Tax Credits

Maryland Lawmakers Prepared to Take Their Tax Credits Back From House of Cards

Oh, Maryland, you're so funny: Members of the Maryland House of Delegates are still stewing over a threat from the “House of Cards” producers to leave the state if they don’t get millions more dollars in tax credits. So on Thursday afternoon, delegates issued a threat of their own: Sure, go ahead, leave this beautiful […]

Meanwhile in Canada, You Get a Tax Credit For Not Stinking the Joint Up

Apparently my Canadian pal Krupo is playing around with some tax software and tipped me off to an interesting tax credit for the farmers of Manitoba. The aptly-named Odour Control Tax Credit (translation for our fellow Americans who don't understand what in the hell that word means when there is a stray U thrown in […]

Senators Look to Expand Eligibility for a Successfully Dysfunctional Tax Credit

Today, Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) introduced legislation that will not only extend the Earned Income Tax Credit, but will also expand its eligibility. Both men are keen on the idea:  “Enhancing the earned income tax credit should be a bipartisan goal, as President Reagan called EITC the most effective tool in fighting […]

After Filing Snafu, H&R Block Making It Up to Customers in Most Superficial Way Possible

Kinda like a thoughtless relative or friend who completely forgot your birthday:  “H&R Block appreciates that the issue involving the filing of Form 8863 this past tax season may have frustrated and inconvenienced impacted clients,” a statement from the Kansas City-based company said. “H&R Block recently sent those clients who had their tax returns prepared and filed […]

It’s Nice to Know That Tax Credits Aren’t Going Completely to Waste

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 […]

Arkansas Governor Questions Anyone’s Patriotism Who Can’t Get Behind Tax Breaks for Wind Energy

Today in let's-make-asinine-statements-in-regards-to-tax-policy-news, Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe recently told a large crowd that, “[a]nyone standing in the way of [the wind] industry, frankly, they’re unAmerican.” Right. Because anyone that opposes federal tax dollars being redistributed into the hands of specific corporations and industries are clearly communists. [The Cabin via David Brunori]

Some in New Jersey Aren’t Crazy About This Film Tax Credit Situation

A chorus of angry politicians and a national coalition of Italian-Americans called on Gov. Chris Christie Thursday to veto a controversial $420,000 film tax credit awarded to the hit MTV television show “Jersey Shore.” “The governor needs to step up for decency and veto this. If the show wants to go somewhere else, let ‘em,” said state Sen. Joseph Vitale (D-Middlesex), who said it includes negative stereotypes of young Italian-Americans. “Let us just hope against hope that New Jersey taxpayers don’t end up paying for ‘Snooki’s’ bail the next time she is arrested. What a terrible, terrible and misguided waste.” said State Sen. Paul Sarlo (D-Bergen). [NJ.com via DMWT]

Here Are the Tax Breaks That Obama Wants Cut to Pay for the Jobs Bill

If you’re in the $200k+ club, a hedge fund manager or corporate jet owner, you won’t be pleased. From Reuters:

— A limit on itemized deductions and certain exemptions on individuals who earn over $200,000 and families who earn over $250,000, which would raise roughly $400 billion over 10 years.

— A proposal to treat carried interest earned by investment fund managers as ordinary income rather than taxing it at capital gains rates, which would raise $18 billion.

— Eliminating certain oil and gas industry tax breaks that would raise $40 billion.

— A change in corporate jet depreciation rules that would raise $3 billion.

Right. Can’t forget the oil companies.

Obama seeks $467 billion in tax changes to fund jobs plan [Reuters]

A Romantic Tragedy: The Iowa Film Tax Credit Scandal

Once upon a time a little farm state was feeling sad. The state wasn’t poor. It wasn’t lonesome – strange, handsome and glamorous men were always courting her – but something was missing. What could it be?

Then a man whispered in her ear: you need glamor! And it’s in your grasp!

The little state blushed. “How can I, a little farm state, be glamorous like Hollywood?”

The man said: “You can buy glamour!” And he burst into song:

You’ve got glamor
Right here in River City!
Movies start with cash;
If I can be so brash;
Give me some tax credits!

So the smitten little state gave the man transferable film tax credits. She was so excited about glamor, she gave the tax credits away freely, and the glamor came:

We’ve relied on caucuses every four years to bring action and celebrities to town. Now, sightings are anytime, any place.

But something was wrong. The little state sensed amid the cocktail party laughter that the glamorous were laughing at her, not with her. She noticed that the glamorous people were driving away with shiny new cars that she was paying for. And she noticed that the tax credits were getting rather expensive.

So she cut off her tax credits. This made the glamorous people mad, and some of them sued her. But she caught some of the hapless glamorous people and had them locked up. She made the man who whispered in her ear about film credits confess that he had done a bad thing. She got mad at the man who handed out the tax credits for her and tried to put him in jail.

So the little state is sadder, but perhaps wiser. Which has an attraction of its own:

I flinch, I shy, when the lass with the delicate air goes by
I smile, I grin, when the gal with a touch of sin walks in.
I hope, and I pray, for a Hester to win just one more “A”
The sadder-but-wiser girl’s the girl for me.
The sadder-but-wiser girl for me.

