July 21, 2018

Legislation

Republicans Planning to Unleash ‘Tax Cuts 2.0’ in September, Stick It to Democrats

Despite public support for the recent tax code overhaul plummeting in the past two months, Republicans think another round of tax cuts is a good idea. So, it’s likely the House of Representatives will vote on new tax legislation in September, said House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX). Brady, who spoke at […]

New Bill Calls for Drug-Testing Taxpayers Claiming More Than $150k in Itemized Deductions

A big part of politics, I think, is trolling. And, just like on the internet, it works! Look no further than the presumptive nominee of the Republican Party. He's basically the Fox Nation comment section incarnate and yet, he could be the next President of the United States! From a legislative standpoint, this works too. […]

This is a Makeshift Card for Sarbanes-Oxley’s Anniversary That You Should All Sign

As we mentioned, today is the 10th anniversary of Sarbanes-Oxley. Or was it yesterday? I guess it depends on who you ask. Technically, it was enacted on July 29th and President Bush signed it into law on July 30th. Personally, I prefer it to be the 29th because since I've started writing for this here […]

Senators Grassley and Reed Would Like to Make Every Bit of PCAOB Wrist Slapping Public

For some time now, quite a few people have been asking for PCAOB disciplinary proceedings to be made public. Since your beloved Board came into existence, the process of slapping around sketchy auditors has been secret much to the chagrin of those people that would like audit firms to take just a little bit [pointer and thumb about an inch apart] of responsibility when they royally screw things up. It’s all for the investors, you see. After some rib jabbing by Board Member Dan Goelzer and Chairman Jim Doty, Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Jack Reed (D-RI) have picked up the flag by introducing a bill that would make the proceedings public:

The bill would change a provision of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act that requires the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board to keep disciplinary proceedings against auditing firms confidential.

Undoubtedly, this will rankle auditors who would prefer that all the skeletons stay firmly stuffed in closets. Of course what many people forget is that the secretive nature of the PCAOB disciplinary proceedings are the exception rather than the rule:

[Grassley and Reed] argued that the PCAOB’s closed proceedings run counter to the public enforcement proceedings of other regulators. Not only the SEC, but also the Labor Department, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission, and other government agencies use public proceedings, as does the self-regulating Financial Industry Regulatory Authority. Nearly all administrative proceedings brought by the SEC against public companies, brokers, dealers, investment advisers and others are open, public proceedings.

The Reed-Grassley bill would make PCAOB hearings and all related notices, orders and motions, open and available to the public unless otherwise ordered by the board. The PCAOB procedure would then be similar to SEC Rules of Practice for similar matters, where hearings and related notices, orders, and motions are open and available to the public.

This all seems like a pretty good idea. I mean, what makes auditors so special? Exactly. They’re not. They just happened to go from self-regulated to regulated in a flash and had a few K Street types twist in some features to Sarbanes-Oxley that kept things under wraps.

The problem, as a few people have pointed out, is that the Board still isn’t really that tough on auditors. Sure, a few more people might suffer some public embarrassment (which we’re happy to point out), but will investors really be better off? That remains to be seen but at least we’ll all be able to revel in the good fun of mocking the offenders.

Senate Bill Would Make PCAOB Disciplinary Hearings Public [AT]

Small Business Legislation Could Be a Boon for Small CPA Firms

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight–everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

Included in the Small Business Jobs and Credit Act of 2010 – passed by the House of Representatives September 23 and the Senate September 16 – is the creation of a $30 billion lending fund that will utilize healthy cconduit to increase lending to small businesses – a provision that will generate $1 billion for the treasury, according to officials.

The fund also will provide $1.5 billion in grants to support at least $15 billion in new small-business lending through already successful state-run programs.

Among the $12 billion in tax breaks are a 100-percent exclusion of capital-gains tax on small-business investments made in 2010 and an increase in the maximum deduction for start-up expenditures in 2010 and 2011 – from $5,000 to $10,000.


“Naturally, any change in tax law stimulates our business in that we must provide the analysis of the bill and relay that information to our clients who may be affected,” Perry C. Barnett, CPA, partner responsible for business services for Gainesville, GA-based Rushton & Co. LLC, told AccountingWEB.

Douglas C. Smith, CPA, CVA, a partner with Lawrenceville, NJ-based Bartolomei Pucciarelli LLC, told AccountingWEB that he anticipates a significant increase in tax planning this year due to the provisions outlined in the bill, as well as modest improvement in the business of many of the firm’s clients.

“Almost any new tax legislation is a benefit to our firm, but fortunately, many of the provisions of the bill will benefit our clients, as well,” he added. “Since we are advocates of advanced planning, this bill provides us with the opportunity to make our clients aware of the upcoming changes and perform tax-planning engagements to guide them in implementation.”

While he does not see any significant changes in the firm’s accounting or auditing services as a result of the new legislation, Smith stated there will be consideration of additional accruals of penalties assessed on timely filing of information returns, as well as some impact on deferred taxes as it relates to the accelerated bonus depreciation provision.

