ATR Supports IP Guidelines Coalition

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Posted by Celeste Arenas on Wednesday, February 22nd, 2017, 10:02 AM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform joined a coalition of over 70 groups urging the 115th Congress to protect intellectual property rights for every American innovator. In this letter, they put forth a set of guidelines and principles that will enable the Trump Administration to uphold, protect and enforce intellectual property protections.
 
Some points of the letter are extracted below:
Intellectual property deserves the same protection as physical property
“The Founding Fathers recognized the importance of IP in Article 1, Section 8 of the Constitution: “To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.”
“IP rights are not regulations—they are property rights that, when combined with the freedom to contract, facilitate markets.”
Intellectual property rights are vital for free speech, economic growth and consumer protection.
“Strong IP rights go hand-in-hand with free speech as creators vigorously defend their ability to create works of their choosing, free from censorship.  
IP rights create jobs and fuel economic growth, turning intangible assets into exclusive property that can be traded in the marketplace… IP-intensive industries added $6.6 trillion to the value of GDP in 2014, equal to 38.2 percent of total GDP. In a knowledge based global economy, America’s ability to remain a world leader in creativity and innovation depends on strong protection of IP.
IP rights protect consumers by enabling them to make educated choices about the safety, reliability, and effectiveness of their purchases.”
Online intellectual property must be protected on the internet
“Protecting IP and internet freedom are both critically important and complementary—they are not mutually exclusive. A truly free internet, like any truly free community, is one where people can engage in legitimate activities safely, and where bad actors are held accountable.” 
This letter urges the federal administration to uphold the Founding Fathers’ vision for American innovation that is protected and facilitated through sound intellectual property protection.
 
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21 of 22 Indiana House Republicans Break Taxpayer Protection Pledge

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Posted by Miriam Roff on Friday, February 17th, 2017, 3:54 PM PERMALINK

Yesterday, the Indiana House of Representatives passed House Bill 1002, which imposes a whopping 34 percent increase in the state’s gas tax. Among the 61 representatives who voted for this massive tax hike were 21 Taxpayer Protection Pledge signees.

Despite claims that some legislators in Indianapolis have made, the $0.10 increase in the gas tax does not qualify as a user fee. It’s a blatant tax hike on hardworking Hoosiers.

Grover Norquist, president of ATR, noted in the Indy Star how state legislators who voted for this tax hike have betrayed their constituents:

“Most of the Republicans who are in the House and Senate promised their voters they would not raise taxes: some in writing, some in person. Did any of the Republicans thinking of voting for another tax hike on consumers say they would do this when they asked for their citizens’ vote in the last election? If not, why double cross their voters.”

Following the House vote, Norquist explained how Gov. Eric Holcomb can look to other Republican governors for an approach to tax and transportation policy that is preferable to the one taken by the Indiana House this week:

“Governor Pence opposed and defeated efforts to raise the gas tax in Indiana. Taxpayers certainly hope that Gov. Holcomb will be as strong a defender of taxpayer interests as Pence was/is. The tax and spend lobby obviously hopes that his inexperience will allow the lobbyists to beat him and raise taxes. If the governor wants more road money he could follow the path of Governor Christie of NJ and other states that have insisted that any gas tax be accompanied in the same bill with an income tax cut of greater size. If the advocates of a gas tax will not support an income tax cut to offset the gas tax—they just want higher taxes not more roads.”

As a friendly reminder to voters, the following Republican House lawmakers broke their pledge by voting for the gas tax hike this week:

Representative James Baird (R-44), Representative Robert Behning (R-91), Representative Timothy Brown (R-41), Representative Woody Burton (R-58), Representative Martin Carbaugh (R-81), Representative Robert Cherry (R-53), Representative Wes Culver (R-49), Representative Steven Davisson (R-73), Representative Jeff Ellington (R-62), Representative David Frizzell (R-93), Representative Robert Heaton (R-46), Representative Todd Huston (R-37), Representative Don Lehe (R-25), Representative Jim Lucas (R-69), Representative David Ober (R-82), Representative Jerry Torr (R-39), Representative Thomas Washburne (R-64), and Representative Cindy Ziemke (R-55).

Representative Tim Wesco (R-21) deserves kudos, as he was the only Pledge signer to uphold his commitment to voters by voting no on the gas tax increase yesterday.   

HB 1002 now heads to the Senate, where it will be voted on in the coming weeks. 

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CFPB Officials Making More than the Vice President?

