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Thursday, April 16, 2015

North Carolina Law Review Festschrift In Honor Of Bill Turnier

TurnierJohn Charles Borger (Dean, North Carolina), An Issue in Tribute to a Splendid Career William J. Turnier: UNC Law Colleague, 1973–2014, 93 N.C. L. Rev. 643 (2015):

It is not every senior faculty member whose fondest wish upon retirement is less a dinner hosted in his honor or a public celebration in the Rotunda of Van Hecke-Wettach, but rather an issue of the North Carolina Law Review devoted to tax scholarship. Yet it seems completely fitting that William J. Turnier, a member of the University of North Carolina law faculty for the past forty-one years, has acquiesced in the tribute that appears in these pages, a series of tax articles his scholarly colleagues have assembled in this issue of the Review to mark his departure from full-time academic life. ...

There is always some sadness in watching the departure from our halls of learning of someone who has built such a rich career and commanded such gratitude from more than two generations of students. Yet Bill Turnier’s impact on Carolina Law will remain, and by suggesting this special issue, designed in tribute to his chosen field, Bill has afforded us one last gift that will endure as long as readers strive to read, research, and understand law and its potential for ordering the commonweal.

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April 16, 2015 in Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Adler: How The IRS Repeatedly Rewrites Obamacare Tax Credit Provisions

The Volokh Conspiracy:  How the IRS Repeatedly Rewrites Obamacare Tax Credit Provisions, by Jonathan H. Adler (Case Western):

The plaintiffs in King v. Burwell argue that an IRS regulation unlawfully extends tax credit eligibility beyond what is expressly authorized under Section 1401 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA). It appears that this sort of administrative rewrite of the PPACA may be more the rule than the exception, as there are at least two other instances of the IRS rewriting the PPACA’s tax credit eligibility requirements. 

In a series of posts at “Notice & Comment,” the blog of the Yale Journal on Regulation, Professor Andy Grewal documents two additional cases in which the IRS has rewritten the PPACA’s tax credit eligibility requirements so as to expand eligibility beyond what Congress authorized.  Combined with other instances of the IRS and HHS disregarding the PPACA’s plain text, it appears the federal government has little regard for what the PPACA actually says. ...

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April 16, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

The Mob Museum: The Treasury Department's Special Intelligence Unit

Mob MuseumThe Mob Museum Presents Follow The Money: The Unsung Intelligence Unit That Put Away Some Of The Most Notorious Mobsters:

Who put some of the most notorious mobsters behind bars? Many people don’t realize it was, in fact, the IRS. On Thursday, April 16 at 8 p.m., The Mob Museum, the National Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, presents its next installment in the Courtroom Conversations series, “Follow the Money: The Unsung Intelligence Unit That Brought Down the Mob.”

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April 16, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 707

IRS Logo 2Wall Street Journal, House Passes Package of Bills Aimed at Curbing IRS Abuses:

The House on Wednesday passed a package of bills aimed at preventing future abuses at the Internal Revenue Service, in the wake of a series of controversies at the agency.

The bills, which were largely noncontroversial, passed the House on voice votes, with support from some Democrats.

Despite the bipartisan agreement on Wednesday, the bills’ future in the Senate remains somewhat unclear, as there is ongoing partisan rancor over the IRS.

Republicans have been harshly critical of the IRS, particularly after an inspector general’s report in 2013 said agency officials had targeted dozens of tea party-type groups for intrusive scrutiny as they sought tax-exempt status, starting in 2010. That controversy in turn led to a series of other scandals, for example over how and why the agency had mishandled some confidential taxpayer information. ...

Democrats have acknowledged problems with some of the agency’s processes. But they have generally blamed bureaucratic incompetence, saying the agency wasn't motivated by political bias. ...

The bills passed on Wednesday were mostly narrow in focus. One would streamline the application process for nonprofit social-welfare groups seeking to become tax-exempt, effectively eliminating the IRS’s ability to hold up their applications indefinitely.

Another would make it a firing offense for an IRS official to target taxpayers for their political beliefs. Still another would clarify that gift taxes don’t apply to donations to social-welfare groups organized under section 501(c)(4). 

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April 16, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Shay Presents Designing a U.S. Minimum Tax on Foreign Business Income Today at Penn

Shay (2014)Stephen Shay (Harvard) presents Designing a U.S. Minimum Tax on Foreign Business Income (with Cliff Fleming (BYU) & Robert Peroni (Texas)) at Pennsylvania today as part of its Tax Law and Policy Workshop Series hosted by Chris William Sanchirico and Reed Shuldiner:

This paper continues an exploration of second best international tax reforms, in this case, how a U.S. minimum tax on foreign income earned by a controlled foreign corporation should be designed to protect the U.S. against erosion of its corporate income tax base and combat tax competition by low-tax intermediary countries. A minimum tax should be an interim tax that preserves the residual U.S. tax on foreign income. Such a tax would more effectively limit incentives to seek low-taxed foreign income while ameliorating pressure to retain excess earnings abroad. Corresponding changes should be made to the U.S. corporate residence definition, to the residence taxation of U.S. portfolio investors in foreign corporations and to the source taxation of foreign MNCs to reduce tax advantages under current law for investments in foreign corporations. These changes would reduce tax advantages for foreign parent corporate groups and incentives for U.S. corporations to expatriate as a consequence of increased U.S. taxation of foreign income.

