AICPA Protests Disclosures of Uncertain Tax Positions [Web CPA]
The AICPA has come out against the IRS’ uncertain tax positions proposal, saying “it should withdraw its proposed rule that would require companies with more than $10 million in total assets to disclose uncertain tax positions on a new schedule.”
The AICPA is not so hot on the idea of the IRS wading into the financial reporting waters, “We understand that the UTP proposal does not change the underlying rules for financial reporting, but believe overlaying a tax disclosure construct on the financial reporting system introduces a dynamic which could work at cross purposes with the original and fundamental purpose of the financial reporting rules.”
Haitian recovery needs accountants [Accountancy Age]
Nearly five months after the Earthquake in Haiti things are recovering slowly. Financial records for the government and private business have had two considerably different experiences:
[T]he finance ministry’s financial controls and systems are now being restored after its headquarters were destroyed. The World Bank has helped this critical process, placing accounting experts with the ministry.
As for the private sector, Laforest said many companies’ financial systems had survived thanks to accounting software packages, whose data had been uploaded to cloud computing remote data sumps on the internet. But bills, receipts and other paper records vital for making tax returns had been lost where offices collapsed.
And creating proper controls around the donations process has been crucial for organizing those funds. According to one volunteer, “[W]ithout proper controls, the money that you and your friends and your government have given might as well be left in a big bucket in the middle of the market with a sign saying ‘biggest at the front, smallest at the back.’”
Pot could bring in $400K for D.C. [Post Now/WaPo]
The District’s Council is expected to vote on June 15th on a provision that would levy a 6% sales tax on ganj sold there. At an approximate price of $350 an ounce, each bag would yield $21 for DC and would be expected to raise $400k in the next 5 years.
Tweedie replacement must juggle dual roles [Accountancy Age]
The candidates for the IASB chair are dwindling but most people seem to agree that having the role split into “Chair” and “CEO” roles might benefit the Board. “Richard Sexton, head of audit at PwC, suggested the role should be split.” And BDO’s sometime blogger and International CEO Jeremy Newman chimes in, “It’s unrealistic to expect one person to cover both.”
Also, whoever fills the big chair can’t be a über double-entry geek or just a crafty political type to heavy one way or the other. Most think that it needs to be a balance of both, although the preference of which is more important is debatable, including one Deloitte partner’s point of view, “If you don’t understand the accounting, you won’t be able to do the diplomacy around the debate,” versus Grant Thornton, “At this stage in the IASB’s life, we would place political awareness ahead of technical [knowledge] for the chair, but of course the chair must be technically astute.”
PwC loses ruling on big Pa. healthcare bankruptcy [Reuters]
We’re a little late to the party on this one – holiday and all – but we’ll get you caught up. Allegheny Health, Education and Research Foundation (“AHERF”), a large Pittsburgh hospital system, sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 1998 with over $1.3 billion in debt. Unsecured creditors of AHERF accused Coopers & Lybrand of “conspiring with AHERF officials in the 1996 and 1997 fiscal years to hide the increasingly dire financial health of the Pittsburgh-based system.”
In 2007, a District Court in ruled that the creditors could not recover any damages from PwC on behalf of AHERF due to “a legal doctrine governing cases of equal fault, concluding AHERF was at least as much at fault as PwC.”
The Third Circuit Court of Appeals finally got the case on their docket and unanimously overturned the ruling saying that PwC could be liable if they had “not dealt materially in good faith with the client-principal.” The Third Circuit also disagreed with the lower court’s finding that misstated financial statements could have a short-term benefit to AHERF, saying “‘a knowing, secretive, fraudulent misstatement of corporate financial information’ cannot benefit a company.”
Zipcar Files for a $75 Million I.P.O. [DealBook]
The car-sharing company announced yesterday that it has filed for a $75 million offering to pay off debt and pay for general expenses as it plans to expand its business in the U.S. and Britain. DealBook reports that the company, founded in 2000, has lost money every year and warned in its S-1 filing that it might not become profitable as it incurs significant expenses in the expansion.
Man accused of ‘bomb bag’ threat at IRS office [SF Chronicle]
Lawrence Rios was charged yesterday for allegedly threatening an IRS employee after he handed the woman a note that read “bomb bag” and patted his backpack, insinuating that he had more than trail mix in there, in August of last year. This occurred after the employee had been assisting him for 10 minutes. We’d hate to see how he reacts at the post office.
SEC Is Boosting Scrutiny of Offshore Accounting, Fagel Says [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
Shoddy accounting practices that were/are rampant in the U.S. – revenue recognition and outright fraud – have not been rooted out offshore, so the Commission is looking to tighten up the controls and practices of foreign subsidiaries. Marc Fagel, head of the SEC’s San Francisco office told Bloomberg, “They’re not doing that so much in San Jose, but they may have a Hong Kong office where they haven’t figured out they’re doing that, or that it’s a problem.” The San Fran office is looking to add a dozen attorneys and accountants to help with the Commission’s efforts.
Altria to pay $971 million in taxes, interest to IRS [Reuters]
The payment settles a dispute between the company (aka Philip Morris) and the Service over its 2000 to 2003 tax returns.
For those of you keeping score, the ballpark figure of “wealth” is “in the neighborhood of tens of million of dollars,” according to IRS Commish Doug Shulman’s best guess. So if this is you, the time is nigh. You peasants whose net worth falls into the seven figure range probably can rest easy but don’t get too comfortable, you’re still at risk.
And don’t think that this will be a friendly visit between you, your CPA and an IRS representative. No, this will likely be a financial strip search that will be topped off with a latex surgical glove moseying around your nether regions.
This will not be a kick-the-tires type of exam. Instead, think in terms of a major overhaul. Global High Wealth taxpayers and their representatives should expect to confront teams of revenue agents, partnership experts, and international examiners prepared to scrub not only the Forms 1040 and the attached schedules but also any and all related returns. In the background will be specialists in such areas as financial instruments; exempt organizations; retirement plans (whether individually maintained or employer sponsored) and insurance and annuity arrangements.
Granted this is just how Don Rocen, the article’s author (and former deputy chief counsel at the IRS) pictures it but…yeeesh. If you want to come out with your hands up, think they’ll go easy on you?
IRS ‘Wealth Squads’ On The Way [Forbes]
In a show of understanding for nonprofits who may have been completely unaware of the Form 990 requirement in place for the last three years, IRS commissioner Doug Shulman sent out a really sweet letter encouraging smaller NFPs to go ahead and file anyway even though the deadline has come and gone.
Now that the May 17 filing deadline has passed, it appears that many small tax-exempt organizations have not filed the required information return in time. These organizations are vital to communities across the United States, and I understand their concerns about possibly losing their tax-exempt status.
The IRS has conducted an unprecedented outreach effort in the tax-exempt sector on the 2006 law’s new filing requirements, but many of these smaller organizations are just now learning of the May 17 deadline. I want to reassure these small organizations that the IRS will do what it can to help them avoid losing their tax-exempt status.
The IRS will be providing additional guidance in the near future on how it will help these organizations maintain their important tax-exempt status — even if they missed the May 17 deadline. The guidance will offer relief to these small organizations and provide them with the opportunity to keep their critical tax-exempt status intact.
So I urge these organizations to go ahead and file — even though the May 17 deadline has passed.
The Service assures us that the 990 e-Postcard is simple and easy to fill out, no need to drag your CPA into this mess.
Though the IRS sent friendly reminders to 600,000 charities over the 3 years this new rule has been effect, up to 215,000 charities may have missed the May 17th deadline. Seriously, it isn’t too late. Someone get on that.
There were complaints that the IRS was swamped with last-minute 990 filers (go figure) rushing to meet last week’s deadline so we’re going to guess that when Shulman says it’s okay to send those forms in anyway, he kind of means it. And perhaps that will teach everyone to file on time next year.
Grant Thornton moves D.C. office [Washington Business Journal]
GT DC is moving from its cushy confines of 19,450-square-feet at 1900 M St. NW to 15,190-square-feet at 1250 Connecticut Ave. NW.
Mary Moore Hamrick, the company’s national managing principal of public policy thinks this move is crucial saying, “Grant Thornton’s public policy group is taking a more proactive role in shaping the dialogue on accounting issues. This move will support the public policy group’s expansion as we seek to do our part in restoring confidence in the capital markets.” Better feng shui probably.
AICPA Survey Shows US CPAs Gaining in Awareness of International Financial Reporting Standards [AICPA Press Release]
CPAs are less clueless on IFRS, sayeth the AICPA:
The latest AICPA tracking survey shows a sustained shift toward greater awareness of International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) among U.S. accountants. Nearly half, 47 percent, of CPAs in the survey conducted April 20 to May 7 said that they already have basic knowledge of IFRS, an advancement from 39 percent who had basic knowledge in October 2008. At the same time, there has been a continuing decline in the number of CPAs who say they have no knowledge of IFRS; 16 percent in the latest survey, down from 30 percent in October 2008.
U.S. Supreme Court upholds IRS power in tax case [Reuters]
Those super secret corporate legal documents that discuss contingent liabilities? The IRS may be able to request them whenever they like, as the Supreme Court upheld a First Circuit ruling by denying certiorarit in the case.
In U.S. v. Textron, Inc., the company claimed that such documentation was privileged. The First Circuit disagreed:
[I]n its ruling against Textron, set a new test, under which every party in commercial litigation whose opponents file financial statements with contingent liabilities for litigation will be able to obtain documents detailing such exposure, according to Douglas Stransky, an attorney at Sullivan and Worchester in Boston who represents corporate clients.
“The First Circuit’s decision has eviscerated the work product protection that exists to protect exactly the type of attorney analysis that was present in this case,” he said. “It’s surprising that the Supreme Court did not recognize this.”
Florida Keys inmate pleads guilty in IRS scam [Miami Herald]
Shawn Clarke, an inmate at a Florida prison, pleaded guilty to conspiracy yesterday as the ringleader to a tax fraud scam in which he requested bogus refunds from the IRS in the amount of $115,000. It wasn’t exactly a complicated scam, as the inmates and their family members submitted 1040EZ forms along with Form 4852 to request the refunds, all for around $5,000.
Clarke was convinced that this was the best idea ever, allegedly saying, “I’m through with the street crime. I’m strictly white collar from now on. I love the IRS.” He’s looking at an additional 10 years.
Crisis Probes Fail to Meet High Bar [WSJ]
Late on Friday, former AIG executive Joseph Cassano learned that he wouldn’t face criminal charges for his actions as the head of the company’s Financial Products division. According to the Journal, prosecutors did come close to filing criminal charges against Cassano and others but it was felt that the high burden of proof that “there was criminal intent behind executives’ decisions and that they intentionally misled investors” could not be met.
The government isn’t quite finished with Cassano, as he still may face civil charges from the SEC, which has a lower standard of proof.
The SEC’s Mary Schapiro on the Myths of GAAP/IFRS Convergence: The Lady Doth Protest Too Much [Re:Balance]
Jim Peterson took a closer look at Mary Schaprio’s speech at the annual conference of Chartered Financial Analysts where she mentioned IFRS but also convergence efforts between the IASB and the FASB. The SEC has maintained that convergence should be the initial goal for reporting standards.
Jim is concerned that the gap between the ultimate goal of convergence and the reality of some of the key issues at stake are no small feat:
There is, indeed, no more eloquent concession of the “convergence gap” than Schapiro’s own admission that “US GAAP and IFRS are currently not converged in a number of key areas,” including “the accounting for financial assets (the very types of securities at the center of the financial crisis), revenue recognition, consolidation principles, and leases.”
Any other problems, Madame Chairman? These on her list are so comprehensively grave that they will keep the international standards standoff alive until the end of time.
Which would put IFRS on a even longer track to adoption.
IRS audits of schools might delve into salaries of coaches [USAToday]
The IRS’ interest in the determination of the highest paid employees for colleges and universities has a few people worried. Not necessarily because anything is wrong but because the IRS is just a scary beast, “John D. Colombo, a University of Illinois law professor who has written about tax exemption and college athletics, says he doesn’t think the IRS action will fundamentally alter college athletics business. But he adds, ‘Audits are never comfortable. Just the IRS being there asking questions makes people nervous.'”
Primarily, the IRS is concerned over the business activities that higher education institutions engage in that aren’t “related to the schools’ primary purpose.” The interest in athletic coaches’ salaries is such that these individuals are often some of the highest paid employees of the school. The IRS is interested in how colleges and universities justify these salaries and to ensure that corporate sponsorships (not considered to be a business activity) are complying with certain rules so they are not considered advertising revenue.
A taste of the June 6th premiere of The IRS (+) Hitman:
And if you think that’s interesting, there’s more:
Is there a complete sentence in there somewhere? Try the next one.
