Private charitable efforts are as American as can be. Toqueville noted our vigorous civil society back in the early days:
Americans of all ages, all conditions, and all dispositions constantly form associations. They have not only commercial and manufacturing companies, in which all take part, but associations of a thousand other kinds, religious, moral, serious, futile, general or restricted, enormous or diminutive. The Americans make associations to give entertainments, to found seminaries, to build inns, to construct churches, to diffuse books, to send missionaries to the antipodes; in this manner they found hospitals, prisons, and schools. If it is proposed to inculcate some truth or to foster some feeling by the encouragement of a great example, they form a society.
The tax law recognizes this all-American tendency in Sec. 501(c)(3), which grants a tax exemption for associations with the proper purpose, like those in the headlines.
So along comes Eddie C. Risdal from Iowa. Eddie wanted tax exemption for a cause dear to his heart, “Mysteryboy Incorporation”:
MENBERS SHALL NOT PROMOOT, BUT WILL NOT DENY THE FACT OF PAST & PRESENT HUMAN HISTORY THAT HUMANKIND FROM YOUTH ON-THROUGH ADULTHOOD HAS IN MAJORITY BEEN SEXUAL ACTIVE WHETHER BE IN PROMISIOUS, DEVENTCY, OR EXPERIMENTATION SEXUAL ACTS, AND MENBERS WILL PROMOOT SAFE SEX EDUCATION AND SAY NO TO ILLEGAL DRUGS USES UNTIL THE EVENT THAT THEY BECOME LEGALIZED, MENBERS WILL PROMOOT FEED THE HUNGARY, SUEICIDE PREVENTION AND ANY AMENDED PROGRAMS AS THE INCORPORATION FINDS SUCH A PUBLIC NEED TO ADD SUCH PROGRAMS THAT WILL BENEFIT SOCIETY AT LARGE.
The IRS somehow found this suspicious and asked a few more questions. They came to this conclusion:
The facts of this case show that Mysteryboy Incorporation was organized and operating primarily for influencing a change in the laws concerning sexual exploitation of children.
The Tax Court found that cause a bit too close to Eddie’s heart (my emphasis):
The activities in which petitioner proposes to engage seek to decriminalize the type of behavior (1) for which Mr. Risdal, petitioner’s founder, sole director, sole officer, and executive director, was convicted and incarcerated and (2) which formed the basis for his having been adjudicated a sexually violent predator subject to civil commitment under Iowa Code Ann. ch. 229A (West 2006).10 On the record before us, we find that petitioner has failed to show that those activities will not provide Mr. Risdal with a platform from which he will seek to legitimize the illegal behaviors in which he has engaged, for which he was convicted, and which formed the basis on which he is civilly committed under the laws of the State of Iowa. On that record, we find that petitioner has failed to carry its burden of establishing that its proposed activities will not further the private interests of Mr. Risdal in violation of section 501(c)(3) and the regulations thereunder.
The moral? Civil society ends where civil commitment begins.
Joe Kristan is a tax shareholder for Roth & Company, a Des Moines, Iowa CPA firm, where he works with closely-held businesses and their owners. Prior to helping start Roth & Company, he worked for two of what are now the Final Four CPA firms. He writes the Tax Update Blog and is available for seminars, first communions, Bar Mitzvahs, etc. You can see all his posts for GC here.
Football is a tough sport. Not the physical demands mind you, it appears to be more of a challenge to stay out of trouble.
Today’s ne’er-do-well is Antrel Rolle of the Arizona Cardinals. The IRS is claiming that the all-pro safety understated his taxable income by 50% in 2005 and 2006 and they sent him a bill for $2.2 million in order to get him back in the Service’s good graces.
Rolle, who does not dispute the claims, does complain that the Service, “violated the Taxpayer Bill of Rights, denied him due process and failed to treat him in a ‘fair, professional and courteous manner.'” Perhaps he was unaware that the IRS is not really known for its good etiquette.
Congeniality aside, it’d be one thing if Rolle had made some mistakes using TurboTax or something (you don’t have to tell Doug Shulman that this shit is complicated) but he seems to have been just ramming onto his Schedule C without prejudice.
Drawing particular IRS attention was Rolle’s report of a Schedule C “sole proprietorship” involving “management and consulting” that he said he operated both years. Over that period he listed $557,000 in revenue and $1.9 million in expenses. The IRS disallowed all but $71,000 of the expenses, which included $254,000 for “advertising” and $372,000 classified as “rent or lease–vehicles.” Rolle said his business was located at an address in Chandler, Ariz., a Phoenix suburb. But “correspondence mailed to that address was returned indicating ‘no such number,’ and electronic research turned up the same result,” the IRS agent wrote.
So you claim over $1 mil in expenses, the IRS takes a look and says that only $71k is actually legit? Hopefully he fired his CPA.
IRS Hits Cardinals’ Antrel Rolle With $2.2 Million Bill [Forbes via TaxProf]
Not surprisingly, the House passed H.R. 4462 earlier today in order to accelerate charitable donations made for the relief efforts in Haiti. The bill was sponsored by Charlie Rangel (D-NY) and Dave Camp (R-MI).
We pointed out the thoughts of Howard Gleckman over at Tax Vox this morning and our contributor, Joe Kristan chimed in agreement earlier over at Tax Update Blog:
When something bad happens, politicians reflexively reach for the tax code. They should put it down and back away slowly…As bad as Haiti is, it’s not the first disaster ever, and one more change to the tax law isn’t going to solve that sad country’s problems. Of course, the proposed changes are more about politicians making a show of concern than actually accomplishing anything.
While our sentiments are with these two tax gurus, let’s not forget that every single member of the House of Representatives is up for re-election in less than 10 months. No one was going to vote against this bill. The Senate will pass it and the POTUS will sign it.
Noting that the bill is bad policy misses the point. We’ve all gotten used to Congress making the tax law progressively worse, so is it really necessary to mention that two-thirds of taxpayers don’t itemize deductions and thus, won’t see any benefit at all on their 2009 tax returns?
Those two-thirds of taxpayers don’t think about the standard deduction when they donate money to anything. It’s not about solving the problems of the mind job of the IRC, it’s about encouraging people to do what they can to help.
Save the bitching about Congress for [insert anything else].
Haiti Tax Relief [TaxProf Blog]
When the “Government Accountability Office” reported that 68 percent of S corporation returns had errors, a few people who don’t prepare returns for a living were astonished:
By the way, these S Corporation shareholders are mostly comprised of the “small businessmen” that the right-wing anti-tax crowd constantly claims is overtaxed. Hmmmm. Looks like the bigger issue with this group is noncompliance, not overtaxation. We need to increase enforcement efforts, especially focused on the particular items that have tended to be misreported in S corporation returns.
The reaction from tax pros is more like, “you mean 32% of S corporation returns have no activity?”
Breaking news: this stuff is hard. The tax return for an S corporation of any size starts with thousands of transactions that have to be properly recorded – thousands of opportunities for mistakes. Then you start to apply the tax law. You have to find all of the meals and entertainment expenses, and you have to see which ones fail to qualify. Did the S corporation properly include health insurance on the W-2s (probably not)? What about for the owner’s nephew who has a job at the loading dock? Did every fixed asset get capitalized properly? What about the expenses of acquiring it? Can Section 179 apply? Is it new equipment that qualifies for the bonus depreciation rules? Oh, did they apply the Section 263A inventory capitalization rules properly? Did the Section 199 information get properly recorded for all of the shareholders? Interest? Dividends? Are they qualifying dividends? Are there Capital gains? Section 1231 gains – and what about unrecognized Section 1250 gain? Oh, don’t double them up – that Section 1250 number is part of that 1231 number, not an addition to it!
You get the picture. And if you have a multistate return, your fun is just beginning.
Once you think you have taxable income right, then you have to apply it correctly to the K-1 for the shareholders. Then the shareholders have to apply it correctly to their own tax return, even though the IRS-designed K-1 omits crucial information that the taxpayer or his preparer needs – the shareholder’s basis in the tax return, whether the taxpayer is “at-risk” for basis, and the level of the taxpayers involvement in the business.
If 32% of the returns are reported correctly, it’s shocking all right – it’s amazing that so many are
correct. I’d like to see some law professor, or Congresscritter, try do a tough 1120-S perfectly on a deadline and a budget.
Anybody who has prepared returns for very long has had a “doh!” moment along the way – “holy crap, I’ve been doing that wrong!” It’s not because tax preparers or taxpayers are lazy or evil. It’s just hard.
Joe Kristan is a tax shareholder for Roth & Company, a Des Moines, Iowa CPA firm, where he works with closely-held businesses and their owners. Prior to helping start Roth & Company, he worked for two of what are now the Final Four CPA firms. He writes the Tax Update Blog and is available for seminars, first communions, Bar Mitzvahs, etc. You can see his previous posts for GC here.
There has been lots of donations made to several organizations since last week’s earthquake in Haiti and Wyclef Jean’s Foundation, Yele Haiti was one of the most prevalent charities raising funds.
As you may or may not be aware, there has been a good deal of coverage of the foundation’s financial problems and this has caused many to think twice about which charity they donate to.
After all the criticism, Gawker now has video of Wyclef Jean admitting that his charity, Yele Haiti, has made “mistakes”. These mistakes range from late filing of its tax returns to the foundation paying expenses on behalf of Jean’s production company (go to The Smoking Gun for more details including the 2006 Form 990).
From a tax standpoint, if you donate and you itemize, you can take the deduction (AGI limits apply and you best keep those receipts), however, as some have pointed out, choose wisely. It is natural to want to donate in times of crisis and if you want that money to go to its best use, then be do some research and make sure you know how the money will be spent.
Wyclef Jean Charity’s Funny Money [The Smoking Gun]
God willing friends, this may mark the end of the financial tragedy that has plagued our hero for we’renotsurehowlong.
It only took putting homes from every continent, both poles, and a bungalow on the moon all on the market. He got sued by his ex-girlfiend, his former business manager and had more liens slapped on his ass than MC Hammer.
But NC is going to pay $14 million to the Service and he’s free and clear. Done. No more troubles. He’s confident this time. You know why? Because he told People about it:
While the government recently placed a tax lien on his real-estate holdings, including an additional $6.7 million from 2008, “over the course of my career I have paid at least $70 million in taxes, unfortunately, due to a recent legal situation, another approximate $14 million is owed to the IRS,” Cage tells PEOPLE in an exclusive statement. “However, I am under new business management and am happy to say that I am current for 2009, all taxes will be paid including any to be determined state taxes.”
