Legalization of gay marriage didn’t go over very well in the Golden State but come November, my fellow Californians and I will be deciding whether or not we’re up for taxing the hell out of the chronic to save our state’s sad fiscal sitch with an estimated $1.4 billion in revenue a year by making marijuana possession legal. According to the bill, an ounce would bring in $50 in revenue .
Now, we’re not promoting huge grow rooms in grandma’s Pomona basement but the law would allow an ounce for personal use (some of you might question that amount as a tad large) and for anyone over the age of 21 to have 25 square feet of plants growing in their residence.
As is, California is pretty loose with the definition of “medical use” and if you’ve ever been to Venice Beach, you already know that pot has been a big business round these parts since Proposition 215 made medicinal use legal. Everyone from depressed shlubs to Mr Magoo-sighted grandmas can head to the cannabis club for their medicine and some smart cities like Oakland already tax these sales.
Some of you may not realize this but pot is essentially legal in San Francisco anyway. I’ve never heard of cops asking for a prescription if you get busted toking on a blunt in the FiDi (hey, work is stressful) and the rumor is that the SFPD has actually made it an unofficial policy not to hassle pot smokers as long as that’s all they’re doing.
So if you’re smoking a joint on the street, you’re fine. If you’re smoking a joint AND killing someone or smoking a joint AND not wearing pants, you might have some trouble but for the most part, you can trot around town puffing away without having to worry about getting hassled. Of course, driving under the influence is still illegal so I would not recommend puffing away from behind the wheel, no matter how lax the locals are towards the green stuff.
The state seems divided equally on the issue, with the LA Times reporting that a recent poll left the state split 49/41, with 49% in favor of the legislation. Listen, if it’s between legal weed and paying $989 to register my car, I’ll take the weed tyvm.
So? Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em and if you don’t got ‘em, feel free to tax ‘em. Get used to the sin taxes, it might be the only way to bring my fine state (and others in equally dismal fiscal situations) back from the brink of financial Armageddon. And if that doesn’t work, at least we’ll be too high to notice.
Specifically, under a feature of California law that recognizes domestic partnerships gay couples must now combine their income and report half of it on each of their respective returns.
The ruling marks the first time that the IRS has recognized same-sex couples as equal to their heterosexual counterparts for tax purposes. Of the community-property states (i.e. all property and debt is owned equally by a couple) Nevada and Washington also recognize domestic partnerships, so couples there may also be affected.
And by a little late, we mean three months. Rahm found out the news from WBBM radio in Chicago let him know about it. So a slight embarrassment that was likely met with a response of “well, f*ck me,” “get the f*ck out of here” or simply, “F*ck.”
But the worst thing that Rahm Emanuel will endure for forgetting to pay his property taxes isn’t the questions from the media, it isn’t the $445.56 penalty that he and his wife incurred on the balance of $7,400, it’s that he just gave material to Glenn Beck for the rest of his time as the Chief of Staff.
Since delinquent taxpayers in the Obama Administration has been a favorite target of Beck but since he had his own tax troubles maybe he’ll just let this blow over.
Then again, GB could spin this into the jobs report that came out today which in turn encouraged a nice little drop in the markets which parlays into a Deepwater Horizon connection and pretty soon someone will be calling for someone else’s resignation.
The Internal Revenue Service recently released some information to help companies take advantage of a tax credit provided by the health reform law.
The IRS estimates that about 4 million businesses qualify, and is sending out notices to as many as possible advising them of the tax break. If you haven’t received anything but believe your company may qualify, here’s what you should know:
The credit is available to companies with fewer than 25 employees with average wages of $50,000 or less. The full credit goes to companies with 10 or fewer employees and average annual wages of $25,000 or less. It is not available to self-employed individuals.
The credit covers 35 percent of an employer’s contribution to employee health premiums, so long as that doesn’t exceed 35 percent of the average cost of a health plan in the small group market. For a tax-exempt organization, the credit is 25 percent. Once the health exchanges are set up, the credit increases to 50 percent for businesses and 35 percent for nonprofits. At that time, the credit will only be available to companies purchasing insurance through the exchange.
A company can use the credit to reduce income tax owed and can carry the credit forward 20 years or back one year after 2010. Nonprofits can use the credit against withholding and Medicare taxes owed on behalf of their employees.
A key caveat is that employers must pay for half of the premium. For most workers, especially low-wage employees, a company that does not pay for at least half the premium is offering insurance that is essentially unaffordable. Even 50 percent is most likely not enough to do low-wage workers much good, especially at small companies where health care premiums are more expensive.
The amount of the credit is based on the premiums an employer pays for, so the more generous the coverage, the greater the credit. While premiums paid for owners and their families cannot be counted, those paid for seasonal workers can be. And the IRS has defined “premiums” broadly: not only does it cover premiums for standard medical insurance but it also applies to dental, long-term care and vision insurance-though again, an employer must pay 50 percent of each premium to count it toward the credit.
Calculating the credit probably requires any small employer to consult an accountant to see if the benefits are worth the cost of providing insurance. The tax credit is in effect, allowing employers who are already thinking about health insurance for their employees to factor in the savings as they plan ahead.
As an observer, I think the key issue is whether the credit is enough to offset the rising cost of health insurance. Those costs have hit small employers the hardest. We’ll see if the tax credit makes a difference in reversing the trend among small employers of dropping health insurance for their employees altogether.
When somebody repays a loan, that’s not income to the lender, is it? It can be when a shareholder loans money to an S corporation. New York businessmen Ira and Sheldon Nathel learned that the hard way in court this week. Ira and Sheldon each owned shares in food distributors that were set up as S corporations. When you own an S corporation you may deduct corporate losses on your 1040, but only if you have basis in your S corporation stock or in loans you have made to the corporation (guarantees of corporate debt don’t work).
Yes, there’s a catch. When you take S corporation losses, they reduce your basis — first in your stock, then in your loans. Subsequent income, including tax-exempt income, restores your basis in your debt and r. If you repay a loan with reduced basis, you have taxable income to the extent the repayment exceeds your basis.
At the end of 2000, IRA and Sheldon each loaned $649,775 to one of their S corporations. That enabled them to take losses of $537,228 or so, leaving them with $112,547 in remaining loan basis. That would have been fine if they had waited patiently until S corporation income had restored their basis. Their patience ran out in February 2001, when they repaid the loan in full.
They may have had second thoughts. In August 2001 Ira and Sheldon each made a capital contribution to the S corporation — $537,228, coincidentally. They then took a novel position on their 2001 tax returns. The Second Circuit Court of Appeals takes up the story:
In calculating their 2001 taxes, the Nathels treated their capital contributions… as constituting “tax-exempt income” to the corporations for the purposes of § 1366(a)(1)(A). Therefore, because the Nathels’ bases in their stock previously had been reduced to zero and because their bases in the loans they made to the corporations were also reduced, the Nathels used their capital contributions to restore their bases in the loans pursuant to § 1367(b)(2)(B). Without such an increase in their bases, the petitioners would have been taxed on the ordinary income that would have resulted from the corporations’ repayment of the petitioners’ loans in amounts above the petitioners’ previously reduced bases.
The IRS didn’t buy the idea that a capital contribution was some sort of income. They said a capital contribution increases capital, not debt, and is allocable to stock basis. That meant $537,228 in ordinary taxable income. Unfortunately for Ira and Sheldon, the Tax Court, and now the Second Circuit, continue to recognize the capital/income distinction that has been around for approximately forever.
The economy being what it is (still crappy), lots of S corporation shareholder are going to have basis problems at year end. They should keep a few points in mind:
• Use caution when repaying loans – When you make a year-end loan to your S corporation to enable you to deduct losses, repaying the loan will trigger taxable income until the loan basis is restored by subsequent S corporation income.
• “Open account” loans can be tricky – Regulations split “open account” debt into separate “loans” when the loan amounts exceed $25,000. That means fluctuating open account balances during the tax year can lead to taxable income, even if the balance ends up higher at year end than it was at the start of the year.
• Related party issues – It’s dangerous to borrow from one S corporation you control and loan the funds to another one. The IRS likes to attack such loans as lacking substance.
So Ira and Sheldon get to write some big checks to the IRS. They have the consolation of having $537,228 more basis in their stock, to offset other income somewhere, somehow, someday.
Taxpayers in Hawaii, Iowa, North Carolina, New York, and Rhode Island expecting a refund may have to exercise some patience, as these states have already declared their intentions to delay cutting those checks to its citizens. And don’t get to excited about receiving any interest on your already interest-free loan you gave them; many states have to withhold refunds for at least 60 days before interest has to be paid.
Pulling this type of a stunt will get you nowhere in a popularity contest but hell, they don’t really have much of a choice:
Scott D. Pattison, the executive director of the National Association of State Budget Officers, said that it was “exceptionally unusual” for so many states to delay refunds, as they have throughout the current economic downturn.
“I think it’s just an indicator of how bad things have been,” Mr. Pattison said in an interview. “It’s politically, obviously, a problem. Also, I think from a policy standpoint, it’s a little hard to justify — this is the taxpayers’ overpayment that is due them.”
Obviously this is going to cause some tea-baggish belly aching but it is pointed out later in the article, if taxpayers really want to do something about this problem, they have the ability to make some changes themselves to avoid this in the future:
Verenda Smith, a spokeswoman for the Federation of Tax Administrators…said she hoped the troubles would prompt more taxpayers to file earlier; file electronically, which allows for much quicker processing time; and change their withholding status with their employers so they would not overpay so much. “You really shouldn’t give it to your state government as a no-interest loan, and then have to cool your heels while you wait to get it back,” she said.
We’ve mentioned this before but it bears repeating – adjusting your withholding to get a big refund is stupid. We’d say that the states keeping it out of your hands was probably a good thing but then again, the state can waste the money just as well.
Yesterday we may shared with you the unfortunate news about the dude from Reading Rainbow having a little tax problem which may have taken you back to the days of still whining about the lack of Cocoa Puffs in your house.
This time around celebrity tax problems take a little bit of a different path down memory lane (and a different theme song to get stuck in your head) to those days where your hormones were in control and the feeling of awkwardness was constant. For those of you too young to be familiar or give a rat’s ass about 90210, we’ll kindly enlighten you by stating unequivocally that Gossip Girl WOULD NOT EXIST without 90210.
Yes, Brenda Walsh, er, Shannen Doherty seems to have run across some tax trouble (just about $250k, NBD really) and as is our wont, we’ll present some possible solutions.
A) Another run at DWTS (nobody really gets it the first time).
B) 90210 movie – May we suggest that old wardrobe and hair styles be incorporated and that they should definitely go for the R rating? (seriously, how many times do you wish Dylan would have said “Fuck you Brandon, you momma’s boy” right in his smug face?)
C) Call ex-boyfriend Rick Salomon and see if he’s interested in making another movie.
D) Serious suggestions welcome.
‘Dancing’ star trips over tax bills [Tax Watchdog]
If that doesn’t mean anything to you, he’s also the dude with the bizarro shades from Star Trek, The Next Generation.
But back to the RR for a sec – many of you would be an illiterate waste of space if it wasn’t for LeVar Burton, so the least you could do is pitch in so the man can pay the $34,000 he owes California. Or at least ask your parents to help out. It’s the least they can do since LB probably bought them some much-needed private time back in the day while you were zoning out on the shower in the toilet.
Tax resistance futile for Star Trek actor [Tax Watchdog]
See also (if you want the RR theme song stuck in your head):
LeVar Burton Owes $34,000 in State Taxes… “But Don’t Take My Word For It” [Tax Docket]
“The rich are not paying their fair share in any nation that is facing the kind of employment issues [that America is] – whether it’s individual, corporate or whatever taxation forms are.”
~ Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
Long before John Edwards became known as a well-coiffed skirt-chasing weasel, he was a well-coiffed successful trial lawyer. He was successful enough to afford good tax advice, so he conducted his law practice in an S corporation.
Back in the old days, professional practices were conducted as sole proprietorships or general partnerships, reportable as self-employment income, subject to the 15.3% self-employment tax up to the FICA base (currently $106,800), and to the 2.9% Medicare portion of the tax to infinity.
When state laws allowed professionals to incorporate, attorneys and accountants quickly noticed that income on S corporation K-1s is not subject to self-employment tax. This makes S corporations a popular way to run a professional practice. The professionals take a “reasonable” salary out of the business (subject to employer and employee FICA and Medicare tax) – enough to not raise IRS eyebrows – and take the rest out as S corporation distributions with no employment tax.
John Edwards did well by this. His law practice generated millions dollars of K-1 earnings in excess of his salary, saving him hundreds of thousands of dollars in payroll and self-employment tax.
Now that he has been reduced to a wealthy target of mockery, Congress is ready to crack down on the John Edwards S corporation tax shelter. The annual “extenders” bill has a provision – almost as absurd as Edwards love life – that will hit professional S corporation K-1 income with self-employment tax. The SE tax will apply when the “principal asset” of the S corporation is the “reputation and skill” of three or fewer professionals – defined for this purpose as “services in the fields of health, law, lobbying, engineering, architecture, accounting, actuarial science, performing arts, consulting, athletics, investment advice or management, or brokerage services.”
Congress doesn’t muss its hair worrying about how taxpayers in multi-owner S corporations are supposed to figure out whether its “principal asset” is the “reputation and skill” of three or fewer owners. However it works, this provision is too late to hurt John Edwards — his reputation isn’t much of an asset anymore.
We really thought we had heard the last of Nicolas Cage and his tax problems. The man has eight films at various points in production including the next editions of both the National Treasure and Ghost Rider franchises.
With that kind of cinematic lineup, you’d think the State of California would give him the thumbs up and say, “Oh, it’s cool Nic. Just cut us a check as soon as you have the cash. NO worries.”
Then we remembered that this is California, home to the budget projection experts that misfired on their tax revenues by $3 billion, so you bet your repossessed-mansion ass they’ll take that $3.8 mil.
So those nonpayers you heard about throughout tax season? Proportionately, lots of them are in the south (don’t ask us why they used red/blue):
Purely by the numbers, California has the most with over six million taxpayers whose credits and deductions reduce their tax liability to zero. However, of the ten states that have the highest proportion of nonpayers, nine of them are in the south, including Texas and Florida, who have 4.2 and 3.4 million tax filers that had no tax liability respectively.
The total number of nonpayers in the south is approximately 13 million or 25% of the total 51 million, according tot he IRS’ data. So whatever the expression is that includes the combination of God loving the South and hating taxes, suddenly has more credence to it.
MacGruber was no exception, however the person in charge of the mane of hair on Will Forte’s head did not result in a “direct expenditure,” so that cost did not qualify for the “Movie Production Incentive.”
The Journal’s Speakeasy Blog learned that keeping a mullet in such pristine condition was not an easy task and apparently there wasn’t a single stylist in the Land of Enchantment qualified to handle it:
We made the movie in Albuquerque, so part of the [tax break] deal is that you’re supposed to use a largely New Mexican crew. But the [MacGruber] wig is an unruly little creation, so Betty Rogers, who’s the head of the hair department at SNL, came to make sure it was tamed every day. She is so good at what she does. So it was basically her and a bunch of great people from New Mexico.
Great people, maybe. Not so enchanting if they can’t handle a mullet.
‘MacGruber’: Star Will Forte on Wigs, Nudity and Tax Breaks [Speakeasy/WSJ]
‘MacGruber’ Talks Tax [Tax Docket]
Movie Production Incentives: Blockbuster Support for Lackluster Policy [Tax Foundation]
If you feel like nothing in life is ever certain, know this – John Daly will always be a weight fluctuating, chain-smoking, boozehound. And every once in awhile, he’ll have some serious money trouble or just go completely broke.
This is usually followed up with a major win which is then followed up by a total blow-up at the next tournament that may or may not involve Big John ending up passed out pantless on the 18th green in the middle of the night.
The guy has managed to make $9 million throughout his career yet still owes the IRS over a $1 million in back taxes for ’07 and ’08, according to a lien filed with filed by the Service with Shelby County.
His house in Memphis is apparently for sale, for just a smidge under $700k. So if you’re in the market, help the guy out.
Judging by the pics, you’ll have to schlep in your own kegerator and you’ll likely have to replace the carpet due to the ubiquitous cigarette burns but it still looks like a pretty nice pad.
IRS grips, rips golfer John Daly [Tax Watchdog]
Back in March we told you about non-Phil/Tiger golfer Søren Hansen, who was looking at jail time for dodging about 10 million kroner in taxes.
He managed to avoid the Danish joint but a judge did order him to pay 8 million in back taxes and an additional 8 million in fines. This works out to $2.6 million which is around what Tiger Woods spends on hookers in a weekend. So in other words – a chunk.