April 15, 2015 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

IRS in Space: How Will We Tax a Mars Mission?, IRS in Space: How Will We Tax a Mars Mission?:

Paying taxes is an inescapable reality — even in space.

Taxes are going to play a big role in a Mars mission, both in getting there and upon arrival, Adam Chodorow, a law professor at Arizona State University in Tempe, said April 9 at an event hosted by Future Tense, a partnership of Slate, the nonprofit New America Foundation and Arizona State University.

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April 15, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

NY Times: Would You Let The IRS Prepare Your Taxes?

Turbo Tax (2015)New York Times, Would You Let the I.R.S. Prepare Your Taxes?:

Around this time every year, Joseph Bankman, a professor of tax law at Stanford Law School and a longtime advocate of using technology to simplify tax filing, gets on the phone with reporters to explain what is wrong with how we do our taxes in the United States. Every year he says pretty much the same thing: No other industrialized country asks its citizens to jump through as many hoops to calculate their taxes as ours.

It isn’t just lawmakers or the hapless-seeming Internal Revenue Service that is perpetuating the annoyance of tax time, he adds. Instead it is the private sector — specifically, the software company Intuit, which makes TurboTax, the most popular tax program in the country.

For more than a decade, Mr. Bankman and a small group of tax experts have called on the government to create a tax preparation method that they say would vastly reduce the time and cost of tax-filing for most people. Intuit has been a primary obstacle to the effort.

The reform plan would work like this: Today, employers, banks, brokerage firms and pretty much every other financial organization in the country send the federal government detailed records about our economic activity every year. These organizations also send you, the taxpayer, a similar set of documents, which are forms with names like W2 and 1098. After you file your taxes, the government matches its two sets of documents to make sure you have filed correctly.

To Mr. Bankman, this double documentation doesn’t make much sense. If the government is already collecting financial data from employers and banks, why can’t the I.R.S. use that information to precalculate our tax returns for us? At the very least, why can’t tax software just connect to the government’s database to download all the information that the government has collected, saving us all that record-keeping and data entry?

“Imagine if your vehicle registration fee was done the same way,” Mr. Bankman asked in a recent interview. “Imagine if the state said, ‘Go to your car, find your VIN number and then look at this table that has different tax rates to find out how much you owe.’ If they did, people would probably need to hire an expert for that too.”

The idea of the government filling our tax returns for us, known as “return-free filing,” has been met with much opposition from several groups, including conservatives suspicious of the I.R.S. And as the investigative news organization ProPublica reported in 2013 and 2014, some of the most intense opposition has come from Intuit, which has spent millions lobbying to oppose methods for the I.R.S. to create a tax-filing system that might free us from having to use software like TurboTax. ...

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April 15, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

World Premiere of Loopholes, A Pain In The I.R.S.

Tonight is the world premiere of Loopholes, A Pain In The I.R.S. at the Hudson Mainstage Theatre in Hollywood, Calijfornia


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April 15, 2015 in Celebrity Tax Lore, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Call for Book Reviews: Michigan Law Review

Michigan The Michigan Law Review has asked me to post its solicitation of book reviews for its 2016 Survey of Books Related to the Law:

The Michigan Law Review publishes an Annual Survey of Books. These book reviews are not included in any other issue of the Law Review. Typically, the Survey includes only reviews of books published in the past year. The Volume 114 Book Review issue will be published in spring 2016.

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April 15, 2015 in Book Club, Legal Education, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

GE's Effective Tax Rate To Double (To 20%) Once It Sheds Its Capital Business

GE 2016Following up on Monday's post, GE Bites Tax Bullet, Repatriates $36 Billion in Foreign Profits: Wall Street Journal, GE to Lose Tax Breaks As It Sheds Capital Unit:

In cutting loose its banking business, General Electric Co. isn’t just shedding a profitable lending operation. It’s also losing a rich source of tax breaks.

GE has long used the financial operations of GE Capital to hold down its overall tax rate, a strategy that has allowed the conglomerate to pay taxes at a lower rate than its peers. The impact has been significant enough that GE discusses it in its securities filings and was deterred for a long time from seriously considering a spinoff.

But the company will lose access to some of those tax efficiencies as it sells off the bulk of GE Capital’s business over the next two years. An early hit will come from the decision to repatriate $36 billion in GE Capital profit that it had been sheltering overseas—a move that will bring a $6 billion tax bill—but the full impact will be broader. GE says its effective tax rate could rise to 20% or more in the future, roughly double last year’s rate of just over 10%. That rate would put the company in line with other industrial businesses and would be likely to hold relatively steady, analysts who cover the company said.


