Archive for the ‘New York’ Category

Tax Relief for Hurricane Ida in New York and New Jersey

Wednesday, September 8th, 2021

Hurricane Ida created disaster conditions in Louisiana; the IRS previously granted relief for impacted taxpayers in various parishes in the state.  President Biden just declared a federal disaster area for many counties in New Jersey and New York (including New York City).  The IRS extended the same relief for those taxpayers.  Any tax deadline from September 1, 2021 onward through year-end is extended until January 3, 2022.

There are some caveats with this.  First, because 2020 tax payments were due on May 17th, that payment deadline has not been extended.  However, if you filed a valid extension and owe the late payment penalty, that penalty is suspended between September 1st and January 3, 2022.  Second, be aware that the IRS has a “down-time” for electronic filing of tax returns; this typically begins in mid to late November and lasts until late January.  During that time, all returns must be paper-filed.  It’s currently taking the IRS eight to twelve months to process paper-filed returns.  You may want to consider not waiting until January (especially if you are expecting a refund).

This relief does extend to third quarter estimated payments (due September 15th), partnership and S-Corporation returns on extension (also due on September 15th), trust/estate returns on extension (due September 30th), C-Corporation returns on extension (due October 15th), and nonprofit returns on extension (due November 15th).  Quarterly payroll and excise tax returns due on November 1st are also extended for impacted taxpayers.

New Jersey is conforming to this relief for impacted New Jersey taxpayers.  Note that if you paper-file in New Jersey, you need to write, “Presidential Disaster Relief Area, Hurricane Ida” on the top of the return or payment.  While I expect New York to conform, there has been not yet been an announcement from the New York Department of Taxation and Finance.

The Trump Organization Indictments

Monday, July 5th, 2021

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock, you know that The Trump Organization and its Chief Financial Officer, Allen Weisselberg, were indicted on 15 counts including grand larceny, conspiracy, and tax fraud.  The former President is (and has been) a very divisive figure, and the comments on this run the gamut from “witch hunt” to “justifiably deserved.”  Is this from a banana republic (as Dan McLaughlin alleged) or a “travesty of justice” (as the New York Post opined)?  The indictment can be read here.

First, note these are all allegations; no one has been found guilty.  It’s also possible that former President Trump had nothing to do with this and had no knowledge of it.  However, in a closely-held family business its usual that all senior personnel would be aware of something like this.

So are these serious charges?  Absolutely.  If we take the allegations as true, there was $556,000 in federal taxes, $107,000 in state taxes, and $238,000 in New York City taxes that were evaded.  You cannot deduct personal expenses on a business return–this is something we tell everyone.  (Do note that some businesses can take a Home Office deduction, and other similar items related to business use of home.)  I’d love it if my business could pay my mortgage, utilities, and property tax.  That would be decidedly dumb (and illegal), so I manage to pay those expenses myself.  Now, a business can pay personal expenses for an employee, but those expenses paid become additional compensation.  If we take the indictment’s allegations as true, that didn’t happen here.

Is the dollar amount involved enough to warrant criminal charges?  Yes.  This is over $900,000 in total tax evaded, and that’s more than enough to cause a criminal charge.  But are those on the right correct that the only reason there are criminal charges is Trump?  Almost certainly, yes.  The Manhattan District Attorney doesn’t like the former president, so he was a target.  In most tax investigations, if the business admits liability and agrees to pay the tax and penalties criminal indictments don’t happen.  However, if you’re a celebrity or a politician (or worse, both), the ‘normal’ rules don’t apply and you’re a target.  You need to be clean, because you will be audited.

(An interesting fact is that President Trump a few years ago noted that he had been audited almost constantly over time.  Yet the IRS didn’t come after him.  It may be that they didn’t see the information that the Manhattan D.A. saw, or it may be they didn’t find anything illegal.)