Hansen maintained throughout the ordeal that he was not a resident of Denmark because he changed his residence to Monaco in 1999 (it’s on his Wikipedia page for crissakes! What’s it going to take?!?) and thus not subject to the tax. The judge didn’t buy it because “he used his summerhouse in Hornbæk for residential purposes, as well as stayed over in his girlfriend’s Copenhagen apartment regularly.”
Obviously Hansen could have moved his g/f to Monaco to avoid all the trips back but that would have put a serious damper on the Monaco tail situation.
Golfer hit for 16 million kroner [Copenhagen Post]
Yes, the brain trust known as the U.S. Senate has managed to prolong the agony on the estate tax. There was a deal on the table as of yesterday but you can forget it! Hard to believe this could happen. Was it a fundamental disagreement on the proposal? Was it because everyone was broken up that Arlen Specter?
No, it’s mostly because some people (the R’s) don’t like that other people (the D’s) are being fraidy cats about not having enough votes:
Senate Minority Whip Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) said the accord, which was all but forged a week ago, began to dissolve Monday night and broke down Tuesday after talks between leaders in both parties.
After talks with Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), they scrapped a plan to move forward with the tax that expired at the end of 2009.
The reasoning, Kyl said, is that Senate Democrats aren’t allowing any legislation to reach the floor that doesn’t have support from the majority of its members.
“We no longer have an agreement because the Democratic side has decided that unless a matter has a guaranteed majority of Democratic votes going in, they’re not going to allow it on the floor, at least not voluntarily,” he said. “So we have to find a way to get a reasonable permanent estate tax reform to the floor where members can vote on it.”
For crissakes. This is this biggest case of “I’m taking my ball and GOING HOME” we’ve seen this week.
Joe Kristan does put the whole thing in perspective however, “Congress has been botching the estate tax for almost ten years now; why should they start getting anything right now?”
If you’re formerly the richest man in Russia and you’ve been wrongfully imprisoned (sayeth he) you’re not going to take this shit lightly. Flying a plane into a building is cowardly; shooting at another person – what does that accomplish?; Bulldozer? That guy is an idiot.
No, if you’re seriously going to show these tax happy bastards that you mean business, only explicit self-loathing will suffice.
Mikhail Khodorkovsky is serving an eight year prison sentence for tax evasion and fraud and he was recently dealt a blow in his attempt to land a new trial:
Mikhail Khodorkovsky has gone on hunger strike in protest at an order extending his detention ahead of a new trial. In a statement quoted by his lawyer, Khodorkovsky said the order violated legal amendments that had been approved by President Dmitry Medvedev. He has vowed to continue his protest until President Medvedev confirms that he is “fully aware” of the situation.
All he wants an acknowledgment from the President of the country and then he’ll get back to eating with a spork.
[caption id="attachment_10643" align="alignright" width="260" caption="Not candy"][/caption]
Listen up people. Since many of you regularly get either your breakfast, mid-morning snack, lunch, pre-midafternoon snack, afternoon snack, pre-leaving work snack or – during busy season – your dinner out of a vending machine this could be cause for concern.
States are strapped for cash so t��������������������ve you joy is a logical and effective conclusion. Accordingly, sweets, sodas, booze, cigarettes, strippers are all fair game. Some of these are old hat (e.g. booze, cigs) and some are becoming more popular (e.g. candy, soda). Washington state is rolling out its candy tax on June 1, 2010 and as you might have guessed, it’s not nearly as simple as you would think. There are many questions.
First off, candy needs a definition, so Department of Revenue de Washington presents its version:
“Candy” means a preparation of sugar, honey, or other natural or artificial sweeteners in combination with chocolate, fruits, nuts, or other ingredients or flavorings in the form of bars, drops, or pieces. Candy does not include any preparation containing flour. Candy does not require refrigeration.
OFTLOG. Couldn’t it just boil down to: “Anything handed out on Halloween”? But wait, the questions get better:
Are bags of trail mix containing small amounts of candy subject to sales tax?
No, trail mix is not considered to be candy if it contains only small amounts of chocolate chips or other candy.
Are sweetened breakfast cereals considered candy if they do not list flour as an ingredient?
No. Breakfast cereals are non-taxable food, even if they are sweetened and do not list flour as an ingredient.
What about prepackaged combination packs of candy? I sell bags of mixed candy bars for one, non-itemized price. Some of the bars contain flour, while others meet the definition of candy. Do I collect sales tax on the bags of candy?
The sale of the bags of candy represents a bundled transaction. See RCW 82.08.190 for more information on bundled transactions. Because one of the items in this bundled transaction is subject to sales tax, the entire bundle of products is subject to sales tax. See RCW 82.08.195 for more information.
However, you can exempt the bundled transaction from sales tax if you demonstrate that the purchase price or sales price for the taxable candy is 50% percent or less of the total purchase price or sales price of the bundled food products. See RCW 82.08.190(4) for information about how this 50% exception works.
Are nicotine gum and analgesic gum candy?
They are not candy, but they are subject to sales tax because they are over-the-counter drugs. Over-the-counter drugs refer to any drug sold with a label that identifies the product as a drug and includes either of the following:
A “drug facts” panel; or
A statement of the “active ingredient(s)” with a list of those ingredients contained in the compound, substance, or preparation.
Nicotine gum and analgesic gum (gums containing aspirin) meet the description above and should be treated as taxable over-the-counter drugs unless purchased with a prescription. See RCW 82.08.0281 for more information regarding over-the-counter drugs.
How are products in the baking aisle treated?
Below is information on selected baking aisle products [we’re skipping the table but fact that there is a table to explain the candy/non-candieness of the baking aisle is ridiculous]
Are fruit snacks such as fruit roll-ups and fruit leathers subject to sales tax as candy?
Fruit roll-ups and fruit leathers are subject to sales tax if they contain any sugar, honey, or other natural or artificial sweeteners and do not contain flour or require refrigeration. The fruit added to such item is not considered a sweetener (fruit is not intended to refer to concentrated fruit juices).
Are sweetened dried fruits candy?
Yes, dried fruits are candy when they are sweetened with natural or artificial sweeteners. This is true whether the product is sold prepackaged or in a bulk bin, by weight. Unsweetened fruits are not candy.
Is halvah candy?
Halvah is a confection usually made from crushed sesame seeds and honey, but in some instances may be made with grain based ingredients. It has been a traditional dessert in India, the Mediterranean, and the Balkans. Halvah that is based on nut butters (or seeds) and contains no flour is candy. Halvah that is flour-based is not candy. You should read the ingredient label if you are unsure.
Are energy bars and protein bars candy?
Energy bars and protein bars that contain no flour and require no refrigeration are taxable as candy. Bars that contain flour or require refrigeration are not candy.
Are cough drops subject to sales tax as candy?
Cough drops are not taxable as candy if they have either:
A “drug facts” panel; or
A statement of the “active ingredient(s)” with a list of those ingredients contained in the compound, substance, or preparation.
In such situation, the cough drops represent over-the-counter drugs. These cough drops are subject to sales tax unless purchased with a prescription. See RCW 82.08.0281 for more information regarding over-the-counter drugs.
Cough drops that do not have either of the above are candy.
Some takeaways: 1) Careful with the trail mix that has lots of M&Ms, it could possibly be taxable 2) Lucky Charms, et al. are safe 3) If anything has the word “gum” in it, it’s up for debate (e.g. Nicotine gum). Strangely enough, condom gum, edible undies, etc. is not mentioned 4) Fruit Roll-ups, energy bars, halvah and cough drops are all in the gray area.
And in case that doesn’t clear it up, there’s an entire spreadsheet that you can refer to (file below) but no, a Kit-Kat bar is not considered candy. Neither is a Milky Way. Got it?
A federal grand jury has indicted West Carrollton club owner and Brookville resident Stanley W. Combs III on the charges of one count of operating an illegal gambling business and four counts of making false statements on federal income tax returns…
…The indictment alleges Combs substantially under-reported the income he received as the owner and operator of Fraternal Order of Orioles, Nest 293 at 842 Watertower Lane in West Carrollton and a related entity at 10955 Lower Valley Pike in Medway, Ohio.
There’s no indication that an H&R Block employee advised this particular alleged tax dodger but better to be prepared.
Club owner indicted for illegal gambling, income tax fraud [Dayton Daily News]
Sure, NYU has produced lots of fancy-pants tax lawyers. And many high-powered big-school tax accountants haunt the cubicles of the Final Four accounting firms. But if driving the IRS to distraction is a mark of tax distinction, an obscure Kansas City attorney/CPA, formerly of Grant Thornton and Coopers and Lybrand, is a true tax all-star.
Or was. A federal judge this week made it inconvenient for GT alum Allen R. Davison to pursue his tax practice by enjoining him from marketing some of his most creative ideas:
Davison is hereby enjoined from organizing, establishing, promoting, selling, offering for sale or helping to organize, establish, promote, se any tax plan, as addressed herein, involving sham parallel C management companies, sham 412(i) plans, sham flock contracts or any other illegal tax scheme, plan, or device, even if not specifically addressed herein. Additionally, Davison shall not organize, establish, promote, sell, offer for sale or assist in any financial or tax related arrangement without submitting in writing to an IRS designee, a detailed plan explaining the financial or tax arrangement and all steps necessary for the arrangement to be legal under the tax code.
That would all be rather inconvenient for a practitioner. Why are the feds so down on Mr. Davison? From the injunction order:
Davison’s numerous, complex, ever-changing, tax-fraud schemes and his deliberate efforts to disguise his true involvement in the promotion of these tax-fraud schemes have required the IRS to expend a “staggering” amount of resources on discovering and combating these schemes. If this outlay of resources continues – and it almost certainly will continue in the absence of an injunction barring Davison from offering tax advice without significant restraint, then these resources will not be available to service honest tax paying Americans. Nor will these resources be available to investigate other promoters of tax-fraud schemes.
What were these “schemes”? Some of them used “management fees” to shift income from taxable businesses to sham S corporations owned by tax-exempt ESOPs or Roth IRAs. Others involved improper pension plans. But good old Midwestern farm ingenuity was behind what may be his most creative plan:
Davison drafts purported flock contracts for his clients. (Tr. 398:21-399:4). He argues that by executing these agreements, his clients become farmers, who are eligible to claim deductions for the cost of purchasing a flock of layer hens during the tax year in which that cost is incurred, pursuant to Revenue Ruling 60-191. (Tr. 412:10-20; PX 165). That revenue ruling provides “that farmers employing the cash method of accounting may deduct the cost of baby chicks and egg laying hens in the year of payment therefor, provided such method is consistently followed and clearly reflects income.”
The judge found that Mr. Davison has an overly-inclusive view of what “farming” means. The judge said that a guy with dirty boots who actually fed and raised chicks might be a farmer, but a “self-employed insurance salesman,” for example, who loaned money to a real farmer, did not.
There are many fascinating threads here, but let’s just hit three for now:
• Mr. Davison began selling many of these ideas while working for Grant Thornton, and according to the court order, marketed them through a network of CPA firms set up by GT alums. Networking pays!
• The elaborate system of preparer registration, testing and continuing education that IRS Commissioner Shulman is ramming through will spend enormous resources making honest and competent preparers jump through hoops; they would have done nothing to stop Mr. Davison. Shulman’s plan will spend money on driving honest preparers crazy with paperwork rather than chasing scammers.
• The cash-basis chicken flock technique that is outrageous for an insurance salesman is hunky-dory when done by a wealthy farmer. Because America Needs Farmers!
It’s been far too long since we’ve heard about violent and/or completely irrational behavior as it relates to taxes, hasn’t it?
Thank God for Ohio, where bulldozers are commonly used to show disdain for pretty much anything. This time it’s firearms.
Police said a man opened fire on a woman after she apparently made a mistake on his taxes. Officers said the man threatened to get revenge on the H & R Block employee because he was audited by the IRS. Dayton police said they [sic] shooter fired several shots into the tax worker’s car. However, she managed to dodge the bullets.
There are lots of things that might conjure up murderous rage but a mistake on a tax return prepared by a H&R Block employee? The good news is that this lunatic is still on the loose somewhere.
Police: Shots Fired At Tax Worker [WHIOTV]
If you were (un)lucky enough to live in one of the flood ravaged counties in North Jersey, Mass, or the entire Ocean State, hopefully you remembered that your extended period of procrastination ends tomorrow.
Yes, unfortunately the last four weeks have flown by and we’re sure that some of you have managed to piss away this time not preparing your tax return. Do yourself a favor and file the extension. You’re hopeless.
Relax, here’s the form.
As a role model, Andrew Jackson has serious shortcomings, not least his penchant for genocide. But some of his policies are back in vogue, like the casual destruction of the national banking system. Taxpayers may be choosing to be like Andy in another way before the end of t had the bad fortune to get crossways with Charles Dickinson, one of the best pistol shots in Tennessee, when dueling was still fashionable. He met his antagonist across the state line in Kentucky, where duels were legal. Jackson was serious about this one, so he decided to take all the time he needed to do Dickinson in. Given Dickinson’s marksmanship, that meant accepting a bullet. Sure enough, Dickinson’s shot hit home:
The bullet struck him in the chest, where it shattered two ribs and settled in to stay, festering, for the next 39 years. Slowly he lifted his left arm and placed it across his coat front, teeth clenched. “Great God! Have I missed him?” cried Dickinson. Dismayed, he stepped back a pace and was ordered to return to stand on his mark.
Blood ran into our hero’s shoes. He raised his pistol and took aim. The hammer stuck at half cock. Coolly he drew it back, aimed again, and fired. Dickinson fell, the bullet having passed clear through him, and died shortly afterward.
Taxpayers owning C corporation stock might also want to take a bullet, figuratively speaking, this year. That’s because the tax rate on dividends will either leap or soar in 2011.
The increase in the dividend rate is a consequence of the scheduled expiration of the 2001 Bush tax cuts after this year. Prior to the Bush administration, dividends were taxed as ordinary income. As dividends are distributions of corporate income already taxed at a corporate rate as high as 35%, that meant a combined rate of 57.75%. The Bush tax cuts tied the dividend rate to the capital gain rate, now 15%.
When the Bush tax cuts expire, the capital gain rate is set to return to 20%. But without Congressional action, dividends will again be taxed as ordinary income. Given the size of the deficit, the poisonous election-year political atmosphere, and that the President promised to hold the dividend rate to 20%, it’s likely that dividends will be taxed as ordinary income in 2011. That would means a 164% increase the top dividend rate.
But wait, there’s more! Starting in 2013, Obamacare will tack another 3.8% to the top rate on investment income, resulting in a top dividend rate of of 43.4%, making the total tax increase over 189%.
This makes it tempting to take the bullet – a big 2010 dividend out of a closely-held C corporation. It will be especially attractive for shareholders who lack the ability to suck out corporate cash using the usual tricks of shareholder bonuses or rent payments.
Yes, it means taking a bullet. Taking dividends out of closely-held corporations breaks the rules of the C corporation tax planning crib book. Taxpayers go to elaborate lengths to avoid taking income before they have to. But a 189% tax increase might be enough to make some taxpayers take the bullet, like Andy, for the greater good.
Pennsylvania’s tax amnesty program started on April 26th and to help taxpayers get off their non-complying asses, this ad has been introduced to motivate Keystone Staters that owe back taxes.
If this doesn’t get Quaker stoners into compliance, nothing will:
Personally, we would liked to have seen the PA Dept of Rev go the route of PICPA and incorporate Snuggies or breathlessly judgmental friends. Although we understand that scare tactics may be effective, a state must be pretty desperate to run this to get taxpayers motivated.
Btw, Philadelphia’s tax amnesty program started today and, so far, is considerably less Orwellian.
The April 15th deadline has come and gone but that does not mean the IRS’ work is done. In fact, getting money in the Treasury Department’s door is a 24/7/365 sorta deal and in case you didn’t notice, there’s a bit of a deficit problem.
Accordingly, the IRS has decided to host open houses at 200 facilities in all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico on May 15th from 9 am to 2 pm local time (locations here). IRS staff will be there to help individuals and small businesses sort out any issues they may have (See? Filing that extension was a good idea).
This marks the second time in 2010 that the IRS has opened its arms to public on the Sabbath, having done so on March 27th. According to the Service, that particular National Day of IRS Friendliness was a resounding success, with 88% of taxpayers getting their issues resolved that day.
Doug Shulman all but assures your satisfcation in the press release, “Our goal is to resolve issues on the spot so small businesses and individuals can put any issues they have with the IRS behind them. If you have a problem filing or paying your taxes or resolving a tough tax issue, we encourage you to come in and work with us.”
Okay, maybe it’s not exactly a 100% money-back guarantee but the Service is going to work their cans off to get you in compliance and cutting a check that day. Unless of course you’re a Tea Party type trying to get on the six o’clock news, in which case you’ll be dealt with in a swift and decisive manner.
