Natalie De Vincenzi

ATR Supports Biennial Budgeting Bill

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Posted by Natalie De Vincenzi on Monday, March 20th, 2017, 2:40 PM PERMALINK

ATR President Grover Norquist wrote a letter to Congressman Messer in support of H.R. 1065, the Biennial Budgeting and Enhanced Oversight Act of 2017. H.R. 1065 would reform the budget and appropriations cycle by extending it from one to two years, aligning the budget process with Congressional terms.

This key piece of legislation will increase efficiency and oversight over federal spending and remove any practices that promote wasted spending. The failure of Congress to complete a budget and appropriations process numerous times over the last 40 years is an issue that needs to be addressed. A biennial budgeting process, like the one created by this bill, would help resolve that problem. Read the letter here or below. 

March 20, 2017

The Honorable Luke Messer
United States House of Representatives
1230 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515 

Dear Congressman Messer,

I write to express support for your bill, the Biennial Budgeting and Enhanced Oversight Act of 2017. The legislation, H.R. 1065, offers a new approach to solve Washington gridlock, and promote efficiency in federal spending.

 The 1978 Budget Act has created a broken system that is rigged toward higher spending. In the last 40 years, the appropriations process has been completed just four times. Within the last 20 years, it has been completed just once. Congress has even failed to pass a budget in 9 of the last 18 years.

H.R. 1065 would reform the budget and appropriations cycle by extending it from one to two years, aligning the budget process with Congressional terms. This would allow Congress ample time to allocate how it spends taxpayer dollars and conduct oversight over federal programs. Lawmakers would be required to complete the budget process in non-election years, so they are not impeded by campaign responsibilities.

By using election years to focus on studying long-term budgetary and economic effects, your legislation will ensure strong oversight over federal spending. In turn, this will allow Congress to better understand and highlight how much money an agency or program needs based on the economic implications it would produce. Wasteful or unnecessary programs can then be better identified and cut.

A biennial budget process like the one created by H.R. 1065 could reverse current practices that are biased towards waste, not prudence. Agencies are rarely able to plan effectively in the shortened budget windows created by stopgap measures. As a result, the current system encourages federal agencies to abide by a “use it or lose it” mentality, in which they spend billions during the last few weeks in order to avoid having their budget reduced for the next year.

It is clear that our current budget system does not work. Your legislation recognizes that and implements key reforms that aim to streamline the budget process to allow Congress to better conduct oversight and combat waste. I urge your colleagues to support H.R. 1065, the Biennial Budgeting and Enhanced Oversight Act.

Onward,

Grover Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

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Lawmakers Should Oppose Tax Increases on Capital Gains

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Posted by Natalie De Vincenzi on Thursday, March 9th, 2017, 6:20 PM PERMALINK

In a letter sent to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Chairman of the Ways and Means Commitee Kevin Brady (R-Texas), Americans for Tax Reform along with 31 other organizations urged members of Congress to oppose any increases in the capital gains tax. The conversation surrounding tax reform should not include increasing the tax on capital gains or carried interest. If anything, it should move to lower the tax on capital gains. Read the letter here or below. 

March 9th, 2017

The Honorable Paul D. Ryan
Speaker of the House
U.S. House of Representatives
H-232, The Capitol
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Kevin Brady
Chairman, Committee on Ways and Means
U.S. House of Representatives
1102 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Speaker Ryan & Chairman Brady:

On behalf of the undersigned organizations, we write in support of your efforts to pass pro-growth tax reform and urge you to oppose efforts to increase taxes on capital gains.

The next four years represents an opportunity to reduce -- not increase taxes on capital gains. Over the past eight years, the top rate increased from 15 percent to 23.8 percent, and the top integrated rate currently sits at 56.3 percent compared to the OECD/BRIC average of 40.3 percent. 

While it appears unlikely that incoming lawmakers and the administration will increase rates outright, they should also be sure not to incrementally move the needle toward higher capital gains taxes in other ways, like boosting taxes on carried interest capital gains.

Carried interest capital gains income is earned through a net gain within a partnership formed between individuals with capital and an expert investor. They are indistinguishable from any other type of capital and so they are paid at the same capital gains tax rates. 

