The IRS Could Use a Hand Here
Specifically, because a lot of taxpayers could…uh, use a hand here: A new report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that the combination of the weak economy, and efforts by the IRS to promote its [offer in compromise] program for helping taxpayers pay off a portion of their outstanding tax debts has […]
Lindsay Lohan Probably Costing California Taxpayers Millions Albeit Less Than Real Fiscal Problems
You may have heard that California is having some budget issues. Sure there’s this Wisconsin business and all that but seriously folks, Californ-I-A is really in the fiscal shithouse. There are a number of reasons for this, most of which we won’t get into here but it should be noted that ill-behaved celebrities haven’t been receiving their fair share of blame in the press.
Luckily we have the real America’s news network going to great lengths to inform us about Lindsay Lohan’s role in fiscal catastrophe:
Factoring in all the court dates, court postponements (like when she was partying in Cannes and couldn’t get back to the U.S for a hearing), arraignments, judge and prosecutor fees, jail visits (she has had three stints in the slammer – 84 minutes, two weeks and one evening before posting bail, mug shots (four and counting), probation officers, random drug testing resources, SCRAM bracelets (these generally cost over $100 to install and have a daily fee of about $18) and LAPD security to and from court, how much is Lohan costing the taxpayer?
“It has been four years, and we’re talking about quite a few county law enforcement professionals, so it is probably safe to say several million dollars,” California-based civil law trial attorney David Wohl told FOX411’s Pop Tarts.
And given that Lohan has thus far refused to enter into a plea deal regarding the theft incident, her current theft case could potentially go to trial, costing Californians much more.
MILLIONS! It’s been a while since your humble editor had to make any materiality calculations but taking a quick look around, California’s budget deficit is currently in the nabe of $25 billion. So apparently if LiLo was shipped off to the Dakotas, Wyoming, or some other state that was in a less dire financial situation, things in Cali would be plumb-dandy? Strange thing however, there doesn’t appear to be an “elimination of celebrities that are a burden on society” on the L.A. Times’s budget balancer.
Perhaps Fox is onto something here? Jerry Brown would probably appreciate the other help. Pro bono of course.
Experts: Court-Prone Lindsay Lohan Costing Taxpayers Millions [Fox News via Jezebel]
Tim Geithner: Cutting IRS Budget Hurts Taxpayers
FYI to any members of Congress who still think it’s a good idea:
Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner on Wednesday said potential cuts to the Internal Revenue Service budget would damage the agency’s ability to collect revenues. “Any substantial cuts to the IRS budget will hurt revenue collection and service to taxpayers, resulting in unanswered phone calls and letters,” Geithner said in the text of remarks prepared for a House Appropriations subcommittee hearing.
Never mind the fact that taxpayers are getting a lot of bang for their buck:
“The customer service and enforcement programs at the IRS provide one of the best values in the federal government,” Geithner said.
What else do you need to know?
Geithner: Cuts To IRS Budget Would Hurt Revenue Collection [Dow Jones]
Area Man Under the Assumption That Firing an IRS Examiner Was Within His Powers as an American Citizen
Mining obscure tax court cases for blog posts during this slow time of year, Joe Kristan discovered this little gem:
In the April 4, 2008, letter petitioner stated that respondent [IRS] had repeatedly refused to answer his questions regarding Code sections that define income and property received as income and establish respondent’s “Delegated Constitutional and Legislated Lawful authority”. The letter contained meaningless language, for example: “I do hereby give you notice that you, and all you are, are Fired from any and all representation of my private affairs without recourse“.
Accounting News Roundup: Record Number of ‘Nonpayers’ of Income Tax in ’08; IRS Getting Used to Threats?; Donations for Chile Bill Passes House | 03.11.10
• 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.
For-profit Higher Ed. Moving on Non-profits Could Reap Taxpayer Funds
Prostitution in the industry is nothing new, you have to take what you can get even if that means devouring struggling non-profits or whoring yourself out for otherwise wholly un-big-business-like busywork (I’m staring directly at you, Big 4).