JP Morgan has sent out notice to 13000 tax preparers that it plans to discontinue its refund loan operations, leaving tens of thousands of taxpayers with a snowball’s chance in hell of getting a front on money due back from the government come tax time.
This is nothing new for tax preparers. Last year, Jackson Hewitt announced that its RAL (Refund Anticipation Loan) funding was down to about 50%, meaning it could only cover half of the RALs it anticipated it would be asked to process come tax time. The problem came from Santa Barbara Bank & Trust, who funded about 75% of Jackson Hewitt’s RALs, after it was told by the Comptroller of the Currency that it had to increase its capital ratios and quick. SBBT may not have been able to buff up its capital levels but you can buff up your own by following these tips to decrease your “rebate” from Uncle Sam so you aren’t standing around waiting for Treasury to cut you a check:
Keep your exemptions in check This is the easiest, simplest, most obvious solution. If you’re waiting for a huge refund check every year, maybe it’s time to reevaluate the tax position you’ve held since you were in college.
If you’re still in a rush, e-file Sure, it’s not instant, but you’ll get your refund a lot quicker by e-filing than you will the good old fashioned snail mail way. National figures show 60% of Americans used e-file last year, leaving the USPS SOL once again.
File early Again, this seems obvious but if you want your money quicker, file at the front of the line. Americans are procrastinators so if you’re one of the first anxious little taxpayers out of the 1040 gate, chances are your refund will get processed faster.
Go figure, Christina Ricci has been hit with an IRS lien to the tune of $179,568.30 for unpaid 2008 taxes. Though the lien news seems to have taken her quite by surprise, Ricci’s rep told TMZ that she is taking “immediate action to address it in a responsible manner.”
That’s funny, I thought a responsible manner would have meant paying the IRS $179,568.30 before April 15th, 2009 when it was due but maybe that’s just me.
Oddly enough, if you’ve ever been hit with an IRS lien (hello, Nic Cage) you know that the Service doesn’t just one day decide to slap a lien on you without first attempting to give you a hint that the proverbial shit is preparing to hit the fan. Generally this comes in the form of correspondence (lots of it) indicating that there is an issue.
Helpful bunch that they are, the IRS will almost always work with tax delinquents as long as said delinquents return their letters and get in touch to say “Hey, sorry, totally forgot to give you that $180,000 that I owe you.” In the case of Christina Ricci, we’re pretty sure her IRS letters must have gotten lost in the fan mail and creepy stalker packages. Yeah, that must it.
If you are some kind of tax activist, not a felon and ready to serve your country, we may have the volunteer opportunity of a lifetime for you: Serving on the IRS’ Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP). The deadline for applications is this Friday and we’re pretty sure the Service has been swamped with would-be heroes vying for a chance to provide a voice to the poor, abused little taxpayer.
“TAP members represent the typical taxpayer and provide the IRS with invaluable insights that are crucial to sound tax administration,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman.
To qualify, you must pass an FBI fingerprint check (sorry, Lone Wolves, you’re pretty much disqualified right off the bat and will have to stick to crashing planes into IRS buildings if you want your voice to be heard), not be a lobbyist, and of course be caught up on your own tax bills.
Think of it like a focus group for taxes except unlike traditional focus groups, you won’t be getting $75 for an hour’s worth of opinions. TAP members serve a 3 year term and are expected to commit 300 – 500 hours per year serving the
Service taxpayer. Members are required to attend a yearly meeting in Washington, DC each fall, at least one face-to-face subcommittee meeting with other members in their region and must participate in a monthly conference call.
So go on, little taxpayers, give the IRS a piece of your mind. And 500 hours of your time, of course.
When you own a strip club there are certain things that you understand. Things like, knowing that there is large portion of the male species that will pay women to take off their clothes regardless of the fact that sex is not happening. And while this is going on, they’ll imbibe lots of booze. And eventually, they may get hungry and with the last sliver of will power they have left, pull themselves away to pay $5.99 for a prime rib buffet. AND since there’s no windows in the place these men will stay in your strip club and spend money until you throw them out or they’ve spent every last dime. Oh, and poles are imperative.
On the other hand, there are things that strip club owners are less savvy about. One of these things may be tax compliance. Accordingly, many proprietors find a local accountant, they swap services, everyone wins.
However, every once in awhile this traditional arrangement may run awry. Kevin Moury, owner of Kittens (NSFW), is suing his accountant, Michael Walsh, for negligence in preparing his returns that resulted in “criminal charges, penalties, costs, fines, loss of income, medical expenses, loss of life’s enjoyments, emotional distress and mental anguish.”
Okay, before we continue, we have to ask – “loss of life’s enjoyments” and “medical expenses” because of a CPA? Where do we draw the line people? Next thing you know, accountants will be blamed for the collapse of the entire financial system…
Anyhoo, Moury pleaded guilty in October to “federal charges of falsifying tax returns and failing to report substantial cash income.” He spent one night in jail, got nine months of house arrest and had to pay back taxes of $88k, etc. etc.
This all came up because Moury apparently thought it was a-okay to deposit money from various revenue streams like fining dancers for tardiness or bolting early, massages for customers, and Jell-O shots (you know, the usual stuff) and then not report it as income. Obviously the IRS was not cool with this, prosecutors threatened to go after his wife and daughters (all employees at Kittens, btw) and that got him to plead guilty.
As a result of his guilty plea, Moury lost a sweet $90k/year gig as a “superintendent of environmental management” (which sounds a lot like “boss of the garbage collectors” but whatevs) and this resulted in lost future earnings of $1.3 million, allegeth the lawsuit.
Regardless, this shit ain’t fair and the accountant needs to be held responsible (his attorney the allegations or “groundless”) and Moury’s attorney isn’t shying away from the stupidity defense:
The lawsuit claims Moury’s lack of formal education — he didn’t finish high school and has a high school equivalency certificate — led him to rely on Walsh to accurately report his income and prepare his tax returns.
“Mr. Moury gave his accountant anything and everything for his business, his real estate and the salary from his job with Methuen,” Cote said. “He signed the returns, but did he looked at them? No. Is he responsible? Yes.
Strip club owner blames accountant for his tax woes [Eagle-Tribune]
[caption id="attachment_8735" align="alignright" width="260" caption="Chad, sans sombrero"][/caption]
Misbehaving athletes (or fun hating NFL, NBA, MLB administrators) should take note, getting fined can apparently do wonders for your itemized deductions.
That’s according to a report from Darren Rovell at CNBC, anyway. He cites sports accountant Robert Raiola of Van Duyne, Behrens & Co. who says that fines are “classified as ordinary business expenses,” so once the amount of those expenses exceed 2% of the taxpayers adjusted gross income, the expenses are deductible.
Of course, what isn’t mentioned is that it’s likely that a professional athlete’s itemized deductions would probably be limited since it’s safe to assume that their itemized deductions are greater than $166,800. So in other words, it might work out well for Chad Ochocinco to get fined on a weekly basis for wearing sombreros, bribing officials, and/or any other tomfoolery that the NFL finds fineable but without all the information it’s difficult to determine if this is actually a worth tax-planning strategy. Athletes – please consult your tax advisor that is probably already robbing you blind.
As you’re well aware, some Tea Partiers are out and about today (not everyone stayed at home) and the Mile High City was no exception.
Being in close proximity to the Capitol, I decided to run over and check out the festivities. While it was definitely a raucous (yet peaceful) bunch they didn’t seem to mind that I wasn’t listening and was obviously more interested in sociological aspects of the gathering.
With the crowd oblivious to my mission, I was able to snap a few pics (yes, total amateur hour) of some of the more, shall we say, interesting signs.
[caption id="attachment_8580" align="alignright" width="260" caption="Child exploitation!"][/caption]
Tonight will be the 26th tax day party of my accounting career. Pardon me if I don’t stick around very long.
The only really memorable tax day party was my first one. The tax group of the “Big 8” firm where my career started went to across the street to old Busch Stadium in St Louis, where the firm rented a box for the Cardinals baseball game. I happily drank their beer, only to be canned exactly a week later. That sort of took the fun out of the whole thing (though if I did something at the party to get fired from good old PW, it was the best career move I ever made).
So I found a job with the Des Moines tax group of another big firm. There the tax day party doubled as a bachelor party for one of the other staff accountants, and we all (well, the boy accountants) went to a north side strip club. I didn’t have any spare dollars for the garters, and I slipped away home, where I could drink all night for the cost of a single beer at the girlie club. But I just went to bed.
Which is really about all I feel like doing by the end of the day on April 15. By noon today I had already worked a 65-hour week. I’ve been in close company with my co-workers here from early morning to late night for weeks, and, as much as I love them to death, I’ve had enough quality time with them.
There are other awkward things about the tax parties. Like auditors. You can identify them by their animation and their golf tans – a sharp and annoying distinction from us dazed, pallid tax zombies. Bonus annoyance points if they come to the April 15 party straight from the golf course.
These parties typically occur at a local bar, where you run the high possibility of a colleague embarrassing himself in front of a client. Or worse, a drunk client hitting on one of our staff accountants. Worse still, a staff accountant hitting on a client. Unless it goes really well, of course.
Finally, I’m a boss now. Nobody really wants to do serious drinking in front of a boss. So now I’m like the old guys who used to start the Masters with a ceremonial tee shot. I’ll take a ceremonial shot (Templeton Rye, try it sometime), and then leave the field to the youngsters.
So have a good time tonight. If you see me out, I’ll be at dinner with my wife (I think I’m still married). I’ll be the one snoring.
It’s here people. April 15th. It’s great for a lot reasons: A) you (or your grateful significant other) get to say good bye to that nasty-ass beard B) you can get some rest and C) all around, your life ceases sucking (or sucking less). And along with marching against all things taxation (regardless of representation) it has become tradition for giveaways.
Buzz around the Internet for a nanosecond and you’d think the entire universe was being given away.
We already told you about the Blizzardmobile setting up shop in DC but for those of you not in the Nation’s Capital, here’s a quick rundown of some other freebies that me be closer to you:
Starbucks – Bring in a reusable cup and get free coffee.
Dunkin’ Donuts – Although we can’t find anything on their website, DD is known to give you a free donut with a purchase of the best (chain) coffee on Earth.
Subway – Again, rumor has it that Casa de Jared is handing out free cookies today. Nothing on the site, however.
PF Changs – If you didn’t get enough Chinese cuisine during busy season, head over to PFC’s to get 15% off your tab.
McDonalds – Once again, supposedly you can purchase a Big Mac and get a second for $0.01. If you aren’t able to handle two (we don’t recommend one but whatevs), just give it to a homeless person.
Boston Market – Buy one plate and get one free with this coupon.
If you’ve got news of more freebies, or just (rumored giveaways) let us know or discuss.
UPDATE: Looks at least one Subway is balking. From a Salzberg Soldier:
The Subway in Raleigh right outside of Deloitte has advertised buy-one get-one subs on tax day for the last week or so…but when we went in and ordered, they told us they had decided not to do it. They also mentioned that they took down the posters they had in the windows because “they didn’t make sense”. No bargains at Subway today.
Dear Ms. Van Buren:
Your response to “Phobic” about her boyfriend’s tax returns contained a significant error. You characterized enrolled agents as “the only tax specialists licensed to practice before the IRS,” which is not true. The fact is, certified public accountants and attorneys are federally authorized to represent clients before the IRS.
The CPA has long been synonymous with reliable, objective tax preparation and ranks as the preferred tax professional among millions of U.S. taxpayers.
On behalf of the many CPAs who prepare tax returns every year, we would be appreciative if you would print a correction in your column.
With a little more than just 24 hours to go until the end of the traditional filing season for 2010, some taxpayers might be freaking out. To help prevent this we got the chance to speak with Bob Meighan, TurboTax VP and CPA yesterday morning about what to do with just a few short hours away from the deadline, what taxpayers have been struggling with this filing season and if he had any special advice for a certain customer:
When celebrities have tax trouble, the majority of reporting out there feels like schadenfreude. Being of the more helpful mindset (especially when it comes to America’s beloved rich [or not so much] and famous) we try to provide solutions for those celebs down on their luck.
In celeb-tax-trouble du jour, Pam Anderson has been named to the California’s Franchise Tax Board Top 250 Tax Delinquents. She owes the people of California nearly $500k.
Someone equally as famous but without the financial difficulties is former VP candidate Sarah Palin.
We’re not suggesting that SP spread the wealth around but just to help out a real American like herself. What’s $500k between two women that share the uncanny ability to seduce the American psyche? They’re a natural team – both have rabid fans; Pam is currently on a reality show, Sarah’s is in the works. Sarah Palin hates taxes; if Pam didn’t before, she certainly does now.
Sure, SP kills animals while Pam stumps for them but those a small issue like digesting animal flesh or wearing fur can surely be set aside for the good of the country. Plus, it would make for a great Sarah stump speech come 2012.
Last summer we told you about an IRS agent who threw a temper tantrum after threatening to kill Treasury Agents they showed up to search his home.
Just briefly refresh, after the agents stopped Albert Bront from going back into his house, where he kept three loaded guns (no doubt they were Remingtons), he was shoved into the back of the car where “he kicked the front seat of the law enforcement vehicle and pounded the door with his elbow.”
Besides the small matter of telling Federal Agents that ‘I’m Going to Kill All of You!’ Bront has also been indicted for filing false returns and helping others file false tax returns. Web CPA reports that he is convicted on all 16 counts in the indictment he faces 55 years in adult prison.
While we are firmly against the violence, we fully support seat kicking, foot stomping, pouting and all around conniption fits for those that feel wronged by the IRS. At the very least, it’s more effective than marching on the Internet.
This morning we shared some best practices on how to keep your ass out of hot water should an IRS audit befall you. The concern is that the government spending is out of control, huge deficits yada yada yada, the IRS will be knocking on more doors.
Well, now it appears that the last entity type standing, the sole proprietorship will join the rest as an IRS target. IRS-criticizer-in-chief J. Russell George’s TIGTA issued another report but this time it cites sole proprietorships for “$68 billion of the $345 billion tax gap in 2001,” in underreported income. Web CPA reports George’s thoughts:
“Sole proprietors who underreport their income can create an unfair burden on honest taxpayers and diminish the public’s respect for the tax system,” said TIGTA Inspector General J. Russell George in a statement. “It is imperative that the IRS institutes policies to address this problem.”
How’s this for addressing a problem? The Internal Revenue Code, you my have heard, is mind-numbingly complex. Sole proprietorships, out of all the entity structures, are the least equipped to ensure compliance with the tax law. Auditing more of them will not result in increased compliance but rather enormous costs to their businesses. As for “diminish the public’s respect for the tax system,” didn’t that ship sail ages ago?
All firms realize that tax season is a grind and put up with various silly/downright stupid traditions for the sake of employees’ morale. There’s no work/life balance to speak so concessions are made. In anticipation for the annual tradition that is tax professionals raging on April 15th, FINS has compiled a few interesting traditions that are carried on by various firms. The idea, however, that men are walking around the office sporting the Grizzly Adams defies comprehension.
For you purists of the white collar world, facial hair makes you ill. The sight of five o’clock shadow is downright repulsive and anyone that isn’t shaving at least daily (except for the flesh-colored beard types) will not be dealt with a swift manner.
Unless of course you work at Traphagen & Traphagen CPAs LLC where the tradition of tax season beards goes back 40 years. At that length, it may precede any NHL playoff tradition of funky facial hair, “”At the close of business, they’ll troop into a conference room and together shave the beards they’ve been growing since the end of January.”
As you might expect there are client requests to send the remains to the IRS but unfortunately the partners don’t honor these requests.
That means, theoretically, the rest of the money you earn this year is yours. We understand that tea partiers too lazy to leave the house will still be marching virtually.
What’s far more interesting is Tax Freedom Day by state which shows that you’re basically getting screwed if you live near New York City or Washington, DC. Of course if you’re hung up on this whole Tax Freedom Day thing, then your ideal state is Alaska which seems about right.
Image source: Tax Foundation
With less than a week until April 15th, it’s safe to assume that some people are finally getting a tad anxious about the upcoming deadline. If you live in New York and happen to be one of these procrastinators, it may be wise to check with your tax professional, not only because they hate it when you show up on the 13th – 15th with nary a clue about what you earned in 2009 but also because if you’re really unlucky, your tax pro instead was just total shiester and got caught up in “Operation Brass Tax.”
First off, we’ll just say that we’re not sure who at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York or the IRS’s Criminal Investigation Division was given the modest charge of naming this particular operation but it obviously sucks. We’re not expecting you have an imagination like JK Rowling or anything but guys, c’mon.
But enough with trivial matters, the main concern is that there are many New Yorkers that are completely going batshit crazy because A) they recently found out that their tax preparer was a robbing them blind and B) they have no idea how they are going to get their tax return filed in less than a week without help because reading the instructions is NOT. AN. OPTION.
