Tax Break

Essential tax and accounting reading: Obama wants Romney tax returns, battling over big oil breaks, Japan’s mega sales tax, and more

U.S. President Barack Obama walks past a pumpjack, New Mexico, March 21, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed

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

* Obama campaign seeks Romney tax returns. Mark Maremont – The Wall Street Journal. President Barack Obama’s re-election campaign called on Republican front-runner Mitt Romney to release his tax returns dating back to the 1980s, to see if they contain information about an uncommon investment arrangement at his former private-equity firm that may have helped swell his individual retirement account. The request follows a page-one article in The Wall Street Journal on Thursday that recounted how employees at the firm, Bain Capital, were allowed to invest their retirement money in companies the firm acquired, including investing through a special share class that could skyrocket in value in successful deals. Romney’s IRA was valued at between $20.7 million and $101.6 million as of August, according to his financial disclosures. Link

* GOP blocks Obama’s effort to end tax breaks for big oil. Zachary Goldfarb and Brad Plumer – The Washington Post. President Obama on Thursday called on Congress to end tax breaks for oil companies in a populist speech that sought to turn the blame for gas prices nearing $4 a gallon back onto his Republican critics. In fiery, campaign-style remarks delivered from the Rose Garden, Obama told lawmakers that they can “stand with big oil companies, or they can stand with the American people.” Senate Democrats followed by forcing a vote to end tax cuts for the five largest oil companies, which Republicans resoundingly defeated. Link

* House vote sets up Republican budget as manifesto, target. David Lawder – Reuters. House Republicans passed congressman Paul Ryan’s deficit-cutting budget plan on Thursday, setting it up as a central theme for their election-year campaign efforts and as a target for Democratic attacks over its proposed healthcare cuts. The Ryan blueprint, which proposes to cut tax rates and slow the growth of federal debt at the expense of social programs, won House approval by a vote of 228-191, with Democrats unanimously opposed. Ten Republicans also voted no, reflecting desires among fiscal conservatives for even deeper spending cuts. Link

* Japan govt submits tax hike plan, heads into political showdown. Rie Ishiguro and Stanley White – Reuters. Japan’s government on Friday submitted laws to double its sales tax by 2015 to fund swelling social security costs in the world’s fastest-ageing nation, setting up a showdown that could split the ruling party, force early elections and deepen policy paralysis. Link

Essential tax and accounting reading:oil tax breaks challenged, Dow pushes R&D credit, Buffett’s company in tax dispute, and more

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

* Bill ending oil company tax cuts clears Senate hurdle. Ayesha Rascoe and Richard Cowan – Reuters. Legislation repealing tax breaks for major oil companies passed its first hurdle in the Senate on Monday, but is unlikely to become law, as Republicans and Democrats seek to score political points over rising gasoline prices. The Senate voted 92 to 4 to proceed with consideration on the bill that would eliminate billions of dollars in tax breaks for the “big five” oil companies: Exxon Mobil Corp, BP Plc, ConocoPhillips, Chevron Corp and Royal Dutch Shell Plc. The lopsided vote in favor of moving ahead with consideration of the oil tax cuts bill reflected political maneuvering in the chamber, not actual support for the measure. Link

* Dow court cases pushes limit of R&D tax credit. Patrick Temple-West and Ernest Scheyder – Reuters. Dow Chemical Co is challenging the U.S. Internal Revenue Service in a rare court case over expanding the research and development tax credit to cover the costs of supplies used to improve the ways existing products are made. Oral arguments are set for Thursday at the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York in a case that pits Union Carbide, a wholly owned subsidiary of Dow, against the IRS. A win for Dow would widen the scope of the R&D credit – a mainstay of the corporate tax code that costs U.S. taxpayers roughly $7 billion a year – at a time when corporate tax breaks, in general, are under scrutiny in Washington. Link

* New CEO at accounting firm BDO USA aims for growth. Nanette Byrnes – Reuters. The 270 partners of accounting firm BDO USA selected Wayne Berson, 50, as their leader for the next four years, it was announced on Monday. BDO USA, with $572 million in U.S. fee income last year, is the seventh-largest accounting firm in the country, according to International Accounting Bulletin. Link

