The owner of McAuliffe CPA Enterprises in Mineola, NY, took a field trip down to Washington, DC, and decided it would be a good idea to join a bunch of other domestic terrorist doofuses in storming the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 because they actually thought they could prevent Congress from confirming Joe Biden as […]
None like me, who was doomscrolling through Twitter all afternoon, or did you somehow, someway do something productive that was work-related? Stay well, everyone.
The AICPA "commends" Congress for a lot of things that it shouldn't, among them, dragging its feet on renewing the godforsaken extenders bill. What's amusing is that every so often, the AICPA tries to get all high and mighty about what they've recommended Congress do, when they know full well that those legislative cretins will […]
It's fair to say that accounting firms are conservative organizations. That is, they prefer that things in their world remain more or less the same and when extremely rare and unforeseen events occur that mandate change, it be carried out with as little disruption as possible and on their terms. NBD, right? The PCAOB, […]
Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and Representative Dave Camp (R-MI) report in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that since Congress has spent ample time listening to interest groups, it's about time they got really serious about tax reform: In the coming weeks, we will give you the opportunity to provide your input as well. No need to […]
Tax Policy Center co-director Eric Toder is feeling good today. Why? Some people known for not doing much of anything productive are saying things that sound remarkably like some people who plan to do something productive! The House Ways and Means Committee, in a letter signed by all its Republican members to Budget Committee Chairman […]
Barry Melancon speaks on behalf of all the CPAs, CGMAs across this great land who have had it up to here [bridge of nose] with Congress' inability to accomplish anything other than naming post offices: “CPAs in communities large and small and from coast to coast are increasingly troubled by the government’s inability to come […]
You spent five (or more) years studying to be an accountant, passed the hardest professional licensure exam that exists, and people expect you to know some shit about taxes. They don't care that you're "an auditor" because they don't know what that means. Now when you go to parties, somebody will be like, "Hey, Mark, […]
If I've learned anything from the Pirates of the Caribbean ride at Disneyland, it's that dead men tell no tales; however, the rich ones still pay taxes which is good news, especially for those who can't afford Disneyland. Some Americans are in favor of radically increasing the taxes on the rich while others want to […]
Similar to the Ohio Society of CPAs, AICPA Tax Executive Committee Jeffrey Porter's request of Congress not only to act, but to act quickly, is charming. Charming in an Ernest P. Worrell kind of way, but charming nonetheless. In written and oral testimony, Porter addressed the impact of tax uncertainty in several areas and made recommendations on behalf […]
The Hill reports that jolly orange giant John Boehner is speaking at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation today and he's telling the crowd that when Congress finally gets around to tax reform, they'll be coupled with an extension of the Bush tax cuts. “Any sudden tax hike would hurt our economy, so this fall — […]
Tax wonk Christopher Bergin has some concerns that if President Obama and Congress don't do something some about our tax system between now and the end of the year, a bomb will go off: If Congress and the President do nothing about our tax system between now and the end of the year, here are just […]
You may remember that last Wednesday I put my grown-up clothes on and attended the PCAOB's open meeting on auditor rotation. It was a good discussion (relatively speaking) and I got chat with some pretty smart people. I can't work a room of old white men like Adrienne (few can), but Chairman James Doty seemed […]
House Republicans on Tuesday declined to recognize a House Democrat who was trying to speak about the need for Congress to quickly resolve its differences about how to extend the payroll tax cut. Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Ala.) gaveled today's pro forma session to order at about 2 p.m. After the House prayer and Pledge of […]
In January, the tax world was still reeling from the extension of the Bush-era tax rate cuts signed into law in December. It also allowed rich people who died in 2010 to go to their rest without paying estate taxes, making George Steinbrenner a happy ghost. It also allowed living taxpayers to make tax-free […]
A long-overdue measure to limit state taxation of non-residents has cleared its first committee, reports the Tax Policy Blog. The House Judiciary Committee approved H.R. 1864, the Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act, which provides:
An employee’s wages or other remuneration shall be subject to state income tax only in either:
-the employee’s state of residence, or
-a state where the employee is present and performing employment duties for more than 30 days during the calendar year. A day counts if the employee performs more employment duties in that state than in any other state during that day. Travel time does not count.
