Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Friday, June 30, 2006

IRS HQ Flooded Out:

The Headquarters of the Internal Revenue Service, at 1111 Constitution Avenue in Washington, DC, has been closed due to flooding from the torrential rainstorms that hit Washington last week.

To which I say, the chickens are coming home to roost!

When I worked for the IRS in Manhattan, we were in a building whose elevators consistently malfunctioned (as did its air conditioning system). The same thing occurred in St. Louis . The IRS's Fresno facility had a leaky roof, and in Lanham, Maryland, a security guard sergeant at the IRS facility there refused to call the police when a gunpoint abduction occurred.

I am not gloating. My empathy lies with the IRS employees who have to work under such adverse conditions.

And speaking of flooding, America is flooded with illegal aliens. It seems that the Third Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered formerly lawful permanent resident alien Antonio Serafino deported, based upon Serafino's guilty plea to charges of tax evasion [the case apparently will not be officially reported, but can be found at Serafino v. U.S. Attorney General, 2006 U.S. App. LEXIS 16373 (3rd Cir., Docket numbers 05-2720 and 05-3577, 29 June 2006).].

We have now ridded ourselves of a tax evader. Bravissimo!!

So now that we have sent packing a tax evader who was here legally, howcum we don't even attempt to start deporting all of those tax evaders who are here illegally?

Monday, June 26, 2006

Dr. Koop: Still my Hero

Ann Coulter's latest column is critical of former Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop. This has brought scrutiny to the issue of Dr. Koop's inclusion as the first name on my roster of heroes, which will presently be addressed.

First of all, I follow and usually applaud Ann Coulter, and regret that schedule conflicts precluded my personal attendance earlier this month at the Book Revue, where Ms. Coulter made her controversial remarks about "the witches of East Brunswick." I regularly read Ms. Coulter's weekly column, have purchased some of her books and will, in all likelihood, purchase some more. Moreover, her criticism of Dr. Koop is not totally without basis.

But, as explicitly disclaimed at its head, this blog is "[a] politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line." Accordingly, I shall not now jump on the "Let's Bash Dr. Koop" bandwagon.

For one thing, the Office of the Surgeon General is a part of the Office of Public Health and Science (OPHS), which is under the direction of the Assistant Secretary for Health (ASH), who, in turn, reports to the Secretary of Health and Human Services (and, on a day-to-day basis, probably through the Assistant Secretary of HHS.

The Surgeon General is not even on the HHS Organizational Chart on the web, but is buried in the HHS bureaucracy (albeit at a level significantly higher than the GS-one-half clerk who pushes the mail cart through the office). Moreover, the Surgeon General's position is that of a political appointee, no matter how much our congresscritters claim that they want no politics to interfere with the Nation's health.

When the Surgeon General speaks, the only ones who must snap to attention are the members of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps. The politicians at the higher levels of the tree can take the Surgeon General's advice or leave it, and what they do with it is based upon considerations more political than medical.

The Surgeon General, then, must play the political game or else he/she is not in the game at all! Quite frankly, his political stance on AIDS while he sat in the Surgeon General's office troubles me much less than his anti-tobacco politics. Understand that I am a non-smoker, and that tobacco use is verboten in my house. But understand also that the processing of kosher meat entails the significant use of salt. The same "it's for your own good health" arguments used by Dr. Koop can just as easily be used by the enemies of G-d to restrict religious Jewish people from eating kosher meat. Shouldn't there be more freedom of choice on tobacco use?

In any event, Dr. Koop had to do triage with his agenda in order to actualize the more significant parts of it. In doing his mission, Koop took flak from the folks on either end of the political spectrum. He made the best of a situation in which he could never have all of his wishes granted, and in doing so, he never lost sight of his duty to look after America's health.

If all of the physicians in the country were commissioned in the Public Health Service (which I hope never to see happen), then Koop would have been able to bark out totally pro-life orders and hear his subalterns say "Yes Sir!" But in America, for better or for worse, we have physician autonomy. Our doctors and hospitals are not all a branch of the military.

Before Dr. Koop became the Surgeon General, he was a Philadelphia surgeon who practiced his medical skills in a manner consistent with his deeply-held pro-life religious beliefs. Before he made international headlines by separating conjoined twins, he had already earned respect as a competent practitioner who worked various wonders upon little children.

No, I am not entirely thrilled with Dr. Koop's AIDS education campaign, nor with his crusade against the tobacco industry (which did more damage to the individual tobacco farmers and farmworkers, and the urban and suburban convenience store businesses and restaurants and bars than it did to the tobacco industrial conglomerates). But this morning I did my usual 100 sit-ups, a feat made possible in part by the hernia repair Dr. Koop performed on me 40-something years ago when I was one of those children. As long as Dr. Koop's handiwork holds up, he stays on my list of heroes!