Twenty-six phony tax experts in Manhattan and the Bronx have been charged by the SDNY/IRS for pulling a smorgasbord of scams including, “stolen identities of children to falsely claim them as dependents on clients’ returns; claiming “business losses” from fictitious businesses; using stolen identities, including Social Security numbers, of deceased individuals to list as the ‘taxpayers’ on fraudulent returns, and taking the resulting refunds themselves.”
All this chicanery has U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara upset because these tax professionals are supposed to be the good guys!
U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and IRS Special Agent-in-Charge Patricia Haynes unsealed charges Thursday against the tax preparers. Sixteen were in custody, four had been previously charged and face new charges, and six remain at large. “Professional tax preparers are supposed to be gatekeepers, not facilitators of fraud,” said Bharara in a statement.
Some might argue that this is just another reason why regulating tax preparers is the best idea the IRS has ever had. Of course then you remember that these regulations will probably drive these tax prep lemonade stands underground anyway.
While that’s another matter entirely, there’s no cause for concern. There’s plenty of tax gurus in New York like the guy who got mixed reviews on Craigslist. If venturing to Queens isn’t a solution then you can always, you know, file the extension.
26 NYC Tax Preparers Charged with Tax Fraud [Web CPA]
More New York Tax Trouble:
Investigation Reveals that 30% of Tax Preparers in NYC Lied About Rapid Refunds
While we’re typically not ones to speculate on the difficulty of any particular job (e.g. CEO of a Big 4 firm) the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (“TIGTA”) probably has the easiest job on Earth.
As far as we can tell, the TIGTA is responsible for criticizing the IRS on, well, pretty much everything that the Service does wrong and then the IRS agrees that they suck and promises to do better.
And if you’re going by the TIGTA website we’re more or less correct:
“TIGTA promotes the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in the administration of the internal revenue laws. It is also committed to the prevention and detection of fraud, waste, and abuse within the IRS and related entities.”
We’re assuming that Doug Shulman probably agree with our assessment but that guy doesn’t even like pizza, so who cares what he thinks?
Anyhoo, the latest Monday Morning QBing from the TIGTA is that some of the Service’s senior revenue officers are basically sitting around with nothing to do. Web CPA reports:
Senior revenue officers at the Internal Revenue Service who are supposed to handle more complicated tax cases oftentimes don’t receive any work assignments, according to a new government report…
The relative lack of work for the senior revenue officers to do occurred because there is no systemic means for IRS managers to identify the most complex cases, and the criteria for identifying complex cases are subjective and inconsistently interpreted.
So you’re a senior revenue officer with 5-6 years (?) on the job. You’ve got this gig pretty much figured out. Not only do you know the ropes, you make the fucking ropes. Your manager has suits from DC so far up their ass about collecting every dime available that they can’t see straight, so they just want you busy do anything.
You, being a reasonably lazy (and realistic) person, aren’t going to kill yourself. If you’ve got the choice of picking up a 1040 that’s hundreds of pages long versus a 1040EZ that has fewer pages that a Tony Alamo pamphlet, you’re going to pick up the 1040EZ.
Well now J. Russell George is slapping those managers around with a report deeming this unacceptable which may mean that your slacking days are over:
“I am troubled that IRS managers are not providing employees with work assignments that they are ready and able to do at a time when it is incumbent on the IRS to be as efficient and effective as possible,” said TIGTA Inspector General J. Russell George in a statement.
JRG is recommending that the IRS improve it’s methods of identifying more complex cases (that the IRS naturally agreed with). We think a tax return thickness analysis is a decent place to start.
Among the celebrity/athlete tax delinquents we get a decent variety – hip–hop artists, topless girl magnates/douches of the decade, juiced-up baseball players, washed-up actors, people stupid enough to have their picture taken in a Nazi visor and doing the “sieg heil.” It’s a potpourri.
Well, today we’re happy (not literally happy, tax delinquency is not a laughing matter) to report that tax troubles have now found their way into new area of the celebrity culture: race car drivers. And not just any race car driver, one that is rumored to have used meth! Lots of it!
We’re not too familiar with Jeremy Mayfield’s problems but after a quick glance at one article we’ve learned that A) he’s not crazy about NASCAR leadership B) dude has done a fair amount of crank in his day C) he’s not a fan of his “whore” stepmom who, he says, killed his Dad.
Between the work trouble, drug trouble and family trouble J May’s brain has to be mush; of course he’s going to forget to pay $300,000 in taxes. This is no different than the Snoop Dogg tax situation. Sure the drugs are different but the principle is the same. The guy just needs a solid CPA to take care of these things for him, preferably one that isn’t easily sketched out and can handle paranoid junkie types with money to throw around (assuming there’s money left).
So 47% of our nation’s households will pay no federal income tax this year. Well, stick it to those rich people, then! Help the deserving poor, like Buffy Richgirl.
Buffy is a struggling 26-year single mom with three kids and a checkered romantic history. Yet she does the best she can, earning $16,500 in various jobs in 2009 while taking courses in applied tattoology at the local college, while Mom helps with the kids.
Let’s see how a beneficent tax law helps this struggling mom make ends meet.
Some key facts:
Name: Buffy Richgirl.
Filing status: Head of Household, because of 3 dependent kids – Biff, Cloyd and Muffy.
Income: $16,500, all salary, no withholding.
Housing status: Daddy gave her $200,000 in 2008 to buy a house, which she bought in December 2009. She formerly lived in various apartments or with Daddy.
Educational status: She’s taking tattoo technology courses half-time at the local college (her Mom helps out with the kids), where she ran up $3500 in qualified expenses.
Prospects: She’s the beneficiary of a trust from late Grandpa that will kick out $5 million when she hits age 30, but which distributes nothing right now.
Other cash sources: She gets occasional non-taxable child support, and she has a non-interest bearing checking account with some Daddy cash.
The tax results? Adjusted Gross Income: $16,500. Taxable Income: $0. Taxes withheld and paid: $0. Tax refund: $17,009.
So how did our heroine double her income via her 1040? Through the miracle of “refundable credits” – tax credits that generate a refund even if your tax computes to zero. She wins with:
Don’t believe me? Look at her 1040 for yourself:
So what’s the point? It’s very hard to fine-tune the tax law. That’s especially true with refundable tax credits. No matter how carefully you try to “target” a group with tax benefits, there will be collateral unjust enrichment.
Now don’t you feel better about that check you have to send IRS next week?
“We’re calling on other wealthy taxpayers to join us to send the message to Congress and President Obama that it’s time to roll back the tax cuts on upper-income taxpayers.”
~ Mike Lapham, paper-mill heir, would like to pay more taxes.
Are you dreading April 15th North Jersey? Thought so. With just over a week to go until deadline, it may have crossed your minds that you should start tearing your house apart for that W-2.
Well, you can postpone the treasure hunt for now because the IRS is showing mercy on you for the Biblical rainfall that poured on the Garden State last month.
The IRS announced on Monday that they are delaying the filing deadline “for taxpayers who reside or have a business in the disaster area. This includes the April 15 deadline for filing 2009 individual income tax returns, making income tax payments and making 2009 contributions to an individual retirement account (IRA).”
The counties declared a disaster area by the POTUS include Atlantic, Bergen, Cape May, Essex, Gloucester, Mercer, Middlesex, Monmouth, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, and Union and thus qualify for the extended deadline, which is now May 11th.
New Jersey makes the third state allowed a prolonged procrastination period, joining counties in Massachusetts and all of Rhode Island.
Don’t try to get cute though, Garden Staters, if you’re thinking you can falsely claim residency in one of the affected counties, the IRS will be all over your shit, “IRS computer systems automatically identify taxpayers located in the covered disaster area and apply automatic filing and payment relief.” So appreciate the compassion if you can get it but don’t get any ideas; the IRS is still watching.
Considering the tone of Joe Stack’s manifesto, you’d think common courtesy would have been abandoned ages ago. Not necessarily so:
Perhaps it was a more sinister “have a great day” than we’re imagining, although the jig would have been up if he had given any indication about his plans (e.g. read the manifesto to air traffic control).
This is disappointing on a multitude of levels. On the one hand, the notion of thousands of IRS agents running around the country, kicking doors is kind of exciting.
On the other, if crazed tax-haters can’t threaten the lives of IRS Agents who can they threaten? The census only occurs once every ten years and threatening to gun down OSHA employees just doesn’t seem to be as effective.
Doug Shulman spoke at the National Press Club yesterday and assured everyone (despite what Dave Camp or Ron Paul says) that agents will not be storming your house packing heat if you don’t purchase insurance. The IRS will be counting on insurance companies to help them run identify those who are skipping on the required coverage.
He said insurers eventually will be required to file a document similar to Form 1099 used by financial institutions to report investment income. The agency will send letters to the uninsured notifying them fines could be deducted from their tax refunds for refusing to comply with the new law, Shulman said.
“These are not the kinds of things we send agents out about,” Shulman said. “These are things where you get a letter from us.”
We imagine the letter won’t be particularly friendly but it’s a far cry from jack-booted thugs pointing firearms at your head.
Shulman Says IRS Has Few ‘Punitive’ Ways to Enforce Health Law [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
The Tea Partiers (not to be confused with tax protestors who are way more delusional) have made their names known all across this great land for hating on taxes. They’ve marched pretty much everywhere but do you know where they haven’t marched? On the Internet! That’s right, nothing like a virtual march with politicians up for reelection joining the cause (can’t be seen with those nutjobs in person).
The “march” will occur on, you guessed it, April 15th and it will occur “in” Washington DC.
Some of the other cartoon leaders that will be in “attendance” are
• Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey
• Former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee
• Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist
• Senator John McCain (R-AZ)
• Michael Reagan, son of former President Ronald Reagan
• The Tea Party Express – A red bus.
We have to admit that we’re impressed with this risky move by this group that we would otherwise shun a technological feat of this magnitude. Does anyone think that Dick Armey or John McCain even knows what an avatar is? What lucky member of their respective staffs got the responsibility of creating those?
This is especially fun for the tea p’s because since this particular march is virtual, it is likely that certain actions and/or methods that the tax haters could only dream of before, will now be allowed. These may include but not limited to:
• Leaving flaming bags of shit on White House’s front steps.
• Protestors showing “video” of President Obama walking around wearing a Sandwich Board saying “I love taxes.”
• Resurrecting the Founding Fathers (zombie TJ!) to get their testimonials about how the Obama Administration is ruining America.
• Portray Nancy Pelosi giving a speech on the Capitol steps in one of those olive-colored Castro outfits.
• Bring Ronald Reagan back to life, just because.
• Other portrayals of “taxation without representation” taken wildly out of context.
All we ask is that you keep it non-violent. Tea p’s that aren’t too good with them computers need not worry though, actual marches will be held around the country on April 15th where you’ll be allowed to shout, march and carry signs with plenty of misspelled words.
Since it’s opening day for baseball, there are probably a few of you (non-tax accountants) that are at the ballpark enjoying sun, overpriced beers and, if you’re lucky, some complimentary tickets on behalf of your firm.
If you happen to be shelling out your own hard-earned money however, you’re no doubt aware that price of your tickets continue to go up season after season. Throw in $9 beers and Brother Jimmy’s BBQ and you’ll spend a small grip just to enjoy a day of sport and no work.
What’s the cause of the skyrocketing cost of attending a baseball game, you ask? The tax code of course!
That’s according to an op-ed by two professors, Duke law professor Richard Schmalbeck and Rutgers business professor Jay Soled, in today’s Times.
There are many reasons for the price explosion, but a critical factor has been the ability of businesses to write off tickets as entertainment expenses — essentially a huge, and wholly unnecessary, government subsidy.
These deductions have led to higher ticket prices in two ways. On the demand side, they have fueled competition for scarce seats, with business taxpayers bidding in part with dollars they save through the deductions.
On the supply side, the large number of businesses bidding for expensive seats has driven the expansion of luxury skyboxes and a reduction in overall seats in new ballparks.
The authors note that baseball was, until the 1970s, a “populist sport” and fans of all economic classes could attend games for a reasonable cost. Those days are long gone and the professors blame the ability of corporations to deduct business-entertainment expenses as the culprit. They state that you not need look further than the opening of the new Yankee Stadium that has “3,000 fewer seats than its 1923 predecessor but almost three times as many skybox suites.”
The professors advocate a limit on deductions for on luxury tickets to a low fixed amount (e.g. $50). They cite the outright elimination as “unrealistic” but we can’t recall at time when “realistic” and “Congress” collided in a sentence.
We agree with our esteemed colleague at ATL that if you really want to stick it to the companies who take advantage of tax code’s generous provisions, just make skybox tickets non-deductible altogether.
As the authors note, Corporate America has a love affair with sports-related perks and we’d guess that eliminating the deduction would not stop them from buying luxury tickets. The client relation types in your firms know that there is an intangible value to wooing potential clients in some comfortable confines as opposed to cramped seating in the stands with the commoners.
Thomas Hearns has no doubt seen the embarrassment that some of his fellow celebrity/athletes have suffered as the result of their tax scofflaw ways and decided that he would only suffer minor embarrassment. Hearns made over $40 million during his career but managed to owe back taxes of $448k, not to mention over $500k in overdue mortgage payments.
Rather than drag the proceedings on further, Hearns decided to get proactive on this little obligation and decided to hold an auction of memorabilia and other personal items to satisfy his debt. And since the bulk of Hearns’ career existed when boxing was still somewhat legitimate, these particular items probably still had some semblance of value to collectors/hoarders of random shit.
Items sold included a robe from a bout with Sugar Ray Leonard for $1,100, to trunks, gloves, headgear, ATVs, boat, ’57 Chevy. Pretty much anything that touched Hearns body that had ever been stained by sweat, blood, and any other bodily secretions (and those of his opponents) were auctioned off to satisfy the debt.
Hearns admitted to the Detroit Free Press that this all seems a little ridiculous considering the money he made, “I made a lot of money in boxing. But as a man who had a large family, people looked at you as their savior. You tried to help them by giving. It doesn’t stop. I’m the big brother — I give and I give.”
Ahhh, yes. The free-loading relatives. The types that don’t pay you back for that grip you loaned them for a [insert luxury vehicle of choice]. Should have known. Luckily, true fans of the boxer are more than eager to own funky jock straps to help out the champ.
As we plod into the glistening new vistas of Obamacare, what sort of wonderful tax returns await us there?
The biggest change, one that will hit every 1040 from the simple 1040-EZ to the full-blown 1040 starting in 2014, will be the new “personal responsibility payment.” The PRP is the marketer’s name for a fine for not having an approved health insurance plan.
We’ve mentioned some of the weird enforcement problems this will bring – problems addressed in more technical detail here. The PRP can’t possibly work with rting – the individual numbers are just too small, and the IRS can’t audit everyone. If they are ever serious about this, there will have to be a new information reporting form issued by the health insurers, something like the 1098 form. The form will need to have the taxpayer’s social security number, and maybe some new number identifying the taxpayer’s IRS-approved health insurance plan. We’ll call this Form 1098-BCBS.
The 1040s will have a new form, or at least a new schedule – we’ll call it Schedule DRE. Schedule DRE will have a space to put the number from the 1098-BCBS, or lacking that, boxes to check for why you have failed to do your part to support health care in this great nation. If you don’t check the right boxes, there will be further lines to compute your PRP, which can range as high as 2% of your income. The final tax will carry to the taxes summary at the bottom of the second page of the 1040.
In the higher rent district, there will be new forms, or at least worksheets, to compute the two new Medicare taxes that apply starting in 2013. An additional .9% wage tax will apply to wages over $200,000 for single filers, $250,000 for joint returns, and $125,000 on married filing separate returns. While employers of single taxpayers who employ them all year will cover their tax through withholding, single job-switchers and married taxpayers will have to do this weird new computation on their 1040s somewhere. This one isn’t indexed for inflation, so we should all be there in a few years.
The wage tax computations will be childs play compared to the new 3.8% tax on “unearned income” – a phrase reeking of chutzpah, coming as it does from freaking Congress. This tax applies not only to old-fashioned investment income – interest, dividends and capital gains – but to royalties, rents, and to “passive” income from partnerships and S corporations. Auditing this tax may require all 16,000 of the new IRS agents called forth by Obamacare. “Passive” is defined here by the Sec. 469 rules, which were enacted to deal with tax shelter losses. Tax preparers will need to be very careful in distinguishing “passive” from “non-passive” income in many cases where it never used to matter.
IRS agents will have a field day trying to trip up folks who liked the income to be “passive” when it enabled them to use other losses. This will stimulate the economy of high-end tax consultants, who will quickly earn enough to qualify for the tax themselves, where they don’t already.
The unearned income tax tax will apply to the lesser of “unearned income” or the amount adjusted gross income exceeds $200,000 for single filers, $250,000 on joint returns ($125,000 on separate returns). So a new form will have to add up the “unearned” income from Schedule B, Schedule D, Schedule E, and maybe Schedule F, and compute the tax, which will also carry to the nether regions of Schedule 1040, page 2.