For traveling taxpayers, that’s good news. Lord knows how many loyal Going Concern readers flit from state to state in their unceasing efforts to ensure that the Nation’s financial statements are fairly stated in all material respects. But it’s also bad news — it reminds us that right now you can be taxable in a state after spending as little as a day there.
Why are the states so greedy? Think of LeBron James. When he visits the Staples Center to beat up the Clippers, the home team may lose, but the Franchise Tax Board wins every time. But the tax law in its majesty applies as much to the newbie auditor sent to count vegetables as to LeBron.
Fortunately for our auditor, the firm will probably tell her how much of her income is taxable in each state. Unfortunately, it won’t do all of the extra tax returns she will have to file in all of the exciting states a modern jet-setting auditor may visit.
H.R. 1864 is a long way from perfect. Its biggest flaw is that it doesn’t protect visiting entertainers or athletes. Sure, LeBron can afford the tax help to file in a couple dozen states, but the same rules apply to minor league ballplayers, comedians trying to become senators, and your friendly struggling road band. Still, anything that helps abused staff accountants isn’t all bad.
The proposal is a long ways from becoming law. The high tax states hate any limitations on their ability to pick visitor pockets. Still, it’s nice to have at least a glimmer of hope for sanity.
It’s a pretty sad reflection of the current state of affairs in my homebase of Washington, DC if the IRS, Paris Hilton, Nixon circa Watergate and the BP oil spill have a higher approval rating than the 112th Congress.
According to Chris Cillizza in WaPo, the only thing less popular than Congress is Fidel Castro.
And as we already know, the Fed is less popular than the IRS too.
The NPR funding debate is a litmus test of how serious Congress in general and Republicans in particular are about spending cuts. If Congress can’t even cut NPR it is a sign that deficits are here to stay and . . .dare I say it . . .tax hikes will be necessary. Or perhaps you don’t care that your children will be paying big chunks of their diminished incomes to the Chinese. [Martin Sullivan/Tax.com]
Despite the setback that was the creation of the PCAOB, the Big 4 have to be pret-tay, pret-tay, pret-tay pleased with the privacy they get when it comes to the Board’s disciplinary actions.
Perpetually-acting chair Dan Goelzer wrote a letter to the Senate Banking and House Financial Services Committees saying that by keeping the proceedings mysterio and out of the public eye. The current arrangement “gives firms and auditors an incentive to drag out litigation, sometimes for years,” and that simply won’t do.
Despite the general public’s disinterest in all things accounting (until the shit hits the fan, of course), the Board is still trying to find its place as the relatively new kid on the bureaucratic block. This request seems to be an attempt at fitting in:
The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board’s proposal would repeal a requirement that its disciplinary actions remain secret, according to a copy of the document reviewed by Dow Jones.
The public now is denied access to information about accountants that have been sanctioned or charged by the PCAOB, acting Chairman Daniel Goelzer said in an Aug. 24 letter to several members of the Senate Banking Committee and House Financial Services Committee.
Since the federal government has been all about transparency lately, it would be surprising for Congress to take the Board up on the offer. The problem is, it won’t really do much to speed anything along and transparency will remain an issue. If you remember, last month the SEC issued its final rule on the PCAOB appeals process that goes into effect next week.
That rule will: allow firms to dispute findings during the inspection process; prohibit the PCAOB from making those disputed findings public until the SEC investigation is completed and the SEC still has the option to make findings permanently private, if it so chooses.
So even if Congress is convinced that the PCAOB’s plan to make the proceedings public is utter genius , accounting firms will still be able to drag things along (and keep things secret) as they see fit.
“Instead of reprising their partisan, tiresome, and largely unproductive argument about what to do with the Bush tax cuts, President Obama and Congress ought to be asking a very different question: How do we build a tax system capable of generating the revenues we need to fund the government we want in the most efficient and fair way possible?”
As Tax Cuts’ Expiration Date Nears, Little Consensus [WSJ]
“Lawmakers are negotiating a tax bill, but appear increasingly likely to wait until after the November election to take any final action that could anger voters—either by raising taxes, or by cutting them and thereby deepening deficits. Congress ultimately could decide to extend current tax levels for just a few months, leaving the issue for the next Congress to settle. Another option is a short-term extension of a year or two, avoiding for now the huge cost to the Treasury of a permanent extension. It’s even possible Congress might fail to take any action this year.”