The moral of our story? If you fund it, they will come. And loot your purse. And laugh at you.

Is This the Beginning of the End for Ethanol Tax Credits?

Key Senate lawmakers have reached a deal to end two ethanol subsidies by the end of the month, sooner than expected and a sign of how tax policy can change as attention focuses on the deficit.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D, Calif.) said in a statement that she had reached an agreement with Sens. Amy Klobuchar (D, Minn.) and John Thune (R, S.D.) under which a 45-cent-a-gallon tax credit for blending ethanol into gasoline would expire on July 31. A 54-cent-a-gallon tax on imported ethanol would also expire at the end of the month. [WSJ]

If You Thought Grover Norquist Was Done with Tom Coburn Just Because He Got Some Republicans to Vote for the Ethanol Tax Credit Repeal, You’d Be Wrong

As we’ve mentioned, the scourge of tax policy pragmatism, Grover Norquist, has been battling anyone that utters a word about raising taxes or eliminating tax credits without corresponding tax cuts. His main nemesis in this battle has been Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, who was a member of the Gang of Six until he was determined the gang couldn’t get jack squat accomplished.

Today, a vote was held in the Senate that repealed the tax credits for ethanol, something that Coburn has been advocating strongly to his GOP colleagues. The idea has been floated that many Republicans who signed Americans for Tax Reform’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge would be violating said pledge by voting for the repeal, and thus incur the wrath of Grover & Co. Yesterday, Norquist insisted that the vote for the repeal isn’t a pledge violation because Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) has an estate tax repeal waiting in the wings that would allow these Republicans to atone for their sins and thus making Coburn a loser again:

“Coburn tried. He failed. I’m sure he’ll try again,” Norquist told The Hill, asserting that Coburn had tried to trick his colleagues into voting for a tax increase. “We checkmated him.”

As we said Coburn did try again and now that the ethanol tax credit repeal has passed, Norquist will be counting on those senators wash away their ‘impure thoughts’ with a vote on DeMint’s amendment and allowing he and ATR to prevail once again, like the Roadrunner over Wile E. Coyote or Ronald Reagan over Communism.

He added that he had commitments from Senate GOP leadership to not agree to a deal with what he calls a net tax increase: higher rates or ending tax expenditures without an offset.

“Coburn’s going to be out in the cold by his lonesome,” Norquist said.

Senate kills off ethanol tax credits in possible break with tax pledge [E2 Wire]
Norquist denies he has lost momentum in tax scrap [On the Money]

Ohio Gives Citizens a $20 Tax Credit Just for Being Ohioans

Maybe this is all the incentive some people need to move to the Buckeye State?

David Brunori that reports that this costs the state $165 million a year. Oh, and if you’re old (i.e. over 65) you get an additional $50. This from a state who has people that use bulldozers when cornered and DO NOT TOLERATE mistakes made by H&R Block employees. [via Tax.com]

ATR to Senators: Sign the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act of 2011 at Your Own Peril

Free market Norseman Grover Norquist sent a letter to “Senators” today, urging them to vote against the cleverly titled Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act of 2011. And for anyone that has signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, let it be known that you’ll be in direct violation of said pledge if you also sign the CBOTLA2011. This means you can expect ATR hellfire – in the form of sternly-worded letters – to rain upon you. If you think they’re bullshiting, just ask Tom Coburn what happens with you mess with the (Viking) horns.

From GN’s latest correspondence:

Voting for the Close Big Oil Tax Loopholes Act of 2011 is a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. Senate Democrats advocating for this legislation predicate their arguments on three false suppositions:

1. Taxing oil companies will bring down the price of gas
2. Washington needs more money
3. Oil and natural gas producers are the recipients of government subsidies

None of these presumptions are true.

Coinciding with the recent rise in gas prices were Democrat calls to raise taxes on America’s oil and natural gas producers—some of this country’s finest job creators. This line of reasoning is illogical. Raising the cost of producing crude oil will necessarily raise the price of gasoline.

As many Americans now understand, this country doesn’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem. Democrats are defaming oil and natural gas companies—with stunts like last week’s Senate Finance hearing—because they see these successful businesses as a way to fund a bloated federal government. President Obama’s Party has demonstrated no interest in seriously reducing spending.

So if you want to be associated with that, Senators (and I suspect The Gipper would be very disappointed), go ahead and sign CBOTLA2011. But you’re on notice.

Senate Energy Tax Hike Vote is a Taxpayer Protection Pledge Violation [ATR]

Conoco Execs Don’t Appreciate These ‘Discriminatory’ Tax Plans

ConocoPhillips CFO Jeff Sheets is warning the U.S. Senate that repealing tax credits for oil companies will make it more difficult for his company and their U.S. counterparts to compete internationally and “higher taxes will mean that oil companies will have less money to reinvest, which could lead to a decline in the supply of hydrocarbons.”

