As reported in my November 2014 blog post, President Obama’s administration wants to limit taxpayers’ ability to defer income under IRC § 1031. In response to former House Ways and Means Committee Chairman David Camp’s proposed Tax Reform Act of 2014, which would have eliminated IRC § 1031 altogether, the Obama administration proposed to retain the code section, but limit deferral with regard to real property exchanges to $1 million per taxpayer each tax year. Personal property exchanges, under the President’s proposal, would go unscathed.
In 2015, President Obama expanded his proposal relative to IRC § 1031 to limit personal property exchanges by excluding certain types of property from the definition of “like kind.” The excluded personal property included items such as collectibles and art. The President’s proposed $1 million real property exchange limitation was left intact.
Fast forward to today. No tax reform legislation has gained enough traction to even come close to being enacted into law. Nevertheless, President Obama’s attack on IRC § 1031 continues. In the administration’s 2017 budget proposal (released a few months ago), the White House expands its quest to limit the application of IRC § 1031. This proposal is identical to President Obama’s original response to former Chairman Camp’s 2014 tax reform proposal, but it goes further. Now, the President is proposing that the $1 million limitation apply to both personal and real property exchanges. In addition, like his 2015 proposal, President Obama wants to exclude certain personal property, collectibles and art, from the definition of “like kind.”
I am not sure any real logic or significant tax policy supports the White House’s latest proposal to limit the application of IRC § 1031. Rather, the proposal appears to be solely aimed at tax revenue generation. According to the Treasury, the proposal, if enacted into law, would increase tax revenues by $47.3 billion over 10 years.
IRC § 1031 is clearly on lawmakers’ radar screens as a means to increase tax revenues. Time will tell whether IRC § 1031 will be repealed or significantly curtailed in its application. Nevertheless, one thing is for sure: IRC § 1031 remains a potential target. Stay tuned!
Every year, around the April 15 individual tax return filing deadline, a story appears in the press highlighting the tax woes of famous people. The Government undoubtedly issues these press releases to encourage taxpayers to comply with their tax filing and tax payment obligations. The list of famous people who have been the subject of this news over the years is lengthy. It includes: Abbott & Costello, Spiro Agnew, Chuck Berry, Richard Pryor, Martha Stewart, Darryl Strawberry, Nicholas Cage, Heidi Fleiss, Pete Rose, Wesley Snipes and Willie Nelson.
On April 4, 2016, U.S. Attorney Andrew M. Luger from Minnesota issued a press release that adds a recently-retired United States Tax Court judge to the list. Mr. Luger announced a federal indictment charging former tax court judge Diane Kroupa and her husband, Robert E. Fackler, each with one count of conspiracy to defraud the United States, two counts of tax evasion, two counts of making and subscribing a false tax return, and one count of obstruction of an IRS audit.
According to the indictment, the defendants, among other things, fraudulently claimed personal expenses such as rent for a personal residence, utilities, pilates class tuition, spa fees, jewelry, clothing, music lessons and vacation costs as deductible expenses. In addition, the indictment states that the defendants understated taxable income by about $1 million and understated taxes owing by $400,000 or more.
U.S. Attorney Luger stated: “The allegations in this indictment are deeply disturbing. The tax laws of this country apply to everyone and those of us appointed to federal positions must hold ourselves to an even higher standard.”
Ms. Kroupa was appointed to the United States Tax Court in 2003 by President George W. Bush, and served in that position until her retirement in June 2014. Upon retiring, the court issued a press release stating that: “The court is deeply grateful for the excellent judicial service that Judge Kroupa has rendered in her 11 years on the court.”
The charges made against the former judge and her husband are serious. It is important to keep in mind, however, that the charges at this point in the case are merely accusations. Former judge Kroupa and her husband are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Most people, especially tax practitioners, will likely agree that it is a very sad day for our justice system when a former judge is indicted on such serious charges. If former judge Kroupa and her husband are found guilty of the charges, however, it will be an even sadder day for our tax system.
The case is the result of an investigation conducted by the Criminal Investigation Division of the Internal Revenue Service and the United States Postal Inspection Service.
Stay tuned! I expect we will see several more press releases as this case progresses in our judicial system.
Regardless of whether former judge Kroupa and her husband are found guilty, their indictment serves as a warning: Compliance with our tax obligations should be taken seriously!
Larry J. Brant is a Shareholder in Garvey Schubert Barer, a law firm based out of the Pacific Northwest, with offices in Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon; New York, New York; Washington, D.C.; and Beijing, China. Mr. Brant practices in the Portland office. His practice focuses on tax, tax controversy and transactions. Mr. Brant is a past Chair of the Oregon State Bar Taxation Section. He was the long term Chair of the Oregon Tax Institute, and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Portland Tax Forum. Mr. Brant has served as an adjunct professor, teaching corporate taxation, at Northwestern School of Law, Lewis and Clark College. He is an Expert Contributor to Thomson Reuters Checkpoint Catalyst. Mr. Brant is a Fellow in the American College of Tax Counsel. He publishes articles on numerous income tax issues, including Taxation of S Corporations, Reasonable Compensation, Circular 230, Worker Classification, IRC § 1031 Exchanges, Choice of Entity, Entity Tax Classification, and State and Local Taxation. Mr. Brant is a frequent lecturer at local, regional and national tax and business conferences for CPAs and attorneys. He was the 2015 Recipient of the Oregon State Bar Tax Section Award of Merit.