coins is included in the couple’s gross income. It is ordinary income. The law is settled. 

Easy come, easy go…

 

Martin Sullivan, The Beginning of the End of Tax Reform (Tax Analysts Blog):

Enactment of the research credit in 1981 was the antithesis of simplification. It has a highly complex incremental structure and, even more problematic, it assigns tax directors and IRS agents the impossible task of distinguishing research from ordinary business expense. The Camp draft retains the credit and eliminates expensing. The opposite approach would be more sensible.

The research credit study industry is full of former Congressional staffers who like things the way they are.

William McBride, Scott Hodge, Top Line Assessment of Camp’s Tax Reform: Increases Progressivity and Taxes on Business and Investment (Tax Policy Blog):

In general, Camp simplifies and lowers tax rates for many taxpayers and businesses, but does so through a net tax increase on businesses and taxpayers earning over $200,000. As a result, the plan makes the individual tax code even more progressive, it increases the amount of redistribution from high-income taxpayers to other taxpayers, and it worsens the current bias against saving and investment—all of which will be a drag on long-run economic growth.

It looks more and more like the Camp plan was a false move.

William Gale, Dave Camp’s pitch to overhaul U.S. taxes: An impossible dream? (TaxVox)

 

It’s getting real in New Jersey, according to the London Daily Mail online:   ‘Ready to plead guilty': Teresa and Joe Giudice set to reach plea deal on 41 charges of fraud and tax evasion.  If they were cheating on taxes, becoming national celebrities could have been a bad move.

 

 

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

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

Lois Lerner, ex-IRS, ex-FEC

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Jack Townsend, Stolen Identity Refund Fraud in the News

 

William Perez, Reporting Social Security Benefits

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

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

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/24/14: 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, 2/5/14: 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, 12/18/2013: Have you made your College Savings Iowa gift? And: la loi, c’est IRS!

Wednesday, December 18th, 2013 by Joe Kristan


csi logo
Year-end is sneaking up on us.
 So it doesn’t catch us completely unawares, the Tax Update will provide a year-end idea each day through December 31.  Today we pass on a reminder that Iowans can deduct contributions to College Savings Iowa, the state’s Section 529 college savings plan, on their Iowa 1040s — but only if they fund their contributions before year-end.  From the State Treasurer:

Contributions to College Savings Iowa must be made by the end of the year to qualify for the 2013 Iowa state tax deduction. Account holders can deduct up to $3,045 for each open account and can contribute online at www.collegesavingsiowa.com.* Contributions sent by mail must postmark checks by December 31, 2013.

College Savings Iowa lets anyone – parents, grandparents, friends and relatives – invest for college on behalf of a child.  Investors do not need to be a state resident and can withdraw their investments tax-free to pay for qualified higher education expenses including tuition, books, supplies and room and board at any eligible college, university, community college or accredited technical training school in the United Sates or abroad.

It’s a great way to help your kids start out in life without a big student loan.

William Perez is doing yeoman’s work on year-end planning at his place; today he has Donating Cash to Charity at Year-End.  

Kay Bell offers Donating appreciated assets to your favorite charity

 

45R credit chartLa Loi, C’est IRS.  It’s not surprising that the IRS would disregard mere vendor rules when it believes it can pass out tax credits to taxpayers who clearly don’t qualify.  That’s exactly what they did yesterday when they announced that it will allow the (ridiculously complex) Sec. 45R small employer health insurance credit in Washington and Wisconsin in 2014, even though those states won’t have the required “Small Business Health Options Program” exchange in place.

The Code clearly requires allows the credit only to employers buying through the exchange starting in 2014, but the IRS has granted “transition relief” waiving that requirement.  Heck, why not just grant the credit to anybody who just has “health” next year.  You know, as a transition rule.

 

No.  Is Obamacare Really an Improvement on the Status Quo?  (Megan McArdle).  “Bob Laszewski, an insurance industry expert who has become the go-to guy for the news media on the rollout of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (because the insurance industry is extremely reluctant to talk), tells the Weekly Standard that he thinks come Jan. 1, more people will have lost private insurance than gained it…”

 

William McBride, Economists Find Eliminating the Corporate Tax Would Raise Welfare (Tax Policy Blog).  That’s why the Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan does just that.