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Posted by Daniel Uzi Frydman on Friday, February 17th, 2017, 3:14 PM PERMALINK

Created as part of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is possibly the biggest and most financially infuriating failed experiment to come out of Dodd-Frank. While the CFPB claims to be a voice for the “little guy” the Bureau’s exorbitant salary’s and spending practices highlight just how out of touch CFPB officials are with those on Main Street America.

 

As a result of power granted under Dodd-Frank and the Obama administration’s push to regulate every nook and cranny of American’s lives and the economy, the CFPB has evolved into one of the most extreme examples of unaccountable bureaucracy’s to date.  The CFPB Director is not only immune from standard removal processes by the president, but lacks any Congressional oversight because the CFPB is not subject to the appropriations process, as they receive their funding straight from the Federal Reserve, leaving the taxpayers and their elected representatives in the dust.

 

Recently released public data shows that the lack of Congressional oversight and other factors have amounted to exorbitant salaries at the CFPB, among other wreck less spending issues.  A troubling amount of CFPB employees are being paid more than members of the Senate, the Cabinet, and even the Vice President of the United States.

 

CFPB employees are enjoying some of the most fluffed salaries in all of D.C., especially when one considers they are a group of unelected bureaucrats supposedly working with the interests of the common American at heart.

 

Currently, 39 CFPB employees earn more than Vice President Mike Pence’s annual salary of $230,000. Additionally, 201 CFPB employees make more than Senate majority and minority leaders Mitch McConnell and Charles Schumer, who earn $193,000 annually. It does not stop there, 54 CFPB employees earn more than Paul Ryan’s $223,000 annual earnings. Finally, another 170 CFPB employees earn more than the Attorney General, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Secretaries of Defense and State.

 

It’s all to ironic that the agency that is supposed to be looking out for the little guy is actually padding the pockets of their own employees with exorbitant salaries that rival those of some of Washington’s most powerful leaders.

 

The cherry on top of the paradox that is the CFPB is the Bureau has been plagued in the past for overspending such as headlines last year highlighting the cost of the Bureau’s $150,000,000 lair, situated across of the White House. With a purchase price of $150,000,000, it would be fair to assume that this building would come with everything a government agency would need right? Not for the CFPB, in fact, the CFPB ordered up a grand $216,000,000 renovation for the building.

 

The CFPB website claims, “We arm people with the information, steps, and tools that they need to make smart financial decisions.” Funny, when according to CFPB, their office renovations were to include a public plaza featuring “sunken gardens, cascading waterfalls on reflective carnelian granite, a ‘living wall,’ timber lounges, sculptural seating, a reflecting fountain, a covered ‘porch’ canopy with wisteria and a bronze kiosk,” costing the taxpayers $285.32 per square foot.

 

Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), former Chairman of the House Financial Services Oversight Subcommittee, criticized the CFPB last year on this issue saying, “DC may be the only place on Earth where it is considered ‘reasonable’ for a federal bureaucracy to spend over $200,000,000 to renovate a building it doesn’t own — a full $50,000,000 more than the building is worth.”

 

The exorbitant salaries, the expensive downtown building, the $216,000,000 renovation, and the “public plaza” are just a few symptoms of an out of control agency that is not subject to congressional oversight or appropriations. The 115th Congress should look to reign in the CFPB by placing the Bureau under the Congressional appropriations process.

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Tax Reform Must Preserve the Deduction for Advertising Costs

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Posted by Natalie De Vincenzi, Alexander Hendrie on Friday, February 17th, 2017, 10:00 AM PERMALINK

2017 marks a once-in-a-generation opportunity to pass comprehensive, pro-growth tax reform. As lawmakers move forward with tax reform, they must retain the ability of businesses to deduct advertising costs. Eliminating or removing this deduction would distort business decisions and undermines the goals of growth, simplicity, and equity that drive tax reform. 

[ATR letter in support of preserving advertising deduction]

Treating Advertising Costs Differently From Other Business Decisions Would Distort the Tax Code: Advertising is one of many costs of doing business that firms are properly allowed to deduct, and has been treated as such in the tax code for more than 100 years. Other costs to businesses include wages and other forms of compensation, travel, and rent.

There is little difference between advertising costs and these other business expenses. Changing current law would needlessly create a bias against investing in advertising. In turn, this would encourage businesses to make economically inefficient decisions based on tax reasons.

Eliminating the Advertising Deduction Would Have Drastic Economic Consequences: Past tax reform proposals have called for limiting or eliminating the advertising deduction as a “pay-for” in tax reform. However, any revenue raised in this way would be dwarfed by the negative impacts to the economy. 

