Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Two Tax Systems. One For the Likes of Trump

Los Angeles Times op-ed:  Two Tax Systems. One For the Likes of Trump., by David Cay Johnston (Syracuse):

Whether the IRS will investigate Trump’s returns for possible criminal violations isn’t clear. What is clear is that the federal government has pretty much stopped enforcing the tax laws, especially when it comes to people like Trump who own businesses. ...

Congress has defunded the tax police. Since 2010, the number of tax returns has grown about 8%, but the number of IRS revenue agents, as auditors are called, has been cut 35%, criminal investigators 27% and the agency’s total staffing by 22%. ...

Our real concern as taxpayers should be that Congress has created two income tax systems, separate and unequal.

Under one system, most of us, who are employees, pay all our taxes, which are taken out before we get our money. The structure of the tax withholding system makes it very hard to cheat.

The other system, built for business owners like Trump, operates on the honor system. Cheating is supposed to be controlled largely because that class of taxpayers fear that IRS auditors will be checking. But deterrence cannot work when audits conducted of people in that group is less than 3%, down from 8% a decade ago and the risk of criminal prosecution is essentially zero.

Trump’s failure to pay taxes is a disgrace. But no more so than a federal tax system that makes it possible for him and millions of other taxpayers to avoid paying what they should rightly owe.

New York Times, Trump Took $70,000 in Tax Deductions for Hair Care. Experts Say That’s Illegal.:

There were many bombshells in The New York Times’s exposé last week about President Trump’s taxes. He has paid basically zero federal income tax for years. His much-ballyhooed businesses are on the ropes. And that was just the headline.

But it was a juicy and seemingly less significant matter that jumped out at me: Mr. Trump spent more than $70,000 on hairstyling during several years of his run on “The Apprentice,” his reality-TV show.

That, of course, is quite a lot for any one person to spend on having his hair cut, blow-dried or colored. But what is really remarkable about the revelation is that Mr. Trump’s production company deducted his hairstyling expenses from its taxable income, reducing its tax bill.

Tax experts told me that deducting what is ordinarily considered a personal expense is prohibited under almost any circumstances. And they said such a deduction could potentially constitute criminal tax fraud if the cost of the hairstyling was reimbursed by someone else. ...

In 2011, the U.S. Tax Court heard a case involving a news anchor at the NBC affiliate in Columbus, Ohio, who deducted her hair-care expenses on the grounds that her job required it and that she was a full-time ambassador for the station. The court flatly rejected the claim. Expenses related to “grooming” are “inherently personal expenditures,” the court held, even though “these expenses may be related to her job.” ...

Whether these deductions were merely aggressive or illegal would ordinarily be the subject of I.R.S. audits. Mr. Trump has said he remains under audit, and The Times reported that one focus is a $72.9 million refund that he claimed and received. It is not clear whether the I.R.S. has examined the Trump family’s hair-care deductions. ...

Compared with Mr. Trump’s billion-dollar losses, which offset any profits, $70,000 in dubious hair-care deductions might seem trivial. But they are emblematic of his overall approach to taxes: No amount is too small to withhold from the government’s coffers.

 ‘Great Polarization’ may be next for world’s richest, UBS says Bloomberg

The IRS Is Being Investigated for Using Location Data Without a Warrant Vice

China’s new economic ‘dual circulation’ strategy may not just be inward-looking, but also a pivot to Asia South China Morning Post

 Five Eyes and Japan call for Facebook backdoor to monitor crime Nikkei Asian Review


Chinese Citizens Are Already Receiving a Coronavirus Vaccine The New Yorker


Unfavorable Views of China Reach Historic Highs in Many Countries Pew Research


Southeast Asia Isn’t Interested In Joining A New Cold War The American Conservative

Former Intel Officials Try To Downplay Ratcliffe’s Russiagate Releases Antiwar.com (Kevin W). Pence tried referencing this in the debate, but you would have had to know most of the plot to get the drift of his gist. 


DNI declassifies Brennan notes, CIA memo on Hillary Clinton ‘stirring up’ scandal between Trump, Russia Fox 


RAY McGOVERN: Trump Orders Russiagate Documents Declassified ConsortiumNews


Intel Sources: CIA Director Gina Haspel Banking On Trump Loss To Keep Russiagate Documents Hidden The Federalist (Chuck L). Yes, The Federalist, but a story not being covered and they have two sources, which is more than the New York Times sometimes has. 


Golden Dawn leader and ex-MPs found guilty in landmark trial Guardian (resilc)