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Bramwell’s Lunch Beat: What US County Has the Highest Median Property Tax Bill?

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Apr 24th 2015
Staff Writer and Editor AccountingWEB
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Treasury targets hedge fund tax avoidance
The US Treasury Department on Thursday moved to limit hedge funds' ability to slash their tax bills by funneling investments through insurance companies in offshore tax havens, wrote Bernie Becker of The Hill. US tax law generally seeks to make sure that hedge funds can't use offshore corporations to delay paying taxes. But Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) has been complaining for months that there's a loophole in those rules – specifically that income from offshore insurance companies get taxed at a far lower rate. In its new rules, the Treasury Department said it was essentially seeking to clarify when an insurance company is legitimate. The department wants the public to weigh in over the next 90 days.

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Westchester tops USA with $13K median property tax bill
In 2013, the median property tax bill was $2,132 in the United States. In Westchester County, New York, it was $13,842 – the most of any county in the nation, according to the real estate website Zillow, Joseph Spector wrote in an article for the USA Today. Neighboring Rockland County was the next highest at $10,550, the analysis found, based on the largest 50 metro areas where Zillow had sufficient sample sizes. The list was not surprising: Westchester, which is among the richest counties in the nation, has long been at or near the top of any property tax list. The Tax Foundation, a conservative group in Washington, DC, also has found that upstate New York counties, including Monroe County, which includes Rochester, pay among the highest property taxes compared to household income. Bergen County in New Jersey has the third-highest median property tax bill at $9,546.

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How high are corporate income tax rates in your state?
The Tax Foundation released data this week showing the top corporate marginal tax rates for each state. Corporate income taxes vary widely, with Iowa taxing corporate income at a top rate of 12 percent (though the state offers deductibility of federal taxes paid), followed by Pennsylvania (9.99 percent), Minnesota (9.8 percent), Alaska (9.4 percent), the District of Columbia (9.4 percent), and Connecticut and New Jersey (9.0 percent each). At the other end of the spectrum, North Dakota taxes corporate income at a top rate of 4.53 percent, followed by Colorado (4.63 percent), and Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Utah (5 percent each).

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Odds of US corporate tax overhaul only 50-50, Boehner says
House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said a long-sought overhaul of US corporate tax law has barely an even chance of being enacted by Congress this year, though both chambers are under Republican control, wrote Billy House of Bloomberg. Boehner cited a “50-50 chance at best” during an interview on Thursday with Bloomberg. “The challenge is how do you deal with 70 percent of American businesses that don’t pay corporate tax rates,” said Boehner, referring to partnerships and S corporations, whose taxes are paid on owners’ individual tax returns. “It will be very difficult to do corporate tax reform without also the pass-through entities.” Millions of US companies pay taxes through individual returns instead of the corporate tax system. Those businesses say they would lose valued tax breaks without getting any benefit from a corporate rate cut. Lawmakers say they’re trying to come up with a solution.

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Clinton charities will refile tax returns, audit for other errors
Hillary Clinton’s family’s charities are refiling at least five annual tax returns after a Reuters review found errors in how they reported donations from governments, and said they may audit other Clinton Foundation returns in case of other errors, wrote Jonathan Allen of Reuters. The charities’ errors generally take the form of underreporting or overreporting, by millions of dollars, donations from foreign governments, or in other instances omitting to break out government donations entirely when reporting revenue, the charities confirmed to Reuters. The errors appear on the Form 990 that all nonprofit organizations must file annually with the IRS to maintain their tax-exempt status. A charity must show copies of the forms to anyone who wants to see them to understand how the charity raises and spends money. “We are prioritizing an external review to ensure the accuracy of the 990s from 2010, 2011, and 2012 and expect to refile when the review is completed,” said Craig Minassian, a foundation spokesman.

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French journalist Perrin charged over PwC LuxLeaks role
A Luxembourg probe into leaks and theft of confidential documents from PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) LLP expanded as a French journalist became the third person charged over the so-called LuxLeaks scandal, wrote Stephanie Bodoni of Bloomberg. Edouard Perrin appeared before a Luxembourg judge on Thursday and after a hearing was charged for his role as a “co-author, if not an accomplice, in the infractions committed by a former employee of PwC,” prosecutors said. The case is the latest in the probe triggered by a complaint from PwC in 2012 after it noticed the theft of documents revealing hundreds of confidential tax pacts between the Grand Duchy and multinational companies. A group of investigative journalists published the details, helping send a shockwave through Luxembourg that triggered multiple inquiries in the European Union. Antoine Deltour, a former auditor at PwC in Luxembourg, and an unidentified French former PwC employee were already charged in December and January, respectively.

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