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In the Blogs: Can We Get Some Service?

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Highlights of some of our favorite tax-related blogs from the past week.

The early and the new

  • Tax Break: The TurboTax blog: All Clients Start Somewhere Dept.: Tips for new filers, starting from the first sentence. “It’s almost like a rite of passage -- preparing your own taxes. You may have filed your taxes for a summer job as a teenager, but your parents probably helped (if they were nice).” We hark back almost as if remembering a first crush to that snowy late winter of 1982 when we were advised to drop by the Ithaca, N.Y., public library and pick up two 1040EZs “in case we screwed up.” Another tip for new filers, come to think of it.
  • The Income Tax School blog: The advantages of filing early -- or at least as early as a delayed season start allows clients to file. Biggest holdover question from last season: When will clients have all their documentation?

Can we get some Service?

  • Don’t Mess With Taxes: How recent IRS budget cuts harm taxpayer services, inspired by the recent report by the National Taxpayer Advocate that the inability to get good service from the IRS nears the top of the list for problems -- a situation unlikely to improve with belt-tightening.
  • Rubin on Tax: R.I.P., benefit provisions now expired. Partisan politics have scuttled Congress’ usual relenting on such matters as New Year neared, and here is a list of most of the key provisions now expired that may (or may not) soon see second life.
  • TaxProf Blog: An analytical research guide to federal Indian tax law, timely as tribal economic growth continues to impacts non-Indian interests.
  • Taxable Talk: A look at recent changes, small but critical, by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network for FBAR for 2014, including the end of form TD F 90-22.1 (new FBAR form number: 114) and the new need to e-file and the new lack of need to register to e-file.

Taxes and jobs and debate, oh my

  • Mauled Again: Does tax-cutting produce jobs? “Not necessarily,” responds blogger Maule. The work and not the break motivates prospective employers. “Suppose, for a moment, that tax rates were reduced to zero. Would there be a rush by businesses to hire people?” Sure, and employers would ride their unicorns to the office.
  • Tax Vox: As unemployment goes, so go temporary tax breaks? “In the battle over whether to extend long-term unemployment benefits, one of the Republican talking points is: Sure, we’ll consider an extension, but it must be paid for. That’s a fine idea,” blogs Howard Gleckman, adding the stipulation that Congress should buffer the cost of restoring temporary tax breaks that evaporated with 2013 by raising other taxes.
  • Tax Policy: This week’s burning question: “Should Nebraska Follow the Example of Illinois or Indiana?” If debating whether tax increases affect economic growth or employment, the answer is, read this blog. “The vast majority of peer-reviewed studies on the effects of taxes find that taxes do negatively impact economic growth, especially high, progressive income taxes, and corporate income taxes.” Also a nod to what examples to pick when making an argument.

Faster than a speeding basis

  • Tax Maven: If your client plans to sell assets of a business, here are “8 Ways to Be a Hero” from blogger Diane Gilabert, who explored the subject in previous posts. “What are some of the tax-planning opportunities? What tax issues should you look out for?” A handy roundup for during the coming annual blizzard.
  • TaxMama: Bone up on deductions -- and your clients’ lives -- to be a hero, too. Mama addresses the deductibility of medical home improvements, specifically the installation of hardwood floors in a home where an autistic daughter is severely allergic to carpet.
  • Fromm on Taxes: They may not be making more land, but they’re making new ways to snag your client who tries to make a gift of real estate. With the increase of the federal estate tax exemption to $5,340,000 in 2014, most taxpayers are not subject to federal estate taxes.  The focus for many now has shifted to the income tax implications that arise when wealth passes to the next generation.  Blog quote of the week: “Son, I am sick and getting old, so fill out a deed to transfer my house into your name now.” We dream of doing this and then handing them the carpet sweeper.

Murky truths

  • Tax, Society & Culture: The north-of-the-border press “seems to be taking increasing notice” of Americans’ citizenship “probably because there are so many persons with U.S. status living and working in Canada and as the U.S. clamps down on its citizens across the globe, the effect is deeply felt” amid the Maple Leafs. A look at the “murkiness” of recent renunciation numbers and perspectives from both north and south. About all we can add is that we grew up in Maine and Canadian license plates were always the prettiest.
  • Solutions For CPA Firm Leaders: “There is so much great information out there now via the Internet. Just a word of caution, as you probably already know: Not all of it is true.” Though this blog is, when it comes to firms constructing action plans based on advice and figures found online. A look at the phony facts behind a recent study about only 3 percent of Harvard MBAs writing down their career goals. When in doubt over the browser, remember that famous attributed quote online: “Half of the facts you read on the Internet are untrue. – Abraham Lincoln.”

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