You hear that? How can you live with yourselves IRS? Stealing money from this Jonas Brothers wannabe family that won’t be able to stand around the kitchen eating cheese whiz out of the jar with their hands! No mercy indeed. If you have an IRS injustice story, you better get in touch with this Hitman character.
If you feel like nothing in life is ever certain, know this – John Daly will always be a weight fluctuating, chain-smoking, boozehound. And every once in awhile, he’ll have some serious money trouble or just go completely broke.
This is usually followed up with a major win which is then followed up by a total blow-up at the next tournament that may or may not involve Big John ending up passed out pantless on the 18th green in the middle of the night.
The guy has managed to make $9 million throughout his career yet still owes the IRS over a $1 million in back taxes for ’07 and ’08, according to a lien filed with filed by the Service with Shelby County.
His house in Memphis is apparently for sale, for just a smidge under $700k. So if you’re in the market, help the guy out.
Judging by the pics, you’ll have to schlep in your own kegerator and you’ll likely have to replace the carpet due to the ubiquitous cigarette burns but it still looks like a pretty nice pad.
IRS grips, rips golfer John Daly [Tax Watchdog]
You know, you’d think with all the challenges the IRS faces – airplanes, llelo/baking powder scares, virtual Tea Partiers – one would think that when on a collection call, agents would apply a spoonful of sugar to help the financial rectal exam go down.
Sadly, we’re informed over at Tax Lawyer’s Blog that it’s typically much more devious than that:
Often, when a taxpayer speaks to a low-level IRS official about a tax issue the official tells him one or more of the following:
• You must pay the debt or you will be criminally prosecuted
• If you don’t pay the debt in full within so many days, your assets will be seized
• It’s a waste of money to hire an attorney
As noted Peter Pappas notes, these three points are, in a word, gobbledygook.
Despite how much you might not want to admit it, attorneys are always useful in legal situations, especially complex ones. You might be able to get out of a traffic ticket on your own but probably not a tax case. An expert is needed (whether it’s a lawyer, CPA or EA). Further, as the post notes, these collectors are not the tax sages that they might present themselves to be, “[T]hese IRS officials are wholly unqualified to give legal advice to taxpayers. They aren’t lawyers, CPAs, or IRS Enrolled Agents and in the great majority of cases lack a substantial background and education in the intricacies of federal tax law.”
And there is the small matter of the agent acting in the best interest of the Federal Government so the modern day Matthew isn’t exactly in the best position to be giving the taxpayer advice.
IRS Collection Officials Intentionally Mislead Taxpayers [Tax Lawyer’s Blog via Tax Update Blog]
A federal grand jury has indicted West Carrollton club owner and Brookville resident Stanley W. Combs III on the charges of one count of operating an illegal gambling business and four counts of making false statements on federal income tax returns…
…The indictment alleges Combs substantially under-reported the income he received as the owner and operator of Fraternal Order of Orioles, Nest 293 at 842 Watertower Lane in West Carrollton and a related entity at 10955 Lower Valley Pike in Medway, Ohio.
There’s no indication that an H&R Block employee advised this particular alleged tax dodger but better to be prepared.
Club owner indicted for illegal gambling, income tax fraud [Dayton Daily News]
Isn’t it just like the IRS to try and pull a fast one on El Duderino?
Sure, the man’s name is really Jeff Bridges and he wasn’t an awarded for an Oscar for a performance that will certainly transcend the life of cinema but that’s not the point.
The point is that the IRS thought they had another celebrity in their sights. They were going to lump Duder in with Nicolas Cage, Ving Rhames, Nas, etc. etc. etc. and enjoy a little celebrity embarassment.
Well! Turns out they were wrong. Dead wrong:
[Bridges’] Publicist Jean Sievers said the tax issue was resolved in February and resulted in Bridges paying “significantly less” than the amount listed on the lien.
“However, for some reason there was some delay in communication between the department that resolved the tax matter and the collection department,” Sievers said.
Because there was a delay, the lien was filed last month, she added. Yet as of this afternoon, the lien had not been released, according to the Los Angeles County Recorder of Deeds office.
“The IRS screwed it up,” Sievers said. “It’s so funny. The IRS screws it up and he ends up owing less than what was on the lien.”
IRS slaps lien on Oscar-winner Jeff Bridges [Tax Watchdog]
Douche of the Last Decade Joe Francis is having trouble finding a lawyer in North Florida. No, it’s not due to his all around doucheness. And no, it’s not due to his inability to pay his previous attorney, Rick Bateman (who is suing him) $500k. It’s because he claims that the IRS has slapped levies on his hard earned drunk topless girl fortune.
A judge is set to enter a default judgment against J Fran for in a case where four women are suing him for taping them while they were underage. Since Fran can’t find counsel, he had to personally write a motion to request Judge Richard Smoak for leniency.
This is interesting not only because we didn’t know Joe could write but also because we thought the IRS had given up on old Joe after it was reported that his $30 million+ lien was reportedly dropped:
“My efforts to obtain new counsel have been hampered by levies upon my companies’ financial accounts by the Internal Revenue Service,” Francis wrote. “Prospective counsel that have agreed to entertain engagement as counsel in the case require large retainers which could not be facilitated in the time permitted by this Court’s Order of March 12, 2010.”
Joe is confident he’ll bag some representation before the June 10 deadline, saying that barring “unforeseen developments” (i.e. douchiness) he’ll no longer be forced to write words.
Joe Francis blames IRS for attorney-finding troubles [Panama City News Herald]
In case you’re not up to speed on the federal bureaucracy org chart, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration’s expressed purpose is to tell the IRS what it is they suck at doing and what they can do to quit sucking at it.
The latest bad report card for the IRS is that of protecting the identity of taxpayers who call the Service for help. The epic fail is due to customer reps not being inquisitive enough when identifying callers and not their inability to use their inside voices. The TIGTA presents its displeasure with the phone “assistors” in its latest report:
From our statistical sample of 180 contact recordings, we determined that assistors did not properly follow procedures when authenticating 29 (16 percent) callers, increasing the risk of unauthorized disclosures. Based on these results, the projected number of callers with increased risk of unauthorized disclosures is 44,067 for 1 week.
So, you figure 2.2 million unauthorized disclosures a year. Maybe that’s a legitimate concern but in the grand scheme of things, is it really that bad? If you consider the fact that 22.4 million people aren’t even getting help, that seems like a pretty good number. Regardless of our realistic standards, the TIGTA has more harping to do:
During our review of 48 (27 percent) of the 180 sampled calls, we were able to overhear other assistors discussing other callers’ Personally Identifiable Information. For 10 calls (6 percent), we were able to clearly hear parts of conversations with other callers. For 38 calls (21 percent), other assistors’ interactions with callers were overheard, but we could not clearly understand the conversations. This happened because assistors did not put callers on hold when they were researching the taxpayers’ accounts. Also, the physical layout of employee workstations at call centers allows other conversations to be easily overheard.
So in this particular case it sounds like the IRS has two choices 1) force everybody to become low talkers or 2) spring for a larger cube farm so people aren’t up in each other’s shit.
The real question her is, can we realistically expect an error rate of zero from the IRS? When did “good enough for government work” no longer apply?
Nonprofits don’t need the reminder but we’re going to remind them anyway: May 17th is the new deadline to file your Form 990s (it would have been the 15th but that happens to fall on a weekend, consider yourselves fortunate, procrastinators).
The Boys and Girls Clubs and Goodwills of America have probably already filed their 990s but what about the tiny, grassroots organizations that didn’t get the memo when Service rules changed to require even small non profits under $25,000 to file 990s?
The guess is that up to 1/4 of all non profits could inadvertently lose their tax exempt status by missing the May 17th deadline without even realizing they were supposed to file anything at all. It costs $750 to refile after losing said status, so blowing it could be a costly alternative to hiring a professional to get the 990 in order for a small, simple nonprofit.
This isn’t merely busywork presented to nonprofits for shits and giggles, as we all know the Service would never EVER waste anyone’s time with bureaucracy and paperwork just for kicks. The IRS is seeking to clean up tax exempt status claims to exclude agencies that exist in name only or simply for the tax break. In its view, leaving NFP organizations that take in less than $25,000 a year largely unchecked left the fraud door swinging wide open. And as we all know, the Service has a duty to the taxpayer to collect everyone’s fair share.
The Pension Protection Act of 2006 mandates that all nonprofits must file a 990 for three consecutive years, making 2009 (and thus May 17th) the 3rd year. Orgs that have not filed 990s will automatically lose federal tax exempt status.
The good news is that if you are trying to claim a tax deduction for a donation to one of these little bitty nonprofits that will be losing their exemption, you can still do so up until the date the Service notifies the charity that it can no longer claim tax exempt status.
All is not lost, of course, as those familiar with IRS tactics presume that “offenders” will be offered a chance to redeem themselves (after steep penalties and late fees, of course).
More on the 990 Filing Deadline:
When a Tax Time Bomb Goes Off: Repurcussions Await Some Small Nonprofits
Who would have guessed that the IRS was capable of pulling the old switcheroo on confessed tax dodgers?
Apparently not some “former high-ranking tax officials” who are all bent out of shape because the IRS decided to prosecute their clients even though they came out of offshore tax haven land with their hands up.
A letter dated March 30 and signed by 32 lawyers, many of them former high-ranking tax officials now in private practice, said the IRS actions “smack of trickery.” They said that because the taxpayers had turned themselves in, they shouldn’t be prosecuted. The letter said heavy-handed treatment of some account holders could cause taxpayer confessions to “grind to a halt.”
The letter acknowledged the government’s long-held right to reject confessors if it already has their names or has opened an audit. But it argued that subjecting these taxpayers to rare public prosecutions would look like a double-cross. The writers also warned that if the government went ahead with prosecutions, it would radically change the “risk assessment” they offer their clients and lead to fewer voluntary disclosures.
So you acknowledge the right of the Feds to say ixnay on confessions of known tax scofflaws, plus one of Dougie’s deputies is quoted saying this: “The Service has been clear and consistent. We said that people already known to us were not good candidates,” and then you write a letter? The IRS has been attacked from the air, had suspicious packages dropped on their doorsteps and been blamed for suicides and you think a stern letter is going to sway them?
Last month we mentioned a study that was done by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (“TRAC”) of Syracuse University that was critical of the IRS’ trend of auditing fewer large corporations and focusing smaller business. A major concern for not only small business owners and managers but also taxpayers since they pay for the audits that are occurring.
We recently spoke to Dr. Susan Long, co-director of TRAC and Associa Syracuse’s Whitman School of Management about the study.
Going Concern: What’s the biggest takeaway from the findings on the report?
Dr. Susan Long: The report really does two things: 1) Presents a tool [link to tool] that users can use to look up all sorts of statistics about IRS audits for any size corporation. From very small to very large, you can look at trends over a long time so that you can see how things have changed.
2) The focus of our report was to look at the continuing large drop in corporate audits even though this is a time of rising deficits. The IRS has been given more budget for agent staffing but they have not chosen to focus on the largest corporations even though that’s where, historically, the IRS gets the biggest bang for the buck.
GC: One section of the report discusses the politics of tax collection and deficits. Is the IRS and Treasury taking the wrong approach into obtaining more revenue for the Federal Government?
SL: Our role was not to judge them but to lay out what they do and look for some kind of rationale. We could not find any rationale apart from some kind of a perverse quota system. It certainly does not appear to be at all consistent with focusing where tax dollars are underreported based on their own statistics.
GC: Do you have suggestions or opinions about what the IRS can do better? Is there a way that the Service can improve the quota system or do they need to reassess their strategy altogether?
SL: The role of TRAC is not the typical policy research organization. Our role, as we see it, is to present a picture of what the government, in this case what the IRS, is doing with respect to tax audits and to leave it up to the reader to decide what makes sense.
What we did find is that IRS sets performance goals, as all agencies do, and it sets group targets, not individual targets for agents. But nonetheless they are based on how many total audits of corporations take place for the large and mid-sized industry group (“LMSB”) and then separately for the small and self-employed business unit (“SBSE”). We noticed that there was a peculiar reversal in audit rates when you got to the margin of those companies at say, with the bigger companies for SBSE audits versus what would then be larger companies but represent the small guy for the LMSB auditors. It just showed quite clearly that there was a tendency for each branch to shy away from its biggest audits and put increased efforts on its smaller guys within its unit in a very perverse fashion.
GC: Since you used the IRS’ own data to compile your study does it appear that the statistics could be the result of the flawed goals or quota system?
