Goodbye to Large Dollar Unit

It used to be that cases with a total aggregate balance of $100,000 or more were worked by a special unit within the IRS called the Large Dollar Unit (LDU).  It has been exceedingly frustrating dealing with LDU over the years.  They tended to ask for every last shred of documentation to substantiate every claimed expense.  And because they required so much documentation, it was never practical to get it over to them by fax (in fact, they would not even allow it).  So the docs had to be mailed in, and they would inevitably get lost.  Or if they did get logged in, they would take forever to look at them.  And if it finally got to the point where a case was nearly ready to be finalized, they would tend to ship it off to a local Revenue Officer to close the deal.  It was like a bad joke: they would string you along for months, then at the last moment, when it looked like we were going to reach a resolution, the case would be transferred to the field.

Well, according to one IRS representative I spoke with today, LDU has been “disbanded.”  That was the word he used, and I kind of liked it.  Now, every $100,000 + case will be transferred directly to a local Revenue Officer.  This is great news for practitioners like myself.  Revenue Officers tend to have more experience and more discretion to be able to close a deal without adding any more red tape than necessary.  Now I guess we will have to see if this in fact a new procedure or just a “flavor of the month.”

Romney on Tax Reform

Mitt Romney has written an op-ed piece for the Wall Street Journal describing his vision for tax reform and tax relief.  He identifies problems with the tax code as one of our countries top problems:

  • record-breaking unemployment
  • deficit spending
  • big inefficient government & lack of leadership
  • screwed up tax code

I believe we must make the tax code simpler and fairer. We must reduce tax rates for job creators to promote economic growth. And we must still raise enough revenue to stop the endless borrowing that threatens American prosperity.

Romney lists 5 specific changes he would implement if he were elected the next US president:

  1. across-the-board 20% reduction in marginal individual tax rates
  2. reduce the corporate tax rate to 25%, transition from a world-wide taxation system to a territorial one, and make the R&D tax credit permanent
  3. maintain the low 15% rate on capital gains & eliminate it entirely for those earning below $200,000
  4. get rid of the AMT and the death tax
  5. bring stability to the tax code by making these changes permanent

Read the full op-ed piece here.  I’m not sure how he would achieve #5, although it sounds great.  So would that mean the Turbo Tax software I purchase in 2012 would also work for tax years 2013, 2014, 2015 . . . ?!

Offer in Compromise

The Offer in Compromise (OIC) is often considered the ultimate form of tax relief. If you are considering an OIC to address your outstanding IRS tax debt, there are a few things you should know.

First, not everyone with a tax debt should attempt an OIC. The OIC is a special program generally reserved for low-income taxpayers with few assets. The OIC filing fee is $150 and the IRS also requires that you pay 20% of your offer amount up front when the offer is filed. Unless you are confident that the offer is going to be accepted, you may be better off saving yourself these fees.

Second, not everybody who meets the criteria for the OIC should file an OIC. Basically, it just has to make good sense. For example, the offer amount must be low enough in comparison to the overall tax debt. Also, if the balances you owe are old and about to expire, you may be in a situation where it would make more sense to “wait out” the statute of limitations rather than make an offer to the IRS.

Third, a tax attorney can maximize your chances of filing a successful Offer in Compromise. An experienced tax attorney will help you determine if the OIC is right for you and if it makes sense to file. An experienced tax attorney has the skills needed to present your financial information in a manner that is most advantageous to you.

Leaked Photo of New 740hp Ferrari

If you’re going to leak a photo of a beautiful 2013 Ferrari, wouldn’t you take care to produce a high-quality digital photo?  This one is seriously lacking.  The car doesn’t quite fit the photo.  It’s all grainy and dull.  And there’s the guy posing with the vehicle that must not care about getting in trouble for the leak.  Although I suppose he can definitively say he wasn’t the one who snapped the shot!  Maybe the picture was taken with a little spy camera built into the button of the photographer’s coat — maybe that’s why it’s such a bad picture.

J.K. Rowling Moves Beyond Potter

I have a hard time watching Jim Carrey in a serious role — it just always seems like a subtle joke. Maybe I’ve never been able to see him as anyone other than Ace Ventura.  His mannerisms and acting style are so unique and, for lack of a better word, goofy, that I’m sure it is difficult for him to land roles in serious movies.

But some actors have succeeded in breaking out of their comfort zones.  So why not authors?  J.K. Rowling, author of the earth-shattering Harry Potter series, announced today that she would be breaking on through to the world of adult books via publisher Little Brown.  No, not that kind of book!  Just books that won’t be found in the “youth” section of the bookstore.  Although its hard to believe, her last Potter book was released back in 2007.

Rowling is saying that her new novel will be “very different” from the Harry Potter series.  I’m not sure what an author does to accomplish this transition.  In my non-author-like mind I’m picturing bigger words, more complex sentences, difficult plots and characters, darker themes.  Actually, if it’s going to be very different, maybe she’s writing about puppies and butterflies this time.

