Distilleries unite against spirits taxes




Perth distilleries, including Whipper Snapper Distillery and Sin Gin Distillery, are lobbying the government to change taxes on spirits, which they claim are stunting industry growth.

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Rather than increased taxes, borrowing to fund Budget stimulus, says Nirmala Sitharaman


Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman said Friday the Budget FY22 provides for enhanced government capital expenditure, especially in infrastructure, health and agriculture sector. The Budget also seeks private sector participation in a big way and provides space to set up of private DFIs, she said at a post-Budget interaction with top CEOs held by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII).

Though the government will provide some capital for the proposed Development Financial Institution (DFI), the body will also raise capital from the market. In addition, the DFI Bill will provide legislative space for private DFIs.

Similarly, the asset reconstruction company to manage non-performing assets will be floated as a holding company by the banks themselves, with support from the government, she said.

“Contrary to the expectations of a Covid-19 tax, the Government has chosen to fund the Budget stimulus through higher borrowing, rather than increased taxes,” she said, as per a Finance Ministry statement. The spending push will focus on high multiplier areas like infrastructure which would facilitate private investments in power, roads, ports, airports, apart from healthcare and agriculture.

CII president Uday Kotak said the Budget focus on growth and transparency was on right track. Budget proposals also displayed the government approach of encouraging private enterprise and respecting the markets, he said.

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When can I file my 2020 taxes? Here’s why you have to wait



The Internal Revenue Service doesn’t want your money—yet.

In previous years, people could begin filing their taxes in late January. This year, the IRS has said, “No, thank you.”

The earliest you can do so for your 2020 taxes is February 12.

It’s not an early ode to Valentine’s Day, but rather due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, it’s all about the new round of stimulus checks, which the IRS is tasked with delivering.

“The February 12 start date for individual tax return filers allows the IRS time to do additional programming and testing of IRS systems following the December 27 tax law changes that provided a second round of Economic Impact Payments and other benefits,” the IRS explains on its website. “If filing season were opened without the correct programming in place, then there could be a delay in issuing refunds to taxpayers. These changes ensure that eligible people will receive any remaining stimulus money as a Recovery Rebate Credit when they file their 2020 tax return.”

The deadline remains April 15 and people who file for an extension still have until October 15.

Last year, the federal government pushed off the deadline for filing 2019 taxes to July 15, due to the pandemic.

“The IRS is under tremendous stress already, because of the extended tax season last year and administering checks,” explains Andy Phillips, director of the Tax Institute at H&R Block.

The tax-prep company said it usually looks to the Tuesday after Martin Luther King Jr. Day as the start of the tax season, though this year it was already expected to begin later.

“What this means to people is it causes a bit of uncertainty in a year where there’s already some uncertainty,” he continues, citing examples of new circumstances in people’s lives from job losses to new gig or contractor jobs to supplement or replace lost incomes to increased investing. “Life changes almost always equal tax changes.”

Taxpayers using IRS Free File, which was opened earlier this month, can start to file through Free File partners, but the returns won’t be transmitted to the IRS until February 12, according to the IRS.

While millions of Americans file their federal income taxes at the last minute—think 11:59 p.m. on April 15—there is a group of early birds who like to get their paperwork in ASAP.

Reasons for getting a jump on tax-filings range from wanting to get your refund sooner to needing the forms for financial-aid applications to preventing identity theft, according to experts.

Suzanne Campbell, 52, an attorney living in Marlton, N.J., likes to pay her taxes early and feels put out by this year’s delay.

“It feels like a burden hanging over me,” she says. “You spend a week and a day getting it together. Then, there’s a great sense of accomplishment that the thing is done and filed.”

On the other hand, she understands that the rescheduling for February 12 is a way for the IRS to manage its workload.

“It’s mildly annoying, but I’m not unsympathetic,” Campbell says. “The Service has a lot on their plate with COVID relief and the Treasury getting checks out. I understand they’re trying to time and stage their work.”