Conoco’s CEO Jim Mulva, who will be testifying before the Senate Finance Committee tomorrow, agreed saying, that these plans are “discriminatory” and “If there is less investment, there is going to be less production and less production means higher prices for consumers.” So, Max Bauchus et al., go right ahead with your plan if you can sleep at night knowing that you’re nothing but a bunch of prejudiced jerks that want to hurt the American people. [WSJ, Reuters]

Is Everyone Aware That There Is a Chicken Sh*t Tax Credit?

Tax wonk Len Burman wrote a letter-cum-blog post to Jon Stewart today over at TaxVox explaining how there really is spending in the tax code through tax credits. You see, Stewart gave President Obama a hard time last month about “reducing spending in the tax code” which JS wrongly interpreted as Newspeak. Burman then goes on to give an shitty perfect example of just how ridiculous tax credits have gotten (in case you weren’t aware already):

You don’t believe there’s spending in the tax code??? Here’s a real life example: the chicken-s**t tax credit. Really, section 45 of the Internal Revenue Code. You can look it up. The late Senator Roth of Delaware (home of lots of chickens and “poultry manure,” as it’s euphemistically called) put this little goody into our tax laws. Here’s the backstory: the EPA said that enormous chicken farms could no longer put their poultry waste in pools or bury it because it poisoned the ground water. One of the best options to meet the new requirement was to dry the vile effluent and burn it to make electricity, but that was still costly. Roth didn’t want chicken farmer profits to plummet or chicken and egg prices to rise just because farmers couldn’t use the earth as a giant toilet, so he pushed through the chicken s**t tax credit to create a profitable market for that (as well as all sorts of other crap).

Burman not only explains to Stewart that using tax credits to keep chicken feces out of the water isn’t a good thing but by mocking the President, he also may have inadvertently helped tax executioner Grover Norquist:

Arch-conservative Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, leader of the bipartisan “gang of six,” has said that he’d support tax increases so long as they didn’t include rate increases. That is, he wants to rein in subsidy programs run by the IRS.

This is important. Coburn was willing to take on Grover Norquist, who has very effectively prevented any sensible compromise on the budget by insisting that cutting tax subsidies would violate the taxpayer protection pledge that he strong-armed most Republicans to sign. Now Grover can use your laugh line to reinforce Republican intransigence and doom any chance of bipartisan cooperation.

And to indirectly (or perhaps directly) support taxpayer funding of chicken-shitless water.

Jon Stewart’s Fake News on Tax Expenditures [TaxVox]

Chuck Grassley Has Had It with the Hating on Wealthy People

Which makes a lot of sense since the Iowa Senator has a net worth reported to be anywhere from $2.3 million to $6 million.

The Hill reports that Senator Grassley made his annoyance known in a Senate Finance Committee meeting today, “I get sick and tired of the demagoguery that goes on in Washington about taxing higher-income people,” he said. “How high do taxes have to go to satisfy the appetite of people in this Congress to spend money?” Good question, Senator. Are you changing your tune on ethanol tax credits? [The Hill]

Who Would Have Guessed That Texas CPAs Would Oppose the Elimination of Oil and Gas Tax Breaks?

Next thing you know you’ll hear about CPAs in Iowa (with the exception of one with whom we’re acquainted) opposing the repeal of ethanol credits.

The Texas Society of CPAs’ Federal Tax Policy Committee addressed the issue in its “Analysis of Legislative Proposals to Repeal Certain Tax Treatments of Domestic Oil and Gas Exploration and Development”.The committee agrees that reducing the deficit is of utmost importance, but said that any effort to cut tax incentives for oil companies and raising taxes on oil and gas exploration and development should be weighed against its potential to exacerbate the current underemployment issue, and the need for a secure source of energy.

As noted in the analysis, the committee said it believes repealing tax benefits and allowances for the industry could adversely impact the state’s oil and gas industry, and the economies of Texas and the U.S.

Texas CPAs Oppose Elimination of Oil and Gas Tax Breaks [AT]

Office Depot Loses Tax Credits; CFO May Have Lost His Lunch

Office Depot CFO Mike Newman can’t handle – CAN’T HANDLE – the bad news handed down by the IRS:

“I’m sick about it,” Newman said of the mistake the company and its advisors made in thinking Office Depot could use tax credits of $80 million last year and $63 million this year, calling the mistake his responsibility. Office Depot and its tax advisors believed the company was eligible to use prior losses to get tax credits under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, but the IRS told the company that other tax rules superseded the ones under which Office Depot was using to determine eligibility.

Of course we’d love to know who this “advisor” is that Newman is referring to. Since Deloitte earned over $589k in tax fees for fiscal year ’10 you could conclude that he’s referring to D. It’s certainly possible that it’s someone else so we invite you to come up with some theories.

Office Depot Off; Explains Impact Of IRS Tax-Credit Denial [Dow Jones]

Making Work Pay Tax Credit May Make Taxpayers Pay

Filed under: ironic press releases from the Treasury that we love to get.

News from our favorite federal taxation authority this morning reveals that while the IRS believes they did everything they were supposed to, some taxpayers may have taken their Making Work Pay credits incorrectly, causing them to actually owe money instead of celebrating free money. Oops! The Treasury Inspector General did their best to warn everyone this could happen and, oh look, it did.

