Our tax system will probably stay a clusterfuck for another 100 years, but we'll always have the Tax Reform Act of 1986! Today is the 27th birthday of the Act and judging by the political climate in DC, it'll have many more happy returns. For anyone longing for resurrections of Ronald Reagan, Dan Rostenkowski or […]
Last night, New York Rep Charlie Rangel made his way to Colin's favorite fair and balanced news channel to sit down with Sean Hannity and Hannity's hair to talk taxes. Newsbusters has the transcript: SEAN HANNITY, HOST: Out of every dollar one of those rich people in New York make, how much should they be […]
Actually, if Wes Benedict, Executive Director of the Libertarian Party, had his way, Wes wouldn’t be doing time at all.
“The three-year federal prison sentence for Snipes’s failure to file tax returns is absurd. Snipes is not a threat to anyone, and the judge who sentenced him clearly just wanted to scare others who might think about resisting federal taxes.
“Maybe it’s worth reminding people that Wesley Snipes was acquitted of tax fraud and conspiracy charges in 2008. He was only found guilty on misdemeanor charges of ‘willful failure to file an income tax return.’
Right, so the ‘willful failure’ part is where we kind of have a problem. If you willfully fail to control your urge to get cop-slugging drunk and then actually slug a cop, you have committed a crime. Mr Benedict doesn’t buy it though:
“Why is a failure to file a tax return a criminal non-act? Should people ever be sent to prison for not doing something? If the IRS wants to come after Snipes and take his money, they have power to do that. Who does it help to send the man to prison?
“The tax code is incredibly vague and open to interpretation [Ed note: UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE CENTURY]. In fact, the ‘law’ is largely written by IRS bureaucrats. If they decide the law says one thing, you’re OK; if they decide it’s something else, then you’re headed for prison.
“The federal tax code also allows for ‘selective enforcement,’ to put it mildly. Why is it that Wesley Snipes gets a prison sentence, but known tax cheat Tim Geithner gets promoted to Secretary of the Treasury? Maybe Tim should be Wesley’s cellmate. Throw tax cheat politician Charlie Rangel in the slammer too for good measure.
Tim Geithner’s poor choice in self-prep tax software and an actor giving the 16th Amendment the middle finger for 10+ years aren’t quite the same thing. Maybe it’s just us.
[h/t Tracy Coenen]
He really should have stuck around. He won on a couple of ’em, which is probably better than most people were expecting.
Of course Chuck isn’t going quietly:
How can anyone have confidence in the decision of the Ethics Subcommittee when I was deprived of due process rights, right to counsel and was not even in the room? I can only hope that the full Committee will treat me more fairly, and take into account my entire 40 years of service to the Congress before making any decisions on sanctions.
The Committee’s findings are even more difficult to understand in view of yesterday’s declaration by the Committee’s chief counsel, Blake Chisam, that there was no evidence of corruption or personal gain in his findings.
From here forward, it is my hope that the full Ethics Committee will take into consideration the opinion of its chief counsel as well as the statement by Rep. Bobby Scott, a member of its investigatory subcommittee who said that any failings in my conduct were the result of “good faith mistakes” and were caused by “sloppy and careless recordkeeping, but were not criminal or corrupt.”
Charlie Rangel Has Heard Enough
The man – looking dapper as ushe – needs representation and isn’t interested in sticking around without it.
H-P Board Surprised Hurd Didn’t Go Quietly [WSJ]
H-P’s directors ‘hoped he would move on,’ said one person familiar with the situation, adding that the board prefers to focus on ‘protecting the brand and taking the higher ground.’
Mr. Hurd resigned Friday over ethics violations related to his relationship with a former H-P marketing contractor, Jodie Fisher. His exit was immediately followed by hard-hitting comments from H-P executives and a board member. Mr. Hurd left with a separation agreement that included a $12.2 million cash payment and a promise not to disparage the company or ‘induce others’ to do so.
In the days b n, according to a person familiar with the matter, Mr. Hurd hired Sitrick & Co., a Los Angeles-based firm known for handling crisis communications for high-profile individuals, including former H-P chairman Patricia Dunn and celebrity Paris Hilton.”
What Not to Do When Blowing the Whistle [FINS]
Sure you can get paid the big bucks to sing like a canary these days but are some things you might want to consider first.
Black Accountants Group Names New Leader [Afro American]
“Calvin Harris Jr., was recently elected the 24th national president and CEO of the National Association of Black Accountants (NABA). NABA, a 501 c(3) nonprofit, is the leading association for African Americans and minorities in the accounting, audit, finance, information technology, tax, and other business related fields. Harris’s two-year term began July 1.”
