On the Cooking the Books Podcast, Phil Hackney and I discussed Michael Kunzelman’s story (that we both spoke to him about) on white nationalist groups that are tax exempt. Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene Volokh asserts that the IRS cannot constitutionally deny tax exemptions to “hate groups” based on their views, abhorrent that they may be.
Since he name-checks me and fellow Surly blogger Phil Hackney, I figured it was worth responding to his piece. (It’s worth noting that we’ve generated a fair amount of Twitter discussion already; you can catch that in a number of threads, including this one and this one.)
I don’t intend to be comprehensive here, but I want to make five main points: Continue reading “More on Hate Groups and Tax Exemptions [Updated]”
By: David J. Herzig
The New York Times wrote about the Pratt Family burial plot. As Daniel Hemel pointed out there was also a tax story; apparently, the cemetery qualifies as a 501(c)(13) tax-exempt entity. So, when you combine tax and a Cleveland company, I was fascinated by the story. 
Because the cemetery is tax-exempt under section (c)(13), it can only benefit its members. This is contrary to the general rule for tax-exempts that you benefit everyone as opposed to just members. The question that the IRS had to address was how discriminatory could the cemetery be. For example, whether both the Rockefellers and the Pratts could be buried in the cemetery. According to Daniel’s review of the rulings and regulations, “the Pratt family cemetery won’t lose its tax exempt status if it excludes the Rockefellers (or any other non-Pratts) from being buried there. But the family cemetery need not limit membership to Pratts in order to maintain its tax exemption.” All of which is true.
But, I wondered why does the family care so much about maintaining the tax exemption. I started to dig around to find the 990s of the cemetery. What if the tax-exemption were terminated? (As a certain President Elect has come to decide – sometimes the maintenance of tax-exempt entities are more trouble than they are worth).
Continue reading “Rockefellers, Pratts and Private Cemeteries”
By: Philip Hackney, December 22, 2016
Sam Brunson and I discuss an AP story “White Nationalists Raise Millions with Tax-Exempt Charities,” by Michael Kunzelman on a Cooking the Books Podcast today on Sparemin. The recording quality today is not the best, but I really liked the conversation a lot and hated to throw it away. I try to summarize it a bit below. Give it a listen. Let us know what you think.
Many might be surprised that these organizations that educate people about the righteousness of the superiority of the “white race” are operating openly under IRS approval as tax exempt organizations. It means that the US government effectively subsidizes the operation of these organizations through tax deductible charitable contributions and exemption for any income they earn.
How do they qualify? The primary argument must be that they are educational. The difficulty with this claim is that the IRS had success in the 1980s and 1990s in denying the tax exemption of two similar groups the National Alliance and the Nationalist Movement. This IRS CPE talks about those cases. Continue reading “White Nationalists Groups are Charitable? Apparently so According to IRS (Cooking the Books Podcast)”
By: Sam Brunson
In August, the European Commission announced that Ireland had illegally granted state aid to Apple, and that it would be required to recoup over $13 billion in back taxes from Apple. (Surly coverage here.)
All of the analysis at the time was tentative, though, because, before it could release its decision, the EC had to redact it. And on Monday, it released the redacted version.[fn1] All 130 pages of the redacted version. So now we get to dig into its content. Continue reading “Apple, Ireland, and State Aid: The EC Decision”
By: David Herzig
I was fortunate enough to present to the Chicago Estate Planning Council about a week ago. I rearranged a presentation that I gave at the Notre Dame Tax and Estate Planning Institute. (As an aside, both of these forums are great sources of continuing cutting edge eduction for the practicing bar). I spent the majority of the hour I was allotted describing section 1202 the Qualified Small Business Stock Exemption. To my shock, most of the 300 in attendance either were not familiar with the provision or had not thought about it for a decade. After a quick twitter exchange, I thought I would do a short post explaining the code section as well as why it should be used or at least discussed more.