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April 15, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Eissa Presents The Technology of Tax Collection and Compliance Today at Georgetown

EissaNada Eissa (Georgetown) presents The Technology of Tax Collection and Compliance: Electronic Billing Machines and The VAT at Georgetown today as part of its Tax Law and Public Finance Workshop Series hosted by John BrooksItai Grinberg, and David Schizer:

The expansion of the tax base in developing countries is increasingly recognized as an important policy goal, as an increase in domestic revenue sources promises to reduce aid dependence and reduce distortionary consequences of taxes on externally traded goods. This paper analyzes the adoption rate and tax compliance impacts of an innovative program in Rwanda, which introduced Electronic Billing Machines to strengthen VAT compliance. To do so, we combine quarterly data on all VAT payments from 2012 through 2014q3 with data on EBM activation over the same period.

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April 14, 2015 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Zelenak Presents The Differing Income Tax Treatments of Marriage at Different Income Levels Today at NYU

Zelenak (2014)Lawrence Zelenak, (Duke) presents For Better And Worse: The Differing Income Tax Treatments of Marriage at Different Income Levels, 93 N.C. L. Rev. 783 (2015), at NYU today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series hosted by Daniel Shaviro and Alan Viard:

Although both marriage penalties and marriage bonuses exist at all income levels under the federal income tax, the system is tilted toward penalties for lower-income couples, toward bonuses for middle-income couples, and back toward penalties for upper-income couples. This Article begins by explaining how the tax rules produce these differing treatments of marriage at different points in the income distribution. It then argues that the increase in recent decades in the social acceptability and prevalence of cohabitation makes tax marriage effects a more serious concern—in terms of both behavioral effects and fairness—than in earlier decades.

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April 14, 2015 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

NY Times Debate: The Worst Tax Breaks

NY Times Room for DebateNew York Times Room for Debate, The Worst Tax Breaks:

The pain of last-minute tax filing is compounded by the thought not just of what you’re paying but what others aren’t. Each year the federal government essentially spends more on individual breaks for things like housing, education, retirement and savings than on all nondefense discretionary spending. That’s not to mention corporate tax breaks. What are the most useless, unfair or counterproductive personal tax breaks?

April 14, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Ten Percent of S&P 500 Companies Avoid Paying U.S. Taxes

Bloomberg, Ten Percent of S&P 500 Companies Avoid Paying U.S. Taxes:

When it comes to taxes, corporate America is getting a bit less corporate. And a bit less American.

Fueled by a wave of inversions, a record 54 companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of leading U.S. firms are now at least partially exempt from the corporate income tax. That’s more than twice the number four years ago.


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April 14, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tax Court: A Snickers Bar Is Not a Deductible Business Expense

SnickersIn Cvancara v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2013-20, the Tax Court disallowed a business expense deduction for a Snickers bar consumed while working.


April 14, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (7)

Graetz: How Do We Fix America’s Tax System?

Michael Graetz (Columbia), How Do We Fix America’s Tax System?:

The United States hobbles itself in today’s international economy by continuing to rely so heavily on income taxation. The truth is that we need a tax reform that is considerably bolder than either Congress or the president is now contemplating. We need to rebalance our federal tax system to take advantage of our status as a low-tax country by relying less rely less heavily on income taxation. To create a simple, internationally competitive and viable long-term solution to our fiscal requirements, we should return the income tax to its original purpose: the collection of a simpler tax on high-income earners who tend to have multiple income sources. In order to do that, we need to tax consumption—that is, sales of goods and services. By enacting a broad-based tax on sales of goods and services now used by more than 150 countries worldwide, we could use the revenues to finance an income-tax exemption of $100,000 of family income and to lower substantially the individual income-tax rate on income above that amount—freeing over 150 million Americans from ever having to deal with the IRS. Through payroll-tax cuts and debit cards to be used at checkout counters, we can protect low- and middle-income families from any tax increase.

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April 14, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 705

IRS Logo 2Letter From Orrin Hatch (Chair, Senate Finance Committee) to John Koskinen (Commissioner, IRS) (Apr. 13, 2015):

At a recent Senate Finance Committee hearing, I noted the long, historic relationship of the Internal Revenue Service and the Senate Finance Committee. The challenges of the IRS in the coming years will be great, as your agency struggles with the implementation of new federal programs and doing more with limited resources. The next chapter in our relationship is a critical one, and I hope a good one, but as I noted at the hearing, that is ultimately up to you.

I also warned that attempts to limit political speech through the tax code would not be tolerated, and would only serve to “further entangle your agency in political debate and controversy.” Two years ago, your agency put forth proposed regulations that would upend half-century-old rules regarding get out the vote drives, voter registration, and other activities by tax exempt organizations. This rule was withdrawn after intense opposition across the political spectrum. You recently announced that the IRS would seek to broaden the rule, restricting the speech and activities of an even wider range of tax exempt organizations. You are starting down a very dangerous road.

You have explained that this attempt to restrict the rights of groups to organize and speak out was in response to the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups and 2013 recommendations by the Inspector General. You have also explained that new rules were necessary to prevent further targeting. Both claims are false.

Congressional investigations have established that the Treasury Department began work on the proposal in 2011, long before the Inspector General’s recommendations and during the height of the political targeting, rather than in response to it. Furthermore, interviews with front-line IRS employees established that those workers were processing applications from conservative groups in a timely fashion and without difficulty, until political officials in Washington, DC intervened. The problem was not the rules governing tax exempt entities – the problem was officials at IRS and Treasury Department headquarters further involving your agency into the political speech of Americans across the country. Rather than preventing further targeting, the new proposal – should you proceed with it – will be the systemization of targeting through law.

