Public Safety Success: South Carolina Reduces Crime and Reduces Spending

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Thursday, March 23rd, 2017, 3:45 PM PERMALINK

Nearly six years after enacting a major sentencing and corrections reform package, South Carolina’s prison population has declined 13% while violent and property crime rates have fallen 17% and 11%, respectively.

In 2010, lawmakers enacted S.B. 1154, the Omnibus Crime Reduction and Sentencing Reform Act. The law made South Carolina a leader among the dozens of states employing research-driven criminal justice policies to produce a greater public safety return on corrections spending.

Between 2011 and 2014, the state averted over $40 million in operating costs that would have been required to house a projected inmate population of over 28,000 by 2014 and avoided the construction of a new prison space projected to cost $371 million.

After decades of rising prison populations, reforms in 33 states have helped cut the national incarceration rate by 13 percent since 2007. States are finding smart, new ways to get tough on crime and, in the process, changing how America views crime and punishment.

This podcast goes through the dramatic changes in South Carolina’s justice system. It features leaders in South Carolina who are implementing their innovative reforms – state Senator Gerald Malloy (D); Bryan Stirling, S.C. state corrections director; and Adam Gelb, director of The Pew Charitable Trusts public safety performance project.

Voters and legislators are looking more intently at improving the results of incarceration. “There really is a sea change in this attitude towards crime and punishment across the country over the past ten years” said Gelb. Little wonder that two thirds of states have moved in this direction.

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Ron Cogswell

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ATR Supports Better Sentencing in Nebraska

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Posted by Sarah Caplin on Thursday, March 23rd, 2017, 1:40 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform this week released a letter to Nebraska lawmakers urging support for State Senator Ernie Chamber’s LB 447.

Nonviolent drug offenses make up a significant proportion of mandatory minimums and result in arbitrary and severe sentencing outcomes that neither fit the crime nor the individual's unique circumstances. Nebraska prisons are now filled with low-level offenders, resulting in overcapacity prison populations and higher costs for taxpayers.

LB 447 is an important step toward comprehensive sentencing reform. This legislation would turn sentencing over to the judges who know the specifics of a crime and can properly determine what an appropriate sentence is. This avoids excessive incarceration and maintains families intact for longer. Children and spouses will not have to be deprived of breadwinners, reducing the negative effects on their own lives.

Below is the text of the letter, which can also be found here.

March 23, 2017

Dear members of the Nebraska legislature,

On Behalf of Americans for Tax Reform and our supporters across Nebraska, I write today in strong support of LB 447. If passed, LB 447 would focus Nebraska’s overcrowded prisons on dangerous offenders and save the state several millions of dollars.

Nonviolent drug offenses, which make up a significant proportion of mandatory minimums, result in arbitrary and severe sentencing outcomes that neither fit the crime nor the individual's unique circumstances. Nebraska prisons are now filled with low-level offenders, resulting in overcapacity prison populations and higher costs for taxpayers. This is why over 30 states have reassessed mandatory minimum sentences in the last 15 years.

LB 447 is an important step toward comprehensive sentencing reform. Judges are denied the right to bring their experience, discretion, and sense of what is just into the sentencing procedure. This approach fills people who pose little risk to society, straining public resources without any gains in safety.

This legislation would turn sentencing over to the judges who know the specifics of a crime and can properly determine what an appropriate sentence is. This avoids excessive incarceration and maintains families intact for longer. Children and spouses will not have to be deprived of breadwinners, reducing the negative effects on their own lives.

In addition, LB 447 has the potential to save the state of Nebraska $3.5 million annually. The current results of a high rate of mandatory minimum offenders in prison are not cost-effective. As of 2013, Nebraska's correctional expenditures were nearly 193 million. Unless state policymakers act, they will likely need to spend another $100 million to build yet another prison.

Given the undeniable costs and dubious benefits of mass, long-term incarceration of nonviolent drug offenders, the Nebraska legislature should take steps to give judges more flexibility in sentencing those offenders. The Cornhusker State has already passed legislation to improve public safety through smarter crime policies, this bill represents another step in the right direction.

