Tax policy

Donald Trump’s Tax Policy: Destroy H&R Block

In case you hadn't heard, Sunkist-epidermic galoot Donald Trump has taken some lumps in recent days in his pretend run for president. However, in order to milk this thing for all it's worth, DJT has kept up appearances and in an effort to avoid talking about how Megan Kelly handed him his ass, discussed the […]

Berry Bad Tax Policy

There's a thorny issue in the legislation approved by the House of Representatives last month that would revive bonus depreciation. Marc Heller of BNA discovered that while fruits and nuts that come from trees and vines will qualify under this version of the bill, bushes are losing out due to an omission in the language. […]

PwC Partner Who Built a Career Out of Making Ireland a Tax Haven Could Fix Everything Over Lunch, FYI

Over at Bloomberg, Jesse Drucker has a lengthy profile of PwC Partner Feargal O'Rourke, the head of the firm's tax practice in Ireland. As you know, Ireland figures quite prominently into tax planning strategies for companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter, Microsoft, Apple and untold others who solemnly swear that they're in full compliance with the tax law.  […]

Fiscal Cliff Deal Prevented Millions from Missing Out on AMT Fun

A new study from the Tax Policy Center discovered that more taxpayers will be subject to the alternative minimum tax in the coming years — 6.1 million by 2023 — but man, things could've been really interesting/irritating. Without the fiscal cliff deal, 22.6 million taxpayers would've gotten to know Form 6251 in 2013, growing to […]

Tax Think Tank Reminds Us That There Are a Lot of Bad Parents Out There

Tax Policy Blog: Cigarettes and Preschoolers Don’t Go Together http://t.co/NBHKp7Z0KZ — Tax Foundation (@taxfoundation) July 24, 2013 Got it! But electronic ones are cool, right?

The IRS Scandal Has Made the Long Odds of Passing Tax Reform Even Longer

Until last Friday, tax reform seemed to be working a steady pace towards…something. I mean, Max & Dave have both a Twitter account and a website dedicated to the cause so you know they were getting serious about the thing. This kind of effort is enough to get the ghost of Ronald Reagan wandering around DC […]

Why Yes, Tax Reform Can Get More Complicated

Juggling all the aspects of income tax reform is quite a task. Here's a mind dump of a few of the elements involved: Credits Deductions Tax-exempt income The treatment of pass-throughs How much marginal rates should be cut If more revenue should be raised How carried interest is treated The capital gains rate Transfer pricing […]

Maryland Does Love Itself Some Mortgage Interest Deduction; North Dakota a Little Less So

[A] report issued by the Pew Charitable Trusts – an independent nonprofit organization and the sole beneficiary of several trusts established by heirs of Sun Oil Company founder Joseph N. Pew – determined that the percentage of tax filers deducting mortgage interest ranged from nearly 37 percent in Maryland to only 15 percent in West […]

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 […]

Social Media’s Ideas for Tax Reform Can’t Be Worse Than Anything That’s Been Kicked Around So Far

Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) and Representative Dave Camp (R-MI) report in a Wall Street Journal op-ed that since Congress has spent ample time listening to interest groups, it's about time they got really serious about tax reform: In the coming weeks, we will give you the opportunity to provide your input as well. No need to […]

Maybe Dave Camp’s Pass-through Proposal Doesn’t Address Carried Interest So It Won’t Invite Unfortunate War Analogies

Victor Fleischer writes at DealBook that Michigan Congressman Dave Camp's proposal to simplify partnership and S-Corp tax law may be too simple. It's not that Professor Fleischer doesn't like simple, it sounds like he does. And he also likes that Camp gave everyone a couple of options. But Camp's more "radical" option is missing some details […]

Members of Congress Seem Surprised That Tax Reform Meetings with Interest Groups Would Arouse Cynicism

Last month, the House Ways and Means Committee announced that it was creating eleven working groups to kickstart this tax reform idea that's been thrown around. At the time the effort was described as a "fact-finding mission" which is funny because facts are not something Congress is known to have a firm grasp of. REGARDLESS! This […]

Tax Nerds Feeling Vindicated After Their Long-held Viewpoints Are Paid Lip Service

Tax Policy Center co-director Eric Toder is feeling good today. Why? Some people known for not doing much of anything productive are saying things that sound remarkably like some people who plan to do something productive! The House Ways and Means Committee, in a letter signed by all its Republican members to Budget Committee Chairman […]

How We Averted the Fiscal Cliff: As a CPA, People Might Expect You To Know This Crap

I don’t care if you’re a Republican or a Democrat; you’re an accountant, and the avert-the-fiscal-cliff legislation that the federal government crapped out at the last minute hooks you up. Sure, you’re going to pay more in taxes, but Congress was actually able to bang out some long-term solutions to the expiring tax cuts which is going to make your life easier1.

The Corporate Income Tax Is Like Mother’s Milk for Tax Professionals

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 […]

Grover Norquist Gives the All-clear on ‘Plan B’

Here's the official word from ATR: ATR has consistently maintained that individual Members of Congress make a pledge to their constituents to oppose and vote against tax increases.  The House this week will vote on a tax bill.  This legislation—popularly known as “Plan B”–permanently prevents a tax increase on families making less than $1 million […]

Warren Buffett & Friends Talking Estate Tax Policy Now

A group of wealthy people that includes Warren Buffett, George Soros and former President Jimmy Carter is pressing Congress to roll back estate tax parameters, saying the current set-up leaves “too much revenue on the table.” The group of roughly three dozen people released a statement on Tuesday calling for both the current estate tax exemption […]

John Boehner Is the Most Reasonable, Responsible Person in Washington, Says John Boehner

The other day, Speaker of the Hizzous John Boehner got a lot of people got lot of people hot and bothered when he said that Republicans were "willing to accept new revenue, under the right conditions.” For some odd reason, these people – including Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Kent Conrad (D-ND) – thought that meant […]

Chuck Schumer Is Willing to Give John Boehner a Few Days to Warm Up to Higher Taxes

“You can’t expect the Speaker to turn on a dime in 24 hours and embrace everything, higher taxes, higher taxes on the wealthy, but I think privately that he’s seen the handwriting on the wall and it makes me very hopeful that we can do something big in the next month and a half. It’s […]

Hold the Phone, John Boehner Didn’t Say Anything About Taxes Going Up

Admittedly, The Speaker sounds like he's ready to deal but you'd be a damn fool to think that he's going to roll over: With President Obama reelected and Republicans returned to a slightly smaller majority in the House, Boehner (R-Ohio) said Tuesday’s election amounted to a plea from voters for the parties to lay down […]

Let’s Try to Make Some Sense of President Obama’s “Tax Breaks for Companies Shipping Jobs Overseas” Statement

One other major point of contention (that relates to taxes) in last night's debate was President Obama mention of "tax breaks [given] to companies that are shipping jobs overseas." It's not entirely clear what he was talking about, so let's do our best to sort this out. From the transcript of the debate, here's what […]

Mitt Romney Left Tax Policy Wonks Feeling a Little Unsatisfied Today

Maybe you didn't hear about it, but last night Mitt Romney and Barack Obama were on TV engaging in a war of words. LOTS OF WORDS. The consensus is that Willard emerged the big victor while remaining pretty vague on details: Romney fiercely objected to Obama’s characterization of his tax plan as a $5 trillion […]

What Are People Saying About Mitt Romney’s Tax Deduction Cap Idea?

Late yesterday, Mitt Romney threw out the idea of limiting tax deductions to $17,000 as part of his strategy to keep his tax plan revenue neutral. Up until this point, the Romney campaign had provided bupkis for details and that annoyed quite a few people who like details. Despite everyone's begging, they continued to stall […]

All of Mitt Romney’s Fancy Schmancy Tax Planning Strategies Should Serve as a Reminder That We Really, Really Need Tax Reform

Yesterday, we told you about Jesse Drucker's stellar report on Mitt Romney's "I Dig It" trust and how it allows his family to pass along wealth to the younger generations with relatively little taxes being paid. It was the latest of many reports and scoops on Willard's finances and really, we shouldn't be surprised. He […]

Mitt Romney: Yeah, about those tax cuts…

Everyone needs to adjust their expectations: “By the way, don’t be expecting a huge cut in taxes, because I’m also going to lower deductions and exemptions,” Romney said, according to various news media reports.  Um, yay? “All the rates come down,” Romney said. “But unless people think there's going to be a huge reduction in […]

Ways and Means Committee Isn’t Even Trying Anymore

As you know, the so-called* fiscal cliff is looming* over us all. The prospect of tax increases and spending cuts has everyone freaked. Our elected officials are in full campaign mode, yet still manage to o attend committee meetings to discuss and debate policy of the utmost importance in order to reach a compromise for […]

Summing Up Tax Policy in This Presidential Election

Tax Analysts' Chris Bergin doesn't like what he heard from Mitt Romney yesterday: In a taped interview, host [Meet the Press host] David Gregory repeatedly asked Romney for details of his tax plan. He ended up practically begging for just one detail – any morsel, please. He got zip, zilch, nothing. […] I can think […]

The Wall Street Journal, For One, Has No Problem Making Mitt Romney’s Tax Plan Mathematically Possible

Late yesterday (or for you nostalgic types, in today's print edition), the Wall Street Journal published an editorial that goes after the Brookings Institution and Tax Policy Center for their analysis of Mitt Romney's tax plan. The long-short of the analysis is that, given what has been said by Mittens re: tax reform, there is […]

Have We Reached the Nadir of Tax Policy Discourse?