Overall, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) implemented the Making Work Pay Credit as intended by Congress, according to a report publicly released today by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).

However, the report also found that approximately 13.4 million taxpayers who received the credit may owe taxes because adjustments to the withholding tables did not take into consideration all taxpayer circumstances. For example, single taxpayers with more than one job, joint filers where both spouses work or one or both of them have more than one job, taxpayers who receive pension payments, and Social Security recipients who receive wages are among those who may be negatively affected.

The Making Work Pay credit is an economic stimulus provision of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (Recovery Act). The credit is advanced to taxpayers by their employers through withholding reductions which results in an increase in taxpayers’ take home pay. The credit is effective for Tax Years 2009 and 2010.

“The Making Work Pay Credit is a key tax credit designed to increase spending and stimulate the economy,” said J. Russell George, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. “However, many taxpayers who are accustomed to receiving refunds when they file their tax returns may have owed taxes and incurred penalties in 2009 and may yet again in 2010 because they were advanced more of the credit than they were entitled to claim,” Mr. George added. “My office issued a report in November 2009 warning of this possibility and encouraging the IRS to increase outreach and waive penalties for taxpayers who may be negatively affected by the credit. We still believe further actions are needed to ensure no taxpayer is unfairly penalized.”

The November 2009 report warning this could go down mentions that some taxpayers were proactive and adjusted their withholding so as not to be impacted by the potential “free money” presented by this “credit” which, for some taxpayers, will turn into money owed back to the Treasury or even tax penalties.

The credit was advanced to taxpayers by their employers through withholding reductions that result in an increase in take home pay, in the hopes that $400 ($800 for joint filers) more in each eligible taxpayer pocket might help increase spending and stimulate the economy. Because of the nature of the credit, however, some taxpayers may have had their taxes underwithheld at the end of the year.

Intended to stimulate whose economy?

Iowa Sets the Bar on Film Tax Credit Inefficiency

From known tax credit antagonist, Joe Kristan:

Before the Iowa Film Tax Credit program exploded in scandal in September 2009, the state had granted $31,967,641 in transferable tax credits to filmmakers. Yesterday the State Auditor reported that $25,576,301 were issued improperly — a full 80% of the credits granted.


Quite the field of dreams. Read more over at Tax Update Blog.

Also see:
What Are Your Taxes Buying Hollywood?

Accounting News Roundup: Pols Line Up Against the Estate Tax; PCAOB Threatens to Stonewall Foreign Audit Firms; RubinBrown Forms LifeSciences Practice | 10.14.10

Estate-Tax Rises Again as Issue on Trail [WSJ]
“More than 250 current congressional candidates, mostly Republicans, have signed a pledge this year to support elimination of the tax, according to the advocacy group sponsoring the effort. The signers include 53 incumbents and more than half of Republicans running for House and Senate. During the 2008 elections, when the group first began seeking supporters, only 30 candidates signed up.

The estate tax has become a particularly hot issue in the West, including in Washington state’s Senate contest, and some rural House districts where Democratic incumbents appear vulnerable. a hotter issue in rural areas because it raises particular concerns among farmers and landowners.”

Religious group took alleged terrorist money [WaPo]
“A group of Ohio ministers has asked the Internal Revenue Service to investigate the organization that sponsors the National Prayer Breakfast because it received money six years ago from an alleged Islamic terrorist organization trying to finance illicit lobbying.

ClergyVoice, the activist group that wrote to the IRS commissioner Wednesday, complained that the Fellowship Foundation violated its obligation as a tax-exempt organization not to deal with such entities.

The foundation, an Arlington-based religious enterprise associated with a house at 133 C St. SE where several members of the House and Senate have rented rooms, acknowledged Wednesday that it had received two $25,000 checks, in May and June 2004, from the Missouri-based Islamic American Relief Agency.

The charity was included on a Senate Finance Committee list of terrorist financiers in January of that year.”

Dell’s Settlement of SEC Accounting-Fraud Claims Approved by U.S. Judge [Bloomberg]
“Dell Inc., the world’s third-biggest maker of personal computers, won a judge’s permission to pay $100 million to settle accounting-fraud claims brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

The accord reached in July allows founder Michael Dell to remain chief executive officer after paying a $4 million fine. U.S. District Judge Richard Leon approved the settlement today at a hearing in Washington.

Dell, 45, and the personal-computer maker failed to tell investors about “exclusivity payments” received from Intel Corp. in exchange for shunning products made by rival chipmaker Advanced Micro Devices Inc., the SEC said in a complaint filed in July. The payments allegedly helped Dell reach earnings targets from 2001 to 2006.”

US regulator threatens ban on Euro-firms [Accountancy Age]
“The US audit watchdog, the Public Company Accounting Oversight Board (PCAOB), is considering de-registering non-US audit firms based in countries where it has no power to conduct inspections, including Europe.

Rhonda Schnare, international affairs director at the PCAOB, said de-registering firms was one option on the table if nations did not co-operate with US audit inspectors.