The Trump Organization’s attorney noted he’s never seen such an indictment; that when companies do things like this they normally pay a civil fine (along with the tax, penalties and interest).  Is this prosecution politically motivate?  Absolutely, and here I agree with the critics.  There’s no doubt that if it were my business accused of this we would have been offered that.

Still, the scheme (if true) is quite brazen and decidedly wrong.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out over the next year or so.

 

Bozo Tax Tip #3: Move Without Moving!

Wednesday, May 12th, 2021
Nearly ten years ago, we moved from Irvine, California to Las Vegas. The home in Irvine was sold, a home was purchased in Las Vegas, and the belongings went from the Golden State to the Silver State. Cars were re-registered, doctors changed, and no one would say that we didn’t become Las Vegas residents. But some people like to have it both ways. Nevada’s income tax rate is a very round number (0%), while California’s maximum income tax rate is a ridiculous (in my opinion) 13.3%. That certainly could drive individuals to move in name only. California’s Franchise Tax Board (FTB) realizes that, and they (along with New York State) lead the country in residency audits. If you really do relocate, a residency audit is a minor annoyance. But let’s say you reside in Silicon Valley, and you buy a home in Reno but keep your home in Los Altos. Did you move? Or did you just move in name? The Bozo strategy is the latter: moving in name only. I’ll just have that little home in Reno, spend the ski season in Nevada but really continue to live in Los Altos. In a residency audit, the FTB will look at where you’re actually spending time, where you’re spending money (if eight months of the year you’re patronizing businesses in Silicon Valley, it doesn’t look like you really moved), and a variety of other factors. ( The FTB has an excellent Residency and Sourcing Manual that explains California laws on the subject.) Given the current pandemic, state revenues are being squeezed. The one government agency where increasing employees increases revenues is the tax agency (especially employees in audit). While I expect to see states cut employees, I’ll be surprised to see anything but minor cuts in tax agencies. We’re also likely to see an increase in audits looking at telecommuting issues. In any case, if you move in name only you’re painting a target on your back for a residency audit.

Onwards and Upwards Into the 21st Century!

Thursday, September 24th, 2020

Yes, the 21st Century began 20 years ago, but today we welcome New York into the new millennium. The New York legislature passed (and Governor Cuomo signed into law) Senate Bill S8832 allowing taxpayers to electronically sign New York signature documents on tax returns. This should go live in the very near future (probably within two weeks).

New York was one of just three states (the others are the District of Columbia and Minnesota) that did not allow e-signatures. Federal e-signatures (and state e-signatures) require a taxpayer to complete “knowledge” questions (so the taxpayers can prove they are who they say they are).

During the peak of the pandemic, New York temporarily allowed e-signatures. It’s about to be permanent, and that’s a good thing for all.

Bozo Tax Tip #1: Move Without Moving!

Monday, July 13th, 2020

Nearly nine years ago, we moved from Irvine, California to Las Vegas. The home in Irvine was sold, a home was purchased in Las Vegas, and the belongings went from the Golden State to the Silver State. Cars were re-registered, doctors changed, and no one would say that we didn’t become Las Vegas residents.

But some people like to have it both ways. Nevada’s income tax rate is a very round number (0%), while California’s maximum income tax rate is a ridiculous (in my opinion) 13.3%. That certainly could drive individuals to move in name only. California’s Franchise Tax Board (FTB) realizes that, and they (along with New York State) lead the country in residency audits.

If you really do relocate, a residency audit is a minor annoyance. But let’s say you reside in Silicon Valley, and you buy a home in Reno but keep your home in Los Altos. Did you move? Or did you just move in name?

The Bozo strategy is the latter: moving in name only. I’ll just have that little home in Reno, spend the ski season in Nevada but really continue to live in Los Altos.

In a residency audit, the FTB will look at where you’re actually spending time, where you’re spending money (if eight months of the year you’re patronizing businesses in Silicon Valley, it doesn’t look like you really moved), and a variety of other factors. ( The FTB has an excellent Residency and Sourcing Manual that explains California laws on the subject.)