$84 million is all it took friends and now that’s he’s got new business management, nothing like this will ever happen again. Plus, the next edition of the National Treasure franchise appears unstoppable. BACK. IN. THE. GAME.
[via the TaxProf]
Editor’s note: Joe Kristan is a tax shareholder for Roth & Company, a Des Moines, Iowa CPA firm, where he works with closely-held businesses and their owners. Prior to helping start Roth & Company, he worked for two of what are now the Final Four CPA firms. He writes the Tax Update Blog and is available for seminars, first communions, Bar Mitzvahs, etc. You can see his previous posts for GC here.
While the IRS is cracking down on tax preparers and proposing new rules to herd them into
submission compliance, problem preparers aren’t a new problem.
Back in 1982, when the 1986 Code was just a gleam in Dan Rostenkowski’s eye, the nation’s headaches went untreated when people started dying from cyanide-tainted Tylenol. We still live with the hard-to-open containers for almost everything as a legacy of the murder spree. The killer has never been nabbed, but the tax world has supplied one suspect. The Chicago Tribune reports:
James William Lewis, a longtime suspect in the 1982 Tylenol murders, made a rare public appearance on public access television near Boston on Sunday night, hoping to promote his new self-published novel, “Poison! The Doctor’s Dilemma.”
Instead, Lewis was met with a barrage of questions from the show’s host and callers about whether he had a role in the unsolved cyanide poisonings that left seven Chicago-area residents dead, and if his novel had anything to do with the killings.
Why the suspicion?
Lewis said during the 48-minute interview that he regretted having written Tylenol’s manufacturer after the deaths, demanding $1 million to “stop the killing,” for which he was convicted of extortion.
A mistake anybody could make, especially after things have gone bad in your tax practice:
After his extortion conviction in 1983, Lewis served more than 12 years in prison. In the 1970s, Lewis was accused in Kansas City, Mo., of killing and dismembering a client of his tax-preparation business. Charges were dropped after a judge threw out most of the evidence.
That just shows how the new preparer regulations are long overdue. We can be confident that IRS Commissioner Shulman’s new preparer registration and CPE requirements — especially the two annual “ethics” hours — will keep anything like that from ever happening to a preparer today.
[caption id="attachment_23858" align="alignright" width="260" caption="Dude. Code is this thick."][/caption]Just because you’re in charge of the IRS doesn’t mean you know
anything everything. Doug Shulman was on C-SPAN over the weekend (we’re sure you saw it) and admitted that he uses a tax preparer.
His rationale is, “Look, I’m a busy dude, I don’t have time to do my own taxes. Besides, have you seen the size of the tax code? It’s a flippin’ mind job.”
Or in his own words:
“I’ve used one for years. I find it convenient. I find the tax code complex so I use a preparer,” Shulman said.
Pressed on how he would make the tax code simpler, Shulman responded, “I don’t write the tax laws. Congress writes the tax laws so that’s a whole different discussion.”
Unapologetic as usual, Dougie. We’ll give him credit though – admitting that the tax code that you’re in charge of enforcing is too complex is admirable (although not a news flash).
Plus, he goes so far to say that he’s powerless to do anything about it. Now that’s transparent government!
IRS commissioner doesn’t file his own taxes [The Hill]
And by that we mean, he was only 13 hours away from 2010, when the estate tax expired.
Fritz Lohman of New York died at 11 am on December 31, just barely missing the opportunity to save his heir millions in taxes:
Lohman, 87, a SoHo real-estate magnate who pioneered the exhibition of gay art, died at home at about 11 a.m. on New Year’s Eve after a long illness. If he had instead passed away after midnight Jan.1, his partner of 48 years could have avoided paying at least $3 million in estate taxes — thanks to Congress letting that levy lapse for 2010.
For you populists out there, you could probably give a rat’s ass about but jesus, that just sucks. Thirteen hours. That’s shorter than some Law & Order marathons.
Dying 13 hrs. too soon cost $3 mil in taxes [NYP]
Since he’s such a passionate guy, Glenn Beck will not hesitate to call someone out if he feels that they are cheating the American people. He’s a crusader for justice, after all.
For example, Tim Geithner, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Tom Daschle, Labor Secretary Hilda Solis and others were all called “tax cheats” by GB early last year and he also mentioned that he wouldn’t entrust his children to them (nice touch).
So it’s more than a little awkward for Becks when Politico reports that Mercury Radio Arts, his production company, has had some of its own tax troubles:
Mercury, a private corporation that lists Beck as chief executive officer and his wife, Tania Beck, alternately as vice president or secretary, since 2007 has fallen behind on its New York City business income taxes and has been cited for filing errors related to its obligations under Texas franchise tax and New York state workers’ compensation insurance rules.
Politico reports that the company owed just over $25k in back taxes and penalties but since everything has been cleared up it’s NBD. However, we do seem to have a little bit of a pot and kettle situation. What’s even more stupid is that everyone is all bent out of shape over these people screwing up their taxes even though no one was willfully trying to dodge the tax law:
Dean Zerbe, national managing director for a company called alliantgroup that provides specialty tax services to accounting firms, said Beck’s situation “has the look and feel of somebody who is confronting an extraordinarily complicated tax situation — or at least the people he’s hired to do these things are — and is trying to comply but isn’t doing everything perfectly.”
The same, however, could be said of most of the Obama nominees Beck has blasted for tax problems, said Zerbe, who called them “people who were trying to comply with the spirit and the intent of the law.”
As it has been mentioned, our tax system is complicated and that’s putting it lightly. The fact that all these people made mistakes doesn’t go so much to anything about them as Americans as it does the tax system being a giant shitshow. So if that is indeed the case, does this mean that all this name calling and finger pointing is politically motivated? GET THE HELL OUT OF HERE.
What if it’s Beck with a tax ‘accident’? [Politico]
‘Cause the man is in a bit of a pinch. As you may recall, he’s got a small lien out there to the tune of $6.2 mil and his ex-girlfriend is suing him for and additional $13 mil.
The latest problem is that NC owes $128,000 in back taxes on a house in Rhode Island. All of this would be NBD if someone out there would step it up and take one — just one! — of his homes off his hands:
Among the properties he has been selling are three castles in Bavaria, Germany, and Bath and Somerset, England, as well as Dean Martin’s former mansion in Bel Air, Calif. Also on sale are novelist Anne Rice’s former home in New Orleans and a New Orleans mansion described as the “most haunted house in the United States.” Other properties on the block include homes in New York and Las Vegas, and a 132-foot yacht.
You figure the Anne Rice place would fly off the market what with the vampire craze and all but NOOOOOOO, you’re all too cheap. If this man is forced into bankruptcy and shunned by the Hollywood community, we will all be deprived of the next edition of the National Treasure franchise. Is that what you want?
Earlier this week we learned that the hammer will be coming down on small tax prep shops.
Despite the news of the fresh measures, that didn’t prevent the DOJ from getting some of the riffraff off the streets this week.
On the heels of the IRS’s plan to begin regulating tax preparers, the Justice Department announced that it has filed six lawsuits this week to stop preparers charged with generating fraudulent income tax returns.
The cases included five civil injunction lawsuits in Detroit, Cincinnati and Chicago filed against several individuals and their tax preparation services. However, the trend didn’t start this week. In December, the government filed a civil injunction suit against 12 individuals and entities in Providence, R.I.
Long/short: thousands of tax returns were falsified by throwing all kinds of deductions on the returns that couldn’t be substantiated including cash donated to The Human Fund and bogus business expenses.
As Joe noted on Wednesday, it’s difficult to reason that even after the new requirements are in place, some of the more dodgy tax preparers won’t slip through the cracks. Consumers dumbfounded by our mind-job of a tax code will continue to going to shiesty 1040 jockeys that will promise low fees and bigger refunds. Ultimately they’ll pay more in the long run.
Justice Department Cracks Down on Tax Preparers [Web CPA]
Having mastered all of its other responsibilities, the IRS was getting restless. Seeking a new challenge, they are now going to run a testing and continuing education bureaucracy for unenrolled preparers.
When a bureaucracy takes on a new role, the smart question to ask is: who wins?
The big franchised tax preparers are the biggest winners &R Block, Jackson Hewitt and Liberty Tax will now get to put little neon signs saying “IRS Licensed” in their windows. Yes, they will have to take on some responsibility in administering continuing education and employee testing, but they will be able to spread that cost across a nationwide business. They will find ways to streamline things so their employees will miraculously achieve government-approved competence with amazingly little effort. And they will be able to afford fixers and lobbyists to unravel any glitches that happen in the IRS preparer bureau.
This process isn’t just hypothetical. It is just another variation of what happened in the accounting industry after Sarbanes-Oxley and PCAOB. Smaller firms who would take on small public companies before PCAOB could no longer justify the regulatory costs, and the public companies are now captive clients of the big firms.
Over time, the IRS regulatory function will undergo the inevitable process of regulatory capture by the big players. The result – regulations that don’t much bother them but which make life difficult or impossible for their little competitors.
Fixers and lobbyists – See above.
Congresscritters and their staffs – Especially those on tax writing committees. Their new friends Henry, Robert, Jackson and Hewitt will enrich their PACs and make sure that the needs of their new overlords are attended to.
IRS staffers – Once public service palls, the bureaucrats who oversee the programs will have cushy new homes awaiting them at the franchised tax shops.
When there are winners, there are losers. These include:
Small tax prep shops – A solo practitioner will have to manage the new bureaucracy alone, while his giant competitors will have full-time fixers. When a little guy’s competency exam gets lost by the IRS bureaucracy, he might lose a season’s worth of business; fixers and lobbyists will make sure nothing like that happens to the big boys. And of course the inevitable capture of the IRS bureaucracy by the big players will continue to squeeze the little guys.
Enrolled Agents – Now that the IRS will be creating a new lesser level of licensing, these professionals will have a harder time distinguishing their much higher standards to a confused public.
Consumers – The most obvious result will be an increase in prices, both to pay for the new compliance costs and because the rules will run smaller preparers out of the market. Supporters of the regulations will say that it will be worth it because the new standards will improve quality. That’s a pipe dream. A bozo test and a few hours of CPE won’t turn a quack into a brain surgeon.
