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Indiana Department of Revenue Will Waffle on Whether It Wants Your Overdue Taxes If It Damn Well Pleases

Taxes are difficult. Given. Even for the professionals that deal with them every day, it can be an exhausting mental exercise that will inevitably lead to mistakes. Example: Back in 2003, Indiana’s Department of Revenue (“DOR”) sent a $1.1 million refund to Aisin USA Manufacturing for its 2001 return. Aisin filed an amended return to show this refund only to have the DOR inform the company that a “clerical error” had been made and the company actually owed over $600k. Aisin wasn’t exactly thrilled with this and, citing the statute of limitations, told Indiana to drop dead. Surprisingly, this seemed to work:

The company then received a letter from DOR stating, “Your recent explanation and/or payment, with respect to the specific liability number referenced above, is satisfactory. No further action is required on your part for this liability.”

Then, not unlike the girlfriend who decides to change her outfit the moment you’re working out the door, the state took it back:

[I]n 2007 and 2008, the DOR notified Aisin that they actually did have to pay the disputed sum.

The state gave the company a break, cutting the amount due by about $70k but begrudgingly added, “Aisin’s continued wrongful retention of this amount d[id] not represent the action of a responsible corporate citizen.”

Long story, short – the DOR sued Aisin to get the taxes due in trial court because it hadn’t jumped through all the hoops necessary to submit the case in tax court. The Court of Appeals wasn’t impressed by this but ultimately the Indiana Supreme Court said everything was kosher and ruled in favor of the state and is now going back to Superior Court.

So, there are lots of lessons here. It appears that Indiana’s DOR can 1) make really bad mistakes; 2) decide those mistakes are NBD; 3) can change their minds and conclude that, mistakes or not, you owing them money is a BFD; 4) don’t feel the need to follow their own rules.

And they ultimately win the right to continue a battle over half a million bucks that has been going on for almost ten years. Seems about right.

Indiana Department of Revenue Rivals the Ministry of Silly Procedures in Tax Refund Case [Tax Foundation]
Zoeller v. Aisin USA Manufacturing, Inc. [Justia]

A Prison Guard Is Now Equally as Effective at Busting Tax Cheats as the IRS

As we have learned, residents of our prison system have proven to be quite savvy at obtaining tax credits, including those intended for first-time homebuyers, alternative-fuel vehicles as well as filing bogus tax returns in order to receive refunds. These scams go along swimmingly until the IRS gets wind of it (anywhere from months to years later), at which time local (and sometimes national) media have some nice filler.

In the latest case of a prisoner tax schemed sniffed out, Troy Fears – who is enjoying a life’s stay in an Arizona prison for rape – spent 2005 to 2009 filing fake tax returns and obtained $119k in the process. He was using “fake W-2’s and apparently said he was filing other inmates’ taxes. He convinced other prisoners he was applying for grants on their behalf so he could get their Social Security numbers.” According to court papers, the IRS was missing this particular scam because “IRS routes [direct deposits] without making sure the name on the account matches the return.” The jig was up when a prison guard intercepted his mail, presumably figured out the tax returns were fakes, and called the authorities. Fears got four years tacked on to his sentence and the guard responsible for catching him can probably expect a “Deputy IRS Agent” certificate (signed by Doug Shulman, natch) in the mail any day now.

Jailed Rapist Gets $119K From Fake Tax Returns [KPHO via TaxProf]

Report: IRS Is Better at Junking Computers From Previous Decades

It appears that the IRS prompted this report from the Treasury Inspector General of Tax Administration after a previous report stated that improvements were needed in the replacing the Service’s dinosaur technology.

Employees have to be pleased that can now obtain better equipment to do their jobs, although three years to determine how to point out an Apple II or an IBM running DOS does seem like a long time.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has significantly improved its ability to identify and replace aging computers, according to a report publicly released today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

The IRS purchases new computers to replace aging equipment through its Sustaining Infrastructure Program. A November 2007 TIGTA report recommended several improvements to the IRS’s processes for replacing computer hardware that has reached or surpassed its useful life. TIGTA conducted the review at the IRS’s request.

TIGTA’s new report found that the IRS has implemented a process for identifying, reviewing, prioritizing, and making decisions on funding the replacement of aged computer hardware and is developing the capability to associate information technology problems with the aged hardware that caused the problem. The improved capability could result in as much as $12.3 million in cost savings and $16.4 million in revenue collection increases, according to the report.

“Taxpayers and IRS employees rely heavily on the information technology infrastructure to ensure satisfaction of tax liabilities, quick resolution of issues, and the security of confidential taxpayer information,” said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “The IRS is to be commended for these improvements,” he added.

Tax Reform Suggestions Will More or Less Encompass Every Idea, Ever

Despite other pressing issues out there, such as, whether a Muslim community center is too closeto Ground Zero or if it’s just a religious revival of an old Burlington Coat factory, the matter of tax reform managed to creep back into the news late last week.

The President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board plans on dropping some suggestions on fixing our tax system on August 27th. This comes after the getting suggestions from the American people but then stalling a little bit on the issue.

Now that some recommendations are scheduled to be made public the Journal suggests that the timing isn’t ideal for an election year but also mentions that while there’s going to be plenty of idea put out there, no real solutions are going to be recommended:

But the timing of the release just before the Labor Day weekend suggests that the administration might be trying to downplay it. Many Democrats say tax hikes are inevitable if the government is to bring down the federal deficit, expected to total about $1.5 trillion this year, but that option remains politically sensitive, given the high jobless rate and ahead of November’s mid-term elections.

According to the Treasury Department, the report will offer “an almanac of options from a broad range of viewpoints,” but won’t make specific policy recommendations. It will discuss ideas related to simplifying the tax code, strengthening enforcement and overhauling the corporate tax system, the department said.

An ‘almanac of ideas’ will no doubt incorporate all ideas on tax reform floated by anyone, anywhere so that it can appear that people are trying really hard to come up with a solution without making anything too politically awkward. In other words, business as usual.

White House Panel to Issue Tax-Overhaul Report Aug. 27 [WSJ]