Ryan Ellis

House Prepares to Pass "Taxpayer Bill of Rights"

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Monday, February 24th, 2014, 12:13 PM PERMALINK

I have a piece up in Forbes today which talks about plans the U.S. House of Representatives has this week to pass two bills which, combined, form a kind of "Taxpayer Bill of Rights."  You can read the full article here.  Below is an excerpt:

What these bills have in common is that they guarantee for taxpayers basic rights most Americans would say should be automatically expected.  The IRS is a potentially-dangerous arm of federal power.  It’s important that the natural accretion of bureaucratic leverage native to agencies like the IRS be checked with strong protections for ordinary, everyday taxpayers.

These two bills together can accurately be called a “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” because they mirror what’s protected in the actual Bill of Rights.  The First Amendment to the Constitution protects freedom of speech and freedom of religion.  The Sixth Amendment grants all Americans the right to a speedy trial.  Those themes are evident in both bills.

The House’s actions this week are a reminder to the IRS that they are subject to the same restraints on government power that the Founding Fathers imposed on the rest of the federal leviathan.

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Is It Fair to Say Obamacare Will Result in 2.5 Million Fewer Jobs?

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Friday, February 7th, 2014, 1:48 PM PERMALINK

Earlier this week, ATR released a study which illustrated one possible state distribution of how many fewer jobs (full-time or equivalent) Obamacare would result in.  The methodology was simple: The Congressional Budget Office estimated that the national figure for this is 2.5 million by 2024, so we simply distributed that by state based on the state's labor force relative to the country's labor force.  That invited a fact check today from the Washington Post.  Below is our rebuttal:

What did CBO actually say?  The CBO study in question comes from the 2014 Budget and Economic Outlook report released in February 2014.  The salient section says:

The reduction in CBO’s projections of hours worked represents a decline in the number of full-time-equivalent workers of about 2.0 million in 2017, rising to about 2.5 million in 2024. Although CBO projects that total employment (and compensation) will increase over the coming decade, that increase will be smaller than it would have been in the absence of the ACA. The decline in fulltime-equivalent employment stemming from the ACA will consist of some people not being employed at all and other people working fewer hours; however, CBO has not tried to quantify those two components of the overall effect.  The estimated reduction stems almost entirely from a net decline in the amount of labor that workers choose to supply, rather than from a net drop in businesses’ demand for labor, so it will appear almost entirely as a reduction in labor force participation and in hours worked relative to what would have occurred otherwise rather than as an increase in unemployment (that is, more workers seeking but not finding jobs) or underemployment (such as part-time workers who would prefer to work more hours per week).

So CBO says that 2.5 million full-time jobs (or the equivalent) will drop out of the labor force by 2024.

Does this mean 2.5 million people will be laid off?  No, and we never made this claim.  As CBO says above, the workforce will be 2.5 million job slots (or the equivalent hours) lighter under Obamacare as a result of a combination of layoffs, hours-worked reductions, and people leaving the workforce.

If people are leaving the workforce voluntarily, is that the same as a lost job?  Yes.  The claim is that Obamacare is shrinking the workforce.  People are "voluntarily" leaving the workforce only because Obamacare is making it prohibitive for them to keep working.  If they earn too much money, the tax credit associated with Obamacare phases out.  Or, they become ineligible for Medicaid.  There's a term for this: subsidizing people not to work.

It's obviously better for the economy if people are working and being productive.  By shrinking the labor force by 2.5 million full time (or equivalent) jobs in 2024, Obamacare is making these workers worse off.

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How Many Jobs Might Obamacare Cost Your State?

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Wednesday, February 5th, 2014, 11:14 AM PERMALINK

On Monday, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) issued a report which shows that Obamacare will cost the economy the equivalent of 2.5 million jobs by 2024.  That's a lot of lost hours and paychecks, but we thought it would be interesting to extrapolate this number by state.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics tells us what percentage of all jobs each state has, so it's a simple matter to figure out how many jobs Obamacare might cost each state.  Here's the results:



















District of Columbia










































New Hampshire


New Jersey


New Mexico


New York


North Carolina


North Dakota










Rhode Island


South Carolina


South Dakota














West Virginia






Puerto Rico


Virgin Islands


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ATR Opposes Shift to Accrual Basis Accounting in Tax System

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Friday, January 31st, 2014, 5:01 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform today sent a letter to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) expressing opposition to moving toward "accrual" based accounting in our tax system. 

Below is an excerpt:

I write today to express concern with a provision which has appeared in each of your drafts for business tax reform.  The “cash to accrual” proposal would result in a substantial tax increase for tens of thousands of American business owners and significantly increase their recordkeeping burdens--not for any benefit to our economy and job creation, but for the sole purpose of paying for tax reform...this accounting shift does not advance the goals of tax reform, in fact, it is counterproductive.  It does not make the system simpler, but rather more complex.  It does not promote fairness, certainty or consistency.  It will be a drag on economic growth and job creation. It does not take away anything which is unanimously considered a loophole or preference item.  Thousands of American businesses and owners would pay a significant price to accomplish nothing.  This proposal should be dropped if we are looking for successful small- and medium-sized businesses to remain job creators in a post-tax reform world.