Politics is a dirty sport and while name-calling is certainly standard operating procedure, it seems extra petty when we're discussing about tax policy: Mitt Romney on Tuesday defended his tax plan after President Obama said it amounted to “Romney-hood” by taking from the poor and giving to the rich, labeling the charge “Obamaloney.” Since politics […]

Democrats Concerned That Republicans Want to Take Their Tax Reform Ball and Go Home

In case you weren't already aware, our nation's tax code is a mess. And not your run-of-the-mill mess that can be tidied up before company comes over; this is more of a dirty-dishes-on-the-floor-ring-around-the-entire-bathroom-kitchen-smells-like-the-dumpster-what-the-hell-is-that?-is-that-dog-piss? mess. Both political parties believe that reform is needed, but that's where the agreement ends.  The Republicans would like to cut tax […]

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]

Did John Boehner Stutter?

Let's try this again: U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner on Thursday dismissed suggestions that Republicans were warming to raising revenue as a part of a plan to cut the deficit, adding that tax hikes on millionaires would cost jobs. The top Republican in Congress blasted a proposal from House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi to […]

And Here You Thought It Was Just Peasants Not Paying Any Income Taxes

  Our income tax system is joke. This is known. One of the most controversial results of the current system is, with all its complexities, millions of people still manage to pay no income tax. And it's not just the poors getting away with it!   The percentage of U.S. taxpayers reporting adjusted gross income […]

Congressional Leader Clearly Knows Nothing About Congress’ Capabilities

The Hill reports that jolly orange giant John Boehner is speaking at the Peter G. Peterson Foundation today and he's telling the crowd that when Congress finally gets around to tax reform, they'll be coupled with an extension of the Bush tax cuts. “Any sudden tax hike would hurt our economy, so this fall — […]

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 […]

Who Else Is Repeating Their Tax Rhetoric Today?

“You might have heard of this,” Obama said in his remarks, before a crowd of faculty and students at Florida Atlantic University. “But Warren Buffett is paying a lower tax rate than his secretary.” [The Hill, Earlier]

George W. Bush Still Doesn’t Like the Bush Tax Cuts Being Called the Bush Tax Cuts

Stop me if you've heard this before. "I wish they weren't called the Bush tax cuts. If they were called someone else's tax cuts, they'd be less likely to be raised," the former President told some people who still listen to him speak about anything. Just save us the trouble and play it on a […]

David Cay Johnston Has a Plan to End Tax Fraud

If you thought that tax hack David Cay Johnston was going to idly stand by while the country's tax system spins into a ferocious web of inexplicable rules and soaring criminal deceit, you'd be wrong! Oh, so wrong. The bearded man has a plan and in his Reuters column, he explains that it's really pretty […]

Just Blow Up the Tax Code Already

Tax wonk Christopher Bergin has some concerns that if President Obama and Congress don't do something some about our tax system between now and the end of the year, a bomb will go off: If Congress and the President do nothing about our tax system between now and the end of the year, here are just […]

Kids! Join the Voluntary Tax Accountant Extinction Movement!

  The world doesn’t owe us a living. Of course you know that.  If you thought the world did owe you a living, you wouldn’t have gotten that Accounting degree.  You’d have gone for that much easier Critical Gender Studies or 19th-Century American History ticket.  But even when you get that first tax accountant job, […]

Mitt Romney Would Like To See You Try Scoring His Tax Plan. Just Try It.

Fresh off his Super Tuesday meh, Mitt Romney went on CNBC and made a strange admission that his tax plan is not a real plan, per se:  “What I put out in my plan was a series of principles that allow our economy to grow and at the same time maintain a neutral budget impact,” […]

Here’s the President’s Framework for Business Tax Reform

At 23 pages, it's nearly readable! But it's still wonky tax stuff so it's not exactly breezy. Via the TaxProf here are the five elements (and the whole document is below): I. Eliminate dozens of tax loopholes and subsidies, broaden the base and cut the corporate tax rate to spur growth in America: The Framework would […]

Grover Norquist Has a Suggestion for Mitt Romney

Newt Gingrich nemesis Mitt Romney told Larry Kudlow last week that "phase two" of his tax plan was in the works but Godfather of Anti-Tax Policy Grover Norquist thinks he should save his energy. “The smart move is to say, ‘I’m with Paul Ryan,’” Norquist says. “Then it’s not ‘his plan,’ and [Romney] can simply […]

The Year in Taxes: Sleepwalking Through 2011

  In January, the tax world was still reeling from the extension of the Bush-era tax rate cuts signed into law in December.  It also allowed rich people who died in 2010 to go to their rest without paying estate taxes, making George Steinbrenner a happy ghost.  It also allowed living taxpayers to make tax-free […]

Gingrich, Romney Currently Leading the Race to Be Grover Norquist’s Whipping Boy

Did I say “Grover Norquist”? Sorry, sorry. By that, I meant, “the American People.”


Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Hear that, Mittens? You need to do a re-write, or the the citizens of this great land will have you by the short and curlies. Get on it.

[via The Hill]

Don’t Look Now But There Is Glimmer of Sensible Tax Policy in Congress

A long-overdue measure to limit state taxation of non-residents has cleared its first committee, reports the Tax Policy Blog. The House Judiciary Committee approved H.R. 1864, the Mobile Workforce State Income Tax Simplification Act, which provides:

An employee’s wages or other remuneration shall be subject to state income tax only in either:

-the employee’s state of residence, or

-a state where the employee is present and performing employment duties for more than 30 days during the calendar year. A day counts if the employee performs more employment duties in that state than in any other state during that day. Travel time does not count.

For traveling taxpayers, that’s good news. Lord knows how many loyal Going Concern readers flit from state to state in their unceasing efforts to ensure that the Nation’s financial statements are fairly stated in all material respects. But it’s also bad news — it reminds us that right now you can be taxable in a state after spending as little as a day there.


Why are the states so greedy? Think of LeBron James. When he visits the Staples Center to beat up the Clippers, the home team may lose, but the Franchise Tax Board wins every time. But the tax law in its majesty applies as much to the newbie auditor sent to count vegetables as to LeBron.

Fortunately for our auditor, the firm will probably tell her how much of her income is taxable in each state. Unfortunately, it won’t do all of the extra tax returns she will have to file in all of the exciting states a modern jet-setting auditor may visit.

H.R. 1864 is a long way from perfect. Its biggest flaw is that it doesn’t protect visiting entertainers or athletes. Sure, LeBron can afford the tax help to file in a couple dozen states, but the same rules apply to minor league ballplayers, comedians trying to become senators, and your friendly struggling road band. Still, anything that helps abused staff accountants isn’t all bad.

The proposal is a long ways from becoming law. The high tax states hate any limitations on their ability to pick visitor pockets. Still, it’s nice to have at least a glimmer of hope for sanity.

This Tax Reform Stuff Can Wait

[I]f we are going to make real progress, we can’t fixate on every overhyped, half-baked tax slogan that comes along. Sooner or later we must get back to basics. Here’s the main question: Should taxes be cut, raised, or reformed without changing overall revenue? The answer is that taxes should be cut in the short term, raised after we are clearly out of our cyclical downturn, and then reformed only after we have settled on the magnitude of tax increases needed for deficit reduction. [Martin Sullivan]

Rick Perry to U.S. Taxpayer: COME ON DOWN

One of the biggest problems with Texas Governor Rick Perry’s optional flat tax may be the choice it gives taxpayers. Perry says you can either pay his new tax or pay under today’s system, whichever results in a lower bill. That sounds great, but it is a policy disaster. This is the tax code we’re talking about, not some TV game show. [TaxVox]

Herman Cain Wants You to Try the New 9-9-9 Recipe

Godfather of gold ties and GOP Presidential candidate Herman Cain has taken a lot of heat for his 9-9-9 tax plan. While it has a nice ring to it, not too many people are crazy about 9-cubed including his fellow GOP hopefuls, their tax taskmaster Grover Norquist, and every tax wonk within the DC delivery area.

Sensing something needed to be changed, Cain got his economics advisor accountant and whomever else is crunching the numbers to go back to the drawing board. And what did they come up with, you ask? Are they throwing in free bread sticks? Fresher ingredients? A gluten-free crust stuffed with cheese? Nope! That would just cause more confusion, so they just dropped a nine:

For people living under the poverty line, “your plan isn’t 9-9-9, it’s 9-0-9,” Mr. Cain said in a policy speech in Detroit. “Say amen, y’all. If you are at or below the poverty line…then you don’t pay that middle 9” – i.e. the individual flat tax.

Mr. Cain’s bold 9-9-9 plan – which includes a 9% individual flat tax, a 9% business flat tax, and a 9% national sales tax – has helped vault him into the top tier of GOP presidential candidates.

But free bread sticks would still be nice.

Herman Cain Tweaks 9-9-9 Tax to Remove Flat Tax for Poorest Americans [WSJ]

Who’s Afraid of Tax Reform?

The last time I saw the family dentist while I was in college, he asked me what I was studying. When I told him I was studying tax accounting, he got a strange, smug look on his face and asked, “what are you going to do when there is a flat tax?”

It’s been almost 30 years since I saw that dentist, and so far I’ve dodged the flat tax bullet. There has been one big tax reform since I started public accounting, and next to getting fired by good old Price Waterhouse, The Tax Reform of 1986 has been the best thing that happened to my career.


The 1986 Tax Reform Act’s 25th anniversary is tomorrow. With talk of radical tax reform in the air, from Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan to Rick Perry’s embrace of an old-fashioned flat tax, young tax nerds may lose sleep worrying that this time tax careers really will be legislated out of existence.

Go back to bed. For young tax nerds, radical change can be a huge career boost.

