Tax Break

Essential reading: As governor, Romney picked winners and losers, no taxes for Lagarde, and more

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

* As governor, Romney picked winners and losers of his own. Andy Sullivan – Reuters. Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s June 2006 announcement that drugmaker Bristol-Myers Squibb was moving into his state served as a signature accomplishment. The new facility came with a price tag: Romney and other state officials agreed to $67 million in tax breaks and other inducements to ensure the New York-based company picked Massachusetts over rival states like North Carolina. Romney backed tax breaks for film makers and biotech and medical-device manufacturers. His administration promoted venture capital-style funds that extended loans to start-up companies, some of which subsequently went out of business. Link

* Christine Lagarde, scourge of tax evaders, pays no tax. Kim Willsher – The Guardian. Christine Lagarde, the IMF boss who caused international outrage after she suggested in an interview with the Guardian on Friday that beleaguered Greeks might do well to pay their taxes, pays no taxes, it has emerged. As she is an official of an international institution, her salary of $467,940 (£298,675) a year plus $83,760 additional allowance a year is not subject to any taxes. Link

* Anti-tax crusader assails report on Republican shift. Patrick Temple-West – Reuters. Anti-tax crusader Grover Norquist, scourge of any and all tax increases, said on Tuesday that a news report questioning the vitality of his “no new taxes” pledge – a vow taken by many Republican politicians – is overblown. Republicans who have not signed the pledge may be in congressional races they are unlikely to win anyway, while other candidates have rules against signing pledges, he said. Link 

* Japan PM, Ozawa still apart on tax, opposition deal beckons. Tetsushi Kajimoto – Reuters. Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda edged closer on Wednesday to a possible deal with the opposition to push through his plan to double the sales tax, after party heavyweight Ichiro Ozawa refused to support his signature initiative. Former finance minister Noda has pledged to bring the plan to a vote in the current session of parliament that ends on June 21, and requires masterful maneuvering to get it passed. Link

* ‘Pasty tax’ u-turn signals uncertainty for UK business. Ainsley Thomson – The Wall Street Journal. Following Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne’s u-turn, the meat-filled pastry and parked mobile homes have come to symbolize a government that is prepared to reverse a budget measure if it proves unpopular enough. There is also a significant negative side. The u-turn risks undermining one of the central conditions the annual budget statement is meant to foster: certainty. Link

Essential reading: Private equity defends deductions, Brazil’s tax “lion,” and more

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

* Private equity defends business-debt deductions. John McKinnon – The Wall Street Journal. A private-equity group will release a report on Tuesday that attacks one of the central tenets of many tax-overhaul plans in Washington – the idea of curbing deductibility of business debt. Limiting debt deductibility could raise the effective tax rate on new investment and could well stifle growth, said the Private Equity Growth Capital Council, a trade group. The group says that a limit on deductibility of interest expenses in exchange for a 1.5 percentage point reduction in the corporate rate, “would increase the marginal effective tax rate on new corporate investment from 31.0 percent to 33.1 percent. Link

* House bill shields defense from cuts. Janet Hook and Damian Paletta – The Wall Street Journal. House Republicans, seeking to prevent defense-spending cuts at the end of the year, advanced a plan that would instead reduce spending on health-care programs, food aid and other major domestic initiatives of the Obama administration. Democrats agree that the arbitrary cuts should be replaced with a more carefully calibrated budget agreement, but they want a mix of defense cuts, tax increases and domestic spending cuts. Many Republicans oppose any tax increases and want to avoid the $55 billion in scheduled defense cuts next year and partially replace them with cuts in domestic entitlement programs such as Medicaid. Link

* Brazil’s secret fiscal weapon: the tax “lion.” Alonso Soto – Reuters. In Brazil, groups of armed agents fly around the country by helicopter, pounding on doors and instilling fear in the hearts of those who break the law. They’re not the police – they’re from the tax agency. The Federal Revenue Service will be one of the most important keys to Brazil’s economic prospects in 2012. President Dilma Rousseff is counting on the agency’s tax-collecting prowess to help her government meet ambitious budget targets without smothering the country’s suddenly brittle economy. Link

State tax revenues up in 2011, but not booming

Tax collections rose in all 50 states last year, according to the U.S. Census bureau, as our colleague Lisa Lambert reported Thursday.

“The nationwide increases in state government tax revenue are an indication of the stabilization of revenues for state governments,” Lisa Blumerman, chief of the Governments Division at the Census, was quoted as saying.

Stable but not booming, according to a Rockefeller Institute analysis of that data, which finds overall tax revenue is still down significantly from pre-recession levels in 2008.
Source: Rockefeller Institute analysis of Census Bureau data.