From Jail, Conrad Black Fights $71 Million Tax Bill [Forbes]
“Imprisoned former media baron Conrad M. Black is fighting a $71 million bill from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, which says from 1998 to 2003 he filed no tax returns and paid absolutely nothing on $120 million in taxable income.
In a previously unreported lawsuit in U.S. Tax Court, Black, now serving a six-and-a-half-year-sentence in a Florida federal prison, is challenging the IRS’ demands and asserting the income in question wasn’t taxable in the U.S.”
Americans More Optimistic on Economy Than Their Own Finances, Survey Says [Bloomberg]
Who said Americans only think about themselves? “Americans are generally hopeful, and much of the economic news leads us to conclude that we are out of the recession and a double dip is unlikely,” said Robert Glovsky, chair of the CFP Board and director of Boston University’s program for financial planners. “With that said, most Americans have not planned well for their futures.”
Harvey Golub Resigns as AIG Chairman [WSJ]
“A weeks-long standoff between the chairman and chief executive of government-controlled American International Group Inc. ended Wednesday, when Chairman Harvey Golub resigned, saying, ‘I believe it is easier to replace a chairman than a CEO.’
Mr. Golub’s decision marks a victory for Robert Benmosche, the company’s hard-charging chief, who chafed under Mr. Golub’s oversight. Mr. Benmosche had told the board their working relationship was ‘ineffective and unsustainable,’ Mr. Golub said in his resignation letter.”
FASB hires expert to review how new rules perform [Reuters]
“Mark Schroeder, a recently retired senior partner at Deloitte & Touche [DLTE.UL], will serve as the board’s first “post-implementation review leader” and also serve a similar role for the Governmental Accounting Standards Board, FASB said.
The hiring of Schroeder is one of the big steps that FASB has taken to formalize its process for review of how new standards are performing. Banks and investors had complained during the financial crisis that FASB’s new rules on mark-to-market accounting had contributed to freezing the credit markets, but there was no formal process for reviewing the rules.”
Jonathan Weil over at Bloomberg has a new column up today and he is less enthusiastic about the Supreme Court decision in FEF v. PCAOB than say, everyone else.
JW is mostly wondering why we should keep having an “independent” PCAOB inside the SEC since the board members will now be at the mercy of the towing the political line inside the Commission, “While the court
Congress has been twisting itself into knots to pass 70-odd special interest “expiring provisions” this spring, though without success. These provisions that have come within one or two votes of being extended one more time are almost all special-interest provisons, providing tax breaks or direct cash subsidies to folks like biodiesel producers and race-track operators.
Meanwhile, the grandaddy of all expiring provisions goes largely unmentioned. Without new legislation, 24 million additional taxpayers will pay alternative minimum tax this year. That will happen because the AMT exemption for joint returns will fall from $70,950 to $45,000, and from $46,700 to $33,750 for single filers.
The AMT is a shadow tax system with fewer deductions and credits and a different rate schedule; it only applies when it gives a higher tax than the “regular” income tax. The reduction of regular tax rates in 2001 brought the regular and AMT brackets much closer, threatening to bring millions of voters into the AMT system. Congress has been passing “patches” to raise the AMT exemption for a year or two at a time since 2001 to avoid that. The last “patch” expired at the end of 2009.
An unpatched AMT would hit hardest taxpayers in the $100,000-$500,000 income range. Congress doesn’t want to anger that many potential campaign contributors. But where will Congress find the $68 billion or so of income that the AMT is budgeted to raise next year without a patch? The six month unemployment extension failed yesterday in the Senate because it would have increased the deficit by $34 billion.
So what will happen? Presumably an AMT patch will pass to appease voters as the election approaches, deficits be damned. Still, that’s not certain, especially in the current political environment.
So what can taxpayers do? They should start by projecting their tax for 2010. If you have one, your tax preparer is likely to have software to enable you to run the projection. If you use home tax software, it may also include a tax projection feature. Otherwise, you will have to use a 2009 copy of Form 6251, but using the reduced 2010 exemption amounts. Then you should fiddle with some items that affect AMT:
• The timing of your state and local tax payments.