The 1986 tax reforms were enacted during my third year out of school. The local office of my national firm was going to put on a big client seminar, and I was put in charge of organizing the presentation. In the pre-Internet days, we got one paperback copy of the legislation, which I tore apart at the bindings so the presenters could have their part of the law. I proofread the slides, sent them to the photographer, and then manually arranged the presentation in the slide carousel (there was no PowerPoint, kids).

The seminar came off well (I did passive losses), which helped keep me (and the evil manager who didn’t like me) from getting me fired again. But in the following weeks the real benefit began to dawn on me — thanks to tax reform, I suddenly knew more about most of the tax law than everybody in the office who outranked me — including the evil manager. It got me promoted quickly, and it gave me much-needed credibility a few years later when a bunch of us went over the wall to start a new firm.

If there is radical tax reform, it will trash a lot of accumulated tax trivia knowledge that experienced tax nerds trade on. But it will also create huge opportunities for young, smart nerds who are willing to learn the new rules. It will be a great leveller in the profession, and a huge advantage to the young and strong.

But it will probably make it almost impossible for me to sell my collection of 1986 Tax Act books for a good price on e-Bay.

Grover Norquist: 9-9-9 Plan Is ‘Tapeworms in Your Tummy’

The ‘Godfather of Tax Policy’ explains his beef (pepperoni, sausage, meatball) with his fellow Godfather’s tax plan.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

[via ATR, Earlier]

Frank Wolf Has Grover Norquist’s Attention

Earlier we learned that Virginia Congressman Frank Wolf is completely creeped out by Tax Terminator Grover Norquist’s BSD status in the Republican Party.

It’s been bothering Mr. Wolf so much that his “conscience” compelled him to give a speech on the House floor today to remind everyone what kind of Grover company keeps (i.e. the “unsavory” kind).

And since Grover has Viking DNA coursing through his veins, you’d be a monkey’s uncle if you thought that he was going to let this shit slide:

Norquist branded Wolf’s speech a “hissy fit” and a “compilation of whack job criticisms.” He added that he thought the Virginia Republican, one of the relatively few GOP members of Congress to have not signed the tax pledge, was lashing out at him because he did not want to call out his Republican colleagues. “He is the only Republican arguing that tax increases are a good idea,” Norquist told The Hill. “What he has is a problem with the American people and the modern Reagan Republican Party.”

But hey, GN is old political cat; he knows how the game is played:

“[I]f he wants to chew on my ankles, I can take it.”

How’s that for a visual?

Norquist: GOP lawmaker’s criticism ‘beneath him’ [OTM/The Hill]

Grover Norquist Gives Congressman Frank Wolf the Heebie Jeebies

“My conscience has compelled me to come to the floor today to voice concerns I have with the influence Grover Norquist, the president of Americans for Tax Reform, has on the political process in Washington,” Wolf read from a statement on the floor of the House of Representatives today. Wolf listed a series of associations that he said undermines Norquist’s credibility as a policy advocate. Among them, he cited a relationship Norquist had with former lobbyist and convicted felon Jack Abramoff. “Mister Abramoff essentially laundered money through ATR and Mister Norquist knew it,” Wolf said. [Bloomberg]

Let This Be a Lesson to All Billionaires That Give the Thumbs-up to a ‘Rule’ with Their Name Attached to It

The GOP is making a concerted effort to pressure billionaire investment guru Warren Buffett to release his tax returns to the public. Republicans say Buffett — the public face of Obama’s proposed “Buffett rule” to increase taxes on the wealthy — needs to reveal his finances if his views on tax rates are going to serve as the basis for Obama administration policy. “Will Warren Buffett release his tax returns so we can see why he should be the standard for tax policy?” Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) questioned in a tweet Thursday. “If he’s going to be the gold standard, so to speak, in terms of what our tax policy should be, yeah, let’s look at it [his tax returns],” Cornyn told ABC News. [OTM/The Hill]

Is President Obama Insane When It Comes to Tax Policy?

Yesterday we learned how President Obama would pay for his jobs bill. If you make more $200k ($250k for marrieds), have carried interest income, have a corporate jet or are an oil & gas company, you probably won’t be too happy with the ideas put forth.

If any of these proposals sounds familiar, that’s because they’ve been put through the ringer already and they weren’t received warmly. It’s unlikely that this time around will be any different.

Considering all that, Christopher Bergin at Tax.com is perplexed:

What I can’t figure out is why the Obama administration keeps trying the same thing over and over again expecting different results.

Joe Kristan only goes so far to call these recycled ideas “lame” but if you hold Rita Mae Brown in high regard, then the President definitely has a screw loose.

President Obama’s Tax Plan: ‘No Games, No Politics, No Delays’ — No Chance [Christopher Bergin]

Wilbur Ross Would Like to Torpedo the Income Tax and Replace It with a VAT

Why? Because we need the tax policy equivalent of Law & Order: SVU.

“We need something that is very far-reaching, very dramatic,” said Ross, the head of W.L. Ross & Co. “An idea I’ve been in favor of is to scrap all of the corporate income taxes, all of the individual income taxes, and substitute a value-added tax on all goods imported into the country and manufactured and consumed here, and then rebate it on exports.”

Oh and that jobs bill? It’s bupkis:

“The amount being put in relative to that plan, compared to the jobs they say it will produce, is way out of whack,” Ross said.

Implement VAT, Cut All Income Taxes to Create Jobs: Ross [CNBC]

Study: Progressive Taxation More Likely to Put a Smile on Your Face

[R]esearchers analyzed the relationship between tax progressivity and personal well-being in 54 nations surveyed by the Gallup Organization in 2007—a total of 59,634 respondents. Well-being was expressed in people’s assessments of their overall life quality, from “worst” to “best possible life,” on a scale of 1 to 10; and in whether they enjoyed positive daily experiences (such as smiling, being treated with respect, and eating good food) or suffered negative ones, including sadness, worry, and shame. Finally, the analysis looked at the participants’ satisfaction with their nation’s public goods, from schools to clean air. […] On average, residents of the nations with the most progressive taxation evaluated their own lives as closer to “the best possible.” They also reported having more satisfying experiences and fewer discomfiting ones than respondents living in nations with less progressive taxes. [via TaxProf]

GOP Congressman: All Tax Cuts Are Good But Some Are Gooder Than Others

The Associated Press is reporting that some Republican Members of Congress are fighting their natural inclination to extend all tax cuts to infinity. The tax cut at risk of expiration is employees’ share of the social security tax of 6.2%. Last year the rate was cut to 4.2% for one year. President Obama would like to extend this cut, while some aren’t so keen on it.

But wait a minute! Doesn’t this go against every fiber of Republican orthodoxy? Won’t Ronald Reagan be spinning in is his grave? Did Grover Norquist’s marching orders get lost in the mail?

Republicans say no, as this position is “consistent with their goal of long-term tax policies that will spur employment and lend greater certainty to the economy.”

Okie dokie, then. But if that’s the case, it’s a little strange to discover that House Speaker John Boehner hasn’t made up his mind on whether to extend this tax cut (or put another way “raise taxes”). Perhaps, that’s because he’s already said that tax hikes are off the table. So what gives?

Fortunately, we have Texas Representative Jeb Hensarling to explain it to us:

“It’s always a net positive to let taxpayers keep more of what they earn,” says Rep. Jeb Hensarling, “but not all tax relief is created equal for the purposes of helping to get the economy moving again.”

So wait…not all tax cuts are effective at “getting the economy moving”? Is that what he’s saying? Or is this simply an Animal Farm approach to tax policy? Grover needs to get involved ASAP so everyone can get on the same page. The troops seem confused.

GOP may OK tax increase that Obama hopes to block [AP via BI]

Do Muppets Share Grover Norquist’s Views on Tax Policy?

I won’t speak for all of Henson’s peeps [?] but judging by Grover’s reaction to Elmo, you’ve got to think that at least one Muppet is on board with the TP^2.

Conventional wisdom would lead you to believe that the other Grover would be on board with GGN simply based on name, but we won’t make any assumptions.

Letting the Bush Tax Cuts Expire May Not Be a Violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge But Grover Norquist Would Still Advise You Against That Course of Action

As you well know, signing Grover Norquist’s Taxpayer Protection Pledge is the equivalent to having your name written in the Fiscal-Conservative-Starve-the-Beast Book of Life. If you break tservative credentials will go up in a poof of red, white and blue smoke, you’ll be bludgeoned to death with a rolled up copy of the U.S. Constitution and hopefully Ronald Reagan will have mercy on your soul.

Lately though, partly due to this little debt ceiling debate, the Pledge has come under increased scrutiny and after the Senate approved a repeal of ethanol tax credits without a corresponding reduction in tax rates, some suggested that it is meaningless. Since this is obviously nonsense, Grover has gone on a PR offensive, in order to spell it for the RUBES out there so they can understand what constitutes a violation and what does not. Everything seemed to be back on the up and up until today, the Washington Post ran an editorial that may further muddy the waters:

Would allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire as scheduled in 2012 violate this vow? We posed this question to Grover Norquist, its author and enforcer, and his answer was both surprising and encouraging: No.

In other words, according to Mr. Norquist’s interpretation of the Americans for Tax Reform pledge, lawmakers have the technical leeway to bring in as much as $4 trillion in new tax revenue — the cost of extending President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for another decade — without being accused of breaking their promise. “Not continuing a tax cut is not technically a tax increase,” Mr. Norquist told us. So it doesn’t violate the pledge? “We wouldn’t hold it that way,” he said.

Naturally, some DOPES out there got all worked up as The Hill reports, “Democrats had jumped on that quote, suggesting it was a sign that Norquist was willing to be more reasonable on taxes than many congressional Republicans.”