As it is, the IRS faces seemingly insurmountable challenges in implementing the President’s health care overhaul and the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act with limited resources. The IRS is just beginning to recover its reputation, and your agency is just beginning to regain trust from lawmakers. Do not throw all of that away in a quixotic and bizarre mission to regulate the political activity of Americans. If you do so, in light of your agency’s recent history, your actions will be viewed with the presumption of political bias and bad faith. If you issue this proposed rule, Congress will have no choice but to investigate the reasons behind this power grab, be it political motivation or orders from officials at the Treasury Department or the White House. To that end, and in anticipation of the Administration moving ahead on this issue, I ask that you begin putting in place document retention policies for all documents and communication related to your agency’s work regarding these proposals. This retention should include, but is not limited to, all handwritten notes, memoranda, and electronic communication on the matter.

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April 14, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (5)

Monday, April 13, 2015

Republicans Seek to Repeal Estate Tax, Preserve Step-Up In Basis At Death

Estate Tax LogoBloomberg, Why Republicans Want a Bigger U.S. Estate Tax Repeal Than Ever:

Congressional Republicans have narrowed the estate tax so much that it affects only about 5,500 wealthy American households a year. Now they want to eliminate the tax altogether -- with a bonus for heirs.

Under the latest plan, backed by farmers and business groups, estates would pay no taxes. Furthermore, heirs wouldn’t owe any capital gains taxes on the increased value of assets over the deceased’s life.

That move -- simpler and more generous than previous repeal efforts -- would let billions of dollars in income and assets escape all U.S. taxes. The plan would cost the U.S. government $269 billion in lost revenue over a decade. ...

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April 13, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

WaPo Fact Checker: Who Wrote the 'IRS Code'?

WaPo Fact CheckerWashington Post Fact Checker, Who Wrote the ‘IRS Code’? Hint: It Wasn’t the Internal Revenue Service:

On tax reform, we, right now, have more words in the IRS code than there are in the Bible — not a one of them as good.
–Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), speech at International Association of Fire Fighters legislative conference, March 10, 2015

The Fact Checker previously wrote that Cruz’s comparison was ultimately meaningless — not worthy of a Geppetto Checkmark nor a Pinocchio — because saying one piece of text has more words than another doesn’t really tell you anything. A lot of readers responded to us via e-mail and social media — some critical, some appreciative and a few amused.

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April 13, 2015 in Congressional News, IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (3)

Blair-Stanek: Crisis-Proofing Tax Law

Andrew Blair-Stanek (Maryland), Crisis-Proofing Tax Law, 57 Wm. & Mary L. Rev. __ (2016):

While Congress and the Federal Reserve battled the 2008-09 financial crisis with high-profile bailouts, the IRS fought a parallel, little-noticed battle to ensure that many harsh tax rules did not deepen the crisis. Remarkably, the IRS’s crisis responses cost the government more money than the bailouts, with a handful of companies receiving huge tax windfalls. Yet the IRS also kept its responses too narrowly tailored, causing preventable layoffs and foreclosures.

This Article proposes a novel framework for tax law to handle future crises efficiently and equitably, using the law-and-economics concept of property rules and liability rules.

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April 13, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

John Oliver and Michael Bolton Defend The IRS

(Click on YouTube button on bottom right to view video directly on YouTube to avoid interruption caused by blog's refresh rate.)

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April 13, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

GE Bites Tax Bullet, Repatriates $36 Billion in Foreign Profits

GE 2016Wall Street Journal, GE Bites Tax Bullet in Move to Help Share Buybacks:

As General Electric Co. unveiled a reshaping of its balance sheet and operations, the company’s decision to repatriate $36 billion in foreign cash brings a large tax bill and raises concerns about whether multinationals’ efforts to minimize taxes are taking too heavy a toll back home.

The U.S. tax system, with one of the world’s highest corporate rates, has led U.S. companies with significant overseas operations to park much of their cash offshore. But that decision comes with its own cost in the form of lost opportunities at home, and GE’s decision suggests more companies may be reaching a tipping point, some observers said.

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April 13, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Top 20% of Earners Pay 84% of Income Tax

Wall Street Journal Tax Report, Top 20% of Earners Pay 84% of Income Tax:

The tables show just how progressive the income tax is. The three million people in the top 1% of earners pay nearly half the income tax.

Why is the share of income taxes negative for 40% of Americans? In recent decades Congress has chosen to funnel important benefits for lower-income earners through the income tax rather than other channels. Some of these benefits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the American Opportunity Credit for education, make cash payments to people who don’t owe income tax. ...

The share of tax paid by the top 20% of Americans also changes when such social-insurance levies are included: It drops from more than 80% of income taxes to about 67% of all federal taxes.



