Last month, we learned about a trove of documents that revealed a creative tax planning strategy on the part of PwC. Now, we're learning the Luxembourgian manuevering wasn't limited to just one Big 4 firm. From The Center for Public Integrity: A new leak of confidential documents expands the list of big companies seeking secret […]
Naturally. Williams’s Sara LaLumia, the University of Chicago’s James Sallee and the Treasury Department’s Nicholas Turner took it upon themselves to figure out if policies like the Child Tax Credit (CTC), the dependent exemption and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC, which is more generous for families with more children) are pushing mothers with due […]
Former Vice President Al Gore recently became a very wealthy man (well, wealthier). Good for him, right? This is America after all, where the rich are important and the important are rich and if you're neither then, well, you're probably not working hard enough. Anyway, if you're wondering how Vice Prince Albert made his […]
They said it loud and proud in a press release yesterday: The map enables users to view the status of same-sex marriage unions in individual states by hovering their computer cursors. A pop-up chart for the highlighted state reveals a variety of data, including whether same-sex marriage or rights similar to marriage are recognized in […]
With every ginormous lottery jackpot comes the inevitable stream of articles discussing the tax implications of such a windfall. Yes, someone who wins a gazillion dollars will probably need a small platoon of financial advisers to make the best decisions possible with regard to their dumb fucking luck, but the best part about winning a […]
Yesterday, we told you about Jesse Drucker's stellar report on Mitt Romney's "I Dig It" trust and how it allows his family to pass along wealth to the younger generations with relatively little taxes being paid. It was the latest of many reports and scoops on Willard's finances and really, we shouldn't be surprised. He […]
Today, a Bloomberg article by Jesse Drucker called attention to Mitt Romney's "intentionally defective grantor trust" aka "IDGT" or "I Dig It" trust. For the seasoned estate tax planning or wealth preservation professional, this is old hat, but for many people this is quite exciting. And by exciting I mean, "Holy shit, they can do […]
Who knew? U.S. companies with offshore operations could be saving billions of dollars by utilizing apparently legal tax maneuvers, according to a new study. The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, in a report released Monday, found that companies around the world are using a sometimes complex series of moves to take advantage of differences in […]
News Corp. has 152 subsidiaries in tax havens, including 62 in the British Virgin Islands and 33 in the Caymans. Among the hundred largest U.S. companies, only Citigroup and Morgan Stanley have more tax haven subsidiaries than News Corp., a 2009 U.S. Government Accountability Office study found.
News Corp. had nearly $7 billion permanently invested offshore in 2009, money on which it does not have to pay taxes unless it brings the money back to the United States. Meanwhile, it can use that money as collateral for loans in the United States, where interest paid is a tax-deductible expense.
This and other tax planning strategies result in a 20% tax rate for the company. And not a single phone hacked!
Please be advised that the David Cay Johnston column published on Tuesday stating that Rupert Murdoch’s U.S.-based News Corp made money on income taxes is wrong and has been withdrawn. News Corp’s filings show the company changed reporting conventions in its 2007 annual report when it reversed the way it showed positive and negative numbers. A new column correcting and explaining the error in more detail will be issued shortly.
As of now, Johnston’s post remains unchanged and what I blockquoted above doesn’t seem to be in dispute but the situation appears to be fluid.
Here’s a portion from Johnston’s new column:
Readers, I apologize. The premise of my debut column for Reuters, on News Corp’s taxes, was wrong, 100 percent dead wrong.
Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp did not get a $4.8 billion tax refund for the past four years, as I reported. Instead, it paid that much in cash for corporate income taxes for the years 2007 through 2010 while earning pre-tax profits of $10.4 billion.
For the first time in my 45-year-old career I am writing a skinback. That is what journalists call a retraction of the premise of a piece, as in peeling back your skin and feeling the pain. I will do all I can to make sure everyone who has read or heard secondary reports based on my column also learns the facts and would appreciate the help of readers in that cause.
Johnston goes on to explain in detail how the error occurred. He also states that a number of the facts originally reported, including the number of News Corp. subsidiaries in tax haven (that we blockquoted above), remain.
At the company’s shareholders meeting Keith Sherin said “This is the best earnings outlook we’ve had in the last 10 years,” which indicates that tax planning might not be everything. [Reuters]
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And by “figured out,” I’m referring to “worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and […] $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States,” combined with a grand total $0.00 in taxes. “In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion,” reports the Times.
Sure the Internal Revenue Code is complex but if you’re aggressive, have a few lobbyists at your disposal and your tax department is “often referred to as the best tax law firm,” the IRC is a cakewalk.
Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore. G.E.’s giant tax department, led by a bow-tied former Treasury official named John Samuels, is often referred to as the world’s best tax law firm. Indeed, the company’s slogan “Imagination at Work” fits this department well. The team includes former officials not just from the Treasury, but also from the I.R.S. and virtually all the tax-writing committees in Congress.
Every tax professional has run across questionable expenses provided by their clients. Maybe you’ve got a used car-lot proprietor who insists that his hairpiece is crucial to his business appearance and, thus, his ability to put people behind the wheel of their dream ride. Perhaps you’ve got a sociologist that is conducting weekly research in the champagne room of a local gentleman’s club. Or maybe you’ve recently concluded that the process of, and expenses related to, tying the knot have been such a burden that it is completely acceptable to ram it onto your 1040:
I have now figured out why the divorce rate is so high in America. Apparently, according to one of my taxpayers, wedding expenses and cruises for celebrating your engagement are now considered “write-offs.” Unfortunately, I cannot find this particular subject in THE CODE – but I think I’ll take my taxpayer’s word for it.
Maybe you should pass on this tidbit – I sure wish I had known about this obscure write off before I got married, but obviously, it’s time for me to start planning my next one. It’s going to be HUGE!!
– One of the many tax preparers currently wishing they remembered what their home looks like.
Our tipster insists that her client provided the receipts but didn’t want to forward them (something about client confidentiality). Of course, if you’ve got something that tops this, you’re invited to share it with us. In the meantime, any tax sages out there that wish to advise/debate the credibility of including the cost of sheet cakes from Costco, amateur photographers and invitations that may or may not kill you on a Schedule A (or wherever) are free to do so.
Fay Vincent is making the suggestion that sports stars, like DJ, should be negotiating for shares of their respective teams.
My question is why sports figures are not taking steps to generate tax-favored income by bargaining to get ownership interests in their teams. Imagine how much better off old timers like Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris would have been if they had been able to obtain even tiny shares of the Yankees franchise in 1961. In today’s context, it is true enough that the tax rate on capital gains income may soon rise to 20%—but that’s still far below the rates levied on top income earners.
Since Vincent – a former entertainment lawyer – has been around the block with big-time earners, he might be on to something here, although maybe the Steinbrenners aren’t interested, being the shrewd business family that they are (George died in a year with no estate tax for crissakes). Since neither Jeets nor the Yanks are budging in the negotiations, this idea could work. It’ been floated in the Times so it’s not like this option is a huge secret. Make something happen, people.
By most accounts, Jeter wants to finish his career in New York and the man has been the franchise for over the last decade. Forget the cash, ask for shares and save on some taxes. It’s not complicated.
Okay, maybe it’s a little complicated.
Feeling ready for tax season? Ready for those Schedule C’s and Schedule F’s? Here’s a quick list of the things you will want to be familiar with to properly advise your small business clients.
• New Health Bill provisions. You’ll want to understand the small employer health insurance credit and what new employer health plans look like.
• Self-employed health insurance can be deducted on the business return for the first time, which reduces SE tax.
• Health reimbursement “qualified” arrangements
• The new $500,000 Section 179 expensing allowance, a brand new $250,000 Section 179 for real property assets including leasehold improvements and restaurant property, and the unexpected renewal of the 50% bonus depreciation.
• The 2010 Federal mileage, lodging and meal per diem rates. Recordkeeping for travel, entertainment and the new rules on cell phones.
• The “away-from-home-overnight” requirement for travel expense deductions.
• How to handle the blizzard of Form-1099Cs business clients are receiving and how this cancellation of debt income can be avoided or deferred.
• The status of “hobby loss” and the office-in-home limitation rules
• The new NOL carryback provisions
• The new depreciable lives on restaurant buildings
• The new 9% domestic production activity deduction, who qualifies, what qualifies and where to put it on the return
Got it all? Need help pulling all the information together? Get the details on these and other issues related to business tax in Part 3 of CPE Link’s Federal Tax Update webcasts scheduled November-January. Course includes downloadable manual containing hyperlinks to applicable code sections.
He’s good enough, he’s smart enough, and doggone it, the state revenue departments loved Al Franken — once he paid $70,000 in back taxes.
Like many celebrities, Mr. Franken took his act on the road, making a good living on gigs in various states. Unlike many celebrities, Franken ran for office, subjecting his tax life to unnatural scrutiny. It turned out that he hadn’t filed taxes in every state wher
Franken has a lot of company in going from state to state without paying all of his taxes (he also has a lot of company in dumping on his accountant to weasel out of the blame). It’s a lot of work, and a lot of expense, for a traveling worker to pay taxes in every state. Every state has its own tax rules, and preparing all those returns isn’t cheap. Unfortunately, current law can make you taxable in a state with as little as one day of work.