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Raising taxes during the pandemic – Long Island Business News


Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash



Opinion: Painful decisions will have to be made on how to close the projected $8 billion state budget deficit.





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US backs down from tariffs over French tech giant taxes



The decision comes less than three weeks before US President Donald Trump is due to leave office.

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Schumpeter – A tech CEO’s guide to taxes | Business


THANKS FOR contacting me for an update on the international corporate-tax landscape. For global tech firms like yours, the headlines make worrying reading. A fragile transatlantic truce has been shattered. France has resumed collecting the digital-services tax it introduced in 2019, targeting tech firms (and catching others in the net). The outgoing Trump administration has lined up retaliatory tariffs on $1.3bn of posh French handbags, cosmetics and more, ready to pull the trigger. If America acts, the European Union may strike back against American products of equivalent value.

America complains that national tech taxes unfairly target its digital giants. It had better get used to them. Such levies, typically 2-3% of local sales, are spreading as governments try to claw back taxing rights lost in a dysfunctional global system. Among those joining France in implementing or mulling a digital tax are Brazil, Britain, India and Italy. An EU-wide version has been mooted.

You don’t need me to tell you that this is just one front on which big tech is being assailed, alongside alleged anticompetitive behaviour, the handling of user data and the policing of speech. Employees are growing restless, too. I imagine you saw this week’s news from across town about Alphabet’s geeks forming a union.

Amid this onslaught, it is worth keeping a sense of perspective. The winds on tax are shifting from favourable to, with luck, no worse than fair. We are coming off a golden age for tax-minimisation. Breakneck globalisation allowed multinationals to replace fears of double taxation with the joys of double non-taxation, using tax havens to game the system. By exploiting mismatches between different countries’ tax laws, taxable profits could be made to vanish. No wonder corporate tax departments swelled, as more brainboxes were hired to find loopholes. You have enough tax lawyers these days to fill a small concert hall (were that allowed). You and other tech firms were some of the craftiest innovators: the five largest Silicon Valley giants paid $220bn in cash taxes over the past decade, or just 16% of their cumulative pre-tax profits.

This era could not last for ever. Already, some tax gymnastics are no longer possible, owing to a multilateral clampdown brokered by the OECD club of industrialised countries after the global financial crisis. The “Double Irish with a Dutch Sandwich”, a popular dish that channelled profits through EU-based shell subsidiaries to a tax haven like Bermuda, is off the menu. So are “hybrid mismatches”, whereby differences in two or more countries’ treatment of an instrument or type of entity could be exploited to magic away taxable income or create a long-term tax deferral. The most egregious tricks involving intra-company loans have also been snuffed out. Governments, especially in Europe, have grown teeth in going after what they perceive as aggressive avoidance; Apple, don’t forget, is still tussling with Brussels over a $16bn back-tax demand. And now Facebook reportedly wants to close its Irish holding companies.

That still leaves plenty of scope to bring down tax bills, in particular through creative use of intangible assets, such as patents and other intellectual property. Balance-sheets of digitally focused firms like yours are stuffed with these. The tax-free route via the Caribbean has grown trickier, but you can still get the rate down to single figures using the EU’s haven-lites, including Ireland and Luxembourg. Governments, including in Europe, that have excoriated tax-shy firms in public have been quietly cooking up new schemes to attract investment, such as “patent boxes”.

Better still, “transfer pricing” also remains largely intact. It has underpinned global tax policy for decades, allowing firms to move profits to lower-tax territories by, in essence, pretending that their subsidiaries deal with each other at arm’s length. From the (patchy) data available, the amount of profits being shifted around hasn’t fallen much. According to the Tax Justice Network, a pesky NGO with gratingly solid number-crunchers, multinationals continue to short-change governments by around $250bn a year.