While supporters of higher taxes on carried interest capital gains say it takes aim at 'hedge fund guys,' it would also hurt pension funds, charities, and colleges that depend on these investment partnerships as part of their savings goals. In addition, small businesses, innovators, and

inventors would find themselves increasingly shut out from investment money available to them from these partnerships.

Rather than supporting proposals that lead to higher capital gains tax rates, the incoming Congress and administration should look toward lower rates. One model to follow is contained in the House GOP blueprint, which reduces the top rate on capital gains to 16.5 percent.

Today, pro-growth tax reform is needed more than ever. It is imperative that lawmakers prioritize an overhaul of the tax code as well as protect the areas of the current tax code that promote innovation, investment, and growth. 

Sincerely,

Grover Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

Pete Sepp
President, National Taxpayers Union and Foundation

Jim Martin
Chairman, 60 Plus Association

Norm Singleton
Vice President for Policy, Campaign for Liberty

James Edwards
Co-Director, Inventors Project

Charles Sauer
President, Market Institute

Larry Ward
Chairman, Constitutional Rights PAC

Shaun McCutcheon
Chairman, Conservative Action Fund

Colonel Rob Maness
Chairman, Gator PAC

Donny Ferguson
Chairman, BetterEconomy.org

George Landrith
President, Frontiers of Freedom

Andrew Langer
President, The Institute for Liberty

Judson Phillips
Founder, Tea Party Nation

Paul Morinville
Chairman, US Inventors

Andrew F. Quinlan
President, Center for Freedom and Prosperity

Louis Foreman
President, Edison Nation

Dee Hodges, President
Maryland Taxpayers Association

David Williams
President, Taxpayers Protection Alliance 

Melissa Ortiz
Founder and Principal, Able Americans

Dan Weber
CEO, Association of Mature American Citizens

Mario Lopez
President, Hispanic Leadership Fund

Gregory T. Angelo
President, Log Cabin Republicans

Willes K. Lee
President, National Federation of Republican Assemblies

Derrick Hollie
President, Reaching America

Phil Kerpen
President, American Commitment

Dick Patten
President, American Business Defense Council

Adam Brandon
President and CEO, Freedomworks

Jeffrey Mazzella
President, Center for Individual Freedom

Richard A. Viguerie
Chairman, Conservative HQ

Adrian Pelkus
President, San Diego Inventors Forum

Randy Landreneau
Founder, Independent Inventors of America

Iain Murray
Vice President, Competitive Enterprise Institute

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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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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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ATR Supports H.R. 523, The Debt Transparency and Accountability Act

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Posted by Natalie De Vincenzi on Tuesday, February 7th, 2017, 9:00 AM PERMALINK

Representative Kenny Marchant (R-Texas) has introduced the Debt Transparency and Accountability Act, H.R. 523. This legislation creates a clear framework for holding the administration accountable for any increase in the debt and requires the Treasury Secretary to produce options for reducing the debt. This bill passed in the last Congress with bipartisan support, so legislators on both sides of the aisle should have no problem in supporting this key piece of legislation.

This legislation requires the Treasury Secretary to appear before the House Ways and Means and the Senate Finance Committee between 21 and 60 days before it is anticipated that the debt limit will be reached. Specifically, the Secretary will be required to present a detailed report outlining the nation’s financial state while also proposing substantive reforms.

Firstly, the Secretary will be required to report on the current state of the debt (including historical levels of debt, current composition of debt, and future debt projections).

Secondly, this bill will require the administration to propose detailed proposals to reduce the debt in the short-term, medium-term, and long-term.

Thirdly, the legislation requires the administration to project how increasing the debt limit will affect future spending, debt service, and the strength and stability of the U.S. dollar as the international reserve currency.

Lastly, the Secretary will be required to report projections of the long-term sustainability of mandatory entitlement programs including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. 

In addition, the legislation requires the Treasury Secretary to present progress reports on efforts to reduce the debt when returning to Congress to ask for future debt ceiling increases.

The Debt Transparency and Accountability Act creates a clear, yet comprehensive framework that any administration must follow to reduce federal debt when requesting a debt limit increase. By requiring the submission of a detailed report and comprehensive plan before Congress, H.R. 523 ensures that increasing the debt ceiling only occurs as part of a framework of serious proposals to reform the nation’s finances and chart a pathway toward fiscal responsibility. Americans for Tax Reform supports this legislation and urges all members of Congress to support or cosponsor this bill.

