Posts Tagged ‘worst commissioner ever’

Tax Roundup, 8/11/14: Don’t you dare agree with me edition.

Monday, August 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

microsoft-appleDavid Brunori notes ($link) some odd behavior by Good Jobs First, a left-side outfit that has been on the side of the angels by highlighting the baneful effects of corporate welfare tax incentives.  The American Legislative Exchange Council came out with a report blasting cronyist tax incentives, and rather than embracing the report, Good Jobs First ripped it — because the Koch Brothers are the Devil:

Yet, Good Jobs First slams ALEC because many recipients of tax incentives have close ties to ALEC. But so what? The fact that corporations, including those run by the Koch brothers, provide support to ALEC doesn’t diminish the argument that incentives are terrible.

Weirdly, Good Jobs First primarily blames the recipients of corporate welfare for taking the money, rather than the politicians who give it away:

Moreover, Good Jobs First inexplicably says that ALEC is wrong to blame policymakers rather than the companies that receive incentives. But the blame for those horrible policies rests squarely on the shoulders of lawmakers and governors who perpetuate them. In a world where the government is handing out benefits to anyone who asks, it’s hard to fault the people who line up for the handout. No one has been more critical of tax incentives than I, but I’ve never blamed the corporations. Nor do I blame the army of consultants and lawyers who grease the wheels to make incentives happen. There’s no blame for anyone other than the cowardly politicians from both parties who can’t seem to resist using those nefarious policies.

Precisely correct.  When somebody is handing out free money, it’s hard to turn it down when your competitors are taking all they can.

I have seen smart people I respect do everything short of donning tin-foil hats when talking about the Koch Brothers and their dreadful agenda of influencing the government to leave you alone.  Maybe everyone needs an Emmanuel Goldstein.

Adam Michel, Scott Drenkard, New Report Quantifies “Tax Cronyism” (Tax Policy Blog)

Annette Nellen, What about accountability? California solar energy property.  Green corporate welfare is still corporate welfare.

 

20130121-2Russ Fox, Where Karen Hawkins Disagrees With Me…  The Director of the IRS Office of Preparer Responsibility commented on Russ’ post “The IRS Apparently Thinks They Won the Loving Case.”  Russ replies to the comment:

Ms. Hawkins is technically correct that Judge Boasberg’s order says nothing about the use of an RTRP designation. However, the Order specifically states that the IRS has no authority to create such a regulatory scheme. If there isn’t such a regulation, what’s the use of the designation?

The courts closed the front door to preparer regulation, so the IRS is trying to find an unlocked window.

 

TaxGrrrl, IRS Imposes New Limits On Tax Refunds By Direct Deposit.  “Effective for the 2015 tax season, the IRS will limit the number of refunds electronically deposited into a single financial account (such as a savings or checking account) or prepaid debit card to three.”

This seems like a measure that should have been put in place years ago.  The Worst Commissioner Ever apparently had other priorities.

 

Kay Bell, Actor Robert Redford sues NY tax office over $1.6 million bill.  The actor gets dragged into New York via a pass-through entity in which he had an interest — a topic we mentioned last week.

Renu Zaretsky, August Avoidance: Corporate Taxes and Budget Realities.  The TaxVox headline roundup covers inversions, gridlock, and Kansas.

Peter Reilly, Org Tries Exempt Status Multiple Choice – IRS Answers None Of The Above

 

 

20140811-1Ajay Gupta, The Libertarian Case for BEPS (Tax Analysts Blog)  BEPS stands for “Base Erosion and Profit Shifting.”

Matt Gardiner, Inversions Aside, Don’t Lose Sight of Other Ways Corps. Are Dodging Taxes (Tax Justice Blog).  Don’t worry, Matt.  If I did, my clients would take their business elsewhere.

Robert D. Flach, HEY MR PRESIDENT – DON’T SHOOT THE MESSENGER!  “If there is something wrong with the Tax Code do not blame the accountant or tax professional.  We have a moral and ethical responsibility to bring to our clients’ attention all the legal deductions, credits, loopholes, techniques, and strategies that are available to reduce their federal and state tax liabilities to the least possible amounts.”

 

Roger McEowen, Federal Court, Contrary To U.S. Supreme Court, Says ACA Individual Mandate Not a Tax.

Jack Townsend, U.S. Forfeits Over $480 Million Stolen by Former Nigerian Dictator.  The headline is misleading — the U.S. received the cash in a forfeiture — they seized it, rather than forfeiting it.

 

2140731-3TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 459

Instapundit, GANGSTER GOVERNMENT: Inspectors general say Obama aides obstruct investigations.  The majority of the 78 federal inspectors general took the extraordinary step of writing an open letter saying the Administration is blocking their work as a matter of course.  The IRS stonewalling on the Tea Party scandal is part of the pattern.

 

 

News from the Profession. It’s Completely Understandable Someone Might Sign Over 200 Audit Reports By Mistake (Adrienne Gonzalez, Going Concern)

You mean they didn’t shift to organic carrot juice?  “From Coke to Coors: A Field Study of a Fat Tax and its Unintended Consequences” (Via Maria Koklanaris at Tax Analysts):

Could taxation of calorie-dense foods such as soft drinks be used to reduce obesity? To address this question, a six-month field experiment was conducted in an American city of 62,000 where half of the 113 households recruited into the study faced a 10% tax on calorie-dense foods and beverages and half did not. The tax resulted in a short-term (1-month) decrease in soft drink purchases, but no decrease over a 3-month or 6-month period. Moreover, in beer-purchasing households, this tax led to increased purchases of beer.

I’m sure the politicians who want to run everyone’s diet will angrily demand higher beer taxes in response.

 

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Tax Roundup, 6/4/14: IRS to ease up on FBAR foot-faulters? And: nanny-state taxes!

Wednesday, June 4th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Programming note: The Tax Update will take Thursday and Friday off this week to tend to a family wedding.  We’ll be back as usual Monday.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how much he cares for innocent victims of his FBAR war.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how much he cares for innocent victims of his FBAR war.

Maybe we shouldn’t be shooting jaywalkers?  The IRS may be declaring a cease-fire in its long war on inadvertent foreign account violators.  Tax Analysts reports ($link) that IRS Commissioner Koskinen told a tax conference that it will be modifying its Offshore Voluntary Compliance Initiative:

“We are well aware that there are many U.S. citizens who have resided abroad for many years, perhaps even the vast majority of their lives,” Koskinen told a luncheon audience at the 2014 OECD International Tax Conference in Washington. “We have been considering whether these individuals should have an opportunity to come into compliance that doesn’t involve the type of penalties that are appropriate for U.S.-resident taxpayers who were willfully hiding their investments overseas.”

Gee, you think so?  You really think 25%-300% penalties might not be appropriate for the crime of committing personal finance while living abroad?  What could possibly have given him that idea?

     Koskinen also pointed to taxpayers residing in the United States with offshore accounts “whose prior noncompliance clearly did not constitute willful tax evasion but who, to date, have not had a clear way of coming into compliance that doesn’t involve the threat of substantial penalties.”

“We believe that re-striking this balance between enforcement and voluntary compliance is particularly important at this point in time, given that we are nearing July 1, the effective date of FATCA,” Koskinen said. 

One of the things that made Doug Shulman the Worst Commissioner Ever was his brutal treatment of trivial inadvertent offshore paperwork filing violators.  Hopefully his successor will make coming into compliance voluntarily a transparent, predictable process designed primarily to ensure future compliance.  Something like state programs for non-resident non-filers, where taxpayers pay back taxes, if any, and interest for a limited number of open years would make sense  People are understandably reluctant to come into compliance when it can mean financial ruin.

The IRS has not released any details of this kinder, gentler approach, so curb your enthusiasm for now.

Related: IRS Commissioner Koskinen Announces that Changes — Liberalizations — Are In the Offing for OVDP 2012  (Jack Townsend)  “All in all, this is good news, at least from a hope perspective.”

 

20140409-1Robert D Flach offers YET ANOTHER POST CALLING FOR A VOLUNTARY TAX PREPARER DESIGNATION.  Robert makes his case for a “voluntary” designation for preparers who meet some standard.

Robert says something I agree with:

  Having the IRS oversee the designation is not the best idea.  I have suggested that the voluntary RTRP-like designation be administered by an independent industry-based organization like an American Institute of Registered Tax Return Preparers (see “It’s Time for Independent Certification for Tax Preparers“).

If the IRS has nothing to do with it, fine.  If it does, it will inevitably do special favors for its “voluntary” friends and make like difficult for others.

Robert is a little like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz, looking for a brain.  The movie quickly makes clear that the Scarecrow already has a perfectly good brain; all he lacks is a diploma.  Robert, a perfectly good (if old-fashioned) preparer, doesn’t need a diploma to save his clients from the Wicked Witch.

 

TaxGrrrl, After TIGTA Report, Expect More Tax Refund Delays,  The IRS is encouraged to expand its refund offset programs.

Paul Neiffer, Portability Revisited. “With the “permanent” changes in the estate tax laws from about 2 years ago, we now have a permanent provision called portability.  This allows for the unused portion of someone’s estate to be “ported” over to the surviving spouse to be used on their final estate tax return.”

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 391

 

 

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.

