Unstructured Finance

Essential reading: IRS gets a new risk officer, and more

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

 * New IRS chief taps GAO’s Fisher as senior adviser. John McKinnon – The Wall Street Journal. Danny Werfel, acting commissioner of the embattled Internal Revenue Service, went outside the agency for a top lieutenant, tapping David Fisher of the Government Accountability Office to be the tax agency’s chief risk officer and senior adviser to the commissioner. Link  

* Republicans stoking fire of IRS scandal with eye toward 2014. Josh Hicks – The Washington Post. Republicans have been trying to take advantage of the Internal Revenue Service’s politically toxic targeting scandal to better position their party for the 2014 midterm elections. And one big area of focus is President Obama’s new health-care law. Link 

* Nokia’s India tax troubles widen. Prasanta Sahu – The Wall Street Journal. India has demanded that Nokia Corp. pay about 2.09 billion rupees ($37.53 million) of taxes that it alleges the Finnish handset maker didn’t pay claiming an exemption given on software exports. Link  

* Gomez faults Markley on tax record in Massachusetts race. Steve LeBlanc – The Associated Press. Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Gabriel Gomez on Tuesday criticized what he said is opponent Edward Markey’s penchant for pushing for higher taxes, rather than spending cuts. Link  

* Kansas tax deal still on the lam. The Kansas City Star. The clouded tax debate at the Kansas Statehouse grew ever more muddled Monday after the House rejected a plan for setting the state sales tax at 6 percent. Link  

Essential reading: Groups test political tax rules, and more

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

 * Groups targeted by IRS tested rules on politics. Nicholas Confessore and Michael Luo – The New York Times. A close examination of some conservative groups and others reveals an array of election activities that tax experts and former IRS officials said would provide a legitimate basis for flagging them for closer review. Link  

* High-end health plans scale back to avoid ‘Cadillac tax’. Reed Abelson – The New York Times. Companies hoping to avoid the tax are beginning to scale back the more generous health benefits they have traditionally offered and to look harder for ways to bring down the overall cost of care. Link  

* Former IRS chief recalls defying Nixon. David Dykes – USA Today. In the early 1970s, when embattled President Richard Nixon sought to use the Internal Revenue Service as a weapon to investigate his enemies, the administration turned to Johnnie Mac Walters, head of the tax agency, to do the dirty work. Walters, now 93, said he refused. Link  


Some important dates in the week ahead:

Tuesday, May 28 • D.C. Bar Taxation Section panel discussion of ethical considerations for state tax professionals. 12 noon – 2 p.m. ET. D.C. Bar Conference Center. Washington.

Wednesday, May 29 • Representatives of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and taxing authorities from around the world speak to the U.N. Economic and Social Council one-day meeting on international tax cooperation, transfer pricing and related matters. U.N. Headquarters. New York.

Thursday, May 30 • D.C. Bar panel on developments in transfer pricing in India and China. 12 noon – 1:30 p.m. ET. D.C. Bar Conference Center. Washington.

Essential reading: Tax moves pit large companies against small, and more

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

 * In tax overhaul debate, large vs small companies. Graham Bowley – The New York Times. Some of the biggest companies in the United States are fighting for a cut in the official corporate tax rate. But the nation’s millions of small businesses fear they will be the ones paying for it. Link  

* States’ rift on taxes widens. Mark Peters – The Wall Street Journal. Minnesota’s move to raise new taxes puts it among a handful of states controlled by Democrats that are adopting more liberal fiscal policies at a time when many Republican-dominated statehouses are pushing to cut taxes. Link 

* The joys of no income tax, the agonies of other kinds. Aman Batheja – The New York Times. In Texas the state’s tax system is not universally beloved. The way the state employs property, sales and business taxes to finance services, particularly education, draws criticism and debate across the political spectrum. Link  

Essential reading: Push on corporate tax rules goes global, and more

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

* Push on corporate tax rules goes global. Howard Schneider – The Washington Post. A global effort to tighten corporate tax rules is gaining momentum as politicians in Europe and the United States take aim at American tech giants whose savvy use of international tax laws has provoked a public backlash. Link    

* Europe pushes to shed stigma of a tax haven. Andrew Higgins – The New York Times. There is relentless pressures being piled on opaque money centers around the world amid a sweeping global assault on tax evasion and the secrecy that enables it. Link    