Given the current pandemic, state revenues are being squeezed. The one government agency where increasing employees increases revenues is the tax agency (especially employees in audit). While I expect to see states cut employees, I’ll be surprised to see anything but minor cuts in tax agencies. We’re also likely to see an increase in audits looking at telecommuting issues. In any case, if you move in name only you’re painting a target on your back for a residency audit.

New York DFS & Gambling: It’s the Constitution

Wednesday, February 12th, 2020

There’s a quick way of doing many things that, in the long-run, doesn’t work so well; there’s a slower way of doing those same things that will always work. That’s true in tax, and it’s true for a legislature that’s trying to raise money.

Back in 2016, the New York state legislature amended a law so that DFS could be legalized. Almost immediately, a lawsuit was filed that said the new law violated the New York Constitution. The New York Supreme Court (which is the original trial court) ruled that the law was unconstitutional (as it relates to DFS). Both sides appealed the ruling, and last Friday a decision from the Appellate Division was released. That decision mostly upheld the original ruling.

The key points within that ruling are (1) that gambling only needs an element of chance and (2) it is not the job of the courts to look at the “…wisdom of the Legislature’s enactment of laws, but on whether the NY Constitution prohibited the Legislature from enacting such laws.”

This ruling is not good news for those who would like to see DFS or online gambling in New York state. It will take amending the New York constitution–and that’s a much harder road to go than simply passing a law. It also takes far more time. But if the constitution is amended, the law would be clearly constitutional (and legal).

I expect this decision to be appealed to the New York Court of Appeals (New York’s highest court), and it’s likely the case will be taken up (there was a dissent, and the case is about a constitutional question–the kind of case that appeals to higher courts). The problem, though, is that the plain language of the state constitution is quite specific about how to add more gambling. And it’s by amending the constitution. While a stay on enforcing this ruling may be granted (allowing DFS contests to continue in New York), unless the New York state constitution is changed the future of DFS (and online gambling) in New York looks quite bleak.

IRS To New York, New Jersey, and California: We Weren’t Kidding

Tuesday, June 11th, 2019

Today the IRS issued rules and guidance on charitable contributions as a workaround to the new limits on state and local taxes. Unsurprisingly, the IRS said exactly what I thought they would: both substance over form and quid pro quo apply.

There’s a fundamental rule in tax: The substance of a transaction determines how it’s taxed, not what it’s labeled. Suppose I pay you to perform services for me, but I send you a Form 1099-INT (for interest income). What I pay you is service income, not interest income, no matter how it’s labeled. Consider state taxes. Suppose a state (say, New York) offers you the ability to contribute to the “Support New York Fund” instead of state taxes. Well, the substance is that you’re paying state taxes by contributing to that fund.

Another issue is “quid pro quo;” that’s Latin for ‘something for something.’ And if you get something for a charitable contribution, that portion isn’t charity. Consider a donation to some foundation for $50 and you receive a blanket worth $10; your charitable contribution (that you can take) is $40. This rule has been around for some time. It applies to these workarounds, too.

Put bluntly, the IRS isn’t amused with the workarounds. The Tax Code is law; until Congress changes it, federal deductions for state and local taxes are limited.

Here We Go Again…

Tuesday, October 30th, 2018

A few years ago I penned a post titled “Taxes and Daily Fantasy Sports: The Duck Test.” To remind everyone,

If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it just may be a duck.

The duck test came up yet again yesterday in Albany, New York. The New York legislature passed a law legalizing Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS), even though the New York state constitution specifically prohibits gambling. The New York legislature statutorily said, “DFS isn’t gambling.” Yesterday, Judge Gerald Connolly said the legislature was wrong.

Last year a lawsuit was filed seeking a ruling on whether DFS is New York was legal. (The case is titled White, et. al., v. Cuomo, et. al.) Yesterday, the ruling came out. (My thanks to Legal Sports Report who published the ruling. LSR is a vital resource for anyone interested in sports betting in the United States. But I digress….) The issue is the same one I raised back in 2014.