SL: Right. We’re all human and we respond to what we’re measured on. If those measurements are not in accord with what the priorities are [i.e. where the largest underreporting occurs], you’ll work to the measure rather than to the overall priority. This is not the first report where we’ve noticed this. In this case, what was interesting was that for a long period of time, Congress had been cutting the IRS’ budget and it’s really tough when you have more and more returns and fewer and fewer agents to cover them. You’ve really got hard choices there.
So we were very interested to see, now that we’ve entered a new era, Congress has been giving the IRS more budget for hiring more revenue agents. Therefore they have more discretion about where they will put these additional resources and they are certainly not putting them in the large corporate area.
GC: What about the IRS’ contentions that they audit 100% of companies of $20 billion in assets or more?
SL: According to their figures, the IRS audits more than 100% of all the corporations of that size. These particular figures we took from the IRS databook that is put out annually. There has only been three years where there has been a breakout with these categories.
The first time it came out the IRS said, “yes it’s over 100% but that’s because you can audit more than one year’s return in the same year” and that’s true. But then in the second year it’s over 100% and they make the same excuse. Now this is third year and it’s still over 100% [see footnote at the bottom of the study].
They’re not doing a very good job of accurately measuring that [the number of companies audited] so we presented figures that give the IRS the benefit of the doubt. They’re not measuring the size of the returns vs. the size of the audits in a consistent way, so we just grouped it with the next largest category and saw exactly the same trends in terms of the hours spent auditing the biggest companies.
Simply, there’s a tendency to spend less time on less complicated returns. As companies get bigger their businesses get more complex. When you see that sort of thing in an organization, you look at what are the goals being measured against. If they’re being measured just on quantity and there isn’t any distinguishing between that workload that takes longer to do, it’s easier to up your numbers by choosing workload that you can churn out faster. It’s human nature.
It appears that the offshore bank account crackdown tour is going straight through Asia, where DOJ senior tax attorney Kevin Downing gave a speech saying, “We expect over the next couple of years, in addition to the UBS cases, to have somewhere between 4,000 and 7,000 more cases coming to us with. These are from banks and governments cooperating.”
Obviously the UBS flogging was such a huge success that the DOJ/IRS figures they might as well keep a good thing going and is making a nice little swing through Asia to give them fair warning that they could be traipsing through their backyard very soon:
Singapore was one stop in a tour of Asian cities also including Hong Kong, Beijing and Shanghai by Downing and his U.S. Justice Department team. The tour featured meetings with financial and tax regulatory bodies and bankers discussing cross-border tax prosecutions.
He said that since the start of the U.S. crackdown on tax evasion, money has moved from the Caribbean to Switzerland and Asia.
Of course Mr Downing doesn’t want to get ugly saying, “he hoped the U.S. authorities would not have to conduct “UBS-style” probes,” but obviously that option is always on the table.
The April 15th deadline has come and gone but that does not mean the IRS’ work is done. In fact, getting money in the Treasury Department’s door is a 24/7/365 sorta deal and in case you didn’t notice, there’s a bit of a deficit problem.
Accordingly, the IRS has decided to host open houses at 200 facilities in all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico on May 15th from 9 am to 2 pm local time (locations here). IRS staff will be there to help individuals and small businesses sort out any issues they may have (See? Filing that extension was a good idea).
This marks the second time in 2010 that the IRS has opened its arms to public on the Sabbath, having done so on March 27th. According to the Service, that particular National Day of IRS Friendliness was a resounding success, with 88% of taxpayers getting their issues resolved that day.
Doug Shulman all but assures your satisfcation in the press release, “Our goal is to resolve issues on the spot so small businesses and individuals can put any issues they have with the IRS behind them. If you have a problem filing or paying your taxes or resolving a tough tax issue, we encourage you to come in and work with us.”
Okay, maybe it’s not exactly a 100% money-back guarantee but the Service is going to work their cans off to get you in compliance and cutting a check that day. Unless of course you’re a Tea Party type trying to get on the six o’clock news, in which case you’ll be dealt with in a swift and decisive manner.
With tax season over, scam season has begun and the IRS wants to be sure that you know they will never send you unsolicited e-mails or request identifying information about you a la PayPal scams. Because, you know, they’re helpful like that. Since many of you are waiting patiently by your mailbox (or bank statement if you E-filed for direct deposit) for your refund checks, it’s all that much more important to be on the lookout for these kinds of tricks hitting your inbox.
Protect yourself, little taxpayer, and know that the IRS is here to help make sure you don’t get scammed by unscrupulous impersonators:
The IRS does not send taxpayers unsolicited e-mails about their tax accounts, tax situations or personal tax issues. If you receive such an e-mail, most likely it’s a scam.
IRS impersonation schemes flourish during filing season. These schemes may take place via phone, fax, Internet sites, social networking sites and particularly e-mail.
Many impersonations are identity theft scams that try to trick victims into revealing personal and financial information that can be used to access their financial accounts. Some e-mail scams contain attachments or links that, when clicked, download malicous code (virus) that infects your computer or direct you to a bogus form or site posing as a genuine IRS form or Web site.
Some impersonations may be commercial Internet sites that consumers unknowingly visit, thinking they’re accessing the genuine IRS Web site, IRS.gov. However, such sites have no connection to the IRS.
IRS Spokesperson Jennifer Henrie-Brown gave us a few tips for avoiding scams and reporting sketchy e-mails to the Service to combat the spamming problem: “The IRS does not initiate taxpayer communications through e-mail and does not request detailed personal or financial information through email. If you receive an e-mail from someone claiming to be the IRS or directing you to an IRS site, you should not reply. Do not open any attachments or click on any links. Doing so may download malware that can damage your computer or allow remote access to your hard drive,” she told us.
What do you do if you get one of these weird, misspelled, bad-grammar-infested fake e-mails claiming to be from the IRS? “If you receive a suspicious email claiming to be from the IRS, or Web addresses that do not begin with http://www.irs.gov, you can relay that email to IRS mailbox [email protected]. IRS can use the information URLs and links in the suspcious emails you sent to trace the hosting Web site and alert authorities to help shut down the fraudulent sites.”
Suggested reading: Online Scams that Impersonate the IRS [IRS]
Go figure, Christina Ricci has been hit with an IRS lien to the tune of $179,568.30 for unpaid 2008 taxes. Though the lien news seems to have taken her quite by surprise, Ricci’s rep told TMZ that she is taking “immediate action to address it in a responsible manner.”
That’s funny, I thought a responsible manner would have meant paying the IRS $179,568.30 before April 15th, 2009 when it was due but maybe that’s just me.
Oddly enough, if you’ve ever been hit with an IRS lien (hello, Nic Cage) you know that the Service doesn’t just one day decide to slap a lien on you without first attempting to give you a hint that the proverbial shit is preparing to hit the fan. Generally this comes in the form of correspondence (lots of it) indicating that there is an issue.
Helpful bunch that they are, the IRS will almost always work with tax delinquents as long as said delinquents return their letters and get in touch to say “Hey, sorry, totally forgot to give you that $180,000 that I owe you.” In the case of Christina Ricci, we’re pretty sure her IRS letters must have gotten lost in the fan mail and creepy stalker packages. Yeah, that must it.
Weighing the Worth of an External Audit [Compliance Week]
Does the external audit still have value? Some people have questioned that notion. Despite that grave assessment, there are still many that believe that the external audit has value. However, most have no illusions about the challenges before the profession.
Colleen Cunningham has a post up at Compliance Week with her thoughts:
[W]e need a fundamental shift away from the rules and complex accounting standards we currently use in the United States. The move to International Financial Reporting Standards would certainly help. IFRS is based more on principles and concepts, and while some people worry that these are “lesser” standards than U.S. GAAP, I believe that we will see more transparency about choices, options, and assumptions through enhanced disclosure under IFRS…
Perhaps the audit opinion should be less boilerplate to allow the auditors to provide more information and commentary. This could add needed transparency. Unfortunately, the litigious environment in which we operate would make this a risky proposition.
We like these ideas but more information and commentary would mean…more professional judgment! Hopefully the PCAOB would be okay with that idea because the trend seems to be that auditors can’t be trusted to do their jobs.
AICPA Submits Comment Letter on IRS PTIN Proposal [Journal of Accountancy]
The AICAP submitted a letter to the IRS re: the proposed reg that would, among other things, require Preparer Tax Identification Numbers (PTIN) for tax professionals that don’t sign the returns. T
he AICPA isn’t so thrilled with this idea, and the JofA reports some of their thoughts, “(1) a successful implementation of registration and use of PTINs, along with the imposition of Circular 230 on all preparers should be sufficient to address unethical and/or incompetent tax return preparation and provide tremendous gains to tax administration in general; (2) it may cause confusion among taxpayers about the relative qualifications of tax return preparers; and (3) the additional burdens to the tax preparers and pass through of these costs to the taxpaying public should be considered.”
“Who would have thought that the IRS would have a favorability rating a third higher than the tea party movement’s? Or that the IRS would be twice as popular as Palin?”
If you are some kind of tax activist, not a felon and ready to serve your country, we may have the volunteer opportunity of a lifetime for you: Serving on the IRS’ Taxpayer Advocacy Panel (TAP). The deadline for applications is this Friday and we’re pretty sure the Service has been swamped with would-be heroes vying for a chance to provide a voice to the poor, abused little taxpayer.
“TAP members represent the typical taxpayer and provide the IRS with invaluable insights that are crucial to sound tax administration,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman.
To qualify, you must pass an FBI fingerprint check (sorry, Lone Wolves, you’re pretty much disqualified right off the bat and will have to stick to crashing planes into IRS buildings if you want your voice to be heard), not be a lobbyist, and of course be caught up on your own tax bills.
Think of it like a focus group for taxes except unlike traditional focus groups, you won’t be getting $75 for an hour’s worth of opinions. TAP members serve a 3 year term and are expected to commit 300 – 500 hours per year serving the
Service taxpayer. Members are required to attend a yearly meeting in Washington, DC each fall, at least one face-to-face subcommittee meeting with other members in their region and must participate in a monthly conference call.
So go on, little taxpayers, give the IRS a piece of your mind. And 500 hours of your time, of course.
Earlier in the week we mentioned an Indiana man who was suing the Feds for wrongful death because his wife committed suicide after an IRS raid.
Well, it turns out that the raid wasn’t a training exercise.
A Huntertown man who federal authorities say earned more than $1.7 million in assets but did not report the earnings on income tax filings has been charged in a 23-count indictment by a federal grand jury seated in South Bend.
James A. Simon, 59, faces charges of filing false federal income tax returns, failure to file reports of foreign bank and financial accounts, fraud involving private financial aid, and fraud involving federal financial aid, all for an alleged scheme that ran 2003-2006.
Through involvement with five separate businesses – foreign and domestic – Simon is alleged to have not reported funds obtained as earned income, but instead claimed monies as nontaxable loans and advances.
Simon spent all but about $50,000, the indictment alleges.
The wife might be better off.
IRS strikes back in 23-count indictment for Huntertown man [Fort Wayne News-Sentinel]
Just when you thought things couldn’t get more exciting in the world of overeating, Dairy Queen has announced that it will be handing out free ice cream in front of the IRS Building in DC tomorrow at 10th St. and Pennsylvania Ave. NW.
According to the Washington Business Journal, the Blizzardmobile will be parked outside and mini blizzards will handed out to “taxpayers and accountants” (why didn’t they just say “everyone”?).
This momentous occasion not only marks the end of the traditional return filing season but it is also marking the Blizzard’s 25th birthday. This might, just might, cajole some Tea Partiers to leave their homes as opposed to marching on the Internet (especially since there doesn’t appear to be a limit per taxpayer/accountant).
However! The window of opportunity is short and you’ll only have from noon to 1 pm to get your miniature cup of refined sugary goodness. One might think that since Doug Shulman might be anti-pizza that he also might have something against blended ice cream confections. But on the other hand, Warren Buffet didn’t get filthy rich by giving away crackalicious deserts for free now, did he?
Free ice cream outside IRS building [Washington Business Journal]
The widower of a woman who committed suicide three days after ten armed IRS agents raided their home in 2007 is suing the U.S. Government.
Federal court papers say Fort Wayne resident Denise Simon left behind a note stating she could not “live in terror of being accused of things I did not do.”
The lawsuit filed by James Simon in U.S. District Court in Fort Wayne says Denise Simon and her 10-year-old daughter were the only ones home when about 10 armed IRS agents raided their residence on Nov. 6, 2007.
The suit also alleges IRS agents made misleading statements to obtain a search warrant.
Pre-tay sure this is the last thing the Service needs to be associated with.
The IRS didn’t immediately return our call seeking comment. An IRS spokeswoman got back to us but due to federal disclosures laws, the IRS not permitted to discuss a specific taxpayer case.