Wipfli LLP: Washington state-based Michael R. Bell & Company, PLLC, joins Wipfli LLP [WisBusiness]
“Effective August 1, the partners and associates of Washington state-based Michael R. Bell & Company, PLLC, joined Wipfli LLP, an international CPA firm headquartered in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Michael R. Bell & Company specializes in providing audit, accounting and consulting services to a variety of health care organizations and will become part of Wipfli’s full-service health care industry practice.”
Salesforce Customers Want Better Link to Accounting [Web CPA]
“A new survey of Salesforce.com customers found that the majority of them want to link more closely between their customer relationship management software and accounting software.
The survey, by Salesforce.com partner FinancialForce.com, found that 67 percent of those using competing packages cited a lack of integration of their current accounting software with customer relationship management software as their biggest headache.”
Plum Benefit to Cultural Post: Tax-Free Housing [NYT]
Being a director of some of the best known museums in the world is not only lucrative (multi-million dollar salary), you can also get a pretty sweet pad – tax free!
Mickelson Has Arthritic Condition That Made Him Question His Golf Future [Bloomberg]
Rest easy T Fly, Phil says he’s back to 90% just in time for the PGA that starts tomorrow.
“Sixty years ago, I survived a Chinese attack in North Korea and have said that I haven’t had a bad day since. But after today, I may have to revise that statement.”
~ Rangs had a helluva run. Not that it’s any consolation.
Rangel Is in Talks to End Ethics Case [WSJ]
“Negotiations between lawyers for Rep. Charles Rangel (D., N.Y.) and House ethics investigators continued on the eve of a public hearing Thursday that was expected to lay out the charges aga ethics panel announced last week its plans to present a case against Mr. Rangel, his lawyers have been in private discussions about a possible settlement to avoid a hearing. A central issue is the wording of the House ethics panel’s findings about Mr. Rangel’s alleged ethics violations, according to a person familiar with the case.”
Audit reveals billions of dollars of Iraqi oil funds gone missing [Guardian]
Hard to believe that there would be trouble tracking the money over there, “The US department of defence has called in forensic accountants to help track $8.1bn (£5.2bn) of $9.1bn in Iraq’s oil revenue entrusted to it after the fall of Baghdad, following an official audit that revealed the money was missing.
The funds were to be used for spending on reconstruction during 2004-07, a period when Iraq was under weak transitional rule.
The report was issued today by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which had previously criticised poor book-keeping by senior officials throughout the last seven years.”
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac Still Too Big to Nail [Jonathan Weil/Bloomberg]
“This month Congress passed the 2,323- page Dodd-Frank Act without any clear understanding of why the financial crisis happened — and without doing a thing to address Fannie and Freddie, which were central players. Now the Obama administration says it will deliver a reform proposal to Congress by January on the nation’s housing-finance system, including Fannie and Freddie. Yet the government still hasn’t undertaken any comprehensive inquiry into why these companies blew up and who was at fault.”
IMA Launches New Website to Support Accounting Community [Business Wire]
“IMA™, the association for accountants and financial professionals in business, unveiled [Wednesday] its new website, now making it even easier for professionals to experience IMA’s range of valuable resources and services. The website can be accessed at www.imanet.org.”
How to Get a Job in Financial Regulation [FINS]
The SEC, FDIC and CFTC are all hiring in the wake of Dodd-Frank. But landing a gig with the Feds isn’t like landing a job anywhere else. FINS breaks it down for you.
George Carlin Never Would’ve Cut It at the New Goldman Sachs [WSJ]
What’s next? They take your will to live? “The New York company is telling employees that they will no longer be able to get away with profanity in electronic messages. That means all 34,000 traders, investment bankers and other Goldman employees must restrain themselves from using a vast vocabulary of oft-used dirty words on Wall Street, including the six-letter expletive that came back to haunt the company at a Senate hearing in April.”
Alex Rodriguez Objects to Rangers Bankruptcy Plan [Bloomberg]
Chances are, A-Rod doesn’t know the particulars but he would like the $24.9 million he’s owed.
Rep. Charles Rangel broke ethics rules, House panel finds [WaPo]
“A House ethics subcommittee announced Thursday that it found that Rep. Charles B. Rangel violated congressional ethics rules and that it will pr robably beginning in September. The panel is expected to make the details of his alleged violations public next Thursday.
Rangel (D-N.Y.) has been under the House ethics committee’s microscope since early 2008 after it was reported that he may have used his House position to benefit his financial interests. Two of the most serious inquiries have focused on Rangel’s failure to declare $239,000 to $831,000 in assets on his disclosure forms, and on his effort to raise money for a private center named after him at City College of New York using his congressional letterhead.”
