Ways and Means Committee To Consider Bills Improving Healthcare Tax Credits

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Wednesday, May 24th, 2017, 9:39 AM PERMALINK

Today, the House Committee on Ways and Means will markup three pieces of legislation that compliment the recently passed American Health Care Act, legislation that repeals Obamacare and replaces it with free market, patient centered healthcare.

The AHCA repealed close to one trillion in Obamacare taxes, reduced spending, enacted entitlement reform through block granting of Medicaid, and expanded health savings accounts. The legislation will ensure states are able to implement a healthcare system that best fits their needs, and is a giant step forward in lowering taxes and reforming our nation's health care system.

The three pieces of legislation to be considered by the Committee further compliment the gains made by ensuring that veterans and Americans who recently lost their jobs have the access to the care they need, and implementing robust verification for the AHCA’s tax credit. All Members of the Committee should vote in favor of each piece of legislation.

H.R. 2372, the ‘‘Veterans Equal Treatment Ensures Relief and Access Now (VETERAN) Act,” Sponsored by Rep. Sam Johnson (R-Texas)

The Veteran Act Puts into law an existing regulation that ensures veterans who are not already enrolled in and receiving health insurance through the VA have help to purchase coverage on the individual insurance market. There is no reason that veterans should not receive all the help they deserve, and this legislation helps ensure that is the case.

H.R. 2579, the “Broader Options for Americans Act,” Sponsored by Congressman Pat Tiberi (R-Ohio)

H.R. 2579 ensures Americans who have lost their jobs have access the AHCA’s tax credits. Additionally, it ensures that Americans in similar circumstances who work at churches or other houses of worship can access these tax credits. There is no reason that these Americans should be barred from affordable healthcare simply because of their unique circumstance. This legislation corrects this oversight.

H.R. 2581, the “Verify First Act,” Sponsored by Congressman Lou Barletta (R-Pa.)

The Verify First Act protects taxpayer dollars from waste, fraud, and abuse by tightening verification requirements to ensure that subsidies under current law and tax credits under the AHCA aren’t dispensed until the legal status of an eligible recipient is verified.

Numerous reports by government watchdogs (see here, here, here, here, here) have found that existing controls are insufficient resulting in billions of taxpayer dollars being sent out without verification. This common sense legislation helps correct this weak system by ensuring that controls are stronger and federal resources are not wasted. 

 

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ATR Statement in Praise of Trump Budget

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Posted by Alex Hendrie on Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017, 1:17 PM PERMALINK

President Donald Trump’s Fiscal Year 2018 budget proposal released today is a conservative blueprint to reverse the nation’s frail fiscal state, enact tax reform, and grow the economy.

“Trump starts by respecting taxpayers. Trump’s budget shows that he realizes every dollar being spent by Washington is first earned by American workers and then taken from them,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.  “Spending wisely, ripping out wasteful, duplicative and counterproductive spending programs, is step one. The budget blueprint, titled ‘The New Foundation for American Greatness’ is a dramatic U-turn from the policies of the last administration. The proposal will ensure that the federal government lives within its means, programs are run efficiently, and taxpayer dollars are responsibly spent,” said Norquist.

Highlights of the budget include:

- Reduces IRS budget by $239 million

- Demands tax reform, not tax increases: The Trump Budget calls for desperately needed tax reform that simplifies the code, promotes economic growth, and allows businesses to compete and innovate. Specifically, the Trump budget calls for a 15 percent rate on corporations and small businesses, drastic tax cuts and simplification for families, elimination of the death tax and AMT, and territoriality for businesses operating overseas.

This proposal is in stark contrast to the budget proposals from President Obama in the past eight years, which were replete with tax increases. In his last year alone, Obama proposed a net $3.4 trillion over a decade including a $320 billion energy tax for wasteful new spending on bullet trains and self-driving cars. This would increase federal taxes to the point where they are 20 percent of the economy, far above historical averages.

- Calls for strong economic growth: The policies in Trump’s budget call for strong economic growth of three percent. Over the past decade, the economy has struggled at just two percent GDP growth as the country has experienced the worst recovery in the modern era.  While the post-World War II average remains at three percent GDP growth per year, the Congressional Budget Office projects that under current policies, two percent growth will continue into the next decade.

