Tax Court rules “cash for keys” payment is not ordinary income.

Cash for keys payments have become fairly common in cases of struggling homeowners facing foreclosure.  To avoid a lengthy and expensive foreclosure process, many lenders offer a cash incentive to homeowners to vacate the property quickly and to leave it in good condition.  Often these lenders issue a 1099-Misc to the homeowner showing that the payment is nonemployee compensation which would be taxed to the individuals as ordinary income subject to self employment tax.  In TC Summary Opinion 2016-74 the tax court again confirms that this treatment is not correct.  In the above case, the CPA for the taxpayers included the payment as part of the sales proceeds of the property and not as ordinary income.  The IRS disagreed and assessed additional taxes against them so they went to court.  The tax court agreed with the position taken by the CPA and not the IRS.  Cancellation of debt income is a complex tax issue.  It pays to have competent tax advice from someone such as an Enrolled Agent or CPA if you are facing this issue.

Giving Tuesday

Let’s see, we just had Thanksgiving, then Black Friday to spend our money at stores, Cyber Monday to spend online, and next comes Giving Tuesday if you still have any money left.  Here’s a link from the IRS with some information about tax deductible donations.  If you have any questions regarding what gifts are deductible, let us know.

Energy credits expiring at end of year

Most of the energy credits existing under current federal law expire at the end of 2016.  Solar energy credits have been extended but a variety of credits for energy efficient windows, doors, A/C systems etc expire on December 31st.  For anyone still wishing to take advantage of these credits, the items need to be installed and in use by December 31st.  As a caveat, these credits have expired before and then been reinstated by congress.  Will these credits be extended by the lame duck congress or reinstated in the future?  Well, my crystal ball isn’t working this morning so we will have to stay tuned to see what happens.

CA sales tax decreases on 1/1/2017

Good news for CA taxpayers!  A temporary increase to sales tax approved by voters expires on 12/31/2016.  In 2017 the rate drops by .25%.  So for all of those looking to purchase your newly approved recreational marijuana, you will pay slightly less in sales tax.  However, there are cultivation taxes, a 15% statewide excise tax and local governments can also add local taxes to your cannabis purchases.

Another group of IRS scammers arrested

Twenty people were recently arrested in another fake IRS scam.  This one involved call centers in India and runners doing some of the ground work in the US.  These scammers convinced people that they would be arrested if they didn’t make immediate payments through a variety of gift cards.  The real IRS does not accept gift cards to pay tax bills.  But, they have set up locations where tax payments can be made in cash through authorized vendors.  For details on this new program see here.

Alleged Trump tax records have major discrepancy

It seems that the press has been obsessed in the last few days about an alleged loss that Donald Trump had 21 years ago.  First off, sharing confidential tax return information is against the law so the tax records were illegally obtained.  Second there is a major discrepancy in the pages shared by the NY Times.  Being a tax person, I was curious what was shown on the return so I looked it up on google.

There is nothing from Trumps 1995 federal return but there are 3 pages from different state returns, one page each from New York, Connecticut and New Jersey.  The NY and CT returns show the 900+ million dollar loss that has been reported widely in the press.  But, the NJ return shows income from all sources to be a positive of over 19 million dollars, roughly 1.5 million of that coming from NJ sources.  So, did he make 19 million or lose 900 million.  Apparently, the 900 million dollar loss is a better story so they went with that.  By the way, sharing confidential tax information is a crime so I will not be providing a link to the pages, but I’ll bet if you search for Trump tax records and NY times you can find it… unless they remove it from their site.

Another Day, Another Impeachment Hearing for IRS Commish

Although it has been demonstrated that numerous things Commissioner Koskinen testified to congress have proven to be false, he will likely not face any consequences for his actions.  Regarding the attempts to comply with a 2013 congressional subpoena to turn over to congress all communications from Lois Lerner during the time period of the targeting scandal, he told congress in the summer of 2014 that thousands of employee hours and millions of dollars had been spent in the effort to comply with the subpoena.  When in fact, virtually nothing was done to comply with it.  The IT technology chief issued a preservation order to preserve all emails, but that direction never went to those responsible for recycling (erasing) old hard drives and back up tapes.  When the Inspector General drove to that office in Martinsburg Virginia and requested related information, they received some back up tapes with roughly 1,000 emails from Lois Lerner.  They told the IG that they had never received any communication from anyone regarding the need to preserve anything related to the targeting scandal.  Here’s a link that discusses the timeline for the destruction of evidence relating to the congressional subpoena. So, what happened to the two employees blamed for destroying 422 back up tapes containing the information in the subpoena?  Absolutely nothing.  They have both been transferred to different positions but still work at the IRS.  It appears the only people capable of holding crooked politicians accountable are the voters.