 

 

TIGTALeft hand, meet right hand.   The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reports “IRS Vendors Owe Hundreds Of Millions Of Dollars In Federal Tax Debt“:

Federal law generally prohibits agencies from contracting with businesses that have unpaid Federal tax liabilities.

TIGTA reviewed the IRS’s controls over the integrity and validity of vendors receiving payments from the IRS, including the vendor’s tax compliance and suspension and debarment status. TIGTA also reviewed controls over the IRS’s Vendor Master File (VMF), which contains information about vendors that enables them to do business with the IRS.

The vast majority of vendors that conduct business with the IRS meet their Federal tax obligations. However, TIGTA found that 1,168 IRS vendors (7 percent) had a combined $589 million of Federal tax debt as of July 2012, the most recent data for which information was available at the time TIGTA conducted the review. Few of the vendors had a current tax payment plan.

That means the IRS breaks its own rules in dealing with about one out of 15 of its vendors — another instance where the IRS breaks the rules with no consequence.  A “Sauce for the Gander” rule, one that would penalize IRS personnel who break rules just like they do for taxpayers, might help here.

 

Sometimes the IRS gets it right.  IRS Provided Some Good Tips this Morning (Russ Fox)

 

Tony Nitti, Tax Geek Tuesday: Profits Interests, Capital Interests, And Restricted Property:

 

In Crescent Holdings v. Commissioner 141 T.C. 15 (2013), the Tax Court doled out three lessons every tax advisor con learn from:

 

  1. How to differentiate between a profits interest and a capital interest in a partnership.

  2. Section 83 applies to the grant of a capital interest,

  3. If a capital interested in a partnership has not yet vested under the meaning of Section 83, the recipient should not be allocated any undistributed income from the partnership.

  4. The income allocable to an unvested capital interest granted by a partnership must be allocated to the remaining partners of the partnership.

Good stuff.

 

TaxProf, Billionaires’ Use of Zeroed-Out GRATs Blows $100 Billion Hole in Estate Tax.  Paul Caron quotes a Forbes article.

Jack Townsend, Raoul Weil Has First U.S. Court Appearance

TaxGrrrl, 12 Days Of Charitable Giving 2013: Sow Much Good

 

 

Robert D. FlachWOULDN’T IT BE NICE.  He discusses the new IRS Commissioner nominee and asks,  “Wouldn’t it be great to have a person who had actually prepared tax returns for a living in the position?”  What, and have somebody who actually knows something?

20131211-1Robert has a thing about the Tea Party, but I suspect even he would Follow the Tea Party on Stadium Financing Issues (David Brunori, Tax Analysts Blog):

The Atlanta Braves are planning to move their stadium to the suburbs. The Braves blackmailed, threatened, and coerced the backboneless politicians in Cobb County, Ga., to pay for the stadium… As far as I can tell, the only organization to have put up any fight against this insane corporate welfare is the Atlanta Tea Party.”

When the Tea Party movement sticks to the fight for smaller government, there’s a lot to like there.

 

 

Tax Justice Blog, Income Tax Deductions for Sales Taxes: A Step Away from Tax Fairness

Joseph Thorndike, When Is a “Fee” Actually a Tax? When Politicians Say It Isn’t (Tax Analysts Blog)

Peter Reilly,  How To Tax Kody Brown And The Sister Wives And Other Polygamous Families?  He quotes my Twitter feed.  If Peter follows @joebwan, maybe you should too!

 

News From the Profession.  There’s a Hidden Deloitte Auditor in the Airport Cell Phone Crasher Video Making the Rounds (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/4/2013: Justice Scalia doesn’t believe in the Tax Fairy. And sure, the IRS can run another tax credit!