Essential tax and accounting reading: Californians support tax hikes, dividend taxes, $1 trillion of tax breaks, inheritance tax, and more

California coast REUTERS/Mike Blake

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

* Strong majority back Jerry Brown’s tax-hike initiative-poll. Anthony York – The Los Angeles Times. California voters strongly support Gov. Jerry Brown’s new proposal to increase the sales tax and raise levies on upper incomes to help raise money for schools and balance the state’s budget, according to a new USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll. Sixty-four percent of those surveyed said they supported the governor’s measure, which he hopes to place on the November ballot. It would hike the state sales tax by a quarter-cent per dollar for the next four years and create a graduated surcharge on incomes of more than $250,000 that would last seven years. Link

* Will a dividend-tax hike spoil the party. Jack Hough – The Wall Street Journal. Apple’s dividend announcement this past week is good news for income investors, but bad news might be lurking around the corner. Unless Congress takes action, the top tax rate for the highest earners on most dividends, currently 15 percent, is set to jump to a whopping 43.4 percent next year. That is a maximum income-tax rate of 39.6 percent —since dividends will once again be taxed as regular income — plus a 3.8 percent tax on investment income as part of the health-care overhaul passed in 2009. Link

* Tax breaks exceed $1 trillion: Report. John McKinnon – The Wall Street Journal. A congressional report detailing the value of major tax breaks shows they amount to more than $1 trillion a year — roughly the size of the annual federal budget deficit — and benefit wide swaths of the population. The new report, by the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service, underscores how far-reaching many of the tax breaks are. They include the exclusion from taxable income for employer-provided health insurance, the biggest break, at $164.2 billion a year in 2014; the exclusion for employer-provided pensions, the second-biggest, at $162.7 billion; and the exclusions for Medicare and Social Security benefits. Link

Essential tax and accounting reading: PCAOB and U.S. Chamber clash on auditor rotation, IRS auditing rich more, Amazon’s taxing times, missing parts of Ryan’s plan, and more

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

* Top watchdog, U.S. Chamber clash on auditor rotation. Dean Aubin – Reuters. At a forum on whether corporations should be required by regulation to switch auditors every few years, Public Company Accounting Oversight Board Chairman James Doty clashed with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The chamber had written the PCAOB urging it to withdraw a white paper that it issued asking for public comment on auditor rotation. Doty said that the PCAOB has been looking at other ways of improving audit quality at the two-day forum. He suggested it was important for the PCAOB to look into rotation so it could have input on an issue being considered in other countries. Link

* IRS audit rate jumps for U.S. millionaires. Reuters. U.S. tax officials are looking more closely at the tax filings of multimillionaire earners, with the audit rate for those making more than $10 million a year jumping in 2011, according to newly released documents. The Internal Revenue Service audited about 30 percent of the returns of those with adjusted gross income of $10 million or more in 2011, according to statistics released on Thursday. By contrast, in 2010, the agency audited about 18 percent of that group. Link

* UK’s Osborne takes heat over budget’s ‘Granny Tax.’ Cassell Bryan-Low and Nicholas Winning – The Wall Street Journal. UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne faced a public backlash on Thursday as his budget — pitched as a determined move to fix the economy through austerity — instead was assailed as pandering to the rich while hitting pensioners with what was quickly dubbed a “granny tax.” The budget spat began Wednesday, when Osborne included a provision dropping the country’s top personal income-tax rate to 45 percent from 50 percent for those who earn more than 150,000 pounds ($198,600) annually. At the same time, the budget included a measure freezing a threshold above which people pay income taxes, which will result in slightly higher payments for some pensioners over time. Link

Essential tax and accounting reading: GOP budget detailed, EU transfer tax fading, Australia taxes mining, UK and Switzerland settle, and more

A stack reclaimer with a pile of iron ore at the Rio Tinto Parker Point ship loading terminal in western Australia

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

* Republican budget draws election contrast with Obama. David Lawder – Reuters. Paul Ryan’s proposed budget plan would shrink deficits to $3.13 trillion over 10 years – less than half the size of the deficit projected under President Barack Obama’s plan. It would dismantle Obama’s 2010 healthcare reform law and make deep cuts to federal employee pensions and to social programs such as food stamps and the Medicaid healthcare program for the poor. The Ryan plan proposes to grind down public debt as a share of economic output to 63.5 percent by 2021, compared with 76.3 percent under Obama’s plan. It was 67.7 percent at the end of 2011. Link