As you can see, the words “Norquist,” “reasonable,” and “taxes” are in extremely close proximity which indicates that these “Democrats” are what I’d like to call “COMPLETE IDIOTS.” Problem is, whomever grabs the loudest megaphone first in DC usually gets dibs on what the dish is so Americans for Tax Reform has AGAIN clarified how this Pledge thing works:

ATR opposes all tax increases on the American people. Any failure to extend or make permanent the tax cuts of 2001 and 2003, in whole or in part, would clearly increase taxes on the American people. In addition, the failure to extend the AMT patch would increase taxes. The outlines of the plans are deliberately hazy, but it appears that both Obama’s Simpson-Bowles commission proposal and the Gang-of-Six proposal dramatically increase taxes on the American people.

It is a violation of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge to trade temporary tax reductions for permanent tax hikes.

In other words, if you let the “Bush Tax Cuts” expire that’s fine but you just be sure replace them with “Obama Tax Cuts” to ensure there’s no trouble.

Out from under the anti-tax pledge [WaPo]
Grover Norquist tries to clarify Bush tax cut remarks [The Hill]
ATR Statement on Washington Post Editorial [ATR]

Don’t Try Using Your Fancy Tax Code Words on Orrin Hatch

President Obama and his liberal allies are calling for a ‘balanced approach’ and a revenue piece to deficit reduction. We hear this from the press all the time: ‘New revenues need to be a part of any deal to reduce the deficit.’ These are simply code words for a tax hike.

It is clear that the professional left is insisting that President Obama include tax increases in any negotiated agreement to raise the debt ceiling. [ATR]

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]

Mitch McConnell Suggests That Anyone in Favor of Tax Hikes Is Committing Political Suicide

Hours before a meeting with President Obama at the White House, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that any debt-ceiling deals that included tax hikes would be “politically impossible” in the current Congress because most Republicans and many Democrats oppose them.

“Those who are calling for tax hikes as a part of these debt discussions either have amnesia about the fate of similar votes just six months ago — when Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress as well as the White House — or they’re acting in bad faith, since we all know that including massive, job-killing tax hikes would be a poison pill,” said McConnell on Monday from the Senate floor. [The Hill]

Any Californians with Bright Ideas on Tax Policy Are Invited to Speak Up

God knows it can’t get any worse.

These hearings give you the opportunity to present your ideas, concerns, and recommendations regarding legislation, the quality of agency services, and other issues related to the Board’s administration of its tax programs. At the business taxes hearings you can comment on the administration of sales and use taxes, environmental fees, fuel taxes, and excise taxes. At the property tax hearings you can comment on the property tax programs and laws administered by the Board, and identify ways to resolve any problems identified in the Taxpayers’ Rights Advocates’ 2009-10 Annual Report.

Taxpayers’ Bill of Rights Hearings [BOE via Tax Foundation]

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]

Dumb: Michigan Representative Introduces Legislation That Would Force Prisoners to Pay Sales Tax

Today in awful tax policy proposals, Michigan Represenative Anthony Forlini (R) has introduced legislation that would force prisoners to pay sales tax on goods they buy inside the joint. Rep. Forlini says the proposal “is common sense,” and he can’t imagine why any average Joe would think differently, “The average person […] cannot believe that they are paying sales taxes for schools and local municipalities, yet the inmates are not contributing to this. We’re losing about a million dollars a year because of the law. It doesn’t make any sense to me, and I don’t think it makes any sense to the taxpayers out there either.”


SOMEHOW it doesn’t make sense to David Brunori:

So if you are doing 25 to life in Jackson (which I think is the state penitentiary) and you buy some toothpaste from the commissary you would pay the sales tax. I have questions for Rep. Forlini. What the heck motivated you to propose this legislation? Are there not more pressing issues facing the state of Michigan? Are you motivated by sound tax policy? Are you just mad because bad guys are buying stuff tax free when you have to pay sales tax?

Honestly, Michigan. Have your CPA governor bitch slap this guy.

State Rep. Anthony Forlini: Make inmates pay Michigan sales tax [MLive via David Frunori]

Newt Gingrich Has Some Imaginary Tax Policy Proposals for His Imaginary Presidency

To trigger job growth, Gingrich proposed to cut the U.S. corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 12.5 percent, a deeper cut than some other Republican politicians have offered. He would extend income tax cuts that expire in 2013, which were the subject of a pitched battle late last year when President Barack Obama tried to let tax reductions for wealthier Americans expire. And he would completely eliminate the capital gains tax on stock profits. Gingrich, proposed that the country move toward an optional flat tax for Americans of 15 percent, and strengthen the dollar by returning to “Reagan-era monetary policies,” and reform the Federal Reserve to promote transparency. [Reuters]

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]

Paul Ryan Is No Ronald Reagan

Charles Krauthammer […] writes that the “most scurrilous” criticism of House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s fiscal plan is that it would cut taxes for the rich. This would, he says, be akin to making the same claim against the Ronald Reagan-Bill Bradley 1986 tax reform. Krauthammer goes on to assert that Ryan’s plan is “classic tax reform” that … broadens the base by eliminating loopholes. The facts are otherwise. The Ryan plan, at least what we know of it, would inarguably cut taxes for the rich. It in no way resembles the 1980s tax reforms of either President Reagan or Senator Bill Bradley and Representative Dick Gephardt. And it most assuredly fails to eliminate loopholes. [TaxVox, WaPo]

BREAKING: Republicans Don’t Like President Obama’s Tax Proposals

[K]ey Republicans have not responded positively to signals that President Obama will push for some tax increases in his deficit-reduction plan to be laid out this week. David Plouffe, a senior White House adviser, indicated Sunday that the president would reiterate his call to raise taxes on households making $250,000 and above and also signal a desire to look at other provisions in the tax code that wealthier taxpayers use to their advantage. In his fiscal 2012 budget, released in February, the president called for allowing the Bush tax cuts to expire for income above $200,000 for individuals and $250,000 for couples at the end of next year. That statement came roughly two months after a compromise with congressional Republicans had extended current tax rates for the richest taxpayers for two years. [The Hill]

Donald Trump Once Proposed a One-Time 14.25% Net Worth Tax

Back in 1999, when the The Donald was also faux-considering a Presidential run, he proposed a one-time 14.25% net worth tax on anyone with a net worth of $10 million that would solve all our national debt problems in a blink of an eye.

According to an article published by CNN in November of ’99, DT crunched the numbers himself and “his proposed 14.25 percent levy on such net worth would raise 5.7 trillion and wipe out the debt in one full swoop.” Of course this was all before the SCOTUS determined the outcome of an election, 9/11, Afghanistan, Iraq, George W. Bush somehow winning re-election, Barack Obama being elected President, The Tea Party, Libya and several seasons of The Apprentice. And seeing how Mr. Trump’s politics change like his hair caught in a a gusty wind, it’d be surprising if he still felt strongly about this particular policy. [CNN via TaxProf]

Did the Georgia Tea Party Call Grover Norquist a Socialist?

Maybe! As you know, Grover Norquist is the President of Americans For Tax Reform and has a staunch record of opposing any legislation – federal or state – that increases taxes and evokes Ronald Reagan (who hated taxes, dontchaknow) in every possible context, no matter how irrelevant. Grover and ATR are willing to get into a tussle (usually by sternly-worded letter) with whomever thinks that raising taxes will amount to anything positive (because that’s impossible). From the Illinois legislature to the American Lung Association to Lance Armstrong, if you give the slightest impression that higher taxes are a good idea, you can expect Grover & Co. to get Viking on your ass.


However, we learned this morning that in ATR’s most recent spat with the Georgia Legislature over that state’s tax overhaul bill, it appears that Grover has been out-Grovered by the Georgia Tea Party. You see, GN has informed the Georgia pols that he won’t give them any shit for supporting HB 387 after opposing their initial efforts.

This however, did not sit well with the GTP (our emphasis):

”One can not just look at the tax rate cut, one has to look at the deductions/exemptions that are slashed and, in many cases, removed in this bill. Taxes will be raised for some and will be cut for others. In other words, this bill re-distributes wealth.

Okay, so…WHOA. Maybe we’re reading too much into this but take a gander at “socialism” and tell us what you think. So far there doesn’t appear to be a response over at ATR but this sort of aggression will likely elicit some sort of a response.

Your morning jolt: Grover Norquist, tea party split on tax overhaul [AJC via Joseph Thorndike]

How Do You Like VAT?

[A]s globalization increases demand for a more competitive tax system, the United States must consider shifting from a system that primarily relies on income taxation to one that relies primarily on consumption taxation. Most other major economies around the world depend more heavily on consumption taxation than does the United States. And all indications are reliance on consumption taxes is increasing. [Martin Sullivan]

Senator Tom Coburn Would Like ATR to Back Off a Bit

“Rather than demanding that Senate conservatives violate their consciences and support distortions in the tax code that increase spending and maintain Washington’s power over taxpayer’s lives, your organization should assist our efforts. Calling for the elimination of tax earmarks without qualifications would be a good start,” Coburn wrote. “Continuing to issue blanket defenses of all tax expenditures is a profoundly misguided embrace of progressive, activist government and a strategy for tax complexity, tax deferment, excessive spending and unsustainable deficits.” [The Hill]

Eric Cantor Prefers a Friendly Crowd When Speaking About the Mortgage Interest Deduction

Speaking to a crowd of real estate professionals in his hometown, Cantor said the tax would be considered as part of the larger tax reform discussion. But he suggested a change is probably not in the cards. “Honestly, there’s not a lot of support for getting rid of the mortgage deduction on Capitol Hill,” Cantor said to loud applause from the audience. Cantor was speaking to nearly 200 members of the Richmond Association of REALTORs. [The Hill]

BREAKING: Tax Reform Will Be a Long Process

Yesterday in a Senate Finance Committee hearing, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) said that he would like a “weekly set of get-togethers” to address reforming our tax code. You see, Baucus was having similar weekly hearings for two years leading up to the healthcare reform bill that was passed last year. And since those were such a hoot, he figures attacking a equally polarizing issue like tax reform will demand a similar strategy. However, witnesses before the committee – all former assistant Treasury secretaries for tax policy – warned that this debate will likely haunt our dreams and news cycles for a long time:

Fred Goldberg, Jonathan Talisman, Mark Weinberger, Pamela Olson and Eric Solomon discussed, among other issues, the difficulties in crafting a revenue-neutral tax reform plan; problems with the alternative minimum tax and the tax exclusion for employer-provided healthcare; and issues with double taxation in the corporate code.

