Fox Business invited me to appear yesterday on “After The Bell” with Liz Claman and David Asman to discuss (i) the IRS reopening the disclosure initiative for offshore bank accounts and (ii) the ongoing debate about whether Congress should implement a corporate repatriation holiday. A link to the video is below the fold. (more…)
Posted tagged ‘Taxes’
The New York Times and Forbes Magazine are reporting on a study by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse, a research group affiliated with Syracuse University, which claims to show that the number of audits of corporations reporting assets of $250 million or more has dropped between 2005 and 2009, while audits of smaller companies have increased during that same time.
Believing that the IRS has misallocated its resources, TRAC blames this development on a “perverse quota system” within the IRS. The IRS, however, disputes the study’s findings. From the NY Times article:
I.R.S. officials, who have for years disputed the methodology used by TRAC, were quick to rebut the study’s findings. Steven T. Miller, the I.R.S. director of enforcement, said the study was skewed because it failed to take into account a surge in hours that I.R.S. agents spent working with businesses before they filed their returns to prevent errors or underpayments.
He asserted that the data actually showed that the agency had become more efficient in recovering unpaid taxes from the largest corporations because the average amount of money the auditors recovered per hour had risen to $9,704 in 2009 from $6,928 in 2005.
“We believe we’re looking at the right cases, we’re looking at the largest cases, we’re adding folks to these programs and have worked to really focus on the largest corporations,” Mr. Miller said. “This issue is about more than just the number of feet on the beat.”
Having not had the opportunity to review the TRAC study in detail, it would be difficult to draw any strong conclusions. One question immediately jumped out: to what extent (if any) has a reduction in the time spent auditing large corporations been due to the use of alternative programs like pre-filing agreements and advance pricing agreements, which are specifically intended to reduce the IRS’s examination burden (while still ensuring compliance)? If some portion of the reduction in auditing is due to an increase in alternative compliance-promoting techniques, it would seem that the reduction itself is not a meaningful data point without reference to the larger context.
President Obama’s health-care legislation is becoming more of a tax issue on a daily basis. In addition to the codification of economic substance (discussed here; see also yesterday’s TNT story featuring our own Phil Karter) contained in the reconciliation bill, the consequences of the legislation seem to be increasingly a matter of tax, rather than health-care, policy.
Of particular relevance here is the brewing confrontation between Reps. Waxman and Stupak and the companies who have announced substantial hits to their financial statements as a result of provisions in the health-care legislation. In response to these announcements, Reps. Waxman and Stupak have requested that companies provide documentation verifying their assessment of the impact of the legislation and have indicated an intention to hold a hearing to examine the impact of the new law on these companies. (Presumably, the documentation provided by the companies will be a central basis for whatever questions are directed at the executives who appear at these hearings.)
Without taking a position about the politics of the matter, the dynamics of the request (and any responses to it) may implicate sensitive areas of tax policy and procedure. At this point, Reps. Waxman and Stupak have merely requested that the corporate taxpayers provide information about the impact of the health-care legislation. Suppose, though, that one or more companies decline to produce the requested information. The perceived costs and benefits of the health-care legislation are likely to be key issues in the upcoming Congressional races this fall. If the request is declined, and Congressional Democrats fear that their signature achievement is being negatively perceived, would subpoenas to the taxpayers, demanding that they produce the information, come next?
Assuming that scenario, would taxpayers then be obligated to provide the information being sought? Perhaps more importantly, would Congress be authorized to use that information in a public hearing?