Low income consumers will, of course, not have to pay for the fancy “licensed” preparers. There will still be plenty of folks with pirated copies of Turbotax preparing unsigned returns in their cars and apartments, and the higher prices of the licensed competitors will send them more business. Other consumers will either struggle through their own returns without benefit of CPE or drop out of the tax system entirely.
So what would be a better approach? – The real problem is Congress. A simple tax law without fraud-inviting refundable credits wouldn’t have preparer problems. At the very least, we should require Congresscritters to face the consequences of their own work. Every one of them should be required to prepare their returns themselves in a live (and archived) webcast. If they use software, their screens should be visible on the webcast. What about their privacy? They make us give them all of our personal information, so fair is fair.
Editor’s note: Joe Kristan is a tax shareholder for Roth & Company, a Des Moines, Iowa CPA firm, where he works with closely-held businesses and their owners. Prior to helping start Roth & Company, he worked for two of what are now the Final Four CPA firms. He writes the Tax Update Blog and is available for seminars, first communions, Bar Mitzvahs, etc. You can see his debut post for GC here.
After yesterday’s news of brand spanking new requirements for paid tax preparers, we mused about the plans of tax prep shops like H&R Block to fall in line with Doug Shulman’s demands.
It was then suggested to us that maybe we should just ask them. Novel idea! So being nosy we did just that.
We got in touch with very helpful H&R Block spokesperson who provided us with the following statement:
H&R Block is pleased to support IRS Commissioner Shulman’s efforts to improve the regulation of tax preparers. We believe the requirements announced by the IRS today are a great first step in delivering on the promise of providing all taxpayers an ethical and accurate tax preparation experience.
We welcome the spotlight that the IRS has cast on our industry and are committed to maintaining the highest possible training and testing standards in the tax preparation industry. H&R Block tax professionals already are required to complete hundreds of hours of training and undergo additional testing each year. Our minimum training standards exceed those the IRS will require.
So there you have it. Challenge accepted. In fact, H&RB will see your IRS standards and raise you. See you in 2011.
We thought that Glenn Beck had flipped his lid again but unfortch, it’s just some other person complaining about taxes:
A daylong hostage standoff ended late Wednesday when an armed, disabled man wheeled himself out of a post office in Wytheville, Virginia, and was taken into custody, police said.
The alleged gunman, identified by police as Warren “Gator” Taylor, 53, of Sullivan County, Tennessee, surrendered in a wheelchair, said Wythe County Sherrif’s Office Chief Deputy Keith Dunagan. All three hostages walked out without injury.
He asked for a pizza but made no other demands, [the police] said. He seemed neither angry nor disgruntled but did utter complaints about government and taxes…When the supreme pizza that police ordered was more than half an hour late, Taylor joked that Pizza Hut promises delivery in less than half an hour or the food is free.
After asking pretty much everyone for their suggestions on tax reform, the President’s Tax Reform Panel has released 384 submitted suggestions and the American People did not disappoint.
The FairTax.org crowd turned out en masse and plenty of practitioners and academics also provided their $0.02.
We didn’t really read those but we’re sure they’re great. We were more interested in those people that were more or less thinking out loud.
Suggestion #239 Mike Finch:
I support yearly audits of all government big wigs and prison terms for any that are found to have made more than $100 mistake on their taxes.
Suggestion #249 from “Froggy” whose organization is “peace man”:
Tax the rich! tax the rich! tax the rich!. oh please please please tax the rich. I want the economy to sink further!
Suggestion #278 from Alex Clay:
Make it explicit that cheating on your taxes makes you ineligible for presidentially appointed positions or committee chairmanships in the congress
Suggestion #346 from Ed:
0% tax rate. Reduce the tax law to 2 pages.
David Laing’s suggestion (#359) must have gotten lost on its way to the health care debate:
No option is NO OPTION! No bill that does not contain a public option is not worth your signature.
Since most of you have checked out for the week, consider spending some digging through these for more gems (we haven’t been able to find an intern that’s up to the job) or suggest your own ideas in the comments.
Editor’s note: Welcome to GC’s first edition of “Taxes: Because We’re the Little People” by Joe Kristan. Joe Kristan is a tax shareholder for Roth & Company, a Des Moines, Iowa CPA firm, where he works with closely-held businesses and their owners. Prior to helping start Roth & Company, he worked for two of what are now the Final Four CPA firms. He writes the Tax Update Blog and is available for seminars, first communions, Bar Mitzvahs, etc.
Sure, those Northwest pilots who missed Minnesota were off the mark. So was Arthur when he signed off on the Enron audit. But as badly as they missed the target, they look like Annie Oakley compared to Congress in its response to Enron.
Congress takes aim at the national firms whose audits failed to spot the looting at places like Enron. The result? SarBox, the greatest gravy train for the Final Four firms since the invention of the senior accountant.
The Congressional response on the tax side took a different approach. Rather than reward the guilty, they chose to beat the innocent. Hence Section 409A.
The Enron scandal featured elaborate deferred compensation plans to provide executives a gilded liferaft when the ship sinks. Congress responds with a code section affecting schoolteachers. They showed Ken Lay what for by designing a tax on folks on money they may never see because of somebody else’s foot fault.
Sec. 409A clobbers its victims two ways:
• It taxes employees on their deferred comp balances when the plan is out of compliance, even if the employee doesn’t get the money, ever.
• It hits them again with a 20% excise tax.
Worse, the code section imposing these penalties is so complicated that it took 3 years to complete the regulations that run to 200 pages, and are so complicated and intrusive that accidental noncompliance must be rampant.
This all makes Sec. 409A my choice as the worst tax enactment of the decade. But tastes differ. Let us know your nominee for the worst tax provision enacted from 2000 through 2009 in the comments and if we get some good submissions, we’ll put it to a vote.
Today in getting-sued-by-your-ex-but-my-name-isn’t-Steven Cohen news, Nicolas Cage is now being sued by his ex-girlfriend, Christina Fulton for $13 mil.
She’s claiming that Ghost Rider and his accountant, Samuel Levin (no relation), were really not very fucking good with the money and now she owes $1 million to the IRS annnnnd she has $250,000 in credit card debt annnnnd she lost her house.
If that’s not enough, Cage and Levin already don’t think too much of each other as they’ve been suing/countersuing each other over whether Cage sucks more at spending money ($1.6 million comic book collection) or Levin at managing it (risky real estate investments).
Good luck lady. The ex-Mrs. C’s chances seem better.
Nicolas Cage’s Ex Sues Him and His Former Accountant [Web CPA]
By now, we’re sure you’ve heard that Madam Michelle Braun has claimed that Tiger Woods not only paid $60k for sex but that both Holly Sampson and Jamie Jungers, two of T. Dubs [insert most recent number here] mistresses, were prosties for her.
It doesn’t sound like Tiger got down with either of the them while they were hooking for Braun (it was just regular throwing money around type stuff) but the Post does quote Braun about TW being a big fan of the ‘girl-on-girl’ action and ‘booze and sex bender[s].’
ANNNNNND they’ve got 1099s for both Sampson and Jungers. So does anyone doubt that the greatest golfer the world has ever known is basically the same as Eliot Spitzer? We’re sure convinced!
Seriously, if a madam goes to the trouble of filling out 1099s for non-employee compensation, we’ve got no reason to disbelieve anything she says.
You may now return to your regularly non-accounting related Tiger Woods coverage.
Woods ‘bought’ cathouse gals [NYP]
Also see: Lesson Learned: Even Madams Pay Their Taxes [Tax Girl]
Maybe! Joe Kristan tells us that the Ways and Means chair is “[proposing] to ‘pay for’ the extension of forty five tax provisions that expire every year or so with an increase on the taxes on hedge funds and private equity funds.”
At the expense of the PE and hedge fund industry no less! Rangs is screwing people in his own back yard to give tax provisions to race car fans? Does this seem especially bassackwards to anyone else?
Tax Update Blog:
Among the 45 provisions are special depreciation rules for “motorsports entertainment complexes” and an “alternative motor vehicle credit for heavy hybrids.” Because heaven knows we need NASCAR and heavy hybrids more than we need private equity investment.
Being the dapper gent that he is, Rangs no doubt has several of his favorite drivers’ jackets hanging up at all of his rent-controlled apartments. You cannot deny the fashion genius of the bow tie/Snickers jacket combo.
Beating on Private Equity to Save NASCAR [Tax Update Blog]
See also: Rangel Identifies $30b of Tax Increases to Pay for 45 Tax Extenders [TaxProf Blog]
If you’re like us, you’ve been anticipating the report on tax reform from the President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board like teenage girls jonesing for New Moon.
Unfortunately, the report has been delayed and the Board will only be issuing “an almanac” of ideas at this point. The original deadline was for this Friday but you know how that goes.
Apparently you heeded the call put forth by the White House because they’re still reviewing all your brilliant ideas:
Tax Vox (our emphasis):
The White House statement says the board has not yet had time to review the hundreds of ideas it has received from the public. At the time same time, it asked for more suggestions. Yet, it is hard to believe that the panel is going to hear much new. After all, the ground of simplification and enforcement has been pretty well-plowed for years.
So keep those ideas coming people. Anything goes. Abolishment? Sure, they’ll think about it. Taxing the stupid? Best idea we’ve heard so far. If you’ve got suggestions, drop them here first then ring up the WH. They’re waiting.
White House Tax Reform Report Delayed Until Next Year [Tax Vox]
President’s Tax Reform Task Force to Miss Dec. 4 Deadline to Issue Report [TaxProf Blog]
Tax Reform Panel: Something Someday [Tax Update Blog]
It just doesn’t seem possible that his Govinatorness would have a tax lien slapped on him because A) he’s married to a Kennedy and B) his annual Kindergarten Cop royalties alone should be enough to cover $79k.
Despite those two advantages, the IRS did file a lien in May for $79,064 that relates to 2004 and 2005, according to TMZ.
The claim by the Governor’s minions is about what you would expect them to come up with: a ‘paperwork snafu.’ In all fairness, the code section cited on the lien is 6721 which, as Tax Girl notes, is informational in nature:
Section 6721 deals with information returns, not taxes owed…Information returns would include such ordinary forms W-2, W-3, 1099, 1096, etc. If that’s the case, it could likely be related to household employee payroll taxes (household employees would include workers such as housekeepers and nannies). However, Schwarzenegger’s office is strongly hinting at the fact that it’s more removed than that – but then, they are politicians.
