Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Tax and Media Matters

Full Fact looks at how some data can skirt frustratingly close to providing an answer on the accuracy of a political claim, but still not deliver. The British fact-checkers are partnering with the House of Commons Library, the UK Statistics Authority and the Economic and Social Research Council to address gaps in data that journalists use.

Wired, Filing Taxes Should Be as Easy as Ordering Pizza, Obama Says:
The Situation Room is not as gee-whiz as you think it is. Take it from someone who knows: President Obama.
“I always imagined the Situation Room would be this super cool thing, it’d be like Tom Cruise in The Minority Report,” Obama, the guest editor of WIRED’s November issue, said during a lengthy interview with Joi Ito of MIT’s Media Lab and Editor-in-Chief Scott Dadich. “It’s not like that at all.”
In a wide-ranging conversation, the president described the tech gap between the public and private sectors. (Guess which side has better gear?) ...
“There’s a whole bunch of work we need to do around getting government to be more customer-friendly,” Obama said, adding that filing taxes should be “at least as easy as ordering a pizza or an airline ticket.”

US Americans apparently share a fundamental civic commitment to taxpaying. That’s not what you might think from the anti-tax rhetoric that has been a strong feature of Republican politics. Presidential candidate Donald Trump may have avoided paying any federal income taxes for nearly two decades and famously claimed that that makes him ‘smart’.
As Donald Trump made clear, smart businesses know only idiots pay tax

Robert Wood, Actor John Malkovich Wins Libel Suit Over False Tax Story, As FATCA Dislosures Continue. “Actor John Malkovich has won a lawsuit against the French daily paper Le Monde over the paper’s false reports claiming that he had a secret Swiss bank account.”
Red Dead delight? Rockstar’s teaser image for the game with no name

 Red Dead delight? Rockstar’s teaser image for the game with no name. Photograph: Rockstar

Scott Greenberg, What is Depreciation, and Why Was it Mentioned in Last Night’s Debate? (Tax Policy Blog). “…businesses are required to deduct the cost of their capital expenses over long periods of time, according to a set of depreciation schedules.”
Russ Fox, On Disclosure. “When I retire–and for current clients, no worries, that’s many years down the road (I hope)–I don’t think it’s right for me to author a ‘tell-all’ book about my clients or talk to the media about them.”
Stu Bassin, Disclosure of Donald Trump’s Tax Returns (Procedurally Taxing). “Bottom line.   Section 6103 almost surely did not protect Mr. Trump’s returns and he has no wrongful disclosure claim against the Times or anyone else.”

The bitter dispute between the Parramatta Eels rugby league club and its former major sponsor Dyldam will be played out in court after the club launched legal action in the District Court over Dyldam's alleged failure to meet its financial commitments.
The controversial developer, recently announced as a major sponsor of the Central Coast Mariners, is being pursued by the Australian Taxation Office after investigations by insolvency expert Stephen Hathway found what he told Fairfax Media was an attempt to mislead the ATO by deliberating misstating the true nature of financial dealings within the Dyldam empire. There is a pattern to their bad luck. Upon completion of a development, having paid Dyldam handsomely for construction services, several apartments are transferred to their family and friends and shortly after the company goes down the gurgler owing the Tax Office money... Parramatta Eels, Tax Office and widow chase property developer Dyldam

Facebook challenges IRS over information demand Financial Times 

High ranking state politicians, including Premier Mike Baird’s parliamentary secretary and the president of the Upper House, are claiming a $292-a-night allowance for staying in their own investment properties for free.
MPs city perks a flatout disgrace ...

Bloomberg, Facebook Continues Fight Over U.S. Taxes After Ireland Move:
Facebook Inc. is carrying on its fight with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service over taxes relating to its transfer of global operations to Ireland in 2010 even as the social media giant pledged cooperation with the government’s investigation.

Heather M. Field (UC-Hastings), Aggressive Tax Planning & the Ethical Tax Lawyer, 36 Va. Tax L. Rev. ___ (2017):
Can a tax planner be both ethical and aggressive? When a client wants help with a transaction in which the lawyer thinks the tax benefits will probably not be sustained on the merits if challenged, what is the ethical response? How low should the tax adviser go?

