August 10, 2020

AMT

Acting IRS Commish Warns That Tax Season Calendars May Need Adjusted

He just wanted to get this out there sooner rather than later: IRS Acting Commissioner Steven T. Miller warned Congress on Wednesday that if lawmakers fail to extend the traditional alternative minimum tax patch, up to 100 million American taxpayers could be affected, and most taxpayers might not be able to file their tax returns […]

Lame Duck Tax Policy Prognostication

From tax policy cynic Joe Kristan:

It’s unlikely that the lame ducks will accomplish much.

Jesus, that’s no way to start.

I expect an AMT patch to pass (though you should bet the other way if they offer points). I would bet against the extenders getting past the lame ducks, though it could happen. Action on the Bush tax cuts and the estate tax seems unlikely to me. It would require a triumphal GOP to work out a deal with a President whose response to disagreement so far has been to repeat himself slower and louder. The same dynamics bode poorly for the next Congress when it meets in January.

After such an ugly campaign, we wouldn’t put it past a bunch of losers (read: Democrats) to spite the entire country just because they couldn’t effectively communicate any accomplishments from the past two years. Of course, that’s us being cynical to a fault.

Thinking a little more practically, we agree with Joe on his AMT patch prediction. The rules are such a mess that it could stand a complete overhaul but we realize that’s nothing short of water into wine with less than two months left in 2010.

As far as the tax cuts are concerned, the shred of political capital that the members of Congress who will remain in DC have left simply cannot be lost. And besides, the President and Congress fundamentally agree on a major portion of the policy – that is, to extend tax cuts for the middle class. Again, this could be a pipe dream, but compromising on the extension of the cuts for the wealthiest Americans for two years seems like a simple solution (as bad of an idea as it is).

As for the estate tax – it’s toast. No one seems to give a shit about it except for Jon Kyl but once the first decrepit billionaire (who is unwilling to pull the plug on themselves) kicks the bucket in 2011, thus paying 55% tax on the estate, it will only take one phone call and Congress will spring into action.

Sigh. Place your bets.

Earlier:
After Tomorrow, a Bunch of Losers Will Have to Quit Their Pouting and Come Up with Some Tax Policy Solutions

Accounting News Roundup: Dissecting Overstock.com’s Q1 Earnings; The “Audit the Fed” Drum Still Has a Beat; AMT Patchwork Continues | 05.05.10

Can Investors Rely on Overstock.com’s Reported Q1 2010 Numbers? [White Collar Fraud]
Sam Antar is skeptical (an understatement at best), that Overstock.com’s recently filed first quarter 10-Q is reliable and he starts off by citing their own words (his emphasis):

“As of March 31, 2010, we had not remediated the material weaknesses.”


Material weaknesses notwithstanding, Sam is a little conpany’s first quarter $3.72 million profit that, Sam writes, “was helped in large part by a $3.1 million reduction in its estimated allowance for returns or sales returns reserves when compared to Q1 2009.”

Furthermore, several one-time items helped the company swing from a net loss of nearly $4 million in Q1 of ’09, including nearly $2 million in extinguishment of debt and reduction in legal expenses due to a settlement. All this (and much more) gets Sam to conclude that OSTK’s Q1 earnings are “highly suspect.”

UBS Dividend in Next 2-3 Years ‘Symbolic’: CFO [CNBC]
UBS has fallen on hard times. The IRS, Bradley Birkenfeld, a Toblerone shortage and increased regulation and liquidity requirements have all made life for the Mother of Swiss Banks difficult and CFO John Ryan told CNBC that could hurt their ability to pay their usual robust dividend, “They (capital regulations) are essentially rigorous to the extent that it is unlikely we’ll be able to pay anything other than a very symbolic dividend over the next two or three years,” Cryan said.

While that is a bummer but a “symbolic” dividend is still an improvement over “we’ve recently been informed that the Internal Revenue Service and Justice Department will be demanding that we turn over the names of our U.S. clients.”

Effort to expand audits of Fed picks up steam in Senate [WaPo]
Going after the Fed makes for good political theatre (*ahem* Ron Paul) and rhetoric to fire up the torches of the populist masses. The “Audit the Fed” drum continues to be beaten by the likes of Rep. Paul (R-TX) and Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) to much success and Sanders is quoted in the Washington Post as saying “We’re going to get a vote.” Pols want to crack open the books at the Fed to find out what the ugliest of the ugly is inside our Central Bank.

Ben Bernanke isn’t hot on the idea because letting the GAO sniff around may expose the Fed to short-term political pressures. For once AG – not a fan of the Beard per se – sides with BSB. As she said last fall:

It’s right there in the footnotes – pulling out the closest Fed annual report I’ve got (Richmond Fed 2007), both Deloitte and PwC agree that the Fed is a special case in Note 3: Significant Accounting Policies:

“Accounting principles for entities with unique powers and responsibilities of the nation’s central bank have not been formulated by accounting standard-setting bodies.”

The note goes on to explain why government securities held by the Fed are presented at amortized cost instead of GAAP’s fair value presentation because “amortized cost more appropriately reflects the Bank’s securities holdings given the System’s unique responsibility to conduct monetary policy.” Right there, you can see why auditing this thing might be a problem.

This might be one of those “careful what you wish for” scenarios.

Why We’re Going to Keep Patching the AMT—And Why It Will Cost So Much [Tax Vox]
The Alternative Minimum Tax has been a unmitigated failure in the eyes of many tax wonks. Congress has been talking reform in this area for some time and yet, the AMT remains largely unchanged, relying on temporary fixes that could eventually turn into a disaster:

Last year, about 4 million households were hit by the tax, which requires unsuspecting taxpayers to redo their returns without the benefit of many common tax deductions and personal exemptions. That would jump to 28.5 million this year, except for what’s become an annual fix to the levy, which effectively holds the number of AMT victims steady.

Here’s what happens if Washington does not continue that “temporary” adjustment. If Obama gets his wish and extends nearly all of the Bush taxes, the number of households hit by the AMT would soar to more than 53 million by the end of the decade—nearly half of all taxpayers. AMT revenues—about $33 million last year—would triple this year and reach nearly $300 billion by 2020. That is a nearly 10-fold explosion in AMT revenues.

Howard Gleckman argues that the AMT is too big of a political threat to let members of Congress let this sneak by and that the patchwork will continue but that it probably shouldn’t, “The President can assume the AMT will be patched indefinitely, but assuming won’t pay the bills. Unless he is willing to raise other taxes or cut spending to pay for this AMT fix, he’ll have to borrow more than $1 trillion to kick the can down the road for the rest of this decade.”