* UK budget to juggle politics of austerity. Matt Falloon – Reuters. British finance minister George Osborne looks set to divert attention from the country’s limp economy with politically driven tax measures in Wednesday’s budget, aiming to appease both parties in the ruling coalition and keep financial markets onside. He may remove a 50 percent income tax band for the highest earners. The Conservatives say that high a levy is a barrier to aspiration, while the Labour opposition say it is a fair way to spread the pain. To please the Liberal Democrats, the junior coalition partner, Osborne is expected to raise the income tax threshold by more than previously announced to 9,000 pounds ($14,300), which may please some low and middle earners. Link

Essential tax and accounting reading:GOP tax reform, Apple’s cash moves, Irish increasingly anti-tax, EU financial transaction tax and more

Apple CEO Tim Cook REUTERS/Robert Galbraith

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

*  Republican budget plan seeks to play up tax reform. David Lawder, Donna Smith and Richard Cowan – Reuters. A much-anticipated budget plan due on Tuesday from Republicans in the House of Representatives includes sweeping tax reforms that cut rates and pare down individual income tax brackets from six to two – 10 percent and 25 percent. The plan, which aims to deflect potential fallout from controversial Medicare reforms ahead of November elections, also would nearly eliminate taxes on overseas profits and reduce the domestic corporate tax rate to 25 percent. Even though the plan has almost no chance of becoming law, Republican lawmakers believe that focusing on tax reform will draw a stark contrast with Democratic President Barack Obama’s budget plan and be popular with voters. Link

 

* Amazon growth under threat from sales tax. Barney Jopson – The Financial Times. Amazon faces a growing threat to its sales according to a survey in which 50 percent of shoppers said they would be likely to buy less from the retailer if it were to collect sales tax. In a Citigroup survey, 52 percent of Amazon shoppers who do not currently pay sales tax on the site said having to do so would slightly, moderately or greatly decrease the likelihood of their buying a product from the retailer. Amazon does not collect sales tax in most U.S. states where it does not have a physical presence – but several initiatives are under way to make it start to do so amid criticism by bricks-and-mortar retailers that it exploits a loophole. Link  

Tax and accounting calendar

Some important events in the week ahead:    Monday, March 19 – Wednesday, March 21  The Institute of Internal Auditors will hold its general audit management conference. in Orlando, Florida.    Monday, March 19 – Friday, March 23 International Accounting Standards Board meeting in London.

Tuesday, March 20  

·         The Senate Finance Committee hearing, “Tax Fraud by Identity Theft, Part 2: Status, Progress, and Potential Solutions” will start at  10 a.m. in Room 215 of the Dirksen Senate Office Building. Testifying will be Steven T. Miller, IRS deputy commissioner for services and enforcement, Ronald A. Cimino, Justice Department deputy assistant attorney general for criminal matters, and National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson.

 ·         The House Financial Services Committee has scheduled a hearing on the state of the international financial system that will also begin at  10 a.m. but in Room 2128 of the Rayburn House Office Building. Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner will testify.

Essential tax and accounting reading: a high-profile Deloitte resignation, Tea Party challenges Hatch, UK taxes, capital gains, and more

Senator Orrin Hatch (R-UT) REUTERS/Benjamin Myers

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

* Deloitte’s Boshiwa exit a precursor to more China auditor resignations. Rachel Armstrong – Reuters. Deloitte’s resignation as auditor of a Hong Kong-listed childrenswear company this week could be the first in a run of accountant departures from Chinese companies in the coming weeks as the audit season draws to an end. Last year’s spate of accounting scandals at U.S.-listed Chinese companies has made auditors more alert to the risk of financial irregularities and the consequences for them if they’re found to be negligent. It’s during the audit process, which usually finishes at the end of April, that problems come to the surface. Deloitte resigned from Boshiwa International Holdings, which holds the license to make Harry Potter- and Bob the Builder-branded clothes, saying it was not satisfied at the company’s response to questions about some of its transactions. Link  