I encourage you to extend your support for this important legislation. For more information, please contact Jorge Marin in my office at jmarin@atr.org         

Regards,

Grover G. Norquist                                                      
President                                                                     
Americans for Tax Reform                                                                                                                       

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Michael Sauers

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Grover Norquist supports Sen. Flake's CRA on FCC privacy rules

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Posted by Katie McAuliffe on Thursday, March 23rd, 2017, 10:34 AM PERMALINK

ATR President Grover Norquist welcomes Sen. Flake's (R-AZ) proposal for using the CRA to rescind the FCC's false broadband privacy rules. In a recent letter to Congress, Norquist outlines the costs of additional FCC rules and regulations for American taxpayers and consumers and explains why the FTC maintains the correct approach to privacy protection.

The letter in full is written below:

"Dear Senators:
 
I write urging you to use your Congressional Review Act authority to withdraw the Federal Communications Commission’s broadband privacy rules and support the Federal Trade Commission framework for privacy protection.
 
We should always be wary of regulation for regulation’s sake. Duplicative rules at different agencies often create confusion and added costs without a significant benefit.
 
The Federal Trade Commission has been policing privacy for the last decade, and there has been no indication that other agencies are needed. The FCC is not needed here.
 
At a time when our goal is to pare down the cost of government and let taxpayers keep more of their hard-earned paychecks, the FCC is no poster child for efficiency. 
 
FCC Commissioner Mike O’Rielly has pointed out that the FCC, through information gathering requests alone, requires 73 million hours and $800 million just to fill out requests. The Competitive Enterprise Institute found that in FY 2015 the FCC spent around $464 million in regulatory development and enforcement, and it accounts for more than $100 billion annually in regulatory and economic impact.
 
Please find enclosed a coalition letter from 21 organizations detailing why the FTC rules are the correct approach, and our opposition to the FCC rules. This letter requested that Congress use its Congressional Review Act authority to rescind the broadband privacy rules. It also details why we do not believe the rules will do as they claim.
 
Americans value their privacy.  That is why Americans for Tax Reform has been a vocal defender of privacy and the Fourth Amendment. However, the FCC rules use our highly valued privacy as a tool to empower agency regulatory expansion at the expense of consumers.
 
If you have any questions, please contact Katie McAuliffe by email, kmcauliffe@atr.org, or by phone, 202-785-0266."

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Oklahoma Lawmakers Advance Bipartisan Criminal Justice Reform Measures

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Posted by Sarah Caplin on Thursday, March 23rd, 2017, 10:34 AM PERMALINK

This week, a number of criminal justice reform bills are moving through the Oklahoma legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support. These historic votes are a huge step towards a better criminal justice system that will improve public safety, reduce the prison population, and save taxpayers millions of dollars.
 
Eight bills have passed through the Senate, and three other pieces of legislation have passed through the House. These measures, based on recommendations from Gov. Mary Fallin’s Justice Reform Task Force, will continue Oklahoma’s effort to modify the state's criminal justice system. 
 
“Making smart, data-driven decisions on how to increase safety while decreasing our overcapacity prisons is key to pursuing smaller, more efficient, and more moral government.” said Gov. Fallin.
 
According to the Oklahoma Justice Reform Task Force, these vital changes will save the state $1.9 billion in the coming years. Oklahoma currently holds the second-highest imprisonment rate in the United States. These bills address the state’s prison population by providing individualized treatment for those in the justice system who need mental health or substance abuse services, reforming sentencing practices, and modifying penalties for non-violent crimes.
 
Americans for Tax reform applauds these positive steps and hopefully this is a prologue to more legislation to come.
 