Geithner: Taxes on Wealthiest to Rise [WSJ]
“The Obama administration will allow tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans to expire on schedule, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said Thursday, setting up a clash with Republicans and a small but vocal group of Democrats who want to delay the looming tax increases.
Mr. Geithner said the White House would allow taxes on top earners to increase in 2011 as part of an effort to bring down the U.S. budget deficit. He said the White House plans to extend expiring tax cuts for middle- and lower-income Americans, and expects to undertake a broader revision of the tax code next year.
‘We believe it is appropriate to let those tax cuts that go to the most fortunate expire,’ Mr. Geithner said at a breakfast with reporters.”
FASB Requires More Disclosures Around Credit Risk [Compliance Week]
“Accounting Standards Update No. 2010-20, Receivables (Topic 310) calls for more credit risk disclosures to give investors a better view of the credit risk in a company’s portfolio of receivables as well as the adequacy of its allowance for credit losses. Under the update, companies will be required to say more about aging receivables and credit quality indicators in particular.
The new disclosure requirements affect financing receivables and trade accounts receivable, including loans, trade accounts receivable that are greater than a year old, notes receivable, credit cards and receivables for certain leases. The new disclosure requirement does not affect short-term trade accounts receivable, receivables that are measured at fair value or the lower of cost or fair value, and debt securities.”
Convicted accountant Lewis Freeman’s friends urge leniency [Miami Herald]
“Miami’s go-to forensic accountant” Lewis Freeman is to be sentenced today for stealing nearly $3 million from victims of fraud who he was appointed to protect. He faces a dozen to fifteen years in prison but his friends and supporters have turned on the pity party, sending nearly 300 letters to Judge Paul Huck, asking for leniency.
“[E]very one of those letter writers also asks the judge to show mercy, emphasizing that the affable New York native should not have to languish in prison because he has done so much for institutions like his alma mater, the University of Miami, Miami Children’s Hospital and the Miami Children’s Museum, among others.”
No need for non-audit ban, regulator claims [Accountancy Age]
“Accountants will not have to give up their non-audit work for audit clients, under proposed guidelines released today, which have not recommended an outright ban, suggested by politicians in the wake of the financial crisis.
The Auditing Practices Board, of the Financial Reporting Council, which publishes guidance for auditors, does not believe an outright ban on non-audit services should be enacted and has instead proposed to tinker with present disclosure requirements.”
Could This Be a Real Deterrent? [Floyd Norris/NYT]
Despite the usual fare in the SEC’s settlement yesterday, Floyd Norris writes that the $4 million fine for Michael Dell and other executives is “refreshing.”
• Rangel Challenged by a Historic Foe [WSJ]
Someone finally realized that Charlie Rangel’s constituents in New York’s 15th District have maybe had enough of Chuck and his “pay taxes as I wrote them, not as I pay them” ways. Rangs will be challenged in the primary by New York State Assemblyman Adam Clayton Powell IV, according to the Journal. Not only does Mr Powell have an upper hand in the ad campaign department but there’s a bit of history here.
Powell Number III, sire of IV, was defeated by ChaRang back in 1970 amid his own ethical trubs. ACP 4th Edition insisted to that this had nothing to do with sweet, sweet revenge, “It has nothing to do with revenge or anything like that. Anyone with that record in public service would be interested in higher office.”
It won’t be easy for ACP4 however. He was flicked away by Rangs in a primary challenge back in 1994 and was recently convicted of “driving while impaired,” which actually seems worse than hogging rent-controlled apartments, since that could result in, you know, someone getting killed.
• My Paycheck, My Self? [FINS]
Does your salary define you as a human being? Or, at the very least, does it feel that way? Master pay czar Ken Feinberg had to snoop around some people that pull down some hefty scratch and he found out that the human psyche can easily be affected by their pay stub.
• PCAOB Issues Staff Audit Practice Alert on Auditor Considerations of Significant Unusual Transactions [PCAOB]
Don’t worry about the plain old vanilla transactions auditors, the PCAOB needs you to be on the lookout for significant unusual transactions. What that entails, we don’t really know but we’ll assume that means any transaction, and the PCAOB means any transaction, that looks remotely out of the ordinary, has a funny name (that may or may not include a “105”), requires smokey-filled room approval etc., definitely give it a second look. Or a third.
Apparently it’s Chuck Rangel day here at GC. Since we know there is a contingent of you that love Rangs and his exploits (and bow ties!) we feel compelled to follow up the ironic tax advice report with this.
