Monday, April 20, 2015

Fueled by a wave of inversions

Letter From Orrin Hatch (Chair, Senate Finance Committee) to John Koskinen (Commissioner, IRS) Apr. 13, 2015
New York Times op-ed: Shaming Those Who Skip Out on Taxes, by Ricardo Perez-Truglia (Harvard) & Ugo Troiana(Michigan):
In 2006, according to an estimate by the United States Treasury Department, Americans underpaid their taxes by about $450 billion. For that year, that’s roughly equal to Pentagon spending, and more than the gross domestic products of Sweden and Switzerland.
Bloomberg, Ten Percent of S&P 500 Companies Avoid Paying U.S. Taxes:
When it comes to taxes, corporate America is getting a bit less corporate. And a bit less American.
Fueled by a wave of inversions, a record 54 companies in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index of leading U.S. firms are now at least partially exempt from the corporate income tax. That’s more than twice the number four years ago.
In Cvancara v. Commissioner, T.C. Memo. 2013-20, the Tax Court disallowed a business expense deduction for a Snickers bar consumed while working.

Michael Graetz (Columbia), How Do We Fix America’s Tax System?:
The United States hobbles itself in today’s international economy by continuing to rely so heavily on income taxation. The truth is that we need a tax reform that is considerably bolder than either Congress or the president is now contemplating. We need to rebalance our federal tax system to take advantage of our status as a low-tax country by relying less rely less heavily on income taxation. To create a simple, internationally competitive and viable long-term solution to our fiscal requirements, we should return the income tax to its original purpose: the collection of a simpler tax on high-income earners who tend to have multiple income sources. In order to do that, we need to tax consumption—that is, sales of goods and services. By enacting a broad-based tax on sales of goods and services now used by more than 150 countries worldwide, we could use the revenues to finance an income-tax exemption of $100,000 of family income and to lower substantially the individual income-tax rate on income above that amount—freeing over 150 million Americans from ever having to deal with the IRS. Through payroll-tax cuts and debit cards to be used at checkout counters, we can protect low- and middle-income families from any tax increase.

Thirty-five-year-old billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes has traded up handsomely in line with his status as top of the BRW young rich list. The co-founder of software firm Atlassian has emerged as the $12 million buyer of the Centennial Park mansion of prestige car dealer Ian Pagent and his wife Maryanne.
$12 Million purchase by young Mike

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Arabian Horse

A musical parody based on a true story! Loopholes is the ultimate David and Goliath story of a man who, despite having his entire net worth threatened, actually uncovered loopholes -- allowing him to have the last laugh at the United States' most hated government agency, the IRS! Join us for the fun! The world premiere of Loopholes, A Pain In The I.R.S. at the Hudson Mainstage Theatre in Hollywood, Calijfornia

Peter Reilly, Tax Court Allows Multimillion Multiyear Arabian Horse Losses

Robert Wood, 10 Notorious Tax Cheats: Real Housewives Stars Teresa And Joe Giudice Faced A Staggering 50 Years

Robert Wood, Best And Worst Tax Excuses To Fix IRS Penalties, “Relying on a professional tax adviser is one of the classic excuses.”


Alan Cole offers A Friendly Reminder That Pass Through Businesses Exist (Tax Policy Blog):
Every once in a while we see blog posts from other tax research organizations, or even congressional offices, puzzled over the low collection of corporate taxes relative to GDP or relative to other tax revenues. Today we have another such post, from Citizens for Tax Justice. I believe I can allay that confusion.
It’s not confusion, it’s political mischief.

Career Corner. Long Hours Are the Root of All Your Busy Season Problems (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern). If you think you have a problem working long hours, try getting these things done without working long hours.

Bryan Camp (Texas Tech), Overlooked Costs of IRS Budget Cuts Will Hit Taxpayers Hardest:
The Internal Revenue Service takes a lot of hits, both from those who are paid to be critics like the National Taxpayer Advocate and from those who just pile on for the fun of it – politicians, pundits and the public.
The nastiest hit has come from Congress in the form of relentless budget cuts for the past five years. While there has been a fair bit of commentary on the effect of these cuts, commentators have missed two important points: (1) the cuts are deeper than most people think, and (2) their effect is both more subtle and insidious.