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Jimmy Emerson

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AHCA Toolkit

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Posted by John Kartch on Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017, 1:12 PM PERMALINK

Grover Norquist Letter in Support of AHCA 

ATR Statement in Support of AHCA 

Full List of Obamacare Taxes Repealed

How the AHCA Shrinks Federal Spending 

Grover Norquist Washington Examiner op-ed in support of AHCA: A vote against the House Republican healthcare bill is a vote in favor of Obamacare

Norquist on Fox Business Network: AHCA is One of the Most Conservative Pieces of Legislation DC Has Ever Seen 

ATR: AHCA Abolishes Obamacare Chronic Care Tax on Middle Class

ATR: AHCA Abolishes Obamacare’s Medicine Cabinet Tax

Photo Credit: Jocelyn Wallace 


ATR Supports Rep. McHenry’s "Supporting America’s Innovators Act” of 2017 (H.R. 1219)

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Posted by Daniel Uzi Frydman on Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017, 12:10 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform this week released a letter to Congressional lawmakers urging support for Representative Patrick McHenry’s (R-N.C.) “Supporting America's Innovators Act of 2017”, H.R.1219.

H.R.1219 amends a specific exemption under the Investment Company Act of 1940 by increasing the investor limitation from 100 to 250 people for qualifying venture capital funds. The bill would benefit small businesses and startups by incentivizing venture capitalists to grow their investments in rural-state entrepreneurs. Local economies that host these small business and startups would benefit from H.R.1219 too, as the increased financial fluidity in their cities would only stimulate economic growth for all.

With bipartisan support in the House Financial Services Committee, H.R.1219 passed through the committee with a 54 to 2 vote. H.R. 1219's Senate companion legislation, S. 444, also passed the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs, and is now awaiting a full Senate vote.

Below is the text of the letter, which can also be found here.

March 22, 2017

Dear Members of Congress:

I write to express support for H.R. 1219, the Supporting America’s Innovators Act of 2017. Introduced by Representative Patrick McHenry, H.R. 1219 would increase access to capital for America’s small businesses thus improving entrepreneur’s ability to grow their business and compete. I urge all members of Congress to support this important legislation.

In recent years it has been increasingly challenging for many small businesses to access the necessary financial capital to fund their operations. H.R. 1219 would allow certain entrepreneurs to receive funds from a larger number of investors in order to better fund new start up efforts or to expand their business operations. 

Currently, the Investment Company Act of 1940 limits the number of investors allowed in a “qualified venture capital fund” to 100 in order for the fund to be exempt from registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). H.R. 1219 would amend the 100-invester cap currently in the Act to allow for up to 250 investors.

Legislation similar to H.R. 1219 passed the House in 2016 with a bipartisan vote of 388-9. H.R. 1219 passed out of the House Financial Services Committee on March 9 of this year with a vote of 54-2. Both votes evidence strong support in Congress. A companion bill has also been introduced in the Senate under the same title.

I urge all members of Congress to support H.R. 1219. Doing so will help to increase access to capital that is vital to America’s entrepreneurs and small businesses.   

Sincerely,                                

Grover G. Norquist                                                    
President                                                                    
Americans for Tax Reform

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ATR Urges HHS Secretary Tom Price to Provide Regulatory Relief to Emerging Vapor Market

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Posted by Paul Blair on Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017, 12:09 PM PERMALINK

In a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, ATR president Grover Norquist today asked for an immediate two-year delay of pending pre-market review requirements imposed by the Food and Drug Administration's May 2016 "Deeming Rule." The Rule applies to vapor products, electronic cigarettes, and premium cigars. Absent immediate action by Congress or the Administration to roll back the FDA's new rules, more than ten thousand new businesses in the United States will be required to comply with an application process so expensive and onerous that over the next two years more than 95% of vapor product manufacturers and retail small businesses will be forced to shut down. 

The C.D.C. estimates that more than 9 million U.S. adult consumers use vapor products, which are at least 95% less harmful than cigarettes, according to the Royal College of Physicians and other leading public health organizations. 

Under the new rules, new smoke-free vapor products will be subject to the regulatory review process established in the 2009-passed Tobacco Control Act. From the letter:

"In 2009 when Congress passed the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act (TCA)... the FDA was granted authority to impose new regulations upon tobacco products such as cigarettes, smokeless and roll-your-own tobacco. A “predicate date” of February 15, 2007 was established whereby products on the market at or before this date were exempt from pre-market FDA review. That look-back period was just over two years when the TCA was signed in 2009. The look-back period for newly deemed products is ten years. 

