Law Feed

Can't sleep? You're not alone in these trying, tax and otherwise, times. (Photo by Andrea Piacquadio via Pexels) 2020 has been, at best, a difficult year and we're not even halfway through. For these first five months, millions of us have been facing each day a barrage of concerns that are producing a continual level of extraordinary stress. In addition to our normal day-to-day anxieties, we've been dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, its unemployment and financial fallout, the recent deaths African Americans at the hands of individuals and while in law enforcement custody, heated and escalating political messaging in a... Read more →


Some people. Trying to survive a global pandemic isn't enough for them. They have to go and break the law, too. I'm not talking about defying a state's closure order or hawking subpar face masks online. Nope, two New England businessmen this week became the first individuals to be arrested and charged with fraud in connection with the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The small business assistance program was created as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help companies struggling due to the effects of the virus. David A. Staveley of Andover, Massachusetts, and David... Read more →


Are you having some trouble getting fired up for Super Bowl LIV? I feel ya. It's hard when your team isn't one of the competitors. But as a lifelong Dallas Cowboys fan, I've learned over the last 24 years — yes, that's how long it's been since Them Cowboys were in the National Football League championship game — creative ways to pique my interest in the annual match-up. This year, for example, it's pretty easy to find a reason to watch. Kansas City Chief's star quarterback Patrick Mahomes is not only a native Texan like the hubby and me, but... Read more →


Detroit police inspecting illegal alcohol distilling equipment found in a clandestine underground brewery during Prohibition. (Photo: National Archives and Records Administration via Wikipedia Commons) Last week was the 100th anniversary of a momentous, and eventually failed, effort by U.S. lawmakers to control public actions. Following ratification of the 18th Amendment in 1919, Congress followed up with the National Prohibition Act, commonly referred to as the Volstead Act. It outlawed the production, distribution and transportation of alcohol. The United States officially went dry on Jan. 17, 1920. Not only did Prohibition, authorized by the 18th Amendment, fail to stop Americans from... Read more →


IRS building by David Boeke via Flickr CC A lot of former Internal Revenue Service employees take the lessons they learned on that job and create second careers as tax advisers and preparers. That's a nice professional segue. Going from being part of the U.S. tax collection machine to helping folks pay Uncle Sam as little as legally possible. But it needs to be done after IRS employees leave their government job. One current IRS staffer in the agency's Andover, Massachusetts, service center was, to borrow a tax term, double dipping. Worse, federal prosecutors say she filed almost 600 false... Read more →


Congress played Santa this week, averting a government shutdown and approving a wide variety of anticipated tax breaks. Merry Christmas U.S. taxpayers. H.R. 1865, the Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, is now law. In a surprise move earlier this month, House and Senate negotiators cobbled together a massive bill that not only, as the name indicates, assures that the federal government stays open, but which also included some long-awaited (at least by those who will benefit) expired tax provisions. In addition, lawmakers corrected — and by corrected, I mean repealed — some obvious — and by obvious, I mean universally... Read more →


Folks who cheat on their taxes to pocket extra dollars are infuriating enough to those of us struggling to do everything right on our 1040 forms. Folks who go to extremes to evade taxes are even more maddening. The Internal Revenue Service, however, has some good news for us here. It's Criminal Investigation (CI) unit is catching and convicting these tax criminals at a commendable rate. A 91.2 percent conviction rate in 2019, to be precise. That's among the highest of all federal law enforcement agencies, according to the IRS. And CI, which detailed that conviction rate and other successes... Read more →


Record-setting Cyber Monday sales means more porches across the United States will look like this. But the remote sales' boost to state tax coffers wasn't as big as some expected. $9.4 billion. That's how much U.S. shoppers spent on the just-passed Cyber Monday. That was nearly 20 percent more than last year's $7.9 billion tally for the annual and over-hyped Monday-after-Thanksgiving online shopping day. Obviously, the $9.4 billion in sales is a Cyber Monday record. Also obviously, all those online transactions will help out the state treasuries that now, in the wake of the Supreme Court's Wayfair 2018 decision, are... Read more →


Current state and local taxes deduction limit on federal Form 1040 Schedule A. We're wrapping up the second full year of living with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) but some things still feel unfinished. Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service continue to issue guidance on various provisions, tax forms still are being tweaked, economists can't agree on the tax bill's economic effects and a key legal battle is still raging. The courtroom drama is about, you guessed it, TCJA's $10,000 limit on state and local taxes itemized federal deductions. Fighting a low-SALT tax diet: In July 2018, New... Read more →


Photo by Elaine Smith via Flickr CC It's been more than a year since the Supreme Court said states could collect online sales taxes from retailers who don't have any physical presence, aka nexus, in their states. But the internet tax collection process is still evolving. Going from a system where nationwide online sellers rarely if ever collected sales taxes from their customers to one — or actually multiple given the various tax system of states — where these purchasing levies are collected is not easy. Still, progress has been made. Online sales tax collection evolution: These taxes still are... Read more →