Essential reading: Obamas and Bidens release tax returns, challenge Romney, and more

U.S. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden in Washington February 21, 2012. REUTERS/Jason Reed

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

* Obamas and Bidens to release tax returns. Mark Landler and Jim Rutenberg – The New York Times. President Barack Obama and Vice President Joseph Biden plan to release their own income tax returns on Friday, along with a statement calling on Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney to do the same, according to an Obama campaign official. Link

* Swiss can’t offer more to Germany, US in tax row-fin min. Catherine Bosley – Reuters. Switzerland cannot make further concessions to Germany and the United States in a dispute over untaxed funds in secret bank accounts, Swiss Finance Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf was quoted as saying in a newspaper interview on Friday. Widmer-Schlumpf also said France and Italy were likely to be watching these developments before themselves seeking agreements to claw back taxes. 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: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  

Surprise, your brain might value paying taxes

For today’s “man bites dog” bulletin, a recent academic paper studying the relationship between behavior and taxes has found people gain value, or “utility,” from paying taxes.

Yes, tucked in the subconscious reaches of your brain is a notion that taxes are a social good. The problem for tax writers: The tax code is so complex that people do not associate the communal value with tax payments.

The paper - ”Tax affinity hypothesis: Do we really hate paying taxes?” - was published in February by a professor and a former student at Wesleyan University in the Journal of Economic Psychology.

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

Essential tax and accounting reading: Bain’s IRAs, E&Y cleared on Olympus, Biden attacks Romney tax plan, and more

* Germany to agree to tougher Swiss tax deal-paper. Emma Thomasson – Reuters. Germany is set to agree a revised deal with Switzerland on secret offshore accounts that involves higher rates of taxes than originally planned to meet objections from the opposition, a Swiss newspaper reported on Thursday. Citing unnamed sources, the Tages-Anzeiger daily said German state premiers meeting in Berlin on Thursday should sign off on the deal after the opposition Social Democrats (SPD) and Greens apparently accepted Swiss concessions to tighten the agreement. Link

* Panel clears Ernst & Young unit in Olympus scandal. Kana Inagaki – The Wall Street Journal. Closing another chapter in probes into the scandal that rocked Olympus Corp. last year, an independent panel of lawyers and professors on Thursday cleared Ernst & Young ShinNihon LLC of legal responsibility in its audit of the company’s accounts. But the panel also called on the accounting industry to take measures that go beyond existing legal obligations to better spot potential fraud. Ernst & Young ShinNihon commissioned the four-member panel in December after a separate panel appointed by Olympus’ board raised questions over the hand-over process when Ernst & Young took over the auditing of the company from KPMG AZSA LLC in 2009. KPMG AZSA audited Olympus’ accounts from 1974 to 2009. Link

* Cameron hits back over claims of elitism. George Parker – The Financial Times. British Prime Minister David Cameron has attempted to dispel Labour claims that he leads an elitist “out of touch” government, when he declared his love of Cornish pasties, one of the hot foods that will be taxed more under budget value-added tax rules. The comments came after George Osborne announced a Budget measure on takeaway food, putting a 20 per cent VAT charge on food “sold above ambient temperatures” – immediately named a “pasty tax”. Labour has revelled in the government’s discomfort. Link

Essential tax and accounting reading: taxing the rich, MF Global accounting under review, Simpson-Bowles cuts get a vote, tax hike helps New York budget, and more

Fiscal Commission co-chairs Alan Simpson (L) and Erskine Bowles April 14, 2011. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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

* The case for raising top tax rates. Eduardo Porter – The New York Times. The wealthy are feeling defensive about their taxes. Most Americans may think the rich pay too little but, not surprisingly, only 30 percent of the rich agree. More than two-thirds of families earning a quarter of a million dollars a year or more tell Gallup’s pollsters that their taxes are too high. It is true that high-income Americans carry the biggest tax burden. While fewer than 1 in 20 families make more than $200,000, they pay almost half of all federal taxes. However they feel about the tax man, there is a case to be made that they can pay much more. The reason has nothing to do with fairness, justice or ideology. It is about economics and math. Link

* US FASB weighs reform to accounting used by MF Global. Sarah Lynch – Reuters. The U.S. accounting standard-setting board could this year revamp the accounting treatment that MF Global used to mask risky European sovereign debt exposure, an official at the board will tell lawmakers on Wednesday. “Moving forward with this project will involve a series of public education and decision-making meetings and the exposure of a proposed standard for public comment,” said Financial Accounting Standards Board Technical Director Susan Cosper in prepared testimony. Cosper noted that while historically most repo-to-maturity transactions have involved U.S. Treasury securities, the range of instruments involved has broadened over the years to include other debt instruments such as those seen in the MF Global case. Link