• The timing of your miscellaneous itemized deductions.
• The timing of your capital gains, including capital losses.
Don’t be surprised if you find you have alternative minimum tax no matter what you do, especially if you live in a high-tax state. Then call your Congresscritter and ask for your patch.
House Vote Sends Finance Overhaul to Senate [WSJ]
“The House agreed Wednesday to a sweeping rewrite of the nation’s financial regulations, moving the initiative one step closer to becoming law.
Focus now shifts to the Senate, where questions linger about whether Democrats have nailed down enough support from the handful of Republicans needed to overcome a likely filibuster. The Senate won’t take up the bill until after the July 4 recess, creating an awkward pause in which the bill’s opponents will have one last chance to derail it.”
Google to Add Pay to Cover a Tax for Same-Sex Benefits [NYT]
“On Thursday, Google is going to begin covering a cost that gay and lesbian employees must pay when their partners receive domestic partner health benefits, largely to compensate them for an extra tax that heterosexual married couples do not pay. The increase will be retroactive to the beginning of the year.
‘It’s a fairly cutting edge thing to do,’ said Todd A. Solomon, a partner in the employee benefits department of McDermott Will & Emery, a law firm in Chicago, and author of ‘Domestic Partner Benefits: An Employer’s Guide.’
Google is not the first company to make up for the extra tax. At least a few large employers already do. But benefits experts say Google’s move could inspire its Silicon Valley competitors to follow suit, because they compete for the same talent.”
Senate chairman starts probe of Transocean’s taxes [AP]
Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) would like to know whether Transocean’s move offshore was an exploitation of U.S. tax law, “The chairman of the Senate Finance Committee is launching an investigation into the tax practices of Transocean Ltd., owner of the Deepwater Horizon rig that exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, leading to the massive oil spill.”
Sadly, this will lead nowhere since exploitation ≠ illegal in this case. Deplorable? Yes. Tax malfeasance? No. Political pandering? Absolutely.
Deloitte CEO Barry Salzberg Wins Executive of the Year – Services at the 8th Annual American Business Awards [PR Newswire]
It’s a Stevie award! BS beat out Jeffrey Bezos, chairman, president and CEO, Amazon.com; Dominic Barton, managing director of McKinsey & Company; and Joseph Neubauer, chairman and CEO of ARAMARK for the Stevie.
In his own words, “I am very honored by this recognition, which truly is a testament to Deloitte’s progress and the industry-leading work of our more than 40,000 people in the United States. Although we have faced challenging economic times in the past few years, Deloitte’s diverse portfolio of quality services and investment in talent continue to drive our business and differentiate us in the marketplace. We are eager to approach the opportunities that await us and our clients in the economic upturn.”
GAAP and IFRS: Six Degrees of Separation [CFO]
That is, six major differences between the two sets of rules that will have to be ironed out. Namely: error correction, LIFO, reversal of impairments, PP&E valuation, component depreciation and development costs. After that, this convergence thing will be a breeze.
The New York Times has interesting story on Dan Duncan, a Houston billionaire who couldn’t beat death but his heirs may just beat the taxes thanks to Congress falling asleep at the wheel.
Duncan did all right for himself. He became the richest man in Houston and was ranked 74th on Forbes’ latest list by creating a natural gas empire that he started with a couple of trucks and $10k. Getting self-made crazy rich involves a little bit of luck so now it appears that he has passed on a little of that luck on to his heirs who may be inheriting his $9 billion fortune tax-free.
The Times story says that the Treasury collected $25 billion in estate taxes in 2008. With that kind of haul how could Congress let this happen? Joe Kristan passed along a little background to us from a Tax Analysts report 2001, some time ago that explains:
Although President Bush is scheduled to sign the tax bill into law next week, the bill contains a sunset provision that invites further debate in Congress during the next decade on whether many of the provisions will become permanent or take effect at all.
Just after H.R. 1836 becomes fully phased-in and estate taxes are repealed, the entire tax cut bill would expire as of December 31, 2010, under the bill’s sunset provision unless Congress enacts new law before that date.