The other possibility that’s being floated around is that Ahnuld is “listed as a ‘responsible person’ by a business in which he is involved, possibly with a group of partners, and that the IRS might file liens against all of the business’s designated agents,” and thus, “might explain why Schwarzenegger may not have been aware a lien had been filed.”
So, as usual, no one really knows anything for sure and nobody is talking. The man has been a failed state to run people, he can’t be expected to be on top of everything.
Schwarzenegger’s Office Blames $79,000 Tax Lien on ‘Paperwork’ Snafu [Mercury News]
The Governator Blames Tax Lien On “Snafu” [Tax Girl]
See also: IRS Files $79k Tax Lien Against Gov. Schwarzenegger [TaxProf Blog]
So he simply can’t do three ‘unreasonable’ years in prison. Nevermind that he was convicted of “willful failure to file his income tax returns,” the cultural community simply cannot be do without the likes of The Art of War II: The Betrayal.
Snipes was sentenced in April 2008 in what was considered a key victory for prosecutors who aggressively pursued the maximum penalty to deter others from trying to obstruct the IRS. They say he made at least $13.8 million for the years in question and owed $2.7 million in back taxes that he refused to pay.
Snipes apologized at the time, calling himself an idealistic artist who was “unschooled in the science of law and finance.”
The man A) apologized and B) had a good excuse: he is AN ARTIST. He can’t possibly be expected to make heads or tails of this tax law rigamarole, so three years? C’mon. Let it slide 11th Circuit. Besides, vampires are all the rage right now so Blade is bound to get hot again. Just you wait.
Wesley Snipes appeals 3 tax convictions in Georgia [AP]
See also: Wesley Wants to Walk [Tax Update Blog]
Tragic news from the world of wholesome entertainment as Joe “Back to the business at hand of slapping women” Francis is allegedly going to declare bankruptcy tomorrow after receiving liens for nearly $34 mil.
Not such a good thing for Francis since he just hammered out a plea deal two months ago.
According to Tax Girl, that plea agreement, “requires him to resolve his outstanding tax issues. I mean, it is a resolution – but I’m guessing not so much what IRS had in mind.”
They certainly aren’t apologizing for this one.
Girls Gone Wild Founder To File Bankruptcy, Blames IRS [Tax Girl]
Other GC Coverage of Joe Francis:
SHOCKER: Joe Francis May Have Attracted Slimy Business People
Joe Francis Plans to Argue That Anything Related to Topless Girls is Deductible
Maybe! The State of New York remains in a fiscal crisis and is so desperate for money that apparently all ideas are being considered. According to the Daily News, the latest bright idea from Albany is to publish the top 200 businesses and the top 200 individual delinquents on the Internet apparently to shame those delinquents into paying their share.
Everybody seems to think it’s a good idea but can’t agree on who should be handling it. The State Tax Department would prefer that they put the list up themselves but legislators in Albany smell populism:
Tax officials say they oppose the law, preferring to enact the measure administratively.
Given the fiscal crunch, the state tax department has already increased its efforts to go after tax scofflaws.
The department can’t commit to creating a list until it explores the “resources we need,” particularly in a time of fiscal crisis, Burns said.
[Assemblyman William Colton (D-Brooklyn)] said he wants it done soon. “When the state desperately needs dollars to provide services to schools, hospitals and nursing homes, we don’t have time to wait,” he said. “We need to get this program implemented.”
Well played, Assemblyman. But obviously the important question is: will Rangs have to give up his rent controlled apartments? It’s important.
Expose tax cheats’ Web of deceit – pols [NYDN via TaxProf Blog]
The last thing you want if you’re a celebrity is money troubles. Whether you’re punching your shiesty accountant, simply spacing your tax liabilites, or just spending too much, it’s downright embarrassing. You’re a celebrity, for crissakes!
What’s worse if you’ve got money trubs because you lost scratch to Bernie Madoff. Sure if you’re Kevin Bacon, you can get by on the Footloose royalties but what about people who seem to be famous for no discernible reason? Unless being a “Hungarian actress” and “socialite” qualify as reasons.
Tax Girl has the details on Zsa Zsa Gabor’s trubs because of Berns:
The 92 year old actress has been liened by the Internal Revenue Service for $118,000 for the years 2001 and 2002; the lien has been filed against one of Gabor’s mansions in California. Gabor’s lawyer, Chris Fields, says that the tax bill is part of the fallout from the Madoff scheme.
Luckily for Zsa Zsa, her ninth husband, Frederic von Anhalt, whored out his own name: “Anhalt has reportedly received millions of dollars by selling the Anhalt name by adopting, along with Zsa Zsa, several men.” There’s no cause for concern, as he’ll be picking up the bill. Celebrity embarrassment has been avoided!
Why FvA gets paid to adopt his own wife and a bunch of dudes isn’t entirely clear. Annnnnd in case that’s not weird enough for you, TG points out that Fred also claimed to be the father of Anna Nicole Smith’s baby. So now an asston of pharmaceuticals are likely relevant in some way. The awesomeness has reached a new level.
It’s a Tax Lien, Dahling [Tax Girl]
Yesterday the IRS released the list of recipients of $8 million in matching grants for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program. Many of you participated in this fine program back when you were focused on developing a drinking problem, which may explain the high error rate but that’s neither here nor there.
Of the 360 applications submitted for funds, one notable organization that was DEEE-NIED was ACORN.
Despite the grave dancing that is likely going on in certain corners of the media, is anyone asking the important questions here? Including but certainly not limited to:
• Who will real sex workers depend on for tax advice?
• What non-profit organization will the two “investigators” entrap next?
• Will Glenn Beck finally calm down? He has appendicitis for crissakes.
Questions worth noting. If you have answers to any of these, kindly enlighten us in the comments (without suffering from an aneurysm).
IRS Leaves ACORN Off VITA Grant List [Web CPA]
IRS Awards $8 Million in Grants to 147 Organizations for Tax Prep Assistance — $0 to ACORN [TaxProf Blog]
No IRS VITA “Seed” Money for ACORN [Tick Marks]
Joe Francis was sentenced to time served late on Friday for his guilty plea on two counts of filing false tax returns and one count of bribing Nevada jail workers in exchange for food. He had spent a total of 301 days in prison.
Apparently this was such a surprising turn of events that when he was outside the courtroom Francis seemed unsure about what happened saying, “I think we won that one.” Authorities resisted taking advantage of Francis’ bewilderment and he was not escorted back to jail.
In addition to the time served, Francis received one year probation and was ordered to pay $250,000 in restitution. This allows Francis to get back to ‘the business at hand‘ which must involve assaulting Playboy Playmates and then claiming it was self-defense. Good to have you back, Joe.
Judge OKs plea deal from ‘Girls Gone Wild’ founder [AP]
Girls Gone Wild Founder Gets Plea Deal [Tax Girl]
‘Girls Gone Wild’ Founder Joe Francis Gets Time Served in Tax Case [TaxProf Blog]
Earlier GC Coverage: SHOCKER: Joe Francis May Have Attracted Slimy Business People
Joe Francis Plans to Argue That Anything Related to Topless Girls is Deductible
So you’re Julian Robertson and you’re a billionaire right? You’re on the Forbes list &mdash right behind that cheater Raj but ahead of Wilbur Ross! &mdash and you don’t have many worries.
Except for the City of New York trying to nab $27 million dollars from you! Subways stations falling apart, government employees being laid off. Bah. That’s over 1% of your net worth (based on Forbes’ latest count) and you’ll be damned if the City is going to get their grubby mitts on it.
At issue was Mr. Robertson’s whereabouts on four days during : April 15, July 23, July 31 and Nov. 16. The other 362 days were accounted for, with documentary proof of 183 days spent in the city and 179 spent outside. The New York State Department of Taxation and Finance argued that because he didn’t have documentary proof for the four days, he was therefore a resident and owed city taxes of $26,792,341.
Four days. Four days standing in between you and $27 million. As we mentioned, it’s not like this is a substantial amount but this was one of those qualitative over quantitative decisions: “$27 million, an amount important enough to the hedge-fund manager that he and his staff spent hours and developed a complicated calendar system to track his whereabouts.”
See? It’s the principle. Robertson is bending over backwards to play by the rules since he once told an assistant — who meticulously tracks New York City days and non-New York City days — that crossing the GW Bridge at 11:45 pm is considered a New York City day.
Between the human GPS and Robertson’s wife saying there was no way he was in the City — she doesn’t stand for him being ‘in her hair’ prior to vacay — the court was convinced that he wasn’t a New York City resident. Can’t say Robertson didn’t work for it.
In Tax Case, 4 Days Save Robertson $27 Million [WSJ]
Starting Sunday, [November 1,] cash-strapped California will dig deeper into the pocketbooks of wage earners — holding back 10% more than it already does in state income taxes just as the biggest shopping season of the year kicks into gear.
Technically, it’s not a tax increase, even though it may feel like one when your next paycheck arrives. As part of a bundle of budget patches adopted in the summer, the state is taking more money now in withholding, even though workers’ annual tax bills won’t change.
Think of it as a forced, interest-free loan: You’ll be repaid any extra withholding in April. Those who would receive a refund anyway will receive a larger one, and those who owe taxes will owe less.
Californians, take it from here.
California to withhold a bigger chunk of paychecks [LAT]
See also: California Borrows from Peter to Pay Peter Then Robs Paul at Gunpoint [JDA]
Or your perceived knowledge. One would assume that if you wrote a book titled Cracking the Code: The Fascinating Truth About Taxation In America, that you would be very familiar with this:
That’s the code. Four thousand some-odd pages of pure ecstasy.
Tax Update Blog tells us about Peter Hendrickson who is the author of Cracking the Code and his problems doing just that:
DOJ press release via TUB:
The 10-count indictment charged that for the calendar years 2000, 2002,2003, 2004, 2005 and 2006 Hendrickson filed IRS Form 1040 (income tax returns) and/or IRS Form 4852 (Substitute for Form W-2) stating under penalties of perjury that he had received no wages in those years. The indictment indicated that he had in fact received wages in those years in varying amounts. The evidence produced at trial established that Hendrickson had in fact received taxable wages and that his claims to the contrary were knowingly false. In reaching the verdicts, the jury rejected Hendrickson’s defense that he had a good faith belief that his statements regarding his lack of wages were true.
Followed by Joe Kristan’s thoughts:
The tax code is an awful mess, and Congress never passes up a chance to make it worse. That doesn’t mean there is a secret formula from the Illuminati that you can invoke to make it part for you like the Red Sea did for Moses.
