Tax Break

What is a roof? The IRS needs to know

Actor Paul Newman (L) and Elizabeth Taylor are shown in this undated publicity photograph from their 1958 film "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof." REUTERS/Handout (UNITED STATES)

“Maggie ‘the Cat’: You know what I feel like? I feel all the time like a cat on a hot tin roof.  (from Tennessee Williams, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”)

The Internal Revenue Service has its own problem with roofs these days. An IRS employee in Atlanta sent a letter last week to his own agency asking what exactly qualifies as a roof. Shingles? A waterproof cover?

Why, you ask, does the IRS need to specify what is a roof? It matters for accounting purposes.

In December, the IRS issued new rules to clarify the difference between a business expense that is a repair and tax-deductible and one that is an improvement but not deductible right away.

Tax and Accounting Calendar

Mary Schapiro, Chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission REUTERS/Yuri Gripas

Some events in the week ahead:

Tuesday, February 21

The Taxpayer Advocacy Panel Small Business/Self-Employed Decreasing Non-Filers Project Committee telephonic open meeting, 10 a.m. EST.

Tuesday, February 21 – Thursday, February 23

The Tax Executives Institute will sponsor a three-day seminar in San Diego, California, on audits, appeals and tax controversies, covering topics including winning at appeals, international tax controversy and building an effective transfer pricing case. Sheldon M. Kay, deputy chief of IRS Appeals, will be the Tuesday luncheon speaker.

Map of identity theft cases in January 2012

Criminal Investigation Activity January 2012A major IRS and Justice Department crackdown on identity theft shows how widespread and common it has become. Tuesday the tax collector announced that a national sweep had led to 69 indictments, targeting 105 people in 23 states,  including cases where people are alleged to have impersonated the dead, the mentally disabled and citizens of Puerto Rico in order to get their hands on millions in fraudulent tax refunds.

The government asserts that it stopped $1.4 billion in bad refunds last year, up from $262 million in 2010.

You can get a full version of the graphic by clicking on the map here or by going to the IRS site at

Taxes not just certain, they’re right thing to do-survey

Internal Revenue Service office near Times Square in New York.

Most Americans believe strongly that it’s a civic duty to pay their “fair share” in taxes, that cheating on taxes is wrong and that cheaters should be held accountable, said a survey from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service’s Oversight Board released on Monday.

Created by Congress in 1998 to keep an eye on the IRS, the oversight board does its survey annually. This year’s is consistent with past results showing strong support for the tax obligations of citizenship and low tolerance for those who shirk it.

Despite chatter on the political fringes about taxes being a form of theft, 96 percent of those surveyed said they completely or mostly agreed that  ”it is every American’s civic duty to pay their fair share of taxes.”

Tax clips from the Web: Best states for business tax, slow IRS returns and a very wealthy candidate


Republican presidential hopeful Mitt Romney released his 2010 tax returns to the public, shedding some light on what puts him among America’s top income earners. This chart on CNNMoney has been making the rounds all week, showing tax breakdowns for Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich and President Obama.

Anyone who was expecting Romney’s 2010 tax filing to expose the candidate for unscrupulous manipulations of the tax law was delivered a goose egg. The returns did show a tax rate of 13.9 percent for the multimillionaire, but due to the laws on taxation of investment income, this was exactly the amount that Mr. and Mrs. Romney were required to pay, Forbes’s Tax Girl blog writes.

Is something of a seismic shift happening in American rhetoric over taxes? Politico polled members of Congress this week and found that Democrats largely agree with the sentiment that tax increases are now needed to address an expanding gap between wealth levels in the U.S. This suggests the tax issue may have the potential to remake the campaigns for many Democrats, including the president.

The tax code ‘ambiguous’? Supreme Court to decide

A $6 million tax bill landed before the Supreme Court on Tuesday, leaving the justices to determine the will of Congress and the high court’s own decisions from more than 50 years ago. (See the Reuters  preview here.)

The case centers on a law from 1954 in which Congress granted the Internal Revenue Service an extended statute of limitations to ferret out tax cheats when the taxpayer “omits from gross income” more than 25 percent of his or her tax liability.

The tax shelter at issue – known as Son of Boss transaction – claimed fake tax losses, or an “overstatement of basis.”