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

 

tax fairyThe Supreme Court wrapped a bow around the IRS victories in the turn-of-the-century tax shelter wars by unanimously ruling that the 40% “gross valuation misstatement” penalty applied to a tax understatement caused by the “COBRA” tax shelter.

COBRA relied on contributing long and short currency options to a partnership, but claiming basis for the long position, and ignoring the liability caused by the short position.  The shelter was cooked up in Paul Daugerdas’ tax shelter lab at now-defunct Jenkens & Gilchrist and marketed by Ernst & Young.  The shelter was designed to generate $43.7 million in tax losses for a cash investment of $3.2 million.

COBRA, like so many other shelters of the era,  was ruled a sham and the losses disallowed, but the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the 40% penalty did not apply.  Other circuits ruled that it did, so the Supreme Court took the case to settle the issue.

Writing for a unanimous court, Justice Scalia disposed of the Fifth Circuit’s position (citations omitted, my emphasis):

     In the alternative, Woods argues that any underpayment of tax in this case would be “attributable,” not to the misstatements of outside basis, but rather to the determination that the partnerships were shams — which he describes as an “independent legal ground.”  That is the rationale that the Fifth and Ninth Circuits have adopted for refusing to apply the valuation-misstatement penalty in cases like this, although both courts have voiced doubts about it.

We reject the argument’s premise: The economic substance determination and the basis misstatement are not “independent” of one another. This is not a case where a valuation misstatement is a mere side effect of a sham transaction. Rather, the overstatement of outside basis was the linchpin of the COBRA tax shelter and the mechanism by which Woods and McCombs sought to reduce their taxable income. As Judge Prado observed, in this type of tax shelter, “the basis misstatement and the transaction’s lack of economic substance are inextricably inter twined,” so “attributing the tax underpayment only to the artificiality of the transaction and not to the basis over valuation is making a false distinction.”  In short, the partners underpaid their taxes because they overstated their outside basis, and they overstated their outside basis because the partnerships were shams. We therefore have no difficulty concluding that any underpayment resulting from the COBRA tax shelter is attributable to the partners’ misrepresentation of outside basis (a valuation misstatement). 

tack shelterI see the basis-shifting shelters of the 1990s as elaborate incantations designed to to get the Tax Fairy to magically wish away tax liabilities.  Like any good witch doctor, the shelter designers relied on lots of elaborate hand-waving and dark magic to do their work, and they collected a lot of cash for their work.  But there is no Tax Fairy.  Justice Scalia has let Tax Fairy believers know that pursuing her is not just futile, but potentially very expensive.

 

Cite: United States v. Woods, Sup. Ct. No. 12-562.

The TaxProf has a roundup and an update.  Stephen Olsen weighs in at Procedurally Taxing.

 

 

Blue Book Blues.   One digression by Justice Scalia in Woods is worth a little extra attention.   From the opinion (citations omitted, my emphasis):

Woods contends, however, that a document known as the “Blue Book” compels a different result…Blue Books are prepared by the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation as commentaries on recently passed tax laws. They are “written after passage of the legislation and therefore d[o] not inform the decisions of the members of Congress who vot[e] in favor of the [law].” While we have relied on similar documents in the past, …our more recent precedents disapprove of that practice. Of course the Blue Book, like a law review article, may be relevant to the extent it is persuasive.

Back in the early national firm days of my career, one of my bosses was a former national firm lobbyist who was exiled to The Field when a merger with another firm left room in Washington for only one lobbyist in the combined firm.  I remember him telling clients that he could get around unpleasantness in the tax code by arranging for helpful language in the Blue Book.  From what Justice Scalia says, he would have done as well by writing a law review article.

Jack Townsend also noticed this.

 

A new tax credit for the IRS to administer.  What could possibly go wrong?  A lot, as the IRS’s experience with the fraud-ridden refundable credits and ID-theft fraud has shown.  Now a new Treasury Inspector General’s report warns that IRS systems aren’t yet prepared to stop premium tax credit fraud under Obamacare, reports Tax Analysts ($link):

EITC error chart     While the IRS has existing practices to address ACA-related fraud, the agency’s approach is not part of an established fraud mitigation strategy for ACA systems, the report says. The IRS has two systems under development to lessen ACA tax refund fraud risk, but until those systems are completed and tested, “TIGTA remains concerned that the IRS’s existing fraud detection system may not be capable of identifying ACA refund fraud or schemes prior to the issuance of tax return refunds,” it says.