We don’t know who’s running against Rangel (anyone?) this fall but we don’t see how this spot would be excluded from the arsenal.
Charlie Rangel may have lost (temporarily!) his Chairmanship of the House Ways & Means committee because of a few tax issues but that doesn’t mean he isn’t willing to shell out a bit of tax advice during tax season.
Rangs sent a flier in the mail to his 15th District constituents so they could “put money back into your pockets.”
This particular bit of irony was not lost on the voters in the 15th District; the Daily News shared some of their thoughts including the obvious, “It’s probably not the best time to put something like that out,” to the practical, “I’d never take tax advice from that guy,” and those pointing out the chutzpah, “That is amazing. He certainly has gall.”
A spokesman is quoted that this SOP for Charlie during this time of year, “[He] has sent his tax newsletter to constituents for many years in order to assist them in filing their tax returns and ensuring that those who are eligible take advantage of important benefits, including the Earned Income Tax Credit.”
So maybe this is one of those time-honored Congressman Rangel traditions in the 15th District that operates like clockwork. Every tax season, voters can expect to get Chuck’s smiling face in their mailbox sharing tax advice on laws that he has helped write for decades. A little tax-related scandal isn’t going to put a stop to that. Unfortunately, we’re guessing the pamphlet doesn’t discuss how to exclude $75,000 in income from a rental property in the Dominican Republic. That would be taking things a bit too far.
• Rangel Loses Support in House [WSJ]
You can ignore what’s written below, except the part about rent-controlled apartments.
Charlie Rangel will
not be quitting (temporarily sayeth Charlie Rangel) as the Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee. If you (read: Republicans) want him out, you’ll have to vote him out. Bad news for Chuck is that the Republicans in the House and several of his fellow Democrats are poised to do just that, “As many as 30 House Democrats could join 178 House Republicans in voting to oust Mr. Rangel as head of the Ways and Means Committee…a substantially higher number than in previous votes on his removal.”
Never mess with people when it comes to rent-controlled apartments. They’ll turn on you like Judas.
In the meeting, Mr. Rangel refused to quit as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and instead said he’d think overnight about the matter before deciding whether to step down or face an uncertain vote.
After the one-hour meeting broke, Mr. Rangel told reporters he would stay on.
“You bet your life,” he said. Pressed further, Mr. Rangel, raising his voice, said emphatically: “Yes, and I don’t lie to the press.”
There you have it. You want Rangs out? It’ll be over his dead body. Since he’s 79, it might just come to that.
• Taxpayers Have $1.3 Billion in Unclaimed Refunds [TaxProf Blog]
That’s just for 2006. California leads the charge with over $150 million, followed by Texas with $114 million, and Florida with $110 million. 1.4 million tax-hating Americans have until April 15th of this year to claim and then the money goes straight to Goldman Sachs.
• SEC to beef up its NYC office in 2010 [Reuters]
Here’s a possible gig for those of you that are still looking for work. The not-so-new but constantly improving (?!?) SEC is looking to hire a few good men and women for its New York office. Having got the scratch to put a few more hands on deck, the Commission is looking for 18 people for its enforcement team and 15 for its examination staff. There’s no indication that this will solve the SEC’s “idiots” problem but maybe you can at least land a job.
• Companies are making fewer accounting mistakes [USA Today]
“In another potential boost to investor confidence, the era of sloppy accounting appears to be ending,” declares USA Today. Okay but perfection is unattainable people, so until machines take over for you, keep at it. In the meantime, the results presented by Audit Analytics certainly indicate that things are going in the right direction.
We don’t want to be the party pooper here but if accounting is less sloppy, i.e. more sophisticated, doesn’t that mean that the methods for massaging the accounting are also more sophisticated? Just chew on that while you check the the findings.
The article lists three reasons for the improvement in reporting:
• There is steady and ongoing improvement. The number of companies with restatements and the number of restatements have declined in each of the past three years.
• Mistakes are getting caught sooner. Among the companies with restatements, errors covered a period of 476 days, or less than a year and a half. That’s down 7% from 2008 and well below the 716 days, or nearly two years, of problematic numbers restated in 2006.
• Restatements are less serious. Restatements reduced companies’ reported earnings by $4.6 million on average last year, down dramatically from the $7.2 million and $23.5 million hits in 2008 and 2006.
Even though it’s virtually impossible to eliminate restatements, we must admit that these are encouraging trends. Another thing to keep in mind is that accounting rules are becoming increasingly complex so it’s not like things will be on cruise control from here on out.