Strong growth is also the best way to balance the budget, as every 0.1 percent in growth can result in $315 billion in federal revenue over the next decade. The Trump budget does this, instead of relying on higher taxes that suppress economic growth and hurt American families.

Cuts Wasteful Spending Programs: The Trump budget addresses Washington overspending by reducing spending by $3.6 trillion over the next decade.

The budget takes aim at unnecessary federal agencies to ensure states are able to set policies that best fit their needs, free from unelected federal bureaucrats:

- Cuts the EPA by 31 percent.
- Cuts the Department of Agriculture by 21 percent.
- Cuts the Department of Commerce by 16 percent.
- Cuts the Department of Education by 13 percent.

Enacts Welfare Reform: The Trump budget calls for welfare reform that ensures finite federal resources are well spent and encourages able-bodied individuals to return to the workforce. The budget tightens eligibility of SNAP, EITC, and the child tax credit to cut down on waste and abuse.

 

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

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The Marketplace Fairness Act: a Huge Internet Sales Tax

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Posted by Matthew Adams on Tuesday, May 23rd, 2017, 9:47 AM PERMALINK

Failed Vice-Presidential nominee, Sen. Tim Kaine (Va.) has reintroduced a bill, the Marketplace Fairness Act (S.976), in the U.S. Senate that would impose an internet sales tax on Americans. Under the proposed legislation, states would be able to tax across their borders, and businesses would become tax collectors beholden to the states.

As it stands, you pay no sales tax when purchasing from a business that has no physical presence in your state. But that would change under this latest revenue grab.

This carries a litany of issues. It subjects a business of one state to the tax laws of another state- one they have no political representation in. What happened to no taxation without representation?

It shifts the tax burden onto businesses as they would now have to collect a sales tax in these types of transactions and report and file to dozens of other states. This all results in taking even more money out of your pocket. 

Worst of all, it discourages tax competition and business incentives amongst the states, and instead encourages higher tax rates.

While presented as a protector of America’s small businesses, the bill would only subject our already struggling mom-and-pop shops to a greater regulatory and tax burden.

If the objective of the bill is to help small businesses, it clearly misses the mark. In fact, it’s clear the bill only serves big box stores wishing to stomp competition, and state and local governments who want more money in the piggy bank to fund big government.

The bill is bad for small businesses and consumers alike, more like the "Marketplace Unfairness Act".

#KilltheBill #NoNetTax

​Photo Credit: Negative Space

 


Trump Plan Lays the Groundwork for Biggest Tax Cut in American History

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Posted by Elizabeth McKee on Monday, May 22nd, 2017, 12:26 PM PERMALINK

President Trump released a proposal for “2017 Tax Reform for Economic Growth and American Jobs,” which he labels the “biggest individual and business tax cut in American history.” In its current state, the plan enumerates a series of principles that would reduce the tax burden on American workers and generate new economic growth. In the coming months, the president will work with lawmakers to develop these principles into comprehensive, pro-growth legislation.

Elements of the plan, such as eliminating the death tax, reducing the business tax to 15% and simplifying the tax code, represent the cornerstone of Republican fiscal policy. These policies will make the United States a competitive business environment, end the pattern of stagnation that has been plaguing US economic productivity, and create new federal revenues generated by economic growth. According to the Congressional Budget Office, increasing economic productivity by just 1% over the next decade will strengthen the economy and create $3.15 trillion in additional federal revenue.

These principles represent an encouraging first step toward comprehensive tax reform, but there is room for improvement before Trump’s finalized legislation is unveiled.

First, although Trump’s plan does not directly address full business expensing, allowing businesses to immediately recover costs must be a crucial element of tax reform. If businesses were able to immediately deduct the full value of their capital investments, they would face increased incentives to acquire new machinery and expand productive capabilities.

The Tax Foundation models the effects of expensing over the next decade, reporting:

The model estimates that expensing increases the nation’s stock of plant, equipment and buildings by nearly $4 trillion, an increase of over 14 percent. The added capital raises worker productivity. Wages are about 4 percent higher, and hours worked about 1 percent higher, representing nearly a million full time equivalent jobs. These income gains from growth generate added federal revenues in the long term.

This policy would unleash a new era of investment and economic growth, and help Trump to live up to his campaign promise of bringing back American manufacturing.

Second, tax reform will be most successful if it is permanent. Permanency in tax policy creates a culture of certainty that allows business owners to establish clear expectations for the future. Grover Norquist, in a statement to the House Ways and Means Committee, explained, “Certainty means a business owner can plan ahead to invest without concern for their ability to afford the investment and cash flows in the future.”