Unfortunately, many states look at just an element of chance to determine if something is gambling. And there’s no doubt that daily fantasy sports have such an element. [emphasis in original.]

In this case, Judge Connolly ruled that based on the New York constitution if there’s a contest with an element of chance, a prize, and consideration and the constitution doesn’t state that activity isn’t gambling, it is gambling. Gambling is prohibited by the New York constitution, so the constitution will need to be amended in order for DFS to be legalized.

I expect this decision to be appealed, and a stay put on any adverse impacts for DFS in New York…for now. The problem is that the ruling seems right to me. If the New York prohibition against gambling was statutory, DFS could be legalized by statute. Since the New York prohibition is in the state’s constitution, a constitutional amendment appears to be necessary. This does not bode well for the future of DFS in New York.

Additionally, this ruling points out something that should be obvious regarding sportsbetting. The Supreme Court decision in Murphy v. NCAA allows sportsbetting to be legalized state-by-state. In some states, that just means passing a new law. In many states, though, that will mean amending the state’s constitution. Changing a state’s constitution takes a lot more time and effort.

We’re Not Gonna Take It

Thursday, August 23rd, 2018

The IRS issued proposed regulations today on charitable contributions as it relates to state and local tax credits. Here’s a hint to politicians in Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York. The IRS is telling you:

Here’s an excerpt from the IRS press release:

The proposed regulations issued today are designed to clarify the relationship between state and local tax credits and the federal tax rules for charitable contribution deductions. The proposed regulations are available in the Federal Register.

Under the proposed regulations, a taxpayer who makes payments or transfers property to an entity eligible to receive tax deductible contributions must reduce their charitable deduction by the amount of any state or local tax credit the taxpayer receives or expects to receive.

For example, if a state grants a 70 percent state tax credit and the taxpayer pays $1,000 to an eligible entity, the taxpayer receives a $700 state tax credit. The taxpayer must reduce the $1,000 contribution by the $700 state tax credit, leaving an allowable contribution deduction of $300 on the taxpayer’s federal income tax return. The proposed regulations also apply to payments made by trusts or decedents’ estates in determining the amount of their contribution deduction.

There’s a de minimis exception for tax credits of no more than 15% of the payment amount.

This proposed regulation isn’t a surprise. Indeed, it’s hard to see under the Tax Code how tax credits as charitable contributions would succeed. As for the current lawsuit against the IRS regarding the new tax law, that has even less of a chance of success in my view. But it sounds good, so the lawsuit happened. The idea of a state like New York changing their tax laws to lower their tax rates apparently hasn’t occurred to New York politicians.

We’re Not Gonna Take It…

Saturday, July 21st, 2018

You may have heard that earlier this week four states sued to stop parts of the new tax law from going into effect. The states–New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Maryland–don’t like the new $10,000 cap on deducting state and local taxes on federal tax returns. I believe this lawsuit is doomed; there’s no right in the Constitution to allow deducting of such taxes. This isn’t just my opinion; Ilya Somin at the Volokh Conspiracy notes what I think:

They argue not only that the 2017 cap is unconstitutional, but that the federal government has a general obligation to exempt “all or a significant portion of state and local taxes” from the federal income tax. The problem with this argument is simple: nothing in the text or original meaning of the Constitution supports it. To the contrary, the Sixteenth Amendment gives Congress a general power to power “to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived.” There is no mandated exemption for income used to pay state or local taxes. There is also no support for the states’ position in Supreme Court precedent, or in the American constitutional tradition more generally.

The humorous thing (to me) is that blue states normally lead in ‘progressiveness’ of their tax systems (that is, higher rates for individuals earning higher incomes). The cap on deductions will primarily hurt high income individuals. Of course, blue states don’t want out-migration of such high income individuals. Perhaps they might look to lower tax rates. Mr. Somin notes they could remove zoning restrictions. As for this lawsuit, it sounds nice to their constituents but it is almost certainly doomed.