Or that you can’t publish a book that probably cites said formula.
Time to Get a New Code-Cracker [Tax Update Blog]
Maybe! The opportunity to take advantage of the current credit expires on November 30th. Luckily, the brain trust known as the U.S. Senate is all over this and is going to get a new plan in place come hell or high water.
The best part is that under the Senate’s latest proposal, the credit will now be “extended beyond first time buyers,” as reported by Bloomberg.
So, if you’ve lived in your current shack for five years and you’re looking to upgrade, you’ll be eligible for a $6,500 credit. First time homebuyers will still receive an $8,000 The new extension of the credit would be available for home purchases under contract by April 30, 2010 and close by the end of June.
But that’s not all! Under the new plan, the credit would be available for individuals earning $125k up from $75k and couples earning $250k up from $150k. Presumably more McMansions will get purchased this way.
More good news: this thing has bipartisan support:
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, agreed that most lawmakers support the unemployment and homebuyer measures. “We’re not that far away from an agreement,” he said earlier today.
Who knew it was possible? The problem is, not everyone thinks this is a good idea, including Joe Kristan over at Tax Update Blog:
It’s nice to know that a majority of the millionaires in the Senate think it’s wise to spend $40,000 to $80,000 of our money for each new home sale caused by the credit, even though the credit is rife with fraud.
The credit extension would be tied to an extension of unemployment benefits; the provisions may still be changed, and it has to be reconciled with a House bill that has no homebuyer credit provision.
If they extend it this time, does anybody believe they won’t try to extend it again every time it is set to expire?
And Tax Girl:
Does that cover everybody? Does everyone get a tax credit now? Cause we wouldn’t want to be handing out that free money and leave someone out.
My concern is that if people need the credit to get into a first home or move up to a larger one, are they getting in over their heads in debt? And isn’t that what got us into the economic trouble we’re in now?
Call us party poopers but we’ll go with accountants over the U.S. Senate any day.
Homebuyer Credit Extension a Done Deal? NOL Carrybacks Enhanced? [Tax Update Blog]
First Time Homebuyer’s Credit Likely Expanded [Tax Girl]
Reconfigured home buyer tax credit [Don’t Mess With Taxes]
Also see: Lawmakers Find A Way To Outfox 4-Year Old Tax Cheats [DB]
It makes sense that financial crimes increase during a recession. People get desperate and they start taking crazy-ass chances. Crazy-ass chances like, let’s request a tax refund for a couple hundred million dollars.
Papers filed in the cases say the defendants prepared tax returns requesting a total of $562.4 million in bogus refunds. One defendant – Dick Jenkins, of Heber City, Utah – allegedly holds himself out as a CPA and requested a $210 million fraudulent refund for one customer. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) catches the vast majority of the bogus tax returns and blocks the claimed refunds…Altogether, according to the IRS, redemption scheme participants (including customers of the defendants in the seven lawsuits filed this week) have requested a total of $3.3 trillion in fraudulent refunds.
According to the AP, “Officials say the tax preparers often falsely tell customers the government maintains secrets accounts of money for its citizens that can be accessed by filing false returns.”
So your tax preparer tells you that by filing a fake tax return you’ll be able access a secret pile of money. Is this remotely believable? Believable to the point of saying, “Excuse me, Internal Revenue Service, you owe me $210 million”?
Some discretion, people.
DOJ Charges Seven With Seeking $562m of Bogus Tax Refunds [TaxProf Blog]
Feds file suits over $562 million bogus tax claims [AP]
Forty-one percent per a Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report. Luckily, the TIGTA has suggestions:
TIGTA recommended that the IRS analyze the accuracy of returns prepared at individual volunteer sites to identify patterns and concerns on which to focus education, training and accountability. The report also suggested that the IRS improve the intake sheet that is used at the start of the tax prep process to include questions based on new tax laws and filing status, and improve the reviews of intake sheets and returns completed at volunteer sites.
The TIGTA anonymously sent auditors to volunteer testing sites which seems pretty unfair. If those sneaky bastards had reviewed the tax returns instead of Monday morning quarterbacking the volunteers maybe there would’ve been less mistakes. Just a thought.
These days the rich get hated on pretty much everywhere but millionaires in California have extra room to bitch now. The California Court of Appeals has rejected a taxpayer’s challenge to Proposition 63, “which imposed a 1% tax on annual incomes in excess of $1 million to fund state mental health services”.
The plaintiffs were claiming that they (and their fellow millionaires) were singled out: “In [the plaintiff’s] view, wealthy individuals are singled out to bear the burden of a public expense, while others are excused from that burden.” Yeah, non-millionaires. You mind chipping in?
Plus, the plaintiffs don’t really see the how their money and helping non-millionaire crazy people are even connected. From Jensen v. California Franchise Tax Board:
In this instance, the Taxpayers object that individuals with high incomes do not have a particular need or use for the mental health services funded by Proposition 63, i.e., there is not connection ‘between the group being assessed and the use of the funds collected.’ The argument fails, because there is no need to contrive a link between the taxpayer and the services being funded.
So apparently just because you’re a lunatic millionaire and can afford private mental health services doesn’t mean you get out of funding state-run mental health services. According to the court, millionaires need to help out the crazies that can’t afford to go to fancy-schmancy hospitals regardless of the lack of relevance.
Oh, and btw, the Plaintiffs are the real victims here, “The Taxpayers perceive themselves as victims of a populist movement to ‘soak the rich.'” How would you feel if you were a victim of a populist movement? People with torches and pitchforks outside your house. Nightmare. Think about the what the millionaires are going through, people.
California Court Upholds 1% Tax on Millionaires [TaxProf Blog]
Chicago is maintaining it’s decades-long tradition of putting mobsters in prison not for murder, not for racketeering, but for tax evasion.
Rudy Fratto pleaded guilty to tax evasion yesterdy which could result in a sentence of 12-18 months. He admitted to not paying $140,000 in taxes he owed on $800,000 earned from 2001-2007.
Despite being from a family of alleged mobsters, association with crooked cops, and an alleged threat to a government witness in another mob case, Fratto will simply take 2010 off.
It’s unlikely that this particular story will result in a historically inaccurate movie starring Kevin Costner but at least it demonstrates the consistency of Chicago law enforcement.
Reputed mobster admits tax evasion [Chicago Sun-Times via Roth & Company, P.C.]
A little over 24 hours from now, anyone that is currently up to their asses in 1040s will grab the nearest person and try to shameless make out make out with them like it’s V-J Day.
Between now and then however, a client will call some of you DEMANDING that you complete their return that has a dozen K-1’s and a mind-numbing AMT calculation, before the midnight deadline. Oh, and they don’t want to pay any tax.
You, typically being the mild-mannered accountant, just up and lose your shit on this unsuspecting client, who then realizes their tardiness is the cause of this little conundrum, not your lack of a magic wand.
Congrats! You’ve successfully convinced a client that they’ll be filing late, paying a penalty and hereby suck at life. They deserve it anyway, asshats. Feel free to discuss your favorite delivery of last minute bad news to clients and enjoy the next 24 hours, 1040 trolls.
One week until all is right with the entire world, tax preparers. Oh sure, maybe since partnership returns are now due on September 15th, the October deadline doesn’t have the same urgency as in years past but at the very least, it marks the official end to another tax season.
There are still plenty of you that are still slogging through 1040s though, so hang in there. If you’ve got any last minute meltdowns or clients that are giving you serious heartburn, let us know or discuss in the comments.
The rest of you, commence schadenfreude. Unless you like the week leading up to a deadline. Sickos.
Recently we discussed snitching on tax cheats in the UK and we speculated that tax rats Stateside would be less common because of the increasing trend of hating (or just plain killing) on the Federal Government.
Well, we were dead wrong. Since Congress passed the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, the payouts to whistleblowers increased from a maximum of 15% of the recovered proceeds to a maximum of 30%. So far the temptation is working as tips to the IRS have increased to 476 for the latest fiscal year (9/30) compared to just 116 in the previous year.
Continued, after the jump
The catch is that the IRS doesn’t want to hear about your elderly neighbor that’s running numbers out of their basement for extra cash. No, they want the serious scofflaws, according to the Tax Girl, “the tax, penalties, interest, additions to tax, and additional amounts in dispute must exceed $2 million for any taxable year (that’s the sother restrictions also apply).”
So if you crunch the numbers, you can see there’s plenty of motivation to flip on someone if you know they are a tax dodger. Problem so far is that because of the
boring arcane nature of tax law and the swiftness of the American court system, not one payout has occurred to date.
Plus, the law isn’t exactly encouraging the most honest of folks to come forward when you consider that Joe Francis’s accountant ratted him out only to be accused of shenanigans himself. And as Joe Kristan points out, “…there is always something creepy about the IRS being able to horn in on confidential client-professional relationships…”
The IRS probably isn’t worried too much about who gives them the information, just as long as they get it, so they’ll probably make a run at this with an imperfect system and with sources of questionable motivation for the time being.
If You Pay Them, They Will Come [Tax Girl]
Informant Program Spurs IRS Whistleblower Tips [Web CPA]
30 Pieces of Silver or 30 Percent of the Gross [Roth & Company, Tax Update Blog]
The UK version of the IRS, Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs, is looking for snitches.
Apparently the tax collection sitch has gotten so dire across the pond that the HMRC now needs ordinary folks to come forward out of the goodness of their hearts or their desire to screw over their personal nemeses, since the “HMRC says it takes all allegations seriously”.
We probably don’t have to tell you how well this would go over in the States. If they’re hanging volunteers for the census bureau in Kentucky, imagine what would happen if you called up the IRS to tell them about their neighbor not reporting the value of the keg beer they drank for helping you paint your house.
Snitch on your neighbours: HMRC [Accountancy Age]
No, seriously. Get on this. Now before you libertarian types start screaming for abolishment or fans of Teve Torbes start demanding a flat tax, the Briefing Room Blog states that, “The mandate to the [President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board] is NOT to recommend a new tax system.” Their emphasis, so that means they’re serious. No messing about the current system because it’s just fine, thanks.
So, sorry people, taxation with incompetent representation will continue but this is your chance to get off your asses and at least pretend like you’re making something happen.
Do your part, after the jump
But don’t even think about raising taxes on the middle class, however you choose to define it, “They were instructed not to consider options that involve raising taxes on families making less than $250,000 per year. So be mindful of their constraints when submitting ideas.”