While members of Congress may still be deliberating on tax reform, the American people are ready for action. According to a poll released by Fox News, 73% of Americans and 61% of Democrats want to see tax reform passed this year. The president plans to galvanize this popular support by hosting roundtables, traveling the country, and bringing industry experts to Washington.

The Trump administration’s dedication to tackling tax reform reflects an historic moment in the course of the United States economy. The GOP must seize this opportunity by enacting tax policies that will restart economic growth and improve the business climate for American entrepreneurs. 

 

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

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FCC Chairman Ajit Pai on the Grover Norquist Show: Repealing Title II Regulations

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Posted by Demri Scott on Monday, May 22nd, 2017, 11:44 AM PERMALINK

On May 18, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai kick started the regulatory process of repealing Title II regulations on Internet Service Providers. Despite decades of a bipartisan light touch regulatory approach, championed by the Clinton Administration, the FCC under the Obama Administration imposed Title II regulations in 2015 through a 1934 law intended to reign in the Ma Bell monopoly, “treating the internet like a utility.” As a result, Title II regulations have stifled growth and innovation from small and large providers within the market.

Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform, recently interviewed Pai on his fight to repeal Title II regulations, his nomination process, the recent history of the FCC and the future of 5G.

“The biggest [decision under the Obama administration’s purview of the FCC] was net neutrality,” Pai explained. “The FCC was heading down one path, a more relatively free market path, and after [President Obama’s] instruction in 2014, the agency took a very different road and imposed utility style regulations on the internet which I’ve called ‘ a solution that wouldn’t work for a problem that really didn’t exist’”

Pai then goes on to explain the crippling effects of Title II regulations on the internet.

“If you want your internet to run as well as your water company or the DC metro, congratulations, [Title II is] a regulatory framework that does that. But if you want the internet to be free and open, if you want people to invest in building out networks further and increasing competition, you want the free market approach that started under President Clinton… that light touch regulatory approach was proven to succeed for the better part of two decades.”

The fight to repeal Title II regulations, led by Chairman Pai, has only just begun with the start of the public commenting period that will end on August 16. This will be followed by a decision by the FCC on whether to repeal Title II regulations on Internet Service Providers.

Listen to the rest of Chairman Pai’s interview here: 

 

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

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In Support of Rand Paul and the REINS Act (S.21)

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Posted by Matthew Adams on Monday, May 22nd, 2017, 9:45 AM PERMALINK

A new regulatory killer will soon make its way to the Senate floor.

Sen. Rand Paul’s (R-Ky.) "Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act" (REINS Act) made it through committee this week, putting our ever-growing bureaucratic behemoth in its sights. 

The REINS Act would reassert Congressional authority over governmental agencies and organizations by requiring every new regulation that will have an annual economic impact over $100 million dollars to be authorized by Congress.

As of late, Congressional Republicans have utilized the Congressional Review Act (CRA) to eliminate Obama era regulations. Signed by President Bill Clinton in 1996, the CRA gives the legislative branch the ability to overrule regulations set by executive agencies. However, Democrats have scrutinized its use, arguing that its current use is not how it was intended. This May, Sen. Corey Booker (D-N.J.) has gone as far as introducing a bill that would repeal the CRA. 

Regardless, the REINS Act sole purpose is to put an end to reckless bureaucratic nonsense, continuing the efforts made by Congress in the past few months. It would undoubtedly reign in the overbearing regulatory mess by mitigating needless spending and opening up our economy to a freer and more productive atmosphere. Between the cost of the regulatory burden, and its negative impact on the free market, the REINS Act is a common sense solution to shrinking the size of government.

Accompanying the REINS Act is the Regulatory Accountability Act which is much less extensive, but takes a step in the right direction, requiring federal agencies to run cost/benefit analyses on new regulations. A floor vote is expected soon.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


POLITICO is Wrong: Open Competition Laws Complement "Buy American"


Posted by Justin Sykes on Friday, May 19th, 2017, 4:56 PM PERMALINK

POLITICO Influence’s article released today falsely claims Americans for Tax Reform’s letter urging Congress to allow for an open and competitive bidding process in infrastructure projects contravenes President Donald Trump’s pledge to “Buy American.” 

