Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Senate Finance Hearing Today on Tax Reform; FEI Files Amicus Brief on Textron; More Tax News

What better day than “Tax Day” – April 15 - to provide a tax update? Matt Miller, FEI’s Director of Tax and Economic Policy, tells us that the Senate Finance Committee is holding a hearing at 10am today on, “Tax Fundamentals in Advance of Reform.” See also this “Overview of the Federal Tax System as in Effect for 2008,” published yesterday by the Joint Committee on Taxation, and see our previous post on Treasury’s tax competitiveness study.

Miller reports that today’s Senate Finance Committee hearing will consider the role of the income tax system, options for defining "taxable income," and the impact of these choices on taxpayer behavior. He adds, “It is also rumored that three additional hearings may be scheduled in 2008 on (1) individuals, (2) small business, domestic corporate, and passthrough entities, and (3) multinationals with an emphasis on international activities.” Witnesses at the hearing include Daniel Shaviro of NYU Law School, Michael Graetz of Yale Law School, Jason Furman, Director, The Hamilton Project, Brookings Institution, and Robert Carroll, Vice President for Economic Policy, The Tax Foundation.

Speaking of the Tax Foundation, they report that Tax Freedom Day (the day they calculate you have to work to each year just to pay your taxes) comes three days earlier this year - arriving on April 23, 2008. They also have a nifty pie chart showing “Days Americans Work to Pay Taxes Compared to Other Expenses, 2008” and a map of “Tax Freedom Day by State.”

In other tax-related news, Miller reports that FEI’s Committee on Taxation (COT) and Committee on Corporate Reporting (CCR) filed an amicus brief on April 4 in the Textron case, to support the lower court's decision and to address additional consequences that could result from an adverse ruling. This case deals with attorney-client, tax practitioner-client, and work product privileges with regard to tax accrual papers. Separately, here is the amicus brief filed on April 8 by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the Association of Corporate Counsel. And, on the topic of attorney-client privilege, see also Francine McKenna’s April 7 post in her Re: The Auditors blog, “The ‘Assault’ on Privilege – A U.S. Chamber Viewpoint (and Mine).”

FEI’s Miller also tells us, “Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus is developing a revenue-neutral tax extender bill that would extend 2007 expired tax provisions for two years through the end of 2009, and extend 2008 expiring tax provisions for one year through the end of 2009.” He adds, “Baucus reportedly plans to mark up a tax extender bill before the Memorial Day recess (May 26-30).”

On the business side, a number of newspapers reported yesterday on a study released April 13 by Syracuse University’s Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC), entitled, “[IRS] Audits of Large Corporations Slide to All Time Low.” However, some of TRAC’s conclusions are being challenged by the IRS, as noted in the article, “TRAC Asserts 'Historic Collapse in Audits'; [IRS’s] Shott Says Interpretation of Data Is Wrong,” by Alison Bennett in today’s BNA Daily Report for Executives. “IRS Large and Mid-Size Business Division Commissioner Barry Shott criticized the [TRAC] report's findings … saying the drop in large corporate audits reflects numerous factors not mentioned in the document…. Some of these factors include the agency's new focus on specific areas of risk in its audit strategy rather than cumbersome examinations that can take years, alternative dispute resolution techniques that are settling controversial issues before audits even start, a significant trend in mergers and acquisitions that is shrinking the universe of large taxpayers even as it becomes more complex, and a shifting of resources into the partnership arena.” Bennett adds Schott said TRAC ‘simply got it wrong.”

And on the personal tax side, if you’re rushing to file your taxes today, you won’t be alone. “It’s crunch time for millions of procrastinators,” reported Tom Herman in his article in the weekend Wall Street Journal, “Lure of Stimulus Payments May Produce Record Filings.

“Thanks in part to the lure of economic-stimulus payments, record numbers of returns are being filed this year,” said WSJ’s Herman. “Through April 4, the IRS says it had received about 96.8 million returns, up 9.3% from a year earlier.” Additionally, he noted, “the IRS says the agency expects to receive a record 10.3 million extension requests, up from 10 million last year.”

If you find yourself filing your return (or extension request) at the main post office in New York City tonight as the midnight hour approaches, you’re in for a treat! For the fourth year in a row, Steven Zelin, “The Singing CPA,” will be performing outside the James A. Farley Post office, 32nd Street and 8th Ave. in NYC, from 11pm to midnight.

Congrats to Zelin, for headlining the Front Page story in today’s Wall Street Journal, Why Tax Day Makes Mr. Zelin Want To Sing.” The article, by Shelly Banjo, profiles Zelin in print and video, and has links to a slide show of Zelin and other rockin’ accountants like The Accounting Crows and entrants in Turbo Tax’ “Tax Rap” contest hosted by Vanilla Ice last year.

Zelin is a talented musician-singer-songwriter; it’s no wonder WSJ’s Banjo reports he recently gave up his day job as an accountant (except for a select group of clients) to focus on his stand-up comedy and music. We cited Zelin in our year-end 2007 post, in which we provided a preview clip of one of the songs from his new CD, “The Singing CPA.” We noted that his song Major in Accounting, “may help that thorny shortage of PhD issue … and may help increase the number of students majoring in accounting – a field that has already seen a boost in the post Sarbanes-0xley period.” We also provided a clip to his signature song, “Dear I.R.S,” (which alone is worth the price of one of his albums/CD’s on which it appears). I also noted my personal favorite songs on his last album had nothing to do with accounting and were simply great songs about everyday life, exhibiting a real talent for story-telling, like “Bagel Store.” Check out Zelin’s new CD, “The Singing CPA,” on i-tunes. The Tax Prof Blog has posted tracks to the CD here.

By the way, I just discovered there’s a group called The Singing Lawyers, featuring John and Debbie Orenstein (no relation to me) who went to Columbia Law School, where they met on the “Law Revue.” Among other hits, they have a song called “The CPA: Danger is His Middle Name.”

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1 comment:

Medicine said...

This case deals with attorney-client, tax practitioner-client, and work product privileges with regard to tax accrual papers.