Home Buyer Tax Credit Price Tag: $22 Billion [WSJ]
“The total estimated cost of the home buyer tax credits is about $22 billion, according to a report released by the Government Accountability Office last week. The report looked at all three of the tax credits, which were in effect from April 2008 through June 30, 2010.
As we’ve written, the credits did a lot to juice sales. But many have argued that the government incentives basically pulled folks who were already planning to the market earlier. And certainly, we’ve been seeing the post-credit hangover: Home resales dropped to record lows in July. Talk of a housing double-dip is in the air.”
How GM Made $30 Billion Appear From Thin Air [Jonathan Weil/Bloomberg]
General Motors somehow ended up with $30 billion in goodwill on their balance sheet that was on their recent registration statement. Funny thing – the company only has equity of $23.9 billion. Another funny thing – the company said that the goodwill number would have been less if they were a better credit risk.
But don’t worry, apparently this is all in accordance with fresh-start accounting.
Bringing the US on board [Accountancy Age]
“Sir David is a realist – the two accounting codes will never match. ‘There’s absolutely no way [international standards] can converge with US GAAP – you can’t converge two and a half thousand pages with seventeen and a half thousand. There are going to be differences,’ he said.”
The New Threat To Your IRA: An IRS Crackdown [Forbes]
“After years of haphazard enforcement, the Internal Revenue Service is starting to systematically search out violations of the convoluted rules governing individual retirement accounts. There’s a lot at stake. Americans hold $4.3 trillion in IRAS, and the cost of even innocent mistakes can be steep; if you miss taking a required payout from your IRA, Uncle Sam will demand half of the amount you forgot to take as a penalty.
The IRS was prodded to act by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. In a report earlier this year it concluded that IRA violations have been growing and estimated that more than half a million taxpayers either missed required payouts or contributed more than allowed to IRAS during 2006 and 2007.”
Grant Thornton responds to non-executive code [FT]
“Grant Thornton has become the first major UK auditor to respond to new governance rules by announcing the appointment of independent non-executive directors to help oversee its business.
The accountant’s UK arm said on Wednesday that it had recruited Richard Eyre, a media industry veteran, Caroline Goodall, a lawyer, and Ed Warner, the head of the governing body for UK athletics, to fill the posts.”
Thomson Reuters Releases First iPhone(R) App for Tax and Accounting Professionals [PR Newswire]
“The Tax & Accounting business of Thomson Reuters is pleased to announce the release of Mobile CS, a first-of-its-kind iPhone app for tax and accounting professionals. Using advanced mobile application technology, this comprehensive practice management tool extends the reach of Practice CS(R) from desktop to iPhone, giving more than 60,000 Practice CS users the ability to access key firm, staff, and client data anytime, anywhere.”
Glaxo Taps Goldman Deal Maker as Finance Chief [WSJ]
“GlaxoSmithKline PLC Wednesday chose Simon Dingemans, a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. deal maker, to be its next chief financial officer but said the choice won’t change its cautious approach to mergers and acquisitions.
Mr. Dingemans, 47 years old, will succeed Julian Heslop, who will retire from the post at the end of March. Mr. Dingemans has advised Glaxo on an ad-hoc basis over the years and is currently managing director and partner with Goldman Sachs in London. He joins the U.K.’s biggest drug maker as chief financial officer designate and executive director from Jan. 4, 2011. He most recently worked with Glaxo to establish ViiV Healthcare, GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer Inc.’s joint venture for AIDS drugs.”
Gun-slinging accountant loses Chapter 7 battle [South Florida Business Journal]
“Jay Levin, a Boca Raton accountant who shot and killed a teenager in 2003, has lost his battle to erase a $750,000 judgment related to the shooting.
Levin shot Mark Drewes, his 16-year-old neighbor, in the back after the teen rang Levin’s doorbell in a “ding-dong-ditch” prank one night, according to motions in Levin’s Chapter 7 bankruptcy case.
Levin had filed the bankruptcy in February, alleging he couldn’t pay the $750,000 judgment from a 2007 civil lawsuit Drewes’ parents had filed against him. Levin paid $102,260 of the judgment, but still owes the remainder”
No legislation is perfect though, amiright? You’ve got to take the good with the bad. The latest of the bad comes courtesy of everyone’s favorite bureaucratic nagging mother-in-law, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. The TIGTA has come out with a new report that shows that the FTHBTC program hasn’t really gotten any better at weeding out the unscrupulous activity.
TIGTA estimates that 14,132 individuals received erroneous credits totaling at least $26.7 million. These erroneous credits included:
• 2,555 taxpayers receiving credits totaling $17.6 million for homes purchased prior to the dates allowed by law.
