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Gay and lesbian couples in California got an “I’m sorry” from the IRS last week after robo-letters went out to same-sex couples who filed under new IRS rules which recognize their relationships for the first time in states with community property rules (California, Nevada and Washington). That means joint property is divided 50/50, regardless of who wears the pants (or the dress) in the couple.
Scott James has the scoop via the Bay Citizen:
The change to the tax code, put into effect for 2010, was supposed to be a step toward equal treatment by the I.R.S.
Instead, couples have faced a litany of conflicts. The latest involves at least 300 taxpayers who have had their returns rejected with terse letters signed by an enigmatic I.R.S. employee named J. Bell from Fresno.
“Your return includes income or tax liability for more than one taxpayer, other than husband and wife,” the letters read. Note: husband and wife. Not two husbands, or two wives.
Couples who received the letters had to produce additional paperwork and faced delays in receiving refunds; most were forced to hire tax professionals.
In a statement this week, the I.R.S. said that the letters had been “incorrectly sent” because of a processing error and that it “apologizes for this mistake and sincerely regrets any inconvenience to taxpayers.”
Santa Clara University law school professor Patricia Cain has an excellent blog on the subject of same sex taxes. Of the IRS apology, she said “Just to be clear, in my view, the battle is not between us and the IRS. The IRS wants to do the right thing. It wants to tax each citizen on the right amount of income under existing law. That is its job. However, the IRS is seriously hampered from promulgating rules that apply to same-sex couples by the the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). The IRS is to be commended for understanding that DOMA cannot usurp state property law. Thus I continue to applaud its decision about how to tax community income of same-sex couples. And now that the IRS understands how difficult it is to communicate these new rules, even to its own employees, I applaud them again — this time for their apology — which, by the way, I accept.”
Let me give the IRS a tip: you need money, right? Same sex couples have it. They do all the things other taxpayers do – buy stuff, work, pay their taxes. All they are asking for is equal treatment under tax laws. If straight couples can get trapped in loveless marriages and file jointly, why can’t gays have the same rights?
We all deserve to be miserable, overtaxed and sexless.
As you’re probably aware (if not, check the links below), it hasn’t been the friendliest of exchanges between criminal CFO/forensic accounting sleuth Sam Antar and Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne. Sam being Sam, he recently reached out to Patrick Byrne to see if he would be interested in a mea culpa:
From: Sam E. Antar
Sent: Monday, March 08, 2010 11:02 PM
To: Patrick M. Byrne
Subject: Overstock.com Restatement
Will you finally admit that I was correct when I reported in my blog that Overstock.com violated GAAP by using a phony gain contingency in light of the company’s recently announced restatement?
You owe me a public apology.
Our understanding is that Pat hasn’t responded to Sam’s request for an apology yet (we’re hopeful!) so Team GC thought we’d offer some suggestions to Dr Byrne should he decide to take the high road and apologize to Sam. Having been in this situation more than once myself, I can honestly say sometimes you’ve just got to suck it up, buy some flowers, and admit that you’re an ass but totally repentant.
Overstock.com gift cards – Nothing says I’m sorry like free stuff that the aggrieved party can pick themselves. Bonus, the overhead on Byrne’s own inventory must be low. You know, because it’s his, not because there is any monkey business going down on OSTK’s financials.
An SEC Gift Shop Goodie Basket – I busted Sam in an SEC baseball hat at Stanford last week so wouldn’t it be cute if Byrne got him a whole basket full of fun regulatory shwag? Awww, what a precious moment it would be watching Sam pull out DoJ beer cozies and a color-changing SIGTARP coffee mug. Who doesn’t love tchotchkes? PB can’t go wrong! I’d even throw in a pair of NY Fed Pistol Team patches for that added touch of flair.
Cupcakes – Come on, no one can resist cupcakes, not even Sam E. Antar’s hardened criminal ass. You know, might as well send some to the GCHQ while he’s at it, we’ve been putting up with this Overstock shit for months too. Hopefully even Patrick Byrne knows when it comes to cupcakes, it’s best to invest in high quality, over-priced boutique cupcakes. Even my cheap ass knows that.
If you’re a bigshot at the IRS there are a lot of things that you don’t have to do. For one, you don’t really have to meet anyone’s expectations. For another, you don’t have to worry about delaying plans just because some practicing CPAs have some silly concerns.
The latest perk of being Doug Shulman? Not having to apologize to anyone.
The Tax Court yesterday ruled that it lacks jurisdiction to order the IRS to apologize to a taxpayer. Caldwell v. Commissioner, T.C. Summ. Op. 2009-169 (Nov. 18, 2009):
The part of Caldwell’s motion which we characterize as a “Request for Apology” asks that we require the IRS to enter into the record “a written apology to the Petitioner, signed by the Commissioner, Internal Revenue Service” …
The IRS objected to the Request for Apology on the ground that Congress has not, through section 7430 (relating to administrative or litigation costs) or otherwise, authorized us to grant such relief. [Fn.3] We agree.
There you have it American Taxpayer. Under the law, the IRS doesn’t have to apologize to anyone, despite the evidence that they should probably be apologizing constantly. Going forward, if you want an apology, run down a Republican member of the House of Representatives.
Court Lacks Jurisdiction to Order IRS to Apologize to Taxpayer [TaxProf Blog via Tax Update Blog]