Bloomberg, How Much Americans Really Pay in Taxes:

The average American pays an income tax rate of 10.1 percent, the Joint Committee shows, although that varies quite a bit depending on income:

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April 13, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

The IRS Scandal, Day 704

IRS Logo 2CNS News, Lerner Email Warned IRS Employees of Emails That ‘Can Be Seen By Congress’:

Lois Lerner, former director of the Exempt Organizations Unit at the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), warned other IRS officials that lower-level employees “are not as sensitive as we are to the fact that anything we write can be public--or at least be seen by Congress,” according to documents obtained by Judicial Watch and released on Thursday.

In the latest batch of documents the IRS released to Judicial Watch under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), which the agency heavily redacted before handing over, Lerner proposed training to help IRS employees “understand the pitfalls” of discussing “specific Congress people, practitioners and political parties” in emails that could be "seen by Congress" or the public.

“We are all a bit concerned about the mention of specific Congress people, practitioners and political parties. Our filed folks are not as sensitive as we are to the fact that anything we write can be public--or at least be seen by Congress,” Lerner wrote in an email to Holly Paz, former director of the IRS Office of Rulings and Agreements, on Feb. 16, 2012.

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April 13, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

TaxProf Blog Weekend Roundup

Sunday, April 12, 2015

WSJ: Airbnb, The Masters, And Policing The Short-Term Rental Tax Boondoggle

AMWall Street Journal, Airbnb Income May Be Tax-Free–But There’s a Catch:

It is one of the tax code’s best freebies: a provision allowing people to rent out their homes for fewer than 15 days a year and pocket the income-tax-free. This break is often called the Masters exemption because of its popularity in Augusta, Ga., during the famous April golf tournament.

Now services such as Airbnb, HomeAway, Onefinestay and FlipKey are making it easier for people to take advantage of the Masters exemption by offering short-term rentals of their homes. Airbnb alone had more than one million listings at the end of 2014, more than triple the number it had at the end of 2012.

But this boon also is putting some so-called hosts on a collision course with the Internal Revenue Service, tax experts say.

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April 12, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Going Clear Filmmaker: Scientology Abuses Its Tax-Exempt Status

Scientology 2Los Angeles Times op-ed:  Going Clear Filmmaker: Scientology Abuses its Tax-exempt Status, by Alex Gibney:

When I made the film Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, which aired on HBO on March 29, I assumed that the response from the Church of Scientology would be vitriolic. I was right; but I hold out hope that this reaction may lead to the reform of an organization that has harassed its critics and, in my view, abused its tax-exempt status. ...

A number of articles have even raised the question of whether the church should be permitted to maintain its tax-exempt status in the face of so many alleged or documented civil rights abuses, such as the videotaped harassment of ex-Scientologist Marty Rathbun and his wife, Monique. It's an important question, since it implicates all of us.

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April 12, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The Top 5 Tax Paper Downloads

The IRS Scandal, Day 703

IRS Logo 2Washington Examiner, Lerner Pushed Treasury Watchdog to Back Off 'Targeting' Charge in Probe:

Former IRS senior executive Lois Lerner appeared to be pressuring Treasury Department inspector general investigators to back off their conclusion that the federal tax agency had improperly targeted conservative and Tea Party nonprofit tax exemption applicants.

In an email on Jan. 31, 2013, Lerner encouraged Troy Patterson of the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration to back off of his investigators' view that the tax agency was targeting political groups for excessive attention.

"We feel your folks are being too narrow in their view and have decided that because of the language on the earlier BOLO list regarding Tea Party, everything that followed was tainted. They seem to believe that if a case was initially sent to the advocacy group, but ultimately determined to be an approval, that our action in putting it into the advocacy group in the first place is incorrect, and illustrates 'targeting,'" she said.

"BOLO" was the tax agency's abbreviation for categories of nonprofit applicants to "be on the lookout" for as they were received.

PJ Media, Lerner Email Shows Attempt to Pressure IG Conclusions in IRS Targeting Scandal:

About 5 months before former director of the IRS exempt division Lois Lerner casually let slip the revelation that her department had been targeting conservative organizations for special scrutiny, she sent an email to the inspector general investigating the matter, accusing the IG of being “too narrow” in their scope of the targeting investigation, claiming that she was just doing her job.

It is unusual for the subject of an investigation to plead their case so directly with the inspector general. But the email also shows that Lerner was well aware of the problems in her office with targeting and was looking for a break from the IG in reaching his conclusions.

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April 12, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (2)

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Obama and Biden Release Their 2014 Tax Returns

2014 Obama Tax Return

President Obama and Vice-President Biden yesterday released their 2014 tax returns. Here are charts putting the 2014 returns in context with their earlier returns:





Charitable Gifts














































































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April 11, 2015 in Celebrity Tax Lore, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Joint Tax Committee: Choice Of Business Entity

The Joint Committee on Taxation yesterday released Choice Of Business Entity: Present Law And Data Relating To C Corporations, Partnerships, And S Corporations (JCX-71-15 ):

This document, prepared by the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, provides information about present law and data relating to C corporations, partnerships (including LLCs), and S corporations. Part A of this document provides background information on the choice of business entity in the United States, describes sole proprietorships and their Federal tax treatment, summarizes present law governing the Federal tax treatment of C corporations, partnerships, and S corporations, and presents a table of the principal differences in tax treatment of these three types of business entities. Part B of this document presents data concerning the distribution of business entities by number, size, industry, and net income.