The story from POLITICO Influence wholly mischaracterizes the idea of “Open Competition” which would actually complement President Trump’s Buy American pledge by increasing the number of American firms that can compete for publicly funded infrastructure projects and in doing so would increase taxpayer savings that could be used toward achieving the President’s trillion dollar infrastructure-plan.

It is too often the case that outdated or protectionist policies restrict what types of materials may be used in publicly funded infrastructure projects. This has the effect of preventing new and innovative materials that are often more cost efficient, and the American firms that produce them, from bidding on public infrastructure contracts. As a result the cost of U.S. infrastructure projects can be artificially inflated, costing taxpayers and the country as a whole.

By allowing Open Competition in infrastructure projects more American firms will be able to compete and in turn offer increased savings to American taxpayers in line with President Trump’s Buy American plan. 

 

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Highest-Paid Governor Thinks Taxpayers are Freeloaders

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Posted by Elizabeth McKee on Friday, May 19th, 2017, 11:35 AM PERMALINK

The highest-paid governor in the nation, California Governor Jerry Brown, thinks opponents of his $52 billion dollar gas tax hike are “freeloaders.”

The statement comes in response to California Assemblyman Travis Allen’s efforts to keep taxpayer dollars in the hands of the individual. The assemblyman has spearheaded a movement to delay the implementation of a $52 billion tax increase, demanding that the tax first be subject to a ballot measure.

Governor Brown, who makes over $190,000 per year ($52,685 more than the average gubernatorial salary), had harsh words for the assemblyman and his supporters in a speech last week.

The Orange County Register reports:

“The freeloaders — I’ve had enough of them,” Brown said, adding that the approved tax and fee hikes bring those charges to the level they were 30 years ago if adjusted for inflation. “They have a president that doesn’t tell the truth and they’re following suit.”

At 38 cents per gallon, Californians currently pay the seventh highest gas taxes in the country. Beginning November 1, that figure is set to increase by over 30%. At the same time, vehicle registration fees will increase by up to $175.

Brown continued, “Roads require money to fix. Republicans say there’s a magic source of money — it doesn’t exist . . . You want to borrow money and pay double? Or do nothing? Or take money from universities?”

Roads do require money to fix, as Californian taxpayers are well aware. A recent study by the Reason Foundation reveals California spends a stunning $419,090 per state-controlled mile of highway; in comparison, South Carolina spends just $35,286.

Still, throwing money at a problem is not a substitute for good governance. Despite immense transportation spending, a 2016 study by the national transportation research group TRIP finds that only 21% of California roads are in good condition. The Reason Foundation ranks California 42nd in the nation in highway performance and cost-effectiveness.

In fact, a report by the California State Auditor accuses the California Department of Transportation of having weak cost controls that create “opportunities for fraud, waste, and abuse.” The report exposes:

“[T]he maintenance division never implemented a budget model (model) that it paid $250,000 to develop in 2009. Use of that model would have allowed the maintenance division to identify the resources needed to maintain highways . . . although the maintenance division never implemented its model, the division has been reporting to the Legislature that it is using this sophisticated model.”

Not subject to the increased gas taxes will be bicyclists, who utilize California’s roadways but do not pay for their maintenance. California allocates $7.2 million annually to the Bicycle Transportation Authority, which builds and maintains bike lanes and ensures secure bicycle parking. Yet, according to Governor Brown, overtaxed motorists are the “freeloaders.”

California Assemblyman Matthew Harper writes, “Our roads are in terrible shape, but it is not because of a lack of funding, it is because many in Sacramento would rather grab more money than spend what they already have.”

Meanwhile, Governor Jerry Brown is content to blame California’s crumbling infrastructure on the “freeloading” taxpayer. Brown expects that, in the end, Californians will support his $52 billion tax hike. “Maybe people like gravel roads, but I don’t think so.”

 

 

Photo Credit: NASA HQ Photo

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Inspector General: IRS Mispays 31% of its Employees

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Posted by Virginia Birkofer on Thursday, May 18th, 2017, 5:05 PM PERMALINK

The IRS failed to correctly pay 31% of employees according to a recent report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA). Based on their sampling, TIGTA estimates that the IRS overpaid more than 600 employees by approximately $4.2 million and underpaid more than 900 employees by approximately $2.7 million.

