The IRS Goes Gun Shopping

‘Cause they’re in the market. For those of you that still doubt how serious of a force the Internal Revenue Service is, you’d better start paying attention because the the Service is in the market for guns. You would think, that with a certain hawkish administration recently in charge, every government agency would have arms dealers Smith & Wesson on speed dial but maybe change really did occur in DC.

Never mind that for now. The IRS is taking bids right now and they know what they want:

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) intends to purchase sixty Remington Model 870 Police RAMAC #24587 12 gauge pump-action shotguns for the Criminal Investigation Division. The Remington parkerized shotguns, with fourteen inch barrel, modified choke, Wilson Combat Ghost Ring rear sight and XS4 Contour Bead front sight, Knoxx Reduced Recoil Adjustable Stock, and Speedfeed ribbed black forend, are designated as the only shotguns authorized for IRS duty based on compatibility with IRS existing shotgun inventory, certified armorer and combat training and protocol, maintenance, and parts.

The only conclusion we can come to is that somebody (Joe Francis?, Nic Cage?) is about to get their doors kicked down with extreme fucking prejudice. OR the initial visits of the thousands the IRS is making haven’t gone so well and arming their agents to the teeth should help them get their point across. OR maybe Doug Shulman just loves the cold steel of a 12 gauge against his naked skin. Whatever is going on, it’s no joke.

The IRS Is Making “Thousands” of Visits to CPAs During Tax Season

Apparently the IRS is not one for timing. Earlier this month the Service announced that if you get paid to crank out 1040s, your life as you know it is more or less over. Well, at least a little more inconvenient. Okay, it’s hella-inconvenient.

Back when the new regulations were announced the Service let it be known that since it can’t get these new regulations implemented for 2010, it was still stepping up its efforts for getting all up in tax preparers’ shit.

The first step being to be to send 10,000 letters to paid preparers nationwide letting them know that they need to be on their A-game. The letters were intended for, “preparers…with large volumes of specific tax returns where the IRS typically sees frequent errors,” and that they should be “vigilant” for errors related to “Schedule C income and expenses, Schedule A deductions, the Earned Income Tax Credit and the First Time Homebuyer Credit.”

Well then. That should cover about EVERY TAX PREPARER IN THE COUNTRY.

Anyway, the IRS is following up the 10,000 “Dear Joe Kristan” letters with phone calls to set up sit-downs with “thousands” of preparers. According to William Stromsem, who wrote a piece over at CPA2Biz, these are “urgent” calls:

In at least one case, the IRS called a practitioner at home and spoke with the spouse by name, asking for a response within three hours and then calling back before that time was up. Another practitioner, who was unable to schedule a meeting during a busy time was threatened with having the refusal passed up the line to a supervisor.

The piece goes to tell us that the visits will be performed in the coming weeks and months and may last up to 3 hours. Does anyone see a problem with this yet?

These chats are designed to be friendly reminders of all the pitfalls out there in tax preparer land; not a compliance visit (but they will remind you of the penalties that can be assessed for any malfeasance). Regardless of the pleasant intentions, the timing has irked CPAs to no end and we can’t say that we blame them. Hope no one is expecting an apology. And one more thing, we’d like to know how the Commish’s CPA feels about this whole thing. Just for fun; he should get a letter.

IRS ‘10,000 Letters’ Program Angers CPAs [CPA2Biz]

IRS Says That the Earthquake in Haiti Is Officially a Disaster

Late on Friday, the IRS declared the earthquake in Haiti to be qualified disaster for federal tax purposes. Call us impatient but did it really need to take that long? It doesn’t seem like it was that tough of a call:

Qualified disasters include presidentially declared disasters and any other event that the Treasury Secretary determines to be catastrophic. The IRS has determined that the earthquake in Haiti that occurred this month is an event of catastrophic nature for purposes of the federal tax law.

We appreciate the complexities of the tax law and we’re certainly aware that tax season is under way but couldn’t someone at the IRS put out a one sentence statement saying, “Yeah, definitely a disaster,” say, the following day? That Friday even? Were there other, more pressing matters on the to-do list? The disaster qualifications must be more subjective than we imagine.