There, now if you had career changing moment this week, this is your chance to give back. So take a week to think about it and then sober up and get to work. You’ve got until October 15th, a familiar deadline. See? They’re thinking about you.
Tax Reform Subcommittee Requests Ideas [Whitehouse.gov]
President Obama Wants Your Tax Reform Ideas [TaxProf Blog]
A judge has convinced ‘some brilliant legal minds’ and prosecutors with some slimy witnesses to reach a plea agreement in the Joe Francis tax case.
Francis’s original plan to argue that anything related to topless girls was obviously a ‘business expense’ was apparently too confusing for prosecutors to understand.
The defense attorneys also must have realized that Judge James Otero may have been on to something when he suggested that they settle before trial.
More, after the jump
Otero told prosecutors during a hearing earlier this summer that they should consider resolving the case before it went to trial. He had also questioned Francis’ ability to control himself in the courtroom during the trial, nearly sending him to jail when he learned that Francis had taunted a prosecutor.
Definitely a shocking revelation that Joe Francis wouldn’t be able to control himself, being the purveyor of class that he is. However, perhaps we judge to quickly as it sounds like he has grown through this whole ordeal, which included nearly a year in jail:
“The one thing I’ve learned about myself during this process is that I can be a difficult client, but they are a fantastic group of brilliant legal minds who recognized the truth when they saw it and had the passion to care about what happened to me,” Francis wrote in his statement.
Someone must really love preparing tax returns if they violate an injunction prohibiting them from doing just that.
“A man who had been barred five years ago from preparing tax returns and representing clients before the IRS was convicted of violating the injunction by continuing to do so.”
Most people that prepare tax returns would love to be banned from preparing them. They could get on with their lives that way. This guy has the good fortune to be told not to do it and he keeps at those tax forms like he’s on some romantic, Don Quixote-esque quest.
Continued, after the jump
..Prosecutors claimed that Mattatall attempted to evade detection by not signing the returns as the paid preparer and by using an alias when representing customers…At the conclusion of the trial, the judge cautioned Mattatall to re-evaluate his positions on the tax laws, warning him that he faces the possibility of a very tragic turn in his life if he continues down his current path.
We’re no Freud but this seems borderline obsessive.
The judge obviously recognizing that this man was completely deranged offered the touching plea, “he faces the possibility of a very tragic turn in his life if he continues down his current path.” Sorta sounds like, “Seriously man. Find something else to do. Anything.”
Tax Preparer Convicted After Violating Injunction [Web CPA]
Here we are at last call for corporate and partnership tax returns. You’ve got until midnight eastern time tonight to get the stragglers filed (or maybe you just spend the entire day postmarking things in advance).
This is usually about the time in the morning where a manager or partner shows up in your office with shoebox filled with receipts and a hand-written set of financial statements for a very important client.
While this scenario seems like the type of nightmare that would send most people running into oncoming traffic, we assure you that it does happen.
So if you’re a fighting fires on filing day, or you’re a veteran of the procrastination station and have tales that are worthy of campfire ghost stories, discuss your experiences in the comments.
As for the rest of you who finished your clients up yesterday, you’re probably not even at work, so sober up and get into the office, tomorrow is the holiday.
Here it is, Sunday evening so we thought we’d check on all you weekend warriors. Now that the day is over, you can relax and do whatever it is you do on Sunday evenings. Personally, we’d recommend watching some lady slaying courtesy of Don Draper but if reading up on more healthcare policy debate is your thing, knock yourselves out.
Even though lots of you are probably too exhausted to keep your eyes open to read this, we’ll kindly remind you that there’s only two more days to go. Yes, we realize you 1040 prep experts still have a month to go and we’ll give your recognition in due course.
As for the rest of you, give yourselves a pat on the back and have a drink, do a jay, whatever gets you in the mood for love or simply vegging out in front of the tube because you’ve earned it. You’re going to make it through another tax season despite all those times you considered quitting in the middle of it.
And if this is your first tax season, special congrats to you. You’re well on your way to becoming a glutton for punishment courtesy of tax deadlines for many years to come. Cheers.
ACORN, yes, Bill O’Reilly’s favorite non-profit, is giving tax advice. Apparently, prostitution qualifies as a performing art. Who are we to argue?
Yes, it’s almost ten minutes but it’s worth it.
Check out Part II over at TaxProf Blog.
At this point for you tax peeps your days are probably running together. It’s fine. Tuesday is only how many days away? Just grab your favorite concoction to get your game back on and you’ll plow through.
Don’t worry tax trolls, we’ll get our own cocktail and check up on you this weekend to get you through it. Why? Because we’re solid.
If you’re having nightmares about 1065’s and whatnot, detail them for us in the comments.
We feel compelled to remind everyone that there is exactly one week to go until the corporate tax filing deadline of September 15th. By now, with seven days to go, most of you working in tax compliance have probably had one of the following experiences:
• A nervous breakdown
• MSG overdose
• Showered using the bathroom sink at the office
Regardless of your sitch, we’re here to get you to the finish line, even if the layoff rumors are still lurking. Discuss how things look down the stretch and drop us anything you hear regarding potential layoffs at your firm after the deadline.
At least Schering-Plough appears to be on the hook for some. A tax court ruled that the drug
dealer maker doesn’t get a refund of $473 million after it tried to avoid taxes altogether on $690 million it made through offshore subsidiaries.
We could get into the specifics but then we’d have mass suicides to explain.
What is interesting that Schering’s auditor, Deloitte, even called shenanigans, “stating that the transactions were used as a means of repatriating money from Europe without having it taxed as a dividend.”
Not sure when Deloitte first brought that up but Schering obviously wears the pants because these transactions took place in 1991 and 1992 and the ruling came down this week. So at least the law firm representing Schering made out okay on this one.
Court Rejects Schering-Plough $473M Tax Refund [Web CPA]
Somehow we missed this last week but whatevs. State taxing authorities are apparently getting the swing of this whole Internet phenomenon.
We really thought the IRS had taken their game to the next level by putting videos on YouTube but States are really getting crafty by using social networking sites and Google to catch tax scofflaws.
Continued, after the jump
In Minnesota, authorities were able to levy back taxes on the wages of a long-sought tax evader after he announced on MySpace that he would be returning to his home town to work as a real-estate broker and gave his employer’s name. The state collected several thousand dollars, the full amount due.
This has us a little concerned. One minute you’re updating your Facebook status as “Just won $500 at my weekly poker game,” just to rub it in everyone’s face, and the next thing you know you’re filing an amended return because some jerk you met at a party, and for some reason added as a friend, happens to be an IRS agent and takes his job really seriously. Is no cash-only operation sacred?
And it doesn’t matter if you’re not into online social networking:
Now, when a tax dodger can’t be found, said Nebraska tax official Steven Schroeder, agents often turn to Google. One agent collected $30,000 of unpaid tax from a resident after a Google search found him listed as a high-ranking local marketing rep for a national firm.
Face it people. One way or another, you’re going to participate in your patriotic duty.
Is ‘Friending’ in Your Future? Better Pay Your Taxes First [WSJ]
For lots of you tax trolls out there, you might be seriously reconsidering your career choice at this particular moment. Oh sure, there are probably some of you who are so deranged that the excitement you feel at that this time of year is only rivaled by the stretch from mid-February to April 15 but you all need committed.
For the rest of you, the milestone of two weeks until the September 15th deadline is either the light at the end of the tunnel or simply just another day wandering in the darkness since you’ll be crawling across the ultimate finish line on October 15th.
So we’re calling on brave/insane tax soldiers out there to sacrifice a few moments of their chargeable time to let us know how it goes with two weeks to go until 9/15. Hours you’re working, the latest on post-deadline layoff rumors, nightmare clients, whatever moves you.
UPDATE: One source at a Big 4 firm describes it this way:
For me, it has been very reasonable. For others, it is miserable. The unreasonable requests are piling on to a teammate of mine. His senior gives him 40 hours of work and expects him to finish it in one night. They have no clue and shit rolls down hill. It’s amazing how poorly accountants gauge time. Sad.
Some might call Joe Francis a genius. Others may call him a pig. Regardless, the IRS is calling him a scofflaw tax evader. His defense strategy will entail an elaborate slideshow that will explain that Francis is the “business of sex” and that most of what he’s doing are business expenses.
Sex is a confusing business so Francis’s defense will help the jury understand:
Get informed, after the jump
• Mr. Francis is in the business of sex
• Mr. Francis IS Girls Gone Wild
• Girls Gone Wild is Successful
See? It’s not complicated.
The defense strategy will also include pictures of celebrity guests (with some misspelled names) that were at Francis’s beachside house in Mexico where he incurred “business expenses”. Francis will also present a slide that shows himself to be akin to Hugh Hefner and thus, proving that anything to naked girls should be allowed as a deductible expense.
Open and shut as far as we’re concerned.
Jennifer Aniston For The Defense? [The Smoking Gun via TaxProf Blog]
an employee of Sunshine Maids, received a refund check for $122,783.51 from the service. When she reported the error to the IRS, she was instructed to void the check.
Despite the IRS error, and her honesty in reporting the mistake, she still owes $80 on her taxes.
We’re guessing that the IRS has been struggling for years to figure out how to relate better to the general public. They finally came to the conclusion that people like videos and audio as opposed to instruction booklets that make the New York Times look like a kaleidoscope. Clearly progress has been made, however, we still foresee challenges.
The biggest problem we have is that the videos are pretty much the live-action equivalent to the instruction booklets.
More, after the jump
Sorry we had to put you through that. Now our suggestions:
• Hugh Jackman or Megan Fox-types cast in the videos.
• A little song and dance, possibly performed by NPH.
• If a song and dance isn’t feasible, inject a little comedic relief. We’re thinking strategically inserted movie clips.
• Did we mention Hugh Jackman and Megan Fox?
As with anything in our society, celebrities (especially attractive ones) make everything better. Remember the Hollywood Vote Campaign videos? This is the model we would suggest the IRS strongly consider.
We’re fairly certain that Leonardo DiCaprio explaining how to avoid tax scams using his steely gaze will have a much greater affect on taxpayers than our friend here in the yellow blazer. Just a thought. If you’ve got other suggestions for the service on how to make their videos more watchable, discuss in the comments.
IRS Spotlights Recovery Credits on YouTube and iTunes [Web CPA]
The expression “but in the world nothing can be said to be certain except death and taxes” has once again proved resilient as a man in Mississippi has been convicted of not filing tax returns from 2002-2005. This occurred after he filed a civil lawsuit for $1.1 billion against the IRS claiming Congress did not have the authority to tax.