The sunset provision opens up a new arena for debate among conservatives who are eager to make the provisions permanent and liberals who would prefer to postpone phasing in the provisions to pay for other government programs. Meanwhile, tax planners are left questioning the final outcome as they examine the new law.
As originally designed, the bill would have extended through 2011 and made the tax cuts permanent. However, that bill would have been subject to a budgetary procedure known as the “Byrd Rule,” which requires 60 votes in the Senate to alter revenue beyond a 10-year period. To avoid the procedure, Republican taxwriters adjusted the tax cut agreement for H.R. 1836 by allowing the provisions to sunset by December 31, 2010.
Democrats have argued that the sunset provision masks the true cost of the bill because the revenue loss accounts for only nine years of the budget window and less than one year of the bill’s full effect, including repeal of the estate tax. “Not only have they increased the back-loading to hide the true cost of this tax bill, but they have actually eliminated a year from the calendar,” said Senate taxwriter Kent Conrad, D-N.D., in a May 26 floor statement. “What they have done is graduated to a whole new level of accounting gimmickry to disguise the full cost of this tax bill.”
Joe’s emphasis. He then wrote to us, “Stupid? Well, it’s Congress, what do you expect?”
Blame who you want – George W. Bush for signing the expiration into law in 2001 or the Democratic controlled Congress for letting it expire – but at this point in time, regardless of your political persuasion, Duncan’s family and other wealthy families (some wealthier than others) are catching a huge break.
The Duncans didn’t talk to the Times for the story but it does state, “Many lawyers say Mr. Duncan’s heirs have the means and motivation to wage a fierce court battle to challenge the constitutionality of any retroactive tax.”
Good for them. If Congress tries to pull a fast one on them with a retroactive tax they should fight it tooth and nail. Despite the fiscal situation facing the country, Congressional incompetence and inaction shouldn’t get a mulligan.
As a role model, Andrew Jackson has serious shortcomings, not least his penchant for genocide. But some of his policies are back in vogue, like the casual destruction of the national banking system. Taxpayers may be choosing to be like Andy in another way before the end of t had the bad fortune to get crossways with Charles Dickinson, one of the best pistol shots in Tennessee, when dueling was still fashionable. He met his antagonist across the state line in Kentucky, where duels were legal. Jackson was serious about this one, so he decided to take all the time he needed to do Dickinson in. Given Dickinson’s marksmanship, that meant accepting a bullet. Sure enough, Dickinson’s shot hit home:
The bullet struck him in the chest, where it shattered two ribs and settled in to stay, festering, for the next 39 years. Slowly he lifted his left arm and placed it across his coat front, teeth clenched. “Great God! Have I missed him?” cried Dickinson. Dismayed, he stepped back a pace and was ordered to return to stand on his mark.
Blood ran into our hero’s shoes. He raised his pistol and took aim. The hammer stuck at half cock. Coolly he drew it back, aimed again, and fired. Dickinson fell, the bullet having passed clear through him, and died shortly afterward.
Taxpayers owning C corporation stock might also want to take a bullet, figuratively speaking, this year. That’s because the tax rate on dividends will either leap or soar in 2011.
The increase in the dividend rate is a consequence of the scheduled expiration of the 2001 Bush tax cuts after this year. Prior to the Bush administration, dividends were taxed as ordinary income. As dividends are distributions of corporate income already taxed at a corporate rate as high as 35%, that meant a combined rate of 57.75%. The Bush tax cuts tied the dividend rate to the capital gain rate, now 15%.
When the Bush tax cuts expire, the capital gain rate is set to return to 20%. But without Congressional action, dividends will again be taxed as ordinary income. Given the size of the deficit, the poisonous election-year political atmosphere, and that the President promised to hold the dividend rate to 20%, it’s likely that dividends will be taxed as ordinary income in 2011. That would means a 164% increase the top dividend rate.
But wait, there’s more! Starting in 2013, Obamacare will tack another 3.8% to the top rate on investment income, resulting in a top dividend rate of of 43.4%, making the total tax increase over 189%.
This makes it tempting to take the bullet – a big 2010 dividend out of a closely-held C corporation. It will be especially attractive for shareholders who lack the ability to suck out corporate cash using the usual tricks of shareholder bonuses or rent payments.