Figure 1

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April 11, 2015 in Congressional News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

The IRS Scandal, Day 702

IRS Logo 2The Blaze, ‘America Is Fed Up’: GOP Schedules Votes on Major IRS Reforms Next Week:

The House next week is expected to pass several bills aimed at reforming the IRS, in

particular the way the IRS handles applications for groups seeking tax-exempt status.

That issue has been highly controversial since it was revealed that the IRS applied extra scrutiny to conservative groups seeking tax-exempt status just before the 2012 election. The resulting scandal forced former IRS official Lois Lerner to leave the agency, although Lerner has so far dodged any punishment for her role.

For example, the Justice Department just said it won’t prosecute Lerner for her decision not to testify before Congress about her actions in the targeting scandal.

GOP leaders say the IRS needs real reform, and quickly, to ensure it doesn’t become a political weapon for whichever party runs the executive branch.

“The IRS has maliciously targeted individuals and groups simply because of their personal beliefs,” House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) told his colleagues on Thursday. “The current system is unfair and America is fed up.”

Three of the bills up next week deal with the targeting scandal. One of these, from Rep. George Holding (R-N.C.), would try to to ensure the IRS can no longer play politics with tax exempt applications by allowing groups to declare tax-exempt status on their own, without having to wait for the IRS.

Another from Rep. Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) calls for the firing of any IRS worker that delays their tasks for political reasons, such as slow-walking the tax-exempt status of a political group. And the third, from Rep. Pat Meehan (R-Pa.), would require the Treasury Department to issue regulations allowing groups to appeal decisions by the IRS not to grant them tax-exempt status.

The bills are being considered long after the targeting scandal broke, which shows a lingering resentment among conservatives, and a feeling that reforms are still needed at the tax collection agency. Just last month, some Republicans accused the IRS of quietly working to undo some of the reforms Congress has tried to impose on it, by putting forward a budget plan that doesn’t include language related to ending the political targeting of tax-exempt groups.

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April 11, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Friday, April 10, 2015

Weekly Tax Roundup

Weekly SSRN Tax Roundup

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April 10, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax, Weekly SSRN Roundup | Permalink | Comments (0)

Weekly Student Tax Note Roundup

Tax Presentations at Today's Indiana Symposium on Living Without in America

Indiana (2015)The Indiana Journal of Law and Social Equality hosts a symposium today on Living Without in America.  Tax Prof Ajay Mehrotra is moderating a panel on Economics and Poverty, with two tax presentations:

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April 10, 2015 in Conferences, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Grewal: The Un-Precedented Tax Court

Tax Court Logo 2Andy Grewal (Iowa), The Un-Precedented Tax Court:

Around the turn of this century, a "highly-charged" debate erupted over unpublished federal appellate court opinions. Some argued that the common prohibition against citation to those opinions posed no constitutional problems, while others argued that no-citation rules improperly eliminated a significant check on the judicial power.

This debate might have been expected to reach, but has not yet reached, issues related to the purportedly nonprecedential nature of most Tax Court opinions. Under court practices, Memorandum Opinions nominally lack precedential value. And by Congressional fiat, Summary Opinions cannot be cited as precedent.

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April 10, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Brunson: Tax and Utopia

UtopiaSamuel Brunson (Loyola-Chicago), Accommodating (Economic) Diversity: Applying the Income Tax to Utopian Communities:

Communalism has a long history in the United States. Throughout the nineteenth century, the country was seemingly dotted with utopian groups. Most were Christian groups, trying to follow the New Testament model of a body of believers that held all property in common. While these groups generally fell apart quickly, in response to inside or outside pressures, several large groups survived the turn of the century.

In the early twentieth century, though, these religious communal groups had to contend with something new: an income tax. Communalism did not fit into the individualistic economic system envisioned by the drafters of the income tax. So Congress designed a special tax regime, now codified in section 501(d) of the Internal Revenue Code, which exempts religious communal holding companies from tax, while imputing the holding companies’ income to the members of the group. Section 501(d) provides communitarian groups with flexibility to reflect their unusual economics.

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April 10, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 701

IRS Logo 2Judicial Watch Press Release, IRS Documents Reveal Lerner Knew Targeting Criteria of Nonprofit Groups ‘Might Raise Questions’:

Judicial Watch today released a new batch of Internal Revenue Service (IRS) documents, including an email from former IRS official Lois Lerner in February 2012 asking that a program be set up to “put together some training points to help them [IRS staffers] understand the potential pitfalls” of revealing too much information to Congress.  The documents also contain a Lerner email from 2013 in which she says she is willing to take the blame on some aspects of the scandal.  She also indicates that she “understands why the IRS criteria” leading to the targeting of Tea Party and other opponents of the President Obama “might raise questions.”

The documents were released under court order in one of the Judicial Watch’s ongoing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuits about the Obama IRS’ abuses (Judicial Watch v. IRS (No. 1:13-cv-1559).