Even more intriguing, will Donald J. Trump now become social media's definitive Florida Man? Donald Trump, especially early in his presidency, spent a lot of time at Mar-a-Lago, his South Florida club and residence. Here, Trump and Melania in April 2017 welcomed the People's Republic of China president Xi Jinping and his wife Peng Liyuan to the Palm Beach abode. Now Trump says it, not Trump Tower in New York City, will be his official residence. (Photo via Trump's Twitter account and Wikipedia Commons). The hubby and I used to live in Donald J. Trump's future full-time home. Alas, for... Read more →


Nome, Alaska, is one of the cities in The Last Frontier that collects a local sales tax. The state's Gold Rush city is among the municipalities that will be able to unite under a new plan to collect sales taxes on online purchases. (Image: Wikipedia Commons) Alaska is known in the tax world as the only state that has no income or sales tax. The key word here, though, is state. The Last Frontier's local jurisdictions are allowed to levy local sales taxes. These tax-collecting communities now have a plan to work together to collect tax on online sales. Creation... Read more →


Attention, tax preparers. Next week is a big one. The filing extension deadline is Tuesday, Oct. 15. Then the very next day, the renewal season opens for paid Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN) applications and renewals. Also note that while there won't be any requirement to pay a user fee to obtain or renew a PTIN, this likely is the last time that the identification number assignments will be free. Last week, as the U.S. Supreme Court began its new term, the justices decided not to hear the case that reinstated the fees for PTINs. That means the ruling affirming... Read more →


via GIPHY The Kansas City Chiefs, with its star quarterback Patrick Mahomes, is among the handful of teams that National Football League watchers say have a shot at winning Super Bowl LIV next February. But the Missouri professional football team could be facing a tougher fight off the field. Last week, the Chiefs' attorneys argued before the Missouri Supreme Court that most of the NFL team's expenditures on items to renovate Arrowhead Stadium almost a decade ago should not be subject to the state's sales tax. This current court tax battle, which started in 2014, is due to an appeal... Read more →


The Trump Administration currently is embroiled in a whistleblower controversy. But another situation where a witness to tax wrongdoing — not any alleged Donald J. Trump activity! — has worked out much more satisfactorily. A $11.5 million award has been presented to a person whose information led to the government collecting over $44.4 million in taxes, penalties and interest, according to the whistleblower attorneys involved in the case. In announcing the award, attorneys Stephen M. Kohn of the Washington, D.C. firm of Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto and Dean Zerbe of the Houston-based firm Zerbe, Miller, Fingeret, Frank & Jadav, lauded... Read more →


Al "Scarface" Capone at his sentencing for tax evasion. Back in the Prohibition Era, federal agents — notably those from the Internal Revenue Service — took down the notorious gangster. The tax agency's Criminal Investigation agents are celebrating their 100th birthday this year. (Photo courtesy All That's Interesting: 25 Al Capone Facts) The United States' tax system is based on the premise that all income is taxable, including illegally earned income. Our tax system also relies on the voluntary reporting of that income, including ill-gotten gains. But human nature being what it is, that doesn't always happen, even with legally... Read more →


When California last year joined the literal growing ranks of states that have legalized marijuana, initial projections were that the state soon would be raking in $1 billion annually from weed-related taxes. That apparently was a pipe dream. The report on Golden State cannabis excise taxes collected between April and June was just $74 million. That disappointing revenue amount is this week's By the Numbers figure. Even more discouraging, California Gov. Gavin Newsom's office sharply scaled back projected tax dollars from the state's legal weed market. That's been the case in other states, too. In pushing through legal marijuana, both... Read more →


This February 2016 photo on Twitter of Donald J. Trump signing a tax return is one of the few, and unrevealing, looks we've gotten of his federal filings. The focus of Donald J. Trump and his White House change quickly. Issues that were boiling over just days ago quickly get pushed to a back burner by something else that's hotter. But some of those old topics are still simmering. And one of them, Trump's tax returns, saw the heat turned up a bit recently. It was, however, a former college student, not Trump, who was put on the hot spot.... Read more →


States as well as shoppers now must deal with remote sales taxes. (Image by Daniela Hartmann via Flickr CC) Just over a year ago, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) struck down a previous ruling and expanded the ability of states to collect sales tax on from remote sellers. Many states in the wake of the 5-to-4 SCOTUS decision in South Dakota v. Wayfair have or are working on systems to collect sales tax from sellers who don't have a physical presence in their states. New Hampshire, however, has taken a different approach. The state has no sales... Read more →


North Carolina offers many gorgeous vistas, but the tax view for some trusts wasn't nearly so nice until a recent Supreme Court ruling. Now they can claim refunds of overpayments. (Blue Ridge Mountains viewed from Blue Ridge Parkway's Deep Gap overlook in western North Carolina; photo by Ken Thomas via Wikipedia Commons) You've got to appreciate the audacity of Tar Heel State tax officials. North Carolina decided it was due tax on a trust because a beneficiary was a state resident. That recipient of trust proceeds, Kimberley Rice Kaestner, was North Carolina's only connection to the trust. The person who... Read more →