Daniel Golden of Bloomberg reported yesterday that “ITT Educational Services Inc. paid $20.8 million for debt-ridden Daniel Webster College in June. In return, the company obtained an academic credential that may generate a taxpayer-funded bonanza worth as much as $1 billion.”
With education little more than a vague directive to “teach” at this point (except for the chosen few professors who put their hearts into it, of course), schools are being encouraged to “convert a school to a charter school or a similar education management organization, a for-profit or nonprofit organization that provides ‘whole school operation’ services” (via firedoglake) in California districts where schools have fallen way short of federal education “guidelines”. Hint: that’s when you know it is bad. Firedoglake implies that recent protests and riots by California state university students facing severe class cuts and hikes in tuition are directly related to the push to privatize education.
In the case of small but favored not-for-profit educational institutions, they don’t have much of a choice but to end up recycled into the ITTs and the DeVrys if they can’t make it. For-profit education is the way to go, ask DeVry. They didn’t make $369 million last year for nothing.
Said Karen Pletz in the Kansas City Star, “the not-for-profit mission, whether it be in education, health care, or other human services, is really about values and is intrinsically focused in bettering lives and community.” Not to carelessly go name-calling but what can a for-profit, publicly-traded institution possibly know about that mandate or education for that matter? Its first loyalty is to the shareholders, not the students.
Perhaps not coincidentally, in December of 2009 WSJ pointed to a Department of Education report revealing a 21% default rate in the first three years for those coming from for-profit institutions like ITT over there gobbling up broke Daniel Webster College. For-profit education institutions are accused of aggressive loan procedures to get students through their programs; meanwhile non-profit private education remains picky about who they’ll take and for good reason. It’s a sweeping generalization to say default rates somehow correlate with the quality of instruction but one can assume loans are easier to pay off when the debtor is not just gainfully employed but paid well.
Company’s purchase of N.H. college could earn it $1 billion [Bloomberg via Boston Globe]
Tax Amnesty Programs: A Gold Mine for States or Bad Policy?
More news out of the land of Quakers, as Pennsylvania has announced a tax amnesty program for delinquent taxpayers. The program allows tax deadbeats to pay their back taxes but all the penalties and half of the interest will be waived. Pennsylvania’s will begin on April 26th and be open for 54 days.
The AP reports that the state could generate an additional $190 million in revenues for the state which, like pretty every state, is in a dire need of revenues.
For those that participate in the amnesty program, they’ll have to be on good behavior going forward, “participants who fall into delinquency again within two years may be required to pay the full penalties and interest that had been waived. Also, once the amnesty period ends, a special, ‘nonparticipation penalty’ of 5 percent will be levied against delinquent taxes, penalties, and interest not paid in full.”
Participants will also not be eligible for future amnesty programs. Sounds like a novel idea right?
Well, maybe not.
Our resident tax guru, Joe Kristan, is not a fan of tax amnesty programs saying, “they become an expectation and they make chumps of compliant taxpayers.”
Joe’s home state of Iowa passed a tax amnesty program back in 2007 and his sentiments haven’t changed since then, “[Iowa is] adding more
loopholes targeted tax incentives to its tax law while doing nothing to lower rates or broaden the tax base.”
But Joe, being the silver lining-type, also notes, “those of us who charge for tax work by the hour, it truly helps our economic development during an otherwise slow time of year.” So tax pros will take those new clients despite the bad policy that encouraged them.
Regardless of the bump in off-season revenues, the Tax Policy Blog (who Joe cites) noted that these programs are of little value if reform doesn’t accompany it, “if lawmakers decide to implement tax amnesty programs, they should be accompanied by fundamental tax reform that makes the tax code simpler and easier to comply with.”
So it appears that tax amnesty is nothing more than a duct tape solution from a policy stand point but it certainly makes good pandering fodder in an election year.