Covid-19 is a worry, to be sure. The huge holes it has blown in budgets could send people reaching for the pitchforks, demanding all pay their “fair share”. And what better target than the tech giants that have “made out like bandits” in the pandemic? Reflecting the mood, some countries have banned firms registered in tax havens from receiving bail-out funds. Self-styled tax-fairness campaigners have been throwing emotionally charged statistics around, for instance that the lost $250bn is equivalent to 20m nurses’ salaries.

With risks growing, you may want to wrest control of this issue personally from your tax department, which cannot see the pitchforks for the profit. You should lobby for a multilateral, OECD-led deal. Why? For starters, big tech could do with an armistice in at least one of its global battles with regulators—and the antitrust and data dust-ups will grind on relentlessly for years.

Yours, Lou Pohl

As important, a global deal is the least bad option for business. It would bring in a minimum global tax rate, but the bar is likely to be set low, at perhaps 12.5% of profits—below the average cash-tax rate you actually pay as a big American tech firm these days. The deal’s other pillar—making digital firms liable for tax in markets where they have customers but lack a physical presence—will make you twitchier. But even its champions accept it is unlikely to skim more than $5bn-10bn in extra revenue globally once all the horse-trading is done. Much will depend on the incoming Biden administration, which has yet to signal its intentions.

Unless it does, and soon, a draft accord by mid-2021 looks optimistic. Push for it nonetheless. The alternative looks ugly: a global tax tit-for-tat as national tech levies of varying severity become the norm, with overlapping tax claims and a possible return to pre-globalisation double taxation. So back a global deal, and trust that it will be relatively modest. The rules of the tax-avoidance game may be changing. But there’s still a game.

This article appeared in the Business section of the print edition under the headline “The game goes on”

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Using Tax Preparer to File Taxes May Delay Your Coronavirus Stimulus Check


If you used the services of an online tax preparer to file your taxes, your coronavirus stimulus check may be delayed.


3 min read


This story originally appeared on ValueWalk

The IRS has already started sending the stimulus checks to eligible people. The process of sending checks is expected to be smoother this time, but is unlikely to be without issues. One such issue that may delay your coronavirus stimulus check is if you used the services of an online tax preparer to file your taxes.

This may delay your coronavirus stimulus check

The IRS started sending out stimulus checks last week, and many have already received the payment in their bank account. However, the IRS and major tax prep software companies admit that stimulus checks may be delayed for some people.

Many people for whom the IRS had direct deposit information started getting their stimulus checks from last week. On the other hand, many who were waiting for their payment and checked their payment status on the IRS “Get My Payment” tracker, were surprised to see a different bank account listed under their name.

Such an issue primarily arises for those who use tax preparer services for filing their taxes. Many taxpayers use “Refund Transfer” services, which enables them to make the payment for the tax preparer from the tax refund itself. This is a good option for those running short of money and time.

For this process to work, the tax preparer creates a new temporary bank account to receive the refund. Once the IRS sends the refund in this account, the preparer takes their cut and transfers the balance (if any) to the filer. The bank account is then closed. However, the IRS has this closed bank account on file, and this leaves some taxpayers in limbo.

What does the IRS say about it?

Such taxpayers will still get their payment, but it may be delayed. They may either get the payment via paper check, or in the form of a credit on their 2020 taxes next year. In case the IRS mails you a paper check, it could take up to four weeks to arrive. In its updated guidance, the IRS has asked people to “watch your mail carefully for a check or debit card.”

The IRS has also acknowledged this issue in an online FAQ page. “Because of the speed at which IRS issued this second round of payments, some payments may have been sent to an account that may be closed or no longer active,” the agency says.

Further, the agency also notes that such payments would “bounce” back to the agency as the financial institutions “cannot hold and issue the payment to an individual when the account is no longer active.”

NBC News, citing a banking industry source, claims that this issue could impact as many as 14 million people. A point to note is that it is not a new issue, and many people experienced it at the time of the first stimulus checks as well.

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Why much of what we’re told about the effects of taxes is off beam


Over time, movements in the price act as signals to both the buyers of the product and its sellers. A rise in the price tells buyers they should use the now more-expensive product less wastefully, and maybe start looking for some alternative product that’s almost as good but doesn’t cost as much. On the other hand, a fall in the price tells buyers to bog in.