The bonus depreciation provision is the most expensive tax break in the bill, weighing in at $5.4 billion over 10 years, but carrying an initial cost of $38 billion in its first two years, according to an analysis conducted by CCH Inc., a Wolters Kluwer business based in Riverwoods, IL, that provides tax, accounting, and auditing software and services.

The bill extends – through December 31, 2010 – 50-percent first-year bonus depreciation that had expired at the end of 2009. The extension is retroactive to January 1, 2010. The bill also extends through 2011 bonus depreciation allowed for property with a recovery period of 10 years or longer, such as personal property used to transport people or other property.

Small businesses will be allowed to write off up to $500,000 in capital expenditures in tax years 2010 and 2011. Under current law, the maximum deduction for tax years beginning in 2010 is $250,000.

Two other provisions in the bill that Smith believes will benefit his firm’s clients are: self-employed taxpayers will be allowed to deduct health-care costs for payroll tax purposes on 2010 returns, and participants in 401(k), 403(b), and 457 governmental plans will be permitted to roll over pretax account balances into a Roth account.

If an amount is rolled over in 2010, the amount is included ratably in income over a two-year period beginning with tax year 2011, according to the CCH analysis. The legislation also allows participants in state and governmental 457 plans to contribute deferred amounts to designated Roth accounts, effective for tax years beginning after 2010.

“Whenever we as CPAs are presented with the opportunity to educate our clients, it is a good thing,” Smith said. “There are many planning opportunities contained in the bill – ranging from the timing of a sale of small business stock, to planning the acquisitions of new equipment to take advantage of the expanded depreciation provisions, to planning the start of a new business that takes advantage of increased deductions for start-up expenses.

“Additionally, with benefits such as the deduction for health insurance when calculating self-employment income, out clients should be able to put a little extra money in their pockets, too,” Smith added.

Barnett agreed that the start-up expenses and the self-employed health insurance changes will benefit his firm’s clients, as well. However, he added that the continual increase in reporting requirements, especially the new requirement for filing Form 1099 scheduled to begin for 2011, could burden some small businesses.

“Based on this law and those in the works, each client will have to maintain a huge database of all vendor payments,” Barnett said. “We see this as a giant logjam for both the business and the IRS.

“The greatest impediment to business moving forward is being confident of what the tax laws are going to be in the future,” he continued. “Until Congress realizes that their indecision in estate taxes and personal income taxes is one of the greatest concerns of everyone, they will not get the economy on track.”

The House approved the bill in a 237-187 vote, while the Senate passed the bill by a 61-38 margin after Republican senators George LeMieux of Florida and George Voinovich of Ohio crossed party lines to support the legislation.

“This is about helping small business owners grow their operations, hire more workers, and help improve our economy,” LeMieux said in a statement. “Small business is the backbone of our economy, creating two out of every three jobs in our country. They need tax relief; they need access to capital. This bill will help achieve those goals and will not raise taxes or add to the national debt.”

Automatic IRA Act Will Be a Boon for Financial Services Companies; Small Business…Not So Much

This story is republished from CFOZone, where you’ll find news, analysis and professional networking tools for finance executives.

There’s pending legislation in the Senate to require even tiny businesses that don’t already have a retirement plan to create an IRA for employees. Whether or not it will do much to help people save for their retirement in a meaningful way is debatable.

The bill, the Automatic IRA Act of 2010, introduced by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-New Mexico) mandates that businesses establish individual IRA accounts for all employees. Contributions would come from payroll deductions, so employers wouldn’t have to cough up any money themselves, and employees would be able to opt out. Accounts would be managed by banks, mutual funds, and insurance companies that already manage this type of account.


Also employers would have no ERISA fiduciary liability as long as they used a provider on a government-approved list. And there’s a default investment structure: a principal preservation fund for balances of less than $5,000 and a lifecycle fund for bigger accounts.

Seems reasonable, until you drill down further. First there’s the infinitesimal default deferral rate. That’s 3 percent. As a result, since employers aren’t even allowed a match, it’s unlikely employees will be able to save a whole lot. Also employers get a measly $250 tax credit to cover administrative costs.

Mostly this bill will be a potential goldmine for financial services companies, at least those on the official government list of approved providers. While each account will be small in aggregate, the amount will come to quite an attractive proposition for these businesses.

If there were any doubt about just what a windfall this could be, consider the provision for a gradual phase-in of the law. For example, in the first year, the bill will apply only to businesses with 100 or more employees. It won’t cover companies with less than 10 employees until year four.

But that provision wasn’t put there with the company owner in mind. Instead it’s all about the retirement services providers to help them “prepare for a significant expansion in the number of IRA accounts.”

To be sure, something needs to be done to boost the retirement savings rate in this country. With this bill, however, the real beneficiaries will be the usual suspects–big financial services companies.