Joe Francis Continues to Get Hassled by the IRS

joe-francis2.jpgOh Joe Francis, why won’t you just take your Douche of the Decade trophy and ride off into the sunset?
Actually we know why. The IRS froze $22 million of Douche of D’s money because he still owes them $23 million for taxes owed in 2001, 2002, and 2003. J. Fran would not stand for such aggression and, being the savvy tax guy that he is, sued the Service to get access to his accounts. He concluded that the IRS was just bent out of shape that he got out of additional jail time.
The IRS claims that the real reason that they’re freezing DoD’s assets is that he tried moving the money offshore after his plea. And unless you’re Joe Francis, you know is not such best course of action these days.
IRS can freeze ‘Girls Gone Wild’ money [Don’t Mess With Taxes]

For the Last Time: We Don’t Expect Much Out of the IRS

Thumbnail image for IRS_logo-thumb-150x140.jpgWe’ve mentioned this before but it’s worth stating again: are everyone’s expectations for the IRS unreasonable?
The National Taxpayer Advocate, Nina Olson, has released her annual report to Congress and it points out (among other shortcomings) that the IRS provides “unacceptable” customer service.
Sigh. Need we remind everyone that we’re talking about the FEDERAL GOVERNMENT? This is not Nordstrom’s where you can snap your fingers and another pair of gabardines appear.
Oh sure, maybe the Service is lowering its expectations: “[T]he agency’s goal is to connect 71 percent of callers to a real person, down from a recent high of 87 percent in 2004,” but doesn’t that seem reasonable for the IRS? Are we missing something? Is there some other dimension where the IRS is revered for its efficiency?
IRS Too Busy to Talk to 3 in 10 Who Call for Help [AP via ABC]
National Taxpayer Advocate Report.pdf

IRS Sticks It to Amateur Tax Preparers

Thumbnail image for shulman.jpgAny tax preparers out there that got their stripes by virtue of an 8 hour course in the basement of a church will have to start hitting the books. Today, the IRS announced that it is putting a stop to all the amateur 1040 jockeys out there by issuing new requirements for all paid tax preparers.

The new requirements came after complaints from taxpayer rights’ groups who wanted stronger oversight over the industry. Apparently there are too many “tax professionals” that can’t tell the difference between a W-2 and a sack of doorknobs.


[S]tarting in 2011, all paid tax preparers will have to register with the IRS and include a unique identification number on any returns they prepare. Preparers will be given three years to pass a competency exam in either individual or small business taxation.

Attorneys, certified public accountants and enrolled agents will not be required to pass the competency tests. They will remain subject to the requirements of their respective licensing bodies.

But the exams and new annual, continuing education requirements will impact likely hundreds of thousands of preparers, from employees of chain preparation firms like H&R Block Inc. and Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc. to mom-and-pop storefronts that offer tax preparation as one of several services.

Three years to pass an exam? Even the dimmest of CPA Exam candidates manage to finish in 18 months. Also, we’re curious as to what diabolical plot the H&R Blocks and Jackson Hewitts of the world will devise in order to speed their professionals into compliance.

Regardless of the shortfalls, Doug “Don’t expect me to apologize” Shulman said that the new requirements were ‘long overdue’. He also said that the Service will be forming a task force to look into determining the accuracy of tax prep software for possible future standards over that industry.

One thing is for sure, somewhere Doug’s boss is asking his friends if they know any good CPAs.

IRS to Boost Oversight of Paid Tax Preparers [WSJ]

The Latest Feel Good Story Involving the IRS

Thumbnail image for IRS_logo-thumb-150x140.jpgWere you concerned that the IRS wasn’t auditing enough poor people? Well here’s a story that will put those fears to rest: The IRS audited a woman in Seattle who made less than $19,000 a year because she was too poor.
Rachel Porcaro was summoned to the IRS after being flagged for an audit. She was told that based on what she was earning, she couldn’t possibly be supporting herself and her two sons:

“They showed us a spreadsheet of incomes in the Seattle area,” says Dante Driver, an accountant at Seattle’s G.A. Michael and Co. “The auditor said, ‘You made eighteen thousand, and our data show a family of three needs at least thirty-six thousand to get by in Seattle.”
“They thought she must have unreported income. That she was hiding something. Basically they were auditing her for not making enough money.”