Joseph Thorndike, Democrats Just Love Their Nanny-State Taxes (Tax Analysts Blog):

The Tax Foundation recently spotlighted a Democratic tax proposal that gives substance to the name-calling: the Stop Subsidizing Childhood Obesity Act, introduced last month by Sens. Tom Harkin, and Richard Blumenthal.

According to its champions, the act would protect children from the predations of junk food purveyors. In particular, it would deny manufacturers any sort of tax deduction “for advertising and marketing directed at children to promote the consumption of food of poor nutritional quality.” It would use the resulting revenue to help fund the Department of Agriculture’s Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program.

That all sounds great. Except for the fact that it’s arbitrary, capricious, and an egregious misuse of tax policy.

The tax law – is there anything it can’t do?

Joseph adds, wisely:

Reasonable people can disagree about what qualifies as a loophole. But by almost any definition, the deduction for advertising junk food is not one.

Once you decide the tax law is a public policy Swiss Army Knife, there’s no logical place to stop.

 

20140411-1Kay Bell, Calories or volume: Which is the better tax on sugary drinks?  Neither.  Some problems just aren’t tax problems.

David Brunori’s righteous anger at taxes on e-cigarettes is now freely available at Tax Analysts Blog: Taxing E-Cigarettes Seems Crazy.  “Yet politicians routinely say that e-cigarettes will lead people to start smoking, or worse — use drugs! Are they daft?”  No, just greedy.

 

Renu Zaretsky, In the Midwest, Across the Pacific, and Down Under.  Tax Custs in Ohio and a rejected tax boost in Missouri are part of the TaxVox headline roundup today.

 

Tax Justice Blog, Will Anti-Tax Yogis Sink Tax-Reform in D.C.?.  If that’s what it takes to get the pic-i-nic basket.

 

This will make the homecoming in 2042 a little less awkward.  WMUR.com reports:

The woman who, along with her husband, held police at bay during a nine-month standoff in 2007 over tax evasion has apologized to the community.

Elaine Brown’s apology appeared in Plain Facts, a monthly publication written by Plainfield residents.

She said she and her husband Ed were trying to advance the “cause of justice.” She went on to say they “failed to take into account the impact we were having on others in the town. We failed to realize the fear, anxiety and impact we were causing these good people.

She was unable to apologize in person because she has been detained — until November 2042, according to the Bureau of Prisons inmate locator.  She should be home in time to invite her neighbors to her 102nd birthday party.

 

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Tax Roundup, 5/9/14: Worst-ever edition. And: It’s Scandal Day 365!

Friday, May 9th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

I was grumpy yesterday when I noticed Tax Analysts correspondent @Meg_Shreve’s live-tweeting of a speech by Doug Shulman, the Worst IRS Commissioner Ever.  So I tweet-grumpted, adding “#worstcommissionerever (fixed)” to one of her posts — the “(fixed)” as a perhaps inadequate attempt to inform the Twitterverse that the tag was my addition, not hers (apologies to Meg Shreve).  That earned this response:

 

20140509-1

 

Ah, where to begin?  How about with identity theft?  Doug Shulman took office with a reputation as an information systems maven.  He then presided over an historic IT debacle.  Tax refund fraud — fundamentally a systems failure —  has let two-bit grifters like Rashia Wilson steal tens of billions of dollars in fraudulent refunds over the years.

This problem has been ramping up for years, and only now, with Shulman gone, is the IRS beginning to take effective action to prevent it.  My wife can’t go shopping in Chicago without me getting a call from the credit card company warning me of a suspicious transaction, but Doug Shulman’s IRS could send 655 refunds to the same apartment in Lithuania without batting an eye.

Rashia says "thanks, Commissioner!"

Rashia says “thanks, Commissioner!”

While the theft of taxpayer billions is outrageous enough, the inept treatment of ID theft victims makes it even worse.  Only after Doug Shulman left did the IRS even begin to get this right.

The Worst Commissioner Ever was just too darned busy to stop ID theft.  He was busy trying to increase IRS power over preparers with a useless, expensive and unilateral preparer regulation regime.  He reversed the longstanding IRS position that the agency had no such regulatory power, only to be unceremoniously slapped down by the courts.   In the meantime, the prospect of the regulations drove thousands of preparers out of the business, increasing taxpayer costs and driving many taxpayers to self-prepare — and surely causing some to fall out of the system altogether.  The IRS wasted enormous resources on this futile power grab — resources that might have been better-devoted, to, oh, maybe the fight against identity theft.

 

He was also busy shooting jaywalkers.  International tax enforcement is considered Doug Shulman’s greatest success — but there was no reason the pursuit of wealthy international money-launderers had to also terrorize American expatriates whose offenses were to commit everyday personal finance.  Many folks have been hit with ridiculous penalties for not filing FBAR reports that they had no idea existed.  These folks are often people who married overseas or moved out of the U.S. as children, but were presumptively treated as international money-launderers when they tried to come into the system, and were hit with enormous penalties — often when little or no tax had been avoided.

It’s hard to imagine that an agency that can find ways to simply wave away the ACA employer mandate couldn’t find a way to allow expats and individuals without criminal intent to come into the international reporting system without risking financial disaster.  The states that allow non-resident non-filers to come in by paying five years of back taxes provide an obvious model.

 

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how big is legacy is.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how big is legacy is.

Then there is the scandal.  When Tea Party groups complained about absurd and abusive IRS information requests, sympathetic Congresscritters asked Doug Shulman if the IRS was targeting Tea Party groups.  The Worst Commissioner Ever testified before Congress that the IRS was doing nothing of the sort:

“There’s absolutely no targeting. This is the kind of back and forth that happens to people” who apply for tax-exempt status, Shulman said.

That statement, of course, became inoperative when the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reported that the IRS was, in fact, picking on the Tea Party groups.  Subsequent revelations have shown that it was exactly a partisan attempt to fight anti-administration groups.  So Doug Shulman either was too lazy and ineffective to know what his own agency was doing, or he knew, or he didn’t care.  He destroyed the credibility of the agency as a nonpartisan enclave of competent technicians.

Now the party controlling the House of Representatives is on notice that the agency wants to see it lose.  That agency can hardly expect generous appropriations as long as that perception remains (and the new Commissioner has done nothing reassuring on that score).   This will damage the agency’s effectiveness for years — all because The Worst Commissioner Ever was unwilling or unable to run a professional, non-partisan agency.

This is a record of administrative ineptitude and negligence that is unbeaten.  No IRS commissioner has so squandered agency resources and reputation.  If another Commissioner has even come close, I’d sure like to know who it was.

 

Meanwhile, the TaxProf has reached a milestone: The IRS Scandal, Day 365.  The biggest item in this edition is the report that the IRS had not destroyed Tea Party donor lists — after saying it had — and that the IRS has audited 10% of Tea Party donors.  This is a staggering audit rate, if true, and is a tremendous scandal in itself if the IRS doesn’t come up with a good explanation.

TaxGrrrl, House Finds Lerner, Central Figure In Tax Exempt Scandal, In Contempt Of Congress

 

20140509-2Jana Luttenegger, Deadline Approaching to Avoid Losing Tax Exempt Status (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). Get those 990-series reports filed!

Trish McIntire, EFTPS – Inquiry PIN.  “The Inquiry PIN will allow taxpayers to check and make sure that their federal tax deposits have been made and catch a problem before it becomes a major issue.”  This should be used by all employers.

Peter Reilly, Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Owner Scores Touchdown In Tax Court.  “It may seem odd to look at a case that ends up with a charitable deduction dis-allowance of nearly $4 million as a victory, but when you consider how taxpayers generally fare in easement cases it really is.”

Leslie Book, Tax Court Jurisdiction to Determine its Jurisdiction: Foreign Taxes and Credits (Procedurally Taxing)

Mindy Herzfeld, International Tax Trending (Tax Analysts Blog)

 

Richard Borean, Tax Freedom Day Arrives in Final Two States: Connecticut and New Jersey (Tax Policy Blog)

Howard Gleckman, Taxing Employer-Sponsored Insurance Would Hike Social Security Benefits But Boost Federal Coffers (TaxVox)

 

Kay Bell, IRS employee arrested after inadvertently following Obama daughters’ motorcade onto White House grounds.  Oops.

Tax Justice Blog, Déjà vu: Oklahoma Enacts Tax Cut Voters Don’t Want.  I’m not sure about the “don’t want” part.

Robert D. Flach has your Friday morning Buzz!

 

News from the Profession.  Deloitte CEO Prefers Traditional Photo Op Over Selfie  (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/19/14: Are taxes turning Iowa red? And: Statehouse Update!

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

Is Iowa really a red state?  According to personal finance site WalletHub, Iowa is a red state.  But didn’t Iowa vote for Obama the last two elections?  Not that kind of red state.  WalletHub’s map has states with the most burdensome taxes as red states, and those with less burdensome taxes as green:

 

WalletHub

From WalletHub:

 WalletHub analyzed how state and local tax rates compare to the national median in the 50 states as well as the District of Columbia.  We compared eight different types of taxation in order to determine:  1) Which states have the highest and lowest tax rates; 2) how those rates compare to the national median; 3) which states offer the most value in terms of low taxation and high cost-of-living adjusted income levels.

