Showing posts with label FTB. Show all posts
Showing posts with label FTB. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Taxpayer Prevails against the Franchise Tax Board after Ex-Spouse Attempts to Destroy her Tax Relief Case

Just like the IRS, the California Franchise Tax Board (FTB) also has a program to allow one spouse to be relieved of existing joint liabilities if that spouse can prove that she or he meets the requirements for "innocent spouse" relief. These types of cases whether at the IRS or FTB level can be hotly contested and the other ex-spouse can intervene and attempt to impede the determination to relieve the liability for the claimant spouse. In a recent case, McShea, California State Board of Equalization, No. 509192, April 22, 2014, released August 2014, a taxpayer demonstrated that the FTB erred in its denial of her request for innocent spouse relief from unpaid California personal income tax liabilities.

In the McShea case, the FTB initially granted the taxpayer complete equitable relief for 1993 and partial equitable relief for 1994. However, the taxpayer’s ex-husband appealed the grant of relief, arguing that they had agreed to share the tax liabilities for the tax years at issue. As a result, the FTB changed its position, determining that it had erroneously granted equitable relief.

In reviewing the case, the Board of Equalization determined that the following factors weighed in favor of reversing the FTB’s proposed action on appeal:

• the taxpayer’s marital status (divorced for at least 12 months prior to the date the innocent spouse determination was being made);

• the taxpayer’s compliance with the income tax laws in the years following the years for which relief was requested;

• the presence of severe domestic abuse during the taxpayer’s years of marriage;

• and the taxpayer’s lack of knowledge or reason to know, when she was ordered by a judge to sign the 1993 and 1994 joint returns in 2007, that her ex-
husband would not or could not pay the tax liabilities.

The FTB argued that the taxpayer could have clarified at the couple’s 2007 court hearing whether her ex-husband intended to remit payment for the 1993 and 1994 tax liabilities on or about the time he filed the 1993 and 1994 returns. However, the State Board of Equalization determined that due to the years of abuse and the taxpayer’s belief that she needed to sign the returns in order to receive the child support her ex-husband owed, the taxpayer was afraid to confront her ex-husband and the judge concerning the payment of the 1993 and 1994 tax liabilities at the time she signed the returns and, therefore, she did not know or have reason to know that her ex-husband would not or could not pay the tax liabilities.

This is a great result for the innocent spouse, especially in a situation where the ex-spouse intervened and attempted to persuade the tax authorities not to grant the innocent spouse relief. It is extremely important that when making a claim for innocent spouse that all the factors are considered and that the claimant is prepared to get into a heated battle with the ex-spouse. Sometimes the other ex-spouse does not intervene and sometimes the ex-spouse intervenes but only to help the innocent spouse obtain the relief being requested. So you really need to vet the situation prior to making the claim so that you are prepared to deal with all the possible scenarios. Innocent spouse relief is a powerful tool that can be used to abate the existing tax liabilities, thus in the appropriate circumstances, it should not be overlooked.

If you have questions or want to pursue this type of claim, you can contact the Wilson Tax Law Group at 714-463-4430. Our attorneys are experts in innocent spouse relief and can assist or advise you regarding these types of matters.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tax Problems Facing Marijuana Dispensaries, This Time From the City of Los Angeles



The LA times published an interesting article about marijuana dispensaries operating in Los Angeles.  The article focuses on the interesting fact that as Los Angeles tries to clamp down on the number of marijuana dispensaries operating in Los Angeles by making them follow Proposition D requirements, more than 450 medical marijuana shops filed business tax renewals with the Office of Finance.  This number is more than three times as many stores than what is estimated to be allowed to stay open.  So while local lawmakers are troubled by the number of medical marijuana shops that still exist in Los Angeles, the Office of Finance has no problem cashing in on all the taxes being collected from them.  The article states that Los Angeles collected roughly $2.1 million from medical marijuana tax renewals this year, an Office of Finance staffer told a City Council committee Monday.

The interesting thing about this article is that City Council is upset that these people are paying business taxes because now the City cannot use tax evasion statutes as a method to shut them down.   It seems to me that these people are trying to comply with the tax code so whether or not they comply with Proposition D is not the tax-collecting agencies' business.   The City is so upset at all the business tax renewals, but has no problem collecting the roughly $2.1 million in revenues from medical marijuana shops.  Nor should they have any problem with it - Council members would be forfeiting their jobs if they took the position that the illegal businesses should be issued refunds.

In reality, the juxtaposition between collecting taxes from someone while turning a blind eye to the source of the money is hardly a new story.  This happens every time the IRS comes in to count the drug money after the DEA makes a big bust.  Even illegal businesses have to pay taxes.  Nonetheless, you don't usually see the opposite scenario - e.g., the DEA swooping in after the IRS audits a tax return - as the City Council members seem to support here.   The sharing of tax information between taxing and law enforcement agencies is usually a one-way street.  In non-tax cases, the Federal tax privacy law, IRC Section 6103(i)(1), provides that the IRS can share return information with another federal investigative agency only with a court order.

The government relies on taxes to operate and it would inhibit people from filing true tax returns if they thought that the information would be made public or would be shared with other government agencies.  The privacy of tax return information was also a qualified privilege under Federal common law before Congress enacted Section 6103.  In this situation, it would behoove whoever is advocating and lobbying on behalf of the dispensaries to not only be familiar with the medical marijuana laws and business laws, but also tax law and policy.

As an attorney who understands criminal law and tax law, I can tell you that medical marijuana dispensaries get no breaks that other businesses get under the state tax code.  They are treated as illegal drug trafficking activities under the California Revenue and Taxation Code. So what does this mean? 

It means both the Feds and California will disallow all the business expenses of a marijuana dispensary that a normal business is entitled to deduct.  As a result, marijuana dispensaries will be taxed on their gross receipts for income tax purposes. California's tax code is basically "monkey see, monkey do," adopting the Federal tax code almost rule for rule.  Under Federal law, if a business violated public policy or is illegal, then it cannot take advantage of deductions or credits under the tax code.  Because federal tax law deems these activities as illegal drug trafficking activities, so does California.  These rules are completely screwed up because they encourage these types of businesses to operate under the radar for tax purposes.   Fortunately, it is not an entirely slam dunk case for the tax authorities because there are some legitimate tax "loopholes."  There are ways to operate so as to legitimately minimize these tax burdens.

Much of this is covered in a recent article I wrote on the Taxation Of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries.  I suggest any marijuana dispensary contact an experienced tax attorney who knows the marijuana dispensary tax rules inside and out.  There are ways to follow the tax rules and not have to pay taxes on the gross receipts of the dispensary.  Feel free to contact the Wilson Tax Law Group, if you have any questions. Our firm has significant experience addressing tax problems facing marijuana dispensaries.




Sunday, June 15, 2014

Welcome to the Wilson Tax Law Blog - a Newport Beach Tax Attorney Blog

The Wilson Tax Law Group is a tax firm serving the Newport Beach and Yorba Linda areas.  This blog is meant to be both a service to our clients, where we can post IRS, California Franchise Tax Board, FBAR, and Orange County property tax news that may be of interest to them.  It will also be a place where we will post on topics that are of interest to us and other tax professionals following hot tax topics of the moment.  Sometimes, those areas will intersect, because we handle cutting edge cases including tax audits and tax planning for marijuana dispensaries (sales tax and income tax) and defending taxpayers in criminal investigations of the FBAR penalties.  This blog will be constantly evolving, so please give us feedback in the comments section if you think of future topics you would like to read more about.

For more information on our firm, read about our Newport Beach and Yorba Linda area tax attorney at wilsontaxlaw.com.