Bloomberg, An Emotional Audit: IRS Workers Are Miserable and Overwhelmed. A visit to one of the few places where they still offer on-site service. (Via the TaxProf)

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Rogue Microwave Ovens & Exorcists

A recent article on Business Insider reported that ‘123456’ and ‘password’ were the most popular passwords of 2014. Unlocking Passwords

 Alone together. Every new technology generates anxiety – and art – about its isolating effects: Witness Cocteau, Hopper, and now, Ryan Trecartin... Together alone

Hotels are hiring curators, following prominent artists and decorating their spaces with expansive art collections. They’re getting serious about art, and it’s not just art for art’s sake. A recent article in The Wall Street Journal looks at why, but as a hotel connoisseur I can tell you that it boils down to emotions.

Carlsberg Billboard Doubles as Self-Service Beer Tap


The latest edition of GQ magazine featuring Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull.
'Primed Minister': Malcolm Turnbull appears on front cover of GQ magazine

 TaxGrrrl, 13 Quirky Beer And Tax Facts On National Beer Day

Rogue Microwave Ovens Are the Culprits Behind Mysterious Radio Signals National Geographic. Tinfoil will take care of that

Vatican to train army of exorcists to deal with rising number of ‘demonic possessions’ Daily Mail


Tools for verifying and assessing the validity of social media and user-generated content Journalists Resource

Washington Post Fact Checker, Who Wrote the ‘IRS Code’? Hint: It Wasn’t the Internal Revenue Service:
On tax reform, we, right now, have more words in the IRS code than there are in the Bible — not a one of them as good.
–Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), speech at International Association of Fire Fighters legislative conference, March 10, 2015
The Fact Checker previously wrote that Cruz’s comparison was ultimately meaningless — not worthy of a Geppetto Checkmark nor a Pinocchio — because saying one piece of text has more words than another doesn’t really tell you anything. A lot of readers responded to us via e-mail and social media — some critical, some appreciative and a few amused.

Digesting Orwell

“Food-packet rhetoric, like most advertising, is mainly in the business of selling nice feelings. Especially on-trend these days is an ersatz, kitschy friendliness. On a bar of chocolate, for example, the manufacturers boast that “we use only the finest quality organic beans from our friends in the Dominican Republic”. (Isn’t it nice that they are friends?)” The Guardian on Glorious Good and Orwell

vintage shorts
“Vintage/Anchor Books is now experimenting with selling short stories à la carte, through its Vintage Shorts digital imprint. Throughout May, to mark Short Story Month, Vintage will release a digital short story each day for 99 cents, the price of many iTunes singles.” The range is wide, form Poe, Chekhov, and Cather to Alice Munro, Jhumpa Lahiri and Junot Diaz.

Friday, April 17, 2015


"I'd like to acknowledge the traditional owners of this land, the Obeids.

Kate McClymont (@Kate_McClymont) | Twitter

Leichhardt council has won a landmark victory against a property developer who illegally demolished a heritage-listed shopfront in Annandale. The NSW Land and Environment Court found the owner and director of development company Geitonia, Bill Gertos, personally liable for the illegal demolition of the Edwardian facade located next to the iconic Annandale Hotel. The court found Mr Gertos ordered the demolition of the Edwardian facade in late 2011 after the council approved a redevelopment of the building on the proviso the shopfront facade would be preserved.
The maximum penalty for the offence is $1.1 million.
The ruling was one of the rare cases where an individual owner or director of a company was successfully prosecuted for breaching heritage law, and could set a precedent for other Sydney councils fighting to save heritage buildings.
Landmark victory as developer found liable for illegal demolition

Leichhardt Council v Geitonia Pty Ltd (No 6) [2015] NSWLEC 51 (2 April 2015)