First, can everyone in Silicon Valley please stop laughing. I get it. You have been using 1202 since the 1990s. Almost every VC agreement requires the target to qualify as 1202. For the rest of us, let me catch you up on why 1202 is maybe one the largest give aways in the tax code today.
The QBSB Election came in existence in 1993. Why was the section so forgettable? Well, if I told you there was a tax credit if you formed a C corp that lowered your rate from 28% to 14% but still had an AMT phase-out – I probably lost you at C Corp. Even if I had your attention, as capital rates lowered to 20%, the QSBS stayed steady at 14% so why set a C Corporation to save 6%? Yes, 6% is a large savings but, not, when the Code required that 7% of the amount excluded from gross income be treated as a “preference” item and subject to AMT.
Continue reading “The Amazing Section 1202”
By: Sam Brunson
I’ve written a couple times about the various presidential candidates’ tax return disclosure and nondisclosure. Ultimately, I concluded that, unless Congress mandates disclosure, it’s not going to happen.
It turns out that I may have been wrong.
No, I don’t mean that the disclosure norm is going to reassert itself. I do mean, though, that requiring presidential candidates to disclose their tax returns may not require Congressional action after all. Continue reading “A New Approach to Presidential Tax Disclosure [Updated]”
By: Sam Brunson
A week and a half ago, David entered the debate about Trump’s potential problem with the Emoluments Clause. He pointed out that, whether or not Trump’s business interests would run afoul of the Emoluments Clause, any divestiture of assets would probably trigger a significant tax liability. (We don’t know exactly what that would be, but given that many of his assets are real property interests, he has probably been depreciating them, so even if they haven’t appreciated in value, his adjusted basis is probably significantly lower than the fair market value of the assets. So when he sells them, the sale will probably trigger a significant taxable gain.) Continue reading “Trump’s Emoluments Tax Problem, Part Two”
By Daniel Hemel and David Herzig
Who Holds the Trump Card on Reconciliation?
Republicans on Capitol Hill are reportedly planning to use the filibuster-proof budget reconciliation process to repeal the Affordable Care Act and overhaul the tax code. Against that background, Sam Wice says that “the most powerful person in America” in 2017 will be Senate Parliamentarian Elizabeth MacDonough, the nonpartisan official who will “determine” how much of their agenda Republicans can pass through reconciliation. This, of course, is an exaggeration: like it or not, the most powerful person in America in 2017 will be Donald J. Trump, who will wield all the power of the imperial presidency. But Wice’s post helpfully directs our attention to the budget reconciliation process, the rules of which quite likely will determine whether the Republican leadership on Capitol Hill can repeal the ACA and reform the tax laws.
Yet while one should not underestimate the importance of reconciliation, one should also not overestimate the power of the Parliamentarian in the reconciliation process. As a formal matter, the Parliamentarian’s role is advisory; and as a practical matter, the Parliamentarian has little say over significant aspects of reconciliation. Other actors—most notably, Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-Wy.)—wield at least as much influence as the Parliamentarian. Most importantly, Enzi—not MacDonough—will determine whether the provisions in any reconciliation bill violate various rules against deficit-increasing legislation being passed via reconciliation. And unlike the Parliamentarian, the Budget Committee Chairman is very hard to fire.
Reconciliation measures can begin in either or both chambers. However, since the ultimate vote on the budget measure occurs in the Senate, we’ll focus on the Senate side of the reconciliation process for purposes of this discussion. On the House side, the Rules Committee Chair and the Budget Committee Chair will wield outsized influence as well. We expect Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) to stay on as House Rules Committee Chair; as for the House Budget Committee Chair, the race is on for a replacement to Tom Price, the Georgia Republican recently tapped as Trump’s Health and Human Services Secretary.
To understand why the Budget Committee Chair is as powerful as he is, a bit of background on reconciliation may be helpful. Continue reading “The Art of the (Budget) Deal”