WalletHub says Iowans have a tax burden 26% above the national average.  They note, though, that when the rank is adjusted based on our cost of living, Iowa improves 10 places on their rankings.

This is a different measurement than the Tax Foundations well-known Business Tax Climate Indexwhich places Iowa at 11th-worst.  Either way, it’s not a healthy system.  And nothing major is likely to happen to change it anytime soon.  Still, the The Tax Update’s Quick and Dirty Iowa Tax Reform Plan shows the way!

 

20130117-1Supplies sales tax exemption advances.  The Iowa General Assembly isn’t entirely idle on the tax front.  Sometimes that’s a good thing, as in the House passage yesterday of HF 2443, exempting supplies used in manufacturing from sales tax.  Business inputs in general should not be subject to sales tax, as they are likely to be taxed again when the finished product is sold.

Other than that, there isn’t a lot else to report on the Iowa tax legislative scene.  The speedway tax break remains alive.  The bill to broaden the Iowa capital gain “ten and ten” exclusion hasn’t cleared the committee level.  Silly legislation continues to be introduced, like a 50% state tax credit for payments of principal and interest on student loans (HSB 673).  Let’s encourage crushing student debt burdens!

But sometimes its best when the legislature does nothing.  It’s hard to complain that HF 2770, the bill to pay doctors at their average charge rates with tax credits for “volunteering,” has languished.

 

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how big is legacy is.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how big is legacy is.

The TaxProf notes the Death of Former IRS Commissioner Randoph Thrower; Was Fired for Refusing President’s Request to Audit His Enemies, quoting a New York Times story:

The end came in January 1971, after Mr. Thrower requested a meeting with the president, hoping to warn him personally about the pressure White House staff members had been placing on the IRS to audit the tax returns of certain individuals. Beginning with antiwar leaders and civil rights figures, the list had grown to include journalists and members of Congress, among them every Democratic senator up for re-election in 1970, Mr. Thrower told investigators years later. He was certain the president was unaware of this and would agree that “any suggestion of the introduction of political influence into the IRS” could damage his presidency, he said.

Mr. Thrower received two responses. The first was a memo from the president’s appointments secretary saying a meeting would not be possible; the second was a phone call from John D. Ehrlichman, the president’s domestic affairs adviser, telling him he was fired.

I’ll just note here that Doug Shulman, worst commissioner ever, left on his own terms.

 

David Brunori, Hawaii Tax Credit Craziness (Tax Analysts Blog):

According to some excellent reporting in the Honolulu Civil Beat, the Legislature is considering a slew of tax incentives to promote manufacturing in the state. Yes, there are those (particularly established manufacturers) who would like to promote something other than tourism, hosting of naval bases, and pineapple production. The main proposal (SB 3082) would provide tax credits for employee training and some equipment purchases. The goal is to turn Hawaii into 1960s Pittsburgh or Flint Mich., in their heyday. I have my doubts. 

I don’t think that really plays to Hawaii’s strengths.

 

20120817-1Howard Gleckman, A Terrible Response to the Internet Tax Mess (TaxVox)

Under the plan, the federal government would let retailers collect tax based on the levy where the seller is located, no matter where the purchaser resides. This would apply to all retailers, as long as they had no physical presence in the consumer’s state.

A firm could base its “home jurisdiction” on the state where it has the most employees, the most physical assets, or the state it designates as its principal place of business for federal tax purposes.

Given the nature of online sellers, changing locations to a no-sales-tax state would be fairly easy.

Interesting.  I wonder if a “universal mail order sales tax rate” might ultimately be the answer.  You could set this universal rate at, say, the average national sales tax rate, collect it from all buyers, and remit it to the delivery state through a clearinghouse run by the state revenue agencies.

 

Paul Neiffer, Cash Rents Equals Extra 3.8% on Sale. “However, once you are done farming and are simply renting the ground to other farmers (including relatives), then the rental income will be subject to the tax and even worse, selling the farmland for a large gain will result in extra tax.”

Jana Luttenegger, Filing From Home, and Health Insurance Reporting on W-2s (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog)

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): J Is For Jury Duty Pay   

 

Everything is spinning out of control! Suburban Cleveland Councilman Denies Getting in Brawl With Liberty Tax Sign Spinner (Going Concern)

 

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Tax Roundup, 3/14/14: Unhappy with your state revenue exam? Iowans can appeal to the examiner’s boss! And: stealing the wrong identity.

Friday, March 14th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

 

Via Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia

How would you feel about going to court and finding out that if you win, the appeal will be heard by your opponent?  That’s pretty much how the Iowa internal tax appeals process works.  And while a reform bill is getting attention in the legislature, that feature isn’t going to change just yet, reports Maria Koklanaris in a State Tax Analysts article

In a letter to legislators, DOR Director Courtney Kay-Decker said the department was able to successfully draft legislation for some of the priorities outlined in the report, including implementing a small claims process and eliminating the State Board of Tax Review for all matters except property tax protests. But she said it could not come up with language this year for what she called her highest priority, which is also the top priority of taxpayers in the eyes of many.
“Most importantly, we were unable to cohesively and comprehensively incorporate the recommendation to remove the Director from the appeals process,” Kay-Decker said in her letter. “This is disappointing as it was perhaps my highest priority.”

The Council on State Taxation gives the current Iowa system failing marks.  From Tax Analysts:

Ferdinand Hogroian, tax and legislative counsel at the Council On State Taxation, said Iowa’s tax appeals process is the only area in which the state earns poor marks in COST’s most recent report on tax administration.  The report specifies the director’s involvement in tax appeals as a major problem.
“Although an Administrative Law Judge of the Department of Inspections and Appeals conducts evidentiary hearings, IA DOR can retain jurisdiction and override,” the report says.

Attorney Bruce Baker, who frequently does battle against the Department of Revenue, points out the obvious problem with the current system: “I’ve often joked that my clients would like to be able to appeal to the chairman of the board.”  But the Department of Revenue will retain that option, at least for now.

While the legislation they are working on (SSB 3203) is an improvement, I still think Iowa needs an independent tax court — perhaps three judges from around the state who will agree to serve as tax judges as part of their caseloads to develop expertise.  It could be modeled on the specialty business litigation court that Iowa is experimenting with.  Now if you leave the current internal Department of Revenue Process — appealable by the Department to the Director of the Department — you litigate before generalists judges who may have never heard a tax case before.  They tend to defer to the Department, even when it seems clear the department is wrong.

 

Paul Neiffer, A Bad Day in Court.  A bookie who tried to hide funds overseas does poorly.

Tony Nitti, Professional Gambler Bets Wrong In Tax Court – Takeout Expenses Are Gambling Losses, Not Business Expenses   

TaxGrrrl, Taxes From A To Z (2014): G Is For Garnished Wages .  I hope not yours or mine!

Kay Bell, Sorry tax pros, more taxpayers filing on their own.  Taxpayers always have that option, and preparer regulation would drive more taxpayers to do so by increasing the cost of preparers.  Whether that will improve compliance is left as an exercise for the reader.

 

taxanalystslogoChristopher Bergin, It’s Not Just About Lois Lerner (Tax Analysts Blog):

But we need to remind ourselves that there is a lot more potential abuse going on at the IRS than what’s been associated with Lois Lerner. Here are a few examples. I talk to many practitioners who (a) don’t want to be identified, probably for fear of retaliation, and (b) question the independence of the IRS Appeals Office. That is a big problem.

In 2012 a high-ranking IRS executive said in a speech that she believes the government has a higher duty than that of a private litigant. “The government,” the executive said, “represented by the tax administrator, should not pursue a particular outcome and then look for interpretations in the law that support it. The tax administrator should do nothing more or less than find the law and follow it, regardless of outcome. The separation of powers, a bedrock principle of our Constitution, demands it.”

I have a few questions. How many private tax litigators believe that’s actually how the IRS operates? If this noble statement is taken seriously by others in the IRS, why did Tax Analysts have to go to court to get training materials? And why is the IRS being questioned so strongly by Congress on its belief – or, more accurately, the lack thereof – in the bedrock principle of the separation of powers?

The results-driven IRS approach to non-political issues doesn’t lead you to think Lois Lerner was acting with Olympian detachment in the Tea Party scandal.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 309

Len Burman, How the Tax System Could Help the Middle Class (TaxVox)

My most “innovative”—some would say “radical”—policy option would replace across-the-board price indexing, which exists under current law, with indexation that reflects changes in economic inequality.

An awful idea.  The tax code will never “solve” the problem of inequality.  This is a clever-sounding idea that will do nothing but create complexity.

 

Sauce for the gander, indeed.  Identity Thief Sentenced for Filing Tax Returns in the Names of the Attorney General and Others:

A federal judge sentenced Yafait Tadesse to one year and one day in prison for using the identities of over ten individuals, including the Attorney General of the United States, to file false and fraudulent tax returns.

I don’t wish identity theft on anybody, not even a politician.  It can lead to all kinds of expensive and time-consuming inconveniences and embarrassments.  But if it had to happen to someone, why couldn’t it have been Doug Shulman, who let identity theft spin out of control while he pursued his futile and misguided preparer regulation crusade?

 

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Preparer regulation loses again; DC Circuit upholds Loving decision.

