Tax Break

Essential reading: Swiss court hampers U.S. tax deal, “Reagan rule,” and more

Then-U.S president Ronald Reagan, October 19, 1983 REUTERS/Mal Langsdon

Welcome to the top tax and accounting headlines from Reuters and other sources.

* Swiss court ruling hampers a tax deal. David Jolly – The New York Times. In a setback for efforts to end a tax dispute between the United States and Switzerland, a Swiss court announced on Wednesday that Credit Suisse could not turn over account data of its American clients to the United States tax authorities because doing so would violate the terms of a 1996 tax treaty between the two countries. Link  

* Obama dubs tax plan ‘Reagan rule’. James Politi and Richard McGregor – The Financial Times. Barack Obama suggested Ronald Reagan would be sympathetic to a minimum tax on the wealthiest Americans, saying the so-called “Buffett rule” could be renamed the “Reagan rule” in the Republican icon’s honor. Link 

* Groupon accounting problems put spotlight on board. Dena Aubin – Reuters. Groupon Inc, the online coupon company that floated just months ago in the strongest IPO in years, has had recurring accounting problems that critics say show a need for more financial sophistication on its board. Link  

*SEC files suit against third Chinese company. Michael Rapoport – The Wall Street Journal. U.S. regulators sued a Chinese commercial-vehicle company and 11 investors Wednesday over alleged stock manipulation, ratcheting up pressure on U.S.-traded Chinese firms with accounting problems or other issues. The SEC alleges the company and the investors boosted trading in AutoChina stock to make it seem more active than it really was to make it easier for the company to get financing. Link  

* French rich look to London as tax fears grow. Chris Vellacott – Reuters. The plushest neighborhoods of central London are attracting increased interest from a new wave of super-rich migrants from France, scared by a rising tide of tax threats from presidential candidates as the election campaign comes to a climax. French socialist presidential candidate Francois Hollande has said he will target the rich with a 75 percent tax rate on annual incomes above $1.3 million. Link  

Cranky about your taxes? Obama campaign wants to rub it in

Feeling cranky about your taxes, ahead of the April 17 deadline?

The Obama campaign wants to remind you of your tax rate, and how it compares with that of millionaire Mitt Romney, in a jab at one of the wealthiest men ever to run for president.

The campaign rolled out an online calculator letting individuals compare their tax rates to Romney’s, the presumed Republican nominee to face President Barack Obama in the Nov. 6 election.

Put $30,000 into the calculator as your annual income income and a box pops up showing such a households pays about 18.6 percent of their income in taxes. That’s followed by a box showing Romney’s 2010 tax rate of 13.9 percent.

Essential reading: Global focus on taxing the rich, tax day crashes, and more

U.S. President Barack Obama arrives to speak about tax fairness and the economy at Florida Atlantic University, April 10, 2012. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Welcome to the top tax and accounting headlines from Reuters and other sources.

* Soaking the rich might not be a panacea. Vanessa Houlder – The Financial Times. The super rich are under fire across much of the developed world. U.S. President Barack Obama is on the road this week promoting the “Buffett rule”, a minimum tax on millionaires. In France, François Hollande is proposing a 75 per cent tax rate on the rich. In Britain, George Osborne, chancellor, has expressed shock at evidence showing the scale of tax planning by some of the wealthiest people in the country. Link

*Obama to enlist millionaires in Buffett Rule campaign. Margaret Talev – Bloomberg News. President Barack Obama is intensifying his campaign for higher taxes on top U.S. earners, casting the issue against Republican opposition as one of fairness and support for the middle class. Link

Essential reading: Tax fairness or tax competiveness?, Shockingly low taxes, and more

Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said he's shocked how little tax some wealthy citizens pay

Welcome to the top tax and accounting headlines from Reuters and other sources.

* How to really simplify the tax code. Bruce Bartlett – The New York Times. Politicians hide behind grandiose plans for wiping the tax slate clean because they know that support for every specific tax expenditure is very high. In practice, saying that one would eliminate all tax expenditures is meaningless, nothing more than a gesture that avoids confrontation with the constituencies supporting tax expenditures. Perhaps the worst offender, in this regard, is Paul D. Ryan. Ryan steadfastly refuses to name a single loophole that he would eliminate. Link

* White House highlights tax fairness ahead of Obama speech. Alister Bull – Reuters. Taxes for America’s highest earners have fallen sharply since 1995, according to a White House report on Tuesday, released ahead of a speech by President Barack Obama on fairness in the tax code that is a key part of his campaign for reelection. The White House estimated the 400 highest income households in the country, who all earned over $110 million, paid an average of 18.1 percent of their income in federal taxes in 2007, well down for 29.9 percent those households paid in 1995.Obama travels to Florida later on Tuesday where he will urge support for the Buffett Rule. Link 

Essential reading:Empire State IPO tax, bankers find opportunity in tax haven crackdown


Welcome to the top tax and accounting headlines from Reuters and other sources.