“We have a particular challenge in American society in making sure that broad [parts] of the population are engaged in politics, democratic governance, and in news generally. I think we have a problem with a lot of people either not tuning in or being apathetic. But I think that’s a challenge for all of American society: not just news, not just journalists, but everybody.” — Angie Holan, PolitiFact editor  

The problem with numbers is that people can abuse them in so many ways. Cherry-pick them, overestimate them, ignore them, fuzzy-math them. That’s why it’s a good idea to check the numbers in the polls mentioned by candidates and their campaigns. The Upshot shows you how.

The Wells Fargo fake account scandal, first uncovered by the Los Angeles Times in 2013, is growing. Perhaps that is not surprising, given how egregious the scheme was and the tepid response from the bank. In creating a boiler-room sales environment, the bank failed its investors and front-line employees, but it also failed its customers and communities….

Following up on my previous post, Starstruck States Squander $10 Billion In Film Tax Incentives Producing Minimal Economic Returns:  California Legislative Analyst's Office, California's First Film Tax Credit Program:
Figure 1California provides tax incentives for qualified film and television productions to be made in the state. The first film tax credit program was adopted in 2009 and provided $800 million ($100 million per year over eight years) in credits to selected feature films and television projects. In 2014, the Legislature created a new film tax credit program that increased the available amount of tax credits to $330 million per year—beginning in the 2015–16 fiscalyear—and modified the program in various ways.

Is there anyone concerned at the ugly turn the election has taken with the release of a few pages of Donald Trump's taxes from 1995? The ugliness is not that Trump's taxes have been revealed, per se, but that it was done, in part it appears, by getting an elderly lawyer to violate his duty of confidentiality to his client. One might say that Trump deserves what he gets. But in this age of ever-eroding privacy, it is alarming when the official rules meant to guard privacy come under assault. ...
Mr. Mitnick has committed a grievous violation of legal and professional ethics.

David Cay Johnston, Who Else Doesn't Pay Taxes?:
A big and important story about America’s failing tax system lurks in the revelation (which Donald Trump seemed to confirm in Sunday’s debate) that he had tax losses that could allow him to spend almost $4 million a month for nearly two decades while paying no federal income taxes.
Trump is part of a growing wave of people who enjoy lavish lifestyles, but pay little or no federal income taxes, my analysis of the official tax data going back two decades shows. There are enough of them that they even have their own IRS nickname.
The taxes paid by most Americans subsidize those who do not pay — including a strikingly high number of affluent, not poverty stricken, Americans. Let’s take a look at the latest IRS data, which I have analyzed annually for more than two decades.

The plan is to keep hiking the tax well above inflation every year for 20 years while, over the same period, eliminate altogether stamp duties. Barr, who credits himself as a national leader in terms of tax reform, argues the line pushed by myriad economists who have long backed this reform as a much more reliable and equitable means of raising revenue than stamp duty.
The ACT has few revenue sources other than its people. Even its biggest tenant, the federal government, tends to put its many buildings on Commonwealth land, denying the local regime badly needed revenue in terms of rent or rates. ACT voters give their verdict on a great tax experiment ...

You do not want to be on the radar of the IRS wealth squad Bloomberg

‘These are the audits from hell that your grandfather warned you about’
Following up on my previous post, Sen. Hatch Demands Release Of Secret Reagan-Era DOJ Tax Memo Supporting Obama's Expansive Use Of Presidential Power:  Press Release, Hatch Demands Treasury Clarify Use of Secret Memo Regarding Section 385 Debt-Equity Regulations:
Now Public Memo of Agreement Used to Justify Absence of Economic Impact Analysis for Proposed Regulations
Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) today wrote to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew with a series of questions regarding a long-secret Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) concerning the economic and regulatory effects of tax regulations.  The Treasury Department uses the memo, recently made public at Chairman Hatch’s urging, to justify forgoing a cost-benefit analysis required by federal law and executive order when issuing tax regulations, including proposed regulations relating to the Internal Revenue Code’s section 385 debt-equity rules.  
“Today, I write to 1) set forth the details of that MOA and request information on its use, and 2) raise additional questions concerning the proposed regulation and the Treasury Department’s unusual process in moving toward a final rule,” Hatch wrote. “These issues matter a great deal to me because federal regulations have grown in quantity and scope to unprecedented levels in recent decades, and tax regulations are no exception.”