Chinese developer Greenland could face stiff competition when it opens a boutique hotel on its Water Board site in Sydney. Local developer Ninety Four Feet has lodged plans for a 136-room, four to five-star hotel directly opposite. The Pitt Street purchase marks the group’s first foray into the Sydney ­market. They paid more than ­$10 million to private property investor Bill Gertos in December 2013 for the ­six-storey commercial building. Pitt Street hotel sites in demand

Mr Gertos and Mr Gav are great philanthropists

I direct the attention of members to the Greens site "Democracy4Sale". When they go to that site not only will they access the massive flow of donations to all parties in this State; they will also be able to avail themselves of the opportunity to look in detail at the developers' map. How could any of us forget the revealing photograph, on the front page of the SMH Sydney Morning Herald on 1 November, of an obsequious Opposition leader, Peter Debnam, and a fawning shadow planning Minister, Chris Hartcher, welcoming developers aboard for a $750-a-head cosy jaunt around the harbour on a luxury cruiser, the use of which was kindly donated by Mr Greg Gav, who is—members guessed it—a property developer of some note? Developers
Gav's vessel, The Other Woman


The former ALP mayor of Rockdale Bill Saravinovski took visitors cruising on Sydney Harbour aboard the boat of a developer, but did not declare their relationship when he voted some years later to approve a contentious apartment project in Brighton Le Sands.
Residents learnt in 2011 that the development, by Greg Gav's Kilota Pty Ltd, at 344 Bay Street, had won councillors' backing to double in size from five to 10 storeys. The approval came despite council planners initially recommending it be refused and the State's Design Review Panel saying there was no apparent public benefit to justify exceeding the floor space ratio.
Mayor used developer's boat



Hanging Chair

Above: The Paola Lenti Slide Swing from Italy is made of ash and hangs from stainless steel cables covered with braiding. Go to Paola Lenti to find a dealer near you.
Hanging chairs



Hung Upper House

If you’ve ever been to an awkward dinner party where your ageing Christian aunt ends up wedged next to the swinging proponent of polyamory who you know from university, then you’ve got a sense of what the NSW Legislative Council is going to feel like for the next eight years.
Today’s results leave Mark Pearson, the newly elected representative of the Animal Justice Party (AJP), sitting on the cross-benches next to the two Shooters and Fishers Partymembers. It’s a match-up that should make Nationals member Duncan Gay’s asides to Greens MLC John Kaye look like Shakespearean sonnets.

The strong showing by the Coalition parties, with 20 of the 42 seats in the upper house, means they need only negotiate with one minor party to get their legislation adopted. While much speculation about this has focused on the Reverend Fred Nile’s Christian Democrats, who have two seats, the Shooters and Fishers' animosity to the previous government may have been expunged by the exit of the premier, Barry O’Farrell, from state politics.
NSW Legislative Council

Rush Hour Read

Muslim - Migrants Christians thrown overboard

"If you want to become president, you can." Putin tells kid. Should've given him some real advice, like join the FSB / Putin was second on charge of KGB when millions of Czech crown and Russian rubels were moved to Swiss secrecy banks in 1980s... Almost weeks after they heard that someone actually survived Czech iron curtain crossing the kommunists began shifting their ill gotten profits to tax havens

Vladimir Putin unlucky13th question and answer session

While the QandA appears to be unscripted, questions were submitted a week prior and according to Mashable, “clearly vetted by the Kremlin to avoid criticism and controversial topics

Most Sydneysiders are rich according to media - while Jozef Imrich remains poor as the church mouse ... Sydney Rules the world as the most expensive place
You can check out the full report here.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Fruity Algorithms

Does Economics Make Politicians Corrupt? Empirical Evidence from the United States Congress Kyklos. Abstract only, but what an abstract

It’s quite interesting that despite 150+ years of revolutions and refinement of chess, the first-move advantage has effectively remained untouched. The only way around it is to make sure that competitors play an even number of games as White and Black.

There is no great real rabbit stagnation (really not, check out the link)

Dark Leviathan Aeon. “The Silk Road might have started as a libertarian experiment, but it was doomed to end as a fiefdom run by pirate kings.” In a totally rights-respecting manner, of course.