• Defiant Rep. Charles Rangel vows reelection bid despite uproar over alleged ethics violations [NYDN]
Ethics violations be damned! The 79-year-old announced over the weekend that he would be seeking reelection. It would be his 21st term in Congress, first winning election in 1970. Even if Rangs is able to do another victory dance, holding on to his Chairmanship of the Ways & Means will be a different matter entirely. PBO has already distanced himself from Chuck and some are saying that even Nancy Pelosi is getting creeped out a little too.
• Skilling Asks High Court for New Trial Minus ‘Tar and Feathers’ [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
The Supreme Court will consider Jeff Skilling’s appeal today in the Enron scandal that he was convicted of four years ago. Skilling’s attorneys will argue that the trial should not have been held in Houston where it would have been “impossible” to get a fair trial.
Skilling’s appeal says the atmosphere in Houston when the trial began in January 2006 was one of hostility toward him, fed by unrelenting and “searing” media coverage. The appeal points to a Houston Chronicle column titled “Your Tar and Feathers Ready? Mine Are” and a local rap song, “Drop the S Off Skilling.”
The 12 jurors reflected that antipathy, Skilling contends. During pretrial questioning, three said they were “angry,” three said they had negative feelings toward Skilling or doubted his impartiality and one said that all CEOs were “greedy,” according to his appeal.
Skilling is currently doing far worse than tar and feathers (probably NBD in this day and age), serving a 24 year sentence in a Colorado prison. If the SCOTUS rules in his favor on the “jury-bias” issue Skilling would get a new trial which open old wounds and could create a media circus (we hope).
• Panel Admonishes Rangel for Taking Trips as Gifts [NYT]
Charlie Rangel had a Congressional ethics committee rule that he “violated gift rules” when he accepted corporate-sponsored trips to the Caribbean. While that is certainly bad news for Rangs, the committee is far from finished with its investigation as they continue their inquiries about Chuck’s “fund-raising, his failure to pay federal taxes on rental income from a Dominican villa, and his use of four rent-stabilized apartments provided by a Manhattan real estate developer.”
Following typical political grandstanding protocol, Republicans are calling for CR to step down from his post as the Chairman of the House Ways & Means Comittee:
“In this time of great economic uncertainty, struggling middle-class Americans deserve better than to have a tax cheat chairing a powerful Congressional committee that directly impacts the financial livelihoods of millions of hard-working people,” said Ken Spain, the communications director of the National Republican Congressional Committee.
• Ex-Deloitte Exec Settles Insider Trading Charges [Web CPA]
John A. Foley, who “settle[d] the SEC’s charges without admitting or denying the allegations”, was trading on inside information on a number of Deloitte clients including rubber shoe factory Crocs, along with YRC Worldwide, Inc., Spectralink Corporation and SigmaTel, Inc.
The trades yielded Foely and his fellow cheaters just over $200k which would buy a helluva lot of ugly shoes.
• Madoff’s New City accountant’s sentencing put off until September [LoHud]
David Friehling, the worst auditor ever, was scheduled to be sentenced today for his little part in the Madoff Ponzi scheme has been delayed until September. Friehling’s continued cooperation was the reason for the delay in sentencing. Although he faces over 100 years in prison, Judge Alvin Hellerstein told DF that his cooperation will be noted when final sentencing is determined. Presumably, that will knock it down to well under a century of doing time.
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]
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]
For those of you that don’t concern yourselves with civics nonetoomuch, Chuck is the chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. Ways and Means writes the tax laws for this fair land of ours. Get it?
Anyhoo, Rangs has a bit of a problem. People are shouting from the rooftops that this guy has to go. Why? A small matter of forgetting to list some assets on his disclosure forms.
Minor omissions, after the jump
…in the Washington Post today decrying some of the newest revelations from last week, including a Merrill Lynch account valued between $250,000 and $500,000, tens of thousands in municipal bonds, and between $30,000 and $100,000 in rent from a Harlem brownstone that he owns, all of which he failed to list on his congressional disclosure forms from 2002 to 2006.
And if you remember:
This comes on top of the news last year about the four rent-stabilized apartments he rented at below-market rents, his use of government stationery to raise money for a pet project, his failure to report income from his sale of a Florida condo, and his failure to pay taxes on rental income from another home in the Dominican Republic.
According to the WaPo piece, Rangs’s net worth doubled-ish, “from between $516,015 and $1,316,000 to between $1,028,024 and $2,495,000”.
Yeah, so, that’s kind of a big change. We’re thinking that Chuck is way too busy being a tax wonk to track all this stuff. Or maybe he’s just too tired. Either way, it’s way easier to forget about four rent-controlled apartments than you think.
Rangel Under Pressure to Step Down [Web CPA Debits & Credits]