IRS Chief Technology Officer Terence Milholland said in a response included in the report that fraud prevention plans will be put in place as ACA systems are released.

The IRS loses $10 billion annually to Earned Income Tax Credit Fraud alone.  This isn’t reassuring.

 

Paul Neiffer, Losses Can Offset Investment Income:

  1. If you have a net capital loss for the year, the regular tax laws limit this loss to $3,000.  The final regulations allow this up to $3,000 loss to offset other investment income.
  2. If you have a passive loss such as Section 1231 losses, as long as that loss is allowed for regular income tax purposes, you will be allowed to offset that against other investment income.
  3. Finally, if you have a net operating loss carry forward that contains some amount of net investment losses, you will be allowed to use that portion of the NOL to offset other investment income.

A big improvement over the propsed regulations.

 

20120920-3Jason Dinesen,  Same-Sex Marriage, IRAs and After-Tax Basis:

It’s clear that for 2013 and going forward, couples in same-sex marriage will only need to apply “married person” rules to IRAs (and to everything else relating to their taxes).

What’s less clear is what happens with differences between federal and state basis for prior years.

 

Robert D. Flach,  A YEAR END TIP FOR MUTUAL FUND INVESTMENTS.  “If you want to purchase shares in a mutual fund during the fourth quarter of the year, wait until after the capital gain dividend has been issued, and the NAV has dropped, before purchasing the shares.”

 

Janet Novack,  Insurance Agent To Forbes 400 Concedes Understating Taxable Income By $50 Million

David Brunori, Indexing the State Income Tax Brackets Makes Sense (Tax Analysts Blog)

Missouri Rep Paul Curtman (R) wants to index his state’s income tax brackets to inflation. Of all the tax ideas presented this year, this is among the best. Missouri imposes its top rate of 6 percent on all incomes over $9,000. Nine grand was a lot of money in 1931 – and the top tax rate was aimed at the very wealthiest Missourians. But that threshold hasn’t changed since Herbert Hoover was president. 

Or they could just go with one flat rate.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 209

William McBride, Summary of Baucus Discussion Draft to Reform International Business Taxation (Tax Policy Blog)

Kay Bell, Where do your residential property taxes rank nationally? 

Howard Gleckman,  The Supreme Court Opens The Door to Sales Tax Collections by Online Sellers (TaxVox)

They were too busy fighting the shelter wars to notice.  The Cold War Is Over, but No One Told the IRS  (Joseph Thorndike, Tax Analysts Blog)

Career Corner: A Friendly Reminder to Slobbering Drunks: Be Less Slobbery and Drunk at Your Company Holiday Party (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 12/3/2013: Tax Court says no vesting, no K-1. And: gas tax fever!

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20120511-2Who pays, partner?  A Tax Court decision yesterday held that an executive of a partnership holding a non-vested capital interest should not be considered a “partner” for allocation of taxable income and loss before the interest vests.

The taxpayer was an executive of Crescent Holdings, LLC, a Georgia real estate partnership.  According to the Tax Court, he received a 2% capital interest in the partnership that was subject to forfeiture if he failed to stay in the job for three years.  He resigned before the interest vested, so he got nothing.  The partnership had allocated income to him on a K-1 for the period up to his resignation — and gave him some cash to pay taxes on the income —  but he argued that because he was non-vested, he shouldn’t receive any K-1 allocation.

Tax Court Judge Ruwe agreed:

Since petitioner forfeited his right to the 2% interest before it substantially vested, he never owned the interest. Petitioner never received any of the economic benefits from the undistributed partnership income allocations to the 2% interest. Requiring petitioner to recognize the partnership allocations in his income is inconsistent with the fact that he received no economic benefit from the allocations.

