September 21, 2019

Tax code

You’ve Got the Tax Code All Wrong

Christopher Bergin explains: Our tax code isn’t about collecting revenue. It’s about taking care of political friends and being used as a campaign election issue to divide and conquer the electorate.  Okay, I think I understand. And sooooo, what about tax reform?   The point of Washington is to get reelected. And “can-kicking” – which […]

This Year’s AICPA Council Issues Are (Mostly) All About Taxes

Let’s all keep in mind here that the repeal of burdensome 1099 rules buried in the Affordable Care Act of 2010 (or “Obamacare” for my fellow right-wing nutjobs out there) can be directly traced to efforts by the AICPA and its members, including a few angry letters sent by the AICPA to Congress. It’s a perfect example of legislative action at work, for those of you out there with little faith in the process.

Here are this year’s key issues:

Tax Strategy Patents S 139 The Equal Access of 2011
The bill would stop the granting of patents for tax strategies. Which basically means your next door cube-dweller won’t be able to patent his favorite spreadsheet.

Tax Due Dates S 845 Tax Return Due Date Simplification and Modernization Act of 2011
This bill would amend the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 to provide for the logical flow of return information between partnerships, corporations, trusts, estates, and individuals to better enable each party to submit timely, accurate returns and reduce the need for extended and amended returns, to provide for modified due dates by regulation, and to conform the automatic corporate extension period to longstanding regulatory rule. The short version: it seeks to change the dates on which tax returns are due to a more sensible pattern.

Simplification of the tax code
The AICPA has a long history of advocating sound tax policy; this year, it’s all about simplifying the tax code, starting with the repeal of AMT and consolidating education provisions.

Workforce Mobility HR 1864 Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act of 2011
Unlike previous mobility initiatives, this one would limit the authority of states to tax certain income of employees in other states. Thanks to the Internet, many companies are able to staff employees around the country, some of which only do a few hours of work a month. That means the company must register and withhold state taxes for these employees in each state.

“Our tax laws are a vital component of the economic health of our nation as evidenced by the discussion in Washington about tax reform,” Barry Melancon, president and CEO of the AICPA, said. “We think it’s important for members of Congress to talk taxes with CPAs as they consider changes to the law. CPAs can provide objective advice, based on real-world experience.”

The goal of Congressional visits is to exchange information with our Congressional members on legislative issues of concern to CPAs (and, directly related to CPAs’ concerns, those of their clients) and to garner support for the profession’s position on these issues, as well as to position CPAs as resources and thought leaders. To call it lobbying would be a misnomer as lobbying would imply a one-way relationship, beneficial only to the special interest doing the lobbying. So don’t even go there; we’re talking about providing professional analysis, opinion and expertise in exchange for a voice in legislation that could potentially impact hundreds of thousands of CPAs and CPA firms around the country.

For the CPAs on the Hill yesterday, they not only presented their issues but offered themselves as experts in areas many Congressional offices are unfamiliar with. Tweaking the tax code is a delicate issue, and one that shouldn’t be approached without expert analysis of any proposed legislation. This is where the two-way street comes in, and another reason why these visits are important for all involved parties.

We’ll update later with specifics on the day we spent meeting Maryland Congressional members with the MACPA Council and Executive Committee, including former MACPA Chair and amazing storyteller Larry Kamanitz, who made 60 cents an hour when he first got into public. Stay tuned!

You Can Blame the Tax Code for Expensive Baseball Tickets

Since it’s opening day for baseball, there are probably a few of you (non-tax accountants) that are at the ballpark enjoying sun, overpriced beers and, if you’re lucky, some complimentary tickets on behalf of your firm.

If you happen to be shelling out your own hard-earned money however, you’re no doubt aware that price of your tickets continue to go up season after season. Throw in $9 beers and Brother Jimmy’s BBQ and you’ll spend a small grip just to enjoy a day of sport and no work.

What’s the cause of the skyrocketing cost of attending a baseball game, you ask? The tax code of course!


That’s according to an op-ed by two professors, Duke law professor Richard Schmalbeck and Rutgers business professor Jay Soled, in today’s Times.

There are many reasons for the price explosion, but a critical factor has been the ability of businesses to write off tickets as entertainment expenses — essentially a huge, and wholly unnecessary, government subsidy.

These deductions have led to higher ticket prices in two ways. On the demand side, they have fueled competition for scarce seats, with business taxpayers bidding in part with dollars they save through the deductions.

On the supply side, the large number of businesses bidding for expensive seats has driven the expansion of luxury skyboxes and a reduction in overall seats in new ballparks.

The authors note that baseball was, until the 1970s, a “populist sport” and fans of all economic classes could attend games for a reasonable cost. Those days are long gone and the professors blame the ability of corporations to deduct business-entertainment expenses as the culprit. They state that you not need look further than the opening of the new Yankee Stadium that has “3,000 fewer seats than its 1923 predecessor but almost three times as many skybox suites.”

The professors advocate a limit on deductions for on luxury tickets to a low fixed amount (e.g. $50). They cite the outright elimination as “unrealistic” but we can’t recall at time when “realistic” and “Congress” collided in a sentence.

We agree with our esteemed colleague at ATL that if you really want to stick it to the companies who take advantage of tax code’s generous provisions, just make skybox tickets non-deductible altogether.

As the authors note, Corporate America has a love affair with sports-related perks and we’d guess that eliminating the deduction would not stop them from buying luxury tickets. The client relation types in your firms know that there is an intangible value to wooing potential clients in some comfortable confines as opposed to cramped seating in the stands with the commoners.

Throw Out Skybox Tax Subsidies [NYT via ATL]

Accounting News Roundup: KPMG Dodges Madoff Feeder Fund Lawsuit; SEC May Disclose More Details in Settled Lawsuits; Tax Code? Now There’s an App for That | 04.01.10

KPMG wins dismissal of Madoff feeder fund lawsuit [Reuters]
A class action lawsuit brought against KPMG by Meridian Horizon Fund, L.P. and other investors in Tremont Partners was dismissed yesterday in New York. Tremont had more than half of its assets were Berns andKPMG audited Tremont funds in 2006 and 2007.

Judge Thomas Griesa ruled that the plaintiffs’ case did not show that KPMG had any intent to deceive the investors in Tremont. Emily Chasan reports that Judge Griesa wrote, “Merely alleging that the auditor had access to the information by which it could have discovered the fraud is not sufficient,” and that the firm would have had to botch the engagements so badly that it would have amounted to “no audit at all.” He did not rule out the possibility of Meridian re-filing their lawsuit in the future.


SEC may require more details of wrongdoing to be disclosed in settlements [WaPo]
The SEC is thinking about disclosing more details in their civil action settlements; a move that would do away with the quick and dirty “neither admitted nor denied the charges.” This could result in a more transparent process where violations of the law are — God forbid — disclosed in detail.

Securities lawyers said a more detailed public record of cases could make defendants less likely to settle and make it easier for shareholders to file class-action lawsuits piggybacking on the SEC’s claims. It could also lead to embarrassment for executives if the agency publicized their roles in violating securities law, even if they are not personally charged.

God knows we can’t have executives embarrassed.

The Tax Code and Regs for Your iPhone [TaxProf Blog]
Who wants to schlep around the physical tax code?