In total, advertising directly or indirectly supports almost 22 million jobs and $5.8 trillion in total economic output. Every dollar of advertising spending generates $22 of economic activity. Advertising associated with local radio and television is alone projected to contribute more than $1 trillion in economic output and 1.38 million jobs.

Preserving the Deductibility of Advertising is Consistent With the Principles of the “Better Way” Tax Reform Blueprint: One of the most pro-growth changes in the House Republican blueprint is the creation of a “cash-flow” business tax that allows businesses to immediately deduct the costs associated with necessary expenses like the purchase of tangible and intangible assets.

This gives business owners a zero percent rate on dollars spent when they invest in their business, which in turn drives stronger growth, and helps create more jobs and higher wages. In fact, implementation of immediate full business expensing would lead to an estimated long-term GDP growth of 5.4 percent and create more than one million jobs, according to the Tax Foundation.

Implementing full business expensing is a vital step toward creating a pro-growth tax code. At the same time, taking the existing treatment of advertising costs in the other direction by forcing it to be depreciated over multiple years makes no economic sense and undermines both the economic gains and the rationale for moving to full business expensing.

As part of the tax reform conversation, legislators should oppose any proposal that removes the ability of businesses to deduct advertising costs as a necessary business expense. Limiting this provision would undermine economic growth, the principles of the “Better Way” blueprint, and completely distorts business decisions.

 

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FCC fraud prevention protects taxpayers and low-income Americans

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Posted by Celeste Arenas on Thursday, February 16th, 2017, 3:35 PM PERMALINK

Executive Director of Digital Liberty Katie McAuliffe published an op-ed on the Hill demonstrating why the FCC needs better fraud prevention in light of a criminal case wasting hundreds of millions in taxpayer funds and failing to serve low-income Americans with no communication access.

“In 2010 the FCC became aware of $6.5 million fraudulently obtained by Sandwich Isles Communications owner, Albert Hee, from the USF’s High Cost program. But the agency waited 4 years to take action. During the FCC's inaction, more than $100 million in taxpayer dollars meant to help the disconnected lined the pockets of Albert Hee.

The FCC must actively prevent waste, fraud, and abuse in the distribution and allocation of taxpayer funds. The cost of fraudulent companies and their subsequent, lengthy investigations detracts from funds specifically designed for assisting low income Americans in accessing communications technology.”

Read the full article here.

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ATR Supports H.R. 1051, the Halt Tax Increases on the Middle Class and Seniors Act

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Posted by Natalie De Vincenzi on Thursday, February 16th, 2017, 12:14 PM PERMALINK

One of the many Obamcare tax hikes was an income tax increase that increased the threshold at which Americans could deduct out of pocket medical expenses.  Prior to Obamacare, this threshold allowed Americans to deduct any out of pocket medical expense that exceeded 7.5 percent of their annual adjusted income, but Obamacare raised this threshold to 10 percent. This increase has a large effect on many including the elderly who typically have high medical expenses and the least flexibility in their income. 

Representative McSally (R-AZ) has introduced legislation, H.R. 1051, the Halt Tax Increases on the Middle Class and Seniors Act, to put a stop to these Obamacare tax increases and provide much needed tax relief for seniors and the middle class. Last year, the legislation passed with bipartisan support with a vote of 261-147 and as such, it should have no problem being passed again this year. Americans for Tax Reform supports this legislation and urges all members of Congress to support it as well. See the letter here or below: 

February 16, 2017

The Honorable Martha McSally
United States House of Representatives
510 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congresswoman McSally,

I write in support of H.R. 1051, the Halt Tax Increases on the Middle Class and Seniors Act, legislation to stop Obamacare’s 2017 tax increases on out of pocket medical expenses and provide tax relief to Americans.  This piece of legislation easily passed in the last Congress with large bipartisan support and will most likely pass again with widespread support.

Seniors and the middle class bear the brunt of Obamacare’s tax increases. Prior to passage of Obamacare, Americans could deduct out of pocket medical expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of their adjusted annual income.  10.2 million families used this tax provision in 2012 with an average of under $8,500 in medical expenses claimed. More than half of the families that used this provision made less than $50,000 per year.

Thanks to Obamacare, this threshold increased to 10 percent for most families, and on January 1, 2017 it also increased for seniors. This tax hike represents President Obama once again violating his “firm pledge” against “any form of tax increase” on any American earning less than $250,000.

Typically, the elderly have the costliest medical expenses and require greater medical care. In addition, they typically no longer have an influx of income, instead relying on their savings. Obama’s tax increase from 7.5 to 10 percent will have a ringing effect on seniors, who often no longer have an influx of income. 