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

20130121-2The Shulman-era IRS preparer regulation program is dead.  The Appeals Court for the DC Circuit today upheld the DC District decision in Loving, a decision holding that the IRS had no authority to enact its elaborate “Registered Tax Return Preparer” regime.  The winning attorneys at the Institute for Justice issued a press release:

Today, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the IRS had no legal authority to impose a nationwide licensing scheme on tax-return preparers. The decision affirms a January 2013 ruling by U.S. District Court Judge James E. Boasberg, which struck down the IRS’s new regulations as unlawful. Both courts rejected the agency’s shocking claim that tax-preparer licensure was authorized by an obscure 1884 statute governing the representatives of Civil War soldiers seeking compensation for dead horses.

“This is a major victory for tax preparers—and taxpayers—nationwide,” said Dan Alban of the Institute for Justice, the lead attorney for the three independent tax preparers who filed the suit. “The court found that Congress never gave the IRS the power to license tax preparers, and the IRS cannot give itself that authority.”

It’s great news for taxpayers, who will not have their return prep costs artificially increased by a regulatory scheme written by a former H&R Block CEO.  It’s good news for preparers, who will not have to waste time and effort in futile paperwork that will do nothing to solve the real problems of the tax system — baroque complexity and internal controls so weak that petty grifters steal billions through refund fraud annually.

The court was blunt in dismissing IRS arguments that a Reconstruction-era statute on Civil War claims gave them the authority to invent an elaborate preparer regulation scheme out of thin air:

In our view, at least six considerations foreclose the IRS’s interpretation of the statute.

Put simply, tax-return preparers are not agents. They do not possess legal authority to act on the taxpayer’s behalf. They cannot legally bind the taxpayer by acting on the taxpayer’s behalf. The IRS cites no law suggesting that tax-return preparers have legal authority to act on behalf of taxpayers. Indeed, a tax-return preparer who tried to act on the taxpayer’s behalf would run into trouble with the IRS…

The IRS may not unilaterally expand its authority through such an expansive, atextual, and ahistorical reading of Section 330.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how big is legacy is.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how big is legacy is.

It’s bad news for the already battered legacy of The Worst Commissioner Ever, who let identity theft balloon while he wasted his time on this pointless exercise.

Congratulations to Dan Alban and the Institute For Justice for their winning work in this case.  I’m glad to have played a small role as an early agitator against preparer regulation and as a participant in an Amicus brief to the D.C. Circuit opposing the rules.

Cite:  Loving, CA-DC No. 13-5061

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 2/6/14: Mortgage credit program revived for Iowa. And: why your state budget surplus is a mirage.

Thursday, February 6th, 2014 by Joe Kristan

IFA logoThe Iowa Finance Authority has opened a program that will allow some Iowans to claim a credit, rather than a deduction, for mortgage interest.  From an IFA press release:

The Iowa Finance Authority has announced that eligible Iowans may buy a home and reduce their federal income tax liability by up to $2,000 a year for the life of their mortgage.

The 2014 Take Credit Mortgage Credit Certificate program will be available beginning this week through IFA Take Credit Program Participating Lenders. Approximately 585 Iowa home buyers are expected to benefit from the program.

It has been some years since these credits were available in Iowa.

The credits aren’t for everyone.  They are targeted to lower-income borrowers, with income limits varying by county.  IFA has a “quick check” page for users to determine eligibility.  But for those who qualify, they are a handy way to reduce mortgage costs.  The credit is claimed on Form 8396.

 

TaxProf, TRAC: IRS Criminal Prosecutions Up 23.4% in Obama Administration.  This is probably due to the explosion in tax-refund theft that was less of a priority than regulating preparers was for the Worst Commissioner Ever and the Obama Administration.

 

taxanalystslogoCara Griffith, The Myth of the Budget Surplus (Tax Analysts Blog):

There seems to be a lot of good news about state budgets lately. Newspaper headlines have changed from doom and gloom over budget crises during the recession to questions about how states will manage budget surpluses. Unfortunately, there are financial problems lurking beneath the surface, and one of the largest may be the underfunding of state and local government pension and healthcare plans.

Even Iowa’s relatively well-funded pension plan is 20% underfunded actuarially, and even that uses an absurd assumption of 7.5% investment returns.  The Taxpayers Association of Central Iowa has a lengthy, but excellent, analysis.  Public defined benefit plans are a lie.  They are a lie to taxpayers understating the cost of current pension accruals, a lie to public employees about what they will get after retirement, or both.

 

Elaine Maag of TaxVox raises Questions About Expanding the Childless EITC:

The EITC is often criticized for its built-in marriage penalty. Imagine a single mom with three kids who earns $17,500. Prior to marriage, she qualifies for the maximum credit of $6,143. But if she marries someone with identical earnings, the additional income will reduce her EITC to just $3,670.

If the childless EITC were expanded and the husband had his own EITC, he would lose all or part of his benefit when the couple married, magnifying the tax increase this couple would face relative to when they were not married. As long as the EITC phases out at higher incomes and is tied to joint income, this will remain an issue.

Not to mention the massive level of EITC fraud and the punitive marginal tax rates on taxpayers working their way out of poverty.

The EITC as a poverty trap: phaseouts of the benefit impose stiff marginal tax rates on the working poor.

 

Jana Luttenegger, Expired Housing-Related Tax Rules (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog).  The exclusion for forgiven mortgage debt is the biggie.

William Perez, Finding the Right Filing Status.  If you are legally married, it’s either joint returns or married filing separate.  Single status is unavailable, even for same-sex couples married in a state that allows them to get married who live in a state that doesn’t.  William provides some excellent explanation.

 

20130419-1Janet Novack, IRS: Don’t Call Us, Look It Up On IRS.Gov.  Well, you might actually get a correct answer that way.

Kay Bell, What the ‘Taxman’ does and doesn’t collect 

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 273

Howard Gleckman, The Cruel Political Paradox of Deficit Reduction (TaxVox)

Carl Smith provides Another Update on Rand Cases in Tax Court at Procedurally Taxing.  The Rand cases hold that an “underpayment” for purposes of penalties does not include the portion of refundable tax credits that tax tax below zero.

Going Concern, Pot Taxes May Not Be Such a Cash Cow Due to, Well, the Cash.  Not to mention the disallowance of all non cost-of-goods-sold deduction for legal dealers.

 

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Tax Roundup, 8/6/2013: Iowa preparer gets prison for reporting too much income. And an ID theft nightmare ends.

Tuesday, August 6th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

bureauofprisonsSometimes a big refund isn’t a good thing.  A Shellsburg, Iowa man went too far to get his clients big refunds.  The AP reports that Keith Rath was sentenced last week to 21 months after pleading guilty one count of an 8-count indictment.  He was charged with fabricating business income on 1040s.

While it may seem odd that the IRS would have a problem with taxpayers reporting too much income, the Earned Income Tax Credit is the motivation.  If you have around $10,000 of businss or wage income, you can maximize this refundable credit, generating a nice check from the IRS.

The report says the clients were anaware of the fraud.  It seems like you would notice a business on your return that doesn’t exist, but many taxpayers don’t even look, especially if they like the refund being reported.  The taxpayer problably isn’t pleased to have to give that money back.

It is estimated that about 25% of earned income tax credit claims are improper.  That apparently is just fine with the Governor and the Iowa General Assembly, who doubled Iowa’s EITC last year — with a predictible effect of sending around $8 million to Iowa thieves annually, with and without the aid of shady preparers.

 

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 89.

 

Jason Dinesen, Taxpayer Identity Theft — Part 18:

I’ve been telling the story of Wendy Boka and the identity theft nightmare she’s going through with the IRS. Her husband Brian died at age 31 in 2010. Someone stole his identity and filed a fraudulent tax return in his name.

On August 1, 2013, the refund check from the IRS for that 2010 tax return finally arrived in Wendy’s mailbox.

Jason’s series on his client’s identity theft nightmare shows the huge cost of this out-of-control scam.  While the $5 billion mailed annually to thieves is bad enough, it pales compared to the human cost to the taxpayers whose IDs are stolen — the months of frustration, the near-useless bureaucracy, and the financial losses.  The IRS failure to address this, while spending resources on a useless preparer regulation scheme, are what made Douglas Shulman the Worst Commissioner Ever.

Kay Bell, Tax-related identity theft: Its growth and IRS efforts to stop it

 

Me, When you buy business assets, no do-overs. (IowaBiz.com):

The Moral?  No do-overs. You only get one shot at the purchase price allocation when you buy a business. The purchase price allocation needs to be addressed early in your negotiations. If you want to have experts come in for a cost segregation study, you should do it as part of your due diligence before the deal closes, or under agreement after the close with the seller. You can’t unilaterally change the allocation. 

 

Russ Fox, Kansas Joins Bad States for Gamblers in 2014

Robert D. Flach has his Buzz on!

TaxGrrrl profiles fellow tax blogger Peter J. Reilly.

Peter Reilly, Rhode Island Not Giving Historic Credit For Journal Entries.   But journal entries are history, right?

Jack Townsend, IRS Has No Authority To Settle Cases Referred to DOJ Tax Even After They Are Returned

William Perez, IRS Update for August 2, 2013

 

Yes.  Is the Exclusion for Employer-Provided Healthcare Outdated? (Jeremy Scott, Tax Analysts Blog)

Martin Sullivan, Tax Reform: Will the Chairmen Offer Real Plans or Gimmicks?  (Tax Analysts Blog) Bet on gimmicks.