There will be plenty of other changes applying to 1040s between now and whenever Obamacare fully kicks in. There is a nice timetable here.
The IRS isn’t waiting to prepare to enforce these new rules. Going Concern has obtained an exclusive early draft of Schedule DRE.
There’s a slew of “reasons” that people have for hating on the Internal Revenue Service. They’re responsible for discourse on television, they don’t observe Shabbos, perverts (alleged!), etc.But every now and again the IRS gives you a reason to say, “well, that’s nice of them,” even if it takes rainfall that makes you consider cobbling an ark together and rounding up the animals in the neighborhood.
The Service is not unreasonable. Apologetic? Never. But not unreasonable. Accordingly, if you live in eastern Massachusetts or Rhode Island the IRS took notice of the rising waters and is extending the April 15th deadline to May 11th (?).
It’s unlikely that this will garner much favor with the IRS haters outside of the Northeast but at least the Service won’t have to ignore the flood of calls from Bay State and Ocean State residents about whether they’ll still be expected file on time. Grab a bucket.
IRS will delay April 15 deadline for many in Mass. [Boston Globe]
Flood weary Rhode Islanders get tax extension [AP via Globe]
*For the militant atheists – Calm down, wouldja? It’s a religious week. Just sub “Nature” and move on.
As you’re no doubt aware, the IRS has taken exception with the notion that many of our favorite celebrities and athletes can do no wrong. As detestable as this thought might be, Doug Shulman and his merry band of tax collectors are not impressed with these pillars of the community turning a blind eye to their patriotic obligations.
Some of the latest examples of celebrity tax avoidance:
• Corey Feldman – Technically it’s Corey Feldman Inc. that owes the IRS $31k but same diff.
• Faith Evans – Widow of Notorious B.I.G. Grammy winner. Soon-to-be reality TV star. The combination of these things somehow doesn’t allow her to scrape together $360k.
• Mel Blount – Okay, we have to admit that we don’t know who the hell this guy is but the sports historians and the entire city of Pittsburgh are probably familiar. For everyone else – he’s a former Steelers’ cornerback that was elected to the Hall of Fame in 1989. He owes taxes for every year from 1994 to 2006 (with the exception of ’07) for grand total of $652k. Seriously, this is f—ing ridiculous. Even Nicolas Cage manages to file a tax return once a decade. There’s not one CPA in all of the ‘Burgh that can help this guy?
As the title indicates, our advice to these people is to get in touch with Luda “I pay more in taxes than most people would ever imagine” cris ASAP. Whether he’s mastered TurboTax or managed to find a solid CPA, it doesn’t matter because, as you might recall, “you will never hear about Ludacris owing the damn IRS no damn money.”
Source: Tax Watchdog
Yesterday we explained why sin taxes can work, despite the feelings of those that just want to tell the religious types to GTFO of the legislative process. While we agree that religious based legislation is a bad — nay — a horrendous idea, since more states refuse to legalize and tax certain things like marijuana, gambling, prostitution, among others, our elected officials have started coming up with even far worse ideas that the Texas pole tax.
The Times ran a story over the weekend that examined various states and what types of services they are taxing to close their budget gaps. While many states are considering taxes on professionals like lawyers and accountants, legislators in other states have gotten so desperate it appears they’re just pulling ideas straight out of their asses:
In Nebraska, a lawmaker has introduced a bill to tax armored car services, farm equipment repairs, shoe shines, taxidermy, reflexology and scooter repairs. In Kentucky, Jim Wayne, a state representative, and some fellow Democrats are proposing taxing high-end services: golf greens fees, limousine and hot-air-balloon rides, and private landscaping.
In June, voters in Maine will decide whether to accept a state overhaul of its tax system that would newly tax services like tailor alterations, blimp rides, and entertainment provided by clowns, comedians and jugglers.
We get it. States are desperate for revenues but these are the ideas? A juggler tax? Taxing your shoe shines? How’s this idea for taxing a service? Prostitutes! A service is being provided, yes? Make it a 50% tax, whatever the hell you want. Plus, more people getting laid might actually cut down on the crazies taking matters into their own hands.
We decided to get a service provider’s (not a prostie) thoughts on the matter, so we asked resident GC tax expert Joe Kristan for his thoughts:
Being a service provider myself, I can’t say I’m excited about the idea. Still, standard tax theory would say that services should be covered to make the tax as broad as possible, allowing (in theory) a lower rate. Iowa taxes a bunch of services, including foot reflexologists (you’d thank that would take care of the budget right there), but CPAs and lawyers are exempt. I’d say it’s because we’re special, but mostly it’s because we have special lobbyists.
All right, so maybe there’s a “theory” to it but something tells us it has nothing to do with taxing clowns.
If you’re a member of the AICPA the biggest benefit you enjoy is not the prestige, not the certificate that you have mounted on your wall but the Journal of Accountancy that shows up in your mail every month. It’s really solid that your firm shells out good money on an annual basis so you can add new Excel tips to your spreadsheet wizard repertoire.
JofA manages to talk to a number of high profile as well, which you would expect from a behemoth professional journal. Case in point, when we received the latest month’s issue we couldn’t help but get a little giddy seeing Doug “Help me, help you” Shulman. We flipped to the Q&A immediately after seeing his handsome mug on the cover only to find the Commish’s picture at right. It makes us think that he’s channeling Monty Burns, which some of you probably find appropriate.
The Q&A is pretty much what you would expect, touching on the new preparer regulations, “We ran a very open, transparent, public dialogue about this,” to threatening offshore tax scofflaws, “The U.S. government is getting very serious about rooting out offshore tax evasion,” and warning whistleblowers not to expect that money any time soon, “[T]his could take multiple years to get the awards out. But I’m a big fan of the program.”
A couple of more interesting statements, include how excited Dougie is that all the assignments that other government agencies don’t want, get dumped on the service, “it’s…a big compliment that we’re seen as a ‘go-to’ agency in government.”
That being said, this particular interview was certainly conducted prior to the passage of the healthcare reform bill and no mention of the IRS’ role in enforcement (or lack thereof) was brought up. Maybe if the JofA had seen the Bill O’Reilly/Anthony Weiner throwndown it would have been a stop the presses moment.
The only other thing worth noting is that pizza parlors around the country might want to tighten up the ship in the coming months, “We will build features into our technology system so if we see, say, a pizza parlor that says they had $90,000 of sales last year and it shows that they had $85,000 of credit card sales and we know that pizzerias have a lot of cash sales, that will be a red flag. We’ll use it to better target our audits, to see where there’s potential noncompliance, and then we’ll use it to better focus our resources.”
Maybe the Commish is just giving an example of what a red flag is but using this particular example rather than say, a celebrity, seem peculiar. Just leave Di Fara alone, okay?
Tax From the Top: Q&A With IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman [Journal of Accountancy]
Elie Mystal, the Editor of our sister site Above the Law, did a fair amount of kvetching over the Texas “pole tax” on Friday. He focuses primarily on his distaste for sin taxes, “I can’t avoid sin taxes — and thus I can’t stand them. First of all, they are regressive. Secondly, they’re anti-business. So we literally have a tax regime that freedom-loving progressi conservatives should hate, and yet sin taxes continue to be an acceptable way for the government to shove its morality down our throats.”
We’ll address that statement in a minute but first, we’ll examine the pole tax which supporters have stated, “is an appropriate exercise in state power — promoting public safety by discouraging the ‘combustible combination’ of drinking and live nudity.”
Nude women + alcohol = rape? What kind of sex crazed sociologist came up with that equation? Just because boobs and beer make your sick ass go out and terrorize females doesn’t mean that other males are incapable of telling the difference between fantasy and cold, lonely reality.
And if this is a serious problem — what the f*** is $5 going to do about it? Texas legislators want us to believe that there is an epidemic of sexual assaults occurring because of the “combustible combination” of alcohol and live nude girls, but they also want us to believe that a $5 surcharge is going to make a difference.
We agree with Elie that Texas has come up with a bad — nay — horrendous idea. An extra $5 at the door isn’t going to accomplish a damn thing. Strip clubs are highly “combustible” environments regardless; taxing patrons to get them to think twice before entering doesn’t make a lot of sense.
Where Elie is dead wrong is his notion that “Either [the behavior subject to tax] is a serious societal problem that the government needs to step up and make [it] illegal — or it isn’t. If it’s not that big a deal, then what is a sin tax other than the government trying to get a taste of a lucrative American business?“
We have a problem with the “step up and make it illegal” part. The decriminalization and taxation of certain “sins” is a perfectly good way for states to raise money since taxes on income and property are far more political and thus, not effective.
Alcohol and tobacco both cause a myriad of health problems in humans that can result in high medical treatment costs. Taxes on these items are appropriate in order to supplement the burden that they place on society as a whole. Drugs and prostitution are, for the most part, criminalized. Thousands of people are arrested and jailed yearly for engaging in these behaviors, imposing millions of dollars in costs to taxpayers. Here’s a newsflash: human beings are not — ARE NOT — going to stop engaging in these behaviors. So why not take the “criminal” element out of the equation?
If they were to be made legal, highly regulated and taxed, states could enjoy new revenue streams and citizens can engage in behavior that they choose. That’s something many “freedom loving progressives” can certainly get behind. Plus, if drugs and prostitution are legal, won’t this encourage entrepreneurship and a more competitive marketplace? That sounds like something “money-loving conservatives” would approve of.
So while we’re with Elie railing against Texas’ impotent legislation, sin taxes are useful when implemented intelligently. California is putting legalized marijuana to a vote and DC may not be far behind so maybe we’re beginning to see some common sense for a change.
Tax professionals require many traits: good with numbers; explaining complex issues; the ability to forego adequate sleep regularly; borderline insanity, among others. One talent that some tax gurus, certainly not all, possess is that of makeshift therapist. When you think about it, this makes perfect sense, since Americans hate taxes and the IRS.
This passionate resentment obviously leads to strong emotions and sometimes actions; emotions that have to be addressed by tax professionals. Many situations that CPA, EA, or tax attorney encounter necessitate the phrase “calm your ass down.”
From the San Francisco Chronicle, a few examples include, marital relations “My actual designation is enrolled agent, but it should be marriage and family counselor…Sometimes I know about a divorce before the spouse. Or I’ll get a call after a couple has just had a hellacious fight, and she or he wants to have the tax refund put in another account.”
Then of course, the overall warped fear of the IRS that no amount of Xanax will help subside:
“People have had it drilled into their heads that the IRS is as close as we can get to the secret police,” says Stephen Graves, a CPA in downtown San Francisco who has been preparing tax returns for more than 40 years.
“The IRS (audit) is the adult equivalent of being called into the office — it’s a very interesting, basic emotion,” he adds. “Twenty to 30 percent of my job is kind of like being a shrink, and guiding them through that fear.”
However, the biggest common denominator that tax pros report is the weeping. All clients have personal problems of some sort but when you break the news to them that they owe the Feds a grip of cash, that can be too much to bear.
Your inclination may be to roll your eyes and drum your fingers on your desk until they get it out or to point at them accusingly and shout, “Jesus! Pull yourself together man!” but this would not be the advised course of action. The most effective? Nod, listen and don’t get all judge-y:
[T]heir techniques are decidedly un-quantitative. “I listen…I try not to patronize them and say, ‘Everything will be OK.’ I try and be a good listener. A lot of times people just need to get it off their chest and get on with it.”
“I try to be empathetic…Nobody leaves my office without a hug.”
There’s the answer friends. Hugs. More hugs.
Tears and taxes: Meet my therapist, the accountant [SF Chronicle]
Charlie Rangel may have lost (temporarily!) his Chairmanship of the House Ways & Means committee because of a few tax issues but that doesn’t mean he isn’t willing to shell out a bit of tax advice during tax season.
Rangs sent a flier in the mail to his 15th District constituents so they could “put money back into your pockets.”
This particular bit of irony was not lost on the voters in the 15th District; the Daily News shared some of their thoughts including the obvious, “It’s probably not the best time to put something like that out,” to the practical, “I’d never take tax advice from that guy,” and those pointing out the chutzpah, “That is amazing. He certainly has gall.”
A spokesman is quoted that this SOP for Charlie during this time of year, “[He] has sent his tax newsletter to constituents for many years in order to assist them in filing their tax returns and ensuring that those who are eligible take advantage of important benefits, including the Earned Income Tax Credit.”
So maybe this is one of those time-honored Congressman Rangel traditions in the 15th District that operates like clockwork. Every tax season, voters can expect to get Chuck’s smiling face in their mailbox sharing tax advice on laws that he has helped write for decades. A little tax-related scandal isn’t going to put a stop to that. Unfortunately, we’re guessing the pamphlet doesn’t discuss how to exclude $75,000 in income from a rental property in the Dominican Republic. That would be taking things a bit too far.
Typically when current or former NFL player gets into trouble with the law it usually consists of 1) drugs/alcohol 2) assault 3) the occasional (or shockingly frequent?) homicide.
Former Buffalo Bills running back Darick Holmes pleaded guilty last year to 15 counts of tax fraud and order to pay $53k in restitution to the IRS. He had been running a scam in Buffalo showing people how to file bogus tax returns, “Holmes admitted that, while spending time in Buffalo in 2004 and 2005, he helped people file tax returns that listed false information about where they had worked and how much they paid in taxes. When the tax filers received refunds, Holmes got a cut of the money.”
Holmes was sentenced to one year of home confinement which had the prosecutor all bent out of shape since Holmes’ co-defendant, Darryle Buckner, was sentenced to a year in prison and wasn’t found to be as “culpable” as Holmes. The judge felt that Holmes was remorseful (that’s a new one for a tax crime) and was impressed with his work with troubled teens.
Holmes has had a rough go of it, he was shot seven times right after his arrest in 2008, according to the prosecutor it was during an $80,000 marijuana deal. Yeesh, This prosecutor guy is really pissed about this sentence.
The real moral of the story is you’re probably better off listening to Joe Biden (?) than an ex-NFL player when it comes getting tax advice.
Ex-Bill Holmes avoids prison in tax fraud case [Buffalo News]
If you refuse to use the White House’s tax savings tool purely out of spite then you’ll be happy to know that 180 IRS locations across this great land will be open this Saturday to help you out with things like the Homebuyer tax credit, the American Opportunity Credit, the Making Work Pay credit, and the Expanded Earned Income Credit.
Now we realize that the mere thought of setting foot inside an IRS location will cause many you to break out in boils, the other option is to go to a VITA location and get assistance from one of the many college students out there that are giving amateur advice so that they have one more activity on their resumé. They’re available throughout tax season. They are volunteers, after all.
The Service is trying to make this sound way more fun than it actually is by calling them “open houses”:
“We are holding these special open houses to give taxpayers who are struggling in these difficult economic times more opportunity to work directly with IRS employees to resolve their tax issues,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “We will host more than 180 open houses this Saturday.”
Whether Dougie will be on hand at one of the many locations to shed out his wisdom (or maybe get some advice) hasn’t been made clear.
How much tax would you pay on April 15 if the IRS couldn’t levy on your bank account, slap you with a lien, charge you penalties and interest, or send you to jail? Not much, eh? Then ponder the rules forcing individuals to buy “minimum essential coverage” under Obamacare.
The forced purchase of insurance is key to Obamacare. The “personal responsibility requirement” – a funny name for a requirement imposed by the state – is needed to make sure that low-risk individuals buy insurance to help keep it affordable for high-risk buyers (or, less politely, healthy young men are forced to subsidize everybody else). The penalty is considered vital to any semblance of fiscal soundness for the program. The rule is backed up by penalties and will be collected on tax returns.
The reaction of healthy young men in 2014 when this penalty kicks in will be “Dude. You’re not serious.”
And they will be right.
Caleb noted this yesterday from the Joint Committee of Taxation explanation of the penalties (my emphasis):
The penalty is assessed through the Code and accounted for as an additional amount of Federal tax owed. However, it is not subject to the enforcement provisions of subtitle F of the Code. The use of liens and seizures otherwise authorized for collection of taxes does not apply to the collection of this penalty. Non-compliance with the personal responsibility requirement to have health coverage is not subject to criminal or civil penalties under the Code and interest does not accrue for failure to pay such assessments in a timely manner.
If we take them at their word – and new Code Sec.5000A(g)(2) seems to say just this – why would any sensible taxpayer ever pay the penalty?
• They can’t threaten you with jail.
• They can’t hit you with a lien.
• They can’t levy your accounts.
• There’s no interest charge, so even if you do pay it late somehow, you’ve had the interest in the meantime.
We tax preparers probably won’t be allowed to recommend non-payments to our clients, or we will be silenced by our new IRS preparer enforcement overlords, but people will figure it out in a hurry. And if you think that people will pay taxes anyway without the threat of collection, penalties or interest, then why are we wasting any money funding the IRS?