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Global Trade Accountability Act Reasserts Congressional Authority

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Posted by Natalie De Vincenzi on Monday, February 6th, 2017, 10:00 AM PERMALINK

The power to impose tariffs and regulate foreign commerce is not granted to the executive branch, but rather to Congress under Article 1, Section 8 of the United States Constitution. Presidents are granted the power to negotiate international trade agreements, but that does not include imposing tariffs. Yet over the years, Congress has consistently allowed the President to raise tariffs and restrict imports, heeding much of its congressional authority to the executive branch.

Congress must reassert its authority through the Global Trade Accountability Act, S. 177, introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). This important piece of legislation will reinforce Congressional oversight and accountability of any trade decisions made by the Executive Branch.  Americans for Tax Reform along with 13 other free market groups wrote a letter to members of Congress urging them to support S.177, the Global Trade Accountability Act. Read the letter here or below.

Congress will be able to ensure that we don’t head down the path of protectionism we once historically did. There is a reason why our nation was set up to have checks and balances.  This piece of legislation is merely reaffirming the principles our nation has already established.

It is imperative that the U.S. pursues the best trade policy possible and strengthens international trade relations.  International trade is directly linked to millions of jobs across all 50 states. In 46 of the 50 states, trade-related jobs account for more than one-quarter of ALL jobs. In total, more than 1 in 5 jobs, or close to 41 million are reliant on trade. In fact, these workers earn 15-20 percent more than jobs in industries not tied to trade. Free trade is critical to the American economy and is an essential component to guaranteeing a high standard of living for all Americans.

Open Letter to the House and Senate:

Protect Families and Businesses from Unnecessary Tax Increases: Enact the Global Trade Accountability Act

 

February 2, 2017

 

To Members of Congress:

We the undersigned free market organizations, representing millions of hardworking Americans, urge you to support S. 177, the “Global Trade Accountability Act,” introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). If enacted, the legislation would strengthen Congressional oversight and accountability of trade-related decisions made by the Executive Branch.

Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution gives Congress the authority to impose tariffs and regulate foreign commerce. Article II of the Constitution gives the President the power to negotiate international trade agreements. Over time, Congress has ceded much of its authority to establish and raise tariffs and restrict imports to the Executive Branch as long as certain conditions are met. This current arrangement gives the Executive Branch virtual carte blanche to raise tariffs or otherwise restrict imports in a manner that could trigger a costly and unnecessary trade war.

Consistent with Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution, and similar in process to the REINS Act, the Global Trade Accountability Act would require Congressional approval of proposed Executive Branch trade measures aimed at raising tariffs or restricting imports.  In short, it would allow Congress to assert its Constitutional authority over trade policy when appropriate.

Trade policy has been unfairly maligned in recent years, but make no mistake: protectionism has an ugly history in the United States. The Smoot-Hawley tariffs of 1930 deepened and prolonged the Great Depression. Since World War II, however, a bipartisan consensus emerged and the United States began working to liberalize foreign trade between nations. This has paid enormous dividends both domestically and abroad. Regrettably, the specter of protectionism is higher today than it has been at any point since the Depression. The Global Trade Accountability Act can prevent the United States from slouching toward protectionism. That is why we strongly urge you to pass S. 177, the Global Trade Accountability Act.

Sincerely,

Brandon Arnold, Executive Vice President
National Taxpayers Union

Grover Norquist, President
Americans for Tax Reform

Norm Singleton, President
Campaign for Liberty

David McIntosh, President
Club for Growth

Iain Murray, Vice President of Strategy
Competitive Enterprise Institute

Adam Brandon, President
FreedomWorks

Matt Kibbe, President
Free the People

Tom Giovanetti, President
Institute for Policy Innovation

Lisa Nelson, President
The Jefferson Project

Jerry Taylor, President
Niskanen Center

Lori Sanders, Outreach Director
R Street Institute

David Williams, President
Taxpayers Protection Alliance

Berin Szoka, President
TechFreedom 

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Medicare Part D Already Works

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Posted by Natalie De Vincenzi on Friday, February 3rd, 2017, 10:30 AM PERMALINK

Medicare Part D is an example of the free market ensuring lower costs and greater access to care. Preventing government bureaucrats from interfering with private-sector negotiations allows pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), pharmaceutical manufacturers, and pharmacies to negotiate lower drug prices and reduce overall healthcare costs amongst themselves.