‘Bringing enforcement proceedings against non-US audit firms is one option and the board is evaluating all of its options… The issue is one of the [PCAOB’s] highest priorities,’ she said.

‘The board cannot de-register firms without going through an extensive process that would involve bringing individual disciplinary hearings against the firms, and that is certainly one of the options the board has.’ ”


President Obama Proposes More Tax Credits for Higher Education [Tax Foundation]
“Even ignoring the possible issue of economic incidence and whether or not this credit would mostly lead to higher tuition instead of lowering the net price faced by students, one of the problems with this credit is the downside of tax credits known as “buying out the base.” The credit will indeed entice some additional amount of people at the margin to go to college. However, it will mostly give a huge windfall to those who were going to go to college in the first place. If more people in college is truly what you want, there are likely better ways to do it than via a refundable tax credit that doesn’t target those at the margin.”

Accounting firm RubinBrown forms team for life sciences [KCBJ]
“RubinBrown LLP, which is based in St. Louis and has offices in Kansas City and Denver, created the Life Sciences Services Group earlier this month.

The firm has identified about 15 existing team members to serve on the life sciences group, about five of whom are in Kansas City, said Todd Pleimann, managing partner of the firm’s Kansas City branch.

However, he said, the firm probably will add more to the team in the future, possibly hiring from outside.

‘We really feel that the life sciences, and particularly animal health, is really key for the Kansas City metropolitan area,” Pleimann said. “We know there is going to be a lot of growth in this area.’ ”

Does Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne Know When to Shut Up, Especially While the SEC Investigates his Company? [White Collar Fraud]
Apparently not.

Tony Hayward Goes Out on a High Note

“We have followed the IRS regulations as they’re currently written.”

~ The outgoing BP CEO, explaining the $9.9 billion tax credit the company took in the second quarter.

Accounting News Roundup: Americans’ Irrational Demands on Policy; Number of Women CFOs Same as ’09; Summer Camp Tax Credits? | 07.14.10

We Can’t Always Get What We Want: Why Governing Americans is So Hard [TaxVox]
Basically it’s because as a group, we’re children. We throw tantrums until we get what we want and stomp around the living room when we don’t.

“[O]ur demands on policymakers are so inconsistent and irrational that we make governing nearly impossible. We hate big deficits, but oppose the actual tax increases or spending cuts that we need to dam the flood of the red ink. We are furious that government passed an $800 billion stimulus last year, but feel lawmakers are not doing enough to get the economy going. We want government to “do something” about the gulf oil spill but reject government interference in private business.”

Women CFOs Holding Steady [CFO]
In the Fortune 500, there are 44 woman CFOs, the same number as last year.

“What are the prospects for women breaking the 10% barrier? At least some are hopeful the numbers will climb in coming years, albeit not dramatically. ‘Anecdotally, I am seeing a next generation of female finance leaders who can and want to rise to the CFO role,’ says Lorraine Hack, executive recruiter with Heidrick and Struggles. She adds, ‘I have seen a lot of companies becoming more cognizant of diversity, or the lack thereof, and making a conscious effort to recruit, retain, and grow such talent.’ ”

U.S. Business Groups Air Policy Concerns [WSJ]
“Washington’s major business groups plan a united front Wednesday in their confrontation with the Obama administration over economic policy, calling on the White House to cut taxes and curb its regulatory agenda.

Business groups including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable and the National Federation of Independent Businesses will air a list of concerns about government policy at a “Jobs for America Summit” at the Chamber’s offices Wednesday.”


Wall Street Fix Seen Ineffectual by Four of Five in U.S. [Bloomberg]
“Almost four out of five Americans surveyed in a Bloomberg National Poll this month say they have just a little or no confidence that the measure being championed by congressional Democrats will prevent or significantly soften a future crisis. More than three-quarters say they don’t have much or any confidence the proposal will make their savings and financial assets more secure.

A plurality — 47 percent — says the bill will do more to protect the financial industry than consumers; 38 percent say consumers would benefit more.

‘Banks and the government are making out, not the ordinary person,’ says Lenore Critzer, a 70-year-old retiree and poll participant who lives in Nelson, Ohio, about 40 miles from Cleveland. ‘We’re going to have another crisis and worse.’ ”

A tax credit for summer camp? IRS says it’s true [Kansas City Star]
Unfortunately, expenses for overnight camps do not qualify. So parents will have to squeeze the sex in during the day somehow.

Lazarus Was a Piker or: How the Extenders Bill Resurrects Bad Tax Provisions Year After Year

The Book of John says that Lazarus emerged from his tomb four days after his death. While impressive, Lazarus has nothing on the Section 41 Research Activities Tax Credit. While Lazarus is credited with only one extension, the Research Credit, first enacted in 1981 as a temporary measure, it has been extended at least 12 times — several times after it had expired.

If it’s such a wonderful tool for our economy, as its beneficiaries always say, and if it isy isn’t it just made permanent? There are two main reasons, one only slightly less cynical than the other.