* Tax fairness top agenda at European summit. Gebriele Steinhauser and Sam Schechner – The Wall Street Journal. Faced with public outrage over tax-evasion scandals at a time of austerity budgets, European leaders pledged Wednesday to ensure that everybody—from high rollers to big multinationals—pay their fair share to cash-strapped governments. Link 

Essential reading: White House knew of IRS scandal in April, and more

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

* IRS inquiry status told to White House in April. Jonathan Weisman and Brian Knowlton – The New York Times. The chief White House lawyer, Kathryn Ruemmler, learned last month that a Treasury inspector general had concluded an audit of the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative groups, weeks before the matter became public, according to a senior White House official. Link 

* How the IRS seeded the clouds in 2010 for a political deluge three years later. Zachary Goldfarb and Kimberly Kindy – The Washington Post. The story of the IRS’s policy of targeting right-leaning groups was one of a bureaucracy caught in a morass of uncertainty and outside pressure. Link    

 * How the IRS spun out of control. Joseph Tanfani – The Los Angeles Times. With little oversight from Washington, agents in Ohio had been singling out some conservative groups for extra scrutiny, seeking to make sure they were not too heavily involved in politics to qualify as tax-exempt. Link    


Some important dates in the week ahead:


 Monday, May 20


Securities and Exchange Commission accountants address SEC financial reporting at the Compliance Week annual conference. Washington.


 Monday, May 20 – Tuesday, May 21


The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants conference on income and estate taxes and high-income taxpayers, and other topics. Las Vegas.


 Monday, May 20 – Wednesday, May 22


The Council on State Taxation program on state income and franchise taxes. New Orleans.

Essential reading: Apple CEO to propose tax overhaul, and more

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

* Apple CEO Tim Cook to propose tax overhaul. Cecilia Kang – The Washington Post. Apple chief executive Tim Cook plans to propose a “dramatic simplification” of corporate tax laws when he testifies for the first time before Congress next week, just as lawmakers are considering an overhaul of the tax code. Link    

 * U.S. Republicans eye Obamacare on the back of IRS controversy. Stephanie Kirchgaessner – The Financial Times. The Internal Revenue Service controversy threatens to complicate implementation of Barack Obama’s 2010 healthcare law, reinforcing Republican opposition to funding the agency’s work on the legislation at a critical moment. Link    

 * The surprisingly muddled history of the 501(c)4 exemption. Jacob Gershman – The Wall Street Journal. It turns out that the origins of section 501(c)(4), providing exemptions for “social welfare” groups, are surprisingly foggy. Link

Essential reading: Tax scandal fells IRS acting chief, and more

President Barack Obama announcing that the Internal Revenue Service acting commissioner had been ousted, May 15, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

Welcome to the top tax and accounting headlines.

 * Tax scandal fells IRS chief. John McKinnon – The Wall Street Journal. The acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service was forced to resign Wednesday in connection with the inappropriate targeting of conservative political groups. Link

* Acting chief of IRS forced out over tea party targeting. Jonathan Weisman – The New York Times. President Obama announced Wednesday night that the acting commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service had been ousted after disclosures that the agency gave special scrutiny to conservative groups. Link  

NJ Governor Chris Christie spotted outside Goldman Sachs

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie shakes hands with Lloyd Blankfein lookalike outside Goldman Sachs on Wednesday

Editor’s note: Updated with reason for Christie’s visit.

These days it seems New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is everywhere, from TV talk shows and radio appearances to accompanying Prince Harry on a well-publicized tour of the devastated Jersey Shore. So maybe it’s not too surprising he was spotted outside of Goldman Sachs’s Lower Manhattan office Wednesday morning. An Unstructured Finance reporter happened to see the sharp-tongued Republican governor walking into 200 West Street just before 11:30. Spokespeople for Goldman and the governor’s office said he was there for the bank’s Global Macro conference, which invites politicians, regulators, diplomats, CEOs and other power players to talk about big-picture trends.

Christie, who filed papers last year to run for re-election in 2014, recently announced that he had gastric bypass surgery to deal with his weight problem and he was looking in good spirits on Wednesday. He had a thick security detail and shook hands with a guy who, from behind, looked like Lloyd Blankfein but turned out not to be. He buttoned his jacket and waved to onlookers on his way into 200 West Street.