The analysis was based on a sample of 4,985 IRS employees who were promoted into management positions and received pay increases that exceeded 10 percent between January 2006 and November 2015.

The IRS attributes these payment errors to complexities associated with setting pay when employees transiently move between the pay system of managerial and non-managerial roles—common to the cyclical nature of taxes. As the report notes:

“Cumbersome and confusing rules for setting pay resulted in mistakes when calculating pay for employees moving between the GS pay system and the management pay system”

These “cumbersome rules” on promotions between positions are as follows:

  • An employee selected for a first-time permanent management position is eligible for a one-time 10 percent pay increase.
  • An employee who is promoted from a management level position to another higher level management position, may receive an additional 10 percent pay increase.
  • An employee with prior management experience or selected for a temporary promotion into a management position is eligible for an 8 percent pay increase.
  • An employee who is promoted to a similar position to one they previously held may be entitled to receive increases that exceed the 10 percent and 8 percent.

 

The Inspector General’s report noted that the IRS recognized these problems existed in 2013, but failed to address them until 3 years later when The Inspector General announced their audit.

The last question that remains unresolved is whether the payment errors can be attributed to simple incompetency on the part of the IRS or malicious intent to bolster the income of some employees over that of others.

 

Photo Credit: 
Photo in the Public Domain, link: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:IRSlogo.png

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New Internet Privacy Laws Are Not Necessary

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Posted by By Margaret Mire and Katie McAuliffe on Thursday, May 18th, 2017, 2:41 PM PERMALINK

New Hampshire legislators are considering an amendment they hope will “restore” Internet privacy rights.

This effort is in response to a recent Congressional vote to overturn what has been deceitfully described as a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) “privacy” rule.

Naturally, this clever marketing trick has left many concerned that Congress’ vote has given Internet Service Providers (ISPs) some new freedom to auction off their web search history and personal data.

But, that simply is not true.

For one, the FCC’s “privacy” rule never actually took effect – Internet privacy is the same as it was 3 months ago, 6 months ago, a year ago. And more importantly, the FCC’s “privacy” rule was not about privacy at all. The FCC used the hot button word “privacy” to distract from the fact that it was actually pushing a massive power grab.

In reality, the FCC, which has little experience policing Internet privacy violations, stripped enforcement authority away from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the agency with the most expertise in enforcing Internet privacy. More concerning is that the FCC took this bold action without the blessing of congress.

Undeniably, the FCC’s action was completely unjustifiable. The FTC punished bad actors in hundreds of privacy violations over the last decade. Its battle tested method combined sensitivity-based and harms-based approaches to protect your informational exchanges by focusing on what data was held, the level of data sensitivity, and how consumers would have been affected if the data were misused. This strategy protected consumers while still allowing for innovation.

The FCC’s ‘privacy’ rule, on the other hand, was overly burdensome and would have blocked innovation. Even worse, it zeroed-in on who held the data, not what the data were. Indeed, the FCC rules were applied only to ISPs, which is a pretty bizarre approach to take if protecting privacy is the true intention.

Compared to Websites, for example, ISPs see far less of what you do online. That is because over 70% of websites use https encryption. An ISP can only see which website you visit, not what you do on the websites. ISPs do not know your movie preferences, products purchases, email content, or anything of the like.

Contrary to claims made by the left, Congress did NOT functionally change how we interact with ISPs or websites. The FCC still has authority to bring enforcement actions against privacy violations perpetrated by ISPs, and new Chairman Ajit Pai, has vowed the agency will follow the FTC regime until FTC authority can be fully restored.

Further, federal laws that require your personal information remain protected have been and still are in place. The Gramm Leach Biley Act (GLBA), which governs financial information privacy, and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which covers private health data, apply no matter who holds the data.

By ending the discriminatory, over-the-top FCC law, Congress took the first step in rectifying FCC overreach. Congress signaled that the FTC is the proper agency to police Internet privacy. This should be considered a win for consumers and innovation, not a loss.

While it may be tempting for lawmakers to pass a state privacy law in response to this “loss of privacy” narrative, New Hampshire citizens would be best served by resolving to follow the FTC rules without new legislation in order to maintain consistent privacy protections across the internet – from ISPs to web services to apps.

Katie McAuliffe is Federal Affairs Manager at Americans for Tax Reform & Executive Director of Digital Liberty. Margaret Mire manages state tech and telecom policy at Americans for Tax Reform.

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