Initially, the Service told Ms. Porcaro that she owed the Feds $16,000. When Dante Driver sent a letter to the IRS explaining how he thought the code was being wrongly interpreted, the IRS turned around and audited Ms. Porcaro’s parents:

Rob and his wife, Patty, had to send in house blueprints, bank statements, old utility bills. Rachel was asked to prove her children were hers, as well as document the money she’d spent on her children’s clothes, health care and so on.
They racked up $10,000 in accountant bills — $8,000 of which Driver is trying to recover from the IRS.
In the end, the parents were cleared. The IRS also backed off trying to reclaim Rachel’s earned income tax credit.

Ultimately, Ms. Pacaro had to pay over $1,400 in back taxes, penalties, and interest because she couldn’t provide enough receipts to document that she could claim her sons as dependents. Her parents are also not allowed to claim them as dependents, so for tax purposes, the two boys simply don’t exist.
Even if you’re a stickler for tax law, the time and expense of this audit hardly seems worth $1,400. The IRS soldiers likely would claim that they were just following orders but the Service was mum on this story. You can safely bet they won’t be apologizing either. The moral seems to be, regardless of your income, keep those receipts people. Yeesh.
$10 an hour with 2 kids? IRS pounces [Seattle Times/Danny Westneat via The Consumerist]

Stretching Your Mileage on the Expense Report Won’t Pay as Well in 2010

penny.jpgPerhaps you stick to the honor system when it comes to plugging the mileage into your expense report but for those of you that like to turn that 14.4 miles on Google Maps to 15, may be tempted to fudge further 2010:

Beginning on Jan. 1, 2010, the standard mileage rates for the use of a car (also vans, pickups or panel trucks) will be:
• 50 cents per mile for business miles driven
• 16.5 cents per mile driven for medical or moving purposes
• 14 cents per mile driven in service of charitable organizations
The new rates for business, medical and moving purposes are slightly lower than last year’s. The mileage rates for 2010 reflect generally lower transportation costs compared to a year ago.

As Joe Kristan notes, this is down from the 55 cents in 2009, so our prediction is that many will be stretching the mileage even further in the new decade. You know who you are.
IRS Announces 2010 Standard Mileage Rates [Press Release via Tax Update Blog]

Offshore Account Holdouts Better Start Coming Up with Excuses

Thumbnail image for IRS_logo-thumb-150x140.jpgThe jig is finally up for 500 UBS customers. The Swiss bank has notified the first group of the 4,000 some-odd clients that UBS said they would turn over to the IRS. This is one of those, “Have you ever had to deliver bad news to someone and if so, how did you handle it?” moments.
The good news for you holdouts is that you can still appeal:

Those taxpayers whose names have been selected have 30 days to appeal to Switzerland’s administrative court. Um, good luck with that. Part of the criteria for determining whether to turn over the names involved instances of “clear fraudulent actions” including the production of false documents. I’m not sure you could argue your way out of that one – even in Switzerland.

Never mind. You people are screwed.
UBS Set To Turn Over First Set of Names [Tax Girl]

That Apology from the IRS? Yeah, Not Going to Happen

shulman.jpgIf you’re a bigshot at the IRS there are a lot of things that you don’t have to do. For one, you don’t really have to meet anyone’s expectations. For another, you don’t have to worry about delaying plans just because some practicing CPAs have some silly concerns.
The latest perk of being Doug Shulman? Not having to apologize to anyone.
TaxProf Blog:

The Tax Court yesterday ruled that it lacks jurisdiction to order the IRS to apologize to a taxpayer. Caldwell v. Commissioner, T.C. Summ. Op. 2009-169 (Nov. 18, 2009):
The part of Caldwell’s motion which we characterize as a “Request for Apology” asks that we require the IRS to enter into the record “a written apology to the Petitioner, signed by the Commissioner, Internal Revenue Service” …

The IRS objected to the Request for Apology on the ground that Congress has not, through section 7430 (relating to administrative or litigation costs) or otherwise, authorized us to grant such relief. [Fn.3] We agree.

There you have it American Taxpayer. Under the law, the IRS doesn’t have to apologize to anyone, despite the evidence that they should probably be apologizing constantly. Going forward, if you want an apology, run down a Republican member of the House of Representatives.
Court Lacks Jurisdiction to Order IRS to Apologize to Taxpayer [TaxProf Blog via Tax Update Blog]

The IRS Is Taking Your Personal Information Seriously, Starting NOW.

Thumbnail image for IRS_logo-thumb-150x140.jpgSometimes 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]

Maybe Everyone’s Expectations of the IRS Are Too High

gnomes.pngThe mother of all auditors, the Government Accountability Office, had heard some complaints that maybe the IRS wasn’t doing such a bang-up job on the whole Phase two.
After snooping around, the GAO issued a new report that explained that the IRS needs to work on explaining just what it is they do an why they do it.