Full letter text

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Obama to Call for Business Tax Hike in SOTU Speech

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Monday, January 27th, 2014, 12:50 PM PERMALINK

In his State of the Union speech on Tuesday night, President Obama will propose a net tax increase on American employers.

Dusting off a “corporate tax reform” plan from his 2012 campaign, the President will propose raising taxes on all employers while cutting rates for only the largest companies. Here’s how the plan works:

The President’s plan is a net tax increase. According to reports, the “offer” President Obama is making is to raise net taxes on employers, and use some of the tax increase revenue windfall to pay for Democrat-aligned union construction projects. The Republican House would never support a net tax increase, and using the money to fund Big Labor (and, by extension, Democrat campaign coffers) is hardly a sweetener. 

This “new” plan simply dusts off an unserious 2012 Obama campaign document. Back in 2012, President Obama’s re-election campaign put out a brief and rhetorical “corporate tax reform” plan. It was largely ignored at the time by serious policy analysts, but the Administration has done nothing to develop it in the intervening two years. ATR did analyses of the plan in 2012 and 2013. The plan raises taxes on all American employers, but only gives partial rate relief to the largest multi-national companies.

The plan leaves much to be desired:

Cutting the corporate rate to 28 percent will only help very large companies. According to IRS data, 32 million businesses file tax returns every year. Fewer than two million of them are corporations. These businesses tend to be the largest companies in the world. While their tax rate is too high, most successful employers pay an even higher tax rate.

Most American employers don't pay the corporate income tax. Most companies in America file and pay taxes using the individual tax rates. President Obama has already raised the tax rate paid by successful small and medium-sized businesses (via the fiscal cliff and Obamacare’s Medicare payroll tax rate hike). Taken together, this means that most employers face a top rate of close to 44 percent, plus state taxes. This is even higher than the 39 percent corporate income tax rate faced by large corporate firms.

The President’s plan only cuts taxes for multinational corporations, while raising taxes on Main Street businesses. Why does President Obama think it's a good idea for multi-national, giant corporations to pay a 28 percent tax rate while Main Street small employers continue to pay a 44 percent rate? All businesses lose their existing deductions and credits, but only the largest companies get rate relief in exchange. That's not fair, and it's not tax reform.

Even a 28 percent corporate rate is too high. According to the OECD, a 28 percent federal corporate rate (more like 32 percent after state corporate income taxes are factored in) would still be higher than every one of our major trading partners except Japan and France. We would still have a higher corporate income tax rate than major trade partners like Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, or Germany. The new rate would still be higher than the developed nation average of 25 percent.

Doubles down on international double-taxation. The U.S. is one of the only countries left in the world which seeks to tax the worldwide income of her companies (on top of income taxes already paid overseas). The smart tax reform move would be toward a territorial system, where only U.S.-source income is taxed (as Obama's own jobs commission recommended). This could be transitioned into with a round of repatriation

Rather than embracing this common-sense and globally-accepted idea, the Obama Administration wants to make the double taxation worse by imposing a global minimum tax rate. They also want to take away several of the tax provisions in law today which make this international double-taxation regime bearable for many companies.

Raises the cost of capital across the board. The Administration plan lengthens depreciation lives, which discriminates against business investment. The proper policy is permanent full business expensing. Businesses should be able to deduct the cost of all business inputs in the year incurred. Lengthening depreciation lives (and, likely, amortization periods) uses inflation and the time value of money to steal these ordinary business deductions. A deduction delayed is a deduction denied. More importantly, it incents business to consume rather than to invest in new plant and equipment.

Raises taxes selectively on producers of American energy. For a plan that claims to abhor "picking winners and losers," the Administration outline sure does pick one loser--energy producers. It reads them out of the Section 199 exclusion, repeals LIFO, curtails legitimate cost recovery, and increases the double taxation of international income (a sore point for the industry). Why is it a good idea to raise the cost of energy for every American family?

It is ironic that an administration lately focused on income inequality would put forward a tax plan which provides rate relief only to the largest multinational companies while raising taxes on small businesses.

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ATR Supports Rubio-Griffin Legislation to Prevent Insurance Company Bailouts

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Friday, January 24th, 2014, 5:00 PM PERMALINK

ATR is supportive of an important new bill introduced by Senator Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Congressman Tim Griffin (R-Ark.)  S. 1726/H.R. 3541 would strip out of Obamacare an impending bailout of health insurance companies who will lose money in Obamacare exchanges.

Under the Obamacare law, "risk corridors" are created for participating insurance companies.  In this scheme, an insurance company which expends more than anticipated on Obamacare insurance claims will receive a bailout of up to 80 percent of their loss amount.  This bailout is intended to be funded by competing insurance companies who spent less than expected, but the bailout of insurance companies ultimately comes out of taxpayers' wallets.

Since very few Americans are actually signing up for Obamacare plans, it's very likely that most participating insurance companies will find themselves eligible for this bailout toward the end of 2014.  If Congress does nothing, insurance companies will receive a taxpayer-financed corporate bailout because the Obamacare system is broken and cannot be fixed.