Kyle Pomerleau, More Trouble for Small Businesses in Tax Reform Talks (Tax Policy Blog)

Today, it seems like there is more trouble for pass-through businesses coming from the Democratic Party.

According to Tax Analysts (subscription required), Charles Schumer (D-NY) is quoted as saying “I don’t think we should lower individual tax rates. I think the overwhelming majority of our caucus agrees. We think 39.6 percent is about the right rate.”

Any “reform” that doesn’t lower rates is no reform at all.

 

Tax Justice Blog, Sales Tax Holidays Are Silly Policy:

While one commonly cited rationale for such holidays is that they increase local consumer spending, boosting sales for local businesses, available research concludes this “boost” in sales is primarily the result of consumers shifting the timing of their already planned purchases.

Jana Luttenegger, Sales Tax Holidays in Iowa and around the US

Howard Gleckman, We Make More Than We Think (TaxVox)

Boulevard of Broken Dreams. The AICPA Has Created A Place For Young CPAs To Share Their Woes (and Dreams) (Going Concern)

Answering The Critical Question: Why we all need Dolce & Gabbana to survive the tax evasion drama (Handbag.com)

 

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Long live the Queen!

Thursday, July 18th, 2013 by Joe Kristan

20130717-1The Facebook “Queen of IRS Tax Fraud” will need to live for a long time to get out of her new palace.  Rashia Wilson, who famously boasted on her Facebook of her fraud prowess, got a 21-year exile in federal prison yesterday in a Tampa federal courtroom.  Tampa Bay Business Journal reports:

A Tampa federal court judge sentenced Rashia Wilson, a Wimauma woman who dubbed herself the “First Lady” and “Queen of Tax Fraud,” to 21 years in prison on charges of wire fraud, aggravated identity theft and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

She also was ordered to forfeit $2.2 million, the proceeds traceable to the offenses, according to a written statement.

I have a feeling that not much of that $2.2 million will be recouped.

Ms. Wilson, perhaps imprudently, put on her Facebook:

YES I’M RASHIA THE QUEEN OF IRS TAX FRAUD.  IM’ A MILLIONAIRE FOR THE RECORD SO IF U THINK INDICTING ME WILL BE EASY IT WONT I PROMISE U!

She also posted the fetching picture in this post with some of your money.

Identity thieves like Ms. Wilson are milking the U.S. Treasury to the tune of maybe $5 billion annually.  While Rashia Wilson was buying $90,000 cars and throwing $30,000 birthday parties with your money, The Worst Commissioner Ever was leading IRS efforts to create a worthless preparer regulation bureaucracy while hassling Tea Partiers and terrorizing innocent Americans abroad.  Priorities, I guess.

Related: Jason Dinesen, Taxpayer Identity Theft — Part 17

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Tax Roundup, 5/22/2013: Don’t blame me, I’m only the boss. Also: tornado tax relief.

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013 by Joe Kristan
Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how bad he feels about politcal harassment under his watch.

Former IRS Commissioner Shulman, showing how bad he feels about politcal harassment under his watch.

The Worst Commissioner Ever returned to Washington yesterday to testify before a Senate committee on the IRS scandal.  He bravely took responsibility for the targeting of disfavored political groups and apologized to the victims.

Well, not exactly:

 I certainly am not personally responsible for creating a list that had inappropriate criteria on it. And what I know, with the full facts that are out, is from the inspector general’s report, which doesn’t say that I’m responsible for that. With that said, this happened on my watch. And I very much regret that it happened on my watch.

In other words, I was just the boss, and you can’t blame me for what those crazy kids in Cincinnati do.

 

Just exercising the right they encouraged the Tea Partiers to use – silence.  The IRS functionary who announced the scandal in response to a planted question isn’t going to answer real ones.  From the Wall Street Journal:

Lois Lerner, the head of the Internal Revenue Service office that targeted conservative groups, intends to invoke her constitutional right against self-incrimination and decline to answer questions about the matter when questioned by a congressional committee Wednesday.

Ms. Lerner, director of the tax-exempt-organizations division at the IRS, notified the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform through her attorney that she wouldn’t answer questions on the matter, according to a committee spokesman.

When it comes to the Bill of Rights, better late than never.

 

Is Washington a suburb of Cincinnati?  Oversight from Washington, All Along    (Eliana Johnson)

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 13

Watchdog.org, Top 10 quotes about Obama’s #scandalpalooza

Via Don Boudreaux, The Real Lesson of the IRS Scandal (Richard Epstein) and The Autocrat Accountants    (Mark Steyn)

Patrick Temple-West,  White House knew of IRS scandal in April, and more (Tax Break)

Clint Stretch, Targeting tax-exempts and tax reform (Tax Analysts Blog)

Joseph Thorndike, A World Without 501(c)(4)s (Tax Analysts Blog)

Russ Fox, Ms. Lerner Knows the Fifth (IRS Scandal Update)

 

In other news:

Kay Bell, Tornado-ravaged areas of Oklahoma declared major disasters, leading to special tax relief from IRS

Trish McIntire,  Oklahoma DIsaster- Tax Relief.

TaxGrrrl, IRS Announces Tax Relief For Oklahoma Tornado Victims

 

Paul Neiffer, Will Excess Farm Loss Rules Apply With New Farm Bill?

Jason Dinesen, How to Allocate the Deduction for Federal Estimated Tax Payments on Your Iowa Tax Return

Robert D. Flach, TRUE TAX TIME TALES – IRA WITHDRAWALS

 

Brian Strahle,  MARYLAND:  WYNNE CASE UPDATE

On Friday, May 17, 2013, the Maryland Court of Appeals denied the comptroller’s motion for reconsideration in Comptroller v. Wynne,  which struck down the state’s application of credits against pass through income from S corporations; however, the court stayed implementation of the ruling to allow the comptroller to petition the U.S. Supreme Court for certiorari.

Peter Reilly,  RVania Resident Taxed By New Mexico.  State tax problems of folks who live on the road.

 

Kaye Thomas,  Self-Directed IRA Implodes.  The same case I discussed here.

 

 Jack Townsend, Tax Perjury and FBAR Charges Related to Illegal Income Fake Art Case

Jim Maule, Taxation is Not Theft.  It’s not theft when the government does it.

 

 

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Tax Roundup, 11/9/2012: Don’t let the door hit you, Commissioner.

Friday, November 9th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

So long, Worst Commissioner Ever.

Today is the last day in office for IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman.  He gave a validictory speech to the AICPA reciting what he sees as his accomplishments — primarily the crackdown on international tax evasion and alleged progress in IRS technology.  He left out what I consider his most important achievements.  These include:

Wasting IRS resources, practitioner time, and taxpayer money on a futile taxpayer regulation regime.  The new program will expand IRS power over practitioners and help clear the field of competitors for H&R Block and Jackson Hewitt, which is the real goal.  It will increase the cost for taxpayers to have their returns done, driving some to do their own returns without help and others to drop out of the system.  It certainly won’t improve compliance by enough to justify the cost.

Identity theft refund fraud has become an epidemic on his watch.  While he was busy grabbing regulatory power over preparers and beating up on Americans abroad (see below), street thieves learned that they could steal billions from the taxpayers through ID-theft fraud and debit cards.  It’s a $5 billion annual problem, and only in the last few months has the service stirred itself to begin to address the issue.

The IRS crackdown on international tax fraud has ended up terrorizing thousands of innocent taxpayers.  U.S. citizens employed abroad and accidental citizens who have long since set up residence in other countries — generally owing no U.S. tax  — find themselves hounded and threatened with ruinous fines for failing to comply with busy-work paperwork requirements that they had never heard of.

There’s more, of course.  The IRS Taxpayer Liaison office is being gutted and the Taxpayer Advocate office emasculated, taxpayer service only gets worse, the K-1 matching and self-employment income initiatives send millions of wrong notices to taxpayers, and it’s never been more difficult to get answers out of Washington.   With his replacement to be appointed by a President who loves regulatory excess, taxpayers can only brace themselves for more of the same.

 

TaxProf, Voters Say Yes to Marijuana, IRS Says No, linking to a Forbes piece by Robert Wood.  False move by IRS.  If we all were stoned, the tax law might appear to make sense.

Going Concern,   Chuck Schumer Is Willing to Give John Boehner a Few Days to Warm Up to Higher Taxes

Martin Sullivan,  Tax Reform 2.0 (Tax.com):

 Get rid of the AMT. Simplify rules for pensions and retirement saving. Simplify education incentives. And in our effort to maintain distributional neutrality, don’t reinstate the Pease provision and personal exemption phaseout (as proposed by Obama). And don’t install new phaseouts of itemized deductions (as suggested by Romney). These are just hidden marginal rate increases.

Kay Bell,  Tax compromise or coded tax talk?

Paul Neiffer,  ObamaCare Here To Stay (At least 4 more years)

Especially those of GM, Chrysler, windmill companies…   CEOs vow to work with Obama team, and more   (Patrick Temple-West, TaxBreak)

Phil Hodgen,   Fideicomiso private letter ruling offers some hope:

This is an immensely sane step in the right direction.  Fideicomisos are title-holding mechanisms required by the Mexican Constitution.  A Mexican bank holds title to your real estate but otherwise takes no responsibility whatsoever for anything.  Trustees are required to protect and preserve assets for the beneficiaries.  A fideicomiso does not behave like a trust at all.