 * Empire state owners go ape over IPO tax issue. Craig Karmin – The Wall Street Journal. The fight over the proposed Empire State Building public offering has moved to a new battleground: a spat between small investors and the Malkin family over taxes arising from the iconic skyscraper’s coming listing. The tax bill from the initial public offering could more than wipe out any cash many of the 2,800 investors would initially receive from the sale, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The Malkins would be allowed to defer some of their tax and could be reimbursed about $83 million for other tax liabilities, the filings say. Link  

* Labour challenges Osborne over his tax. Jim Pickard – The Financial Times. U.K. Chancellor George Osborne has been challenged by the Labour party to clarify whether he will benefit personally from next year’s cut in the top rate of income tax despite having said last month he was “not personally affected” by the move. When the chancellor announced the cut from 50 percent to 45 percent for those earning 150,000 pounds ($237,500)– to start next April – he prompted questions about whether it would benefit any senior ministers. Link  

* Tax haven crackdown creates opportunities for bankers. Mark Scott – The New York Times. As regulators clamp down on money flows around the globe, governments, even those that prided themselves on the strength of their secrecy laws, like Switzerland, are facing pressure to share banking information and change their policies. Now, private banks and wealth managers are scrambling to convert so-called black money — assets that have not been disclosed — into accounts that are above board. The shift may provide opportunities for the industry. As more funds become legitimate, analysts say financial institutions will be able to sell extra wealth management products to affluent people and enter markets that had previously been off limits. Link  

Tax and accounting calendar

Some important upcoming events in the tax and accounting world:

Tuesday, April 10 -
* House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan will give the keynote address at the George W. Bush Institute forum on tax policies that encourage economic growth in New York. Canadian finance minister James Flaherty will also speak.
* Manal Corwin, Treasury deputy assistant secretary for international tax affairs is the keynote speaker at a one-day tax lecture on the taxation of intangibles in a global economy sponsored by the NYU School of Law and KPMG.

Wednesday, April 11 - The DC Bar is hosting a luncheon program from noon to 2 pm on the legal aspects of representing whistleblowers who are federal employees. Speakers include Daniel Meyer, Director, Whistleblowing and Transparency Office of the Inspector General, at the U.S. Department of Defense.

Thursday, April 12 - The Tax Policy Center, a joint venture of the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution, is sponsoring a program entitled, “Should the Rich Pay Higher Taxes?” from noon to 1:30pm at the Urban Institute with a live webcast as well.

Quality of states’ internal audits varies widely

Mississippi steamboat REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

On March 20 the Center for Public Integrity published a project that had been more than a year in the works. Its ambitious goal: to evaluate each of the 50 states on 13 different measures of integrity.  Campaign finance law, judicial accountability and lobbying disclosure were some of the important topics tackled.

Also among the 13: the quality of each state’s internal auditing.

Internal auditing “tends to be overlooked, obscure and isolated.  But these are really key agencies of accountability,” said Nathaniel Heller, executive director of Global Integrity, an affiliate of the Center that helped design the study.

The Center describes itself as a non-partisan nonprofit that concentrates on ethics and public service, and though critics sometimes describe it as left-leaning, it has a record of critical review of politicians and policies of both parties.

Where do your federal tax dollars go? This White House calculator gives the answer

It’s that time of year – taxes are due in the United States on April 17 — and the Obama administration wants you to know where your tax dollars are going. The White House updated a calculator on Wednesday that aims to show you where your money is being spent,  which federal programs your tax dollars are funding and in what amount.

“Your Federal Taxpayer Receipt” asks for estimates of taxes paid, or lets you choose a category.

For example, a family with $80,000 of income and two children that pays 5 percent into a 401(k) and claims a workers and child care credit should pay about $9,110 in taxes – including those for Medicare and Social Security.

Essential reading: Islamic finance may enter accounting mainstream, tax pitfalls for fund investors, and more


Welcome to the top tax and accounting headlines from Reuters and other sources.

 * Geithner swings back at critics of tax and regulatory policy. Damian Palleta – The Wall Street Journal. Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner sharpened his rebuke of his political and private sector critics on Wednesday, saying many “misread the underlying dynamics of the economy today.” Geithner, in remarks at the Economic Club of Chicago, called out “business lobbyists” and others and said “many have claimed that the basic foundations of American business are in crisis, critically undermined by taxes and regulation.” Link 

* Christie leaning on tax subsidies in hunt for jobs. Charles Bagli – The New York Times. Since taking office in 2010, Republican Gov. Chris Christie has approved a record $1.57 billion in state tax breaks for dozens of New Jersey’s largest companies after they pledged to add jobs. Christie has emphasized that these are prudent measures intended to help heal the state’s economy, which lost more than 260,000 jobs in the recession. The companies often received the tax breaks after they threatened to move to New York or elsewhere. Link  

Questions of tax season

Why do people in California have so many tax questions?

In the last three months,Avvo, a site where people from all over the United States can go for free answers to legal and medical questions, has seen a more than 200 percent climb in its tax-related questions. The area with the most tax questions was Los Angeles, but San Francisco and San Diego  were also leaders in the area.

Josh King, a Seattle lawyer who’s also vice president of business development and general counsel for Avvo, said a lot of the California tax questions are property-related, the leftovers of that state’s real estate meltdown. Among them: the tax implication of short sales and foreclosures, as well as how to get property tax reassessed.

A second big tax category in California is business taxes with questions focused on tax collection and filing requirements.