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August 2017 Archives

New Loophole May Lead to Local Tax Hikes in California

The California Supreme Court issued a ruling on August 28, 2017 in California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland that may have created a loophole for special interests to get around the limitations on tax increases established by Propositions 13 and 218. In the instant case, an initiative was proposed in Upland, California to repeal an ordinance banning medical marijuana dispensaries and instead allow up to three dispensaries to obtain permits, subject to an "annual Licensing and Inspection fee" totaling $75,000. Since this fee exceeds the costs incurred by the government for issuing the license, it is considered a general tax. Normally, such taxes can only be heard at general elections, but an exception was made and the initiative was voted on in a special election.

Fake Scams Already Surfacing While Hurricane Harvey Hits Houston

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has issued a warning about possible fake charity scams related to the effects of Hurricane Harvey. Taxpayers should be sure the charities they want to support are recognized by the government to accept donations. Don't let your compassion get the best of you - be careful who you send your money and information. The IRS offers the following tips to help you protect your interests while also supporting causes you care about:

Bitcoin Users Beware - The IRS May Know Your Identity

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has just obtained specialized software for identifying users of bitcoins and other virtual currency. According to a work contract obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request by The Daily Beast, the IRS hopes to use this software "to identify and obtain evidence on individuals using bitcoin to either laundry money or conceal income as part of tax fraud or other Federal crimes."

California Luxury Counties Targeted by the Treasury Department

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) announced on August 22, 2017 that it will be targeting shell companies purchasing luxury properties for $2 million or more in the California counties of San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Mateo, or Santa Clara. Luxury property purchases in certain counties in Texas, Florida, New York, and Hawaii will also be under scrutiny per FinCEN's recent Geographic Targeting Order.

Applicants Sought for IRS Advisory Committee

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is seeking applicants for places on its Advisory Committee on Tax Exempt and Government Entities (ACT), specifically to assist with the employee plans, exempt organizations, and tax exempt bonds segments. The Department of the Treasury appoints members for three-year terms. Applications are accepted through September 18, 2017.

New Scam Targets Professionals' Tax Software Passwords, Security Summit Warns

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently issued a warning to tax professionals to be alert to a new e-mail scam that impersonates tax software providers and attempts to steal usernames and passwords.  Recipients of these e-mails are told that, due to a recent software upgrade, the tax preparer must revalidate their login credentials. It provides a link to a fictitious website that mirrors the software provider's actual login page. However, instead of upgrading software, the tax professionals are providing their information to cybercriminals who use the stolen credentials to access the preparers' accounts and steal client information.

FTB Rules on Market-Based Sourcing of Non-Marketing Services

The California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) issued Chief Counsel Ruling 2017-01 on August 2, 2017, regarding market-based sourcing rules for performance of "non-marketing" services. Where a subcontractor performed administrative or non-marketing business services for a health plan client, the members or sponsors of the health plan are not considered the direct customers of that subcontractor, but rather only the health plan entity.

IRS Sting Operation - Private Citizens Foot Bill

A group of private business owners have filed suit in a dispute with the IRS over reimbursement for their involvement in a sting operation to identify people filing fraudulent tax returns. "I think it is unusual for the IRS to use a private business in a sting operation," Betty Williams wrote. "If the plaintiffs are not made whole, this is simply a very sad story." Learn more in the Northern California Record, here.

FTB Releases Data on 2017 Filing Season

The California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) recently released an update on the current state tax filing season. The number of personal returns that were e-filed in 2017 increased by one percentage point as compared to 2016 (88% in 2017, and 87% in 2016). Some 133,400 people used CalFile to file returns this year, and 95% of CalFile users found that the program was easy to use and understand.

IRS Office of Appeals Begins Virtual Conference Pilot Program

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is launching a pilot program to offer a web-based virtual conference option for taxpayers and their representatives in Appeals cases. The Office of Appeals hears over 100,000 cases each year for taxpayers who would like to resolve their tax disputes outside the Tax Court, and is hoping this new program will be a convenient, efficient, and flexible way to address the needs of taxpayers, particularly those who live far from an IRS Appeals office.

FTB Changes Cost Recovery Fees for Delinquent Returns and Tax Payments

The Franchise Tax Board has updated its cost recovery fees, which are assessed against individuals and business entities when they fail to file tax returns upon demand or fail to pay their delinquent taxes. The filing enforcement fee for individuals and most entities will be $84, and the collection fee will be $287. For corporations and LLC's treated as corporations, the filing enforcement fee will be $85 and the collection fee $374.

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