Anthony Nitti,   Continuing The Countdown: The 8th Most Noteworthy Tax Case Of 2012

Jim Maule,  Tax Collection Obligation is Not a Taxing Power Issue

Peter Reilly,   Hurricane Sandy Tax Relief – More Than Meets The Eye

Today? Right now?  RETIRE A MILLIONAIRE!  (Robert D. Flach)

 

Have a great weekend!

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Tax Roundup, 11/8/2012: Denison Day! And some things to look forward to.

Thursday, November 8th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

The Tax Update is on the road in beautiful Denison, Iowa, birthplace of Donna Reed!

 

I’m speaking at the Iowa State University Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation Farm and Urban Tax School.  There’s still time to register for the remaining five sessions!

 

“‘There are a lot of sales right now,’ explains Steve Bruere, president of Peoples Co. in West Des Moines.”  From IowaFarmerToday.com:

“I see a drop off (in the number of sales) after the first of the year.”’s one logical response to the looming increase in capital gain rates. 

With potential sellers concerned they may have to pay a 20 percent capital gains tax rate instead of 15 percent, and with many of them questioning what other tax changes may be coming, there has been a push to sell now.

The logic says if you were seriously considering a land sale, you would make sure it happened before the end of the year, Bruere says.

Actually, the rate will probably be 23.8%, including the new Obamacare tax on investment income.

More to look forward to:  “The IRS Small Business/Self-Employed Division plans to increase its audit activity for passthrough entities beginning in 2014, SB/SE Commissioner Faris Fink said November 7,”  reports Tax Analysts ($link).  But if you operate a C corporation, don’t be smug:

SB/SE is planning a one-year National Research Program project to study areas of noncompliance. Under the project, the division will examine 2,500 returns from corporations with assets of less than $250,000, Fink said.

Something to look forward to, like a colonoscopy appointment.

 

The Election is over. Now what?

TaxProf, Boehner Would Accept ‘New Revenue’ Under ’Right Conditions’

Going Concern, Hold the Phone, John Boehner Didn’t Say Anything About Taxes Going Up

 Martin Sullivan,   Wanna-Be Tax Reformers Need a Dose of Reality (Tax.com)

Daniel Shaviro,  Boehner on the possible terms for a fiscal cliff deal

Kay Bell,  Investors sell stock ahead of fiscal cliff, plus locking in 15 percent capital gains

Patrick Temple-West,  How far can Obama push on key issues including tax increases, and more

Anthony  Nitti,  With The Election Over, We Can Finally Do Some Meaningful Tax Planning. Six Year-End Steps To Consider.  #6 is bold planning indeed.

 

In other news… 

Robert D. Flach,  DEDUCTING SANDY

William Perez,  New Jersey Tax Relief for Hurricane Sandy

Linda Beale,  Tax Relief for Victims of Sandy

Richard Morrison,   Chart of the Day: Can Taxing Millionaires Eliminate the Deficit?  (No).

Brian Strahle,  How Virginia Based Companies Can Reduce Their State Income Tax Liability

TaxGrrrl, IRS Commissioner Says Public Goodbye After Election 2012

Jack Townsend,  Commissioner’s Swan Song – Excerpts on Offshore Bank Initiatives

 

Tomorrow is Doug Shulman’s last day as IRS Commissioner.  So how is the fight against tax refund fraud going?

Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor went public with her irritation at the slow pace of the investigation into a piece of the tax fraud scourge spreading among street criminals. Authorities say hundreds of millions of dollars in bogus income tax returns have been processed from the Tampa area alone.

“We have an individual that we know did in the ballpark of $9 million in tax fraud,” Castor said in February. “He was arrested and charged in September. And there’s no reason for us to believe that he’s slowed down at all.”

In March, Tampa Police Detective Sal Augeri testified before a U.S. Senate subcommittee in Washington about tax refund fraud and described the Simmons case without naming him.

“We have no reason to believe he has stopped committing this crime,” Augeri said then.

Russell B. Simmons, the man referred to above, pleaded guilty this week to tax fraud. He has to give up ill-gotten goods, including “… a $60,000 Bentley coupe and diamond jewelry that included a $30,000, 18-karat gold Rolex watch with a diamond dial; a 14-karat gold men’s bracelet with 2,420 diamonds; a 14-karat chain and “RS” pendant with 703 diamonds; and a 14-karat ring with 110 diamonds.

Every day the IRS let the identity thief continue to operate, he created new little nightmares, like those experienced by Jason Dinesen’s client, for the innocent taxpayers whose identities he stole.  Meanwhile, Commissioner Shulman was focusing IRS resources on creating a big, expensive and futile preparer regulation bureaucracy.  A man has to have priorities, after all.

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Tax Roundup, 11/5/2012: Last week for the commissioner!

Monday, November 5th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Soon-to-be-former-IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman

Little disasters every day, courtesy Doug Shulman’s IRS.  We shouldn’t be surprised that the federal government is once again making a hash out of disaster relief.  They can’t even handle one-victim disasters at the IRS.  Jason Dinesen has posted two more installments (9, 10) of the infuriating saga of a client’s struggle with identity theft after her husband died.  From the latest installment:

I then proceeded to point out that it’s been 33 months since Brian died, 18 months since we filed the tax return, and 12+ months since we sent the original Form 14039 to the IRS. Again, can’t they use common sense and wrap this up?

The answer was, no.

Contrast that with the prompt issuance of a tax refund to the identity thief over a year ago.

Jason’s client ID theft problem was almost certainly the result of a glaring problem that has been known in the agency for years involving the use of social security numbers of recently-dead taxpayers published by the government by identity thieves.  The IRS is only now taking steps to fight it, while billions of tax dollars continue to go out to the thieves annually.  Meanwhile, they’ve found time to institute an expensive and futile preparer regulation scheme and power-grab.  They have their priorities, after all.

One thing voters of all parties can look forward to this week is the Friday expiration of the term of Doug Shulman, The Worst IRS Commissioner Ever.

 

Richard Morrison,   Chart of the Day: Trends in Business Income (Tax Policy Blog)

 

Brutal Assault on Reason Watch: 

TaxGrrrl,  Election Day Primer: Comparing the Obama and Romney Tax Plans

TaxProf,  Johnson: Tax Reform and the Presidential Election

Kay Bell, Voters get their say Nov. 6 on 30 tax-related state ballot initiatives

Joseph Thorndike,  Muzzling CRS is a Bad Idea — Even for Republicans (Tax.com)

Len Burman,  Which presidents spend the most? You might be surprised. (TaxVox)  For some reason he stops in 2001.

Paul Neiffer,  Get Ready For The New Medicare Tax Increase on Earned Income

Anthony Nitti,  Victims of Superstorm Sandy May Be Able To Exclude Assistance Payments From Taxable Income

Jack Townsend notes an Article on Erosion of Swiss Secrecy

Peter Reilly,  Unfair Tax Court Decisions On Life Insurance Are Tip Of Unclaimed Property Iceberg

Missouri Tax Guy,  Advantages of Filing a Tax Return Extension

Robert D. Flach,  TOP TEN LIST ADDENDUM.  This is so true:

More than half of the balance due notices that are sent out by the Internal Revenue Service and state tax agencies are incorrect.  If you receive such a notice send it to your tax professional ASAP.

I would love to see an accounting of how much revenue the government steals from taxpayers who write checks because they are afraid of the revenue agencies, or because the amounts are known to be wrong, but the taxpayer doesn’t think they are worth the fight.

 

Bad News you can Use:  Bad News for German Poker Players (Russ Fox)

 

Richman, Dumdum man.  The story you are about to read is true.  Then names have been left the same to protect the humor.  CBSlocal from Chicago reports:

He wasn’t too smart about paying federal income taxes, and now Rimando Dumdum man is going to prison. 

WBBM’s Bernie Tafoya reports the 44-year-old Morton Grove tax preparer, who came to the U.S. from the Philippines in 1989, owned a company called “Richman Tax Solutions.”

Apparently it’s easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a Richman to get a tax return right.  But all things are possible:

According to his plea agreement, he helped clients illegally trim an average of $1,400 from their tax bills. In all, between his clients’ returns, and his own tax fraud, Dumdum cheated the federal government out of $232,000 in all.

However, prosecutors said he likely helped clients evade $3.5 million in taxes, citing an audit showing his company falsified 99 percent of the tax returns it filed.

The way he looks out for the 99%, he should be a favorite of the Occupy people.  I wonder if the 1% of his customers who didn’t get phony returns feels cheated somehow.

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Tax Roundup, 10/11/12: Don’t let the door hit you edition.

Thursday, October 11th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Hey, everybody, those extended 1040s are due Monday!  

Doug Shulman shows how much he cares.

Doug Shulman steps down November 9.   (TaxProf). Meanwhile, his legacy lives on:

Federal authorities Wednesday stepped up their assault on the viral-like crime of identity theft and tax fraud, arresting dozens of South Florida suspects on charges of filing fake returns totaling millions of dollars.