Yes, it means taking a bullet. Taking dividends out of closely-held corporations breaks the rules of the C corporation tax planning crib book. Taxpayers go to elaborate lengths to avoid taking income before they have to. But a 189% tax increase might be enough to make some taxpayers take the bullet, like Andy, for the greater good.
Since it’s opening day for baseball, there are probably a few of you (non-tax accountants) that are at the ballpark enjoying sun, overpriced beers and, if you’re lucky, some complimentary tickets on behalf of your firm.
If you happen to be shelling out your own hard-earned money however, you’re no doubt aware that price of your tickets continue to go up season after season. Throw in $9 beers and Brother Jimmy’s BBQ and you’ll spend a small grip just to enjoy a day of sport and no work.
What’s the cause of the skyrocketing cost of attending a baseball game, you ask? The tax code of course!
That’s according to an op-ed by two professors, Duke law professor Richard Schmalbeck and Rutgers business professor Jay Soled, in today’s Times.
There are many reasons for the price explosion, but a critical factor has been the ability of businesses to write off tickets as entertainment expenses — essentially a huge, and wholly unnecessary, government subsidy.
These deductions have led to higher ticket prices in two ways. On the demand side, they have fueled competition for scarce seats, with business taxpayers bidding in part with dollars they save through the deductions.
On the supply side, the large number of businesses bidding for expensive seats has driven the expansion of luxury skyboxes and a reduction in overall seats in new ballparks.
The authors note that baseball was, until the 1970s, a “populist sport” and fans of all economic classes could attend games for a reasonable cost. Those days are long gone and the professors blame the ability of corporations to deduct business-entertainment expenses as the culprit. They state that you not need look further than the opening of the new Yankee Stadium that has “3,000 fewer seats than its 1923 predecessor but almost three times as many skybox suites.”
The professors advocate a limit on deductions for on luxury tickets to a low fixed amount (e.g. $50). They cite the outright elimination as “unrealistic” but we can’t recall at time when “realistic” and “Congress” collided in a sentence.
We agree with our esteemed colleague at ATL that if you really want to stick it to the companies who take advantage of tax code’s generous provisions, just make skybox tickets non-deductible altogether.
As the authors note, Corporate America has a love affair with sports-related perks and we’d guess that eliminating the deduction would not stop them from buying luxury tickets. The client relation types in your firms know that there is an intangible value to wooing potential clients in some comfortable confines as opposed to cramped seating in the stands with the commoners.
As we plod into the glistening new vistas of Obamacare, what sort of wonderful tax returns await us there?
The biggest change, one that will hit every 1040 from the simple 1040-EZ to the full-blown 1040 starting in 2014, will be the new “personal responsibility payment.” The PRP is the marketer’s name for a fine for not having an approved health insurance plan.
We’ve mentioned some of the weird enforcement problems this will bring – problems addressed in more technical detail here. The PRP can’t possibly work with rting – the individual numbers are just too small, and the IRS can’t audit everyone. If they are ever serious about this, there will have to be a new information reporting form issued by the health insurers, something like the 1098 form. The form will need to have the taxpayer’s social security number, and maybe some new number identifying the taxpayer’s IRS-approved health insurance plan. We’ll call this Form 1098-BCBS.
The 1040s will have a new form, or at least a new schedule – we’ll call it Schedule DRE. Schedule DRE will have a space to put the number from the 1098-BCBS, or lacking that, boxes to check for why you have failed to do your part to support health care in this great nation. If you don’t check the right boxes, there will be further lines to compute your PRP, which can range as high as 2% of your income. The final tax will carry to the taxes summary at the bottom of the second page of the 1040.
In the higher rent district, there will be new forms, or at least worksheets, to compute the two new Medicare taxes that apply starting in 2013. An additional .9% wage tax will apply to wages over $200,000 for single filers, $250,000 for joint returns, and $125,000 on married filing separate returns. While employers of single taxpayers who employ them all year will cover their tax through withholding, single job-switchers and married taxpayers will have to do this weird new computation on their 1040s somewhere. This one isn’t indexed for inflation, so we should all be there in a few years.