• 1,295 prisoners receiving credits totaling $9.1 million who were incarcerated at the time they reported that they purchased their home. These prisoners did not file joint returns, so their claims could not have been the result of purchases made with or by their spouses. Further, TIGTA found that 241 prisoners were serving life sentences at the time they claimed that they bought new primary residences.
•10,282 taxpayers receiving credits for homes that were also used by other taxpayers to claim the credit. (In one case, TIGTA found that 67 taxpayers were using the same home to claim the credit.) TIGTA auditors have not fully quantified the total of these erroneous credits, but all indications are that the total will be in the tens of millions of dollars.
But wait! There’s good news! Inspector General J. Russell George was happy to report that there has been improvements, “The good news is that the IRS has made significant strides resolving problems associated with this program. For example, no minors received the Credit, according to our report.”
Progress! They’ve managed to keep the under-eighteen crowd under control. But do we prefer this to prisoners doing life getting our tax dollars? Seems like a toss-up.
“Yes, it is a success, if the objective was to demonstrate that people will take free money if you give it to them.”
– Joe Kristan, explaining the success of the homebuyer tax credit program, which ends today.
So 47% of our nation’s households will pay no federal income tax this year. Well, stick it to those rich people, then! Help the deserving poor, like Buffy Richgirl.
Buffy is a struggling 26-year single mom with three kids and a checkered romantic history. Yet she does the best she can, earning $16,500 in various jobs in 2009 while taking courses in applied tattoology at the local college, while Mom helps with the kids.
Let’s see how a beneficent tax law helps this struggling mom make ends meet.
Some key facts:
Name: Buffy Richgirl.
Filing status: Head of Household, because of 3 dependent kids – Biff, Cloyd and Muffy.
Income: $16,500, all salary, no withholding.
Housing status: Daddy gave her $200,000 in 2008 to buy a house, which she bought in December 2009. She formerly lived in various apartments or with Daddy.
Educational status: She’s taking tattoo technology courses half-time at the local college (her Mom helps out with the kids), where she ran up $3500 in qualified expenses.
Prospects: She’s the beneficiary of a trust from late Grandpa that will kick out $5 million when she hits age 30, but which distributes nothing right now.
Other cash sources: She gets occasional non-taxable child support, and she has a non-interest bearing checking account with some Daddy cash.
The tax results? Adjusted Gross Income: $16,500. Taxable Income: $0. Taxes withheld and paid: $0. Tax refund: $17,009.
So how did our heroine double her income via her 1040? Through the miracle of “refundable credits” – tax credits that generate a refund even if your tax computes to zero. She wins with:
Don’t believe me? Look at her 1040 for yourself:
So what’s the point? It’s very hard to fine-tune the tax law. That’s especially true with refundable tax credits. No matter how carefully you try to “target” a group with tax benefits, there will be collateral unjust enrichment.
Now don’t you feel better about that check you have to send IRS next week?
That the First-time Homebuyers Credit is riddled with fraud is old news. Like all refundable credits, where the government writes you a check if the credit exceeds the tax shown on your return, it’s a magnet for grifters. What’s new is cross-agency efforts enable First-Time Homebuyer Credit fraud, with video.
James O’Keefe, notorious for donning pimpwear and taping ACORN officials happily facilitating tax fraud and child prostitution, and then for getting arrested in Louisiana, took his act to Detroit and Chicago offices of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development posing as a tax credit scammer. One conversation went like this:
The law says that the tax credit maxes out at $8,000 for an $80,000 home. On the tape, O’Keefe asked a staffer, “What if I bought a place for $50,000, but the seller and I agreed to write down $80,000 as the purchase price?”
“Flip it any way you want,” the staffer replied.
What if the place is worth much less — like only $6,000?
“Yup, you can do that.”
This version of the Homebuyer Credit scam can get around the checks the IRS has in place to prevent fraud. The primary IRS anti-fraud check for the homebuyer credit is a requirement that a copy of an HUD-1 form or settlement statement be attached to the 1040 claiming the credit. If the buyer and seller collude to dummy up a HUD-1 form, the “buyer” is reasonably likely to get the credit as long as there isn’t some other item on the return that flags it – such as an address that’s different from the one for the “home” on the settlement statement.
The scammers wouldn’t be out of the woods by any means. The IRS might well catch up with the scammers. But then again, they might not, or if they did, the money could be long gone. For someone living in in a Detroit neighborhood where houses sell for as little as $1,000, splitting $8,000 with a scammer might be one of the less-risky opportunities at hand.