This provision means one of two things: either this penalty is a joke, and they are just kidding about the cost estimates of the bill — they will be much, much higher — or the toothless penalties are just a PR stunt that they plan to correct as soon as they can get away with it.
Since Jesse James’ tax lien is relatively small — $3,918 — you can probably chalk this up to a mistake. However, since the taxes are related to 2007, could it be that it was an oversight? A mistake? Poor judgment?
Poor judgment akin to say, inviting a tattoo model/stripper/rumored white supremacist into your bike shop to cheat on your wife? Is that sort of the same thing?
Tax debt adds to sex scandal for Sandra Bullock beau [Tax Watchdog]
Okay my friends, this is a serious problem in our country that needs addressed. The vast shortage of competent, professional, tax advisors and accountants for escort service businesses, brothels, and your run-of-the-mill houses of ill repute can go on no longer. If not for the business opportunity, then for the good of your fellow Americans and maybe your state’s dire fiscal situation.
Today we learned that the one of the proprietors of Companions, “a call-out escort service” in Salt Lake City that was convicted of one count of tax evasion. Jodi Hoskins and her husband Roy were both convicted of dodging taxes (he in May 2009) for the year 2002. They managed to underreport their gross receipts by $1,204,354 which resulted in evaded taxes of $485k-ish. As you can tell, this is a bit of a problem. And with all challenges/problems/giant pains in the ass, therein lies an opportunity.
Our position is that these businesses simply cannot go on without more accountants and tax professionals stepping up to help these pillars of the business community run their whorehouses better. This means you, GC readers. Your knowledge of the double-entry accounting, inventory, derivatives, and payroll will be invaluable for these entrepreneurs and their employees.
Plus! If more of these businesses are in compliance with state and federal taxes, that’s one more step to states becoming fiscally solvent AND Tim Geithner can give the cash printing machine break. Everyone wins!
After yesterday’s words of wisdom from Joe Biden on your taxes, we stumbled across the “tax savings tool” that’s so easy
a caveman Joe Biden can do it.
We actually do believe the VPOTUS when he says it’s easy because he made the announcement yesterday with two men who aren’t exactly known to be tax mavens: IRS Commish Doug “I find the tax code complex” Shulman and Tim “I think I’ll try using TaxCut this year” Geithner.
Try your hand this thing and make up your own mind, after the jump.
Our feeling that it’s like tax planning a step or two above what Fisher-Price might put out. Which, for the majority of the American People, might still be tricky.
So capital market servants, filed your tax returns yet? No? Too busy, you say? Fine. We’ve all got our excuses. Personally, we’re holding out until Doug Shulman and/or Tim Geithner start returning our calls about their compliance efforts for 2009. Since we’ve been encouraged to not hold our breath on this, we’ve already filed our extension.
But where are most of the kings of putting off the 1040 until the last minute? The greatest concentration of “I’ll do it this weekend” types? The engineers of procrastination station?
Well if you guessed Houston not only are you correct but you’ve got more useless knowledge in your brain than Ken Jennings.
TurboTax’s rankings are based on the largest number of people that file between April 14 – 17. Here are your biggest putter-offers for 2009 (with previous year ranking in parents):
1. Houston – (#2)
2. Chicago – (#4)
3. New York – (#3)
4. Austin, Texas – (#11)
5. San Francisco – (#1)
6. Seattle – (#7)
7. San Diego – (#5)
8. Los Angeles – (#8)
9. Dallas – (#9)
10. Las Vegas – (#10)
This marks the fourth time that H-town has topped this list but we’ll be damned if we can figure out why. Does the humidity and obesity cause a hibernated state that we’re not aware of or is just good old fashioned, “we’re Texans and we hate taxes”? California too. What the hell is their problem?
In order to get to the bottom of this, we asked a friend (and strangely enough, a tax guru) who is a current Los Angeles resident and former resident of Houston to explain and she put in this way:
“Well.. Californians are selfish and think they can do whatever they want to get theirs…and pretty much Texans are the same, but they do it with a smile and an accent.”
Makes total sense now.
Free Tax Filing, Efile Taxes, Income Tax Returns – TurboTax.com
Houston, We Have a Problem [Tax Break]
Everybody got it?
“It’s not hard. Not even hard for me.”
“I used to do my own taxes but now everybody thinks it’s too dangerous.”
“The American People pay me a really good salary. I don’t deserve a tax break.”
Then there’s the Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. kitchen table talk; you know the drill.
In today’s celebrity tax scofflaw du jour, we learn that Ving “Why do people always have to bring up that scene in Pulp Fiction” Rhames owes the IRS over $800k from two liens, both filed by the IRS in Los Angeles.
Rhames has had trubs in the past, having liens filed against him last May as well.
It seems to that California, being in the fiscal trouble that’s it in, really needs to call on its other celebrity residents to hold some sort of Haiti-esque fundraiser for some of their fellow celebs.
Sure, it might not fix all the state’s budget problems but at least we could admire our celebrities for being financially responsible pillars of the community rather than pillars of the community when there’s an international crisis. Plus, maybe California wouldn’t have to fire more teachers.
In semi-related news, you will never, ever, EVER hear about Ludacris owing the IRS a damn thing. Not now, not ever.
“I pay more in taxes than most people would ever imagine. I guarantee you, I’m looking dead in the camera, you will never hear about Ludacris owing the damn IRS no damn money.”
Okay, financial celebrities f-ups, get on the horn and find out what the great financial mind-cum-rapper/actor of Ludacris has in store for you. Things haven’t worked out so far, so it can’t hurt to see what the man has to say.
Ving Rhames far from OK with Uncle Sam [Tax Watchdog]
As we’ve recently learned, IRS Agents are a zealous bunch. If you’re out of compliance you can bet the life of your labrador that they will run you down for the overdue tax, regardless of the sum.
Now perhaps you’ve been thinking that a little bribery might take care of things if you find yourself in a bit tax trouble. IRS Agents are human(?) after all; they fall ill to the temptations of this world just like the rest of us. And because they most likely have some sort of accounting background, they are most certainly caffeine abusers and thus, Starbucks whores.
But an Agent’s first responsibility is to serve the American Taxpayer and your attempts to tempt these civil servants with sweet, venti-sized, mega-calorie caffeinated beverages WILL NOT WORK:
Kim Oahn Thi Tran, also known as Jennifer Kim Tran, faced a tax liability of more than $13,287 for the 2006 and 2007 tax years on unreported income of $30,334, authorities said.
In hopes of lowering her tax liability, Tran sent a package on Nov. 30 to IRS revenue agent Imad Hararah that contained promissory notes and a $100 gift card for Starbucks Coffee that read, “To Imad: Enjoy,” investigators said.
Agent Hararah did not fall for this ploy. Nor did he accept the $2,000 that Tran attempted to give him. Instead this presented itself as a perfect opportunity to add charges, “On Dec. 9, Tran gave the agent $1,500, authorities said. In exchange, Hararah gave her a phony document that made Tran believe that she had a zero balance for 2006 and 2007 tax years.”
Does this guy love his job or what? Not cold hard cash nor natural stimulant will distract this man from doing his job. We can only assume that his brethren are of the same cloth and soon we’ll hear about Agents turning down dates with Lane Kiffin.
Woman charged with trying to bribe IRS agent [SF Chronicle]
There is plenty of tax advice floating around this time of year but the problem, as you may expect, is that not all of it is useful for everyone. Sure, you can throw read every piece of advice out there but some of that advice is worth ignoring or at the very least, investigating further so you can find out for yourself if it will actually benefit you.
We asked Mike Callahan, tax director at Spicer Jeffries LLP in Greenwood Village, CO, to pay us another visit, this time with ideas or strategies that he thought were overrated so that you can sort out some of the noise.
• Buying a car for the “write-off” – Mike told us that deductions related to depreciation on cars are extremely limited. He said, “If you need a new car, fine. But don’t expect a huge tax benefit.”
• Maxing out your mortgage – According to Mike, borrowing as much as possible to purchase a home because of the interest deduction is not worth it. “If your combined federal and state tax rate is 30%. 70% of your interest payments are going out the door.”
• Check your W-4 – Withholding a lot of taxes during the year so you can get a big refund is not the way to go. Mike puts it this way, “You just gave Uncle Sam an interest free loan. Adjust your withholding so you come close to breaking-even at tax time.”
• Running up a credit card on deductible expenses before year-end – This one should be a face-slap moment but, “Using a credit card to prepay expenses before year-end if you can’t afford to pay the balance when the bill comes next month.”
• Don’t sock money in an IRA away if you need it now – Mike said that saving money doesn’t do much good if you plan to withdrawal it later, “[Don’t] contribute to an IRA when you need the money. You’ll end-up withdrawing the funds andsubjecting yourself to a 10% penalty,” and more taxes. And by “need” Mike isn’t referring to your Range Rover payment. Good choices people.
A man in Oklahoma City fled police after IRS agents that had been staking out his house attempted to pull him over after it was clear he wasn’t showing up for his court date. The tax-hater du jour was due for a court date in Texas and when the IRS Agents realized he wasn’t headed for the LSS, they tried to stop him. The suspect then did what any clear-thinking person would do when pursued by IRS agents: ESCAPE.
An OKC policman saw the speeding Lexus, pursued, and one left turn later and a brief foot race later, the tax scofflaw was brought justice. IRS: 1. A guy that has probably appeared shirtless on Cops: 0.
No word on whether the IRS were the zealous type but we’re assuming they were packing heat. And since this particular ne’er do well had a court date, it’s safe to assume that he had a settle up for more than just his pocket change.
The IRS just came out with its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams. It is a useful rundown of current ways for taxpayers to create enormous trouble for themselves. While useful, it’s incomplete. It only looks at scams used by taxpayers. Hence, the Dirty Dozen Tax Policy Scams — in reverse order Letterman-style.
12. State non-conformity to federal rules – The federal tax law is complicated enough. When you have to start over in order to compute your state taxes, that’s a recipe for stupid. When you have to file in multiple states, it’s just crazy. California, the nation’s leader in bad ideas, has led the way ttp://www.rothcpa.com/archives/005787.php”>the bandwagon is getting crowded.
11. Asinine feel-good tax breaks – These are stupid tax rules passed to show us just how caring our legislators are. The bill allowing 2009 deductions for 2010 Haiti relief donations is a classic of the genre – it will cause countless people to double up on the charitable deductions, cause state tax return errors, and might well screw up return processing, all without actually helping Haiti.
10. Heads they win, tails you lose provisions – Sometimes the tax laws are designed to screw you. Gamblers are popular screw-ees. The federal tax law taxes gambling winnings above the line, but allows deductions only “below the line,” as itemized deductions, and then only to the extent of winning. If you don’t itemize, you lose. If you don’t have meticulous records, you lose on audit. And in some states, you just plain lose – you are taxed on winning bets, and losses are ignored.
9. Bait and switch tax treats – The alternative minimum tax has made this popular. They enact a politically popular tax break – say, home equity loan deductions – and they disallow it for AMT. So it’s there, but it’s useless.
8. Using the tax law to micromanage your life – Soda taxes. Insulation tax credits. Tax breaks for riding bikes to work. Will anybody ride a bike to work in Des Moines in February because of a $25 tax break? The tax law is full of… this sort of thing.
6. Economic Development Credits – Where the state economic development geniuses take your money to lure and subsidize your competitors. It’s like taking your wife’s purse to the bar to finance your pick-up efforts – the girls aren’t impressed.
5. Film tax credits – If there is a stupider approach to economic development than throwing money at Hollywood, at least this side of North Korea, it must be bipartisan.
4. Sitting on your tax refunds – The states have spent so much of your money that they don’t want to pay what they owe you. When they pay their public employees before they pay what they owe you, it shows where you rank.
3. AGI-based deduction and credit phaseouts – Almost every moronic new piddly tax break goes away as adjusted gross income goes up, whimsically embedding marginal rate spikes all over the tax code.
2. Shooting Jaywalkers – Sometimes the tax law has horrible penalties for trivial, but politically convenient, violations. The 50% of your bank balance FBAR penalty, the $10,000 automatic penalty for late international form reporting, and the insane Section 409A penalties for deferred compensation foot-faults are the kind of penalties that are almost perfectly designed to hammer honesty and reward sneakiness.
1. Expiring provisions – This cynical game enacts popular provisions (see AMT patch and research credit) one year at a time, so that the budgeters don’t have to count the real 5-year cost. The congresscritters, of course, have no intention of letting these things expire, and they often enact foolish permanent tax changes to fund another temporary extension.
Sadly, there’s one key difference between tax policy scams and the Dirty Dozen Tax Scams. You can go to jail if you use a Dirty Dozen Tax Scam, but if you use a dirty dozen tax policy scam, you just stay in Congress forever and ever, amen.
So this morning we learned that some IRS Agents decided to get huffy with a taxpayer over a sum that was less than a sketchy gas station party favor.
With this in mind, the more affluent of you may think that the IRS was finally recognizing that the millionaires in this country are the ones that make things happen. If the IRS would just BTFU and let the rich do their thing we’d get this economy back to blowing asset bubbles.
Unfortunately, Doug Shulman has remained steadfast in his commitment to making millionaires’ life hell by virtue of increasing the number of IRS audits on the wealthy.
According to a report in the New York Times, audits of individuals that earn at least $1 million are way up, “The federal agency increased its audits of taxpayers who earned $1 million to $5 million by 33 percent last year compared with 2008.” And if you’re in an even higher class of Joneses, your chances of getting audited are going up too, “[T]he I.R.S. increased its audits by 16 percent for those earning $5 million to $10 million last year. Audits of those who made at least $10 million rose by 8.5 percent, according to the data.”
The Times quotes a tax expert, Richard Boggs of Nationwide Tax Relief who then says the unthinkable (our emphasis):
“The I.R.S. is getting smart,” he said. “They are starting to better leverage their time, resources and talent in order to collect the most money. There is a definite shifting of the tide.” He said audits of those making at least $10 million rose slightly less than for other categories because so many of the ultrawealthy were already being audited.
We’re sure Mr Boggs is a top-notch tax guru but there is strong evidence that suggests that the IRS will still try to collect less substantial sums.
However, we have to admit, the numbers don’t lie. Millionaires out there, your chances of getting audited are going up and that sucks. But what should make everyone really nervous is the Service attempting to collect your loose change. Next time you see a nickel on the ground, we suggest you leave it there.
But it is March 15th and corporate return extensions are being submitted en masse. Tomorrow is also the deadline for accelerated filers to submit their 10-Ks so auditors that are borderline delirious (and probably feeling frumpy) might get more than four hours of sleep this week.
For you tax jockeys, today could mean a couple of things: 1) this is a bump in the road and your life will be even more hectic as your deadbeat clients who are now realizing that April 15th is coming up fast or 2) you don’t touch anything that isn’t an 1120 and you’re in the clear for awhile.
And for you auditors, hopefully you haven’t forgotten our little teaching lesson from the previous deadline? Try and catch all the embedded “f*cks.” And hey! E&Y is still having Canadian Tuxedo Fridays for a couple more weeks so that’s something to look forward to, amiright?
Yes, there are some of you out there that are still billing monster hours with no end in sight. But look at this way, if you haven’t quit by now, you’re in it to the end, so you better just read this reminder from Deloitte and get back to it. It’ll be over soon enough.
In this morning’s roundup we gave a couple of examples of why you should consider giving the IRS a break and remember that they’re civil servants just doing their jobs. All the violence, jokes and resentment are a little self-serving so maybe we should all just back off.
And then we heard about a couple of jackbooted agents (armed to the teeth, presumably) heading over to Herv’s Metro Car Wash in Sacramento to demand some delinquent taxes from the owner Aaron Zeff.
“They were deadly serious, very aggressive, very condescending,” says Harv’s owner, Aaron Zeff…
“It’s hilarious,” he says, “that two people hopped in a car and came down here for just 4 cents. I think (the IRS) may have a problem with priorities.”
How on Earth could two agents be ‘deadly serious, very aggressive, very condescending’ over four f—ing cents? How serious are they required to take their jobs? In the job description does it explain “the collection of delinquent taxes are to be vigorously pursued, regardless of the sum”?
Plus, the letter states $202.31 of penalties and interest are supposedly due on the delinquent portion. Has the IRS gotten so desperate for funds that it has delved into loan sharking? What’s more, Zeff has a letter from October 2009 stating that he ‘has filed all required returns and addressed any balances due,’ which now makes us think that the Service is pulling names out of hat and saying “who is our delinquent taxpayer of the day?”
It’s hard to believe that with just a few days prior to the first corporate filing deadline of 2010, that these two agents didn’t have anything better to do. Someone could have sent them to a sorting facility or, God forbid, have them review some returns. Jesus, put them on loan to the Utah branch if nothing else. They need all the help they can get over there.