Web CPA:

The IRS has no documented objectives for the notice phase and no performance measures to indicate how well the phase is performing in resolving debt cases or achieving other desired results…
…However, in almost all cases, for the five business rules the IRS identified as affecting the most taxpayers, the IRS did not have information on the date the rules were established, the rationale for the rule, or data supporting the rationale…
…IRS collection officials also lacked documentation describing the business rules and how they operate. Further, even though IRS officials estimated that the business rules had been established for years, IRS had documentation for an evaluation of only one of the five business rules.

Let’s recap:
• “…no documented objectives…”
• “…did not have information on the date the rules were established, the rationale for the rule, or data supporting the rationale…”
• “…lacked documentation describing the business rules and how they operate.”
• “…documentation for an evaluation of only one of the five business rules.”
Apparently this is one of those cases where the Service says, “Trust us, we have a plan. But don’t ask us to explain it, we wouldn’t want to bore you. Oh, and don’t ask us how well it’s working. We don’t get too hung up on statistics or success rate.”
We’re just talking about tax dollars after all.
IRS Has Trouble Tracking Debt Collection Notices [Web CPA]

22.4 Million Unanswered Calls Isn’t Really That Many

customer service.jpgCustomer satisfaction is a tough business. Especially when you’re dealing with impatient masses that need that tax refund NOW, so that they don’t miss an installment on a home equity line of credit.
Unfortunately, the IRS wasn’t able to answer 22.4 million calls for this past filing season. This was during normal business hours and were for various reasons including, “the taxpayers hung up, were courtesy disconnected by the IRS, or received a busy signal.” We’d be interested in the ‘courtesy disconnected’ calls as we’re guessing that it some of the calls may have included:

“Sir, I don’t know what the President will do regarding raising your taxes…No sir, I don’t know for an absolute fact that the President isn’t a socialist…No sir, that does not make me a socialist…Hello?”
To the Service’s credit, they did answer 35.8 million calls during normal business hours (still less than half, slackers) according to the report put out by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
But the higher than expected number of calls obviously caught the Service off guard, since they must have made the terrible assumption that taxpayers would try reading the instructions prior to calling for help on the Presidential campaign contribution.
IRS Didn’t Answer 22.4 Million Taxpayer Phone Calls [TaxProf Blog]
Higher Than Planned Call Demand Reduced Toll-Free Telephone Access for the 2009 Filing Season [TIGTA Report]

The IRS Doesn’t Want to Burden Anyone Too Much but They Kinda Want That Money

irs.jpgThe IRS, in its continuing effort to squeeze every last dime out of every single one of us, is planning 6,000 audits of companies and their compliance with employment taxes over the next three years.
The Service apparently figured it was about time they started putting the screws to companies since they hadn’t done an analysis since 1984:
Continued, after the jump

The Treasury Department in 2005 estimated, based on the 1984 IRS data, that companies underpay employer taxes by about $14 billion annually. In particular, federal agencies have raised concerns about whether employers are properly classifying workers as company employees or independent contractors.

The Service isn’t wasting any time, already proposing a $14 million tax on FedEx after auditing the courier’s 2002 tax return. The Service is also looking at the company’s 2004 through 2008 tax returns, so FedEx should probably get the check book.
The Service is promising to make company’s experience as ‘least burdensome as we can’ but we’re guessing they’re going to want the money, Lebowski, and being a nuisance will probably be of secondary importance.
IRS to Audit 6,000 Companies to Test Employment Tax Compliance [Bloomberg]
IRS Plans 6,000 Employment Tax Audits [Web CPA]

The IRS Seriously Isn’t Kidding Around About Your Last Chance to Declare Your Offshore Income

IRS_logo-thumb-150x140.jpgThe IRS has decided to give offshore tax scofflaws almost an extra month to rethink their cheater-cheater pumpkin-eater ways, extending the deadline to October 15th from September 23rd. According to the Service, this will be the absolute, final, drop dead chance for offshore account holders to come forward.
Apparently the IRS means biz-nass as 3,000 account holders have already come forward to declare their offshore income. This is compared to less than the 100 taxpayers that came forward all of last year.
You could safely assume that the public flogging of UBS in front of the entire world helped get the IRS’s point across. So now the extension of the deadline seems to be a friendly reminder that you have ONE LAST CHANCE to play ball.
Plus, the Service must have come to their senses and realized that a tax deadline on the 23rd really doesn’t seem to make a damn bit of sense.
IRS extends tax amnesty deadline to October 15 [Reuters via Tax Prof Blog]