All firms realize that tax season is a grind and put up with various silly/downright stupid traditions for the sake of employees’ morale. There’s no work/life balance to speak so concessions are made. In anticipation for the annual tradition that is tax professionals raging on April 15th, FINS has compiled a few interesting traditions that are carried on by various firms. The idea, however, that men are walking around the office sporting the Grizzly Adams defies comprehension.
For you purists of the white collar world, facial hair makes you ill. The sight of five o’clock shadow is downright repulsive and anyone that isn’t shaving at least daily (except for the flesh-colored beard types) will not be dealt with a swift manner.
Unless of course you work at Traphagen & Traphagen CPAs LLC where the tradition of tax season beards goes back 40 years. At that length, it may precede any NHL playoff tradition of funky facial hair, “”At the close of business, they’ll troop into a conference room and together shave the beards they’ve been growing since the end of January.”
As you might expect there are client requests to send the remains to the IRS but unfortunately the partners don’t honor these requests.
• IRS audits fewer corporate taxpayers: critic [Reuters]
According to a Syracuse University research group, Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (“TRAC”), the IRS is doing fewer audits of large corporations, using the Service’s own data to report its conclusions. TRAC looked at “number of hours spent on cases that had been closed in any given year,” saying the the IRS has cut the audit hours of companies with $250 million+ in assets by a third.
While we’re typically not ones to speculate on the difficulty of any particular job (e.g. CEO of a Big 4 firm) the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (“TIGTA”) probably has the easiest job on Earth.
As far as we can tell, the TIGTA is responsible for criticizing the IRS on, well, pretty much everything that the Service does wrong and then the IRS agrees that they suck and promises to do better.
And if you’re going by the TIGTA website we’re more or less correct:
“TIGTA promotes the economy, efficiency, and effectiveness in the administration of the internal revenue laws. It is also committed to the prevention and detection of fraud, waste, and abuse within the IRS and related entities.”
We’re assuming that Doug Shulman probably agree with our assessment but that guy doesn’t even like pizza, so who cares what he thinks?
Anyhoo, the latest Monday Morning QBing from the TIGTA is that some of the Service’s senior revenue officers are basically sitting around with nothing to do. Web CPA reports:
Senior revenue officers at the Internal Revenue Service who are supposed to handle more complicated tax cases oftentimes don’t receive any work assignments, according to a new government report…
The relative lack of work for the senior revenue officers to do occurred because there is no systemic means for IRS managers to identify the most complex cases, and the criteria for identifying complex cases are subjective and inconsistently interpreted.
So you’re a senior revenue officer with 5-6 years (?) on the job. You’ve got this gig pretty much figured out. Not only do you know the ropes, you make the fucking ropes. Your manager has suits from DC so far up their ass about collecting every dime available that they can’t see straight, so they just want you busy do anything.
You, being a reasonably lazy (and realistic) person, aren’t going to kill yourself. If you’ve got the choice of picking up a 1040 that’s hundreds of pages long versus a 1040EZ that has fewer pages that a Tony Alamo pamphlet, you’re going to pick up the 1040EZ.
Well now J. Russell George is slapping those managers around with a report deeming this unacceptable which may mean that your slacking days are over:
“I am troubled that IRS managers are not providing employees with work assignments that they are ready and able to do at a time when it is incumbent on the IRS to be as efficient and effective as possible,” said TIGTA Inspector General J. Russell George in a statement.
JRG is recommending that the IRS improve it’s methods of identifying more complex cases (that the IRS naturally agreed with). We think a tax return thickness analysis is a decent place to start.
Considering the tone of Joe Stack’s manifesto, you’d think common courtesy would have been abandoned ages ago. Not necessarily so:
Perhaps it was a more sinister “have a great day” than we’re imagining, although the jig would have been up if he had given any indication about his plans (e.g. read the manifesto to air traffic control).
This is disappointing on a multitude of levels. On the one hand, the notion of thousands of IRS agents running around the country, kicking doors is kind of exciting.
On the other, if crazed tax-haters can’t threaten the lives of IRS Agents who can they threaten? The census only occurs once every ten years and threatening to gun down OSHA employees just doesn’t seem to be as effective.
Doug Shulman spoke at the National Press Club yesterday and assured everyone (despite what Dave Camp or Ron Paul says) that agents will not be storming your house packing heat if you don’t purchase insurance. The IRS will be counting on insurance companies to help them run identify those who are skipping on the required coverage.
He said insurers eventually will be required to file a document similar to Form 1099 used by financial institutions to report investment income. The agency will send letters to the uninsured notifying them fines could be deducted from their tax refunds for refusing to comply with the new law, Shulman said.
“These are not the kinds of things we send agents out about,” Shulman said. “These are things where you get a letter from us.”
We imagine the letter won’t be particularly friendly but it’s a far cry from jack-booted thugs pointing firearms at your head.
Shulman Says IRS Has Few ‘Punitive’ Ways to Enforce Health Law [Bloomberg BusinessWeek]
• ‘Big four audit firms bending laws in India’ [Times of India]
A committee of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in India that is investigating the Satyam fraud is claiming that the Big 4 is “circumventing laws while providing auditing services in the country.” According to the Times of India, the committee has claimed that the firms have been granted permission to provide consulting services but not “taxation services, auditing, accounting and book keeping services and legal services.” The firms are able to provide these services through affiliate firms like Price Waterhouse Bangalore vis-à-vis Lovelock & Lewes who were responsible for the Satyam audit.
The committee states that “Indian firms and [multi-national accounting firms] are defacto the same entities providing the assurance, management and related services and as such their operations are designed to circumvent the provisions of the Chartered Accountants Act, 1949,” and that information sought from some local firms has not been provided to determine if they have partnered with the Big 4.
• Debunking the FIN 48 Conspiracy Theory [CFO Blog]
When the IRS proposed its latest rule for disclosing uncertain tax provisions it debunked a theory concocted by some that the FASB was in cahoots with the Service to provide treasure maps for companies that take aggressive tax positions. It was thought that when the FASB was developing FIN 48 (aka Topic 740) in 2006 that they were siding with the IRS in requesting companies to report specific information about those positions.
Not the most interesting conspiracy theory we’ve ever heard but a conspiracy theory nonetheless. Anyhoo, FIN 48 requires less detail about the uncertain positions than the new IRS proposal, thus, debunking the conspiracy, at least in former FASB member Edward Trott, “I think FIN 48 accomplished exactly what was intended…The IRS’s proposed rule makes it clear that [FASB] was able to provide information to investors without providing a gold mine of information to the IRS.” You can go back to your illuminati theories now.
• More Americans Give Up Citizenship As IRS Gets Aggressive Overseas [Dow Jones via TaxProf Blog]
Just over 500 people renounced their citizenship or permanent status in the fourth quarter of 2009. The report, citing public records, states the figure is more than all of 2007 and double of 2008. Mostly people are creeped out by future tax increases and more regulation, including the requirements to report details of foreign bank accounts.
While that does drive some people out of the US of A, the IRS claims that there has been a push to get some out who have already surrendered their passports, “The IRS says some of the swelling of numbers of expatriations towards the end of 2009 occurred because the agency made a push to notify people that had already surrendered their passport, but had not completed the process by submitting the IRS form. Until that form is received by the IRS, these people are still subject to U.S. tax.” Or in other words, “GTFO and stay out.”
• Accounting convergence threatened by EU drive [FT]
Somewhat of a bombshell was dropped over the weekend when an EU politician suggested that funding for the IASB could be subject to its willingness to buckle to political pressure, according to the Financial Times. Michel Barnier, the EU’s new internal market commissioner would like ‘issuers – more banks and more companies – and more prudential regulators represented on the governing board [of the IASB],’ and suggested that it was too early to determine if the IASB’s scant budget of $6.5 million would be increased.
The FT reports that the EU pols “believe prudential regulators should be mor overnance so that accounting can be used as a tool for financial stability,” despite the feeling of other countries (e.g. U.S. and Japan) that accounting rules “should not be the subject of regulatory intervention but should focus on providing an accurate snapshot of a company’s value.”
This difference in opinion on what the purpose of accounting is could disrupt the convergence process which won’t do much to impress the G20 chaps who demanded some progress on the global accounting sitch.
• IRS Expansion [Factcheck.org via TaxProf Blog]
Those 16,500 new IRS agents you keep hearing about, or is 17,000? Whatever it is, Factcheck.org was posed the question about this small army of tax enforcers that will be marching into your home, heavily armed and stealing your freedom by forcing you to buy healthcare that you don’t want.
Are you prepared for this shock? Turns out, it’s not true:
This wildly inaccurate claim started as an inflated, partisan assertion that 16,500 new IRS employees might be required to administer the new law. That devolved quickly into a claim, made by some Republican lawmakers, that 16,500 IRS “agents” would be required. Republican Rep. Ron Paul of Texas even claimed in a televised interview that all 16,500 would be carrying guns. None of those claims is true.
The IRS’ main job under the new law isn’t to enforce penalties. Its first task is to inform many small-business owners of a new tax credit that the new law grants them — starting this year — which will pay up to 35 percent of the employer’s contribution toward their workers’ health insurance. And in 2014 the IRS will also be administering additional subsidies — in the form of refundable tax credits — to help millions of low- and middle-income individuals buy health insurance.
Plus, Doug Shulman testified before the House Ways & Means Committee that the Service will not be auditing individuals, rather, “insurance companies will issue forms [some possibilities here] certifying that individuals have coverage that meets the federal mandate, similar to a form that lenders use to verify the amount of interest someone has paid on their home mortgage. ‘We expect to get a simple form, that we won’t look behind, that says this person has acceptable health coverage,’ Shulman said.” So maybe this is what Anthony Weiner was trying to explain to Bill O’Reilly?
• Federal Prosecutors Leaning Against Charges in AIG Probe [WSJ]
If you were thinking that it would only be a matter of time before Joe Cassano was charged with pushing the financial apocalypse button, you’re about to be severely disappointed. The Journal is reporting — citing “people familiar with the matter” eight times or so — that the former head of the AIG Financial Products unit is not likely to be charged by the Department of Justice for deceiving PricewaterhouseCoopers about AIG’s exposure to credit default swaps.
The DOJ was initially under the impression that Cassano had not informed PwC about an adjustment that AIG had made to make the losses from the CDS look just horrendous as opposed to catastrophic. When PwC came back with a material weakness on AIG’s internal controls, they abandoned the adjustment. The DOJ’s investigation turned up some notes of a PwC auditor that show that Cassano had told the firm about the adjustment thus, covering his ass. The Feds haven’t officially made up their minds about charging Cassano but this element was considered a “central issue.”
See you Monday, capital market servants. It’s okay, tax warriors – Just think, two weeks from today and you’ll be sleeping in.
• KPMG severs Iran ties [FT]
T Fly and Co. has pulled the plug on Iran after big pressure from the UANI, “Tom Wethered, KPMG International’s general counsel, wrote to UANI on Thursday that the accountancy network had terminated the membership of Bayat Rayan, one of Iran’s biggest accountants.” The FT reports that the firm cited “serious and escalating concerns,” about the country’s government.
• Imagine: iPad App l Statements [XBRL Business Information Exchange via CPA Trendlines]
Someone make this happen ASAP. “Imagine it. Everyone connected by the Web, not the current Web but the Semantic Web. iPads, iPods, iPhones, Androids, Smartphones; maybe a few PCs will still be around. IFRS used globally. Financial information in XBRL making it dynamic like a pivot table, rather than static like the legacy paper statements.”
• Is Hiring More IRS Employees ‘Job Creation’? [The Atlantic]
There’s a lot of hysteria over the 16,000-some odd new IRS agents that will be running around the country trying to steal your freedom. Those are real jobs though.
• Koss Fraud: Unrecorded revenue? [Fraud Files Blog]
Tracy Coenen kicks around another theory of how alleged shopaholic Sue Sachdeva hid her embezzlement from Grant Thornton, “I’ve heard from a few sources who I consider to be very reliable that Sachdeva hid her theft by not recording revenue. This would mean that Koss’s revenue was understated by $31 million during the time she was committing her theft.” Tracy points out that this method would be “messy” but “There is almost no chance that the auditors will discover the theft and the cover-up. The bulk of the auditors’ work is spent on the balance sheet. So long as transactions related to the theft don’t show up in the ending balances of the balance sheet accounts, she’s pretty safe there.”
• Singer Toni Braxton bobbles tax bill [Tax Watchdog]
Toni Braxton really needs help. She now owes the IRS nearly $400k after a $71k tab from last summer. We’ll say it again – Get Ludacris on the phone.
• 10 illegal aliens in S.C. admit to bilking IRS out of $13 million [Greenville Online]
Who do the teabaggers get mad at for this one? Don’t they hate the IRS and illegal aliens equally? We can only hope that this will cause their heads to explode. Oh, and because it’s in South Carolina we can probably expect a lynching of everyone involved.