The former Treasury officials also declared that any successful overhaul of the tax code could take several years and would require leadership from the Oval Office.

Now for the older crowd, the long arduous process of tax reform harkens you back to days of when Charlie Sheen was winning by dodging…er, Charlie in Platoon. For many of the Millennials, well, you were all a lot cuter back then.

“We saw that in 1986,” Weinberger said. “President Reagan at the time made it his No. 1 domestic policy initiative and it still took over two years and failed three times before it was ultimately enacted into law.”

Baucus wants weekly tax reform hearings [On the Money/The Hill]

It’s Being Suggested That Higher Taxes on Alcohol Will Reduce Crime

It’s ironic that I read this this blog post today (rather than on Friday) since A) approximately a third of the country is in a some stage of a hangover B) I’m listening to “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse as I write this and C) there was a murder at a fraternity in Youngstown, Ohio over the weekend (I realize it’s a stretch to assume that anyone would have been drinking at a frat party) but this is pie-in-the-sky postulating that just begs to be mocked.


Janet Novack’s post at Forbes discusses a recent article written by two professors who are crime fighters in the economic persuasion:

Would raising the tax on beer reduce the number of young folks who get caught up in crime and the high budget and social costs of locking up so many people?

In a provocative article, The Economist’s Guide To Crime Busting, in the new issue of The Wilson Quarterly, Duke University’s Philip J. Cook and the University of Chicago’s Jens Ludwig suggest that it would. (The article is here, but isn’t free.) The profs argue that crime policy (from an economist’s point of view) should focus “both on making criminal opportunities less tempting and the law-abiding life more rewarding” and offer three strategies which they say have been shown to do just that: raising the mandatory age through which kids must attend school; creating business improvement districts with private security guards (a tactic Los Angeles has used with great success); and yes, raising taxes on alcohol.

Our favorite passage being the “making criminal opportunities less tempting and the law-abiding life more rewarding” because this what someone walking into the liquor store is thinking, “Jeepers, the cost of binge drinking on the weekend has gone up significantly and no longer fits my monthly budget. I guess I’ll stay sober and won’t break the law today.”

It continues:

The average state excise tax on beer, they note, is now only about 10 cents per 12 ounce bottle. Raising it to 55 cents they write, would persuade some teenagers “not to pick up that second six-pack on Thursday night” and would produce such extra benefits such as “fewer auto accidents and more money for state treasuries.” Data from Cook’s 2007 book, Paying The Tab, suggests a 55 cent per bottle levy would reduce beer consumption perhaps 10% and crime maybe 6%, they note.

Never mind how the neo-con scamps over at American for Tax Reform would react; this assumes that the demand for alcohol is elastic. You could easily argue that most people with the necessary means will pick their potent potable of choice regardless of price and even if they did decided to tighten the booze budget, they’d just go for a cheaper alternative, they wouldn’t actually buy or drink less.

I’m no economist but this kind of reasoning simply defies logic. People will drink regardless of the cost and they will continue to act like idiots and commit crimes when doing so. If you want to discuss that from a tax/fiscal policy standpoint raising taxes on booze (or taxing other sins) is a good idea then a discussion can be had. But let’s not get all crazy and start claiming that our country will become a bunch of law-abiding teetotalers the second a sixer of suds goes up $6.

Super Bowl Question:Would Higher Beer Tax Reduce Crime? [Forbes]

The Tax Policy Debate Just a Got a Tad Less Sophisticated

Tax policy is one of the most complex issues in the political discourse, regardless of the simplicity behind the rhetoric used by our public officials. And thanks to this “straight talk,” it has become one of the most polarizing topics in politics. But now that a man has been arrested for trying to engage Congressman Jim McDermott (D-WA) in debate (after drinking of course) on the issue using colorful language (or you might call it “expletive-laced threats”), the discussion has hit a new intellectual low.


Here’s the voicemail Charles Turner Habermann of Palm Springs, CA left for Congressman McDermott, From the National Law Journal by way of Above the Law:

“Uh, I, I, I’d like to remind you McDermott that if you read the constitution all the money belongs to the people. None of it belongs to Government Okay! So, if Jim McDermott says they’re spending money on a tax cut, he’s a piece of human dog shit, okay. He’s a piece of human filth. He’s a liar, he’s a communist, he’s a piece of fucking garbage. Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, or George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, if any of them had ever met uh, uh Jim McDermott, they would blow his brains out. They’d shoot him, in the head. They’d kill him because he’s a piece of, of, of disgusting garbage.”He later says: “And you let that fucking scum bag know, that if he ever fucks around with my money, ever the fuck again, I’ll fucking kill him, okay. I’ll round them up, I’ll kill them, I’ll kill his friends, I’ll kill his family, I will kill everybody he fucking knows.”

In the second message, he says, “Your congressman, Jim McDermott is a piece of garbage. And I’ll tell you something right now, garbage belongs in the trash that’s exactly where he’s gonna end up.”

Then there’s this:

“As for his motivation for leaving the voicemail message, Habermann said he was calling politicians to let them know that what they were doing and saying regarding spending taxpayer’s money was wrong,” the complaint says. “He said he was trying to scare them before they spent money that didn’t belong to them.”

He also said he never intended to hurt anyone and that he was too afraid of losing his $3 million trust fund to commit a crime.

Yep, this guy’s a tax policy wonk, all right.

Arrest in California in death threats against congressman [National Law Journal via ATL]

IRS Commish Reminds Congress That If They Blow Off Tax Policy, We’ll Have a Giant Mess on Our Hands

There’s a small part of us that hopes the lame-o Congress just throws their hands up and lets all the outstanding tax policy issues expire, just to see what the fallout would be.

While we wish no harm to our practitioner friends like Joe Kristan, watching the pols in Congress squirm from the wrath of the American populace would be rather enjoyable.

Doug Shulman, on the other hand, does not share our impish impulses and wrote a letter to Congressional members on the Senate Finance and House Ways & Mean Committees, reminding them that if they let this one get away, his agency will have one hell of a mess on their hands.


Reuters has some excerpts:

“Of course, if legislation has not passed by the end of this year, our computers will have been programed incorrectly and we will need to delay filing for these individuals,” he said in a letter to the top lawmakers on the congressional committees charged with tax policy.

Realizing that the members might not quite understand what all this crazy-talk means, the Commish gave some details:

“It would be an unprecedented and daunting operational challenge to open the tax filing season under one set of tax laws with respect to AMT and extenders, begin accepting tax returns, and then have the law change,” Shulman wrote.

So essentially, re-doing a bunch of work. Nobody wants that. Luckily for everyone involved, Shulman appears to understand that while dysfunction is standard operating procedure on the Hill, most CPAs prefer providing above average client service.

Chris Van Hollen Isn’t Buying the “Tax Cuts Create Jobs” Story

In case you needed another sign that we are heading full speed towards a stalemate on tax policy, the Representative from Maryland would like to be recognized for calling BS on the popular Republican rhetoric:

“It’s clear that the tax cuts for the folks at the very top have not created any jobs. After all, we’ve had them in place now for more than eight years, and we know what the jobs situation is,” Van Hollen said during an interview Monday on MSNBC.

“The notion that you’ve got to continue them in order to somehow boost the economy, when those are in place right now and we have a lot of people unemployed, is a clear indication that they are not a big job creator.”

Eric Cantor’s rebuttal will sound similar to this:

“Taxes shouldn’t be going up on anybody right now.”

[…]

“This election … was really the American people saying they are tired of the lack of results in Washington,” he said. “They want to see more jobs for more Americans. They want to see us … cut government spending, rein in the size of government so we can get this economy growing again. That was the prescription, that was the mandate that came from the people.”

So there’s no middle ground to be found here, guys? No chance you can put down the ideological rhetoric for the sake of, ya know, screwing the American people?

Van Hollen: Tax cuts for wealthy ‘not a big job creator’ [The Hill]

Tax Cuts Can Wait

“Congress has gone since 2002 without dealing with the December 31, 2010 expiration of the Bush-era tax cuts. What’s another week or two?”

~ Joe Kristan hasn’t considered the risk of tryptophan hangovers.

Dick Durbin Isn’t Buying This Fiscal Commission Report

“I told them that there are things in there that inspire me, and there are things in there that I hate like the devil hates holy water. I’m not going to vote for this thing.”

~ The Illinois Senator doesn’t like the sales pitch from Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson.

Eric Cantor Will Not Be Entertaining Any of This Talk of Compromise on Tax Cuts

The presumed next Majority Leader in the House has gone on the record (with Fox News no less) that any pragmatism on the President’s part will be slapped away like a homeless vet’s outstretched hand:

The Obama administration’s hopes of reaching a tax deal with Republicans that would decouple rates on the rich from the middle class appear dead.

House GOP Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) threw cold water on the proposed plan, which would temporarily extend tax cuts for the wealthy while permanently extending tax cuts for the middle class. “Taxes shouldn’t be going up on anybody right now,” Cantor said.