“His” 2% was allocable instead to other partners.

Non-vested stock or partnership interests subject to “a substantial risk of forfeiture” are not includible in income until the forfeiture risk lapses, unless the taxpayer makes a timely Section 83(b) election to include the value in income on receipt in spite of the risk.

This decision tells partnerships preparing 2012 returns that they shouldn’t allocate taxable income to partners with unvested interests.  I suspect some partners and partnerships may file amended returns for open years as a result.  It’s not entirely clear, but I read the opinion as saying that a timely Section 83(b) election would change this result.

Cite: Crescent Holdings LLC et al. v. Commissioner; 141 T.C. No. 15

 

Because he really, really wants the money.  Branstad declines to issue gas-tax veto threat (Iowa Farmer Today):

“The goal would be over the next couple of months: Does a consensus develop around something or not? And, I guess time will tell whether that happens,” Branstad said. If an agreement emerges, he said he would include a recommendation on how to address a projected annual shortfall of $215 million for critical road and bridge repair needs during his Condition of the State address Jan. 14.

The “shortfall for critical road and bridge repair” has become a mantra at the statehouse, which means they really want to get into your wallets some more.  The $215 million number comes from an Iowa Department of Transportation report.  No politicians seem willing to challenge a self-serving number from the agency that would benefit from more transportation money.  Compared to other states, Iowa isn’t doing so bad.  For example from the most reason Reason Foundation survey of state highway conditions:

Iowa Highways 2009

Many states are getting less gas revenue from gas taxes as cars become more efficient.  There is a case that some adjustment of the tax makes sense.  Still, Iowa is 17th nationally in per-mile spending, and it doesn’t seem like we are doing badly compared to the rest of the country.  And no matter how much they jack up the gas tax, I suspect they’ll continue to tell us we have crumbling infrastructure anyway.

 

Seventh Circuit: Inherited IRA not exempt from creditor claims. That’s a different result that would apply to bankrupt’s own IRA.  Cite: Clarke, CA-7, Nos. 1241 and 12-1255.

 

Tony Nitti, Final Net Investment Income Regulations: Self-Charged Interest, Net Operating Losses, And More

Paul Neiffer,  Bonus Payments Are Ordinary Income – Not Capital Gains. A Tax Court case involving an upfront oil and gas lease bonus payment.

 

nfl logoJeremy Scott, NFL Encourages Localities in Race to the Bottom (Tax Analysts Blog)  So does NASCAR.

William McBride, Baucus Offers Ways to Pay for a Lower Corporate Tax Rate (Tax Policy Blog)

The shopping season that never ends.  Shopping for Tax Extenders (Clint Stretch, Tax Analysts Blog) “Of the 55 tax provisions that will expire at the end of the year, all but a few have expired before. Taxpayers will have to be satisfied with retroactive reinstatement again.”

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 208

 

 

Robert D. Flach has your Tuesday Buzz!

Kay Bell, States still getting stiffed on sales taxes on Cyber Monday

Celebrate!  Cyber Monday: It’s The Most Wonderful Tax Evasion Day Of The Year!  (TaxGrrrl)

Going Concern: According To This Paper, It Takes Cojones To Commit Fraud

 

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Tax Roundup, 10/24/13: Payroll tax grief in Cedar Rapids. Also: suits, geeks, and Obamacare.

Thursday, October 24th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

bureauofprisonsNever borrow withheld taxes. A little story out of Cedar Rapids this morning has a big lesson for business owners: Former owner of Cedar Rapids security firm sentenced on tax charge (Dar Danielson, Radio Iowa).  In its entirety:

A former eastern Iowa business owner will spend over two years in prison on a tax violation. Forty-six-year-old Eric Holub of Clarence pled guilty to failing to forward withholding taxes he took out of his employee’s checks to the IRS.

Holub admitted to failing to send $460,000 in withholding taxes from January 2008 to December of 2009 for Premier Security, a private business he owned in Cedar Rapids. Holub was sentenced to 30 months in prison and three years supervised release.

