Archive for 'News'

Jun 27

Would you be aggressive on your taxes if your job was on the line?

I am reading Agbaniyaka v Commissioner. Benjamin Agbaniyaka (Ben) started with the IRS in 1986. He received excellent evaluations, several promotions and a Master’s Degree in taxation from Long Island University. Between the years 1988 and 2006 Ben engaged in a side business selling African arts and crafts.  Here are the business results for selected years;

            2001    no sales and a loss of $5,661

            2002    sales of $3,216 and a loss of $15,232

            2003    sales of $1,372 and a loss of $7,624

            2004    sales of $200 and a loss of $6,383

He also claimed itemized deductions, including annual expenses for “Union Dues” and “Accounting Journals.”

He gets audited for 2001.

Let’s go over what the IRS expects when it sees that Schedule C on your return. It expects you to maintain records so that you can compile a tax return at the end of the year. Records can be as simple as a checkbook with a year-sheet recapping everything by category. The IRS also wants you to keep invoices and receipts, to allow a third party to trace a check to something. There are some expenses where Congress itself tells the IRS what documentation to review. Meals and car expenses are two of the most common examples. With those two, the IRS is somewhat limited in its flexibility because Congress called the tune.

Then we have the hobby loss rules. The idea here is that a business activity is expected to show a profit every so often. If the activity has always shown losses, it is difficult to buy-into the argument that it is a business. An actual business would eventually shut down and not throw good money after bad. There are exceptions, of course, but it is a good starting point.

The third point is that a revenue agent is going to be held to a higher standard. There is the education and training involved, as well as that whole working for the IRS thing.

The IRS audits 2001. It finds the following:

(1)   Ben deducted expenses for a course on trust and estates. He cannot provide any documentation, however. He also has other unsubstantiated education expenses, including his journals.

 (2)   Ben claimed a deduction for union expenses. He cannot present any proof he paid the union.

 (3)   Ben is hard-pressed to persuade the IRS that there was any profit intent to his arts and crafts activity. The problem is that Ben never reported a profit – ever. The IRS simply disallowed the loss.

 (4)  The IRS is now miffed at Ben, especially since Ben is one of their own. They argue that the Ben’s failure to make any reasonable attempt to comply with the tax code is negligence. In fact, failure to keep records shows not only negligence but also Ben’s intentional disregard of the regulations. The IRS slapped Ben with a substantial understatement penalty.

The IRS expands the audit to 2002, 2003 and 2004, with similar results.

Can this get worse? You bet. The 1998 IRS Restructuring and Reform Act requires termination of an IRS employee found to have willfully understated his federal tax liability, unless such understatement is due to reasonable cause and not willful neglect.

Let’s go back to the substantial understatement penalty. One of the exceptions to the penalty is reasonable cause. Ben goes to Tax Court. He pretty much has to. He has to win, at least on the penalty issue. If he can get the court to see reasonable cause, he might be able to save his job.  

The Tax Court is unimpressed. Here are some comments:

We found Mr. Agbaniyaka’s testimony to be general, vague, conclusory, uncorroborated, self-serving and/or questionable in all material respects.”

During the years at issue, Mr [] was a trained revenue agent and was fully aware of the requirements imposed by …. Nonetheless, petitioners failed to maintain sufficient records for each of their taxable years 2001 through 2004 to establish their position with respect to any of the issues presented.”

On the record before us, we find that petitioners have failed to carry their burden of showing that they were not negligent and did not disregard rules and regulations, or otherwise did what a reasonable person would do, with respect to the underpayment for each of the years at issue.”

After the Tax Court’s decision, the IRS ended Ben’s employment effective April 15, 2008.

Ben appeals to the Federal Court of Appeals. That too fell on deaf ears:

“… he was undoubtedly aware that he had to substantiate his efforts to conduct a business in 2001 and beyond. Being an experienced and knowledgeable Agency employee, he had to have been aware that he could not substantiate his alleged business activities. By claiming deductions on Schedule C, he knowingly and willfully submitted tax filings to which he was not entitled.”

Ben next tried other channels. In the end, he lost and stayed fired.

How much money are we talking about? The court does not come out and specifically give a dollar amount, but there is enough to approximate the taxes as little more than $10,000.

I question the lack of documentation for some of these claimed expenses. The bank can provide cancelled checks for the subscriptions or seminars, and the union will provide a letter of membership and dues activity.  The court doesn’t elaborate, but it is clear that Ben wasn’t trying too hard.

Would you gamble your job for $10,000? Ben did.

I wouldn’t.

Feb 04

Quotes are solicited under Request For Quotation (RFQ) number TIRWR-10-Q-00023. This announcement constitutes the only solicitation; a written RFQ will not be issued. If your company can provide the product listed in the RFQ and comply with all of the RFQ instructions, please respond to this notice.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) intends to purchase sixty Remington Model 870 Police RAMAC #24587 12 gauge pump-action shotguns for the Criminal Investigation Division. The Remington parkerized shotguns, with fourteen inch barrel, modified choke, Wilson Combat Ghost Ring rear sight and XS4 Contour Bead front sight, Knoxx Reduced Recoil Adjustable Stock, and Speedfeed ribbed black forend, are designated as the only shotguns authorized for IRS duty based on compatibility with IRS existing shotgun inventory, certified armorer and combat training and protocol, maintenance, and parts.

Submit quotes including 11% Firearms and Ammunition Excise Tax (FAET) and shipping to Washington DC.

Feb 02

My favorite is “reform the U.S. international tax system.”

US multinationals operate on a worldwide tax regime. This is quite unusual; most countries do not tax their multinationals in this manner. In most countries, the corporation pays tax on income generated within the borders of that country. The US disregards borders – for the most part. 

Granted the US scheme is somewhat offset by the foreign tax credit, but in turn that is offset by the CFC scheme, on and on…

                 WSJ Chart

Feb 01

In his State of the Union speech, Obama outlined four proposals aimed at small businesses: eliminating the capital gains tax, encouraging lending, and developing tax credits for new hires and for investments in equipment and facilities.

On Friday, January 29, 2010, the President introduced plans to give employers a $5,000 tax credit for each net new worker hired this year. The purpose is to jumpstart hiring. The credit would be based on an unemployment wage base and would require approximately $7,000 of wages to obtain the full $5,000 credit.

Start-up companies would get a $2,500 tax credit for each worker hired.

In addition there would be another credit – a second credit – refunding a portion of the employer’s social security match. The idea is to refund the match paid on wage increases in excess of the rate of inflation. This credit will be based on the social security wage base, so it will automatically cutoff at $106,800 (which is the maximum subject to social security in 2010).

There are anti-abuse provisions. You cannot fire employees and hire them right back, for example. You cannot go “out of business” and pop up the following day or week.

The White House wants the credits to be retroactive to January 1. They would exist only for 2010.

Employers would be able to claim the credit on a quarterly basis, both as an incentive to hire and to get cash into the economy.

By the way, not-for-profits would qualify for the credit.

There is a credit maximum of $500,000 per business. There is a second limit – the credit would cap at 25% of the increase in a business’ social security wage base.

The cost? About $33 billion.

Jan 25

Yes they can.

They can take up to 15% of your social security.

Before they can do so, they have to notify you by mailing an Intent to Levy. You will also receive a CP 91, an IRS notice with the ominous title “Final Notice Before Levy on Social Security Benefits.” Take it seriously. You have only 30 days to respond before the IRS is able to levy you.

Once levied you will have to pay up in full, set up a payment plan, propose an offer or move the account to CNC (cannot collect) status.