So, in other words President Obama, you can take any of this “compromise” talk and stick it in your tea because that’s what was mandated by the people:

“This election … was really the American people saying they are tired of the lack of results in Washington,” he said. “They want to see more jobs for more Americans. They want to see us … cut government spending, rein in the size of government so we can get this economy growing again. That was the prescription, that was the mandate that came from the people.”

So a fair amount of ellipsises there, so maybe he’s not exactly sure what he’s saying but Cantor is a fool if he thinks that “cutting government spending” and” reining in the size of government” is not part of the GOP agenda despite what Paul Ryan writes in the Financial Times.

Security Agency spending seems to be a pretty big piece of the shopping spree; doesn’t it make sense to start there? If not, are we going to continue buying predator drones on the credit card and cut education again since raising taxes is absolutely out of the question?

Cantor, Republicans signal Obama tax proposal is dead in the water [The Briefing Room/The Hill]

Keyshawn Johnson Successfully Withstands the Fox Business Tax Policy Rhetoric

Dare we say, Keyshawn is being pragmatic here?


A few favorite moments:

Keyshawn: That’s what I’m being told. I don’t know any better. [Every Fox employee is laughing hysterically]

Charles Payne: If there was only 30% of what you made there. When do you say, “You know what? Who’s the Republican running for office?”

Keyshawn: Let’s not always make it about money. [If you listen carefully you can hear Charles Payne soiling himself.]

Payne: Even the guy that is 3rd string?

Keyshawn: Some of those New York Jets guys, as we know, are that responsible when they drink? [Sanchez?]

Any other takeaways? Discuss.

[via TaxProf]

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

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

Lots of those losers will be Democrats. And if they feel like sticking it to the rich one last time, at least they can say a Reagan OMB Director and Bill Gates are on their side!

[via TaxProf]

Study: Rich People Getting the Pleasure of Assisting Governments Increase Revenues Worldwide

The following post is republished from AccountingWEB, a source of accounting news, information, tips, tools, resources and insight — everything you need to help you prosper and enjoy the accounting profession.

The worldwide decline in top personal income tax rates over the past seven years generally appears to have come to an end, as this year’s average rate increased 0.3 percent globally, according to KPMG International’s 2010 Individual Income Tax and Social Security Rate Report, released this we remained static in most locations, including the United States, the finding of an upward moving trend in the KPMG report suggests some governments are beginning to opt for a personal tax rate increase to help combat deficits and raise additional revenue.

“In the current economic environment, as many countries are faced with increasing budget deficits, they need funding for various economic stimulus packages,” said Ben Garfunkel, national partner in charge of KPMG LLP’s (U.S.) International Executive Services practice. “Our study indicates that many of these countries are levying tax increases on their highest earning taxpayers in order to increase revenue. We also see governments becoming increasingly sophisticated and rigorous in the framing and application of their tax rules.”


According to the KPMG report, the majority of rate movement in 2010 originated in Europe. The United Kingdom implemented a 10 percent increase raising its top rate from 40 percent in 2009-10 to 50 percent in 2010-11 — the highest rate increase seen globally this year.

Other Western European governments have followed suit in an attempt to increase tax revenues. Iceland, amid the collapse of the banking sector, replaced its flat tax regime with a progressive approach raising the top personal income tax rate by approximately nine percent.

Greece, in response to public deficit concerns, raised its top rate by five percent. Portugal, and, most recently, France raised top rates by three percent and one percent, respectively, to help address budget shortfalls. Ireland’s top rate also increased by one percent in 2010.

Striking the Right Balance

“Personal tax rates can be a crucial deciding factor when evaluating where to locate workforces or the costs associated with international assignment programs,” said Garfunkel. “Tax authorities are trying to strike the right balance as they face increasing pressure to identify and secure greater revenues, while also trying to attract businesses to set up operations in their country.

“High income earners typically have the talent and credentials to migrate to countries that have lower personal income tax rates and a need for skilled labor,” added Garfunkel. “Attracting such individuals — including their tax revenues and disposable income — using a competitive personal tax rate, while also trying to address budget deficits, is a challenge, especially in the current economic environment.”

Top Rates Decrease in Some Countries

Some countries are decreasing their top personal income tax rates. Denmark opted to introduce a stimulus package in hopes of increasing consumer spending and as a result, decreased its top rate by almost seven percent. Croatia, this past July, also dropped its top rate by five percent.

Other report findings include:

• The low flat tax initiatives of Eastern European governments have stagnated. Estonia has abolished its plan to reduce its flat tax rate to 18 percent by 2012, while Latvia increased its flat tax from 23 percent in 2009 to 26 percent in 2010.

•Average top rates in Asia-Pacific declined by 0.4 percent in 2010. New Zealand and Malaysia dropped their rates by five percent and one percent respectively.

•Although the average rates for Latin America jumped 0.8 percent in 2010, personal income taxes continue to remain relatively low in Latin America.

Accounting News Roundup: Political Nonprofits Pushing the Limits with Ads; Familiar “Outrage” Over Big 4 Audit Industry Dominance; Obama Attacks GOP Tax Policy in Weekly Address | 10.18.10

Groups Push Legal Limits in Advertising [NYT]
“The basic rule of thumb for nonprofit groups organized under Section 501(c) of the tax code is that more than 50 percent of their annual activities cannot be political. Although it is a matter of debate how spending on traditional issue ads would be categorized by the Internal Revenue Service, it is indisputable that spending on express advocacy would be classified as political.”

Lords to hear top six firms on audit reform [Accountancy Age]
“A showdown has been planned for the UK’s top six acevidence is heard at a House of Lord’s inquiry into audit reform.

The House of Lords Economic Affairs Committee will take evidence from the heads of the Big Four – PwC, Deloitte, KPMG and Ernst & Young – followed by their mid-tier rivals – BDO and Grant Thornton – during its inquiry into audit competition.”

Accounting industry sees ray of light on the horizon [Crain’s]
“Demand for accountants is forcing large CPA firms to bump salaries by as much as 3.8% next year, the steepest jump since 2008. U.S. companies with more than 20 employees plan to increase hiring of full-time accountants and finance personnel this quarter for the first time since early 2009, says Michael Shapow, a senior vice-president at Menlo Park, Calif.-based staffing firm Robert Half International Inc.

During the dot-com era, bachelor’s degrees in accounting fell from 53,000 in the mid-1990s to 35,000 in 2002, according to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants in Washington, D.C. The figure has boom-eranged, rising to 49,000 in 2008, creating a new problem: not enough professors.”

Systemic Risk! Dominance! Momentum! Auditors In Crisis. Again. [Re: The Auditors]
The “outrage” and “risk” over the dominance by the Big 4 in the audit industry is so played.

Obama Attacks Republicans on Tax Policy [TaxProf Blog]


AICPA to SEC: Companies Will Need as Much as Five Years to Ready for IFRS Adoption [JofA]
“In the portion of its letter regarding the impact of IFRS conversion on contractual arrangements, the AICPA voices support for a requirement for companies adopting IFRS to file one year of comparative financial statements rather than two. ‘Our research indicates that companies will need five years preparation time to adopt IFRS if the SEC requires two years of historical comparative financial statements. If only one year of comparative financial statements is required, a four-year transition period would be needed to adopt IFRS.’ The SEC has not said what the requirement would be.”

Jon Kyl Has His Money on a Two-Year Extension of All Tax Cuts

Does the Arizona Senator know how to pick a long shot or what?

Americans know they are facing a large tax increase on Jan. 1 unless Congress prevents it. President Obama wants Congress to raise taxes on wealthier Americans (including many small businesses). Republicans oppose raising taxes on anyone, especially in this weak economy. Democrats ducked the issue until after the election. The result is that Congress must act in a post-election session; and while economists tell us that permanent tax policies are best, the most likely scenario in this divided Congress is a temporary extension of current rates for all Americans, probably for two years.

Politics is a tricky game. You can’t do away with all the tax cuts since that would result in hell fire raining down all across the land. And extending all the tax cuts indefinitely is a sure fire way to bring back the torches and pitchforks. It doesn’t take a Kennedy School grad to figure that one out.

But Kyl is realistic and that’s not the worst thing in the world. He simply wants to get to a point where we can reform the tax system ans that, dare we say, is a good thing.

Would we prefer him to go off on a wild-ass tangent about how the expiration of tax cuts will mean an uprising of Founding Father proportions? Of course. But we’re talking about a U.S. Senator. Everyone knows the craziest of crazies are in the House. Unless some IRS abolitionist finds his way into the upper chamber. Or a witch. That could ratchet things up a notch.

A Growth Agenda for America [WSJ]

Congressman Who Apologized for Apologizing to Tony Hayward Now Wants the IRS to Snoop Around the BCS

Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) – who probably isn’t in any danger of losing reelection – appears to be pandering to key fanatical college football voter bloc.

“As public charities that take in millions of dollars each year, they receive significant tax exemptions and benefits that must not be abused,” wrote the four House members in a letter to IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman, obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press. The lawmakers, all critics of the BCS, added: “We therefore ask that you act on our request and thoroughly examine these troubling claims” made about the bowls.

Tax cuts and estate tax policy being ignored and these ‘troubling claims’ are you are bringing to the IRS’s attention? We’re all for a playoff in college football and we understand that tax policy can make your head hurt sometimes but but FOR THE LOVE OF GOD this is what some people in DC are doing:

The letter was signed by Texas Republican Joe Barton, who has sponsored legislation aimed at forcing college football to switch to a playoff system to determine its national champion; Wyoming Republican Cynthia Lummis, a co-sponsor of Barton’s bill; Texas Democrat Gene Green, who has co-sponsored a resolution calling for a playoff system and for a Justice Department investigation; and Utah Republican Jason Chaffetz, a former BYU kicker.