• Job of the Day: Fannie Mae Needs a Experienced Accountant [GC Career Center]
Four to six years experience, CPA required. Responsibilities include: Compile, review, analyze, and record financial information to the general ledger. Complete monthly closings. Prepare balance sheet and profit and loss statements, consolidated financial statements, and other accounting schedules and reports. Located in DC Metro. You!
Maybe! Our imagination tends to run wild so if you’ve got reason to believe that hush money paid to Tiger’s mistresses is of no interest to the IRS, please advise.
TMZ is reporting, based on “sources — and they are good” that Tigger paid Rachel Uchitel $10 million to keep her mouth shut regarding their affair.
Or maybe we’re not giving either of them enough credit. Maybe Rachel has a tremendous business acumen that we’re not aware of and she requested a 1099 from T. Dubs.
Plus, Tiger employs more people than Alaska, so someone on his team may have been looking out for this girl. TW, on the other hand, there’s NFW he considered the problems this could possibly create. Considering the fact that he has trouble communicating, we’re guessing the financial ramifications for his F-buddies slipped his mind.
There’s a slew of “reasons” that people have for hating on the Internal Revenue Service. They’re responsible for discourse on television, they don’t observe Shabbos, perverts (alleged!), etc.But every now and again the IRS gives you a reason to say, “well, that’s nice of them,” even if it takes rainfall that makes you consider cobbling an ark together and rounding up the animals in the neighborhood.
The Service is not unreasonable. Apologetic? Never. But not unreasonable. Accordingly, if you live in eastern Massachusetts or Rhode Island the IRS took notice of the rising waters and is extending the April 15th deadline to May 11th (?).
It’s unlikely that this will garner much favor with the IRS haters outside of the Northeast but at least the Service won’t have to ignore the flood of calls from Bay State and Ocean State residents about whether they’ll still be expected file on time. Grab a bucket.
IRS will delay April 15 deadline for many in Mass. [Boston Globe]
Flood weary Rhode Islanders get tax extension [AP via Globe]
*For the militant atheists – Calm down, wouldja? It’s a religious week. Just sub “Nature” and move on.
This is the last thing the IRS needs. Well, maybe next-to-last.
“An IRS employee is charged with having child pornography on a laptop computer that police said he left in a garbage bag in a wooded area in Sterling Heights. Alan E. Erickson, 45, of Sterling Heights is charged with one count of using a computer to commit a crime and five counts of possession of child sexually abusive material, officials said.”
Dumping a laptop in the woods? And child porn to boot? Jesus. You thought the death threats against IRS agents were bad before…
IRS employee charged in porn case [Detroit Free Press]
Image source: Sterling Heights Police via DFP
Tax professionals require many traits: good with numbers; explaining complex issues; the ability to forego adequate sleep regularly; borderline insanity, among others. One talent that some tax gurus, certainly not all, possess is that of makeshift therapist. When you think about it, this makes perfect sense, since Americans hate taxes and the IRS.
This passionate resentment obviously leads to strong emotions and sometimes actions; emotions that have to be addressed by tax professionals. Many situations that CPA, EA, or tax attorney encounter necessitate the phrase “calm your ass down.”
From the San Francisco Chronicle, a few examples include, marital relations “My actual designation is enrolled agent, but it should be marriage and family counselor…Sometimes I know about a divorce before the spouse. Or I’ll get a call after a couple has just had a hellacious fight, and she or he wants to have the tax refund put in another account.”
Then of course, the overall warped fear of the IRS that no amount of Xanax will help subside:
“People have had it drilled into their heads that the IRS is as close as we can get to the secret police,” says Stephen Graves, a CPA in downtown San Francisco who has been preparing tax returns for more than 40 years.
“The IRS (audit) is the adult equivalent of being called into the office — it’s a very interesting, basic emotion,” he adds. “Twenty to 30 percent of my job is kind of like being a shrink, and guiding them through that fear.”
However, the biggest common denominator that tax pros report is the weeping. All clients have personal problems of some sort but when you break the news to them that they owe the Feds a grip of cash, that can be too much to bear.
Your inclination may be to roll your eyes and drum your fingers on your desk until they get it out or to point at them accusingly and shout, “Jesus! Pull yourself together man!” but this would not be the advised course of action. The most effective? Nod, listen and don’t get all judge-y:
[T]heir techniques are decidedly un-quantitative. “I listen…I try not to patronize them and say, ‘Everything will be OK.’ I try and be a good listener. A lot of times people just need to get it off their chest and get on with it.”
“I try to be empathetic…Nobody leaves my office without a hug.”
There’s the answer friends. Hugs. More hugs.
Tears and taxes: Meet my therapist, the accountant [SF Chronicle]
Typically when current or former NFL player gets into trouble with the law it usually consists of 1) drugs/alcohol 2) assault 3) the occasional (or shockingly frequent?) homicide.
Former Buffalo Bills running back Darick Holmes pleaded guilty last year to 15 counts of tax fraud and order to pay $53k in restitution to the IRS. He had been running a scam in Buffalo showing people how to file bogus tax returns, “Holmes admitted that, while spending time in Buffalo in 2004 and 2005, he helped people file tax returns that listed false information about where they had worked and how much they paid in taxes. When the tax filers received refunds, Holmes got a cut of the money.”
Holmes was sentenced to one year of home confinement which had the prosecutor all bent out of shape since Holmes’ co-defendant, Darryle Buckner, was sentenced to a year in prison and wasn’t found to be as “culpable” as Holmes. The judge felt that Holmes was remorseful (that’s a new one for a tax crime) and was impressed with his work with troubled teens.
Holmes has had a rough go of it, he was shot seven times right after his arrest in 2008, according to the prosecutor it was during an $80,000 marijuana deal. Yeesh, This prosecutor guy is really pissed about this sentence.
The real moral of the story is you’re probably better off listening to Joe Biden (?) than an ex-NFL player when it comes getting tax advice.
Ex-Bill Holmes avoids prison in tax fraud case [Buffalo News]
• IRS officials file lien against Marion Barry [WaPo]
If you’re not familiar with Marion Barry, let’s just say that the guy has been in fair amount of trouble over the years. Check that, dude has been in a lot of trouble. Yet, somehow this man still somehow manages to get elected to public office in Washington, DC. The latest trouble involves a tax lien that has not been paid for taxes owed from 2005 to 2008, according to the Washington Post. It’s only $15,000 but considering what he could potentially spend it on (e.g. crack, girlfriend) the IRS kinda wants it.
It’s not like the Service hasn’t been trying to get the back taxes owed. They’ve been garnishing his wages $1,350 every two weeks and his attorney is quoted as saying that this “isn’t a new thing.” We agree. We’re been used to the idea of Marion Barry being an elected criminal for quite some time now.
• IRS Phishing Scams on the Rise [Tax Girl]
A random email from the IRS requesting things like your SSN#, your shoe size, bank account number and should be taken as seriously as an IKEA give away on Facebook. If the Service wants to get your attention, they do it by snail mail people. Lesson over.
• Tax writers can’t figure out the tax code, either [The Daily Caller]
When the IRS Commish was asked again about using a tax preparer, the Daily Caller quotes his curt response as, “I don’t have time for this … If you want an interview, you can call my office,” and sped away. He’s crackin’. Maybe he should just try doing his own taxes. Joe Biden used to!
The whole thing is worth watching but 4:17 is where it starts getting awesome.
Did you count? Congressman Weiner was rendered silent for approximately 13 seconds!
Weiner: I’ll say that again – that are just lies.
Weiner: I’m answering the question, you’re making stuff up.
O’Reilly: Ask Wesley Snipes
Weiner gives the loudest SIGH we’ve ever heard around 4:30
Weiner: Watch this Bill, watch this.
O’Reilly: I asked you five times.
Best look given by each:
If you refuse to use the White House’s tax savings tool purely out of spite then you’ll be happy to know that 180 IRS locations across this great land will be open this Saturday to help you out with things like the Homebuyer tax credit, the American Opportunity Credit, the Making Work Pay credit, and the Expanded Earned Income Credit.
Now we realize that the mere thought of setting foot inside an IRS location will cause many you to break out in boils, the other option is to go to a VITA location and get assistance from one of the many college students out there that are giving amateur advice so that they have one more activity on their resumé. They’re available throughout tax season. They are volunteers, after all.
The Service is trying to make this sound way more fun than it actually is by calling them “open houses”:
“We are holding these special open houses to give taxpayers who are struggling in these difficult economic times more opportunity to work directly with IRS employees to resolve their tax issues,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “We will host more than 180 open houses this Saturday.”
Whether Dougie will be on hand at one of the many locations to shed out his wisdom (or maybe get some advice) hasn’t been made clear.
How much tax would you pay on April 15 if the IRS couldn’t levy on your bank account, slap you with a lien, charge you penalties and interest, or send you to jail? Not much, eh? Then ponder the rules forcing individuals to buy “minimum essential coverage” under Obamacare.
The forced purchase of insurance is key to Obamacare. The “personal responsibility requirement” – a funny name for a requirement imposed by the state – is needed to make sure that low-risk individuals buy insurance to help keep it affordable for high-risk buyers (or, less politely, healthy young men are forced to subsidize everybody else). The penalty is considered vital to any semblance of fiscal soundness for the program. The rule is backed up by penalties and will be collected on tax returns.
The reaction of healthy young men in 2014 when this penalty kicks in will be “Dude. You’re not serious.”
And they will be right.
Caleb noted this yesterday from the Joint Committee of Taxation explanation of the penalties (my emphasis):
The penalty is assessed through the Code and accounted for as an additional amount of Federal tax owed. However, it is not subject to the enforcement provisions of subtitle F of the Code. The use of liens and seizures otherwise authorized for collection of taxes does not apply to the collection of this penalty. Non-compliance with the personal responsibility requirement to have health coverage is not subject to criminal or civil penalties under the Code and interest does not accrue for failure to pay such assessments in a timely manner.
If we take them at their word – and new Code Sec.5000A(g)(2) seems to say just this – why would any sensible taxpayer ever pay the penalty?
• They can’t threaten you with jail.
• They can’t hit you with a lien.
• They can’t levy your accounts.
• There’s no interest charge, so even if you do pay it late somehow, you’ve had the interest in the meantime.
We tax preparers probably won’t be allowed to recommend non-payments to our clients, or we will be silenced by our new IRS preparer enforcement overlords, but people will figure it out in a hurry. And if you think that people will pay taxes anyway without the threat of collection, penalties or interest, then why are we wasting any money funding the IRS?
This provision means one of two things: either this penalty is a joke, and they are just kidding about the cost estimates of the bill — they will be much, much higher — or the toothless penalties are just a PR stunt that they plan to correct as soon as they can get away with it.
• What Happens If You Don’t Buy Health Insurance under Health Care Reform Bill? [Tax Policy Blog]
Believe it or not, there is misinformation out there about the health care reform bill. No, it’s true!
One big fear is the IRS getting all up in your shit for not buying health insurance. According to some, heavily armed IRS agents will kick down your door if you haven’t made the necessary arrangements for coverage, take your children away and kick your dog as they exit your house with your money and your freedom. Fortunately, Tax Policy blog has presented the Joint Taxation Committee’s explanation of what would really happen if you decided to skip on the coverage.
The penalty applies to any period the individual does not maintain minimum essential coverage and is determined monthly. The penalty is assessed through the Code and accounted for as an additional amount of Federal tax owed. However, it is not subject to the enforcement provisions of subtitle F of the Code. The use of liens and seizures otherwise authorized for collection of taxes does not apply to the collection of this penalty. Non-compliance with the personal responsibility requirement to have health coverage is not subject to criminal or civil penalties under the Code and interest does not accrue for failure to pay such assessments in a timely manner.
• NY is newest Madoff victim [NYP]
Apparently Berns didn’t sort out all of his affairs before taking his permanent vacation to the Carolinas. He owes nearly $1 million taxes to New York State according to the Department of Tax and Finance’s list of largest delinquents.
• Acorn to Shut All Its Offices by April 1 [NYT]
After getting dropped from the VITA list by the IRS and getting snubbed by the Census Bureau, Glenn Beck’s favorite NPO is closing up shop on April Fool’s Day. Beck will certainly be on hand to see the headquarters burned to the ground to assure that the American people aren’t being duped again.
In today’s celebrity tax scofflaw du jour, we learn that Ving “Why do people always have to bring up that scene in Pulp Fiction” Rhames owes the IRS over $800k from two liens, both filed by the IRS in Los Angeles.
Rhames has had trubs in the past, having liens filed against him last May as well.
It seems to that California, being in the fiscal trouble that’s it in, really needs to call on its other celebrity residents to hold some sort of Haiti-esque fundraiser for some of their fellow celebs.