The wage tax computations will be childs play compared to the new 3.8% tax on “unearned income” – a phrase reeking of chutzpah, coming as it does from freaking Congress. This tax applies not only to old-fashioned investment income – interest, dividends and capital gains – but to royalties, rents, and to “passive” income from partnerships and S corporations. Auditing this tax may require all 16,000 of the new IRS agents called forth by Obamacare. “Passive” is defined here by the Sec. 469 rules, which were enacted to deal with tax shelter losses. Tax preparers will need to be very careful in distinguishing “passive” from “non-passive” income in many cases where it never used to matter.
IRS agents will have a field day trying to trip up folks who liked the income to be “passive” when it enabled them to use other losses. This will stimulate the economy of high-end tax consultants, who will quickly earn enough to qualify for the tax themselves, where they don’t already.
The unearned income tax tax will apply to the lesser of “unearned income” or the amount adjusted gross income exceeds $200,000 for single filers, $250,000 on joint returns ($125,000 on separate returns). So a new form will have to add up the “unearned” income from Schedule B, Schedule D, Schedule E, and maybe Schedule F, and compute the tax, which will also carry to the nether regions of Schedule 1040, page 2.
There will be plenty of other changes applying to 1040s between now and whenever Obamacare fully kicks in. There is a nice timetable here.
The IRS isn’t waiting to prepare to enforce these new rules. Going Concern has obtained an exclusive early draft of Schedule DRE.
First of all, the charge is an estimate of future costs and will have no immediate impact on cash flow. And the estimate is unusually large because the accounting rules require costs that would otherwise be reported in the future to be reported now, simply because they are the result of a change in tax treatment.
As my former colleague Marie Leone reports at CFO.com, such “true-ups” over differences in tax and book accounting practices are just that. The real cost will be spread out over many quarters.
More importantly, the hit is the result of a loss of a major taxpayer subsidy. Maybe it made sense before to provide that. But given all the concern about the federal deficit, it seems to me that asking shareholders to bear a bit more of the burden for retiree drug benefits is hardly unfair.
And in the greater scheme of things, the hit may be so small as to have little impact on companies’ valuations, as a Credit Suisse analyst pointed out the other day. General Electric didn’t even break out its estimate for that reason, calling the cost “immaterial.”
The question is whether companies will stop paying for the benefits because of the cost, and that’s unlikely unless they’re willing to compensate for the loss with higher wages, as economist Dean Baker reiterated to me in an email late last week.
“The standard economist view is that the cost of health care comes overwhelmingly out of wages,” Baker wrote. “If they have to pay more in taxes, then it will mostly come out of workers’ pay and have very little impact on their costs and ability to compete.”
If on the other hand, a decline in healthcare costs leads to higher wages, that would mean a stronger economy, so I don’t see how either taxpayers or shareholders will lose here in the long run.
Yes, that’s a big if, but as I’ve said before, the new healthcare law is the biggest effort to rein in costs undertaken to date. Of course more must be done, but the law will provide a big impetus to those efforts.
Hopefully, all this will become clearer as a result of the hearings Rep. Henry Waxman plans to hold next week on this issue, but I’m not holding my breath.
• GOP targets IRS in latest health battle [The Hill via TaxProf]
The GOP is still fighting the health care bill tooth and nail and this may be the most effective strategy we’ve seen so far. Forget about debating coverage, preexisting conditions, etc. etc. Just name drop the IRS and a large group of people may change their minds about the whole thing.
“This is a vast expanse of power,” said Rep. Charles Boustany Jr. (R-La.) during a Thursday call organized by Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee. He said the IRS provisions in the healthcare bill “dangerously expand, in an ominous way, the tentacles of the IRS and its reach into every American family.”
On the surface this appears to be the typical GOP “the IRS is eeeevilllll” pandering but the real concern should be that the Service already has a lot to do. The Hill reports that if taxpayers are required to purchase health care insurance but fail to do so they could face fines. The IRS would be responsible for administering and collecting these fines.
Add that to this small task, “The IRS retrieved $2.35 trillion in 2009 by processing 236 million tax returns. It also is working to reduce a $345 billion gap in the taxes it collects and should collect.” Not to mention they’re trying to update systems, answer more phone calls, getting into high speed car chases. There’s always a lot going on.