Lawmakers urge review of bowl game tax complaint [AP]
Earlier:
Anti-BCS Group Sics IRS on Bowl Games Over Tax-Exempt Status

Tax Policy Nerds Try to Debunk Each Other’s Debunking Over “The Largest Tax Hike in History”

You may have seen some tax-hating, freedom-loving types waving flags, flying planes with banners and screaming from the rooftops that if the Bush tax cuts expire that it will be “the largest tax hike in history.”

The argument has been made and questioned ad nauseum but yesterday Ryan Ellis of Americans for Tax Reform (founded by Grover Norquist, so you get the context) felt the urge to prove the point once again that this will be the largest freedom-hijacking ever:

CBO projects that nominal GDP over the next decade will be $187.7 trillion over this decade. In order for the Obama tax hikes to be bigger than THE TO WIN WORLD WAR II, it would need to be at least 5.04 percent of this, or $9.46 trillion.

Gerald Prante over at the Tax Foundation’s Tax Policy Blog isn’t amused with this latest attempt:

Ellis is thereby admitting that it’s simply not the largest tax hike in American history. When you say “history,” that includes the 1940s. If you want to exclude WWII, say peacetime. Furthermore, the Treasury study that Ellis bases these claims off only goes back to the 1940s, which means that we don’t even know the relative size of tax hikes pre-1940, such as when the individual income tax was initiated and ramped up. So in summary, we can say that you have to knock off about 170 years of American history in order to make Ellis’s claim only possibly defensible.

Hmmm. We have to give that point to Prante there. You can’t just say “the biggest tax hike in history” and then say “except for that one time.”

And while we’re splitting hairs, we (i.e. the US of A) can’t really take credit for killing Hitler, can we? The Führer killed himself under duress from the Soviets. So there’s that.

Anyhoo, back to the subject – Ellis than tallies up all the tax “hikes”:

The 2011 income tax hikes. These are the rate hikes, the capital gains and dividend hikes, the return of the marriage penalty and the death tax, etc. CBO score: $2.567 trillion

Failing to index the alternative minimum tax (AMT) to inflation. CBO score: $558 billion

Failing to stop dozens of business tax hikes (“extenders”). CBO score: $1.969 trillion

Interactive effects of all these. CBO score: $606 billion

Obamacare tax hikes. CBO score: $525 billion

Add all of these up, and you get to $6.225 trillion over the next decade.

Prante fires back, noting that Ellis is making an auditor to tax accountant comparison:

Ellis classifies a compilation of “tax hikes” that are set to go into effect as one giant tax hike, including AMT expiration, the extenders bill, Making Work Pay, and even health care reform. There are two problems with this. First off, Ellis and ATR have a countdown clock on the ATR website (which is off by one hour by the way due to Daylight Savings Time) saying “countdown to the biggest tax increase in American history.” Well, virtually all of the health care tax hikes, which he counts in his tax hike amount, don’t kick in until 2013 (731 days from January 1, 2011). Therefore, this is inconsistent. Furthermore, summing up all the tax hikes and counting them as one big tax hike is inconsistent with the Treasury study cited earlier. If you want to count all the “tax hikes” occurring under Obama as one big tax hike, then shouldn’t you do the same for previous administrations?

Right! If you’re going to have a countdown clock, shouldn’t it be accurate?

Wrapping up, Ellis says:

Expressed as a percentage of the economy, this is 3.31 percent of GDP. That’s the largest tax hike in history, except for the one that was used to fight simultaneous wars in Europe, North Africa, and the Asian Pacific Rim.

You got us, guys. It’s a mere 3.31 percent of GDP.

Final retort from Prante:

The Treasury study referenced wouldn’t even consider letting the tax cuts to expire to be a tax hike because there was no act of Congress. Has Ellis done a review of history to make sure that no tax cut has expired elsewhere in history that was not counted in this Treasury study (given that Ellis considers an expiring tax cut to be a tax hike)?

This is a good question. Have you done your research into historically impotent and unwilling legislative bodies? Because if you haven’t, then you’d find that the group we’ve got up there now seems to have pretty awesome ability to do exactly nothing (read: estate tax).

Whether past flaccidity demonstrated by Congress has resulted in larger “tax hikes” remains unknown but something tells us that since none of this is getting resolved any time soon, we’ll get an answer.

Largest Tax Hike in History? Outside of Killing Hitler, Yes. [ATR.org]
Is Allowing Tax Cuts to Expire the Largest Tax Increase in American History? The Question Revisited [Tax Foundation]

White House Takes The UPS Approach to Explain Tax Cuts

Keeping it simple for the folks: colors, shapes, numbers.

Not really too subtle with the “Blue=Good; Red=Bad.”

Accounting News Roundup: Doubt Over Taxes Reaching Fever Pitch; E&Y to Hire 6k Off Campus in FY11; Honest Answers on Tax Policy in an Election Year | 09.24.10

‘Consumers Are Paralyzed’ Over Tax Doubt [WSJ]
“Congress halted plans to pass a major tax bill before the November elections, leaving taxpayers and financial advisers unsure of how to plan for the future.

One of three scenarios face Congress when it returns from the election recess: It will extend all of the Bush tax cuts of 2001, which expire this year; it will hammer out a new law, perhaps using some of President Barack Obama’s budget proposals; or lawmakers will let the cuts expire, which would mean higher rates for all taxpayers.

Meantime, ‘consumers are paralyzed,’ said Dean Barber, a planner who heads the Barber Financial Group near Kansas City. ‘They have money to spend but they aren’t going to until they know where the tax burden will lie next year.’

The problem extends to business as well. ‘There are 29 million private businesses in this country, and they interact with our members,’ said Barry Melancon, head of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. ‘Universally we are hearing that businesses are paralyzed by lack of capital and uncertainty over taxes.’ ”

SEC Hiring for Multiple Offices [FINS]
“The SEC is hiring qualified talent for both its Division of Enforcement and its Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE). The agency is looking for candidates with experience in risk management, operations and accounting and other specialties.

In testimony given yesterday at a Senate Banking Committee hearing, Robert Khuzami, director of the Division of Enforcement and Carlo di Florio, director of OCIE, spoke to their respective units’ hiring needs.”

Ernst & Young Previews New Campus Recruitment and Social Media Strategies [PR Newswire]
E&Y is hiring 6,000 campus recruits – both interns and new associates – this fiscal year. That’s an increase over last year’s numbers (although the press release doesn’t say by how much). The firm also states that 60% of its workforce will be Gen Y by the end of 2011.


Tax Policy in an Election Year [Tax Updated Blog]
Joe Kristan answers questions that politicians won’t.

Comtech Telecommunications Does the Right Thing by Fixing Errors in Latest Report [White Collar Fraud]
Sam is sending an autographed “WANTED” poster of his cousin “Crazy” Eddie as an “attaboy” for Comtech CEO Fred Kornberg for “[taking] the high road and corrected its errors without attacking a critic.” That “critic” being Sam, who reported on Comtech’s erroneous EBITDA calculation last July.

Whether this type of nostalgic temptation works for the other company execs that are on Sam’s radar remains to be seen.

Pastors to challenge IRS by endorsing candidates [AP]
One hundred men and women of the cloth will be endorsing political candidates from their pulpits this Sunday. If the IRS is doing its job, agents should be kicking down doors at many of God’s homes on Monday.

Just So You’re Aware: Romanian Pols Vote Down Witch Tax Due to Curse Risk

That’s what’s being claimed anyway:

Lawmakers Alin Popoviciu and Cristi Dugulescu of the ruling Democratic Liberal Party drafted a law where witches and fortune tellers would have to produce receipts, and would also be held liable for wrong predictions, a measure which was part of the government’s drive to increase revenue.

Romania’s Senate voted down the proposal Tuesday. Popoviciu claimed lawmakers were frightened of being cursed.

It’s unclear if Popoviciu and Dugulescu will try to redraft the law.

Maria Campina, a well-known Romanian witch, told Realitatea TV Thursday it is difficult to tax thousands of fortune tellers and witches partly because of the erratic sums of money they receive.

What’s unclear is how the God-fearing Romanian Tea Partiers feel about the situation since the Devil’s work is clearly being done without any appropriate sin tax.

[via TaxProf and Tax Docket]

Tax Policy Rhetoric Déjà Vu

“Watching this speech, I’ve determined that Obama will win the 2008 election.”

~ Philip Klein has heard this before, although John Boehner subs for George W. Bush.

Is Philadelphia’s Tax on Bloggers That Big of a Deal?

Every state, municipality, township and hamlet is desperate to close their budget gaps. With such desperation comes a flood of bad ideas that include taxes on everything from juggling to hot air balloon rides.

The Philadelphia City Paper ran a story last week about the $300 Business Privilege Tax that the city is imposing on bloggers, freelancers and other contractors since they are engaged in the activity for profit. Seemingly, another stupid idea.


The City Paper speaks to a couple of bloggers – clearly doing it as a hobby – that are technically engaged in a for-profit activity because they have ads on their blogs. They were notified by the city that they owed the $300 for a lifetime business privilege license (you can also opt for a $50 annual license). The Philadelphia Department of Revenue argues that “simply choosing the option to make money from ads — regardless of how much or little money is actually generated — qualifies a blog as a business.”

Supposedly, changes to the city’s law are in the works to be introduced next month that would exempt the first $100k of a business’s profit.