Friday, June 23, 2006

Lose Weight in the Voting Booth

There is now a Transportation Proposition on the ballot in the special election scheduled for 27 June 2006 in the Elwood School District. If the Proposition fails, then the kindergarten students would have to walk if they live within 2 miles of their school.

It is also noted that per the School Board minutes of 10 February 2005, the Board discussed policy regarding student health and nutrition. Board Member Julie Badlato suggested that scope of the program be expanded (that's the taxpayers' dollars there, Julie!) to include, inter alia, obesity.

The solution is obvious! The community should vote "NO" on the Proposition and make the kindergartners walk to school. This would (A) save the public tax dollars on bus transportation; and (B) give the kindergartners the opportunity to develop healthy physical activity habits so that they don't grow up to be overweight -- Without having to expend more school district dollars!

And to the parents of these kindergartners who do not want their kids to walk to school alone, I say accompany your kids on the walk to and from school, so that you can burn off all the calories and slim down your own big fat toochases as well!

Vote "NO" on the 27 June Transportation Proposition!!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

What's the reason, Aileen?

As mentioned in previous posts, am too busy to get too deeply into blogging.

It is noted, however, that Aileen Condon, IRS Estate and Gift Tax pointwoman, addressed the American Institute of CPAs Tax Division meeting in Atlanta on 19 June 2006 [reported at 2006 TNT 118-2]. Ms. Condon reportedly commented that Estate Tax Return filings dropped from 123,000 in 2000 to 74,000 in 2004, but that she would not speculate as to the reason for the precipitous decline.

What the hell is there to speculate about, Aileen? The I.R.C. Section 2010 Unified Credit Exemption threshold for filing went from an applicable exclusion equivalent of $625,000 in 1998, to $650,000 in 1999, to $675,000 in 2000 and 2001, to a cool even $1,000,000 in 2002 and 2003. This means that the estate of a decedent dying in 1998 didn't have to file unless he or she was worth at least $625,000 [I shall not now get into the Gift Tax adjustment], but the estate of a decedent dying in 2002 or 2003 was off the hook unless the dear departed was a millionaire.

[And for $2004 and 2005 the threshold goes to $1.5 million!].

The thought that the IRS's own E&G head honcha might be so clueless is very disconcerting. I sure hope that Ms. Condon's speech was misreported!

Friday, June 09, 2006

IRS loses file again:

In a yet to be officially reported case (which may well never be officially reported), the IRS lost the taxpayer's administrative file, but the taxpayer was unable to prove the IRS's assessment incorrect, and so, judgment was entered against the taxpayer.

The case is United States v. David A. Williams, 2006 TNT 111-16, (M.D.Pa., No. 3:04-CV-0394, 15 March 2006).

Critical as I am about the IRS, my heart doesn't really bleed all that much for the taxpayer involved for the following reasons:

A. Mr. Williams did not file his 1987 and 1988 tax returns until 2002.

B. Mr. Williams failed to substantiate all of his claimed dependency exemptions. He was able to come up with the birth certificates for 2 of his children, but unable to show birth certificates for the other 2 (nor even any evidence that they resided with him or were dependent upon him).

C. The title certificate for a motor vehicle claimed as a business expense was incomplete (and possibly intentionally occluded when a copy was made).

The Court was not impressed with the sparse evidence presented by Mr. Williams, and so, the assessments reflected on the IRS's transcript were deemed to be correct because Mr. Williams was unable to overcome the presumption of correctness to which the IRS is entitled.

My post of 23 December 2005 discusses a CPA who failed to file his own tax return timely. The system is inherently biased against late filers.

[If this posting does not seem to reflect the usual degree of thought and research that I put into other postings, it is because I am very, very, VERY swamped now. Much has happened which otherwise would elicit a comment from me, but I have had to pass it up.

In addition to my normal routine, I am teaching an undergrad Summer Session course in Business Law (and am only posting this because I need a break from grading the assignments that were handed in yesterday). This I can generally wing from last year's lecture notes. The real time and energy drain is the graduate Estate & Gift Tax course I am slated to teach, for the first time, during the 2nd Summer Session. For this I must tool up from scratch, which wouldn't be so bad, except that Congress is now fighting it out as to the future of the Estate Tax, so much of the lecture notes I am now assembling may well be inapplicable when I start teaching the course in less than one month. So things will likely grow very busy over the next month, which likely will not facilitate too many postings.]

And Congress must do something about the Estate Tax, because as matters currently stand, it will totally disappear on 1 January 2010, and then suddenly reappear with respect to decedents dying on or after 1 January 2011. From a taxation point of view, lots of wealthy people would be worth more to their children and other heirs if they died in 2010 than in 2011 or afterward. It would therefore not be unsurprising in the least if, during the final weeks of 2010, a greater than statistically expected number of older wealthy people were to die under unexplained or unusual circumstances.

And because, in many localities, the long-tenured police detectives typically have "use it or lose it" annual leave at the end of a given calendar year, the law enforcement authorities will be ill-postured to investigate the mysterious deaths until the detectives return from extended winter vacation.