  Three homes were raided Wednesday in an effort to crack down on rampant tax fraud in the Tampa Bay area.

Under Commissioner Shulman’s watch, identity theft tax refund fraud has reached epidemic proportions.  The IRS mails perhaps $5 billion of your hard-earned tax dollars to thieves annually, while creating nightmares for taxpayers whose tax lives are disrupted and refunds held up.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Shulman has spent his time terrifying innocent Americans who have foot-faulted their obscure information reporting responsibilities and imposing a useless but expensive preparer regulation regime.  Way to go, Commissioner.

 

Attorney for West Des Moines payroll service says firm will catch up on unremitted client taxes (West Des Moines Patch)

No. If Europe Adds a Financial Transactions Tax, Will We Follow? (Linda Beale)

Martin Sullivan,  Don’t Count on Dynamic Scoring (Tax.com).  Meanwhile, William McBride, in How Far we are from the Enlightenment (Tax Policy Blog), doesn’t seem to fully agree with Mr. Sullivan.

Patrick Temple-West,  Essential reading: Romney pledges to keep tax deductions for mortgages, and more

Peter Reilly,  Three Candidates And Carried Interest:

I sometimes think that I am the only person who writes about taxes in a non-technical publication, really understands what “carried interest” is all about and does not find it particularly upsetting. 

I guess that makes the Tax Update a technical publication.  I don’t think carried interests — profits interests in partnerships — are bad things, and I think the proffered “cures” are.

Daniel Shaviro,  1986-style tax reform: a good idea whose time has passed

Anthony Nitti,  Tax Court: In Order to Take A Worthless Debt Deduction, the Debt Need Actually Be Worthless

Kay Bell,  5 tax-saving deductions & credits

Ain’t that the truth:  Return Still Not Done (Trish McIntire)

Paul Neiffer,  Is the True US Deficit $76 Trillion Instead of $16 Trillion

Need continuing education?  Registration is open for this year’s fall tax schools at the ISU Center for Agricultural Law and Taxation.  I’m on the Day 1 teaching schedule.  Yes, there’s farm stuff, but there’s plenty for us city folk too.

News you can use: If You Equate Long Hours with Hard Work Then You Aren’t “Committed” But You May Be a Dumbass (Going Concern)

 

This won’t work out well.  From Post-Gazette.com

Joseph E. Gump’s trial for evading taxes from 2003 through 2006 had been set to start Tuesday. But Mr. Gump told the court last week that he would plead guilty, prompting the judge to cancel a call for 50 prospective jurors.
Then Mr. Gump wrote to U.S. Judge Terrence F. McVerry’s staff saying that a guilty plea “would be a lie” and demanding a trial.
Why?
He said he understood that any prison sentence will likely be less if he pleads guilty, but said he did not believe he engaged in any evasion.

Mr. Gump was accused in a 2011 indictment of indicating “none” as his taxable income for four years during which he earned a total of $250,333 and owed a total of $49,370. He has argued in court filings that the income tax can only be legally levied on federal lands.

Good luck convincing a jury that files returns every April of that.
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Tax Roundup, 8/30/2012: Hey, I said I’m sorry edition. But the IRS isn’t apologizing!

Thursday, August 30th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Sorry about that $2.1 million.  Remember the world’s thriftiest tax cheat, the one who stole $2.1 million from Oregon and used it to buy a 1999 Dodge Caravan and some tires?  An apology from the director of the Oregon Department of Revenue didn’t go well, according to this report from OregonLive.com:

SALEM — A contrite director of the Oregon Department of Revenue appeared before a legislative committee Wednesday and apologized repeatedly for dropping the ball on a $2.1 million fraudulent tax refund. But both Democrats and Republicans weren’t in a forgiving mood, demanding to know why four workers who failed to catch the return weren’t fired and whether the agency can do its job.

“It’s not going to be enough to sit here and say you’re sorry,” said Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario.

 

Why are they so upset?  He said he was sorry, after all?

 

Two managers and one administrative clerk received written reprimands but no change in their salaries. A fourth worker was demoted and transferred to another part of the agency. That person, an administrative specialist, got a pay cut from $45,396 a year to $41,208.  

Most private sector clerks have problems beyond reprimands if they let $2.1 million go out the door to a theif.  Still, while the apology may not seem like much, it’s more than we’ve gotten from IRS Director Doug Shulman for letting over $5 billion per year go out the door to identity thieves.

Why is Doug Shulman too darn busy to apologize for letting ID thieves loot the Treasury?  Maybe because he’s spending his time making life miserable for Canadians.  Tax Notes reports ($link) that Frustration Grows for Canadians in OVDI:

Taxpayers and their advisers asked the IRS for guidance on how to deal with RRSPs [Canadian retirement accounts] in the summer of 2011 but received inconsistent replies     The IRS’s delay in issuing the guidance…  annoyed taxpayers because, at least regarding the requests for a letter ruling granting 9100 relief, it caused them to incur professional fees that turned out to be unnecessary.

“This decision could have been made in September, October, even November, and the clients could have avoided the additional costs,” said [attorney] Ciraolo. “While we appreciate the 9100 relief offered under FAQ 54, the fact that the IRS failed to acknowledge the inconvenience and cost caused by the delayed guidance, and failed to address whether the Canadians in the OVDI would be eligible for the new program open on September 1, only furthered the belief of the Canadian taxpayers that the IRS is acting without due consideration to the circumstances of those taxpayers who entered the OVDI in good faith.”

Of course.  The program has been haphazardly administered, treating innocent noncompliance with obscure IRS rules as presumptive evidence of offshore money-laundering.
The frustration that the delayed guidance on late elections to file Form 8891 has caused for U.S. practitioners and their Canadian clients exacerbated an increasingly tense diplomatic situation and perhaps convinced some Canadian taxpayers who sat out the 2011 OVDI that noncompliance was the right choice.

So we’ve provoked our closest neighbor while convincng many that non-compliance is safer than expecting the IRS to be fair.  Well done, Commissioner! 

Jack Townsend,  AICPA Complains to IRS About Form 3520 Administration Issues.  Form 3520 is a form that must be filed by taxpayers with interests in foreign trusts.  You’ll be shocked to hear that Doug Shulman’s IRS is botching it:
The AICPA letter described six specific errors the IRS letters claim taxpayers have made, including filing Form 3520 late when it was filed on time.

When you make it harder to follow the rules than to ignore them, the results won’t be good. 


This looks like one of those kinds of things that happen when staffing at a government agency is reduced beyond what is reasonable for the kinds of tasks that have to be carried out. 

I’d be more sympathetic to that argument if Doug Shulman’s IRS hadn’t taken it upon itself to devote massive resources to an intrusive and futile preparer regulatory scheme at the behest of the big national tax preparation firms and to requiring massive amounts of futile paperwork for international compliance.

How Bain Capital execs lower their taxes (Dan Primack, Fortune, via Going Concern):

There has been lots of talk over the past few days about how Bain Capital executives have used management fee waivers to effectively lower their tax payments (a tactic that is not unique to Bain). Some academics have argued that such waivers are an illegal dodge, while private equity tax attorneys I’ve spoken with call it “aggressive but accepted by the IRS.”

Here is the basic structure: Bain officially charges 2% management fees to investors in its private equity funds. The idea is to cover overhead, such as salaries, office leases, electric bills, etc.  But Bain has lots of other business lines (venture capital funds, hedge funds, etc.) that generate sufficient cash flow, so it “waives” the PE fund management fees…

By doing so, Bain partners don’t pay ordinary income taxes on their management fees. Instead, they pay at capital gains rates if/when the deals generate profit (because it’s now considered carried interest).

Many commentators seem to think that Mitt Romney should have gone out of his way to pay the highest tax possible, rather than doing what his tax advisors and the rest of his industry did.  I doubt that they direct their own preparers to forego deductions and exclusions that they think are poor policy or the result of poor administrative interpretations of the tax law.

 

TaxProf: Mitt Romney’s Tax Mysteries: A Reading Guide

Dan Meyer, The Annual Tax Extenders Legislation Addressed by the Senate.  But it has a long way to go.

Peter Reilly, Challenge To Clergy Tax  Break Gets Green Light — Next Stop, Scientology?

 Jason Dinesen has incorporated.

Anthony Nitti, How Does a “Go Shop” Provision Impact the Treatment of Transaction Costs?

 

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Tax Roundup, August 22, 2012: ID theft; the economist-politician gap; free subtlety and nuance!

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Doug Shulman, showing how much he cares.

The IRS does a bang-up job shoveling our cash to identity thieves,   as we have mentioned.  Too bad they don’t do as well helping out the theft victims.  Jason Dinesen tells what he has learned helping a widow deal with the theft of her husband’s identity:

  • The IRS is woefully under-equipped to deal with identity theft on tax returns.
  • The departments of the IRS don’t communicate with each other — or with themselves. Things I told the practitioner hotline were lost to the wind, as my conversations with them were not available to the collections department. And even within the collections department, it takes them 9+ weeks to open the mail, and not every call gets logged.
  • I really wish the IRS would tell you whose desk a tax return is sitting on. This is true even in cases not involving identity theft. It’s almost impossible to get answers when you call the IRS, because you — and the IRS rep you talk to when you call — don’t know which IRS employee is actually looking at the return.
  • Congress needs to do something to fix the problem with the Death Master File. It’s ridiculous that the government publishes something that is such a goldmine for identity theft.