The FDA’s May 2016 Deeming Rule requires products which did not exist in 2007 – such as vapor products – to undergo the pre-market review process set up in the TCA. The process was designed to make it extraordinarily difficult to introduce new products to market, which is why it was supported by organizations like the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids."

There were a number of new requirements established in the FDA's May 2016 Rule. 

"The most significant of the requirements imposed by the FDA’s new Deeming Rule is a requirement that all manufacturers of vapor products submit every product currently available to consumers for pre-market review, a process that every single manufacturer of cigarettes in the United State avoided when the TCA was signed into law. The Pre-Market Tobacco Application (PMTA) requires businesses to spend in excess of $300,000 per product and at least 500 hours of time per application. Even if businesses could afford this investment, the process is designed to end in failure. Many small businesses produce hundreds of these products and would be forced to close their doors as a result." 

ATR is requesting a two-year delay in the PMTA filing deadline for newly deemed products. 

I am asking you to delay the PMTA filing deadline by at least two years as Congress considers an alternative approach to regulating these very low risk products. There are multiple efforts with bipartisan support aimed at addressing the issues I’ve outlined, including the Cole-Bishop Amendment to the FY17 House Agriculture Appropriations Bill and House Resolution 1136, also sponsored by Congressman Tom Cole (R-Okla.). It is paramount that Congress acts this year to modernize the February 2007 predicate date for newly deemed products on the market. 

The FDA is an agency of HHS and its commissioner reports to the Secretary of HHS. 

With the emergence of smoke-free vapor products, millions of U.S. adults have successfully quit smoking traditional cigarettes with a variety of products that did not exist in 2007. ​Imposing this retroactive and onerous set of pre-market review rules upon reduced risk products is illogical and stands to harm decades of efforts to reduce the harm assocaited with cigarette use. The original Act was designed to make it extremely difficult to introduce new tobacco products, and not a single cigarette on the market today was forced to go through this review process. ATR strongly encourages HHS and the FDA to rein in this overreach with immediate action to delay all future filing and application deadlines imposed by the FDA's Deeming Rule. 

The full letter can be read here.

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Norquist: AHCA is One of the Most Conservative Pieces of Legislation DC Has Ever Seen


Posted by Hannah Daniel on Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017, 10:01 AM PERMALINK

ATR President Grover Norquist appeared on Mornings with Maria on the Fox Business Network to discuss the American Heath Care Act, calling it “one of the most conservative pieces of legislation this town has ever seen,” and tax reform, explaining that border adjustability is necessary in order to pay for the planned tax cuts in the House Republican tax blueprint.

On the repeal bill, Norquist said:

“To criticize the Trump-Republican plan, which cuts spending by $1.2 trillion a decade and taxes by $900 billion, reforms Medicaid by block granting it and giving us HSAs, it’s a little hard not to recognize that as one of the most conservative pieces of legislation that this town has ever seen. I'm always for improving whatever we do, and so the questions raised by the Freedom Caucus and the Republican Steering Committee, these are fine questions, and there are negotiations that appear to be moving very quickly to make some changes in the package that Trump and the Republicans will find fine.”

On tax reform, Norquist said:

“Border adjustability raises a hundred billion a year, or a trillion dollars over a decade. That’s part of paying for about the other three and a half trillion in tax cuts. Part of it is done by reducing the expected revenue that happens in fixing Obamacare by a trillion dollars, that gives us another trillion, six hundred billion we got by making the extenders permanent, we got almost a trillion dollars by looking at it in dynamic scoring, but now we need more resources if you’re going to take the rate down to twenty, and that’s where border adjustable or something like it gets in.”

Click below to watch the interview:

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ATR Statement in Support of American Health Care Act

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Wednesday, March 22nd, 2017, 9:00 AM PERMALINK

Congress will soon vote on the American Health Care Act (AHCA), legislation that repeals Obamacare and implements numerous reforms toward a system of patient-centered, free market healthcare.

Members of Congress should have no hesitation supporting and voting “YES” on the AHCA to begin the process of repealing Obamacare.