IRS visits Sacramento carwash in pursuit of 4 cents [Sacramento Bee via TaxProf]
That the First-time Homebuyers Credit is riddled with fraud is old news. Like all refundable credits, where the government writes you a check if the credit exceeds the tax shown on your return, it’s a magnet for grifters. What’s new is cross-agency efforts enable First-Time Homebuyer Credit fraud, with video.
James O’Keefe, notorious for donning pimpwear and taping ACORN officials happily facilitating tax fraud and child prostitution, and then for getting arrested in Louisiana, took his act to Detroit and Chicago offices of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development posing as a tax credit scammer. One conversation went like this:
The law says that the tax credit maxes out at $8,000 for an $80,000 home. On the tape, O’Keefe asked a staffer, “What if I bought a place for $50,000, but the seller and I agreed to write down $80,000 as the purchase price?”
“Flip it any way you want,” the staffer replied.
What if the place is worth much less — like only $6,000?
“Yup, you can do that.”
This version of the Homebuyer Credit scam can get around the checks the IRS has in place to prevent fraud. The primary IRS anti-fraud check for the homebuyer credit is a requirement that a copy of an HUD-1 form or settlement statement be attached to the 1040 claiming the credit. If the buyer and seller collude to dummy up a HUD-1 form, the “buyer” is reasonably likely to get the credit as long as there isn’t some other item on the return that flags it – such as an address that’s different from the one for the “home” on the settlement statement.
The scammers wouldn’t be out of the woods by any means. The IRS might well catch up with the scammers. But then again, they might not, or if they did, the money could be long gone. For someone living in in a Detroit neighborhood where houses sell for as little as $1,000, splitting $8,000 with a scammer might be one of the less-risky opportunities at hand.
March 15th is just four days away so many of you amped for this first corporate deadline of the year. Tax planning gets a lot of attention during January – March time frame but what about the rest of the year? Should you be thinking about planning for three lousy months out of the year? Please.
But because the timing is not lost on us, we reached out to a CPA who has been around the block a time or two for some tax advice as we approach the corporate filing deadline.
Mike Callahan is a tax director at Spicer Jeffries LLP in Greenwood Village, Colorado. Mike has been sharing his tax wisdom with clients for over thirteen years with an expertise in securities taxation, organizational structure and international taxation of investment partnerships. Mike has been involved in many areas of tax research and planning, including advising broker-dealers and hedge funds, international taxation, multi-state tax planning and compliance and estate and financial planning.
Mike will be paying us a visit with some tax advice or the next week or so as the we head down the stretch in tax season 2010.
Starting off, he gave us six strategies for small businesses that you can keep in mind for yourself or your clients throughout the year, just not for year-end planning:
• Consider a 401(k) safe harbor – If your pension contributions are limited because your employees don’t contribute much to their accounts, contributing 3% of your employees’ compensation to their accounts allows you to maximize your contributions.
• Retirement Plan Credit – Small employers are eligible for a credit of up to $500 for 50% of the administrative cost of setting up a retirement plan.
• Section 179 – Deduct (instead of depreciating) the cost of equipment and furniture on up to $134,000 of additions in 2010 ($250,000 in 2009) under Section 179.
• Hire your children since you give them money anyway – Of course they do have to actually work. Their tax bracket is probably less than yours, some of the income is tax free and they are eligible for traditional or Roth IRA contributions.
• Watch out for the alternative minimum tax (AMT) – It impacts more and more people each year. Tax projections by your CPA are a must! It may be beneficial to defer some deductions until next year instead of paying them this year.
• Work from home? – If your home office is your principal place of business for administration and management of your company, a portion of your rent, utilities, maintenance, etc… are deductible. This also helps reduce your self employment tax.
“While such policies will not solve the obesity epidemic in its entirety and may face considerable opposition from food manufacturers and sellers, they could prove an important strategy to address overconsumption, help reduce energy intake and potentially aid in weight loss and reduced rates of diabetes among U.S. adults.”
~ Researchers from the University of North Carolina, who concluded that an 18% tax on pizza and soda could help adults lose an average of 5 pounds a year.
“A lot of people think of the IRS and have a little bit of fear of the IRS and we want to make sure they know that our doors are open, our people are empowered to make decisions and our goal is to resolve your problem.”
More news out of the land of Quakers, as Pennsylvania has announced a tax amnesty program for delinquent taxpayers. The program allows tax deadbeats to pay their back taxes but all the penalties and half of the interest will be waived. Pennsylvania’s will begin on April 26th and be open for 54 days.
The AP reports that the state could generate an additional $190 million in revenues for the state which, like pretty every state, is in a dire need of revenues.
For those that participate in the amnesty program, they’ll have to be on good behavior going forward, “participants who fall into delinquency again within two years may be required to pay the full penalties and interest that had been waived. Also, once the amnesty period ends, a special, ‘nonparticipation penalty’ of 5 percent will be levied against delinquent taxes, penalties, and interest not paid in full.”
Participants will also not be eligible for future amnesty programs. Sounds like a novel idea right?
Well, maybe not.
Our resident tax guru, Joe Kristan, is not a fan of tax amnesty programs saying, “they become an expectation and they make chumps of compliant taxpayers.”
Joe’s home state of Iowa passed a tax amnesty program back in 2007 and his sentiments haven’t changed since then, “[Iowa is] adding more
loopholes targeted tax incentives to its tax law while doing nothing to lower rates or broaden the tax base.”
But Joe, being the silver lining-type, also notes, “those of us who charge for tax work by the hour, it truly helps our economic development during an otherwise slow time of year.” So tax pros will take those new clients despite the bad policy that encouraged them.
Regardless of the bump in off-season revenues, the Tax Policy Blog (who Joe cites) noted that these programs are of little value if reform doesn’t accompany it, “if lawmakers decide to implement tax amnesty programs, they should be accompanied by fundamental tax reform that makes the tax code simpler and easier to comply with.”
So it appears that tax amnesty is nothing more than a duct tape solution from a policy stand point but it certainly makes good pandering fodder in an election year.
Pa. will offer tax amnesty [AP via Philadelphia Inquirer]
Suge Knight may be the heir apparent to Nicolas Cage for the King of celebrity tax trouble. There have been several minor liens thrown in here and there and Nas’ $3+ million tax lien was certainly impressive but Suge’s looks like a solid leader for the crown right now.
We should note that for the purposes of celebrity tax issues, Joe Francis does not qualify since he’s technically a “douche” and not a “celebrity”. Also, since the $33 million-ish lien just up and disappeared (we’re assuming that Lucifer is somehow involved) he’s off the hook.
Anyhoo, so being tardy on taxes seems to be a common occurrence but Suge seems to be going for the tardiest of the tardy. He has managed to avoid paying a tax lien, originally filed in 2003, for his 1996 tax return. TMZ is reporting that the lien was re-filed in January and that he owes $6,578,696.31.
TMZ is also reporting that in child support papers filed by Suge’s baby mama, it was revealed that his net income is only $1,207 so paying this lien is going to need some kind of resurrected 2Pac comeback somethingorother.
The blog Baller Status also reports that last month “several personal items he had tucked away in storage were auctioned off to the highest bidder after he failed to pay the storage fees. Belongings such as furniture, TVs, and even a large photo of himself with the late Tupac Shakur were sold.”
So whenever you’re feeling a little down about your own dire personal financial situation or think about your crappy pay, just remember that you could be Suge Knight.
Since golf is a sport (?) that some of you engage in, you’ll be interested to know that Søren Hansen, the Danish linkster, may be going to jail for tax fraud.
He’s not banging everything that moves or shilling for an accounting firm, he just hates taxes. Just like you!
Hansen owes the Danes 9.6 million kroner which is about $1.75 million. That puts him a shade below Nas tax trouble.
Denmark is claiming that Hansen is a resident but he says that he kicks it in Monaco 24/7. Apparently he summers up in the motherland so this thing is a toss-up at best. If he’s found guilty of failing to pay the taxes he could wind up paying a fine of 10 million kroner and “an unspecified prison term”.
We don’t have any idea what a Danish prison would be like although we’re sure it’s rotten.
Fraud police ready to jail golfer [Copenhagen Post]
Of the adherents of strange and puzzling belief systems – 9/11 Truthers, Fed groupies, Cubs fans – few work so hard to screw themselves as tax protesters.
By their own account, t www.rothcpa.com/archives/000480.php”>spend “thousands of hours” reading their arcane tracts, expanding on theories of why the 16th Amendment is a figment of our imagination, or why a gold-fringed flag means you’re in an admiralty court, which somehow undoes the income tax.
Or why the federal tax law only covers the District of Columbia and federal forts, or why Section 861 says U.S. source income isn’t taxable. The result? They still owe the taxes, penalties, and maybe $25,000 idiot fees from the tax court – and that’s if things go well. If they go badly, they go very badly.
Every year the IRS updates its handy debunking of tax protester arguments. It does little good. You can spend hours trying to talk tax protesters out of their ideas, but they move effortlessly from one gold-fringed bad idea to another, and they can almost sound like they make sense, until you get outside and get some fresh air. But there is one common problem in all of these “Tax Honesty” arguments: they don’t work.
No matter how convinced you are that Irwin Schiff’s theories of the income tax are true, that there is no income tax, all of the federal judges think there is one. So does the IRS, the Federal Marshals Service, and pretty much everyone in the Bureau of Prisons. What they say trumps what Irwin says, which is why the poor man is likely to die in jail.
But what about the glorious courtroom triumphs of Lloyd Long, Vernice Kuglin and Tom Cryer? They were acquitted by juries! Yes, these guys beat criminal charges. Why the juries voted the way they did, we’ll never really know. Maybe they were nullifiers, striking a blow against the income tax. Maybe they decided that the defendants really believed their schtick, so they didn’t “willfully” fail to pay their taxes. But these acquittals debunk the income tax only if the O.J. acquittal debunks California’s murder statute. Even though these guys didn’t go to jail (unlike many, including their pied piper, Irwin Schiff), they still have to pay their taxes.
Maybe you’re reading this and thinking “Of course he says that. He does taxes for a living. He’s in on the conspiracy!” If so, come on. If this stuff actually worked, I wouldn’t grind my way through every tax season pretending there is an income tax. If it worked, I would just talk to a few of my wealthiest clients, work out a deal to take 5% of their income for the next 10 years in return for making their taxes go away, wave my wand, and spend March in Mesa.
But here I am, grinding out those returns. That no more makes me “pro-tax” than believing in germ theory makes a doctor “pro-bacteria.” Still, if you really want to ruin your financial life, you’re welcome to choose your poison. But first ask yourself: are all of these big companies and rich guys who pay taxes crazy or stupid? Or is it just you?
SO! We’ve been feeling sorry for the IRS lately because well, people HATE the Service. It’s cases like these that might, just might, cause some people to flip their lid.
Kevin Kilduff, one of the “most highly regarded” tax attorneys in Boston was suspended from practicing before the IRS for 48 months by Treasury Secretary’s Appellate Authority after he appealed an administrative law judge’s (“ALJ”) decision to suspend him for just 24 months. The complaint was filed by the Office of Professional Responsibility who oversees CPAs, EAs and attorneys who practice before the Service
From the decision of the ALJ, “The Complaint alleges Respondent failed to timely file Federal tax returns for the tax years 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005, and failed to file a tax return for tax year 2002.”
Considering the fact that Mr Kilduff used to work at the IRS and since leaving has represented many clients before the Service, so you would expect he would have a good story.
Annnnnnd he did . Two-fold: 1) “[The] matter was instituted as a personal vendetta against him by Revenue Officer 1 because of his “zealous” representation of a client in dealing with Revenue Officer 1, the IRS agent in the case.” and 2) “his mother was diagnosed with Illness 1 and he quit his job in Philadelphia and moved to Boston and moved in with his parents to care for his mother, and remained with them for the next five years. During this period, he and his sister cared for their parents, cooking and taking them to doctor appointments”
Judge Joel Biblowitz, was sympathetic to Mr Kilduff’s situation (re: sick Mom) but was impressed with his attitude (emphasis original):
Throughout the course of this matter, I was struck by the Respondent’s apparent disinterest in, or lack of respect for, this proceeding…In his response, the Respondent stated: “I am happy to provide your office with copies of these tax returns if it is necessary,” although he did not do so. It appears to me that if he truly took the IRS’ complaint seriously, he would have responded immediately after receiving Whitlock’s October 11, 2006 letter and would have sent him a copy of his 2002 Federal tax return, rather than waiting almost four months before responding and offering to provide the return.
Mr Kilduff also didn’t respond to the Judge Biblowitz’s order to notify the OPR of his witnesses and exhibits in his case. Just plain ignored it. If we know anything about judges, it’s that you don’t ignore them.
I find that neither defense has merit. While I can sympathize with the Respondent and his obligations and sacrifices during this period, the record establishes that during the period encompassing tax years 2000 through 2005 he was employed full time for a major laws firm with yearly adjusted gross income ranging from $102,000 to $138,000. Further, while he had obligations caring for his parents during this period, it is difficult to imagine that he could not find the time to prepare and timely file these returns.
IRS Wins 48-Month Suspension of a Lawyer for Failing to File His Own Tax Return and Late Filing [IRS.gov]
IRS Suspends One of Boston’s ‘Most Highly Regarded’ Tax Lawyers for 48 Months for Failing to File Tax Returns [TaxProf Blog]
Tax Attorney Suspended from Practicing Before IRS [Web CPA]
Okay, who’s got no plans on Friday? Work? Bah. How about you go to the Nets game against the Orlando Magic instead? Sure they’re terrible but you’ll get a coupon that is redeemable at a Roni Deutch Tax Center to get your state return done for free (a $29 value!).
Yes, we said the Nets are terrible but to put it more accurately, they’re atrocious. So atrocious that they have the worst attendance in the NBA. You need your tax return prepared; the Nets need fans. Let’s make this happen. We’re not saying you have to paint your face or anything but show up and drink a beer or two. You can always leave at halftime.
And even if you’re bound and determined to prepare the return yourself, there will Roni Deutch reps at the game to answer your tax questions. Again, free of charge. Of course they’d prefer if you just handed over all your paperwork and coughed up the $185 to have your federal return done too but it’s really about being a fan and supporting the team:
“It’s easy to jump on the Lakers’ bandwagon,” said [Roni] Deutch, who claims to have been the first girl to play Little League baseball on an all-boys team in her home state, California. “The hallmark of a strong company is one that aligns with young companies. I’m a betting woman, and I think the Nets are going to win a championship this decade.”
Write it down.
For whatever reason, people crave their tax refunds like Big 4 recruits crave tchothkes. Accordingly, someone came up with the bright idea of “refund anticipation loans” or rapid refunds. Web CPA is reporting that the New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs has investigated nearly 800 tax preparers throughout the City and issue over 2,000 citations for violations including illegal advertising of the rapid refunds.
Getting your refund ASAP is the personal mission of every tax-American but if preparers lie about the fact that they’re actually loan sharks, then that’s when the City will get after you:
Consumer Affairs Commissioner Jonathan Mintz noted that RAL costs can amount to as much as a 500 percent interest rate. “The truth is that RALs are such a bad idea that tax preparers and lenders generally need to lie about them in order to sell them,” he said at a press conference Tuesday. “Lying about them in New York is illegal.”
Mintz’s investigators found that three out of 10 tax preparers in the city were misleading their customers about their rights, and in most cases telling them or deceptively advertising that a refund loan was just a rapid refund or a same-day refund. “In the Bronx, over half the preparers that we inspected got it wrong and were issued violations,” he said.
C’mon Bronx tax prep, you’re better than that…
The silver lining in this little story? The City will collect a $1 million and by the grace of God, tax preparers are actually messing up less, as the compliance rate reached 69% in the 2010 investigation up from 65% in ’09 and 56% in ’08.
We here at GC have harped on the upcoming tax preparer regulation, most recently the declaration by the IRS that the new regs are the most important step taken EVER. While that particular statement remains to be hyperbole of the highest order, the new regs will certainly drive these tax prep/loan sharks underground. Whether that’s good or bad depends on your comfort level with black market tax prep services. The IRS doesn’t care; they’ll be coming heavy either way.
The Exuberant Accountant isn’t the spamming type so when he sent out an email to, presumably, all of his blog’s email subscribers as a warning about new estate tax rules in 2010, it was clear this wasn’t a casual tax issue. Scott Heintzelman was kind enough to give me a few minutes to break down what this means for estates and why we should care.
Disclaimer: I took an estate tax class no less than two months ago and have since forgotten everything I learned so I needed a refresher anyway. As always, if you need advice on actually planning your estate, don’t listen to me and get yourself a CPA and/or tax lawyer. “We are accountants, ultimately we don’t draft agreements,” says Scott and he’s absolutely right. Get a trained mine-sniffer on that particular cluck mission.
