Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Dead People, Lucky People, Digital Games: Capturing the IRS Pokemon

Susan C. Morse  (Texas) & Robert Deutsch (Australia Administrative Appeals Tribunal), Tax Anti-Avoidance Law in Australia and the United States, 49 Int'l Law. 111 (2015):
In both Australia and the U.S., the tax anti-avoidance law has evolved to include two common doctrinal components. One component requires evidence of taxpayers’ tax avoidance purpose. The other component protects transactions clearly contemplated by the tax statute against charges of tax avoidance. The two bodies of law usually get to the same answer. Transactions involving loss generators, income assignment, and foreign tax credit generators illustrate this similarity.
But the two bodies of law sometimes arrive at different answers. This is because important but subtle doctrinal differences also exist. Australian law conceives of a tax avoidance transaction as a contrived, tax-motivated Plan B departure from the counterfactual of a more normal, Plan A course of action. Australia’s Part IVA has been applied to invalidate a planning step that is part of a larger, business-motivated merger transaction. In contrast, tax planning steps that are part of business-motivated merger and acquisition transactions generally are not vulnerable under U.S. law.

Kay Bell, Dead people got millions in New York City tax breaks. Hardly surprising. After all, they are a significant voting bloc. 

TaxGrrrl, NJ Woman Finds Lottery Ticket While Doing Her Taxes. One worth $472,271

Meet the man behind those bullshit Pokémon Go stories ... A man who identified himself as Pablo Reyes called back, confirmed the stories were fake and explained that he doesn't actually expect people to believe them. He pointed to the website's "Terms and Conditions" (visible at the bottom of the homepage to readers who scroll all the way down), which states that CartelPress is "a satirical website owned by"

Capturing the IRS Pokemon. While I haven’t jointed the little packs of people wandering together on the Des Moines skywalk system while looking at their phones, the Pokemon Go craze fascinates me. It’s strange and wonderful how something like this can come out of nowhere and become such a thing.
Naturally, the IRS will want to spoil the fun. I understand you collect “experience points” as you follow your phone from Poke-stop to Poke-stop. From the Wikipedia entry:
Players earn experience points for a number of in-game actions. As the player earns experience points, they will rise in level. At level five, the player is able to battle at a Pokémon gym and join one of three teams (red, blue or yellow) which act as larger factions within the Pokémon Go world. If a player enters a Pokémon gym that is controlled by a player that is not part of their team, they can challenge the leader to lower the gym’s “prestige”. Once the prestige of a gym is lowered to zero then the player will take control of the gym and is able to deposit one Pokémon to defend it. Similarly, a team can upgrade the prestige of a gym under their control by battling the gym leader.
Inevitably someone will want to monetize their experience points. A market will form, if it hasn’t already. Enter the IRS. From, “Tax Consequences of Virtual World Transactions“:
In general, you can receive income in the form of money, property, or services. If you receive more income from the virtual world than you spend, you may be required to report the gain as taxable income. IRS guidance also applies when you spend more in a virtual world than you receive, you generally cannot claim a loss on an income tax return.
“Money, property or services.” If you can convert experience points to cash, you likely have an “accession to wealth” as you earn them. Now I’m not going to tell you to report your experience points on your 1040. That’s between you and your virtual conscience, and I expect your conscience to not to fight very hard.
There is, though, a broader point worth making: you don’t have to convert something to cash to be taxable on it. Barter deals, swaps of goods for services, and so on are taxable unless they fit one of the narrow carve outs, like the ones for “like-kind exchanges” and for corporate and partnership formations. A non-cash deal might be harder for the IRS to find, but it’s still taxable.
I’ll give Forbes writer Ashlea Ebeling the last word:
Is all this virtual-tax think a bizarre and colossal waste of brainpower? Maybe. But then so too are many parts of the real tax code.
pretty birds links
Alex Durante, Switzerland Illustrates Potential Drawbacks of Wealth Taxation (Tax Policy Blog):
Overall, this study provides compelling evidence that wealth taxes reduce wealth accumulation. For some proponents of wealth taxes, this is a feature, not a bug. However,capital accumulation is an essential ingredient for economic growth. Moreover, to the extent that wealth is earned through entrepreneurial risk-taking, rather than through cronyism, wealth inequality does not harm the economy. Policymakers should therefore be wary of adopting wealth taxation to combat inequality. 
The emphasis on inequality is foolish and wrong. It’s important that the lot of the poor be improved, not that the lot of the rich be worsened.  Yet the inequality obsessives find a significant increase in overall well-being to be bad because some people did better. And as countless examples show (Venezuela, North Korea, etc.), when “equality” is the primary goal, you get poverty and oppression.

Jeremy Scott, Theresa May’s Victory in the U.K. a Small Win for Transparency (Tax Analysts Blog). “May released four years’ worth of her own tax returns, while Leadsom declined to release more than one.”

Kay Bell, Messi fans may support his play, but not his tax moves

Sam Brunson, Alcatraz! (Surly Subgroup). “Early in the Alcatraz Cellhouse Audio Tour, my wife pointed out one of the pictures in D-Block: right next to people imprisoned for narcotics offenses, conspiracy to kidnap, and murder was Mickey Cohen, in Alcatraz for tax evasion.”

Jack Townsend, Report of DOJ Interest in Prosecuting Improper Streamlined Certifications. “The requirement that the certification and narrative be made under oath with penalty of perjury has its own chilling effect, and that is simply a requirement of the program.”

Jack Townsend, Simon Redux – Ineffective Assistance of Counsel After All Else Fails. “Simon claimed that his attorneys failed to adequately investigate the workings of the TurboTax software he used for the returns charged as a basis for the tax perjury counts.”

Still a few leaks in the system. While it’s important to jail tax identity thieves, a case out of Oxnard, California reminds us that it’s more important to improve IRS systems to prevent the theft in the first place. From
A jury has found an Oxnard-based tax preparer known as “El Profe” guilty of filing more than $53 million in fraudulent tax returns through a company he ran from a meat market and other locations, federal officials said.

Lozano claimed about $53 million in taxes, but had collected more than $23 million in refunds before the Internal Revenue Service identified and stopped the scheme, according to the U.S. Attorney Office.
If a single low-rent meatcutter can drain $23 million before getting caught, you have a systems problem. Good luck getting those millions back.

Jim Maule, Taxes for Revenue and Taxes for Behavior Modification. “So, if an undesired behavior is a sure thing, imposing a tax on it guarantees revenue.”

The House of Representatives released a bombshell today out of its three-year investigation as to why the UK-based bank HSBC got off lightly for money laundering, both for with states subject to economic sanctions like Iran and Sudan, as well as narcotics traffickers. The report found that Attorney General Eric Holder “misled” Congress about the evidence against the bank, and that staff prosecutors had recommended indictment but were overruled by Holder. In addition UK regulators interfered in the case, and argued that criminal sanctions would lead to a financial nuclear winter. That was demonstrated to be false in 2014, when BNP Paribas, which apparently had fewer friends in court, pled guilty to criminal money laundering charges and paid $8.9 billion in fines.
Congress Exposes That DoJ Overruled Recommendation to Indict Money Launderer HSBC Over Too Big to Fail Worries