IRS Clarifies Position on Tax Consquences of Ponzi Schemes

In the wake of the unravelling of uber-Ponzi schemer Bernard Madoff’s scam, the IRS has announced new guidance on how it will handle the tax consequences of being a victim of a Ponzi scheme — whether Madoff’s or any one else’s.

Yesterday, March 17th, IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman described the agency’s position in testimony before the Senate Finance Committee:

  • The investor is entitled to a theft loss, which is not a capital loss. In other words, a theft loss from a Ponzi-type investment scheme is not subject to the normal limits on losses from investments, which typically limit the loss deduction to $3,000 per year when it exceeds capital gains from investments.
  • The revenue ruling clarifies that “investment” theft losses are not subject to limitations that are applicable to “personal” casualty and theft losses. The loss is deductible as an itemized deduction, but is not subject to the 10 percent of AGI reduction or the $100 reduction that applies to many casualty and theft loss deductions Continue reading

When Does the Statute of Limitations Run Out for IRS Tax Audits?

A visitor to my website found it by asking this question in a search on Yahoo: “When does the statute of limitations run out for audits?”

The shortest answer is three years.

So the IRS Has Three Years – Three Years Starting When?

But that’s not quite enough information all by itself. The first, next question is: three years from what? What event makes the clock start ticking and counting down?

The shortest answer is that the clock starts counting down, when you, the taxpayer, file your tax return. But that’s not quite the whole story either:

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Can the IRS file a lien without going to court?

A taxpayer searching around the internet asked this question. It is a very good question because it asks about the reach — and the limits — of the IRS’s power to reach into our lives whether we like it or not.

Liens 101: What is a Lien, Anyway?

For those unfamiliar with the term, a “lien” is essentially a claim — someone claims you owe them money.

In certain situations, the person (or business, or government agency) making the claim can file a document announcing this claim with the County Clerk or other public records authority.

By filing a lien with the County Clerk, the claimant announces to the world (and especially to credit reporting agencies) that the claimant says you owe it money.

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Church Sound Man To Face Taxman’s Music

Nashville, TN — A Tennessee man who operates a business installing complex sound systems in church auditoriums nationwide, pled guilty to two counts of failure to pay federal income tax. As part of his plea, he admitted that he owes the federal government more than $300,000.

After admitting guilt in August, 2008, the sentencing hearing took place in January 2009. The court sentenced Charles Grecco, 44, of Franklin, Tenn, to serve 6 months in prison, followed by one year of supervised release, and to pay restitution of $300,141.82 to the Internal Revenue Service.

According to the government, Grecco failed to pay more than $67,000 in federal income taxes for years 2001 and 2002 which was only two of the six tax years involved.

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Sin Tax on the Rise: Cigarettes to Shoulder S-CHIP

Yesterday, President Obama signed into law legislation reauthorizing and expanding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program or S-CHIP, which was set to expire in March 2009.

Former President George W. Bush had previously vetoed two similar bills.

The measure increases federal tax on cigarettes by almost 62 cents a pack, to $1.01 a pack. This increase is expected to raise the $32.8 billion needed to pay for S-CHIP over the next four years.

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IRS to Bail Out Taxpayers?

When hearing the news that former masters-of-the-universe bankers are getting billions in federal aid – bailouts from their failures – who among us has not wished to receive our own personal bailout?

After all, almost none of us have been as irresponsible, reckless, even profligate as the banks and bankers whose wastrel ways have brought down the economy. What about the rest of us who try to make a living, pay our bills, make ends meet? Times are tough for all of us now.

While it is unlikely that any of us will be invited to testify before Congress to explain why the government should write a huge check to help out on our personal finances or the finances of our small businesses (personally, if Congress did invite me, I’d skip the private jet the first time, and fly commercial or take a train or drive) , the IRS – of all government agencies – is promising relief for taxpayers and particularly taxpayers who have fallen behind in paying taxes.

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