The AHCA makes important changes to entitlements, updates and improves HSAs and gives American middle class families and businesses important tax relief. It implements an efficient age-adjusted tax credit that is vastly superior to the existing credit and is not an entitlement. The legislation also begins the process of removing burdensome insurance regulations while leaving room for HHS Secretary Price to alleviate the burden of other regulations. 

It is an excellent first step in implementing a healthcare system that works for all Americans.

“The Obamacare repeal bill abolishes 14 taxes that today siphon off nearly one trillion dollars from American Taxpayers each decade,” said Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform. “The bill also expands Health Savings Accounts, making health care reform patient-centered rather than top-down command and control. And the reform block grants Medicaid to the states through a per capita allotment-- a long time Reagan Republican goal to empower states and reduce federal control.”

Opposition to this legislation means support for the status quo that is Obamacare. This is unsustainable and reckless. 

The law has resulted in one-size fits all insurance that is too expensive, despite numerous government subsidies. Over one thousand counties in the nation have just one insurer participating on an exchange. Premiums increased by close to 25 percent last year, a trend that will likely only increase if this legislation fails.

Many lawmakers in Congress have long promised their constituents they would repeal and replace Obamacare with a cost-effective, patient centered, sustainable alternative. By passing this legislation they can fulfill this commitment to voters.​

Repeal of Obamacare Taxes

When it was signed into law, Obamacare imposed roughly a trillion dollars in new or higher taxes that hit middle class families, raise the cost of healthcare, and reduce access to care. 

The law imposed a tax for failing to buy government-mandated insurance, a new tax on health insurance, a tax on medical devices, a tax on innovative medicines, taxes on Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Spending Accounts, and even a tax hike on Americans facing high medical bills.

This legislation repeals all of these taxes. It also delays the Cadillac tax on employer provided insurance plans until 2026. [Full list of Obamacare Taxes Repealed]

Repealing these taxes will provide much needed relief to the paychecks of families across the country. Repealing Obamacare will also undo former President Barack Obama’s broken promise not to sign “any form of tax increase” on any middle class American family.

Expands Health Savings Accounts

Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) are a key component to ensuring Americans have access to patient centered health care that best fits their needs and incentivizes keeping costs low. American families typically pay for some or their entire healthcare costs indirectly (doctors and hospital visits, medicines and treatments etc.). HSAs give individuals direct control over these funds so they can make healthcare choices that best fit their individual needs and in the most efficient way.

Not only does the repeal bill abolish several taxes on HSAs, the law also makes several improvements. The plan expands the contribution limits for HSAs ($6,550 for individuals and $13,100 for families) so they can now be relied on to cover more medical costs. The legislation also increases the flexibility of savings accounts by allowing spouses to make catch-up contributions to HSAs and allows HSAs to cover certain medical expenses incurred before the saving account has been established.

Implements New, Age-Adjusted Tax Credit

The legislation implements an improved advanced refundable tax credit that is administered based on a taxpayer’s age ($2,000 for individuals under 30 scaling up to $4,000 for individuals over 60). The credit is indexed to inflation plus one percentage point and applies to the oldest five individuals in a family. It can be used by anyone not receiving employee insurance or Medicare/Medicaid.

Compared to the flawed and highly wasteful income based Obamacare tax credit, this new tax credit is far more efficient and will result in taxpayer dollars being spent far more responsibly.

While some have claimed that this tax credit is an entitlement, it is a common feature of Republican alternatives to Obamacare. The plan put forward by Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) contains tax credits, as does the plan released by HHS Secretary Tom Price when he was in Congress. All of these plans contain tax credits because they are vastly superior to other alternatives such as a straight subsidy.

Enacts Medicaid Reform

The existing fiscal trajectory of Medicaid is unsustainable. Obamacare expanded Medicaid to millions of able-bodied adults, an approach with high costs and low outcomes.

The AHCA addresses this by block granting Medicaid to the states through a per capita allotment. This approach will control federal spending and ensure states retain flexibility to implement a system that best fits their individual needs. Streamlining the funding process will not only ensure that Medicaid enrollees have access to more appropriate care, it will also cut down on waste, and promote more efficient allotment of resources.