Knowledge-Based Trust: Estimating the Trustworthiness of Web Sources [PDF]

Having Fun LRB. Public shaming on the Internet.

Fruity! How ‘transgender’ avocado trees change their sex overnight in a matter of hours Daily Mail

Rich People Are Great at Spending Money to Make Their Kids Rich, Too The Atlantic


Greatest mass extinction driven by acidic oceans, study finds Science Daily

Buiter on the death of cash FT Alphaville

How Robots & Algorithms Are Taking Over New York Review of Books

Comrades, The Lannisters Have No More Gold! Paul Mason

Every Agency Makes Mistakes Sometimes

Intercepted phone calls by a multi-agency task force investigating organised crime formed the basis for the Independent Commission Against Corruption's  ill-fated investigation into senior Crown Prosecutor Margaret Cunneen, SC. ICAC NSW

 Explain Cunneen leaks: ICAC boss

Cunneen's ICAC win raises questions

The committee highlighted the loss of 1370 ballot papers in Western Australia, which led to voters in that state having to return to the polls, as "the greatest failure in the history of the Australian Electoral Commission". Electoral Commissioner Ed Killesteyn resigned.
Identity Chechs at Ballot Boxes

Australian Democrats face oblivion as party deregistered by AEC

Fostering Willing Compliance Behaviours

Neuroscience, nudging, behaviour studies are booming, but much of it is trivial or even wrong. When it comes to the brain, we still don’t know much... Smarter Data

The Tax Office was trying to develop a system of "willing participation".  "We want to get that 70 per cent compliant figure to 95 per cent," Mr Cranston said. "If taxpayers have made us happy and done the right thing we will send them letters and close off their matter."
Only Little People Pay Taxes?

Australian Taxation Office chief compliance officer Michael Cranston: 'Part of my job is to make sure that rich people pay the right amount of tax.'
Australian Taxation Office chief compliance officer Michael Cranston: 'Part of my job is to make sure that rich people pay the right amount of tax.'
Senate Committee Corporate Tax Avoidance Public Hearings April 2015
Ode to a hard hearted assessor
An exchange of letters in 1972 shows the lighter side of the ATO.
To a hard hearted Tax assessor
May your discs slip out one by one
and the agony continue ad infinitum.
As the doctors 'haw' and the physiotherapists 'hum'
your brace will drive you crazy in the hot summer's sun.
No more walking, no more running,
no romancing and no dancing.
End of all activity ...............
Think of me, think of me
Walking tall, feeling free,
Completely cured, I've got it made!
23 August 1972
Dear Miss [name withheld]
We have received your delightful little ode, but are saddened to know that you think so poorly of us for not allowing your claim for fees paid to your chiropractor, more especially as it seems to have been money well spent.
The sobering fact is that, gentle people as we are, our heart beats are strictly regulated by the words of the law of the land it is our task in life to faithfully administer. These words say, in the clearest terms, that we may allow deductions only for payments to a legally qualified medical practitioner, or for therapeutic treatment administered under the direction of such a practitioner. Alas, your money was spent outside this compass and we could only pass it by.
If we have to seem hard hearted, it does help us to see the sunshine a little better when the warmth of good humour occasionally filters through from our flock and we will put your ode amongst our treasures.
Yours faithfully
R R Gray


History of Tax Office

 Commissioner Boucher takes his turn at the enquiries counter as part of the Year of Service.

Commissioner Boucher takes his turn at the enquiries counter as part of the Year of Service.

 The Superannuation Guarantee team led by Michael Monaghan.

The Superannuation Guarantee team led by Michael Monaghan (In 2000s became DC at SNC)

The launch in August 2009 of an ATO DVD/online product called Tax in Australia - what you need to know containing information in English and nine other languages. The group includes the ATO language staff.