That cannot be allowed to happen.  S. 1726  and H.R. 3541 would prevent this bailout of health insurance companies.  They are the ones that colluded with the Obama Administration to saddle the country with Obamacare, and they should be full partners in its losses.

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H.R. 7, the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act" is Not a Tax Hike

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Friday, January 24th, 2014, 12:10 PM PERMALINK

The U.S. House of Representatives will soon consider H.R. 7, the "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act."  This bill has been scored by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) as having a negligible effect on both tax revenues and direct spending.  That is, any effects the bill may have are so minor and small that they cannot be measured and should be discounted.

Some have claimed in the past that this legislation was a net tax increase, CBO and JCT scores notwithstanding.  ATR corrected those accusations back in 2011.  The analysis made then still stands today--this legislation is not a net tax increase, and has no interaction whatsoever with the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

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Broad Conservative Movement Support for Obamacare Patient Protections

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Friday, January 10th, 2014, 6:00 AM PERMALINK

A joint letter from 21 conservative movement leaders has been sent to the U.S. House of Representatives supportive of their efforts this week to better protect Americans forced into Obamacare exchanges.  A PDF of the letter can be found here.  Highlights of the letter include:

"Today, the U.S. House of Representatives will be considering two ideas which would protect millions of Americans now forced to purchase health insurance in Obamacare exchanges.  The policy ideas behind these initiatives are not only positive—they are things which the American people should expect their government to be doing as a matter of course...

"The first measure would require the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to report within two business days to any American if their personal information has been stolen or unlawfully accessed through an Obamacare exchange... 

"The second measure requires the HHS secretary to provide detailed weekly reports to the American people about the enrollment success of Healthcare.gov...

"Most Americans would be shocked to learn that this level of protection and transparency is not already happening in a project the size and scope of Obamacare.  It is our hope that House efforts today will correct this injustice."

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CRS Says Marginal Tax Rates Don't Matter...Again

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Tuesday, January 7th, 2014, 3:29 PM PERMALINK

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) is supposed to be a non-ideological, fact-based research crack staff for House and Senate offices.  Besides being completely non-transparent with the public who pays taxes for them, however, CRS has started to show a decided liberal bias in the area of tax policy.

Back in September 2012 (you know, right before an election of some importance), CRS issued a study in which they maintained that raising or lowering marginal income tax rates had no effect on economic performance.  The Heritage Foundation's Curtis Dubay had this to say at the time:

The CRS report presents a slew of periods between 1945 and 2010 comparing the top marginal income tax rates and capital gains rates with economic growth rates. From these correlations the author concludes that lower rates do not correlate with stronger economic growth.

In fact, these stylistic correlations prove nothing. In short, the economy is more complicated than this simplistic approach can acknowledge. For the analysis to prove anything, it needed to account for countless other economic and policy factors, many specific to a given period, and determine how those factors influenced economic growth in the period in question. With this as background, the analysis would then have to isolate the effect lower rates had on growth.

CRS, and many others that argue against lower tax rates, mislead when they make such flimsy correlations because they fail to disclose that no two time periods are the same. Comparing 1950 to 2010 just on tax rates is ludicrous. The world and tax policy are entirely different in those timeframes. If CRS tried to account for all the differences, and then determine how tax rates influenced growth, it would find a different and more accurate answer: that lower rates encourage growth.

Well, apparently CRS is at it again.  They have re-released the report, and those who have read it tell me it makes the same points using the same methodological flaws.  I can't read it because it's firewalled, but there's a Tax Analysts writeup here (subscription required).

Curtis made another good point in his 2012 analysis which bears repeating here: marginal income tax rate change is one of the few areas in which the Left thinks taxes don't influence behavior.  The same people who think raising and lowering the capital gains tax rate has no impact on stock prices are the ones who tout the incentive-altering effects of carbon taxes, Tobin taxes, cigarette taxes, soda taxes, plastic bag taxes, etc.

So which is it?  Do taxes change behavior, or do they not?

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ATR Supports Protecting Americans from Obamacare Security Breaches

Posted by Ryan Ellis on Friday, January 3rd, 2014, 1:27 PM PERMALINK

ATR is supportive of efforts by the U.S. House of Representatives next week to protect Americans from personal data security leaks resulting from Obamacare website failures.

Reportedly, the House's bill will bring together the best ideas that members have had on the issue.  One of the better ideas has been introduced by Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-Florida).  H.R. 3795, the "One Hour Notification Act of 2013" (aka the "OH No Act of 2013") would require the Department of Health and Human Services to notify any American of an Obamacare-related breach in their personal information, and it requires this to be done within one hour of the breach.  In addition, HHS must also notify relevant Congressional committees and produce an annual report.

Information can be stolen in an instant, and the American people deserve to know if their personal identification information is made available to unscrupulous hackers.  The Obama administration has insisted that the flawed healthcare.gov website remain active and mandatory, so they should also be required to come clean when that website fails to protect basic health consumer information.

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