H.R. 1051 stops this tax increase on seniors and reinstates the older, lower threshold for medical expenses for all Americans. This tax hike represents yet another way Obamacare has hurt American families, who were already struggling to receive the medical care they need.

Americans for Tax Reform supports the Halt Tax Increases on the Middle Class and Seniors Act and urges all members of Congress to support and co-sponsor this important legislation to relieve Obamacare’s tax burden on the middle class and seniors.

Onward,

Grover G. Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

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Congress Should Dump the U.S. Sugar Program this Valentines Day.

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Posted by Daniel Uzi Frydman on Tuesday, February 14th, 2017, 1:30 PM PERMALINK

This Valentine’s Day, consumers will spend an average of $136.57 on gifts and sweets for that special someone. For these millions of love struck candy consumers, a few extra dollars in their pockets would make it an even sweeter time of year. Yet the heartbreaking truth is that the cost of purchasing that box of chocolates or candy hearts this year is artificially high thanks to the not so sweet U.S. Sugar Program.

The U.S. Sugar Program is a relic of the Great Depression, and since its inception in 1934 the program has mutated into a crony capitalistic monster, with U.S. taxpayers, consumers, and manufacturers footing the bill for this costly and backwards program.

The Sugar Program is the antithesis of free-market policy as it provides a plethora of sweetheart deals to a small handful of big sugar producers, including generous taxpayer backed subsidies, price floors, and import quotas. As a result of these sweetheart deals for Big Sugar, taxpayer costs have gone up, jobs have been destroyed, and American consumers have received only heartburn from increased prices.

Survival of the Sugar Program is a result of the sweet subsidized life support taxpayers serve up every year. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) the U.S. Sugar Program will cost taxpayers more than $138 million over the next 10 years in addition to the billions in annual hidden taxes American consumers pay at the grocery store.

In addition to taxpayer costs, such protectionist policies have created artificially high domestic sugar prices for consumers. In August of 2015, U.S. sugar prices were ¢33.13 per pound, more than double the world price of ¢15.57. It is estimated American families pay an average of $125, or a total of $2 billion, in higher grocery prices and taxes annually because of the program. While artificially high prices and restricted competition bode well for producers, domestic manufacturers alternatively have been discarded like an empty candy wrapper.

Domestic sugar-using manufacturers competing globally, but purchasing domestic sugar at a rate roughly twice that of the global price, are dealt a severe disadvantage and have had to either cuts jobs or move their business abroad. The U.S. Department of Commerce estimates that for every one sugar-growing job saved by the Sugar Program, approximately three manufacturing jobs are lost. Over a 13-year period, domestic sugar-using industries have seen a 17 percent decline in employment, amounting to an annual loss of nearly 10,000 jobs in the U.S. food industry.

When it comes to winners in this sticky situation, it is not American consumers but a handful of domestic sugar producers,- unless you also count international competitors. Where the American consumer and manufacturer have suffered, less than 4,500 producers have prospered. To put it simply, the U.S. Sugar Program is forcing American consumers and taxpayers to pay artificially higher prices for sugar and sugar related products in order to subsidize and protect a small number of sugar producers from free-market competition.   

It has been almost a century since the great depression, and it is high time Congress reforms this rotten relic. As the 115th Congress begins discussions over the coming 2018 Farm Bill, lawmakers should look to trim the unnecessary fat that is the U.S. Sugar Program. Doing so will not only protect the 600,000 U.S. jobs in food industries that use sugar, but will reduce the harm to taxpayers and give consumers a much needed break on Valentine’s Day for years to come.

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Johnson Introduces Bill Urging Obamacare Repeal

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Posted by Marc Dupont on Tuesday, February 14th, 2017, 12:00 PM PERMALINK

Michigan State Representative Steven Johnson (R) recently introduced House Resolution 13, a state resolution calling on Congress to begin the process of repealing Obamacare.

HR 13 has been referred to the House Committee on Health Policy. By approving HR 13, Michigan would send an important message to Washington to repeal Obamacare, along with the 20 tax increases included within.

“I applaud Rep. Johnson for his leadership on this important issue,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. “Big government local politicians like New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio frequently tell Congress what they would like them to do. As such, it’s important for pro-taxpayer state legislators to also make their voice heard in Washington, which Michigan can do by passing Rep. Johnson’s resolution.”