Sure, it might not fix all the state’s budget problems but at least we could admire our celebrities for being financially responsible pillars of the community rather than pillars of the community when there’s an international crisis. Plus, maybe California wouldn’t have to fire more teachers.
In semi-related news, you will never, ever, EVER hear about Ludacris owing the IRS a damn thing. Not now, not ever.
“I pay more in taxes than most people would ever imagine. I guarantee you, I’m looking dead in the camera, you will never hear about Ludacris owing the damn IRS no damn money.”
Okay, financial celebrities f-ups, get on the horn and find out what the great financial mind-cum-rapper/actor of Ludacris has in store for you. Things haven’t worked out so far, so it can’t hurt to see what the man has to say.
Ving Rhames far from OK with Uncle Sam [Tax Watchdog]
• 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.
• Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Try to stay sober-ish at lunch today.
• Overstock.com Delays Filing 10-K, Reports Even More GAAP Violations, While Patrick Byrne Hides [White Collar Fraud]
Yesterday marked another SEC deadline that has come and gone, and if you’re one of those teams that has a client filing late, this means that your life is still not yours. Case in point, the KPMG team tasked with turning the ship around at Overstock.com still has some work to do as they filed form 12b-25 yesterday afternoon, notifying the SEC that the 10-K would be a tad late.
“Overstock.com nonchalantly lumped in its latest GAAP violations with other GAAP violations previously disclosed by the company on January 29, rather than separately disclosing them,” writes Sam Antar (emphasis original). Here are the new booboos:
Identification of amounts related to customer refunds and credits not properly included in the Company’s monthly reconciliation of customer refunds and credits to third party statements to determine the completeness and accuracy of returns expense.
The accounting for certain external audit fees on a ratable basis, instead of as incurred.
The recognition of co-branded credit card bounty revenue and promotion expense on an immediate recognition basis, instead of over time.
The late recognition of a reduction in the restructuring accrual for a new sublease and the recognition of interest expense related to the accretion of the restructuring accrual.
The Company reports that the filing will be delayed “until it has completed the restatement process and all procedures necessary,” to get things right. Patrick Byrne is nothing, if not thorough. Oh, and they mentioned that they’ll be reporting material weaknesses in their internal control system but, BUT! that they are still going to report their first annual profit. Shareholders can tepidly rejoice.
• IRS Uses Social Networks for Tax Probes [Web CPA]
The IRS has decided that the best way to discover your tax dodging ways is to look for clues in the one place no one can resist being completely and uncomfortably honest: Facebook.
Web CPA reports, “The Electronic Frontier Foundation has released documents uncovered from Freedom of Information Act requests, showing that the IRS as well as the FBI and other government agencies have been using social media sites like Facebook to collect information for investigations.”
Right. We suggest you stop talking about the six-figure 1099 you got that didn’t have any withholding and that you didn’t bother making estimated tax payments. Or roll the dice, lock up your privacy settings and continue with the financial TMI. Your choice.
• TIGTA: IRS on Track to Meet Goal of Answering 71% of Taxpayer Phone Calls After a 12-Minute Wait [TaxProf Blog]
The IRS is making good on its promise to ignore less than 30% of the phone calls from taxpayers needing help with their 2009 tax returns. They’re also getting to each caller in less than twelve minutes which is pretty good considering all the shit they’re putting up with these days (planes, packages full of personal items that might be a something, people having seizures, overzealous agents). If you’ve got an extra twelve minutes, call them up and thank them for their service.
So this morning we learned that some IRS Agents decided to get huffy with a taxpayer over a sum that was less than a sketchy gas station party favor.
With this in mind, the more affluent of you may think that the IRS was finally recognizing that the millionaires in this country are the ones that make things happen. If the IRS would just BTFU and let the rich do their thing we’d get this economy back to blowing asset bubbles.
Unfortunately, Doug Shulman has remained steadfast in his commitment to making millionaires’ life hell by virtue of increasing the number of IRS audits on the wealthy.
According to a report in the New York Times, audits of individuals that earn at least $1 million are way up, “The federal agency increased its audits of taxpayers who earned $1 million to $5 million by 33 percent last year compared with 2008.” And if you’re in an even higher class of Joneses, your chances of getting audited are going up too, “[T]he I.R.S. increased its audits by 16 percent for those earning $5 million to $10 million last year. Audits of those who made at least $10 million rose by 8.5 percent, according to the data.”
The Times quotes a tax expert, Richard Boggs of Nationwide Tax Relief who then says the unthinkable (our emphasis):
“The I.R.S. is getting smart,” he said. “They are starting to better leverage their time, resources and talent in order to collect the most money. There is a definite shifting of the tide.” He said audits of those making at least $10 million rose slightly less than for other categories because so many of the ultrawealthy were already being audited.
We’re sure Mr Boggs is a top-notch tax guru but there is strong evidence that suggests that the IRS will still try to collect less substantial sums.
However, we have to admit, the numbers don’t lie. Millionaires out there, your chances of getting audited are going up and that sucks. But what should make everyone really nervous is the Service attempting to collect your loose change. Next time you see a nickel on the ground, we suggest you leave it there.
• The Valukas Report on Lehman Brothers: Sarbanes/Oxley’s Credibility Takes a Dive [Re:Balance]
Has the Vakulus report exposed Sarbanes-Oxley as a, dare we say it, a waste of time? Perhaps that’s a stretch but the question of its effectiveness in the case of Lehman Brothers is certainly worth noting, “if Sarbox didnÃ¢Â€Â™t have an impact on Dick Fuld and Lehman, what possible good has it wrought?” asks Jim Peterson.
CNBC tried having this discussion on Friday although it didn’t seem to get anywhere. And some may say that SOx has resulted in a many positive developments, although this latest disaster may indicate that overwhelming support of legislation should be a sign that something doesn’t smell right, “the hindsight revelation of the Valukas report is that the inability of Sarbox to reach global-scale problems shows the futility of legislation so politically anodyne that it passed the US Senate by a vote of 96-0.”
In other words, SOx was sold as the cure-all to the problems revealed by Enron et al. and it made for some nice pandering during an election year. Once the election was over, Congress figured their work was done and nearly eight years later people are asking questions. The question now is, who will pick up the Lehman/E&Y torch in this cycle? There’s less than eight months until election day!
“While it may be superficially gratifying, it is absurd to use the IRS as a whipping boy. Is there anyone who really believes that we could live in a world where citizens expect the government to provide benefits without raising the taxes needed to pay for them?”
Last we checked, the answer to that question is yes, starting with the fans of Joe Stack’s Facebook page.
• TIGTA Is Investigating 70 Jokes/Inappropriate Statements About the Attack on the Austin IRS Office [TaxProf Blog]
Aaaannnd another thing. If you think you can tell semi-serious jokes about the IRS plane crash, you will be dealt with in a swift and serious manner. Expect to receive yearly financial rectal exams for the rest of your time on Earth. Someone in Utah should be paying especially close attention.
• Record Numbers of People Paying No Income Tax; Over 50 Million “Nonpayers” Include Families Making over $50,000 [Tax Foundation via TaxProf Blog]
For all the bellyaching Americans do about taxes, a large portion of them have managed to turn “Tax Day into a payday.” What the hell does that mean? It means that a growing number of people are considered to be “nonpayers” or people that get back every dollar withheld on their paycheck.
Sounds great, right? It’s my money, F the government, etc, etc. Well, the Tax Foundation is a little concerned because as the federal budget continues to grow, the income tax system becomes a less effective method of financing expenditures:
“[R]ecently released IRS data for the 2008 tax year show that a record 51.6 million filers had no income tax obligation. That means more than 36 percent of all Americans who filed a tax return for 2008 were nonpayers, raising serious doubts about the ability of the income tax system to continue funding the federal government’s ballooning expenditures.”
The Foundation concludes that if the trend of credits continues, the more people will get used to the idea that their refund from the Feds is annual windfall rather than an even greater inefficient government. “As the number of refundable tax credits continues to grow, more and more tax filers are seeing the IRS as a source of income, not something to which taxes are paid.”
• Eye Opener: Threats against IRS workers continue [Federal Eye/WaPo]
Despite so many people being “nonpayers” people still hate on the IRS, as we’ve covered. And actually, the IRS is okay with that. It’s expected:
“It would be a little naïve to think that we don’t get some threats over the course of doing business,” said IRS Communications Director Terry Lemons.
Perhaps it would be naïve but there seems to be shit going down every week. When does the ‘over the course of doing business’ become “day-to-day challenges that we deal with”?
• House Passes Chile Earthquake Donations Bill [Web CPA]
Yesterday, the House approved the extension of the deadline for donations made to victims of the earthquake in Chile, to considerable less fanfare than the Haiti bill from back in January. Presumably, Congress is under the impression that voters aren’t that concerned about what goes on in the southern hemisphere, thus the need for grandstanding on this issue isn’t needed.
The bill, sponsored by new Ways & Means Chair Sander Levin (D-MI) and Dave Camp (R-MI), would allow donations made through April 15, 2010 to be included on your 2009 tax return.
This apparently happened late yesterday but jesus, who the hell is the jokester in Utah?
So it turned out to be personal items. That could be anything and it sounds a little silly to blow the package up to find out that it’s filled with undies and socks (although we understand the paranoia).
This is the second false alarm for an IRS facility in Utah in less than two weeks. Last Monday Hazmat crews and the FBI showed up at the Ogden facility after someone found some baking powder and people started having seizures.
Whoever is behind these false alarms is probably having a good laugh about the whole thing. It could be the ghost of Joseph Stack for all we know. Then again, his Facebook group keeps growing so perhaps that’s a good place to start.
That’s according to Janet Napolitano. Who knew that the Homeland Security Secretary was such an adept hair-splitter?
From the Washington Post 44 Blog: “To our belief, he was a lone wolf. He used a terrorist tactic, but an individual who uses a terrorist tactic doesn’t necessarily mean they are part of an organized group attempting an attack on the United States,” Napolitano said.
We decided to get to the bottom of this. Here’s the definition of “terrorism”:
The systematic use of terror especially as a means of coercion
Okay then. The applicable definition of “terror”:
Violent or destructive acts (as bombing) committed by groups in order to intimidate a population or government into granting their demands.
So “groups” is the key word here. Fine but does that include Facebook groups because, “His name is Joseph Stack” has 357 members. And did she run this past Treasury? Geithner and Shulman might have a different opinion.
In semi-related news, the SEC has announced that they will determine a “single high quality global definition of terrorism” within five years, at which time, any attacks on SEC facilities will be appropriately classified.
SO! We’ve been feeling sorry for the IRS lately because well, people HATE the Service. It’s cases like these that might, just might, cause some people to flip their lid.
Kevin Kilduff, one of the “most highly regarded” tax attorneys in Boston was suspended from practicing before the IRS for 48 months by Treasury Secretary’s Appellate Authority after he appealed an administrative law judge’s (“ALJ”) decision to suspend him for just 24 months. The complaint was filed by the Office of Professional Responsibility who oversees CPAs, EAs and attorneys who practice before the Service
From the decision of the ALJ, “The Complaint alleges Respondent failed to timely file Federal tax returns for the tax years 2000, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2005, and failed to file a tax return for tax year 2002.”
Considering the fact that Mr Kilduff used to work at the IRS and since leaving has represented many clients before the Service, so you would expect he would have a good story.
Annnnnnd he did . Two-fold: 1) “[The] matter was instituted as a personal vendetta against him by Revenue Officer 1 because of his “zealous” representation of a client in dealing with Revenue Officer 1, the IRS agent in the case.” and 2) “his mother was diagnosed with Illness 1 and he quit his job in Philadelphia and moved to Boston and moved in with his parents to care for his mother, and remained with them for the next five years. During this period, he and his sister cared for their parents, cooking and taking them to doctor appointments”
Judge Joel Biblowitz, was sympathetic to Mr Kilduff’s situation (re: sick Mom) but was impressed with his attitude (emphasis original):
Throughout the course of this matter, I was struck by the Respondent’s apparent disinterest in, or lack of respect for, this proceeding…In his response, the Respondent stated: “I am happy to provide your office with copies of these tax returns if it is necessary,” although he did not do so. It appears to me that if he truly took the IRS’ complaint seriously, he would have responded immediately after receiving Whitlock’s October 11, 2006 letter and would have sent him a copy of his 2002 Federal tax return, rather than waiting almost four months before responding and offering to provide the return.
Mr Kilduff also didn’t respond to the Judge Biblowitz’s order to notify the OPR of his witnesses and exhibits in his case. Just plain ignored it. If we know anything about judges, it’s that you don’t ignore them.