Scott pointed to a recent post from his firm’s McKonomics blog called “No Estate Tax is a Good Thing, Right?” and it goes without saying he doesn’t believe this “no estate tax thing is good” by any means.
He gave the example of getting hit by a bus (awww, don’t run over the Exuberant Accountant!): If he walks out of his office tomorrow and dies, certain language in his will might leave a trust with $0 for poor Mrs Exuberant Accountant. What about the little Exuberant Accountant Jrs?! The humanity! Don’t worry, we’d start a charity drive.
Anyway, from McKonly & Asbury:
[M]any estate planners wrote wills with such language that the bypass trust would be funded with an amount equal to “the current lifetime exemption amount.” Since we currently have no estate tax, and no lifetime exemption amount, if a spouse dies in 2010, we could potentially have an unfunded bypass trust. This is especially alarming since we can all assume the estate tax will come back and we may have a taxable estate once the second [spouse passes] away.
Stipulated: the L.A. Dodgers are evil. Not seventh-circle evil like the Mets or the White Sox, but evil enough. And we’ll assume, for sake of argument, that their owner, Frank McCourt, bathes in Kruggerands while sipping puppies blended with 50-year old single-malt scotch.
That still doesn’t make him a tax cheat.
So why this lame L.A. Times column from Frank Hiltzik?
To everyone who claims that our wealthiest citizens pay more than their fair share of income taxes and we should cu se they’re the ones who, you know, create jobs in our economy, I have four words for you:
The McCourts, who own the Los Angeles Dodgers (so she says; he says he’s the owner and she’s not), jointly pocketed income totaling $108 million from 2004 through 2009, according to documents Jamie McCourt recently filed in the couple’s divorce case in Los Angeles County Superior Court.
On that sum, they paid zero federal and state income tax.
They made $108 million and paid no federal income tax? Why might that be?
According to Jamie, the McCourts employed two mechanisms to live tax-free. One was to claim enormous tax losses from their business, which was mostly commercial real estate before they bought the Dodgers. These could be carried forward, offsetting income year after year until they were finally netted out.
So let’s get this straight: they made $108 million by losing $109 million? It must be magic! No?
“…Jamie’s accountant states in a court document that some is due to depreciation, which is a way of accounting for wear and tear on a property.”
So real estate losses are non-cash funny money? The tax law stretches commercial real estate deductions out over 39 years now, so real estate isn’t a great tax shelter. Sure, you can deduct commercial mortgage interest, but you can’t deduct principal on mortgage payments. So even in real estate, the McCourts’ $130 million tax loss carryforward isn’t a symptom of prosperity.
Let’s consider another exotic possibility: maybe they really lost money. Mr. McCourt’s day job is in commercial real estate. How has that been doing lately?
But Hiltzik seems to think tax loss carryforwards are some kind of cheaters game, or maybe even a status symbol, like a Mercedes or a private jet:
“Jamie’s documents say that in 2008 the net loss carry-forward from previous years was $109 million — in other words, the McCourts could have earned that much without paying a penny of income tax.”
Imagine of a world without loss carryforwards (I think you can!). You start a business and you lose $2 million in Year 1. In Year 2 things turn around and you make back $1 million. Without loss carryforwards, as a 35%-rate taxpayer you would pay $350,000 in Year two, even though the business is still $1 million in the hole. That’s an effective rate of >infinity%.
Perhaps Mr. McCourt is prosperous in spite of his loss carryforwards. Maybe his real estate has held its value, unlike everybody else’s. Maybe he’s even running personal expenses through his business (though Leona Helmsley learned that the IRS looks for that). But even a Los Angeles real estate empire can suddenly come crashing down.
Remember that maybe, just maybe, Mr. McCourt’s soon-to-be-ex-wife has a vested interest in making him look prosperous, and in making losses look like a mark of wealth. She might like some of that.
[H/t: TaxProf Blog]
While the apparent kamikaze raid on the Austin IRS offices yesterday may be the first air assault on an IRS office, it’s not the first time somebody on the wrong end of the tax law attempted an entirely stupid and futile gesture of violent tax resistance.
Take Minnesota computer entrepreneur Robert Beale. Rather than showing up for his tax trial, he hit the road and spent 14 months on the run. When in jail awaiting his rescheduled trial, he arranged a “common law court” of associates to “arrest” his judge. He unwisely made these arrangements through a wired prison phone, and got an extra 11 years in prison for his trouble. He had a solution for that, too, telling his sentencing judge: “’I do not consent to incarceration, fine or supervised release,’ he said. ‘I have not committed a crime.’” Amazingly, convict consent is not required in the Federal prison system, and Mr. Beale is currently residing in Yazoo City, Mississippi.
A Florida contractor, Randy Nowak, chose a different path. In 2008, he was concerned that an IRS agent was closing in on offshore bank accounts. As the IRS offshore amnesty wasn’t yet up and running, he attempted to hire out the murder of the IRS agent. For good measure, he wanted to burn down the local IRS office. He met with a mean looking 6-4 biker nicknamed “The Reaper” to arrange the work. Plans went awry when “The Reaper” turned out to be an undercover FBI agent wearing a wire. Mr. Nowak had an explanation:
Nowak’s attorney argued that his client was actually afraid of the biker and that a friend had gotten him unwittingly involved in the plot. His lawyer pointed to a number of phone calls between Nowak and his friend, who secretly alerted the authorities to the plot. The attorney claimed that Nowak had been trying to persuade his friend to call off the hit, but the friend warned him against angering the gang.
The jury didn’t buy it, and Mr. Nowak received a 30 year sentence. Still, he is only in his early 50s, so he has more to look forward to than 67 year-old Ed Brown. When Mr. Brown’s trial on tax charges seemed to be going badly, he retreated to a fortress-like New Hampshire homestead filled with food and ammo and surrounded by booby traps. He held out for months until he was captured by U.S. Marshals posing as sympathizers. He will begin his 37-year sentence on federal weapons charges when he completes his 63-month tax sentence. He is scheduled for release in 2044, when he will be about 111 years old.
The Austin Kamikaze’s plans did sort of resolve his tax problems, but at a price beyond what most people with tax problems are ready to pay.
The former head of the Iowa Film Office was charged this week with “unfelonious misconduct in office” for his role in a scandal in which filmmakers bought themselves everything from featherbeds to Benzes with money advanced by the taxpayers of Iowa.
The Hawkeye State fell big time for the film credit fad that swept the country in recent years. Iowa had two 25% tax credits, one for filmmakers and one for investors. As interpreted by Mr. Wheeler (but not the Attorney General), the credits together could add up to 50% of film costs incurred in state, making it perhaps the most generous such giveaway in the country.
Better yet, the credits are transferable, so filmmakers can sell them at a discount to raise money. The program had no caps, meaning that Iowa could give away money as fast as Hollywood could spend it.
The entire program was managed by Mr. Wheeler, almost by himself. And did he ever manage it. According to the Iowa Attorney General:
Defendant Wheeler permitted filmmakers… to utilize “payments in kind” including “services in kind” in support of claimed expenditures for tax credits. Under defendant Wheeler’s direction, Iowa’s film program became one of the few, if not the only, state film incentive program in the nation to allow credit for “services in kind.”…Examples included “sponsorship agreements” in which intangible assets (such as reciprocal web links, product placement and marketing agreements) were traded with no money changing hands. These non-cash “expenditures” sometimes constituted the majority of the filmmakers entire alleged budget.
For a brief glitzy moment, Iowa was overrun with film crews and starlets helping themselves to a bountiful harvest.
The party ended last fall with revelations that Iowans helped buy a Mercedes and a Land Rover for a producer via film credits. Mr. Wheeler lost his job, and now he stands charged with a “serious misdemeanor.” Two filmmakers are charged with felony theft for inflating their expenses while claiming credits.
But if Mr. Wheeler is criminally inept, what about the bosses that left him alone and unsupervised to give away over $30 million so far? And what about the 147 legislators — out of 150 — who thought it would be a good idea to give Hollywood a blank check? And you thought “Music Man” was fiction.
But lest you think too badly about the rubes in Iowa, forty-four states are giving taxpayer money to Hollywood. Chances are that your legislator is taking money from you and giving it to those nice Hollywood people. Remember that next time your legislator says you aren’t paying enough taxes.
So it’s the Monday after the Super Bowl and most of you are suffering from some kind of hangover. Whether it was caused by food, booze or you’re simply wallowing in a lack of a Peyton Manning comeback, this day should really be a national holiday (even non-football fans can agree on that notion).
Melancholy, indigestion and cocktail flues aside, the other certainty that comes with the SB is gambling. And we’re not talking friendly-poker-game gambling, we’re talking recklessly wagering on every single aspect of the biggest spectacle in sports gambling.
Two of the most creative wagers we’ve seen so far was the betting on rating for the Focus on the Family (featuring Tim Tebow and Mamma Tebow!) ad and the betting the spread between Kim Kardashian’s measurements and Reggie Bush’s rushing and receiving production. Both of which are completely ridiculous, yet sheer genius.
Regardless of where you put your money yesterday (we took the overs on Archie Manning appearances and lost), there are plenty of big winners from yesterday’s game. And now that we have a government who is feverishly trying to close a deficit gap, the question remains: will the IRS more aggressively pursue taxpayers for their unreported gambling winnings?
If you’re a degenerate loser than this obviously doesn’t apply to you but if you’re lucky enough to find some extra scratch in your pocket, you’re legally obligated to report that income next year.
Our government is looking for solutions anywhere possible, so it’s entirely possible that you could find yourself on the wrong end of an IRS-issued shotgun if you’re leaving your winnings off next year’s 1040. Look, it’s not that crazy and the pols need all the ideas they can get. You’ve been warned.
He seemed to have it all — a wife, three kids, a successful career. But it wasn’t enough. What he really wanted was another X chromosome. Our taxpayer, explains the Tax Court, “was uncomfortable in the male gender role from childhood and first wore women’s clothing secretly around age 10…discomfort regarding her gender intensified in adolescence…[The taxpayer] was a female trapped in a male body, and continued to secretly wear women’s clothing.”
So our taxpayer consulted a licensed social worker, which is apparently how these things are done, and after suitable counseling, decided to try on XX for size. The first steps down the path the the Misses Department seemed to suit the taxpayer, so he took the next big leap. $21,741 of surgical and related expenses later, the taxpayer was Ms. Rhiannon O’Donnabhain.
The Tax Court got involved when she deducted these expenses on her 2001 tax return. The IRS said that the expenses were not “medical” expenses under Sec. 219. It would be an unusual man who would undergo this sort of thing absent dire medical need: “The procedures that Dr. Meltzer carried out included surgical removal of the penis and testicles and creation of a vaginal space using genital skin and tissue.”
It took 139 pages and 4 separate opinions, but the Tax Court agreed that the gender reassignment surgery is a deductible medical expense. It’s surprising that it was so difficult, considering that the court is largely composed of men who wear dresses at work. But they felt it was necessary to go into the sort of privacy-killing detail that makes taxpayers think twice before spurning an appeals offer and going to Tax Court (oh, you mean you’re that Rhiannon O’Donnabhain!):
Petitioner, anticipating the formal recommendations for her surgery, went for a consultation and examination by Dr. Meltzer in June 2001 at his offices in Portland, Oregon. Dr. Meltzer concluded that petitioner was a good candidate for sex reassignment surgery. Dr. Meltzer’s notes of his physical examination of petitioner state: “Examination of her breasts reveal [sic] approximately B cup breasts with a very nice shape.”
Nice enough for government work, anyway. The Court ruled that while the hormone therapy, vaginoplasty, feminizing facial surgery and penis and testicle removal were deductible, breast augmentation was, well, too much:
given the contemporaneous documentation of the breasts’ apparent normalcy and the failure to adhere to the Benjamin standards’ requirement to document breast-engendered anxiety to justify the surgery, we find that petitioner’s breast augmentation surgery did not fall within the treatment protocol… Instead, the surgery merely improved her appearance.
So if the Tax Court’s view holds up on appeal, you can deduct the cost of changing sides, but if that’s not enough to make you sufficiently hot, you’re on your own.
The Obama administration is slowly starting to pick its battles; starting with taxes on corporations’ foreign earnings.
The administration has abandoned its proposal to eliminate U.S.-based multinationals’ ability to defer tax on income by shifting assets to foreign subsidiaries, according to a published report.
While details are sketchy, Bloomberg reported on Tuesday that the administration’s proposed budget for fiscal 2011 shows that it has abandoned its plan to eliminate the so-called “check the box” system under which U.S. companies can defer U.S. tax on income by shifting income-generating assets to foreign subsidiaries without recognizing gains on the transfer.
The proposal would have eliminated companies’ ability to avoid tax on such transfers and forced the repatriation of earnings shifted in this way.
According to Bloomberg, the administration backed down in the face of intense opposition from multinationals. Observers note that Congress has tried to squelch the efforts of the Internal Revenue Service to clamp down on U.S. companies getting foreign tax breaks at the same time as U.S. tax breaks, although many of those breaks are facilitated by the check the box system.
“Maybe the administration figured this was one it did not need to pick a fight on,” Jasper Cummings, a partner in the Raleigh, N.C., office of Alston & Bird and a former associate chief counsel of the IRS, said in an email to CFOZone Tuesday. “They have enough fights as it is.”
Still, Cummings noted that the administration still has “a pretty long list of other changes” in international taxation that it is pursuing. Chief among them is a plan to tighten the pricing rules for transfers of intangible assets.
As CFOZone reported last fall, one such proposal would crack down on asset transfers of employee compensation. In a paper released in May outlining its budget for the last fiscal year, the administration said it would “clarify” the treatment of transfers of intangible assets to include shifts of such expenses.
At present, many companies avoid paying tax on gains resulting from transfers of so-called “workforce in place” under rules that also allow goodwill and “going concern” to go untaxed. In early 2007, however, the IRS issued a staff directive and audit guidelines warning that it was “improper” for taxpayers to classify workforce in place as goodwill and going concern. And an IRS official in September indicated that transfers of workforce in place should include the value of products or services the employees create if much of the work is complete at the time of the transfer.
According to Bloomberg, the administration’s proposals to toughen the rules on transfer pricing would generate $15.5 billion in tax revenues for the coming year and along with other international tax changes produce $122.2 billion over a decade.
Apparently the IRS is not one for timing. Earlier this month the Service announced that if you get paid to crank out 1040s, your life as you know it is more or less over. Well, at least a little more inconvenient. Okay, it’s hella-inconvenient.
Back when the new regulations were announced the Service let it be known that since it can’t get these new regulations implemented for 2010, it was still stepping up its efforts for getting all up in tax preparers’ shit.
The first step being to be to send 10,000 letters to paid preparers nationwide letting them know that they need to be on their A-game. The letters were intended for, “preparers…with large volumes of specific tax returns where the IRS typically sees frequent errors,” and that they should be “vigilant” for errors related to “Schedule C income and expenses, Schedule A deductions, the Earned Income Tax Credit and the First Time Homebuyer Credit.”
Well then. That should cover about EVERY TAX PREPARER IN THE COUNTRY.
Anyway, the IRS is following up the 10,000 “Dear Joe Kristan” letters with phone calls to set up sit-downs with “thousands” of preparers. According to William Stromsem, who wrote a piece over at CPA2Biz, these are “urgent” calls:
In at least one case, the IRS called a practitioner at home and spoke with the spouse by name, asking for a response within three hours and then calling back before that time was up. Another practitioner, who was unable to schedule a meeting during a busy time was threatened with having the refusal passed up the line to a supervisor.
The piece goes to tell us that the visits will be performed in the coming weeks and months and may last up to 3 hours. Does anyone see a problem with this yet?
These chats are designed to be friendly reminders of all the pitfalls out there in tax preparer land; not a compliance visit (but they will remind you of the penalties that can be assessed for any malfeasance). Regardless of the pleasant intentions, the timing has irked CPAs to no end and we can’t say that we blame them. Hope no one is expecting an apology. And one more thing, we’d like to know how the Commish’s CPA feels about this whole thing. Just for fun; he should get a letter.
IRS ‘10,000 Letters’ Program Angers CPAs [CPA2Biz]
Pulling off tax fraud is a tough proposition. Hell, even the guys that are good at it get busted.
Another bad jig (seemingly) would be to attempt filing a tax return seeking a refund for a dead person. Despite what some might consider to be a no-brainer, a couple of guys in California still thought it was worth a shot. Web CPA Reports that Haroon Amin and his partner Ather Ali filed tax returns for 250 dead individuals in 2002 and 2003.
The IRS got wise to some of this but still managed to send out a few checks to addresses controlled by the two men. Mr. Amin pleaded guilty today and faces up to five years in prison where hopefully he can get some help improving his criminal instincts.