Health care reform

Accounting News Roundup: The Tanning Tax Isn’t Fair; Dubai World Gets Another Life; Guy Hands Won’t Have to Go to London | 03.25.10;

Does New 10% Tanning Tax Discriminate Against Whites? [TaxProf Blog]
Are you being unfairly taxed just because you want some extra Vitamin D?!?


Dubai World, Nakheel Get $9.5 Billion Injection [WSJ]
For now at least, it appears that Aidan Burkett, Deloitte’s rock star restructuring expert has saved the day at Dubai World. DW will get $9.5 billion from the Dubai Government and plans to pay $26 billion to its creditors that include HSBC, Lloyds, Standard Chartered and RBS.

The complex deal that has taken months to draw up involves Dubai World issuing two tranches of new debt and converting $8.9 billion, or 38%, of its existing obligations into equity, the company said.

The new debt won’t be guaranteed by Dubai government, which has previously been a thorny issue between creditors and the city-state’s advisors.

Citi Loses Bid to Move EMI Trial [WSJ]
Remember Guy Hands, the founder of Terra Firma Capital, who hates taxes so much that he asks that his family come to visit him in Guernsey so that he doesn’t risk his non-resident status for England?

Well, you’ll be happy to know that Citi’s bid to get the trial moved to London was rejected by Judge Jed Rakoff so Hands won’t have to worry his pretty little head. Had the motion to move the trial been granted, Hands’ non-resident status could have been jeopardized and he may have had to pay taxes due to England. And, God forbid, do some of the traveling to see his family.

The IRS Will Enforce Mandatory Healthcare Using the Honor System

How much tax would you pay on April 15 if the IRS couldn’t levy on your bank account, slap you with a lien, charge you penalties and interest, or send you to jail? Not much, eh? Then ponder the rules forcing individuals to buy “minimum essential coverage” under Obamacare.

The forced purchase of insurance is key to Obamacare. The “personal responsibility requirement” – a funny name for a requirement imposed by the state – is needed to make sure that low-risk individuals buy insurance to help keep it affordable for high-risk buyers (or, less politely, healthy young men are forced to subsidize everybody else). The penalty is considered vital to any semblance of fiscal soundness for the program. The rule is backed up by penalties and will be collected on tax returns.


The reaction of healthy young men in 2014 when this penalty kicks in will be “Dude. You’re not serious.”

And they will be right.

Caleb noted this yesterday from the Joint Committee of Taxation explanation of the penalties (my emphasis):

The penalty is assessed through the Code and accounted for as an additional amount of Federal tax owed. However, it is not subject to the enforcement provisions of subtitle F of the Code. The use of liens and seizures otherwise authorized for collection of taxes does not apply to the collection of this penalty. Non-compliance with the personal responsibility requirement to have health coverage is not subject to criminal or civil penalties under the Code and interest does not accrue for failure to pay such assessments in a timely manner.

If we take them at their word – and new Code Sec.5000A(g)(2) seems to say just this – why would any sensible taxpayer ever pay the penalty?

• They can’t threaten you with jail.
• They can’t hit you with a lien.
• They can’t levy your accounts.
• There’s no interest charge, so even if you do pay it late somehow, you’ve had the interest in the meantime.

We tax preparers probably won’t be allowed to recommend non-payments to our clients, or we will be silenced by our new IRS preparer enforcement overlords, but people will figure it out in a hurry. And if you think that people will pay taxes anyway without the threat of collection, penalties or interest, then why are we wasting any money funding the IRS?

This provision means one of two things: either this penalty is a joke, and they are just kidding about the cost estimates of the bill — they will be much, much higher — or the toothless penalties are just a PR stunt that they plan to correct as soon as they can get away with it.

Accounting News Roundup: Dodd Requests Investigation of Lehman “Accounting Manipulation”; Ernst & Young Makes Case to Audit Committee Members; House Passes Health Care Reform | 03.22.10

Dodd Seeks U.S. Inquiry Into Lehman’s Accounting [DealBook]
Late on Friday, Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT) sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting that the Department of Justice investigate Lehman Brothers’ “accounting manipulation” that contributed to its bankruptcy. According to his letter, Dodd also wants the DOJ to investigate “other companies that may have engaged in similar accounting manipulation with a view to prosecution of employees or agents who contributed to any violations of the law.”

With the exception of Lehman, Dodd did not name any companies specifically. He wrote, “We must work tirelessly to reduce the incidence of financial fraud in order to restore trust and confidence in the financial markets. A task force investigation and taking appropriate Federal actions in these matters will contribute to these goals.”


An Ernst & Young Response: Dear Audit Committee Member… [Re: The Auditors]
Ernst & Young is on the offensive, telling everyone who will listen their position on the results of the Bankruptcy Examiner’s report. The ubiquitous Enron and Andersen comparisons in the MSM — while cliché and misleading — have motivated E&Y to reach to audit committee members that ulitmately decide whether E&Y will be providing services to their companies. Francine McKenna posted the letter noting, “I guess they know where their bread is buttered: With the guys who hire and fire them in the Fortune 500.”

The firm addresses everything from the actual accounting, “The media reports that these were ‘sham transactions’ designed to off-load Lehman’s ‘bad assets’ are inaccurate,” to whistleblower Matthew Lee’s letter, “When we learned of the letter, our lead partner promptly called the Audit Committee Chair; we also insisted that Lehman’s management inform the Securities & Exchange Commission and the Federal Reserve Bank of the letter.”

Naturally, the firm plans to defend themselves vigorously stating, “EY is confident we will prevail should any of the potential claims identified against us be pursued.”

Obama Hails Vote on Health Care as Answering ‘the Call of History’ [NYT]
Last night, the Senate bill was approved by the House, 219-212, and it could be headed back to the Senate for final approval as early as this week. In a shocker, Democrat and GOP views on the bill don’t seem to be converging as one Dem legislator described it as “the Civil Rights Act of the 21st century,” while a GOP member described the bill as, “a fiscal Frankenstein.”