Here’s Why Most Sin Taxes Aren’t Stupid (Hint: It Makes More Things Legal)

Elie Mystal, the Editor of our sister site Above the Law, did a fair amount of kvetching over the Texas “pole tax” on Friday. He focuses primarily on his distaste for sin taxes, “I can’t avoid sin taxes — and thus I can’t stand them. First of all, they are regressive. Secondly, they’re anti-business. So we literally have a tax regime that freedom-loving progressi conservatives should hate, and yet sin taxes continue to be an acceptable way for the government to shove its morality down our throats.”

We’ll address that statement in a minute but first, we’ll examine the pole tax which supporters have stated, “is an appropriate exercise in state power — promoting public safety by discouraging the ‘combustible combination’ of drinking and live nudity.”


Elie’s thoughts:

Nude women + alcohol = rape? What kind of sex crazed sociologist came up with that equation? Just because boobs and beer make your sick ass go out and terrorize females doesn’t mean that other males are incapable of telling the difference between fantasy and cold, lonely reality.

And if this is a serious problem — what the f*** is $5 going to do about it? Texas legislators want us to believe that there is an epidemic of sexual assaults occurring because of the “combustible combination” of alcohol and live nude girls, but they also want us to believe that a $5 surcharge is going to make a difference.

We agree with Elie that Texas has come up with a bad — nay — horrendous idea. An extra $5 at the door isn’t going to accomplish a damn thing. Strip clubs are highly “combustible” environments regardless; taxing patrons to get them to think twice before entering doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Where Elie is dead wrong is his notion that “Either [the behavior subject to tax] is a serious societal problem that the government needs to step up and make [it] illegal — or it isn’t. If it’s not that big a deal, then what is a sin tax other than the government trying to get a taste of a lucrative American business?“

We have a problem with the “step up and make it illegal” part. The decriminalization and taxation of certain “sins” is a perfectly good way for states to raise money since taxes on income and property are far more political and thus, not effective.

Alcohol and tobacco both cause a myriad of health problems in humans that can result in high medical treatment costs. Taxes on these items are appropriate in order to supplement the burden that they place on society as a whole. Drugs and prostitution are, for the most part, criminalized. Thousands of people are arrested and jailed yearly for engaging in these behaviors, imposing millions of dollars in costs to taxpayers. Here’s a newsflash: human beings are not — ARE NOT — going to stop engaging in these behaviors. So why not take the “criminal” element out of the equation?

If they were to be made legal, highly regulated and taxed, states could enjoy new revenue streams and citizens can engage in behavior that they choose. That’s something many “freedom loving progressives” can certainly get behind. Plus, if drugs and prostitution are legal, won’t this encourage entrepreneurship and a more competitive marketplace? That sounds like something “money-loving conservatives” would approve of.

So while we’re with Elie railing against Texas’ impotent legislation, sin taxes are useful when implemented intelligently. California is putting legalized marijuana to a vote and DC may not be far behind so maybe we’re beginning to see some common sense for a change.

No Sin Taxes in the Champagne Room [ATL]
Earlier:
Texas Stripper Tax Will Survive One More Valentine’s Day

You Don’t Want to Imagine the World Without Sarbanes-Oxley, Says Michael Oxley

We really don’t foresee any scenario where a politician would denounce a piece of legislation with his/her name on it but since the MSM has the tendency to bludgeon the Enron/Andersen/Sarbanes-Oxley mantra into everyone’s gray matter, Ox figured he’d better get on record saying that SOx might be the most important moment in U.S. history since the Louisiana Purchase.

When asked if pols can ever stop corporate malfeasance, Ox more or less, compared it to Law & Order, “We have laws against homicide and people kill one another every day. That doesn’t mean that you back off and stop fighting.”


When asked if SOx was a success, we expected a resound, “You bet your ass it’s a success!” but he was a slightly more reserved saying that you should only imagine a world without SOx if you want to scare the bejeezus out yourself:

Sarbanes-Oxley was all about accountability and transparency and restoring investor confidence. We lost almost $8 trillion in market capitalization in 2001 and 2002 because of fraud at places like Enron and Worldcom.

Even though the recent meltdown has hurt confidence again, things could have been much worse if accounting regulations had been as lax as financial regulations.

There’s the magic E word! Maybe we should try focusing on the Tonys as opposed to being so negative when it comes to Enron?

So what about this financial regulatory reform, is this a drag or what?

Critics and the financial press said that Sarbanes-Oxley was rushed through, even though it actually took eight months from the time of the first hearing on Enron until the passage of the bill.

Now, more than a year since the financial crisis, Congress hasn’t dealt with regulation and people are criticizing politicians for moving too slowly. But by taking more time Congress has had a chance to delve into complicated and multi-faceted issues like too-big-to-fail, over-the-counter derivatives, and bank regulations. This is heavy lifting and I give the Congress a lot of credit for working hard to put something together.

Do you think Congress would work on something for eight whole months and it would end up being a failure? If elected representatives work on something for that long it’s bound to be an unmitigated success.

Is Sarbanes-Oxley a failure? [Fortune]