Other states are expected to introduce similar resolutions in the coming weeks urging Congress to repeal and replace Obamacare. As Congress tends to this issue over the coming weeks, Americans for Tax Reform encourages all states to follow Michigan’s lead in sending this important message to Washington.

Click here for a list of all 20 tax increases included in Obamacare. 

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ATR Joins Coaliton Urging Durbin Amendment Repeal

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Friday, February 10th, 2017, 9:49 AM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform this week joined a coalition of free market organizations urging House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling to maintain provisions repealing the Durbin Amendment in the Financial CHOICE Act moving forward.

The Durbin Amendment was enacted as part of the Dodd-Frank Act and was touted as a benefit to consumers. However, since enactment the Durbin Amendment has failed to deliver the promised benefits to consumers, and has instead led to reduced access to traditional banking services and driven up the number of "unbanked" Americans. 

The coalition letter states, "The burdensome costs of the Durbin Amendment, like so many other ill-conceived regulations born of Dodd-Frank, have become fully clear with the passage of time. This gives the 115th Congress a crucial to opportunity to enact reform...We therefore urge you you to keep the provision repealing the Durbin Amendment in the new version of the bill." 

The full letter can be found here.  

 

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Democrat Governor Jim Justice Proposes Largest Tax Hike in West Virginia History

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Posted by Paul Blair on Thursday, February 9th, 2017, 12:10 AM PERMALINK

In his State of the State Address Wednesday night, Governor Jim Justice (D-W.V.) proposed the largest tax hike in state history, increasing the sales and gas tax and creating a new Commercial Activities Tax. These proposals stand in stark contrast to his rhetoric on the campaign trail, where he spent nearly all of 2016 promising he would not raise taxes.

To suggest that Justice lied his way into office would be quite the understatement.

The state faces a $500 million overspending problem in the 2018 fiscal year, according to an estimate from the governor’s office. 

His proposal to raise the sales tax from 6 percent to 6.5 percent, when combined with a local average of an additional .2 percent would bring the West Virginia average total local sales tax to the second highest in the region, ahead of Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Kentucky. This regressive tax increase would incentivize even more online and cross-border retail sales, a loss for small businesses that rely on competitive tax rates to keep residents in state for retail purchases. 

The proposal also included eliminating the sales tax exemption for advertising and an undisclosed list of sales exemption eliminations for services, a proposal that was defeated 92-2 in 2016 by the House. If passed, this base expansion and sales tax rate hike would constitute more than $180 million in annual tax hikes. 

The governor also proposed a 10 cent per gallon gas tax hike, which would bring the state gas tax burden from 33.2 cents per gallon to 43.2 cents per gallon, making it the second highest taxed in the region, behind only Pennsylvania. On top of the 18.4 cents federal excise tax, the total tax burden for a gallon of gas would rise to an astounding 61.6 cents per gallon. Such an increase would incentivize truckers and travelers to skip over the Mountain State when fueling up, on top of imposing a regressive hike on low and middle-income commuters who live in state.

The final significant tax hike proposed by Justice included the creation of a new gross receipts tax of .2 percent, representing a $214 million annual tax hike. This tax hike imposed on a business regardless of profits represents a massive step backwards in tax policy as it has long been recognized that these taxes are inefficient and cripple growth. That’s precisely why most states have eliminated these taxes, which were more popular a century ago.

One year after neighboring Kentucky imposed gross receipts tax in 2005 it was repealed when lawmakers realized the grave mistake they had made in disadvantaging some companies over others while damaging new businesses and depressing new investment. Is this Gov. Justice’s goal? To replicate the failure of Kentucky’s misguided tax that discouraged investment?  Read more from the Tax Foundation here. 

Additional tax and fee increases include:

  • Increase in DMV license fee from $30 to $50;
  • Increase in beer tax;
  • Increase in wholesale markup on liquor;

 

In total, Justice is proposing $450 million in tax and fee hikes while suggesting a spending cut of merely $26.6 million, which constitutes a rounding error in the context of this massive proposal to increase the burden of government on West Virginia taxpayers. 

Instead of taking a step back towards unworkable tax policies of the Great Depression, the legislature to embrace 21st century tax reform that has inspired growth in states like North Carolina. Broadening the base, lowering corporate, sales, and income tax rates can all be accomplished without imposing unaffordable tax hikes on Mountain State residents. The legislature would be wise to reject all of Jim Justice's tax hikes and take him at his word throughout his 2016 campaign that West Virginians "are hurting enough. We don't need to increase taxes."  

The state must focus on spending restraint and reforming the tax code to inspire, not inhibit economic growth. 

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WV Division of Culture & History

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