First, the credit costs the government a lot of revenue. The one-year extension in H.R. 4213, the current “extender” bill, is scored as a $6.6 billion revenue-loser. By extending it only a year at a time, the Congresscritters disguise the real cost of the credit, which they have no intention of allowing to expire. Remember this phony accounting the next time some corporate shmoe trembles while Henry Waxman berates his accounting methods.

Even more cynical: it forces the lobbyists for the credit to pay tribute to their Congressional patrons every year to keep their pet corporate welfare provisions alive. A former Congressional staffer explains (my emphasis):

I never understood the “why” about expiring tax provisions until one very late night markup of the “extenders bill” several years ago while I was working for the Ways and Means Committee. Bleary-eyed, one of usually twinkly-eyed members plopped down in a chair next to me in back of the dais–just to take a little rest away from his member’s seat. I asked him “why do we have to do this every year?…why can’t we just pass these things permanently?”

His eyes suddenly twinkled again, as he looked at me with a combination of amusement and disbelief. He said: “Are you kidding me?… We couldn’t do that!… Why, I’d lose all my friends!…Who would come visit me and say kind things to me and do nice things for me then, if they didn’t have to come back every year to ask for these tax provisions?!!

The research credit is just one of 70 or so “temporary” provisions included in this year’s omnibus “extender” bill. Other tax breaks critical to the continued robust functioning of the economy include the Indian employment tax credit, the special short depreciation life for qualified leasehold and restaurant improvements, subsidies for biodiesel, and the all-important “7-year recovery period for certain motorsports complexes.”

To “pay for” these “temporary” provisions, Congress each year reaches deeper into its bag of tricks for permanent tax increases. The chumps this year: private equity, hedge funds, and small professional corporations. When these things “expire” a year later, this year’s victims will continue to pay their higher tax without Congress having to pass another bill; they will be forgotten while Congress is busy looking for its next revenue fix. And like any junkie, it will give up the addiction only when it’s impossible to score.

Joe Kristan is a shareholder of Roth & Company, P.C. in Des Moines, Iowa, author of the Tax Update Blog and Going Concern contributor. You can see all of his posts for GC here.

New Healthcare Tax Credit Should Help Small Businesses, Nonprofits

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

The Internal Revenue Service recently released some information to help companies take advantage of a tax credit provided by the health reform law.

The IRS estimates that about 4 million businesses qualify, and is sending out notices to as many as possible advising them of the tax break. If you haven’t received anything but believe your company may qualify, here’s what you should know:


The credit is available to companies with fewer than 25 employees with average wages of $50,000 or less. The full credit goes to companies with 10 or fewer employees and average annual wages of $25,000 or less. It is not available to self-employed individuals.

The credit covers 35 percent of an employer’s contribution to employee health premiums, so long as that doesn’t exceed 35 percent of the average cost of a health plan in the small group market. For a tax-exempt organization, the credit is 25 percent. Once the health exchanges are set up, the credit increases to 50 percent for businesses and 35 percent for nonprofits. At that time, the credit will only be available to companies purchasing insurance through the exchange.

A company can use the credit to reduce income tax owed and can carry the credit forward 20 years or back one year after 2010. Nonprofits can use the credit against withholding and Medicare taxes owed on behalf of their employees.

A key caveat is that employers must pay for half of the premium. For most workers, especially low-wage employees, a company that does not pay for at least half the premium is offering insurance that is essentially unaffordable. Even 50 percent is most likely not enough to do low-wage workers much good, especially at small companies where health care premiums are more expensive.

The amount of the credit is based on the premiums an employer pays for, so the more generous the coverage, the greater the credit. While premiums paid for owners and their families cannot be counted, those paid for seasonal workers can be. And the IRS has defined “premiums” broadly: not only does it cover premiums for standard medical insurance but it also applies to dental, long-term care and vision insurance-though again, an employer must pay 50 percent of each premium to count it toward the credit.

Calculating the credit probably requires any small employer to consult an accountant to see if the benefits are worth the cost of providing insurance. The tax credit is in effect, allowing employers who are already thinking about health insurance for their employees to factor in the savings as they plan ahead.

As an observer, I think the key issue is whether the credit is enough to offset the rising cost of health insurance. Those costs have hit small employers the hardest. We’ll see if the tax credit makes a difference in reversing the trend among small employers of dropping health insurance for their employees altogether.

Putting the Success of the Homebuyer Tax Credit in Perspective

“Yes, it is a success, if the objective was to demonstrate that people will take free money if you give it to them.”

Joe Kristan, explaining the success of the homebuyer tax credit program, which ends today.

Refundable Tax Credits: They’re for Trust Fund Babies Too!

So 47% of our nation’s households will pay no federal income tax this year. Well, stick it to those rich people, then! Help the deserving poor, like Buffy Richgirl.

Buffy is a struggling 26-year single mom with three kids and a checkered romantic history. Yet she does the best she can, earning $16,500 in various jobs in 2009 while taking courses in applied tattoology at the local college, while Mom helps with the kids.

Let’s see how a beneficent tax law helps this struggling mom make ends meet.


Some key facts:

Name: Buffy Richgirl.

Age: 26

Filing status: Head of Household, because of 3 dependent kids – Biff, Cloyd and Muffy.