Apparently IRS Commissioner Shulman has other priorities.

Related:  Missouri Tax GuyAvoid Identity Theft

 

TaxProf, Six Policies Economists Love (And Politicians Hate):

NPR, Six Policies Economists Love (And Politicians Hate): 

  1. Eliminate the mortgage tax deduction. …
  2. End the tax deduction companies get for providing health-care to employees. …
  3. Eliminate the corporate income tax. …
  4. Eliminate all income and payroll taxes. All of them. For everyone. Taxes discourage whatever you’re taxing, but we like income, so why tax it? Payroll taxes discourage creating jobs. Not such a good idea. Instead, impose a consumption tax, designed to be progressive to protect lower-income households.
  5. Tax carbon emissions. …
  6. Legalize marijuana. …

 

Stephen Moore,  The U.S. Tax System: Who Really Pays?:

The Tax Policy Center, which is run by the Urban Institute and the Brookings Institution, recently studied payroll and income taxes paid by every income group. It found that the highest-income 1 percent of Americans still pay a combined (income plus payroll) average rate of 26.[1] percent, while the poorest fifth of Americans receive a refund of 0.9 percent, largely through the Earned Income Tax Credit. As Figure 3 illustrates, even when the regressive effects of the payroll tax are counted, the rich contribute a greater fraction of their income, and make a greater contribution to federal tax revenues, than other income groups.

It’s a powerful antidote to arguments that we just need to beat up on the rich some more.  The rich guy isn’t buying this round.

 

William Perez,  IRS Offers Tips for Correcting Tax Returns.  Paul Ryan knows how that works.

Jim Maule, How Not to Claim a Casualty Loss Deduction

Kay Bell, Bush tax cuts: slur, boast or both?

Janet Novack, Pssst! Florida! Obama And Ryan Both Want Seniors To Pay More For Medicare

Peter Reilly, Real Reason Romney Returns Not Being Released ?

Robert D. Flach has a new Wednesday Buzz.

Maybe that Swiss bank account wasn’t such a hot idea.  Credit Suisse / Wegelin Client Pleads Guilty to FBAR Violation in SDNY (Jack Townsend)

Dear Readers: Is my opinion of Commissioner Shulman too nuanced and subtle?

Fair Tax Gives Gary Johnson Some Hiccups On The Trail (Garrett Quinn, Reason.com):

When Libertarian presidential nominee Gary Johnson brought up the Fair Tax at his party’s nominating convention in Las Vegas, he was occasionally booed and even heckled by some of the delegates in the hall. It was the only thing his chief rival for the nomination, Lee Wrights, could really attack him on from a policy standpoint.

While I’m not holding my breath for a Gary Johnson presidency (alas), I remain puzzled by the continued embrace of the “Fair Tax” by otherwise-sensible politicians.   A 30% national sales tax (and that’s the rate, even though the 23% claimed by advocates is bad enough) on a narrow consumption base would never work.  And based on this story, it isn’t even very popular among audiences with selective tastes.

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Tax Roundup, 8/8/12: IRS goes for the gold. Also: ID theft in Iowa, and dating taxes!

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

Hour of gold, hour of lead: Olympic Legends Jackie Joyner-Kersee And Bobby Kersee Face New Tax Troubles (Janet Novack):

Olympic legends Jacqueline (Jackie) Joyner-Kersee and husband/coach Robert (Bobby) Kersee are facing a new round of financial troubles, with the Internal Revenue Service claiming they owe $386,000 in added taxes and penalties on $1.5 million of taxable income  for 2007 through 2010. The couple, who reported a total of just $703,000 in taxable income for those four years, is disputing the bill in a previously unreported lawsuit they filed in U.S. Tax Court in June.

They probably won’t care for “Tax-Free Olympic Boodle is Gold Medal Stupidity” from Howard Gleckman.

After shooting himself in the leg, it seems to taxdood that football player Plaxico Buress is Now Shooting Himself in the Foot.

Jason Dinesen has the second installment of his experience with identity theft:

But we sent the paperwork to the IRS, and then waited for a response.

And waited.

And waited.

Nothing at all from the IRS.

Then the ominous-sounding IRS notices started coming.

IRS Commissioner Shulman has invested enormous IRS resources in regulating preparers.  Meanwhile, he has let identity thieves steal $5 billlion a year from the taxpayers while creating paperwork nightmares for widows like Jason’s client.  He gets the gold medal for worst commissioner ever.

Daugerdas Defendant Whose Conviction Was Not Dismissed Claims Ineffective Assistance of Counsel (Jack Townsend): 

From my perspective, I think Judge Pauley erred originally in punishing Parse because of his attorneys’ alleged conduct / deficiencies that Parse did not knowing approve. I think Judge Pauley had a window to give the relief — a new trial, which is going to occur anyway for the other defendants.

Missouri Tax Guy: Tax Court Ruling may help Small Business Owners

Anthony Nitti, Scoring the Romney Tax Proposal

Kay Bell, Expired tax breaks get Senate panel OK

Robert D. Flach has a new Buzz.

Peter Reilly, Convicted Cicero Town President Learns Silence Not Golden In Tax Court.  Tax Update coverage of the same case here.

Deborah L. Jacobs, Estate Planning Questions Advisors Ask When They Get Together (Forbes)

Sequels are never as good as the original. The Tax Consequences of Being Paid to Date: The Sequel

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IRS Commissioner Shulman: you obey the law. Me, that’s different.

Monday, February 20th, 2012 by Joe Kristan

The IRS hasn’t been known for sympathy for inadvertent violators of the foreign account reporting rules. Americans inheriting foreign property from distant relatives, young Americans who moved abroad to start a career, children born in the U.S. who have lived abroad since infancy — all face stern wrath, and big fines, for not filing foreign financial account disclosures that they had no idea existed.
You would think that a Commissioner so stern about punishing foot-faults would be extra careful about obeying the rules itself, if he had a smidgen of shame or self-awareness. Apparently not.
Tax Analysts reports that IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman will simply ignore his statutory duty to respond to a Taxpayer Advocate Directive on abuses of offshore taxpayers in the Offshore Voluntary Disclosure program. From the story ($link):

IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman has no plans to respond in writing to National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson’s taxpayer advocate directive (TAD) on the IRS offshore voluntary disclosure program (OVDP) despite a statutory requirement that taxpayer advocate recommendations be responded to within 90 days, Olson said February 17.
According to Olson, who spoke at the Individual and Family Taxation session of the American Bar Association Section of Taxation meeting in San Diego, Shulman told her that section 7803(c), which requires the commissioner to formally respond to any taxpayer advocate recommendation within three months of its submission, applies only to the taxpayer advocate’s annual report and not to recommendations made through TADs or taxpayer assistance orders (TAOs).

How convenient for him. Let’s see what Section 7803(c) says:

(3) Responsibilities of Commissioner
The Commissioner shall establish procedures requiring a formal response to all recommendations submitted to the Commissioner by the National Taxpayer Advocate within 3 months after submission to the Commissioner.

That’s “all recommendations.” Not “all recommendations submitted in the annual report of the Taxpayer Advocate.” Not “all recommendations under this Section.” Just “all recommendations.” If there was a 50% annual penalty assessed on the balance of the Commissioner’s bank and retirement accounts for failing to respond on time — the same penalty that he is gleefully assessing on offshore account non-reporters — I bet he would have responded. After all, unlike the unwitting victims of the offshore compliance jaywalker hunt, it’s clear the Commissioner is well aware of this requirement.

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IRS to sue for peace in war against Americans in Canada; war against other Americans abroad continues

Monday, December 5th, 2011 by Joe Kristan

After bringing the nation to the verge of war with Canada, the IRS is preparing a retreat. Tax Analysts reports ($link) that the IRS is backing off of its aggressive approach to penalizing Americans in Canada who haven’t been reporting their Canadian financial accounts:

While the IRS spokesperson didn’t provide any details on what that guidance will provide, [U.S. Ambassador to Canada David] Jacobson said in the Globe and Mail interview that the IRS will make it clear that if a dual citizen living in Canada files a U.S. tax return late and owes no taxes, there will be no penalties for failure to file. The guidance also will provide that those who were unaware of the FBAR filing requirement will be able to file previous reports now, along with a statement explaining why they’re filing late, and that no penalty will be imposed if the IRS determines that there is reasonable cause. Finally, individuals who took part in the IRS’s 2011 offshore voluntary disclosure initiative or in the 2009 special offshore voluntary disclosure program will be able to get back penalties already paid, according to Jacobson.

That’s all well and good, but the IRS is still using the tactics that triggered the outrage in Canada on Americans worldwide. If it’s outrageous and unreasonable for Americans in Canada, it’s so everywhere.
Related:
Shulman’s great Canadian Pension Raid
Why IRS agents seldom transfer to the Foreign Service

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Who needs the State Department when you have IRS?

Tuesday, October 4th, 2011 by Joe Kristan

IRS Commissioner Shulman’s efforts to provoke war with Canada continue apace. Phil Hodgen reports:

The Premier of New Brunswick is in the OVDI. In an article published on Saturday in the online Telegraph-Journal, we see a prominent Canadian politician

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