Too often, government-created programs spend more than projected. But, Medicare Part D is an exception, saving taxpayers billions of dollars. The CBO estimated in 2005 that Part D would cost $172 billion in 2015, but it has cost less than half that – just $75 billion.

The government shouldn’t mess with a program that isn’t broken, and doing so would do almost nothing to address runaway federal spending. Instead this proposal would decrease access to life-saving medicines and increase costs to the healthcare system over the long term.

In a letter to Representatives, ATR President Grover Norquist, together with CAGW President Tom Schatz and NTU President Pete Sepp urged Congress to not interfere with Medicare Part D. The letter can be found here or below.

 

February 2, 2017
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C.  20515

Dear Representative,

On behalf of the more than 1.8 million members and supporters of our respective organizations, we urge you to oppose any attempts to change the successful and cost-saving process by which drug prices are negotiated for Medicare Part D.

When Congress created Part D, a non-interference clause was included to prevent the secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) from interfering with the robust private-sector negotiations that occur among pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), pharmaceutical manufacturers, and pharmacies.  PBMs use a variety of methods, such as acquiring price concessions from both brand-name and generic drug manufacturers, rebates, and networks of more affordable pharmacies to lower drug costs for beneficiaries.  PBMs also work with patients on drug adherence to keep them out of hospitals and doctors’ offices, which also helps to reduce healthcare costs.

These competitive, private-sector negotiations have been instrumental in making Medicare Part D an all-too-rare example of a government-created program whose expenditures have been significantly less than projected.  In 2005, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that Part D would cost taxpayers $172 billion in 2015; instead the cost was $75 billion.

Critics of the current process for determining drug prices claim that there either are no real negotiations or that the secretary should be given the authority to negotiate.  The first claim is patently false.  In regard to allowing the secretary to negotiate prices, CBO has stated that changing the non-interference clause would have a negligible impact on costs, unless HHS established a formulary, which would lead to a restrictive, limited list of medications eligible for reimbursement by Medicare.  In other words, there would be price controls on the drugs, and some medications that are now covered by the program would be cut off.

According to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, there were 41 million beneficiaries enrolled in the Medicare Part D program in 2015.  A July 2016 Healthcare Leadership Council survey found that 92 percent of seniors reported that their plan was convenient to use; 88 percent were satisfied with their prescription drug coverage; 86 percent said their plan works well and without hassle; 84 percent reported it was important to them to have a variety of plans to compare and choose from; and, 80 percent stated their plan was a good value.

Price controls never work as advertised and cause more problems than they solve.  Medicare Part D is working more effectively than originally anticipated and is helping to keep taxpayer costs under control. The government should not interfere with something that is not broken.

Sincerely,

Grover Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

Tom Schatz
President, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste

Pete Sepp
President, National Taxpayers Union

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U.S. Should Pursue Bilateral Trade Agreement with United Kingdom

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Posted by Natalie De Vincenzi on Tuesday, January 31st, 2017, 9:00 AM PERMALINK

A bilateral free trade agreement between the United States and United Kingdom would be extremely beneficial. Not only do the U.S. and U.K. have a strong commitment to one another that would be strengthened by this agreement, a trade deal would produce immense economic benefits.

President Donald Trump has expressed concerns with the current state of trade but has also committed to passing strong bilateral free trade agreements that benefit American workers and families. A U.S.-U.K. free trade agreement should be the first step in achieving the trade goals of the new administration.  Congressman Charlie Dent (R-PA) and Congressman Mark Walker (R-AL) have introduced a resolution, H.Res.60, that would pressure the Trump admiration to pursue a bilateral free trade agreement. President Trump should have no hesitation in supporting this resolution as he has expressed the prospect of such an agreement as favorable, considering it a “top priority” of the United States.

While free trade has come under scrutiny in recent years, conceptually it produces immense economic benefits.  Free trade agreements allow the elimination and reduction of tariffs—or taxes on trade—as well as other discriminatory measures such as trade quotas.  