Income: $16,500, all salary, no withholding.

Housing status: Daddy gave her $200,000 in 2008 to buy a house, which she bought in December 2009. She formerly lived in various apartments or with Daddy.

Educational status: She’s taking tattoo technology courses half-time at the local college (her Mom helps out with the kids), where she ran up $3500 in qualified expenses.

Prospects: She’s the beneficiary of a trust from late Grandpa that will kick out $5 million when she hits age 30, but which distributes nothing right now.

Other cash sources: She gets occasional non-taxable child support, and she has a non-interest bearing checking account with some Daddy cash.

The tax results? Adjusted Gross Income: $16,500. Taxable Income: $0. Taxes withheld and paid: $0. Tax refund: $17,009.

So how did our heroine double her income via her 1040? Through the miracle of “refundable credits” – tax credits that generate a refund even if your tax computes to zero. She wins with:

• An $8,000 First-time homebuyer credit.
• A $5,634 earned income credit.
• $2,025 in additional child credits
• $950 refundable education credit.

Don’t believe me? Look at her 1040 for yourself:

So what’s the point? It’s very hard to fine-tune the tax law. That’s especially true with refundable tax credits. No matter how carefully you try to “target” a group with tax benefits, there will be collateral unjust enrichment.

Now don’t you feel better about that check you have to send IRS next week?

RICHGIRL_1040

Who Wants to Hear Joe Biden’s Tax Advice?

You’re welcome!

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Everybody got it?

“It’s not hard. Not even hard for me.”

“I used to do my own taxes but now everybody thinks it’s too dangerous.”

“The American People pay me a really good salary. I don’t deserve a tax break.”

Then there’s the Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr. kitchen table talk; you know the drill.

[via TaxProf]

The Latest Homebuyer Tax Credit Scam: Now with HUD!

That the First-time Homebuyers Credit is riddled with fraud is old news. Like all refundable credits, where the government writes you a check if the credit exceeds the tax shown on your return, it’s a magnet for grifters. What’s new is cross-agency efforts enable First-Time Homebuyer Credit fraud, with video.

James O’Keefe, notorious for donning pimpwear and taping ACORN officials happily facilitating tax fraud and child prostitution, and then for getting arrested in Louisiana, took his act to Detroit and Chicago offices of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development posing as a tax credit scammer. One conversation went like this:

The law says that the tax credit maxes out at $8,000 for an $80,000 home. On the tape, O’Keefe asked a staffer, “What if I bought a place for $50,000, but the seller and I agreed to write down $80,000 as the purchase price?”

“Flip it any way you want,” the staffer replied.

What if the place is worth much less — like only $6,000?

“Yup, you can do that.”

This version of the Homebuyer Credit scam can get around the checks the IRS has in place to prevent fraud. The primary IRS anti-fraud check for the homebuyer credit is a requirement that a copy of an HUD-1 form or settlement statement be attached to the 1040 claiming the credit. If the buyer and seller collude to dummy up a HUD-1 form, the “buyer” is reasonably likely to get the credit as long as there isn’t some other item on the return that flags it – such as an address that’s different from the one for the “home” on the settlement statement.

The scammers wouldn’t be out of the woods by any means. The IRS might well catch up with the scammers. But then again, they might not, or if they did, the money could be long gone. For someone living in in a Detroit neighborhood where houses sell for as little as $1,000, splitting $8,000 with a scammer might be one of the less-risky opportunities at hand.

Is Kansas Squeezing Non-profits to Close Its Budget Gap?

Kansas has a bit of problem with its tax code, or perhaps the issue at hand is not necessarily Kansas’ broken tax system but the suspicious absence of those all-important tax revenues. Seeking to fill a $416 million budget gap for the FY beginning July 1, it has begun looking at simplifying complicated exemptions but the change could hit already struggling non-profits in the state hard.


NYT:

Lori McMillan, an associate professor of tax law at Washburn University, said the proposal to not grant exemptions to specifically named organizations but rather categories, such as nonprofit and charitable organizations, was a better policy for the state.

”Sometimes it seems that the criterion for an exemption is one’s ability to find a parking place and the committee room,” said Mark Desetti, a lobbyist for the Kansas National Education Association.

Emily Compton, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Kansas, said removing the exemption would increase her operating expenses by $40,000. She said the organization also must come up with $125,000 in unemployment tax contributions this spring and the combined increase in expenditures could result in fewer services and employees.

The change would mostly mean Goodwill sacrificing its sales tax exemption but that’s not all that’s on the chopping block.

Also up for debate, a program that would reduce seldom-used tax credits for low-income individuals to buy a home, fund education, or start a business:

John Scott, president of the Interfaith Housing Services Inc. which administers the program in Hutchinson, said the IDA program is budgeted to receive $500,000 worth of 50 percent tax credits each year. For example, if someone invests $100,000 in the program, they receive a $50,000 tax credit.

He said that if the program has to be changed, reducing the amount to $250,000 would be acceptable and still allow it to receive matching grants from other sources.

