Tax Break

Tax-free retirement accounts will be hard to touch in tax reform

House Ways and Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-MI), Washington February 15, 2012. REUTERS/ Gary Cameron

The latest in a series of congressional tax committee meetings ahead of the Next Great Tax Code Reform revealed one thing Tuesday: trying to squeeze revenue out of tax-free retirement accounts will be a tough sell.

“Tax Reform” as it is known, generally refers to a process that includes lowering tax rates for most everybody, but takes away special breaks to pay for that. The result, it is hoped, is efficiency and simplicity.

A consensus has been building in Washington – rhetorically at least – that a revamp of the tax code is vital to clean it up and remove endless special breaks. The last re-write took place in 1986.

One of the biggest so-called tax expenditures – or spending through the tax code – is the tax-favored status of saving for retirement in entities like 401ks or individual retirement accounts.

If you think 2011 taxes were bad, wait until this year’s tally

“This is going to be one of the craziest years I’ve seen,” said Mark Steber, chief tax officer for Jackson Hewitt Tax Services. “It’s kind of the perfect tax storm.”

For those of us still smarting from the 2011 tax comeuppance, 2012 is nothing to look forward to.

A host of tax deductions are set to expire by Dec. 31. Together they add up to many billions of dollars in breaks for taxpayers.

Essential Reading: Deductions Romney would target, Buffett Rule politics, more

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

* Romney specifies deductions he would cut. Sara Murray – The Wall Street Journal. In order to offset the 20 percent income tax cut he has proposed for all taxpayers, Romney would eliminate or limit for high-earners the mortgage interest deduction for second homes, and likely would do the same for the state income tax deduction and state property tax deduction. He also said he would look to the Department of Education and the Department of Housing and Urban Development for budget cuts. Link

* Q+A: The ‘Buffett Rule,’ a minimum tax on the rich. Kim Dixon and Patrick Temple-West – Reuters. President Barack Obama and congressional Democrats are laying a political trap for Republicans to be sprung on Monday when the U. S. Senate is slated to vote on the proposed “Buffett Rule,” which would slap a minimum tax on the highest-income Americans. Link

* For Americans abroad, taxes just got more complicated. David Jolly – The New York Times. Americans overseas face a new form that will add to the hassle of tax time for many and, critics say, set up the unwary for penalties. The new requirement comes courtesy of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, or FATCA, an effort to crack down on offshore tax evasion by U.S. citizens. 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.

Tax and accounting calendar

Some important upcoming events in the tax and accounting world:

Monday, April 16 - U.S. taxpayers holding foreign financial assets with an aggregate value exceeding $50,000 after March 18, 2010 must report information about those accounts under FACTA using form 8938, or face stiff penalties.

Tuesday, April  17 -

    Tax day in the United States. Individual income tax returns and gift tax returns due. Tax-writing U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ways and Means will hold a hearing on possible reforms to certain tax-favored retirement savings plans including employer-sponsored defined contribution plans and Individual Retirement Accounts (“IRAs”) that might be considered as part of comprehensive tax reform.  10 am, Room 1100 of the Longworth House Office Building.

Tuesday, April 17 – Friday, April 20 – International Accounting Standards Board meeting in London.

Tuesday, April 17 – Thursday, April 19 – The International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS) Foundation, the World Bank and OHADA (The Organization for the Harmonization of Corporate Law in Africa) will run a workshop in the West African city of Douala, Cameroon, to support adoption of IFRS.

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: 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: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.