However, there is a far simpler solution to this problem that is mentioned by Christina Warren over at Mashable which is, quit running ads on your blog. Maybe the city’s tax is excessive, annoying, desperate for reform or just plain stupid but if you don’t run ads on your blog – that wasn’t designed to make money – you avoid the business privilege license altogether. It’s as simple as clicking a mouse and the government is out of your life (at least this respect).

Or continue to be stubborn and fight the bureaucracy of the Philly City government. Your choice.

Pay Up [Philadelphia City Paper]
Philadelphia Tax Code Sparks Big Controversy with Small Bloggers [Mashable]

Tax Reform Suggestions Will More or Less Encompass Every Idea, Ever

Despite other pressing issues out there, such as, whether a Muslim community center is too closeto Ground Zero or if it’s just a religious revival of an old Burlington Coat factory, the matter of tax reform managed to creep back into the news late last week.

The President’s Economic Recovery Advisory Board plans on dropping some suggestions on fixing our tax system on August 27th. This comes after the getting suggestions from the American people but then stalling a little bit on the issue.

Now that some recommendations are scheduled to be made public the Journal suggests that the timing isn’t ideal for an election year but also mentions that while there’s going to be plenty of idea put out there, no real solutions are going to be recommended:

But the timing of the release just before the Labor Day weekend suggests that the administration might be trying to downplay it. Many Democrats say tax hikes are inevitable if the government is to bring down the federal deficit, expected to total about $1.5 trillion this year, but that option remains politically sensitive, given the high jobless rate and ahead of November’s mid-term elections.

According to the Treasury Department, the report will offer “an almanac of options from a broad range of viewpoints,” but won’t make specific policy recommendations. It will discuss ideas related to simplifying the tax code, strengthening enforcement and overhauling the corporate tax system, the department said.

An ‘almanac of ideas’ will no doubt incorporate all ideas on tax reform floated by anyone, anywhere so that it can appear that people are trying really hard to come up with a solution without making anything too politically awkward. In other words, business as usual.

White House Panel to Issue Tax-Overhaul Report Aug. 27 [WSJ]

TurboTax Jockey Tim Geithner Says Tax Increases Won’t Hurt Small Businesses a Bit

The top individual tax rate is scheduled to jump to 39.6% on January 1, 2011. To those of us who do private business tax returns for a living, one effect is obvious: this will raise the tax rate on LLC and S corporation income.

But now Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner says that all my small business clientsthy rich law partners and CEOs (my emphasis):

Ninety-seven percent of small businesses in this country would not pay a penny more due to letting these upper-income tax rates expire.

Now some have argued that even if only a few percent of small business owners make over $250,000, these few make up a vast amount of supposedly small business income.

This argument apparently counts anyone who receives any type of partnership or business income as if they were a small business.

By this standard, every partner in a major law firm and every principal in a major financial institution would count as a separate small business. A CEO who has board fees or speech fees would also count as a small business owner under this overly broad definition.

Well yes, Timmy, “some” have argued for that “overly broad definition” — your friends who say 97% of small businesses won’t be affected by the scheduled tax increase. A 2009 report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities is a source of the talking point that only a tiny fraction of businesses will be affected by the expiration of the tax increase. They define a small business 1040 as:

…any tax unit that receives any income (or loss) from a sole proprietorship, farm proprietorship, partnership, S corporation, or rental income.

So while a CEO who has board fees will count as a separate small business — as will President Obama, for that matter — so will every taxpayer that has a schedule C, schedule E or Schedule F. Your office Mary Kay girl or Shacklee dealer counts as a small business. Everybody who moonlights and reports their income is a small business. Everybody who rents out a duplex or vacation home counts, as does every taxpayer who holds, even briefly, an interest in a publicly-traded oil and gas partnership.

So how much small business economic activity will be hit by the increase in the top rate? A lot more than 3%. The center-left Tax Policy Center estimates that 44.3% of taxable income of these “small businesses” will be hit with next year’s scheduled tax increase (hat tip: Howard Gleckman). That seems low, if anything, based on what I see in practice.

It’s the successful, growing and profitable S corporations and partnerships that push their owners into the top tax brackets. Growing businesses typically distribute only enough income to owners to cover taxes — either by inclination or by agreements with lenders. Their remaining earnings go into growing the business or paying off the bank. If you increase their taxes, it either reduces growth and hiring or their ability to service their debt — neither of which does much for the economy.

When Tim Geithner says that the only people who will get hit by his tax increase are rich lawyers and director fee millionaires, it may tell us something about his social world. It tells us nothing about how the tax increase will hit business owners.

Accounting News Roundup: Tax Cuts Debate Rages On; Tax Issues for A-Rod’s 600th; Wyclef’s Campaign Stumbles Out of the Blocks | 08.05.10

Geithner Pushes Tax Boost for Wealthy [WSJ]
“Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner made the Obama administration’s economic case for letting tax cuts for high earners expire at the end of this year, saying that failure to do so would harm rather than help economic growth.

In a speech Wednesday in Washington, part of the administration’s broader strategy to overcome Republican opposition on the issue, Mr. Geithner said that keeping current tax levels even on a short-term basis “would hurt economic recovery by undermining confidence that we are prepared to make a commitment today to bring down our future deficits.” The government needs the revenue it would get from allowing tax rates for the wealthy to rise, he said.”

PCAOB Logs No Progress on International Inspections [Compliance Week]
“The Public Company Accounting Oversight Board isn’t yet making much headway in catching up on overdue international inspections, but the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill at least clears an obstacle the board has repeatedly blamed for its inability to meet its inspection mandate.”

Regulator fears auditors may abandon scepticism to meet deadlines [Accountancy Age]
“The Auditing Practices Board (APB), which sets standards for the industry, is concerned auditors might be abandoning their professional scepticism to meet contractual audit deadlines, and wants to coach them in how to be sceptical.

Audit contracts are often negotiated on the assumption few problems will be revealed, according to the APB. When a potential issue does arise timetables often have to be extended.”

A-Rod’s Home Run Ball: a Tax Headache for the Record Books? [WSJ]
The ball is reportedly worth around $100k and if the ball is technically Yankees’ property and the team were to give it to A-Rod, then he may owe tax and the Yanks would get a corresponding deduction. The team could also argue that the ball is technically A-Rod’s property and then neither would owe tax.

Of course then the question remains, what if A-Rod sells or donates the ball to a nonprofit? If he sold it, then it would depend on how long he keeps it (less than a year would be at ordinary rates, greater than a year would be at capital gain rates). While donating the ball after one year could net him a near full deduction.

TheStreet.com names Thomas Etergino finance chief [AP]
Tom starts his new gig on September 7th.


IRS Hits Wyclef With $2.1 Million In Tax Liens [The Smoking Gun]
Whether it’s the U.S. or Haiti, this is not how you want to start a Presidential campaign.

Delta Said to Plan New York JFK Hub Renovation for $1.2 Billion [Bloomberg]
Anyone that has been to Terminal 3 at JFK is aware of the problem.

Just So You’re Aware: The IRS Won’t Allow You to Deduct Your Pot as a Medical Expense

Apparently there’s been a bit of unnecessary confusion out there about the deductibility of marijuana for medical purposes. The Wall St. Journal article that we linked to this morning discusses the problems employers are encountering wie.g. can’t use HSA funds; they don’t care if you’ve got a card, if you test positive you’re fired).

But the question of deducting the cost of your White Widow et al. that you legally purchase in states like California and Colorado has been making the rounds. After a little discussion, it’s pretty clear that the IRS is not going allow you deduct your pot for tax purposes simply because it’s still illegal at the Federal level. Doctor’s note be damned.


The confusion arose due to the following letter that was sent to New York Senator Chuck Schumer, who had sent a letter to the IRS inquiring about a constituent using a “herb” to treat migraine headaches:

Pot

Talk about a vague response from the IRS. Tax Girl explains:

As with many facets of how to treat medical marijuana for tax and other purposes, it appears that those in charge are merely tiptoeing around the question. In the letter, the term “marijuana” is never used explicitly – the term used is “herb”. While it’s my understanding that the specifics of the case involved medical marijuana used for the treatment of migraines, that isn’t specifically stated in the sanitized version of the letter. No use of “marijuana”, just the term “herb.” That could be St. Johns Wort or milk thistle as far as the IRS is concerned.

Fortunately TaxProf Paul Caron clears up for us in a couple of updates from his latest post on this issue:

Update #2: Rev. Rul. 97-9, 1997-1 CB 77, specifically precludes a medical expense deduction for medical marijuana:

An amount paid to obtain a controlled substance (such as marijuana) for medical purposes, in violation of federal law, is not a deductible expense for medical care under § 213. This holding applies even if the state law requires a prescription of a physician to obtain and use the controlled substance and the taxpayer obtains a prescription.

So the IRS in Info. 2010-0080 either was (1) signalling a retreat from its position in Rev. Rul. 97-9 by not mentioning the federal legality of the substance; (2) implicitly referring only to legal herbs (and hence not covering marijuana).

Update #3: I am told by an enterprising reporter that the herb in question in Info. 2010-0080 is Petadolex, so it appears that interpretation #2 above controls and the conclusion in Rev. Rul. 97-9 denying a medical expense deduction for medicial marijuana still obtains.

So there you have it. Regardless if you have glaucoma, cancer, HIV, chronic pain, high anxiety or any ailment that marijuana can effectively alleviate, don’t bother trying to include it on Schedule A. We’d ask the IRS to implore a little common sense here but legally, as long as marijuana remains illegal at the federal level that’s not going to happen. And from a more practical standpoint, we’re still talking about the IRS.

Don’t Bogart That Deduction: Is Medical Marijuana a Medical Expense? [TaxProf Blog]
Just Say No: Pot Not Allowed as Medical Expense [Tax Girl]