During an article brainstorming call I had with Caleb a couple Fridays ago, we both agreed that it would be interesting to ask corporate controllers and chief accounting officers what they thought of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, the sweeping tax legislation that was signed into law in late December. Surely they must have […]
Corporate tax lawyers like the tax – a lot. Corporate tax managers can’t live without it. The Big Four accounting firms have an army of partners who have become rich working on corporate tax issues. State revenue departments are full of people who earn their living working on corporate taxes. Most of them would like […]
Yesterday we attempted to make some sense of President Obama's statement about ending "tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas." His was attempting to discuss corporate tax reform, although Mitt Romney had never heard of any such thing and wondered aloud if he needed to gleefully fire his accountant. Anyhoo, in the first […]
Don't expect this to be the standard result for any future snitches on corporate tax evaders, but the IRS did make good for at least one informant: The Internal Revenue Service awarded tax whistleblower and former UBS AG banker Bradley Birkenfeld $104 million for providing the agency with insider information in UBS's illegal encouragement of […]
This is what happens when tax breaks are used as political favors: Tax consultants estimate that eligible businesses obtain as little as 5% of the main domestic tax breaks that they are entitled to claim. That means firms are leaving tens of billions of dollars on the table every year. Out of 1.78 million corporate […]
Over the weekend, I aired some grievances that I've had with The New York Times and its tax shaming. One commenter on the thread mentioned a Times article on AIG from a few months back that exposed that companies tax dodgy ways. I had a chance to dig it up today, but it's worth noting that article was […]
Last weekend, the New York Times ran an exposé on Apple and its "sidestepping" of taxes. Since it's been a week-ish, I think things have quieted down enough so we can take this discussion in a new direction. Specifically, how the Times' tax coverage, of late, has been the equivalent of ten pounds of monkey shit stuffed […]
The Iowa State Fair is going strong and because Election 2012 is in full throttle, the GOP Presidential candidates have been posing for photo-ops and making statements with varying degrees of stupidity.
One of the most logical things uttered, I dare say, was done so by Mitt Romney. By now you’ve probably heard that ol’ Mitt, in between corndogs, got into a bit of a verbal joust with a few of the fair goers. Here’s the soundbite:
The statement has been examined and debated with most intelligent people coming down on the side of Romney. That is, human beings – whether it’s shareholders, employees or customers – eventually bear the cost of the taxes paid by corporations. So while a whole host of humans, including the majority Supreme Court of the United States, are stuck on this “people” thing, it’s worth noting (mostly for the sake of stupid fun) that corporations are definitely not “humans.” Maybe that’s overstating the obvious but English is complicated language and this exercise is not without its merits.
Humans, at their best, are capable of being compassionate, loving, generous and all that crap. Corporations are not. At worst, humans are disgusting, vile creatures capable of ridiculous behavior and we know this to be true mostly because of reality TV. Corporations are certainly capable of deplorable behavior but this behavior is usually at the behest of a human being’s decision.
Accordingly, let’s examine some thing that demonstrate that don’t make corporations “human.”
• Corporations don’t flash women who aren’t the age of consent.
• Corporations don’t use your bathroom and help themselves to the Goldbond Medicated Powder to an extent that you wonder if someone left the window open during a snowstorm.
• Corporations don’t eat corn dogs (humans shouldn’t either).
• Corporations can’t sign a taxpayer protection pledge.
• Corporations don’t “try out” 18 year-old women, take them over state lines and then take money in order to “protect” them.
Feel free to volunteer other examples of “human” versus “people” below but what’s important to note here is that while both humans and corporations may be people, all humans are people and it’s clear that corporations are not humans.
And if that still doesn’t help you understand the difference, just remember this – no matter the situation, for better or worse, humans are the ones who get screwed. Got it?
“We’ve got an uncompetitive rate,” Clinton told a crowd at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Saturday.
“We tax at 35 percent of income, although we only take about 23 percent. So we should cut the rate to 25 percent, or whatever’s competitive, and eliminate a lot of the deductions so that we still get a fair amount, and there’s not so much variance in what the corporations pay.” [HP]
[caption id="attachment_29325" align="alignright" width="260" caption="Some interesting interpretations have occurred here."][/caption]
James Eustice, who co-authored Federal Income Taxation of Corporations and Shareholders with Boris Bittker, died yesterday at 77. He was a Gerald L. Wallace Professor of Taxation Emeritus at NYU and counsel at Cooley LLP.
This epic book is more appropriately referred to as a “treatise” but it probably served as your primary source of information for your corporate tax classes.
For anyone not familiar with B&E, it’s quite the impressive piece of work and would be an excellent weapon of choice in a tax nerd duel. I personally never assaulted anyone with my copy but it did come in handy when I had trouble sleeping in grad school.
Anyone else with fond memories of B&E are invited to share them.
Death of Jim Eustice [TaxProf Blog]
Remember that New York Times story that put the universe on notice that General Electric made truckloads of money and ended up with a $3.2 billion “tax benefit”? It also mentioned that their tax department is known as the “best tax law firm” and is staffed with a small army of former Treasury whiz-kids and turbo-tax nerds to legally minimize the company’s tax obligation. The story got all sorts of people worked up from Jon Stewart to Henry Blodget and it whipped up a small amount of hysteria amongst the masses who had the courage to read an esoteric tax article that went on for more than one page.
Today a new report from ProPublica (a rebuttal of sorts, since they got scooped by the Times) is “Setting The Record Straight on GE’s Taxes“:
Did GE get a $3.2 billion tax refund? No.
Did GE pay U.S. income taxes in 2010? Yes, it paid estimated taxes for 2010, and also made payments for previous years. Think of it as your having paid withholding taxes on your salary in 2010, and sending the IRS a check on April 15, 2010, covering your balance owed for 2009.
Will GE ultimately pay U.S. income taxes for 2010? After much to-ing and fro-ing — the company says it hasn’t completed its 2010 tax return — GE now says that it will pay tax.
Also, part of the ProPublica report clarifies that the whole “financial reporting vs. tax reporting” thing:
GE’s 2010 financial statements reported a $3.25 billion U.S. “current tax benefit,” which is where the Times, which declined comment, got its $3.2 billion “tax benefit” number. But a company’s “current tax” number has nothing to do with what it actually pays in taxes for a given year. “Current tax benefit” and “current tax expense” are so-called financial reporting numbers, used to calculate the profits a company reports to shareholders.
In other words, the Times left out the tricky stuff or maybe just didn’t a bang-up job explaining the tricky stuff. But framing the shrewd tax planning and lobbyists working for a giant corporation is far more provocative than book-tax differences and defining deferred tax assets. Relevancy be damned!
In a speech before the 23rd Annual Institute on Current Issues in International Taxation, Washington, DC, Doug Shulman (link not yet available on the website) explained how rich dudes schlepping money to Switzerland (but not any more!) or Hong Kong is not even close to the same thing as “Google’s Irrationally Exuberant Tax Strategy.”
As I have said before, I draw a sharp distinction between rooting out individuals hiding their money in foreign tax havens and the IRS and Treasury creating ground rules for multinational corporations operating in a global environment.
It’s no secret that multinational corporations engage in sophisticated international tax planning. We recognize that much of this is perfectly legal and many businesses are trying to get it right. Of course, some are pushing the envelope too far and it’s here that we have issues. Our goal is to differentiate between the two; to be on top of our game in this analysis; and to ensure corporations are compliant with the tax law and stay compliant.