Early Retirement Distributions

Many people do not realize that early distributions from retirement accounts qualify as income for tax purposes.  The realization may come in a very disturbing way — such as a 1099 and/or a letter from the IRS stating there has been underreported income.  If nothing is done to correct this, and if no exceptions exist, it will likely result in a tax debt.  A retirement withdrawal is normally considered “early” if done prior to age 59 1/2.  The tax impact of an early withdrawal is the topic of the IRS’ latest installment in its Tax Tips series (IRS Tax Tip 2012-34), and is outlined here:

  • early distributions are subject to an additional 10% tax and must be reported to the IRS
  • rollovers are generally not subject to this tax; not until the new plan actually makes a distribution
  • nondeductible contributions to an IRA are not taxed in an early distribution
  • early distributions attributable to prior contributions to a Roth IRA are not taxed

There are several exceptions to the 10% early withdrawal tax, which are discussed fully in Publications 590 and 575.

61-year-old NH Man May go to Prison for Apprehending Burglar

Nobody goes out of their way to help people anymore because they’re afraid of getting sued for their good deed, or in the case of Dennis Flemming, getting thrown into prison.

Dennis Flemming, 61, held a thief who had broken into his New Hampshire home at gunpoint until the police arrived on the scene. When the police arrived they arrested both the thief and Mr. Flemming who now faces a sentence roughly equal to that of the burglar. The state wants to put Flemming away for about 7 years on a “reckless conduct” charge.

The alleged “reckless conduct” consisted of firing a bullet into the ground to show the thief that he was not going to let him get away. Says Flemming:

“I didn’t think I could handle this guy physically, so I fired into the ground.  I didn’t know it was illegal [to fire into the ground], but I had to make that guy realize I was serious.

It’s upsetting that homeowners can’t defend themselves and protect their neighbors in this manner. It will be interesting to follow this case through to the end and see if justice is served.  See full story here.

Who Can Improve the IRS’ Image?

Clearly there are few firms, organizations, or government agencies that pose a greater PR challenge than the IRS.  That’s why the Service is soliciting pitches from 12 full service communications and marketing companies to replace the current $17.5 million contract it awarded to PR firm Porter Novelli four years ago.  The IRS needs to convince Americans who are only interested in tax relief that filing and paying your taxes is not that bad.

The IRS is in dire need of some PR assistance.

~ Captain Obvious

The Novelli contract is over, and many would ask, “What did they do?”  I suppose they did spruce up the IRS website with some new smiling faces.  And they tried to change the face of the IRS to make it seem younger and more in-touch with technology . . . emphasis on “tried.”

The new contract is worth $15 million and with that kind of incentive, many PR specialists are going to be up for the challenge.  And I’m sure each will have their individual spin on what should be done.  For instance, David Bauman would try to turn things around for the IRS by first changing their name.  That’s how he gradually repaired Ron Artest’s image — by changing his name to Metta World Peace.  See WSJ article for the full story.

What would you chose as the IRS’ new moniker?

Important Baseball Start Dates

Today I asked Christian (my personal MLB knowledge source) when baseball starts and he said, “It depends . . .” then he proceeded to give me this long-winded, convoluted answer. I told him, “C’mon, it’s Friday.  Loosen up.  I’m not asking you for your legal opinion here.  Take your attorney hat off for just a second and answer my question!”

Then he had me take a look at MLB’s Important Dates link and I saw why he answered me like he did.  It really IS complicated!

February 19, 2012  –  Pitchers and Catchers report

February 29, 2012  –  First exhibition game: Florida State University vs. Philadelphia Phillies, Florida

March 2, 2012  –  First Spring Training game: Seattle Mariners vs. Oakland Athletics, Phoenix

March 28, 2012  –  First Regular Season game: Seattle Mariners vs. Oakland Athletics, Tokyo

April 4, 2012  –  Opening Night: St. Louis Cardinals at Miami Marlins

April 5, 2012  – Opening Day

Bartering – It’s Still Income to the IRS

Assume Farmer John, an acquaintance, comes to my office with a small tax problem and I spend 10 minutes researching and looking for the answer.  I then provide him with a bit of advice, and he asks me what he owes me.  I ask him to give me a dozen eggs from his family farm and we’ll call it even.  Do I have to report this transaction as income on my taxes?

This is an exchange of one product or service for another, with no cash changing hands.  It’s a barter.  A barter may be an exchange of goods for goods, services for services, or as in my example, services for goods.  According to the IRS, the fair market value of the goods and services exchanged in a barter transaction must be reported as income by both parties.  So the $2.00 dozen of eggs must be reported as income on my taxes.  And the value of my services must be reported as income by Farmer John.

Besides the income tax responsibilities, there may be other tax implications associated with bartering such as:

  • self-employment tax
  • employment tax
  • excise tax
  • capital gains or capital losses
  • non-deductible personal loss

Bartering transactions take place in a variety of settings, including home-based online bartering businesses, bartering exchanges, or on an informal one-on-one basis. For more information about the IRS rules on bartering, see IRS Tax Tip 2012-33 and the Bartering Tax Center on the IRS website.