Not to Worry, the IRS Is On Top of Protecting Your Personal Information

IRS_logo-thumb-150x140.jpgPaul Caron over at TaxProf Blog informs of a report that the IRS put out to let us all know how the Service has developed new and improved procedures for protecting your personal information after 500 laptops went missing.
The Service spent 25 pages boosting our confidence over this latest rebellion by, we can only wildly assume, another congenial IRS employee.

IRS: Hookers, Even if They Dress Up as Doctors, Do Not Qualify as Medical Expenses

sex_doctor.jpgWe’re not ones to judge people who prescribe to home remedy treatments of any kind. However, if you choose to run through questionable means of treatment, like say BJ’s, HJ’s, etc., as deductible medical expenses, you’re on your own.

A state judge has ruled that a 77-year-old Bay Ridge tax lawyer must pay back taxes after wrongfully deducting more than $300,000 for prostitutes, porn, sex toys and erotic massages…he dutifully documented each liaison in a notebook titled “Tax Journal,” in case he ever got audited

It sounds like the old guy was trying to be on the up and up about the whole dildo/Hustler/hooker-therapy methods but since paying for sex isn’t legal, the IRS and the New York state auditor (and are probably prudes) weren’t really down with the whole idea. He probably should have known better as Eliot Spitzer would have likely taken advantage of these deductions long ago had it been kosh.
Court Denies Tax Lawyer’s $100,000 Medical Expense Deduction for Prostitutes and Porn [TaxProf Blog]
Would Skipping Viagra Have Avoided These Expenses? [Tax Update Blog]

Religious Freedom Hanging By a Thread at the IRS?

kirpan.gifOkay maybe that’s a stretch but we’re guessing, what with all the rebellious employees, that the IRS is a tough place to work. Because of this high stress environment, normally rational people may jump to conclusions about otherwise harmless religious symbols.
A judge recently dismissed most of the legal claims of a former IRS revenue agent that wore a kirpan to work.
Continued, after the jump

Web CPA:

The revenue agent, Kawaljeet Kaur Tagore, sued the IRS after she was fired in July 2006 for wearing a “kirpan” to the IRS office in Houston…The blunt knife is traditionally worn in a curved sheath and is supposed to act as a reminder of a Sikh’s duty to protect the weak and promote justice for all. Tagore’s supervisor objected to the dagger, even though she claimed it never set off the metal detector in her building, and she was told to work from home.

How can you not get behind protecting the weak and justice for all? Still, Tagore was fired after refusing to wear a knife with a shorter, 2.5 inch, blade and returning with the 3 inch knife even though, as the original story reports, she had sharper items in her office, including her scissors.
Tagore filed suit earlier this year:

claiming that the government’s conduct violated both the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 and Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The defendants included the IRS, the Treasury Department, the Department of Homeland Security, former Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and several of Tagore’s supervisors.

Bad news is that the judge threw out the some of the Title VII claims but good news is that the one against T. Geith still remains. We’ll continue to follow this story if new developments happen to drop on another painfully slow news day.
IRS Dagger Carrier’s Claims Partly Dismissed [Web CPA Debits & Credits]

IRS Agent Threatens to Kill Treasury Agents Then Throws a Conniption Fit

Perhaps buckling under the mere thought of looking through 52,000 different UBS accounts for tax evasion, an IRS Agent in Valencia, CA threatened Treasury Agents with “I’m going to kill all of you!” when they attempted to search his home.

When the agents tried to serve the warrant, Bront tried to rush back inside his home, where he kept three loaded guns, but a Treasury agent aimed a gun at him and another drew out a baton. After his arrest, he kicked the front seat of the law enforcement vehicle and pounded the door with his elbow before telling the agents he didn’t mean it when he threatened to kill them.

Not withstanding the seriousness of threatening federal officers, the image of a 49 year old man kicking the front seat of a car like a child that didn’t get any ice cream is almost too much for us to bear.

IRS Agent: ‘I’m Going to Kill All of You!’ [Web CPA via TaxProf Blog]