Michael D'Ascenzo, (Dasha) eleventh Commissioner of Taxation with ATO language staff  - Yusef of Lynette Tavukcu fame

The Welcome (Bohemian) Stranger
Lionel Jones was well known in the ATO for his poetry that expressed the spirit and culture of the day.
So, you're standing in a bar
In a town remote and far
From all you know, and
All who know
And love you
And you've heard the deathless hush
As you push in through the crush
And you feel Damocles' sword
Up there above you
For you know, and they know too
On their grapevine strong and true
No matter how anonymous
You've played it,
That you're the bloke
Who's up from Tax
And they cannot quite relax
With their beer - while you are there
Until you've laid it
And you know you're doing George
He's the Chairman of the Board
Local Member and best mate
Of all around you
He's a solid local man
And the faces that you scan
Drop their eyes
To the empty boards
That now surround you
Till the Publican takes pity
On his guest up from the city
And he calls to 'Charlie - Joe'
And they say 'How d'ye'
But you know
As sure as Hell
Old Joe's in your bag as well
And you meant to start him
Next week - after Charlie
So you buy the two a drink
While you're trying hard to think
How to rearrange your schedule
After Sundee
'Cause now you find it
Hard to tell, 'I'll be doing you
As well, come and see me
With your records
First thing Mondee........'
And you sometimes rather fancy
That you'd like to change with Clancey
Th' th' the accountant
Not-not the drover -
May I stammer -
And advise them what to do, when
They're caught by blokes like you
And let some other poor coot take
The James Bond glamour
But he has his problems too,
As we all have, that is true,
He depends upon them
For his bread and butter -
While you don't care how it looks
to the crook who cooks the books
Or the amateur
Who keeps his books

Australia’s other customer service monolith, Australian Tax Office (ATO), has had so many people ringing to ask where they can buy the on hold music that it has statements on its website saying where it can be purchased.
Stuck On Hold: how government muzak really works

Hold On Music at ATO

Things that matter 80 Per cent of results come from 20 Per cent of causes

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Margaret Hodge on Crosby

Ken still refuses to disclose his full tax and income details despite promising to do so two weeks ago

In an article for The Independent the veteran Labour MP demands to know whether Mr Crosby has benefited personally from his “complex web” of “offshore interests” and his status as a non-domicile resident, which allows him to avoid having to declare income earned overseas to the UK tax man as long as it is not brought into the UK.

On Thursday the British Labour Party called on Mr Crosby to explain his links to two companies based in Malta after the Evening Standard reported that Mr Crosby was a director of Rutland Ltd and a shareholder in Rutland Holdings Ltd and that both companies shared a Maltese address with Bentley Trust (Malta), a financial services firm offering "legitimate mitigation" of tax. Electoral guru, Australian Lynton Crosby

Mr Crosby’s complicated network of business interests reveals “a man who appears to be up to his neck in tax avoidance,” according to Margaret Hodge, who has played a key role in challenging multinational corporations such as Google and Starbucks over tax avoidance in her role as chair of the Public Accounts Committee.
Complex Tax Affairs

Earlier this year Lynton Crosby was accused of recycling a ten-year-old ‘attack ad’ the Liberal Party used in the 2004 Australian elections, to criticise Ed Miliband in the general election. At the time the advert was used in Australia, the Tory election strategist was helping to run the Liberal Party’s election campaign.
Now it appears Crosby may have been ‘inspired’ once again by his former employer. Hugh Whitfeld, Europe Correspondent for the Australian Seven Network, has spotted a remarkable likeness between today’s Tory manifesto cover and one used by the Liberal Party of Australia as a cover to their policy book.
Inspiration from the Australian Liberal Party

Lynton Crosby was key to making the Iraqi asylum seekers issue a prime message in John Howard's 2001 election win. ‘Mythical’ Lynton Crosby is master of ‘wedge politics’ in Australia

I’ve never thought the Tories bringing back Lynton Crosby to run their 2015 election campaign was a good idea. I said so two years ago on the New Statesman website, comparing Crosby to Monty Panesar (makes sense in context, trust me).
Nick Tyrone on Crosby 

 ·  6 May 2012
How does the BBC describe Hollande's 52:48pc win as "clear" and "decisive" but Boris Johnson's 51.5:48.5pc as "narrow"? Tax funded bias?

