Thursday, January 08, 2015

Tax & Snakes & Oils

Robert Wood, Big Winner Of 4,000% Tips For Jesus? IRS

Christopher Bergin, Would You Settle for Flowers in Place of Help From the IRS? (Tax Analysts Blog).

When  the man selling the snake oil out of the patent medicine wagon takes a deep draught of his inventory, it tells you he believes it at least won’t hurt him. But if he then keels over and goes into convulsions, he’ll find sales tough to come by.
This explains why it might be harder for Peymon Mottahedeh to recruit additional “students” to his “Freedom Law School” after his visit to Tax Court last week. The gentleman is well-known in “tax honesty” circles — enough to have earned him a spot in the Quatloos “Hall of Shame.”
Mr. Mottahedeh’s law school has what the bar association might consider an unorthodox curriculum. Judge Morrison explains (footnotes omitted):
Since at least 1999, the Freedom Law School has organized conferences attended by hundreds of people. The Freedom Law School charged fees to the attendees. The Freedom Law School also sold books, tapes, CDs, and DVDs. It also sold packages of services, including:
-the “Simple Freedom Package” (for an initial fee of $4,000);
-the “Royal Freedom Package” (for an initial fee of $6,000).
The Freedom Law School also offered multilevel marketing arrangements, including:
-“Freedom Fighter in Training”;
-“Freedom Promoter”;
-“Freedom Leader”; and
-“Master Freedom Leader”.
You have to admit, not every law school gives you MLM opportunities.

FLS logoThrough its conferences, materials, and service packages, the Freedom Law School promoted various techniques for evading the payment of federal income taxes. The techniques included:
-Minimize financial records.
-Do not give information to the IRS.
-Do not file tax returns.
Mr. Mottahedeh apparently took his own advice, and that worked out about as well as you would expect. The Tax Court allowed the IRS to statistically estimate his spending, in the absence of bank and financial. The taxpayer objected, but the judge explains:
The Mottahedehs counter that in reconstructing their income the revenue agent should have considered only the income reflected in their bank and credit-union records. But the Mottahedehs tried to avoid the use of banks. Their bank records would not provide sufficient information about their income. Furthermore, even the bank records that the revenue agent obtained were incomplete. The revenue agent was unable to obtain records of all of the deposits to the Mottahedehs’ accounts. For these reasons, focusing exclusively on the income reflected in their bank records would underestimate the Mottahedehs’ income. The revenue agent had to find other methods of estimating their income. The revenue agent chose to use average spending statistics supplemented by estimates of actual spending amounts. The courts have permitted the IRS to rely on the use of average spending statistics when, as here, the taxpayer fails to cooperate with the IRS
The bottom line: $93,187 in tax, along with another $47,303 in penalties.
If the patent medicine man doesn’t die, expect him to just find another crowd and open up shop again.
Cite: Mottahedeh, T.C. Memo 2014-258

Too cold for a film tax credit trial? A strange development in the Iowa Film Credit scandal, reported by the Des Moines Register:
A new fraud trial for a Nebraska filmmaker accused of using a fake purchase agreement to get tax credits should be delayed because two elderly witnesses have left Iowa for the winter, according to a prosecutor handling the case.
Yes, it’s cold here. We’re supposed to get a snowstorm today, and it’s supposed to be 1 on Wednesday. For a high temperature. And I can’t say I have a great deal of sympathy for somebody who got millions in tax credit money.
But a criminal trial is serious business, and the film scandal has been going since 2009. The prosecution says the witness is worried that he might fall. I think arrangements can be made to get him safely from the car.
What’s the case about?
Dennis Brouse, 64, has been waiting for a second trial after judges on the Iowa Court of Appeals overturned a felony fraud conviction against him in April. Brouse’s company, Changing Horses Productions, received $9 million in tax credits from Iowa’s scandal-ridden film tax credit program.
Brouse faces a single fraud charge and potentially a prison sentence, stemming from the purchase of a 38-foot camper trailer he bought from Prole couple Wayne and Shirley Weese. Prosecutors say Brouse paid the couple $10,500 in cash for the trailer, but he claimed it cost twice that amount in a statement for tax credits given to the Iowa Film Office.
The state auditor’s report on the Iowa Film Office showed a lot of creative accounting for Changing Horses, including the claim of a $1 million expense for non-cash “sponsorship” considerations. I am guessing that they are going after the trailer case because there are e-mails from the Iowa Department of Revenue blessing the “in-kind” expense concept. I’m pretty sure that there is no such endorsement of doubling expenditures.