Archive for the ‘Tax Compliance’ Category

Have We Created a Two-Tiered Tax System—One for the Powerful and One for the Rest of Us?

Unlike the rest of us, many high-income, influential people and organizations have close to a free hand when it comes to their taxes. Already underfunded and understaffed, the IRS seems incapable of stopping many aggressive or even abusive interpretations of the tax laws, often by hedge funds or politically-motivated tax-exempt organizations. Over the past few […]

Abuse of financial products by hedge funds

Today, I testified before the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (the “Subcommittee”) on the abuse of structured financial products by hedge funds, in particular by the Renaissance funds. This is what I told the Subcommittee: Almost a century ago, Congress reduced the tax rate for long-term capital gains. Then, long-term meant holding assets for […]

Are Some Americans Paying Federal Income Tax They Don’t Owe?

Headline got your attention? No, it isn’t a come-on for a new tax avoidance scheme. Rather, it reflects an interesting but little known problem with the federal income tax system: People who have tax withheld from their paychecks but, for some reason, don’t file returns. For many, ignoring their 1040 means they are paying tax they […]

Do Low-Income Taxpayers Cheat?

My blog last Tuesday on overblown concerns about people falsely claiming subsides under the Affordable Care Act’s insurance exchanges generated a lot of response. Much focused on my assertion that the income tax system operates remarkably well as a largely voluntary program. Their retort: I naively misjudged the willingness of low-income people to cheat. In […]

How Not to Fix the IRS

House Republicans have decided to make the IRS their summer piñata. Its leadership says it will bring a series of anti-IRS proposals to the floor later this month. And an appropriations subcommittee’s spending bill would slash the agency’s budget by $3 billion, 24 percent below levels Congress approved in March. If the plan is to […]

Chairman Camp Agrees: Too Many Choices Burden our Tax System

Last week’s draft plan by House Ways & Means Committee Chair Dave Camp (R-MI) to reform the taxation of financial products includes two key changes that would simplify rules, reduce manipulation, minimize compliance burdens, and improve tax administration. The first would require investors to use the “mark-to-market” method of accounting for all derivatives, other than […]

Can Behavioral Science Improve Tax Compliance?

In Sunday’s New York Times, Richard Thaler laments that “as a general rule, the United States government is run by lawyers who occasionally take advice from economists.” That makes for better policy than a tyranny of lawyers alone. But it certainly isn’t enough. Policy is ultimately about changing the way people behave. And to do […]

Billions in Tax Refund Fraud–and How to Stop Most of it

The Treasury may be losing as much as $5 billion a year from fraudulent tax refund claims—and most of that fraud is entirely preventable. The New York Times reportedyesterday about the rampant use of identity theft to exploit weaknesses in the IRS’s tax refund processes, sometimes resulting in thousands of fraudulent refunds. The most common form […]

Five Challenges for the IRS’s New Capital Gains Reporting Rules

Sellers of stocks and other assets have always had to calculate their cost basis (generally, what they paid for the investment) in order to figure their taxable capital gains. In the past, this was often a hit-or-miss experience that required lots of tedious research (occasionally with help from brokers) and more than a bit of […]

The Turbo Tax Paradox

Like many of you, I just finished my 2011 tax return. Counting worksheets, it was 59 pages long. It occurs to me that our current insanely complex tax rules are made possible by technology. Yes, computer software makes filing easier (both for professionals and civilians). But that may be the problem. The relative ease of filing, […]