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Lunch Beat

Bramwell's Lunch Beat: Tricky Tax Overhaul, CFTC Plans Fix, Brixmor Exits

Feb 8th 2016
Staff Writer and Editor AccountingWEB
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Why a business tax overhaul is so tricky
Richard Rubin of the Wall Street Journal wrote that because the US tax system muddles business and personal taxes together, it is complicating Congress' ability to address discrete business tax problems, such as inversions, or the forces that left the United States with the developed world's highest corporate tax rate. The links between corporate and individual taxation inevitably lock policymakers in intractable disputes about popular deductions, and the question that divides the parties most bitterly: Is the United States collecting enough money from wealthy individuals? By 2011, 54 percent of business income was earned by pass-through entities, including sole proprietorships, partnerships, and S corporations. That's up from 21 percent in 1980, according to a study by US Treasury Department economists and academic researchers. The top 1 percent of households get more than two-thirds of all partnership and S corporation income.

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Record number of US citizens, green-card holders cut ties with US
A record 4,279 individuals renounced their US citizenship or long-term residency in 2015, according to data released by the Treasury Department, wrote Laura Saunders of the Wall Street Journal. Last year was the third year in a row for record renunciations, according to Andrew Mitchel, an international lawyer who tallies and tracks renunciation data. Experts say the growing number of renunciations is related to an enforcement campaign by US officials against undeclared offshore accounts. It intensified in 2009, after Swiss banking giant UBS AG admitted that it encouraged US taxpayers to hide money abroad. IRS scrutiny of Americans abroad is also intensifying because of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act, which requires foreign financial institutions to report income information for their customers who are US taxpayers to the IRS, or else face severe penalties.

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Group uses Valentine's Day to press for tax reform
Naomi Jagoda of The Hill wrote that ahead of Valentine's Day, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) is urging members of Congress to keep their love for tax reform alive. The organization is running a campaign this week called “Love is Patient, Taxpayers Aren't” that is aimed at ensuring that comprehensive tax reform stays a priority for lawmakers and their staff, the group said. As part of the campaign, the TPA is sending eCards to all Congress members and their staff that feature Valentine's Day-themed tax facts. For example, an eCard would say â€œAmerican businesses pay between $18-19 billion to comply with taxes. That's enough to buy nearly 900 million boxes of chocolate,” the TPA said. The campaign also includes Snapchat advertising that allows users to send virtual tax reform-related candy grams and a tax-themed BuzzFeed-style personality quiz.

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US derivatives regulator says will ‘move very quickly' to fix accounting issue
The US regulator of the complex derivatives market that was recently found violating a government accounting law will work with Congress to fix its bookkeeping problems, its chairman said on Friday, wrote Lisa Lambert and Sarah N. Lynch of Reuters. The US Government Accountability Office (GAO) on Feb. 4 said the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) failed to properly account for its multiyear leases, neglecting to put in its total liability each year. While the CFTC did explain the full amount due on the leases in footnotes, the GAO found those clauses ineffective. “We'll move very quickly to fix the issue,” said CFTC Chairman Timothy Massad, adding the regulator will work with Congress to decide “the right fix.” The fix could include moving the commission's leases under the authority of the General Services Administration or a budgeting measure.

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Brixmor Property's top executives exit after accounting review
Shopping center operator Brixmor Property Group Inc. said three of its top officers, including its CEO, had resigned after an internal accounting review showed discrepancies in the company's financial statements, wrote Arunima Banerjee of Reuters. The company said on Monday that its quarterly statements had been tampered with to show consistent growth in same-property net-operating income. “The board is disappointed to have learned of the conduct and lack of appropriate management supervision uncovered as a result of the audit committee review,” said Chairman John Schreiber. Brixmor said it would not have to restate its historical financial statements as the impact of the discrepancies was not material to the results. The matter will not hurt the company's compliance with the covenants of its debt agreements, it said. The matter has been reported to the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

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IRS technical guidance roundup (week of Feb. 1)
The IRS issued the following technical guidance last week:

Notice 2016-17 provides schools (colleges and universities) with temporary transition relief to address compliance with certain group market reform provisions of the Affordable Care Act. The guidance in this notice is being issued in substantially identical form by the US Department of Labor and the US Department of Health and Human Services in separate guidance. The Treasury Department and the IRS, as well as the Labor and Health and Human Services departments, will not assert that a premium reduction arrangement fails to satisfy certain group market reform provisions of the Affordable Care Act if the arrangement is offered in connection with other student health coverage (insured or self-insured) for a plan year or policy year beginning before Jan. 1, 2017.

Revenue Procedure 2016-14 contains additional inflation-adjusted items resulting from the enactment of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015.

Quick Links:

  • Vanguard, a champion of low fees, faces a peculiar tax challenge (New York Times)
  • End the tampon tax (New York Times)
  • The problems with Obama's oil tax plan (CNBC)
  • Even Obama's cray cray gas tax can't fix our roads (Wired)
  • Which Republican candidates can make the flat tax work and help the economy? (Fox News)
  • Marco Rubio wants to kill the capital-gains tax. That's insane. (The Week)
  • Confusion over judging political activity still reigns at IRS (Tax Analysts)
  • White House calls for targeting the ‘Cadillac tax' by location (Tax Foundation)
  • Senate committee looks to expand retirement savings accounts (Tax Foundation)
  • When should you hire someone to do your taxes? (Christian Science Monitor)
  • For sugar tax supporters, 2016 may be the sweet spot (Reuters)
  • Colorado's battle over tax limits could shape future growth (Associated Press)

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