In the blogs: Vaguely defined activities

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Return of postcard glory; no sunset for reform measures; behavioral science; and other highlights from our favorite tax bloggers.

All’s fair

  • Tax Vox (http://www.taxpolicycenter.org/taxvox): Putting a precise geographical subscript around where taxes should be collected is an acknowledged dilemma of taxation — which reared up again most recently in Wayfair. Still, such debates and issues create important opportunities for tax authorities to work together to develop solutions fair to everyone.
  • Avalara (https://www1.avalara.com/us/en/blog.html): A bill to regulate the way states tax interstate commerce was introduced in the Senate just a week after Wayfair — introduced by a senator from Montana, one of the five states with no general sales tax, and swiftly cosponsored by senators from two other non-sales-tax states.
  • Taxjar (http://blog.taxjar.com/): The state (state by state) of the Wayfair linchpin: “economic nexus.”
  • Backtaxeshelp (http://www.backtaxeshelp.com/tax-blog/): Wayfair can be a victory for tax fairness but online businesses could also face a tremendous burden complying with regs. Note that more than 10,000 jurisdictions levy sales taxes, each with their rates, exemptions, standards, and definitions. How balanced is Wayfair?

Vaguely defined activities

  • Procedurally Taxing (http://procedurallytaxing.com): “Some on the street say snitches get stitches, but in this case they become the subject of Freedom of Information Act requests.” So starts Montgomery v U.S., one of the more interesting FOIA cases the blogger has come across.
  • Federal Tax Crimes (http://federaltaxcrimes.blogspot.com/): In Hohman v. United States, a taxpayer sought damages for the IRS improper use of a John Doe summons. The Sixth Circuit has affirmed, but the interesting issue on the appeal is whether the Financial Privacy Act gave a remedy under 12 USC § 3417.
  • Houston Tax Attorney (http://www.irstaxtrouble.com/category/tax-blog/): When Congress provides a tax benefit contingent on some activity, there is often a question as to whether the activity can be read broadly to encompass many sub-activities or has to be read narrowly. NextEra Energy Inc. v. United States provides a good example of the subjective distinctions taxpayers have made when tax laws specify that an expense is only qualified if tied to a vaguely defined activity.
  • Rubin on Tax (http://rubinontax.floridatax.com): Married persons often name the other spouse as beneficiaries of their estate, life insurance, pensions, IRAs, annuities and other contractual arrangements upon the death of the first spouse. Upon divorce, they often do not get around to changing these designations. Many state legislatures have enacted revocation-on-divorce statutes, and the Supreme Court recently addressed whether Minnesota’s revocation-on-divorce statute was unconstitutional.

Smart bets

  • Turbotax (https://blog.turbotax.intuit.com): It’s a probable 12:7 that your clients have no idea how gambling winnings are taxed. Point one (as in life itself): “How Much You Win Matters.”
  • Taxable Talk (http://www.taxabletalk.com/): A memory for our tax times: “When I was a child, people used postcards to save on postage. Postage for postcards ran a nickel. That was less than a phone call. Today, with the emergence of cellphones, the only postcards I receive are advertisements. But the IRS has a better idea!”
  • Solutions for CPA Firm Leaders (http://ritakeller.com/blog/): Client confidentiality is key inside a CPA firm. A warning to all firm members, including new hires and the administrative team: Be careful what you say and where you say it.
  • SageNext (https://www.thesagenext.com/blog): You’re using artificial intelligence; you’ve heard of it; you’re terrified by it: Whatever your feelings about AI, here are some ways your biz clients can benefit from it.
  • TaxBuzz (https://www.taxbuzz.com/blog): What to remind them about reform’s impact on the itemized deduction for home mortgage interest.
  • Tax Foundation (https://taxfoundation.org/blog): The TCJA cut individual income tax rates and made aspects of the code simpler primarily by reducing the attractiveness of itemizing deductions. Should these changes necessarily expire at the end of 2025?

Tax functions

  • Mauled Again (http://mauledagain.blogspot.com/): Taxes can raise revenue or discourage a certain behavior, at least in theory. Some taxes, sort of conversely, can encourage behavior. A look at Hong Kong’s planned tax on unsold newly built apartments, with a goal of boosting supply in what is considered to be the most expensive property market in the world. Will it work?
  • Don’t Mess With Taxes (http://dontmesswithtaxes.typepad.com/): Seattle’s sweetened beverage tax raised about $1 million more than predicted in its first three months: almost $4.5 million. Yet Seattle’s sweet tax success could be Washington’s last, at least for a while. Plus, a look at soda tax shenanigans in California.
  • Bloomberg BNA (https://www.bna.com/news/#!topic=tax&type=blogpost&page=1): New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy has signed a massive budget bill that includes the most significant changes to the New Jersey Corporation Business Tax in recent memory. What does this mean for corporate taxpayers in New Jersey? A rundown of some of the changes.
  • Wolters Kluwer (http://news.cchgroup.com/): New York has issued a notice explaining the employer compensation expense tax, which was enacted by the 2018 budget bill. Employers can elect to pay the tax if they have employees earning over $40,000 annually in wages and compensation in New York. A look at a few more details.
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