We really don’t have much experience in taking on the government over the constitutionality of taxes but conventional wisdom would probably suggest that if you’re going to sue the IRS for a billion dollars, not filing your tax returns in order to prove your point is not going to help your case.
Pearl man convicted of tax evasion [Clarion Ledger via TaxProf Blog]
As if the State of New York doesn’t have enough trouble with half of the citizens think their legislature is the worst in the country, annoying artwork, and a budget crisis. Come to find out, part of this whole budget nightmare might be due to an unusual amount of bogus tax returns.
This is a quote from a profile of the NYS Deputy Commissioner of Tax Enforcement (our bolding):
The rest, after the jump
This year, we’ve done a little project on tax preparers. We go out pretending to be tax preparers … we’ve done it at 170 different tax preparers. Fifty-one of them have prepared bad returns that are just horribly fraudulent. I have some transcripts … here’s one: a tax prepared describes how he’s gonna do a ‘ho-hum, no muss, no fuss, simple [expletive] return that’s gonna get through the system’ and he’ll never get audited and never get caught. He underreports income then for two years of about $80,000. That he knows. Do you think he knew what he was doing? He was selling our investigator as a taxpayer, ‘I know how to cheat without getting caught.’ … We’ve arrested about 20 this year so far. And there’s lots more in the wings.”
Why on Earth would someone like MC Hammer have to go and make reassuring claims about his financial situation? The fact that the IRS is hassling him with an illegit, illegit to quit, tax lien has us completely nonplussed (is that the right word?). The man is the poster child for rag to riches to completely over-leveraged riches to bankruptcy to mediocre comeback celebrity.
More on HammerTime’s trubs, after the jump
Hammer is all bent out of shape over a lien that the IRS slapped on him last month for $625k that is related to some damn thing 15 years ago. Right about the time when he was working really hard at going bankrupt.
HammerTime would also like everyone to know that along with a hit TV show, he is a very successful Twitterer with over 1 million followers, so obviously this whole tax lien is a huge misunderstanding because everyone knows that 1 follower on Twitter = $1 in the bank. So if the IRS could just drop it, that’d be great. Thanks.
MC Hammer Raps IRS over Tax Debts [Web CPA]
In another case of former a IRS Agent having reckless disregard for their old employer (i.e. the Federal Govt.), a 76 year-old former agent was sentenced to nearly four years in prison for his part in a fraudulent tax scheme that went on from 1998 to 2000. Thomas Steelman was also ordered to pay more than $10 mil back to the Service.
The old guy really worked hard at his craft too:
He took part in promotional meetings, conferences, rallies and telephone conference calls to promote Renaissance’s services and recruit clients, according to prosecutors. Steelman was also a featured speaker on Renaissance’s promotional videotapes.
From the sound of it, this guy Steelman was the
Peter Olinto Tim Gearty Rick Duffy of Renaissance, The Tax People, the defunct company he worked for. It disappoints us how the pleasure of serving your country, as crusader for tax compliance, would eventually lead to a life of a scofflaw and tax avoidance. We are truly saddened that there continues to be very few true tax heroes among us.
Ex-IRS Agent Sentenced to 46 Months for Tax Fraud [Web CPA via TaxProf Blog]
In what probably amounts to UBS caving out of pure exhaustion from the nagging of U.S. Tax authorities, the Swiss Bank reached an agreement in which it will turn over names of wealthy clients. The Wall St. Journal is reporting that it could be between 8,000 and 10,000 names which will likely get UBS on the list at Hop Sing’s with Ned Isakoff.
More, after the jump
The whole sitch has caused many to confess their offshore banking sins and may make for more
begrudgingly honest reporting of offshore accounts in the future but we hope that in hindsight, future Swiss negotiators see the wisdom of considering the undying power of the cocoa bean.
UBS Tax Lawsuit Settled by U.S., Swiss Governments [Bloomberg]
UPDATE: Read more at our sister site, Dealbreaker.
Obviously not wanting to ruin its grandmotherly image, the IRS has announced that will extend its deadline for certain taxpayers to submit their “Report for Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts” or FBAR.
The administrative relief is for “taxpayers with signature authority over, but no financial interest in, a foreign financial account, and taxpayers with a financial interest in, or signature authority over, a foreign commingled fund.”
Perhaps realizing that putting the gun to the collective head of taxpayers that have foreign bank accounts isn’t the best approach or coming to the conclusion that the drop dead filing date of September 23rd just didn’t make any damn sense, the new deadline is now June 30, 2010.
IRS Extends FBAR Filing Deadline Again [Web CPA]
Over the weekend we received an email that basically confirmed our suspicions that many of you were working over the weekend. Considering the time of year, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that hours are starting to pile up and you’re spending at least one hour a night deciding where you’re ordering take out from.
We received word over the weekend that tax groups at
KPMG PwC all the major firms are working like crazy already in anticipation for the September 15th and October 15th filing deadlines.
There have also been whispers among some in the tax practice at KPMG that layoffs may occur after the deadlines due to large number of idle hands that will be around after the deadlines pass.
Tax associates out there, let’s know what your hours have been, what you’re hearing about post-deadline layoffs, and where you don’t want to get take out from ever again.
In, oh for the love of God make it stop, news, Judge Alan Gold has allowed the IRS and UBS more time to hammer out a deal over 52,000-someodd names of American account holders.
There was supposed to be a deal today but then the judge said the 10th would be fine. Now the 12th is the date and if that doesn’t work, then they have until 17th. OH to hell with it. Who needs a drink?
U.S. and UBS Get More Time to Reach a Deal [DealBook]
We have failed again to avoid deceased King of Pop news. Turns out the doctor who is suspected of providing Jackson with drugs that may have killed him is also is a tax scofflaw.
Dr. Conrad Murray is facing a $20k tax lien to the State of California, who, we’ve heard, needs the money. It was filed nine days before Jackson died which will likely add to the batsh!t crazy conspiracy theories surrounding his death.
Michael Jackson Doctor Faces Tax Lien [Web CPA]
Nicolas Cage is keeping his reputation as a tax scofflaw intact, as he currently owes the IRS $6.2 million due to a lien the Service slapped on his house in New Orleans. Last September, Cage settled with the Service for the diabolical sum of $666,000 after he improperly deducted $3.3 million in personal expenses, including must-haves like limo service and a Gulfstream.
Our advice to Cage would be to seriously consider going full frontal in his next film, Bad Lieutenant, Port of New Orleans. If not out of pure artistic principal and respect for the original version, do it for the extra scratch, man. A johnson shot has got to be worth, what, a couple mil?
Nicolas Cage Hit with $6.2 Million Tax Lien [Web CPA]
UBS is going to name names, albeit not all of them, bringing us to ever so close to the bitter end of the whole IRS/UBS standoff.
All the gory details are expected to be released on August 10th, when hopefully everyone will kiss and make up officially.
The focus of the settlement will be around 7,000 or so accounts that are associated with offshore companies and trusts that are possibly tied to some financial shenanigans. Under the potential settlement, UBS won’t turn over any names until after September 23rd, which is the last day for offshore account holders to confess their sinful ways.
Deal Reached in UBS Tax Battle [WSJ]
Wealthy taxpayers now have some legit data that allows them to give the finger to all the rabid populist outrage that’s been going around. According to the most recent data provided by the IRS, the top 1% of taxpayers pay more taxes than the bottom 95%. The wealthiest 1% picks up 40.4% of the tax bill while the bottom 95% gets 39.4%.
This amounts to pretty inconvenient data for lots of
Democrats politicians who have been screaming for years that the wealthiest Americans need to pay more taxes.
Tax Burden of Top 1% Now Exceeds That of Bottom 95% [Tax Policy Blog via TaxProf Blog]
The IRS is saying that wealthy taxpayers are rethinking their sinful offshore banking ways in expectation of a tax evasion rapture.
Last week the Service had 400 applicants for its temporary voluntary disclosure program which is four times the amount they had in all of last year suggesting that some taxpayers are seeing the light.
The IRS evangelism has come about mostly because of their pursuit of the 52,000 secret names held by UBS. While this battle for souls is still continuing, the IRS figured they’d make a run at converting other, non-UBS, sinners.
Seek thy truth, after the jump
Some taxpayers are remaining non-believers however, thanks to their agnostic attorneys:
Yet attorneys say that those who come forward now risk supplying the IRS with more financial information than the agency may have otherwise been able to collect. “These taxpayers reasonably fear that applying to the program could supply the agency with a roadmap it would not otherwise have,” said Barbara Kaplan of Greenberg Traurig in New York, who handles voluntary-disclosure cases. “They worry that they could wind up both rejected for clemency and helping the IRS case against them.”
Ultimately, all taxpayers will have to take their own path but if they find themselves cast into the darkness, they won’t be able to say that the truth wasn’t presented to them.
Tax Evaders Flock to IRS to Confess Their Sins [WSJ]
The whole IRS/UBS tango has gotten to the point where we’ll take any kind of resolution.
Like if the IRS decided that it was too much trouble and said, “We don’t need no stinking names”, we’d be thrilled. Or if UBS decided to hand over a truckload of Toblerones in order to bury the hatchet we’d think, “that was our idea” .
But no, the standoff continues, as the parties confirmed Friday’s meeting today to discuss the progress they’ve made in reaching a settlement. Regardless if a settlement is announced on Friday or the stalemate continues and the case starts on Monday the sooner this thing is over, the better.
UBS, IRS to Meet on Friday [WSJ]
In another demonstration that the rich and famous either hate taxes or simply play dumb to their existence, Brazilian soccer star Romario has been convicted of tax evasion and faces three and a half years in prison. He’s appealing the conviction so it’s likely that he will end up coaching soccer to troubled youth for five years.
The allegations were that he skipped on paying $500,000 in taxes in 1996 and 1997. Romario’s attorney claims he is innocent because “it’s not his fault” which is a similar excuse that might be used by a third grader who tripped someone at recess.
According to USA Today, Romario also has trouble paying child support having been arrested for it twice, once in 2004 and just a few weeks ago. He was released in both instances after paying what he owed or proving that he had already paid.
Can somebody get this guy an accountant? He’s having a hell of a time with non-soccer responsibilities.
This is probably not how Henry Louis Gates wants to move on from his arrest that occurred last week.