To the sellers, however, the price signals sent by a price change are reversed. A price rise says: this product’s now more profitable, produce more; a fall in the price signals that supply is now less profitable, so produce less.

You can see how changes in the price act as an incentive for buyers and sellers to change their behaviour.

You see too how, following some disturbance, this “price mechanism” acts to return the market for the product to “equilibrium” – balance between the supply of it and the demand for it. It sets off what real scientists call a “negative feedback loop”: when prices rise, it acts to bring them back down by reducing demand and increasing supply; when prices fall, it brings them back up by reducing supply and increasing demand.

Note that all this is about changes in relative prices – the price of one product relative to the prices of others. It ignores inflation, which is a rise in the level of prices generally.

The way economists think, taxes are just another price. And there’s no topic where people worry more about the effect of incentives than taxes – particularly the effect of income tax on the incentive to work.

Consider this experiment, conducted in 2018 by two (married) economists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Esther Duflo and Abhijit Banerjee, with Stefanie Stantcheva of Harvard. Duflo and Banerjee were awarded the Nobel prize in economics in 2019.

The three surveyed 10,000 people from all over America, asking half of them questions about how people would react to several financial incentives. Half of these respondents said they expected at least some people to stop working in response to a rise in the tax rate, and 60 per cent expected people to work less.

Almost half of the 5000 respondents expected the introduction of a universal basic income of $US13,000 ($17,000) a year, with no strings attached, to lead people to stop working. And 60 per cent thought a Medicaid program (providing healthcare for people on low incomes) with no work requirement would discourage people from working.

But here’s the trick: the economists asked people in the other half of their 10,000 sample the same questions, but how they themselves would react, not how they thought other people would. Their responses were significantly different, with 72 per cent of them declaring that an increase in taxes would “not at all” lead them to stop working.

As Duflo and Banerjee summed it up in their book, Good Economics for Hard Times, and in an excerpt in the New York Times, “Everyone else responds to incentives, but I don’t”.

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It’s possible those people could be deluding themselves – after all, most people believe they’re not influenced by advertising, when it’s clear advertising works – but in this case the hard evidence shows financial incentives aren’t nearly as influential as is widely assumed.

The first place to see this is among the rich. “No one seriously believes that salary caps lead top athletes to work less hard in the United States than they do in Europe, where there is no cap. Research shows that when top tax rates go up, tax evasion increases . . . but the rich don’t work less,” they say.

And we see it among the poor. “Notwithstanding all the talk about ‘welfare queens,’ [and the use our Morrison government has made of similar talk to justify keeping the JobSeeker dole payment low] 40 years of evidence shows that the poor do not stop working when welfare becomes more generous,” they say.

“When members of the Cherokee tribe started getting dividends from the casino on their land, which made them 50 per cent richer on average, there was no evidence that they worked less.”

It’s true that in many circumstances – but not something as deeply consequential as decisions about how much work to do – differences in prices will influence the choices people make. In a supermarket, for instance, many shoppers will reach for the cheaper jar of peanut butter.

But when we’re making decisions about bigger and more consequential issues – such as whether to work and how much of it to do – monetary incentives such as the rate of tax on it, go into the mix with a multitude of other, non-monetary incentives.

Such as? “Something we know in our guts: status, dignity, social connections. Chief executives and top athletes are driven by the desire to win and be the best. The poor will walk away from social benefits if they come with being treated like a criminal. And among the middle class, the fear of losing their sense of who they are,” Duflo and Banerjee conclude.

Why do economists so often make bad predictions and give bum advice? Because they keep forgetting that a model of economic behaviour that focuses so heavily on prices leaves out many other powerful incentives.

Ross Gittins is economics editor at The Sydney Morning Herald.