These reforms will also save hundreds of billions of dollars over the next decade.

Addresses Obamacare’s Insurance Regulations

The legislation reduces the impact of many Obamacare insurance regulations. Most notably, the bill zeroes out the individual mandate and employer mandate tax penalties. Under the AHCA, these mandates become suggestions with no enforcement mechanism.

The bill also increases coverage options by repealing actuarial standards of Obamacare plans and permits changes to age-based ratings to give insurers greater flexibility over costs.

In other cases, this bill does not repeal or modify insurance regulations, because doing so would mean the AHCA is no longer reconciliation compliant and thus would be unable to pass the Senate under a simple majority. Adding new provisions repealing insurance regulations would trigger a 60 vote threshold in the Senate, which makes it virtually impossible to pass repeal legislation.

Fortunately, HHS Secretary Price has the authority to loosen or undo these regulations. Numerous sections of federal law grant the Secretary broad discretion to reinterpret federal law including what counts as a “qualified health plan” or “essential benefits,” or to grant states “innovation waivers” to Obamacare requirements. 

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Tax Simplification Should Include Repeal of FATCA

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, March 21st, 2017, 3:00 PM PERMALINK

After more than 30 years, comprehensive, pro-growth tax reform may finally be signed into law in 2017. This is an opportunity to cut taxes for American families and businesses across the board, enact an internationally competitive system for businesses, and drastically simplify the tax code.  It should also be an opportunity to repeal the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA).

FATCA was signed into law in 2010 with the goal of stopping tax evaders that were using offshore bank accounts. However, it was designed as a blunt instrument that targets any American with a bank account overseas. Most who are forced to comply are expatriate Americans who have, little if any U.S. presence. 

As a result, compliance costs far outstrip any effectiveness in curbing tax evasion. American citizens overseas have become locked out of financial institutions including banks, stockbrokers, hedge funds, and insurance. Often, it is easier for these businesses to deny US citizens service.

“FATCA is the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) for Americans overseas—an intrusive, complicated, painful and unfair tax regime designed to be massive overkill in hunting for coins between the cushions,” said Grover Norquist, President of Americans for Tax Reform. “We are finally abolishing AMT—after 48 years—in Trump’s tax reform package. We should put FATCA to sleep at the same time.”

Under FATCA, any overseas account held by U.S. citizens must be reported to the IRS. This means that millions of Americans must give up personal information and comply with burdensome IRS regulations and reporting requirements. The law requires financial institutions to collect and disclose this information. If they fail to do so, the IRS can impose a 30 percent withholding on an institution’s U.S. investments.

FATCA also requires American citizens to comply with tax filing forms if they have assets overseas meet or exceed $50,000. For overseas Americans, this means they must comply with the tax compliance laws in their country of residence in addition to IRS laws.

FATCA should be repealed as part of tax reform. In a letter to Congressional leaders, 23 conservative and free market groups urged Congress to repeal this burdensome law as tax reform efforts move forward.

However, this should be step one of reforming the taxation of overseas citizens. FATCA is merely a symptom of a larger problem.

Just as American businesses operating overseas are forced to comply with the outdated and burdensome worldwide system of taxation, Americans are forced to comply with a system of citizenship-based taxation.

This means that regardless of where a US citizen lives, they must comply with IRS rules and are double taxed on income - once when they earn it overseas and again because they are an American citizen. While repealing FATCA would ease the burden on citizens living abroad, a longer term solution should involve enacting residence-based taxation for Americans.

The current citizen-based system affects an estimated eight million Americans that live and work overseas. This system is nearly unique to America – every other country in the world with the exception of Eritrea has residence-based taxation.

In contrast, residence-based taxation subjects individuals to taxation based on location of residence without regard to citizenship. This would make tax compliance far simpler and should be part of any effort to simplify the code for individuals.

There is a clear need to reform this burdensome system and updated the way the tax code treats citizens living overseas. This can start with repealing FATCA, however it should not end until residence-based taxation is signed into law.

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