A foundation created and run by Gates is amending its 2007 tax return after an investigation showed that some funds that were initially characterized as “research grants” were, in fact, compensation. This little whoopsie increased the administrative costs of the foundation to 40% of the spending, up from 1%, which some might say, is a lot.
All it probably adds up to is another headache for a man who is probably most annoyed that his last name is one letter away from being exactly the same as the suffix applied to every scandal that has ever occurred in this country since the early 1970s.
Foundation Run by Harvard’s Gates Is Revising Tax Return After Questions Raised [ProPublica via Inside Higher Ed and TaxProf Blog]
The town-hall meeting format is getting out of control. It’s been in the political arena for some time now and it seems to fit in fine. But with Ben Bernanke is taking monetary policy directly to the people, apparently now anyone thinks they can just hit the road and talk about complex issues with the common folk.
So when IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman announced that the Service is diving into the populace to get their take on the Commission and give their ideas, comments, and suggestions.
What we’re picturing is a Ricky Bobby-type standing up and having a conversation with Doug Shulman that might go like this:
Ricky Bobby: Why do taxes suck?
Doug Shulman: Taxes are an important part of our system. They pay for things like roads, schools, fire fighters, and police officers. The Vice-President even said that paying taxes is Patriotic.
RB: You know what I think is patriotic?
DS: What, sir?
DS: Are there any other questions?
RB: Oh, wait, I’ve got another question. I heard about an IRS agent that threatened to kill some guys that came to his house. Uh, is that true?
DS: I did see that in the news.
RB: Do you know that guy?
RB: Okay, no, wait. No, okay, I’m done. Thank you. Thanks you, Jesus.
You got questions for the IRS? We’ll have our own little town-hall right here to get things warmed up for the main event on Thursday in DC.
IRS Asks Public for Ideas on Tax Preparer Standards [Web CPA]
ABC/ESPN college football commentator and former Ohio St. QB, Kirk Herbstreit and his wife donated their house to to the local fire department back in 2004 and the Herbstreits took a $330,000 deduction on their tax return.
In an extremely convenient coincidence, the IRS, for the first time, challenged the practice of donating individuals’ homes for such purposes the same year.
The Herbstreits were audited and paid back taxes and interest of $134,606 but are now suing the IRS to get that money back.
Apparently this is a matter of debate amongst tax wonks out there, some saying the donation is kosh and some saying it isn’t. You Michigan fans obviously hope Herbie gets stuck paying the extra scratch but the real question is whether Lee Corso is getting to the age where he’s burning down houses just because he’s totally gone senile.
Herbstreit ‘fire’ puts focus on IRS dispute [Columbus Dispatch via TaxProf Blog]
In 2004, Congress wanted to lay the smackdown on individuals and entities using tax shelters. In order to scare the beejesus out those thinking about the practice, Congress enacted penalties of $100,000 for individuals and $200,000 for entities per non-disclosure to the IRS.
Problem is, Congress, who often pulls out the jump to conclusions mat, didn’t give the IRS any discretion on enforcement so Mom & Pop (who often don’t have kids) shops were getting hammered with fines they couldn’t pay:
In one case cited by the Small Business Council of America, a husband and wife followed the advice of a consultant and set up a limited liability company and Roth individual retirement accounts. When the IRS challenged the way the transactions were done and found income tax deficiencies of $6,812, it was required to impose a penalty of $1.2 million.
The IRS figured that maybe, just maybe, this wasn’t really working the way it was intended and has suspended the collection of fines in order to make the penalties more proportional. Not to worry though, the IRS hasn’t decided whether or not apply the changes retroactively and are only suspending the fines until September 30. They wouldn’t want to tarnish their image as faceless cold-blooded bureaucrats.
IRS Halts Fine Linked To Tax Shelters [WSJ]
Being a celebrity is tough. You see all that money roll in and then when you find out you have to pay almost 50% in taxes on it, that might just piss you off a little. It pisses off some celebrities enough that they just decide they’re not paying Uncle Sam jack. Then there are those that just forget to pay (*cough* Willie Nelson *cough*).
The two newest members of the tardy tax payers are hip-hop artist Foxy Brown and R&B singer Toni Braxton. Brown owes the IRS $641,558 in back taxes for the years 2003 to 2006. Braxton owes just over $71k to the IRS but she’s got some history of financial trubs: she filed for bankruptcy in 1998 with over $1 mil in debts so she’s probably familiar with the collection-type protocols.
Our advice to the two ladies would be take the Lehman Brothers approach on this and get some of that Foxy Brown and Toni Braxton schwag on eBay.
Foxy Brown’s prison jumpsuit from Riker’s? Toni Braxton’s Grammy trophies (or maybe just the underwear-is-optional dress)? We want to hear what kind of mementos you readers would be willing to plunk down your hard earned cash for to help these ladies out.
Perhaps buckling under the mere thought of looking through 52,000 different UBS accounts for tax evasion, an IRS Agent in Valencia, CA threatened Treasury Agents with “I’m going to kill all of you!” when they attempted to search his home.
When the agents tried to serve the warrant, Bront tried to rush back inside his home, where he kept three loaded guns, but a Treasury agent aimed a gun at him and another drew out a baton. After his arrest, he kicked the front seat of the law enforcement vehicle and pounded the door with his elbow before telling the agents he didn’t mean it when he threatened to kill them.
Not withstanding the seriousness of threatening federal officers, the image of a 49 year old man kicking the front seat of a car like a child that didn’t get any ice cream is almost too much for us to bear.
The whole UBS/IRS tug of war has achieved a whole new level of ridiculousness because now, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will meet with the Swiss Foreign Minister on July 31, just prior to the deadline settlement date of August 3rd.
We’re expecting a lovely exchange of smiling, glad-handing, back-slapping, etc. but would implore with Secretary Clinton to do the right thing and get the Swiss Minister to pony up the Toblerones.
The Swiss deserve part of this blame for not seeing the genius in this offer but our American representatives in this case have not been pushing for it, deciding instead, that our need for a reformed healthcare system should motivate our Swiss friends to turn over the 52,000 American names.
The Swiss, who no doubt laugh at our bureaucratic nightmare of a healthcare system, are instead more concerned about their sovereignty and their long tradition of client confidentiality. They have vowed not to turn over any names and this doesn’t really fit in with the IRS’s plans to get billions in back taxes on the UBS accounts, hence the need to call in the big guns.
Swiss minister to meet Clinton ahead of UBS deadline [Reuters]
If you’ve got a offshore bank account and are less than with it when it comes to tax compliance, it might be advisable that you talk to your accountant.
The IRS, who is becoming increasingly less cuddly under the Obama Administration, is stepping up its scrutiny of Americans with income derived from offshore accounts greater than $10,000.
However, because the Service doesn’t want to come off as a big meanie, it is giving everyone late to the game until September 23rd to file their Foreign Bank Account Report (FBAR). If you’re the type that doesn’t concern yourself with such matters, here are some things you can look forward to:
Those who have inadvertently failed to report offshore income, even just a few hundred dollars, could be subject to a $10,000-a-year penalty going back several years. For those the IRS considers willful tax evaders, it is much worse. The IRS can impose a penalty of $100,000, or one half the value of the account, whichever is greater, per year.
Those of you that have been scofflaws on your offshore accounts, don’t fret. The IRS is allowing to confess your sins and report yourselves under their “voluntary disclosure program”. However, you will still have to be investigated by the Service’s criminal division which sounds about as pleasant as a rectal exam in front of all your friends.
IRS Gets Tougher on Offshore Tax Evaders [WSJ]
“Rich people, I want your money.”
No, seriously. Hand it over.
We’ve covered the failure (so far) of the IRS to get UBS to name names on 52,000 Americans and we’ve heard some good suggestions but maybe chocolate isn’t what the Service is interested in.
The House passed a pricey healthcare proposal yesterday and B to the O wanted it to be “budget neutral” which means, “We’re in a deep hole you clowns. Don’t make it deeper.”
Charged with said task, they
went to a cocktail party got to work and came up with a solution that they super-duper rich will foot the bill via taxes. That means, IRS, get your shit together, because Nancy Pelosi has had enough of rich people, that aren’t her, not paying their fair share of taxes. Swiss bank account holders beware, here are the gory details that you’ll be getting in on if your name gets dropped:
Under the $1.2 trillion plan passed by the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, the wealthiest 1.2 percent of U.S. households would have to pay an additional $540 billion in taxes over the next 10 years via an income surtax of between 1 and 5.4 percent. For the super-elite, those in the top 10th of 1 percent (and presumably the type of taxpayers who have Swiss bank accounts), that works out to an additional $280,000 a year in taxes on an average annual income of $2.3 million a year, according to the Tax Policy Center.
So basically it looks as though the IRS needs to close the tax gap because…wait for it…there’s shit to pay for! We’re not slapping healthcare on the Federal Reserve credit card, no, no. Right here and now we start paying for stuff out of our own pockets. So get on these Swiss banks and get the names because they’re avoiding their patriotic duty.
Obama’s self-defeating war on the wealthy [James Pethokoukis/Reuters]
We’ve been able to avoid the whole Michael Jackson debacle up until now. We couldn’t, in good blogging conscience, avoid this particular story.
The estate of Michael Jackson is probably going to have to turn over at least $80 million to the IRS and they get to cut the line right to the front to collect.
“As in a bankruptcy case, Jackson’s creditors will jockey for first crack at his fortune. But the estate’s initial obligation will be to pay the late star’s taxes, said Beth Kaufman, a Washington-based attorney specializing in estate tax issues. ‘There is no question that the U.S. government has first priority,’ she said.
Oh, and the Service is not going to take the royalty rights to She Loves You or I am the Walrus either:
To settle his tax bill, the executors of his estate may have to sell or borrow against lucrative but hard-to-value assets or ask the IRS for a multi-year extension. That could allow the estate to pay the tab over time with earnings from Jackson’s share in rights to songs by the Beatles and his own music — prized properties whose value will likely make the estate’s tax bill only bigger. “The government is not going to take a Beatles record as payment. They want to be paid in cash,” said Roy Kozupsky, a veteran estate lawyer in New York who has worked on behalf of several wealthy clients.
Reportedly, Jackson still made $40 million a year from his ownership of the recordings. This will no doubt make the calculation of the tax bill more complicated and thus, we’ll continue to be saturated with all the excruciating details about this story that we just don’t want to hear.
Death and taxes: Big IRS bill looms for MJ estate [AP via TaxProf Blog]