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April 10, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (4)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Kahng Presents The Taxation of Women in Same-Sex Marriages Today at Fordham

Kahng (2015)Lily Kahng (Seattle) presents The Not-So-Merry Wives of Windsor: The Taxation of Women in Same-Sex Marriages, 101 Cornell L. Rev. __ (2015), at Fordham today as part of its Faculty Workshop Series:

In United States v. Windsor, the Supreme Court invalidated the Defense of Marriage Act definition of marriage as “between one man and one woman” and is now poised to recognize a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. Windsor cleared the way for same-sex couples to be treated as married under federal tax laws, and the Obama administration promptly announced that it would recognize same-sex marriages for tax purposes. Academics, policymakers, and activists lauded these developments as finally achieving tax equality between gay and straight married couples. This Article argues that the claimed tax equality of Windsor is illusory and that the only way to achieve actual equality is to eliminate taxation on the basis of marital status.

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April 9, 2015 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

NBER Public Economics Program Meeting

NBERThe National Bureau of Economic Research's two-day Public Economics Program Meeting kicks off today in Boston with several tax papers:

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April 9, 2015 in Conferences, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thomas: The Psychic Cost of Tax Evasion

Kathleen DeLaney Thomas (North Carolina), The Psychic Cost of Tax Evasion, 56 B.C. L. Rev. 617 (2015):

Each year, the government loses hundreds of billions of dollars in tax revenue due to underreporting by individual taxpayers. According to standard deterrence theory, policymakers should be able to reduce tax evasion by increasing tax penalties, raising the audit rate, or some combination of the two. This Article refers to these strategies as increasing the “monetary cost” of tax evasion. To date, budgetary limitations and political hurdles have made these strategies difficult for the government to employ.

There is, however, another potential means by which the government can improve tax compliance, apart from raising the monetary cost of evasion. Empirical evidence shows that people experience some form of psychological discomfort when they are dishonest, which may deter them from cheating. This Article proposes employing subtle behavioral interventions that encourage more honest tax reporting by raising the level of psychological discomfort experienced from underreporting. I refer to this approach as increasing the “psychic cost” of tax evasion.

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April 9, 2015 in Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

NY Times: IRS Shortcut to Tax-Exempt Status Is Under Fire

1023 2New York Times, IRS Shortcut to Tax-Exempt Status Is Under Fire:

Battered by a scandal over delays in approving groups for tax-exempt status and plagued by a backlog tens of thousands of cases long, the Internal Revenue Service unveiled a strikingly stripped-down online application last year to speed the process.

But to critics, the I.R.S.’s version of “don’t ask, don’t tell” is fraught with problems. An unlikely coalition of tax lawyers, state enforcement agents and even many nonprofits that favor simpler rules say that the agency — by not asking any questions about governance, conflicts of interest or function, and saying applicants don’t have to reveal any such issues — is making it too easy to commit fraud.

The form, 1023-EZ, was introduced over the summer and is available to small charities with an annual income of $50,000 or less and assets under $250,000. Instead of wrestling with a painstaking 26-page application that demands extensive documentation, these groups can now fill out a two-and-a-half page checklist that requires no additional paperwork or even a statement of purpose. ...

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April 9, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Statute of Limitations to Expire on April 13 on Crossroads GPS' First Two Form 990s

Crossroads, Crossroads GPS Might Soon Be Off the Hook for 2010, 2011 Spending:

On April 13, one of the largest and most controversial political groups of the post-Citizens United era will celebrate an important anniversary: The three-year statute of limitations will expire for statements made by Crossroads GPS on tax returns covering its first 18 months, making it nearly impossible for the group to be penalized for activity it reported in the filings.

Crossroads GPS filed its first two Form 990 tax returns on April 13, 2012, covering the period from its founding in June 2010 — when it also filed an application for exempt status as a “social welfare” group — through December 2011. Though nearly five years have elapsed, the IRS still hasn’t ruled on the group’s application, a highly unusual circumstance; the vast majority of such requests are answered within months or, at most, a couple of years, though there are exceptions.

But at this point, even if Crossroads doesn’t receive the IRS’ imprimatur and is deemed a taxable corporation, there’s little chance any penalties will be levied covering the group’s formative months, thanks to the statute of limitations. Taxes would be owed, but only for more recent years.

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April 9, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Days 601-700

April 9, 2015 in IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

The IRS Scandal, Day 700

IRS Logo 2Philip T. Hackney (LSU), Should the IRS Never 'Target' Taxpayers? An Examination of the IRS Tea Party Affair, 49 Val. U. L. Rev. ___ (2015):

In 2013, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration faulted the Internal Revenue Service for the appearance of impartiality because it used names and policy positions such as “Tea Party” and conservative ideology to pick applications for tax-exempt status for greater scrutiny. The Inspector General's review came after members of Congress accused the Service of "targeting" conservative organizations. This Article finds the Inspector General's claim lacks a firm foundation. The use of names to select organizations for closer review fits well within the discretionary space that both Congress and courts provide to the Service to collect revenue. However, a narrower legal and ethical claim is supportable: where an enforcement choice impinges on a fundamental constitutional right the Service should exercise a higher degree of care to ensure that its screening choices do not appear biased in an unconstitutional manner. Thus, this review finds the Inspector General's primary claim regarding it being inappropriate to use names to screen applications to be incorrect. However, it finds that the Service violated an ethical norm because it failed to bring a high level of care to a matter that at least impinged on a fundamental Constitutional right. The Article recommends that the Service continue using names to screen applications for tax-exempt status. However, the Article suggests the Service implement procedures to document an unbiased process when evaluating applications that raise questions of a fundamental Constitutional nature.