State taxes are a compliance nighmare for glamour professions like sports, entertainment, construction and auditing. That’s why the Multistate Tax Commission is working on model legislation that would exempt workers from state taxes if they work in a state for less than 20 days in a year. That is, unless they work in sports, entertainment or construction (perhaps the only known instance where auditors aren’t abused worse than other professionals). A bill going nowhere in Congress, the Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Fairness and Simplification Act, would would create a 30-day threshold, but similarly screw entertainers and athletes, but not construction workers.
This raises the obvious question: why do they want to screw the athletes and entertainers? Presumably the states all want to pick Taylor Swift’s pocket (understandably), but for every Taylor Swift there are hundreds of struggling young musicians trying to scrape by and make a name for themselves. Yet the tax law, in all its majesty, requires the same level of tax compliance for millionairess Taylor Swift and the wonderful, but surely less prosperous, Carrie Rodriguez.
Small businesses used to be able to blow off states they only visited for a brief time. That’s becoming a bad bet. Better and cheaper data mining software makes it easier each year for state revenuers to sniff out temporary presence. If there is any publicity for your visit, you leave a Google trail. If you don’t file in a state, the statute of limitations never runs there, and you can build up a painful multi-year liability. If they catch you after the statute of limitations for your home state runs out, you lose your credit on the home state return for taxes paid in the other state — meaning you pay tax on the same income in two states.
So what do you do if you are a small business? Pay attention to which states you are doing business in. Don’t assume they just won’t notice you. Discuss things with your tax preparer. If you have sinned, most states will work out a deal through your preparer to only collect for a few years, and maybe waive penalties, if you come forward before they catch you. And remember that if you live in a high tax state, like California, New York or Iowa, you should be able to get an offsetting refund on your home state return for non-resident state taxes on an amended return for open years.
While BP continues to get murdered in the press for its role in the Deepwater Horizon nightmare in the Gulf of Mexico, we bring you a new reason to hate on another big player in this mess, Transocean. Martin Sullivan writes in Tax Analysts’ Tax Notes about the billions in taxes Transocean has managed to avoid since moving its domicile offshore – first to the Cayman Islands and then to Switzerland.
For those of you not completely up-to-speed on your Deepwater Horizon cast of baddies, Transocean was the owner and operator of the De BP was the project operator (think of a general contractor) of the rig, paying Transocean $500,000 a day to drill the well.
Sullivan writes in his piece that despite Transocean being legally domiciled in Zug, Switzerland, (a transaction known as an inversion or corporate expatriation) it really does very little to change the substance of the company’s operations, “These tax-motivated restructurings occur with little or no real change in day-to-day business operations. Top executives, key personnel, and all significant business operations in the United States before the transaction remain in
the United States.”
The transactions were controversial to be sure, and companies that engaged in them were likened to Benedict Arnold by politicians when the came under fire back in the early Aughts. To get an idea of Transocean’s savings, Mr Sullivan presents data that shows the company’s preinversion average effective tax rate of 31.6% and its postinversion tax rate of 16.9%. This saved the company just over $1.8 billion in taxes over the last ten years.
Transocean consummated their inversion back in 1999, so they were far ahead of the curve, as the tax benefits for inversions were stripped out in the code effective for transactions that occurred after March 4, 2003 but the savings have added up over the years as the company saved over $750 million just last year.
But Transocean has largely stayed out of the spotlight in this whole shitshow and has been in CYA mode virtually the whole time, consistently citing an indemnification agreement with BP, filing to limit its liability:
As set forth under Federal Law, the complaint also asks that the companies be judged not liable on claims for certain, defined losses or damages relating to the casualty or, if they are judged to be liable, that the liability for such claims be limited to the value of their interest in the Deepwater Horizon rig and its freight including the accounts receivable and accrued accounts receivable as of April 28, 2010. The petitioners assert in the filing that the entire value of their interest does not exceed $26,764,083.
And scoffing at any notion of not paying its dividend, reminding everyone that they declared it long before explosion on the rig they were operating, “Transocean will honor all of its legal obligations arising from the Deepwater Horizon accident. The dividend proposal was announced on February 16, 2010, described in the preliminary proxy statement which was filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on March 1, 2010, and approved by shareholders at the company’s annual general meeting on May 14, 2010.”
Throw the decade or so of tax savings and it sounds like Transocean has it made in the shade. How’s that for corporate responsibility and accountability? It’s not like we’re dealing the largest environmental disaster ever.
Can We Trust Bidz.com’s Financial Reporting? [White Collar Fraud]
We won’t tell you what to think but you should know that Bidz reported “material weaknesses in internal control over financial reporting” specifically those controls over “management oversight and anti-fraud controls specifically in processing of financial transactions, vendor review and payment processing,” in its most recent 10-K and