• Lehman’s Auditor Goes Blind From the Cooking [Bloomberg]
Jonathan Weil is not buying what Ernst & Young is selling. He reports that E&Y spokesman Charlie Perkins denied that the firm had “mischaracertized [the Bankruptcy Examiner’s] findings,” and characterized it this way, “[B]y E&Y’s twisted logic, it would be possible for a company to lie in its financial statements about its off-balance-sheet liabilities, and still manage to account correctly for them in the same financial statements. Imagine that.”
Weil takes off the gloves and digs up some old bodies, namely: partners recently sentenced to prison time for tax shelters; Bally’s (including vice chair Randy Fletchall); HealthSouth; Cendant (man, he’s going way back). Weil then thinks out loud, “With that kind of track record, it’s a wonder anyone would accept anything this firm says at face value again.”
• Jerry York, Iconic CFO, Dies at 71 [CFO]
Served as CFO for IBM, Chrysler. Adviser to Kirk Kerkorian and board member at Apple.
The IRS just came out with its annual “Dirty Dozen” list of tax scams. It is a useful rundown of current ways for taxpayers to create enormous trouble for themselves. While useful, it’s incomplete. It only looks at scams used by taxpayers. Hence, the Dirty Dozen Tax Policy Scams — in reverse order Letterman-style.
12. State non-conformity to federal rules – The federal tax law is complicated enough. When you have to start over in order to compute your state taxes, that’s a recipe for stupid. When you have to file in multiple states, it’s just crazy. California, the nation’s leader in bad ideas, has led the way ttp://www.rothcpa.com/archives/005787.php”>the bandwagon is getting crowded.
11. Asinine feel-good tax breaks – These are stupid tax rules passed to show us just how caring our legislators are. The bill allowing 2009 deductions for 2010 Haiti relief donations is a classic of the genre – it will cause countless people to double up on the charitable deductions, cause state tax return errors, and might well screw up return processing, all without actually helping Haiti.
10. Heads they win, tails you lose provisions – Sometimes the tax laws are designed to screw you. Gamblers are popular screw-ees. The federal tax law taxes gambling winnings above the line, but allows deductions only “below the line,” as itemized deductions, and then only to the extent of winning. If you don’t itemize, you lose. If you don’t have meticulous records, you lose on audit. And in some states, you just plain lose – you are taxed on winning bets, and losses are ignored.
9. Bait and switch tax treats – The alternative minimum tax has made this popular. They enact a politically popular tax break – say, home equity loan deductions – and they disallow it for AMT. So it’s there, but it’s useless.
8. Using the tax law to micromanage your life – Soda taxes. Insulation tax credits. Tax breaks for riding bikes to work. Will anybody ride a bike to work in Des Moines in February because of a $25 tax break? The tax law is full of… this sort of thing.
6. Economic Development Credits – Where the state economic development geniuses take your money to lure and subsidize your competitors. It’s like taking your wife’s purse to the bar to finance your pick-up efforts – the girls aren’t impressed.
5. Film tax credits – If there is a stupider approach to economic development than throwing money at Hollywood, at least this side of North Korea, it must be bipartisan.
4. Sitting on your tax refunds – The states have spent so much of your money that they don’t want to pay what they owe you. When they pay their public employees before they pay what they owe you, it shows where you rank.
3. AGI-based deduction and credit phaseouts – Almost every moronic new piddly tax break goes away as adjusted gross income goes up, whimsically embedding marginal rate spikes all over the tax code.
2. Shooting Jaywalkers – Sometimes the tax law has horrible penalties for trivial, but politically convenient, violations. The 50% of your bank balance FBAR penalty, the $10,000 automatic penalty for late international form reporting, and the insane Section 409A penalties for deferred compensation foot-faults are the kind of penalties that are almost perfectly designed to hammer honesty and reward sneakiness.
1. Expiring provisions – This cynical game enacts popular provisions (see AMT patch and research credit) one year at a time, so that the budgeters don’t have to count the real 5-year cost. The congresscritters, of course, have no intention of letting these things expire, and they often enact foolish permanent tax changes to fund another temporary extension.
Sadly, there’s one key difference between tax policy scams and the Dirty Dozen Tax Scams. You can go to jail if you use a Dirty Dozen Tax Scam, but if you use a dirty dozen tax policy scam, you just stay in Congress forever and ever, amen.
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.