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April 9, 2015 in IRS News, IRS Scandal, Tax | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Kane Presents A Defense of Source Rules in International Taxation Today at Penn

Kane (2015)Mitchell Kane (NYU) presents A Defense of Source Rules in International Taxation,  32 Yale J. on Reg. ___ (2015), at Pennsylvania today as part of its Tax Law and Policy Workshop Series hosted by Chris William Sanchirico and Reed Shuldiner:

The concept of “source” is central to the functioning of the current international tax system. To the extent the “source” of income is meant to reflect the spatial location of income, however, many academic commentators have come to regard the concept as completely incoherent. Further, that incoherence is viewed as a partial explanation of the perceived artificiality and frailties of current instantiations of source rules. In this essay I make three basic claims.

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April 8, 2015 in Colloquia, Scholarship, Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

Fleischer: Carried Interest Should Be Disclosed on Private Equity Funds' Tax Returns

NY Times Dealbook (2013)New York Times Deal Book:  Carried Interest Should Be Disclosed on Tax Forms, and to Private Equity Investors, by Victor Fleischer (San Diego):

Writing in The Hill, the economist Eileen Appelbaum argues that private equity funds should be required to disclose on the tax return the partnership files for informational purposes the amount of carried interest paid to the general partner. Carried interest is the percentage of an investment fund’s profits — typically 20 percent — paid to the fund’s managers as incentive compensation.

It’s a terrific idea. Under current law, there is no separate tax category for carried interest. Instead, all partners report their distributive shares of partnership income, the character of which is determined at the partnership level.

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April 8, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)

IRS Workers Are Miserable and Overwhelmed

Bloomberg, An Emotional Audit: IRS Workers Are Miserable and Overwhelmed:

Paying taxes to the IRS is no fun. Neither is working there.

The IRS has never been an easy place to work. Its 84,000 employees, 65 percent of them women, generally don’t tell people outside the service where they draw a paycheck. It’s no way to make friends. They toil in purposely anonymous buildings—a big sign outside might attract crazies. In 2010 an antigovernment zealot flew a single-engine plane into a building in Austin, Texas, where 190 agency employees worked, killing one of them. “Well, Mr. Big Brother I.R.S. man, let’s try something different, take my pound of flesh and sleep well,” the pilot, Joseph Stack III, wrote in a six-page suicide note.

More recently, the IRS has become a casualty of the budget battles between the Obama White House and House Republicans. Since the GOP won control of the chamber in 2010, the agency’s annual budget has fallen by $1.2 billion, to $10.9 billion in 2015. Meanwhile, the agency has lost 11 percent of its employees. Last year it started 19 percent fewer criminal investigations than 2013. This year alone, it expects to close at least 46,000 fewer audits. Nobody likes being scrutinized by the IRS, but audits are a key component of the tax system that keeps the U.S. afloat. “It’s core to the country,” says Jeffery Trinca, a former Senate aide turned lobbyist who specializes in tax policy.

The agency’s customer service operation has been hobbled, too. In late March, the IRS said fewer than 40 percent of the people who call during this tax season will get through to someone. A decade ago, the figure was 83 percent. The agency is so short on funds that some employees purchase their own office supplies, even though the IRS says they shouldn’t. “I buy my own pens,” says Catherine Ficco, a revenue officer in West Nyack, N.Y. “I buy my own clips and hole punchers and things of that nature. It’s not uncommon. There’s no money to order supplies or paper for my printer.”


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April 8, 2015 in IRS News, Tax | Permalink | Comments (28)

WSJ: Working Poor Bank on State EITCs

Wall Street Journal, Working Poor Bank On Tax Break:

California lawmakers, responding to the state’s nation-leading poverty level, are considering the creation of a state EITC program. Already, half of the states and the District of Columbia offer such refunds and credits. Montana legislators are also considering a state EITC this year, and a several states are evaluating expansions of their state credits. Some of the state credits currently add as much as 50% to the federal benefit.


EITC programs aren’t popular in all quarters. Critics, including many fiscal conservatives, say the federal program is expensive, amounts to a handout to the poor and is subject to errors. They cite a report published last year by the Internal Revenue Service that found 24% of federal EITC payments made in fiscal 2013 were incorrect, including both overpayments and underpayments. ...

Because the EITC aims to help low-income families, particularly those with children, “it’s well-designed,” said Bruce Meyer, an economist at the University of Chicago’s Harris School of Public Policy. By contrast, he said, the benefits of raising the minimum wage, another increasingly popular antipoverty measure, often go to teenage workers or secondary earners in middle-class and even wealthy families, or to older Americans who receive Social Security and Medicare.

Still, Mr. Meyer said he has mixed feelings about expanding state EITC credits. “The federal credit already is really quite big,” he said. “I’m not sure that it makes sense to increase it much more.”

April 8, 2015 in Tax | Permalink | Comments (0)