State of the Union 2015

Hopefully you were not waiting until President Obama’s State of the Union address on January 20 to hear about his plans to shake up the tax laws. After all, the details of his tax plan had been leaked days earlier and the entire text of his speech was posted online before the event.

Apparently we have a new State of the Union address tradition. In each of his six previous State of the Union addresses he also proposed tax hikes.

Here are the more significant tax provisions that were proposed.

Fast Track to the Presidency

Last week, we talked about the IRS Criminal Investigation unit's Fiscal 2013 annual report. We told you about four of the 2,812 offenders who drew prison sentences for their efforts: the drag racer who applied for $83 million in fraudulent gas tax refunds, the surgeon who "operated" on his tax bill using foreign trusts and shell companies, the Japanese restaurant owner who hid receipts in boxes marked "seasoned octopus," and the prisoner who filed false tax returns for his fellow inmates and sent the refund checks to his mother. But the IRS report detailed over 100 such stories — so, at the risk of beating a dead horse, we couldn't resist sharing just a few more:

  • They say everything is bigger in Texas. Apparently that includes public corruption, which is an IRS priority. Abel Limas was a former police officer and state judge in Brownsville who discovered he could supplement his government salary by turning his office into "a criminal enterprise to enrich himself and others through extortion." In 2008, Limas issued a series of pretrial rulings in a case involving a helicopter crash. Later that year, he joined a law firm working on behalf of victims in that same crash. It turns out the law firm had promised him a cool hundred grand, plus a share of their fees, in exchange for those rulings. Now Limas is spending six years in a federal prison camp.

Touchdown, IRS?

It's Week Nine of the 2013 football season, and millions of Americans are following every play. The Kansas City Chiefs are still undefeated. The New York Giants have finally won a couple of games. And playoff races are already starting to take shape. (Bengals, anyone?) So, what does any of this have to do with taxes?

Today's National Football League is the biggest spectacle since the Romans packed the Coliseum to watch the Christians take on the Lions. (Needless to say, the Lions were heavy favorites — and usually covered the spread.) Last year, the league generated $9.5 billion in revenue from a combination of TV rights, ticket sales, stadium concessions, and licensing agreements. The biggest part of that cash geyser goes to the players (who naturally pay tax on their salaries). More chunks go to the owners (who pay tax on theirs), and stadium vendors (who pay tax on all those eight-dollar beers).

Story Problems for Grownups

Back in grade school, you did all sorts of math problems. You started out with drills to learn your basic addition, subtraction, and multiplication. You learned long division (ugh). You moved on to fractions. And all along the way, as part of your teachers' efforts to convince you that it all matters here in the "real world," you did "story problems." Remember those?

Well, now you're all grown up, so here's a grownup story problem to ponder:

You're an IRS auditor, toiling away to protect the government's revenue base. Then you decide to leave "the dark side" and start your own practice. Things start off great, but you want more. So you mock up some fake tax returns, tell some clients they owe $11 million, and have them make payments into a bogus "trust account." Then you take the money for yourself, make some home improvements, buy a beach house in Mexico, pay to use a private plane, pay $2 million on your personal credit cards and loans, and make some investments. It's good to be rich, isn't it? But now there's a teensy-weensy little problem. The IRS is on to you, your clients are hopping mad, and two of them are scheduled to testify against you! What do you do?

Well, if you're Steven Martinez of Ramona, California, you send your limousine driver (!) to offer a hit man $100,000 to take out the clients. But you don't just whisper some names in his ear and slink back home. Oh, no. Because you're an accountant

The IRS at the Wedding

You've all heard that April showers bring May flowers. That's fine and all, and it doesn't leave anything for the IRS unless you're a farmer or a florist. But June brings brides — young brides, old brides, blushing brides, even bridezillas. Now the IRS pays attention, because now the IRS gets to reach out for all sorts of extra taxes from the happy couple.

So, Mike and Sarah meet in college, fall in love, and get married. Maybe they host the big day at their college chapel. Maybe they get creative with the reception and throw a barbecue in a barn. What will the IRS think?

Dad & Taxes

Sunday was Father's Day, and if your family is like most, you talked about golf, or fishing, or the latest happenings on Duck Dynasty. You probably didn't talk about taxes, just because Dad doesn't like paying them! So here are some "father and family" themed tax quotes to put a smile on your face today:

"Every year, the night before he paid his taxes, my father had a ritual of watching the news. We figured it made him feel better to know that others were suffering." Narrator, The Wonder Years television series

"My father has a great expression: 'The capital-gains tax has created more millionaires than any other government policy.' The capital-gains tax tends to make investors hold longer. That is almost always the right decision." Chris Davis