Two paragraphs – just enough to tell an alert reader a story of financial catastrophe.    Court documents tell a bit more of the defendant’s story.  He had to use a public defender, so he’s broke.  He’s married with six kids, three under 10.  Even though he’s going away for 2 1/2 years, he still has to pay the IRS $438,426.17 somehow.  Small wonder he’s being treated for depression.

What we don’t learn is why he didn’t pay over his payroll taxes.  I handled payroll in the early days of our firm, and there were times when it sure would have been handy to not remit the payroll taxes right away, given other pressing cash needs.  Maybe cash was tight, and it seemed like a good way to pay vendors.  Maybe he figured he’d get caught up someday, but when the IRS didn’t react immediately, catching up seemed like it wasn’t so important.

In any case, it’s a huge mistake to not remit payroll taxes on time.  Penalties start running up immediately, and bankruptcy or using a corporation will not make the liability go away.  And more and more, the government isn’t satisfied the with getting the cash; they want jail time too.  30 months plus principal, interest and penalties for “borrowing” payroll taxes makes car title loans look like a bargain.

Links:

Indictment

Judgement

 

20130320-1Iowa R.V. Owners come in from the cold.  Iowa’s amnesty for R.V. owners who had skipped Iowa registration fees by registering their vehicles in Montana ended yesterday with “dozens” of settlements and “just over $100,000″ in fees collected, reports the Des Moines Register.  The idea that you could use a Montana LLC to skip registration fees in Iowa never seemed remotely plausible to me, but people will believe just about anything if it might save them a few bucks.

 

 

Arnold Kling, The Obamacare Suits/Geeks Divide:

In response to the WaPo story, I wrote a letter to the editor, which they published (mine is the third letter on this page). This is not a technical screw-up, and it will not be fixed by technical people. It is an organizational screw-up. And until that is recognized, it probably will get worse. I write,

In my experience, communication failures between technical staff and management reflect an atmosphere of fear and lack of mutual respect.

I call this the suits-geeks divide. I saw it during the financial crisis, when it was evident that many mortgage credit-risk geeks warned of problems at their firms but management went out of the way not to listen. Merrill Lynch and Freddie Mac were particularly well-documented cases.  

It’s starting to look like a delay of the individual mandate — the key tax provision that holds Obamacare together — is inevitable.   It may take some time yet for the administration to swallow this bitter pill, just after they shut down the government rather than accept a GOP-sponsored delay.

 

Megan McArdle,  Why Obamacare Is Like Three Mile Island. “All the pieces are interdependent, so a failure in one part is apt to cascade throughout the market. This is not a system where you want to start pulling out one piece to see how well the rest can get along without it.”

 

Des Moines Register, Lawmakers are warned of unfunded liabilities in pensions:

Iowa’s public employee pension funds face billions of dollars in unfunded liabilities, and tough scrutiny is needed to ensure taxpayers and public employees are protected, state lawmakers were told Wednesday.

Public defined benefit plans are lies.  The only question is whether the beneficiaries are being lied to with promises that won’t be kept, or the taxpayers are being lied to by politicians hiding the real cost of government payroll.  Probably both.

20130419-1TaxGrrrl,  IRS Issues More Guidance On Post-Shutdown Operations 

Kay Bell, IRS seeks volunteers for tax-exempt advisory panel.  I bet they get some Tea Party applicants.

 

William Gale,  The Illogic of the McConnell Debt Limit Rule (TaxVox)

TaxProf, TIGTA: Hundreds of Employees of IRS Contractors Owe Millions in Taxes

Dan Mitchell, Welfare Fraud Is another Reason to Replace the IRS with a Flat Tax.  More on the TIGTA EITC report we mentioned yesterday.

William McBride,  Ripe for Reform: Improper EITC Payments Exceed $11 Billion per Year (Tax Policy Blog)

Tax Justice Blog,  Illinois Ruling Strengthens Case for a Federal Solution to Online Tax Collection

Cara Griffith, In Defense of State Treasurers (Tax Analysts Blog)

 

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