Fewer barriers on American exports means less money taken by foreign governments out of the pockets of workers and business owners seeking to trade overseas. Fewer barriers on imports into the U.S. results in more competition and access to a greater range of products at lower prices for consumers across the country, guaranteeing a higher standard of living for Americans. 

The U.S. economy is heavily reliant on trade, so it is imperative that we have sound bilateral agreements with our major trading partners. Trade-related jobs account for more than one-quarter of ALL jobs in almost every state and a total of 41 million jobs across the country are tied to trade. These jobs pay on average 15-20 percent more than jobs in industries not tied to trade.

The United Kingdom has historically been a major stakeholder and investor in the United States and has also served as a major market for U.S. goods. Following the UK’s “Brexit” vote, there has been much uncertainty as to whether the United Kingdom and the United States can retain the strong economic and cultural ties they share. 

Passing Representative Dent and Representative Walker’s U.S.-U.K. trade deal would be a step towards strengthening these meaningful ties by starting the conversation for a bilateral trade agreement. Such a conversation would provide much-needed certainty and stability in the global economy and foster a smooth transition for the United Kingdom to exit the European Union. 

It is crucial that the Trump administration take action on this resolution and start the discussion for a U.S.-U.K. bilateral trade agreement.

 

 

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The Death Tax Should Be Repealed in 2017

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Posted by Natalie De Vincenzi on Thursday, January 26th, 2017, 12:38 PM PERMALINK

The Death Tax should be repealed this year as a part of much-needed, pro-growth tax reform. At its core, this tax is extremely unfair, forcing families to pay a tax on their loved one’s family-owned businesses or farms.

At a steep 40 percent rate, those hit by the Death Tax must give up a portion of their loved one’s legacy because of the tax. The truly wealthy can avoid the tax through an army of accountants, attorneys, and charitable planners, but those who are hit hardest generally are first and second generation small business owners and cannot afford the same tax avoidances the wealthy, like Hilary Clinton, use. Americans for Tax Reform along with 131 other organizations wrote a letter to Congress urging immediate and permanent repeal of the Death Tax.

Repeal of the Death Tax is not only common-sense, but it would also spur economic growth. In 2016, the Tax Foundation estimated that repeal of the Death Tax would create 150,000 jobs. Additionally, the  Joint Economic Committee reported that the Death Tax has suppressed over $1.1 trillion of capital in the United States’ economy since being introduced. Much of this comes from small businesses, who are the core of America’s economy. This loss of capital ultimately results in fewer jobs and lower wages for American workers.

In addition, the Death Tax contributes a miniscule amount of revenue relative to the size of federal government. In all, it makes up only one half of one percent of all federal revenue. Because the Death Tax is so economically destructive, almost all the revenue lost would be offset by increased economic growth. As noted by the Tax Foundation, repealing the Death Tax would result in $240 billion in lower taxes over a decade. However, the economic growth created by repealing the Death Tax would produce $221 billion in federal revenue because of increased wages and more jobs.

The majority of Americans oppose the Death Tax and support its repeal. Countless polls have proven that a majority of Americans would support full and permanent repeal of the Death Tax.  

Senator John Thune (R-S.D.) and Representative Krisiti Noem (R-S.D.). have introduced legislation, S. 205/ H.R. 631, The Death Tax Repeal Act of 2017, to permanently repeal the Death Tax. ATR urges all members of Congress to support and co-sponsor these bills. Likewise, executive and congressional leaders have been at the forefront of this debate. Both the House GOP tax blueprint and the plans released by President Trump have both called for the repeal of the Death Tax.  

As the President and Congress are moving forward with pro-growth tax reform, the repeal of the Death Tax should be a vital part of reform. 

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Reforming the IRS Should be on The Agenda in 2017

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Posted by Natalie De Vincenzi on Tuesday, December 13th, 2016, 9:00 AM PERMALINK

In addition to overhauling the tax code by lowering rates, simplifying the system, and updating the code, the House GOP “Better Way” Tax Reform Blueprint outlines several reforms aimed at creating a more efficient, less-abusive IRS.

The GOP’s outline for a new IRS transforms the way in which the agency operates with a new “service first” mission, the creation of a taxpayer bill of rights, and structural changes to the agency. Given the unaccountability exhibited by employees and officials in past years, changes to the agency are long overdue.