I find that neither defense has merit. While I can sympathize with the Respondent and his obligations and sacrifices during this period, the record establishes that during the period encompassing tax years 2000 through 2005 he was employed full time for a major laws firm with yearly adjusted gross income ranging from $102,000 to $138,000. Further, while he had obligations caring for his parents during this period, it is difficult to imagine that he could not find the time to prepare and timely file these returns.
IRS Wins 48-Month Suspension of a Lawyer for Failing to File His Own Tax Return and Late Filing [IRS.gov]
IRS Suspends One of Boston’s ‘Most Highly Regarded’ Tax Lawyers for 48 Months for Failing to File Tax Returns [TaxProf Blog]
Tax Attorney Suspended from Practicing Before IRS [Web CPA]
• Suspicious substance at IRS called non-hazardous [KSL5]
After everything that has happened lately that is IRS-related, somehow that white powdery substance showing up at an IRS building and three employees having seizures is one giant coinky-dink.
• Goldman Discloses a New Risk: Bad Publicity [DealBook]
Team Jehovah pushed the button on its 10-K yesterday and because they’re the type of company to keep everything on the up and up, they put it out there that when every media source calls you out each time you break wind, you have a entirely new problem:
“Press coverage and other public statements that assert some form of wrongdoing, regardless of the factual basis for the assertions being made, often results in some type of investigation by regulators, legislators and law enforcement officials, or in lawsuits.
…adverse publicity…can also have a negative impact on our reputation and on the morale and performance of our employees, which could adversely affect our businesses and results of operations.”
You don’t think the name calling and nuclear testicle jokes can affect the bottom line? Think again. PwC bought it. Shouldn’t you?
• Sawgrass Resort Linked to Tiger Woods Apology Files Bankruptcy [Bloomberg]
At present, avoiding any contact with Tiger seems to be prudent.
We get it. No one likes the IRS.
Hazardous materials crews and the FBI were on the scene Monday at the IRS building in Ogden, Utah, where two people were removed on stretchers and several others were undergoing decontamination showers. The FBI released no information about the incident.
We don’t have to remind you about what’s been going on lately with regards to Doug Shulman’s shop.
Statement from the IRS:
At approximately 11:15 AM MST, we detected an unknown substance at the IRS Campus located at 1973 Rulon White Boulevard, Ogden, UT. A local Haz-Mat team was dispatched and standard procedures for responding to such an incident were implemented. At this point we cannot provide additional details because we are continuing to assess the situation.
• U.S. delay on global accounting leaves world waiting [Reuters]
The head of financial reporting at the ICAEW is not impressed with the SEC’s plan to string everyone along on IFRS. Although we’re sure Dr. Nigel Sleigh-Johnson is bright guy, we’re not sure what the good doctor was expecting from, you know, the SEC.
Dr. Johnson complains that ‘the world [has] been awaiting clear signals from the Securities and Exchange Commission as to how and when it is going to start the process of completing the convergence to International Financial Reporting Standards,’ which is probably true. Think about it. If 110 countries have jumped on the IFRS ship, they sure as hell would want the US of A on that ship too because that way, if this turns out to be the worst idea in the history of double-entry accounting, then at least the U.S. went along with it too.
• Big Four audits are off the pace [Accountancy Age]
As a group, the Big 4 didn’t fare to well in the inaugural “Accountancy Age Finance 360 survey of client opinions” which asked participants to give their “views on the service they received from their last audit provider”.
Out of twelve firms, PricewaterhouseCoopers ranked the highest at #5, KPMG #9, Deloitte #10, and Ernst & Young brought up the rear at #12. The Age reports that “[E&Y] Staff were described as ‘pretty dire’, short on technical knowledge, confidence and even decent written English. Negative comments outnumbered the positive two to one.” Comments on KPMG and Deloitte were a little better:
While KPMG won plaudits for technical skills, it was let down by perception of its added value, with one FD claiming “very little feedback on potential improvements” their money.
Deloitte also struggled to prove it added value, while clients felt the firm’s audits were “mechanical” and an exercise in “box-ticking”.
One FD felt Deloitte was “more concerned with gathering enough evidence to stand up in court with a defence if there were ever a negligence case”.
All the firms not happy with their ranking essentially said that they were “committed to the highest standards of work” or something like that. You know the drill.
The tops firms in the survey were all included two Global 6 candidates: Mazars at #1 and Grant Thornton at #3 with Horwath Clark Whitehill taking the silver.
• IRS Commissioner Requests Additional $21m So IRS Will Not Answer Taxpayer Phone Calls 25% of the Time [TaxProf Blog]
Doug Shulman asked the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government for $21 million to improve the customer service. Apparently this would result in a 4% jump in calls answered. That sounds like magical government math if we have ever heard it.
Great news everyone! There’s a chance that more bulldozer fun will be had in Ohio, courtesy of Terry “Dozer” Hoskins.
Having demolished his house in less than two hours and knowing that it was only a matter of time before the bank came after his business property, he’s giving serious thought to renting another dozer and finishing this thing once and for all. Small town bank and IRS be damned.
Hey, we’re all for it. If you can a dozer for $500 why not introduce a little more chaos in your life? And don’t worry, the man is a professional and is always mindful of safety, “‘You have to know what you’re doing before doing something like this’ to avoid being hurt, Hoskins said of destroying his house. ‘I’ve run heavy equipment for years.'”
Believe it or not, Dozer’s wife wasn’t thrilled with the whole razing of the house, “Also not happy about the destruction of their house was his wife, Hoskins said. They are now living in one of the buildings on the commercial property.” He must have concluded that since he had already declared bankruptcy and destroyed one piece of property, floating the idea of flattening the business property couldn’t piss off the Mrs. too much more.
Question Hoskins decision-making skills if you like but it’s good to see a man taking pride in his work, “I don’t regret one bit of it.”
In case you’re not familiar, C Street is the destination spot for washed up, morally-tainted Republican All-Stars like South Carolina governor Mark Sanford post-Appalachain Trail (it’s called “decompression” and I suppose I’d do it too if I was hooked on an exotic South American beauty that wasn’t my wife) and Mississippi’s Chip Pickering who used the C Street facilities to entertain his mistress.
At least Sanford is classy enough to claim he was there for spiritual advice after his wife found out and started planning her book tour.
I guess we know what the C stands for (hint: it ends in “U Next Tuesday”) and there’s plenty of it running around the joint. Must be all that awesome Bible study.
The owners of a $1.8 million townhouse on Capitol Hill that has been home and refuge to conservative members of Congress are wrongly claiming a federal tax exemption reserved for religious establishments, 13 Ohio clergy members contend in a complaint to the Internal Revenue Service.
The clergy suspect that the C Street Center, which rents living space to lawmakers, is “an exclusive club for powerful officials . . . masquerading as a church,” according to a request for an investigation addressed to IRS Commissioner Douglas Shulman.
The questionable spirituality of C Street is nothing new but this is the first time real live priests have taken to snitching to front off the “organization”. Jim DeMint (another South Carolina Republican) defended the place (though mentioned nothing about whether or not he’d do Sanford’s mistress) saying, “We kind of make that commitment to each other to get together once a week. Sometimes it’s a Bible study; we always have a spiritual or scriptural thought. But sometimes we just talk about each others’ lives, try to get to know each other, remind each other that we are not important, that it’s just a title.”
How about lying, cheating, fake non-profit-status-having family values hypocrites? Is that just a title?
What’s up with C Street? Religious group for morally bankrupt politicians at the end of their rope seeking comfort and companionship or fundamentalist flophouse? I guess that’s for the Service to decide.
So far it doesn’t look good for our merry bunch of can’t-keep-it-in-their-pants GOPers, as DC already revoked 66% of C Street’s property tax exemption last year due to the fact that 66% of the facility was used as a residence and not a church.
Does getting on your knees count for that other 34%? Hallelujah and yay conservative family values!
• Koss sues American Express over Sachdeva purchases [MJS]
Headphone factory Koss is suing American Express (the whistleblower!) for not reporting alleged embezzler extraordinaire Sue Sachdeva sooner.
Koss alleges that AMEX knew about Suze paying her credit card with Koss funds in February 2008 but then did nothing about it until August 2009; a month when SS spent $3.5 million on high end threads.
Sue Sach was finally exposed last December after allegedly making off with $31 million. So more or less, Koss is suing AMEX for $20 million because Koss’ management was far too busy to pay attention to their own company. The good news is that a whistleblower that happens to be corporation gets about as much gratitude as a human whistleblower. Consistency!
• IRS worker’s widow sues Texas suicide pilot’s wife [AP via NYDN]
The widow of IRS employee Vernon Hunter is suing Sheryl Stack, widow of Joseph Stack, in order to determine if JS had a life insurance policy or other assets. The suit alleges that Mrs. Stack should have “should have warned others about her husband,” apparently because someone bitching about the IRS regularly flies a plane into a building.
• Four Twitter Feeds for Tax Pros [FINS]
FINS put together their top four Twitter feeds for tax professionals yesterday and lo and behold, we ended up on the list! Thanks to FINS for including us but a special thanks goes to people like Terry “Dozer” and wives that shoot at their greedy husbands. They make our jobs easier.
• A Bipartisan Plan for Tax Fairness [WSJ]
Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Judd Gregg (R-NH) co-wrote an op-ed to introduce their bill for tax reform: The Bipartisan Tax Fairness and Simplification Act of 2010.
The magic word! Bipartisanship! No one will argue against this bill with the magic word in there. Well, we’ll see. In the meantime they plugged all the things voters like to hear:
• Most taxpayers will be able to use a one-page 1040.
• In some cases the IRS will prepare the return for you; all the taxpayer will have to do is sign date and return.
• Reduce the six tax brackets to three: 15%, 25%, and 35%.
• Tripling the standard deduction.
• The first 35% of long-term capital gains income would be tax exempt.
• Flat corporate tax rate of 24%.
Sounds simpler, anyway.
• PCAOB Offers Guidance on AS7 Documentation [Compliance Week]
Don’t worry auditors, this is just a little guidance on Auditing Standard 7: Engagement Quality Review that was requested by the SEC. All it says is that if your engagement happens to be royally f—ed up (i.e. “significant engagement deficiency is identified”) then you have to include enough documentation so that some strange auditor, with some experience, can understand why your engagement is such a mess. Nothing extra but don’t leave out the gory details.
• Steve King To Conservatives: ‘Implode’ IRS Offices [Talking Points Memo]
Congressman Steve King (R-IA) is the winner of open-mouth-insert-foot (Joe Biden is awfully quiet these days) this week after saying that he “emphasized” with Joe Stack and that he encouraged listeners at the Conservative Political Action Conference to “implode” other IRS offices.
This may be blown out of proportion since no one typically gets hurt in an implosion but we don’t think the likes of Glenn Beck should be allowed near explosives of any kind.
While the apparent kamikaze raid on the Austin IRS offices yesterday may be the first air assault on an IRS office, it’s not the first time somebody on the wrong end of the tax law attempted an entirely stupid and futile gesture of violent tax resistance.
Take Minnesota computer entrepreneur Robert Beale. Rather than showing up for his tax trial, he hit the road and spent 14 months on the run. When in jail awaiting his rescheduled trial, he arranged a “common law court” of associates to “arrest” his judge. He unwisely made these arrangements through a wired prison phone, and got an extra 11 years in prison for his trouble. He had a solution for that, too, telling his sentencing judge: “’I do not consent to incarceration, fine or supervised release,’ he said. ‘I have not committed a crime.’” Amazingly, convict consent is not required in the Federal prison system, and Mr. Beale is currently residing in Yazoo City, Mississippi.
A Florida contractor, Randy Nowak, chose a different path. In 2008, he was concerned that an IRS agent was closing in on offshore bank accounts. As the IRS offshore amnesty wasn’t yet up and running, he attempted to hire out the murder of the IRS agent. For good measure, he wanted to burn down the local IRS office. He met with a mean looking 6-4 biker nicknamed “The Reaper” to arrange the work. Plans went awry when “The Reaper” turned out to be an undercover FBI agent wearing a wire. Mr. Nowak had an explanation:
Nowak’s attorney argued that his client was actually afraid of the biker and that a friend had gotten him unwittingly involved in the plot. His lawyer pointed to a number of phone calls between Nowak and his friend, who secretly alerted the authorities to the plot. The attorney claimed that Nowak had been trying to persuade his friend to call off the hit, but the friend warned him against angering the gang.
The jury didn’t buy it, and Mr. Nowak received a 30 year sentence. Still, he is only in his early 50s, so he has more to look forward to than 67 year-old Ed Brown. When Mr. Brown’s trial on tax charges seemed to be going badly, he retreated to a fortress-like New Hampshire homestead filled with food and ammo and surrounded by booby traps. He held out for months until he was captured by U.S. Marshals posing as sympathizers. He will begin his 37-year sentence on federal weapons charges when he completes his 63-month tax sentence. He is scheduled for release in 2044, when he will be about 111 years old.