“We feel this is a win-win compromise. It helps you cut the budget without losing outside revenue, and it does not force us to close the program and possibly cause loss of jobs,” Scott said.

As is, the state exempts $4.2 billion in sales taxes and proposals currently under review by the House Taxation Committee could bring in an additional $196 million – still leaving a $220 million budget gap.

Is Kansas penalizing non-profits is the way to make up the gap? Goodwill Industries claims 83 cents of every dollar generated in its retail stores goes to serving its mission of providing work to individuals in need. Can the government of Kansas claim that level of efficiency when it comes to tax revenues?

What Are Your Taxes Buying Hollywood?

The former head of the Iowa Film Office was charged this week with “unfelonious misconduct in office” for his role in a scandal in which filmmakers bought themselves everything from featherbeds to Benzes with money advanced by the taxpayers of Iowa.

The Hawkeye State fell big time for the film credit fad that swept the country in recent years. Iowa had two 25% tax credits, one for filmmakers and one for investors. As interpreted by Mr. Wheeler (but not the Attorney General), the credits together could add up to 50% of film costs incurred in state, making it perhaps the most generous such giveaway in the country.

Better yet, the credits are transferable, so filmmakers can sell them at a discount to raise money. The program had no caps, meaning that Iowa could give away money as fast as Hollywood could spend it.


The entire program was managed by Mr. Wheeler, almost by himself. And did he ever manage it. According to the Iowa Attorney General:

Defendant Wheeler permitted filmmakers… to utilize “payments in kind” including “services in kind” in support of claimed expenditures for tax credits. Under defendant Wheeler’s direction, Iowa’s film program became one of the few, if not the only, state film incentive program in the nation to allow credit for “services in kind.”…Examples included “sponsorship agreements” in which intangible assets (such as reciprocal web links, product placement and marketing agreements) were traded with no money changing hands. These non-cash “expenditures” sometimes constituted the majority of the filmmakers entire alleged budget.

For a brief glitzy moment, Iowa was overrun with film crews and starlets helping themselves to a bountiful harvest.

The party ended last fall with revelations that Iowans helped buy a Mercedes and a Land Rover for a producer via film credits. Mr. Wheeler lost his job, and now he stands charged with a “serious misdemeanor.” Two filmmakers are charged with felony theft for inflating their expenses while claiming credits.

But if Mr. Wheeler is criminally inept, what about the bosses that left him alone and unsupervised to give away over $30 million so far? And what about the 147 legislators — out of 150 — who thought it would be a good idea to give Hollywood a blank check? And you thought “Music Man” was fiction.

But lest you think too badly about the rubes in Iowa, forty-four states are giving taxpayer money to Hollywood. Chances are that your legislator is taking money from you and giving it to those nice Hollywood people. Remember that next time your legislator says you aren’t paying enough taxes.

Homebuyer Credit to Continue Helping People Get into Crazy Debt?

Thumbnail image for overwhelmed.jpgMaybe! The opportunity to take advantage of the current credit expires on November 30th. Luckily, the brain trust known as the U.S. Senate is all over this and is going to get a new plan in place come hell or high water.
The best part is that under the Senate’s latest proposal, the credit will now be “extended beyond first time buyers,” as reported by Bloomberg.
So, if you’ve lived in your current shack for five years and you’re looking to upgrade, you’ll be eligible for a $6,500 credit. First time homebuyers will still receive an $8,000 The new extension of the credit would be available for home purchases under contract by April 30, 2010 and close by the end of June.


But that’s not all! Under the new plan, the credit would be available for individuals earning $125k up from $75k and couples earning $250k up from $150k. Presumably more McMansions will get purchased this way.
More good news: this thing has bipartisan support:

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, agreed that most lawmakers support the unemployment and homebuyer measures. “We’re not that far away from an agreement,” he said earlier today.

Who knew it was possible? The problem is, not everyone thinks this is a good idea, including Joe Kristan over at Tax Update Blog:

It’s nice to know that a majority of the millionaires in the Senate think it’s wise to spend $40,000 to $80,000 of our money for each new home sale caused by the credit, even though the credit is rife with fraud.
The credit extension would be tied to an extension of unemployment benefits; the provisions may still be changed, and it has to be reconciled with a House bill that has no homebuyer credit provision.
If they extend it this time, does anybody believe they won’t try to extend it again every time it is set to expire?

And Tax Girl:

Does that cover everybody? Does everyone get a tax credit now? Cause we wouldn’t want to be handing out that free money and leave someone out.

And Don’t Mess with Taxes:

My concern is that if people need the credit to get into a first home or move up to a larger one, are they getting in over their heads in debt? And isn’t that what got us into the economic trouble we’re in now?

Call us party poopers but we’ll go with accountants over the U.S. Senate any day.
Homebuyer Credit Extension a Done Deal? NOL Carrybacks Enhanced? [Tax Update Blog]
First Time Homebuyer’s Credit Likely Expanded [Tax Girl]
Reconfigured home buyer tax credit [Don’t Mess With Taxes]
Also see: Lawmakers Find A Way To Outfox 4-Year Old Tax Cheats [DB]