History of Failure and Abuse

The modern IRS has a history of failing to fulfill its basic responsibilities to taxpayers. Most notably, the IRS applied improper, politically motivated scrutiny to tea party and conservative organization during the Obama presidency. As a result of this scrutiny, Congressional investigations revealed that the agency granted just one conservative non-profit tax exempt status over a three year period between 2009 and 2012. 

Following this, IRS Chief Commissioner John Koskinen deliberately misled the public and failed to provide crucial information into the investigation surrounding the political targeting while under oath before Congress.

Koskinen and other IRS officials have also claimed the agency is underfunded, with one official even claiming that the agency was “struggling to keep the lights on.” But the facts say otherwise – the agency has proven time and time again that it cannot be trusted to wisely spend taxpayer dollars.

For example, the agency made the costly and illegal decision to hire a litigation-only white shoe law firm for over $1,000 an hour to audit Microsoft. As noted by Congressional investigators, this was completely unnecessary -- the agency has 40,000 employees dedicated to enforcement efforts and access to the IRS office of Chief Counsel or a Department of Justice attorney for audits. But instead, the agency chose to hire an expensive law firm for at least $2.2 million.

The waste doesn’t end there. Other investigations have caught the IRS wasting over 500,000 hours, or $23.5 million a year on union activities, and show that they gave 57 contracts worth a total of $18.8 million to corporations that had federal tax debt or a felony conviction.

Need for A Service First Mission

Quality service has never been a priority for the IRS. In recent years, this has become only more pronounced as frustrated and confused taxpayers seeking help by calling the IRS have found themselves “courteously disconnected” – the term the agency uses when it cannot take your call. According to the National Taxpayer Advocate, in 2015, the IRS not-so-courteously disconnected 8.8 million taxpayers. 

Needs for customer service at the IRS have reached such dire levels partly because we have such a complicated tax code, which stretches to 74,608 pages long.  From 2010 to 2015, average wait times have tripled from 10.8 minutes to more than 30 minutes according to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). Additionally, GAO reported that during fiscal year 2015 the IRS had offered “the lowest level of telephone service”. Only 38% of taxpayers who called were able to reach an IRS representative.

Most taxpayers fear being audited and they deserve to receive all the help they need. By refocusing on a “service first” mission, taxpayers can lessen their fears knowing full well that they will get the help they need.

Taxpayer Bill of rights

One way the IRS can better respect taxpayers is through an enshrined “taxpayer bill of rights,” as the House GOP plan proposes. The plan lays out ten rights that taxpayers should expect from the IRS. These include:

• Be informed

• Quality service

• Pay no more than the correct amount of tax

• Challenge the position of the IRS and be heard

• Appeal a decision of the IRS in an independent forum

• Finality

• Privacy

• Confidentiality

• Retain representation

• A fair and just tax system

Having quality rights and having them specifically laid out in such a form will enable taxpayers to hold the IRS accountable for their actions and ensure that taxpayers and their information are treated properly. Taxpayers will be guaranteed the basic rights most Americans would say should be automatically expected.  

The IRS has proven itself to be a potentially-dangerous arm of federal power.  It’s important that the natural authority given to agencies like the IRS be checked with strong protections for ordinary, everyday taxpayers.

Organizational Reform for the Agency

Reforms outlined in the Better Way plan also propose streamlining the organizational structure to the agency. While the tax code is overly complex, so too is the IRS inefficiently structured. One solution to this is separating the agency into multiple units – a families and individuals unit, a business unit, and a small claims court.

• The families and individuals unit will focus on providing state of the art customer service so that taxpayers can get efficient help and answers to their tax questions.

• The business unit will focus on administering the new tax code for businesses of all sizes and types, including specialists with expertise on the issues facing start-up entrepreneurs and small businesses and specialists with expertise on the issues facing large domestic companies and American-based global corporations.

• The “small claims court” unit will be independent of the new IRS. This will allow routine disputes to be resolved more quickly, so that small businesses no longer spend more in legal fees to resolve a dispute with the IRS than the amount of tax that was at stake.”

Just as a taxpayer bill of rights enshrines the service that taxpayers must receive, these structural reforms will ensure that the agency is in a better position to do its job.

Photo Credit: 
Becky McCray

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