The Austin Kamikaze’s plans did sort of resolve his tax problems, but at a price beyond what most people with tax problems are ready to pay.
I had no idea how much a minister can make but now I do. Wait a minute, this just tells me how to bypass Service rules by writing checks in the church’s name. I might totally be in the wrong line of work.
Free Church Accounting (I’m not kidding) brings us a question from “Sharon” of Corsicana, Texas:
How much money does a minister have to make in order for money to be reported?
I started my church back up after 12 years vacancy. I do not have very many members. Right now we are 3 active members and other people stop in from time to time. I do not actually receive money. Since the church is striving I use the money to pay the light bill, get the grass moved.
According to the IRS website, “Earnings of $400 or more are subject to self-employment taxes.” (that includes qualifying ministers)
If you are a church employee, income of $108.28 or more is subject to SE tax.
It would be better for you, if you opened a checking account in the church’s name and paid expenses out of it. If that’s not possible, just make sure and keep all of the receipts that show where the church funds are going.
Fascinating! I took the preliminary “Are You a Tax-Exempt Church” quiz on their website and failed miserably so I guess I’d make an awful 501(c)(3) but that’s probably for the best.
There are ways to fail at this of course, like the Spokane, WA priest who couldn’t keep his arms and legs (and other parts) inside of the vehicle at all times, financial mismanagement in the University of North Carolina system, and JDA favorite the University of Colorado’s wild credit card user with horrible hair.
I would never imply that more regulation is the answer; I’m merely pointing out that there’s a bit of work to be done in identifying non-profit fraud. Seriously, how can one detect fraud when the core basis of fund accounting is an imbalance between “expenses” and expenditures?
The Church of Jr Deputy Accountant Scientist? I’m down.
WSJ has a Monday piece “Once-Robust Charity Sector Hit With Mergers, Closings” (the Recession Forces Nonprofits to Consolidate) that may be found here. It tells the story of a “homeless” woman with terminal lung cancer and a charity no longer able to afford to help her out. Sad.
When one charity’s COO says “we’ve had funding cut after funding cut, and we never know when the next shoe is going to drop,” that is a bad sign.
Hit by a drop in donations and government funding in the wake of a deep recession, nonprofits—from arts councils to food banks—are undergoing a painful restructuring, including mergers, acquisitions, collaborations, cutbacks and closings.
“Like in the animal kingdom, at some point, the weaker organizations will not be able to survive,” says Diana Aviv, chief executive of Independent Sector, a coalition of 600 nonprofits.
I saw that on the Discovery Channel and it wasn’t pretty.
Note: the Service says the value of your blood is not deductible as a charitable donation but cars are. As of 2005, cars are only deductible at FMV, not Blue Book. Damn you, fair value, foiled by the free market again!
Blame the Service for tightening its charitable donation rules at the worst possible time? Not sure on that one. While you’re reluctant to donate your $200 Toyota (ha) to charity because you could have claimed $2,000 under old rules, find some comfort in the fact that (alleged) terrorist “non profits” can not file for 2 years and somehow get away with it. You wonder why I advocate fixing the system from the ground up?
You can text $10 to Haiti but what about the “Economic Homeless” here in America? asks Young Money.
If this were a survey and you asked me “What do you think the IRS could do to encourage charitable donations?” I would answer “Tax breaks. It isn’t the Treasury’s job to distribute bailouts.” Yet they continue to behave as though it is their duty.
See the problem yet?
Apparently the IRS is not one for timing. Earlier this month the Service announced that if you get paid to crank out 1040s, your life as you know it is more or less over. Well, at least a little more inconvenient. Okay, it’s hella-inconvenient.
Back when the new regulations were announced the Service let it be known that since it can’t get these new regulations implemented for 2010, it was still stepping up its efforts for getting all up in tax preparers’ shit.
The first step being to be to send 10,000 letters to paid preparers nationwide letting them know that they need to be on their A-game. The letters were intended for, “preparers…with large volumes of specific tax returns where the IRS typically sees frequent errors,” and that they should be “vigilant” for errors related to “Schedule C income and expenses, Schedule A deductions, the Earned Income Tax Credit and the First Time Homebuyer Credit.”
Well then. That should cover about EVERY TAX PREPARER IN THE COUNTRY.
Anyway, the IRS is following up the 10,000 “Dear Joe Kristan” letters with phone calls to set up sit-downs with “thousands” of preparers. According to William Stromsem, who wrote a piece over at CPA2Biz, these are “urgent” calls:
In at least one case, the IRS called a practitioner at home and spoke with the spouse by name, asking for a response within three hours and then calling back before that time was up. Another practitioner, who was unable to schedule a meeting during a busy time was threatened with having the refusal passed up the line to a supervisor.
The piece goes to tell us that the visits will be performed in the coming weeks and months and may last up to 3 hours. Does anyone see a problem with this yet?
These chats are designed to be friendly reminders of all the pitfalls out there in tax preparer land; not a compliance visit (but they will remind you of the penalties that can be assessed for any malfeasance). Regardless of the pleasant intentions, the timing has irked CPAs to no end and we can’t say that we blame them. Hope no one is expecting an apology. And one more thing, we’d like to know how the Commish’s CPA feels about this whole thing. Just for fun; he should get a letter.
IRS ‘10,000 Letters’ Program Angers CPAs [CPA2Biz]
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]
Late on Friday, the IRS declared the earthquake in Haiti to be qualified disaster for federal tax purposes. Call us impatient but did it really need to take that long? It doesn’t seem like it was that tough of a call:
Qualified disasters include presidentially declared disasters and any other event that the Treasury Secretary determines to be catastrophic. The IRS has determined that the earthquake in Haiti that occurred this month is an event of catastrophic nature for purposes of the federal tax law.
We appreciate the complexities of the tax law and we’re certainly aware that tax season is under way but couldn’t someone at the IRS put out a one sentence statement saying, “Yeah, definitely a disaster,” say, the following day? That Friday even? Were there other, more pressing matters on the to-do list? The disaster qualifications must be more subjective than we imagine.
Oh Joe Francis, why won’t you just take your Douche of the Decade trophy and ride off into the sunset?
Actually we know why. The IRS froze $22 million of Douche of D’s money because he still owes them $23 million for taxes owed in 2001, 2002, and 2003. J. Fran would not stand for such aggression and, being the savvy tax guy that he is, sued the Service to get access to his accounts. He concluded that the IRS was just bent out of shape that he got out of additional jail time.
The IRS claims that the real reason that they’re freezing DoD’s assets is that he tried moving the money offshore after his plea. And unless you’re Joe Francis, you know is not such best course of action these days.
IRS can freeze ‘Girls Gone Wild’ money [Don’t Mess With Taxes]
[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]
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]
We’ve mentioned this before but it’s worth stating again: are everyone’s expectations for the IRS unreasonable?
The National Taxpayer Advocate, Nina Olson, has released her annual report to Congress and it points out (among other shortcomings) that the IRS provides “unacceptable” customer service.
Sigh. Need we remind everyone that we’re talking about the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT? This is not Nordstrom’s where you can snap your fingers and another pair of gabardines appear.
Oh sure, maybe the Service is lowering its expectations: “[T]he agency’s goal is to connect 71 percent of callers to a real person, down from a recent high of 87 percent in 2004,” but doesn’t that seem reasonable for the IRS? Are we missing something? Is there some other dimension where the IRS is revered for its efficiency?
IRS Too Busy to Talk to 3 in 10 Who Call for Help [AP via ABC]
National Taxpayer Advocate Report.pdf
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.
Any tax preparers out there that got their stripes by virtue of an 8 hour course in the basement of a church will have to start hitting the books. Today, the IRS announced that it is putting a stop to all the amateur 1040 jockeys out there by issuing new requirements for all paid tax preparers.
The new requirements came after complaints from taxpayer rights’ groups who wanted stronger oversight over the industry. Apparently there are too many “tax professionals” that can’t tell the difference between a W-2 and a sack of doorknobs.
[S]tarting in 2011, all paid tax preparers will have to register with the IRS and include a unique identification number on any returns they prepare. Preparers will be given three years to pass a competency exam in either individual or small business taxation.
Attorneys, certified public accountants and enrolled agents will not be required to pass the competency tests. They will remain subject to the requirements of their respective licensing bodies.
But the exams and new annual, continuing education requirements will impact likely hundreds of thousands of preparers, from employees of chain preparation firms like H&R Block Inc. and Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc. to mom-and-pop storefronts that offer tax preparation as one of several services.
Three years to pass an exam? Even the dimmest of CPA Exam candidates manage to finish in 18 months. Also, we’re curious as to what diabolical plot the H&R Blocks and Jackson Hewitts of the world will devise in order to speed their professionals into compliance.
Regardless of the shortfalls, Doug “Don’t expect me to apologize” Shulman said that the new requirements were ‘long overdue’. He also said that the Service will be forming a task force to look into determining the accuracy of tax prep software for possible future standards over that industry.
One thing is for sure, somewhere Doug’s boss is asking his friends if they know any good CPAs.
Okay maybe that’s a stretch but we’re guessing, what with all the rebellious employees, that the IRS is a tough place to work. Because of this high stress environment, normally rational people may jump to conclusions about otherwise harmless religious symbols.
A judge recently dismissed most of the legal claims of a former IRS revenue agent that wore a kirpan to work.
Continued, after the jump
The revenue agent, Kawaljeet Kaur Tagore, sued the IRS after she was fired in July 2006 for wearing a “kirpan” to the IRS office in Houston…The blunt knife is traditionally worn in a curved sheath and is supposed to act as a reminder of a Sikh’s duty to protect the weak and promote justice for all. Tagore’s supervisor objected to the dagger, even though she claimed it never set off the metal detector in her building, and she was told to work from home.
How can you not get behind protecting the weak and justice for all? Still, Tagore was fired after refusing to wear a knife with a shorter, 2.5 inch, blade and returning with the 3 inch knife even though, as the original story reports, she had sharper items in her office, including her scissors.
Tagore filed suit earlier this year:
claiming that the government’s conduct violated both the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The defendants included the IRS, the Treasury Department, the Department of Homeland Security, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and several of Tagore’s supervisors.
Bad news is that the judge threw out the some of the Title VII claims but good news is that the one against T. Geith still remains. We’ll continue to follow this story if new developments happen to drop on another painfully slow news day.
IRS Dagger Carrier’s Claims Partly Dismissed [Web CPA Debits & Credits]
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]
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]
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]
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.
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]
With only days until a showdown between the IRS and UBS, the Swiss Government has announced that it will stop the release of the 52,000 client names even if the U.S. Court orders the names to be released.
Now before you say, “Oh, Swiss Government, you’re so cute with your braided blonde hair and neutrality,” they sound pretty serious:
“Switzerland makes it perfectly clear that Swiss law prohibits UBS from complying with a possible order by the court in Miami to hand over the client information,” the Swiss Justice Ministry said. “On the basis of the Federal Council’s landmark decision, UBS will by no means be in a position to comply with such an order.” The Finance Ministry added that “all the necessary measures should be taken to prevent UBS from handing over the information on the 52,000 account holders demanded in the U.S. civil proceeding.”
We really feel that a few Toblerones would really go a long way to convincing the IRS that the names aren’t really that important. Just say the word IRS and we’re sure that they can make it happen.
Switzerland: Will Block UBS From Giving U.S. Client Data [WSJ]
H&R Block announced yesterday that it expects the IRS to get less kind and gentle in the coming years as the Service attempts to close the $345 billion tax gap.
The announcement states that the IRS is nearly doubling its budget for next year and that last year, 1 in 99 individual tax returns were audited as compared to 1 in 202 in 2000.
Maybe the Democrats do want all our money…
Audits Double This Decade [H&R Block Press Release]
If you’ve got a Swiss bank account, here’s hoping you opened it because it was convenient for your monthly skiing/Toblerone getaway.
The U.S. and Swiss governments have agreed to share more tax information in order to crack down on all the tax dodgers out there that send their money offshore. The timing of this agreement is is especially diabolical because the IRS is currently trying to get Swiss bank behemoth UBS to name names of over 50,000 American clients.
Hearings in Miami are scheduled for next month to see if the names can be released, however, the Swiss have stated that this may violate Swiss law of double-secret-no-tattling-on-clients.
Ultimately, the Swiss Federal Council and Parliament will decide if the new agreement is kosh but judging by the Obama Administration’s hard-on for closing tax loopholes, they’ll probably play ball.
U.S. and Switzerland to Share More Tax Data [DealBook/NYT]