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Joe Biden’s son Hunter says he is under investigation over taxes


While Donald Trump’s critics will be quick to accuse the outgoing president of orchestrating this investigation as political reprisal, the US attorney behind it – David Weiss of Delaware – is a veteran prosecutor. Although he was appointed by the current president, Weiss also worked as a deputy in the office, and as interim US attorney, during Democrat Barack Obama’s presidency.



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Like everything else 2020, taxes will be like no other year


Here are a few pandemic specific conditions — good and bad — to be aware of.

———

UNEMPLOYMENT

Unemployment benefits are taxable income, which tax experts say may surprise some filers.

It’s worth noting that unemployment benefits are all subject to federal taxes but not all states tax it.

Taxpayers who unintentionally do not include unemployment income on their taxes could face a tax bill, penalties or interest charged by the IRS, said Mark Steber, Jackson Hewitt’s chief tax information officer.

The drop in income from job loss could mean some households are eligible for deductions and credits that they did not qualify for in the past, such as the earned income tax credit or child and dependent care credit, said Lisa Greene-Lewis, a CPA and tax expert at TurboTax. The size of some credits may also change based on income.

———

RELIEF CHECKS

As part of the CARES Act, a relief package passed early in the pandemic, millions of Americans were given payments of $1,200 per adult and $500 per child. At last count, the IRS said 160 million payments totaling about $270 billion have been delivered by direct deposit, paper check or prepaid debit card.

That money is not taxable.

However, what many people do not realize is that the money they received is actually an advanced payment on the Recovery Rebate Credit for 2020 tax filers, said Dina Pyron, Global TaxChat Leader at Ernst & Young.

As such, people who did not receive their payment or only got a partial payment can resolve this issue on their 2020 taxes when they file. If you were overpaid, you will not owe.

Also, if you did not get a relief check because your income was too high, but it has since fallen in 2020 and made you eligible, you also can get the payment via this credit.

———

WORKING FROM HOME

Working from home became the norm in 2020 for many people, but most won’t likely be able to claim expenses for their new work-from-home setup.

The home-office deduction can only be taken by businesses or the self-employed. The tax law enacted in late 2017 did away with the ability of employees to claim any unreimbursed employee expenses, at least until 2025. Some states may allow people to deduct unreimbursed employee expenses though.

For those who might be able to claim this expense, Greene-Lewis reminds people that the home office must be used “exclusively and regularly as your principal place of business.” That means the table where your kids do homework or family eats dinner does not count.

Another big issue is for those who relocated or moved during the pandemic, which could complicate where they need to report and pay state taxes, Pyron said.

Workers may need to file taxes in multiple states. The rules vary by state but it is critical that people check the new state’s tax resources for more details, said Jeremiah Barlow, the head of family wealth services at Mercer Advisors. It’s likely that they will have two part-year state returns to file, one for the old state and one for the new, Barlow said.

If people are hoping to lower their tax burden by claiming residence in the state with a lower tax rate, he urges them to tread cautiously.

“States can be aggressive about auditing taxpayers who claim they’re no longer residents,” Barlow said. “Requirements vary by state, but they’re looking to see if taxpayers gave up most of their ties to the old state and have closer ties to the new state instead, such as still owning or leasing a residence, where you are registered to vote, and the state of your driver’s license, just to name a few.”

———

CHARITY

One bright spot is a new, temporary deduction for charitable donations.

As part of the CARES Act, taxpayers can deduct up to $300 for cash donations given to charity even if they choose to take the standard deduction, rather than itemizing their deductions. The IRS estimates that about nine in 10 taxpayers now take the standard deduction.

So, if someone makes a cash donation before the end of the year they can get a deduction of up to $300 when they file. A deduction lowers both adjusted gross income and taxable income for the taxpayer.

———

TIMING

The IRS has yet to announce when the tax filing season will open; it typically begins in early January.

The agency has brought some of its employees to the office. But its face-to-face operations with taxpayers will remain extremely limited. The IRS continues to urge taxpayers to file their taxes online and use other online tools whenever possible.



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