Pa. will offer tax amnesty [AP via Philadelphia Inquirer]
(UPDATE) Accounting News Roundup: Rangel
Says He’s Not Quitting as Ways & Means Chair; IRS Is Sitting on $1.3 Billion in Unclaimed Refunds; SEC Adding Muscle in New York | 03.03.10
• Rangel Loses Support in House [WSJ]
You can ignore what’s written below, except the part about rent-controlled apartments.
Charlie Rangel will
not be quitting (temporarily sayeth Charlie Rangel) as the Chairman of the House Ways & Means Committee. If you (read: Republicans) want him out, you’ll have to vote him out. Bad news for Chuck is that the Republicans in the House and several of his fellow Democrats are poised to do just that, “As many as 30 House Democrats could join 178 House Republicans in voting to oust Mr. Rangel as head of the Ways and Means Committee…a substantially higher number than in previous votes on his removal.”
Never mess with people when it comes to rent-controlled apartments. They’ll turn on you like Judas.
In the meeting, Mr. Rangel refused to quit as chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and instead said he’d think overnight about the matter before deciding whether to step down or face an uncertain vote.
After the one-hour meeting broke, Mr. Rangel told reporters he would stay on.
“You bet your life,” he said. Pressed further, Mr. Rangel, raising his voice, said emphatically: “Yes, and I don’t lie to the press.”
There you have it. You want Rangs out? It’ll be over his dead body. Since he’s 79, it might just come to that.
• Taxpayers Have $1.3 Billion in Unclaimed Refunds [TaxProf Blog]
That’s just for 2006. California leads the charge with over $150 million, followed by Texas with $114 million, and Florida with $110 million. 1.4 million tax-hating Americans have until April 15th of this year to claim and then the money goes straight to Goldman Sachs.
• SEC to beef up its NYC office in 2010 [Reuters]
Here’s a possible gig for those of you that are still looking for work. The not-so-new but constantly improving (?!?) SEC is looking to hire a few good men and women for its New York office. Having got the scratch to put a few more hands on deck, the Commission is looking for 18 people for its enforcement team and 15 for its examination staff. There’s no indication that this will solve the SEC’s “idiots” problem but maybe you can at least land a job.
The IRS Is Taking Your Personal Information Seriously, Starting NOW.
Sometimes we wonder if the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) ever gets tired of telling the IRS that they are doing a lousy job at pretty much everything.
The latest finger wagging from the TIGTA in the Services’ direction has to do with following protocols for processing taxpayer requests for tax returns or transcripts:
Forty-three percent of taxpayer requests for copies of tax returns or transcripts were processed incorrectly or not in accordance with IRS guidelines…
The errors occurred because IRS employees did not always follow guidelines, or because the guidelines were unclear, inconsistent or insufficient in protecting taxpayer information. Existing guidelines allow IRS employees to process taxpayer requests for tax returns or transcripts without an accurate or complete Social Security number and to send copies of returns and transcripts to an address other than that provided to the IRS on tax returns.
Jesus, that’s reassuring. Naturally, the TIGTA is concerned about the American Taxpayer:
“Taxpayers have a right to expect that the IRS will take every measure to protect their tax return information from inappropriate disclosure,” said TIGTA Inspector General J. Russell George in a statement. “The protection of personally identifiable information is a responsibility that the IRS must take more seriously.”
First: judging by the IRS’ track record, they really don’t take anything too seriously, except, perhaps, anything to do with UBS.
Second: Taxpayers have rights? Since when? We’ve been bailing out banks and car companies and you’re concerned about our right to have our tax return information protected? That’s rich. We’ve all been violated to the point of numbness, J. Russell George. Next time, we’d prefer if you said, “The American Taxpayer can expect more of less from the IRS for the foreseeable future. We are in a constant quagmire over here. Please bear with us.”
Honesty. Consider it.
Tax Return Transcripts Expose Personal Information [Web CPA]