* Geithner: Economy on the mend, still needs help. Glenn Somerville – Reuters. The economy shows encouraging signs of early expansion but still faces tough challenges that call for measures to create jobs to help restore fiscal sustainability, Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said on Thursday. In prepared remarks for delivery to the Economic Club of New York, Geithner said one way to sustain growth momentum was tax reform. The Obama administration is aiming for some tax increases for wealthy Americans, though that is opposed by Republicans. The corporate tax code is “a complex and unfair mess of subsidies…with a very high statutory rate,” he said. Link

Essential tax and accounting reading: UK tax probe of eBay sellers, Swiss advisers, public transit subsidy, and more

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

* Senate backs return of higher transit subsidy. Eric Yoder – The Washington Post. The maximum tax-free subsidy that employers can pay for their workers to use public transit in their commuting would nearly double to $240 a month under a provision in the transportation bill the Senate passed Wednesday. The maximum had been $230 a month in 2009-2011 under a series of temporary laws, but when a further extension wasn’t passed by the end of last year, the amount reverted to its previous level of $125 a month. Meanwhile, a subsidy for parking at commuter lots to take public transportation rose from $230 to $240 a month due to an inflation adjustment. Link

* Two Swiss financial advisers accused of helping U.S. taxpayers hide money. Lynnley Browning – Reuters. Prosecutors in New York on Wednesday indicted two Swiss financial advisers, one a former private banker at financial giant UBS AG, on charges of conspiring to help wealthy Americans hide $267 million in secret bank accounts. In separate indictments, one of them alleging that a child was used to carry cash to a client, charges were brought against Hans Thomann, 61, and Josef Beck, 46. Both live in Switzerland, but they worked separately from each other. Link  

* Tax probe on eBay sellers comes under fire. Vanessa Houlder – The Financial Times. The UK revenue agency’s approach to tackling evasion risks “missing the bigger picture,” advisers said on Wednesday after it launched a targeted campaign aimed at eBay traders. Gary Ashford of the Chartered Institute of Taxation, a professional body, said launching campaigns aimed at specific groups every few weeks was confusing and risked diluting the anti-evasion message. The institute called on Inland Revenue to focus its efforts on a one-off national campaign open to all taxpayers whose affairs were not up to date. Link  

Essential tax and accounting reading: defending big oil’s taxes, taxing the rich, risky deductions, and the payroll tax cut’s impact

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

 
* Big oil, bigger taxes. The Wall Street Journal editorial. President Obama says he wants to end subsidies for what he calls “the fuel of the past,” but lucky for him oil and gas will be the fuels of the future too. His budget-deficit blowout would be so much worse without Big Oil, because the truth is that this industry is subsidizing the government. Much, much worse, actually. The federal Energy Information Administration reports that the industry paid some $35.7 billion in corporate income taxes in 2009, the latest year for which data are available. That alone is about 10 percent of non-defense discretionary spending—and it would cover a lot of Solyndras. That figure also doesn’t count excise taxes, state taxes and rents, royalties, fees and bonus payments. All told, the government rakes in $86 million from oil and gas every day—far more than from any other business. Link

* Most Americans back “Buffett tax”:Reuters/Ipsos. Kevin Drawbaugh – Reuters. Nearly two-thirds of Americans support imposing a minimum tax rate of 30 percent on those who earn $1 million or more a year, according to Reuters/Ipsos poll results released on Tuesday. The poll showed that 64 percent of those surveyed favored a “Buffett tax” as proposed by the Obama administration and named for multibillionaire investor Warren Buffett, who backs it. The poll said that support for the Buffett tax was strongest among Democrats, at 76 percent, but also significant among Republicans, with 49 percent of them viewing it favorably. Link  

* Senate defeats tax break for natural gas trucks. Roberta Rampton – Reuters. A bipartisan proposal to provide tax incentives for natural gas vehicles was defeated in a Senate vote on Tuesday, but a key backer of the bill said it will be revised and reintroduced to address concerns from industry. The five-year plan was designed to spur purchases of long-haul trucks and commercial vehicles that can run on cheap and abundant U.S. natural gas. The amendment to the Senate’s highway bill needed 60 votes to pass, but was rejected in a 51-47 vote after conservative groups panned it as an unnecessary subsidy. Link