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

All or Nothing at All

EGO is a humorous and tongue-in-cheek challenge to ideas presented by uncle Sigmund  Glowing Stick Figures Mimic Movement That Check Your Ego

The Seventh Day, by Yu Hua.  This is perhaps my favorite of all the contemporary Chinese novels I have read: “Lacking the money for a burial plot, he must roam the afterworld aimlessly, without rest.”

Kal Raustiala and Christopher Sprigman, The Knockoff Economy: How Imitation Sparks Innovation.  Have you ever wondered how recipes, fashion, fonts, and comedians’ jokes function without strong intellectual property protection in the classic sense?  We have needed a book on that and now we have one, this is both fun and instructive.

The Moral Urgency of Anna Karenina Commentary

The top story in Mexico is about a feisty journalist who exposed the first lady’s secret mansion, and lost her job WaPo

Anyone who wants to be a writer  will sooner or later confront the question: To M.F.A or not to M.F.A.?... Why Write?

Tolstoy was in his time known as a nyetovshcik, a contrarian. His views – on love, family, intellectuals – are even more out of sync today. But they are no less urgent Contrarian

Eco’s not-entirely-helpful solution: read everything as soon as possible

Guide to thesis writing
Ballad of a pencil junkie

Art world

AC/DC back and red-dy to rock

The Guardian reports:
Researchers led by Gert Stulp, a specialist in population health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, combed a Dutch database for clues.
Called LifeLines, the record contains exhaustive detail about the lives and health of more than 94,500 people
…Stulp pointed to figures showing that, in the United States, shorter women and men of average height have the most reproductive success.
The short piece is interesting throughout, and for the pointer I thank John B. Chilton.  And elsewhere on the height research front, the Indian height advantage, relative to Africa, exists only for firstborn sons.

You can judge a man by the books he reads, the books he rereads ...

"zhuri" (jury)
"When you go into court you are putting your fate into the hands of twelve people who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty."  

- Norm Crosby (Jewish comedian)

Günter Grass – novelist, playwright, essayist, poet, sculptor, printmaker, social critic, member of the Waffen-SS – is dead. He was 87... NY Times... WaPo... AP...Guardian... Telegraph...Prospect... Irish Times...Spiegel... Haaretz...

The Greatness of Günter Grass Salmon Rushdie, The New Yorker

You can judge a man by the books he reads, the books he rereads, the passages in them he remembers and the ones he quotes to others. The man who judges Polonius a fount of wisdom and cites him in that spirit leaves us with an impression counter to the one he intends. At some indeterminate point, aesthetics and morality intersect, however fleetingly. This is not science; this is intuition tempered by good sense and humility in the face of reality. In reading King Learagain I came upon this passage from Act I, Scene 2, spoken by Edmund, the sociopathic son of the Earl of Gloucester ...

“This is the excellent foppery of the world, that, when we are sick in fortune, often the surfeit of our own behaviour, we make guilty of our disasters the sun, the moon, and the stars; as if we were villains on necessity; fools by heavenly compulsion; knaves, thieves, and treachers by spherical pre-dominance; drunkards, liars, and adulterers by an enforc’d obedience of planetary influence; and all that we are evil in, by a divine thrusting on
Universal human tendency

mine_FotoSketcherIn the last decade, the world of publishing has undergone a seismic shift.

The Australian-born poet Peter Porter (1929-2010), long a resident of England, published “Going to Parties” in Philip Larkin at Sixty (ed. Anthony Thwaite, 1982), and dedicated the poem to Larkin. He included it in Fast Forward, a collection published in 1984, one year before Larkin’s death. In the poem’s final line, Porter states what might stand as Larkin’s less-than-inspirational poetic credo: “To make art of a life we didn’t choose.” 

“I like to read about people who have done nothing spectacular, who aren’t beautiful and lucky, who try to behave well in the limited field of activity they command, but who can see, in the little autumnal moments of vision, that the so called ‘big’ experiences of life are going to miss them; and I like to read about such things presented not with self-pity or despair or romanticism, but with realistic firmness and even humour.”  Sudden Sincerities