Tag Archives | IRS

Bitcoin: IRS says, “It’s property, and it’s taxable!”

A lot of people are still trying to figure out just what Bitcoin is, but the IRS has seen enough to decide: It’s a type of property and not a form of currency.

So what, you say? Here’s what: Because, as The New York Times has reported, the IRS is going to treat Bitcoin as property, people who buy and sell it are going to have to calculate the change in value from when they acquired it, and pay tax (or claim losses) on the difference.

That means you could buy Bitcoin, use it to purchase something, and then have to report a “trade” on the change in Bitcoin value between when you bought it and when you used it.

Oh, and if you’re one of those smart guys or gals who can actually electronically “mine” a Bitcoin, you are going to have to report the market value of the Bitcoin as income.

For Michael Jackson estate, $1B disagreement with IRS is no thriller

There’s the average person’s disagreement with the IRS over a tax bill. And then there’s the estate of Michael Jackson.

The executors of Jackson’s estate pegged his net worth at $7 million. But papers filed with the U.S. Tax Court in Washington, DC, show that the IRS believes his estate is worth $1.125 billion, which is, as The Los Angeles Times so nicely put it, “a difference so vast it looks like a typo.” (10 free articles and then a paywall.)

At that level, the estate would owe more than $500 million in taxes, plus another $200 million in interest and penalties. Among the areas of dispute: The IRS says Jackson’s image & likeness are worth about $434 million; the estate filing put the value at…$2,105.

Inheritance tax disputes are often settled before trial, but I’d like to see this case go to court, if for no other reason than that the testimony, and eventual ruling, is bound to be fascinating.

Interns must be paid, says federal judge — so they may be useful, but they aren’t priceless

A big heads-up for any business that might be looking at interns as potential low-cost or no-cost employee substitutes this summer: A federal judge has told Fox Searchlight picture that interns who are actually useful to the business have to be paid.

Many employers think that interns don’t have to be paid as long as there is some “educational” component to the intern’s time with a company. Not so, said Judge William H. Pauley III, citing Department of Labor rules for internships. Basically, if the intern is doing work that is useful to the employer or is doing work that a regular employee would usually do, the intern has to be paid. Oh, and having the intern get college credit doesn’t relieve the employer from having to pay the intern.

The New York Times has all the bad news for employers and good news for interns here. You also can read the Labor Department’s Fact Sheet on internship programs–including the six, count ‘em, six, factors that have to be met in order for an intern to NOT be paid.

Apple avoids billions in taxes, and it all looks legal; those guys really are smart

Lawmakers are using words like “gimmicks” and “schemes” to describe how Apple Corporation has used a web of subsidiaries spanning the globe to avoid taxes. There are hearings this week at which Congressmen are expected to say they are shocked, shocked, to hear of tax loopholes being exploited.

As The New York Times reported, Congressional investigators have determined that “some of Apple’s subsidiaries had no employees and were largely run by top officials from the company’s headquarters in Cupertino, Calif. But by officially locating them in places like Ireland, Apple was able to, in effect, make them stateless — exempt from taxes, record-keeping laws and the need for the subsidiaries to even file tax returns anywhere in the world.”

One of Apple’s Irish affiliates reported profits of $30 billion between 2009 and 2012, but because it did not technically belong to any country, it paid no taxes to any government, The Washington Post reported. Another paid a tax rate of 0.05 percent in 2011 on $22 billion in earnings, according to the report.

It’s not expected that any of this will be determined to be illegal–just a highly proactive use of the existing tax rules. Interviewed by The Times, University of Southern California law professor Edward Kleinbard, a former staff director at the Congressional Joint Committee on Taxation, gets the Quote Of The Week Award. “There is a technical term economists like to use for behavior like this,” said Kleinbard. “Unbelievable chutzpah.”

The real IRS tax-exempt scandal is who they DIDN’T go after

The rolling sideshow of hearings and revelations about the IRS department responsible for reviewing organizations applying for 501(c)(4) tax-exempt status might not ever get around to dealing with a larger question: Why were some little organizations steamrolled with questions and scrutiny, while major national operations apparently got a pass?

As ProPublica pointed out in a long piece examining what it characterized as dysfunction at the IRS, a review by the Inspector General said that there was insufficient oversight of 200 lower-level employees responsible for examining more than 60,000 nonprofit applications annually.

“The main question raised…is how the Cincinnati office and superiors in Washington could have gotten it so wrong,” the story notes. “The audit shows no evidence that these workers even looked at records from the Federal Election Commission to vet much larger groups that spent hundreds of thousands and even millions in anonymous money to run election ads.”

The tax-exempts that didn’t come under scrutiny, as The New York Times points out, included mega-fundraisers from both sides of the political spectrum, such as Crossroads Grassroots Policy Strategy, Karl Rove’s organization, and the Democratic-oriented Priorities USA.

Organizations are supposed to operate “exclusively” for the promotion of social welfare in order to qualify as a 501(c)(4) tax-exempt group. At least, that’s what the tax code says. But the IRS has given a pass to groups that can show they are not “primarily engaged” in election-related activities.

Admit it: Regardless of where you stand politically, isn’t this one area where you’d like to see the IRS enforce the very letter of the tax code?