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Ryan Ellis

ATR Supports H.R. 38/S. 448, the "Senior Tax Simplification Act"


Posted by Ryan Ellis on Thursday, March 7th, 2013, 5:26 PM PERMALINK


ATR sent the following letter today to Congressman John Fleming (R-La.) and Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fl.):

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform, I write today in support of H.R. 38/S. 448, the “Senior Tax Simplification Act.”  I would urge all Congressmen and Senators to support this common-sense, pro-senior taxpayer legislation.

This bill would instruct the IRS to create a new form in the 1040 series designed especially for senior citizens with relatively-simple tax filing situations.  The most common types of income reported by seniors would be on it—interest, dividends, capital gains, Social Security benefits, pension payments, IRA distributions, wages, and unemployment compensation.  

For younger taxpayers, a similar form exists today—the 1040-EZ.  It only reports wages, interest, and unemployment compensation.  Any (childless) single taxpayer or married couple under age 65 making less than $100,000 is eligible to file this short form.  Nearly 5 million taxpayers take advantage of this convenient form every year.

There is no reason why a similar form can’t be made available to seniors.  21 million tax returns are filed every year in households where the primary taxpayer is over age 65.  Many of these taxpayers could use this form easily to make tax season less complicated.

Tax compliance costs need to be lowered as a part of fundamental tax reform.  This bill is a good step in that direction.
 

Full Letter PDF

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ATR Supports H.R. 1040, the "Flat Tax Act"


Posted by Ryan Ellis on Thursday, March 7th, 2013, 4:27 PM PERMALINK


ATR today sent the following letter to Dr. Michael Burgess (R-Texas):
 

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform, I am pleased to support H.R. 1040, the “Flat Tax Act.”  I would urge all Congressmen who want to see a more pro-growth, simpler, flatter, and fairer income tax to co-sponsor this legislation.

The Flat Tax Act puts into law the original one-rate income tax concept advanced by Stanford economists Robert Hall and Alvin Rabushka.  It would completely replace the current personal and corporate income tax structures (as well as the death tax) with a new, voluntary system featuring a flat rate of 17 percent.  

The tax base in the Flat Tax Act would be restricted entirely to business profits, wages, retirement plan distributions, and unemployment compensation.  This is a rough proxy for a consumed income base, which excludes the return on savings from income taxation and allows for a full deduction for all business inputs.  Only in this way can a key tax reform principle be achieved: taxing all income once and only once.

A key advantage of your version of the flat tax idea is that each taxpayer gets to choose for himself whether to stay in the current system or move over to the flat tax system.  Families and business owners who have built their lives around the current system’s maze of exclusions, adjustments, deductions, and credits can stay in the current system if they want to.  Most Americans will gladly migrate over to the far easier flat tax system.

The Flat Tax Act provides for a generous family deduction to ensure that the new system is steeply progressive and exempts families at or near poverty from income taxation.  Under the bill, a family of four would face no income taxation on its first $46,100 (plus inflation) of taxable earnings.  This is nearly twice the federal poverty level for a family this size.  No American family is taxed below about 150% of the federal poverty level.

Finally, the Flat Tax Act creates a two-thirds Congressional supermajority requirement to raise the tax rate or limit the standard deduction.  This is a wise and necessary protection for taxpayers.

As Congress considers fundamental tax reform legislation this year, it would do well to start from the wise policy contained in H.R. 1040, the “Flat Tax Act.”
 

Full Letter PDF

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Obamacare Taxes: IRS "determining who to audit and who not to."


Posted by Ryan Ellis, John Kartch on Wednesday, March 6th, 2013, 1:21 PM PERMALINK


On Wednesday, March 5, Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George tesified before the House Appropriations Committee. As part of his exchange with lawmakers, Mr. George was asked about the tax implications of Obamacare.

As reported by POLITICO's Rachael Bade:

“It is unprecedented in recent history, the amount of responsibility the IRS is being given in an area that most people don’t think of as an IRS function,” George said. Americans, he added, will have more questions about their taxes because of health care penalties or credits, flooding already busy call-in and walk-in tax help centers. “This is going to lead to problems, sir.”

And these resource issues are bound to spill over into tax fraud enforcement, where the IRS will have to do a cost-benefit analysis when determining which tax fraudsters to chase.

“They have to determine what enforcement mechanisms they’ll employ … how they go about determining who to audit and who not to,” George said.

You might already know about the twenty new or higher taxes in Obamacare.  What you might not know is that the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) says that the IRS has 47 new taxes and regulations to administer in overseeing Obamacare. 

The IRS is not capable of doing all this, as the quotation above confirms. 

Here is the list:

  1. Prohibits group health plans from discriminating in favor of highly compensated individuals.
  1. Establishes a temporary reinsurance program to provide reimbursement for a portion of the cost of providing health insurance coverage to early retirees.
  1. Imposes a penalty on health plans identified in an annual Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) penalty fee report, which is to be collected by the Financial Management Service after notice by the Department of the Treasury (Treasury).
  1. Requires state exchanges to send to Treasury a list of the individuals exempt from having minimum essential coverage, those eligible for the premium assistance tax credit, and those who notified the exchange of change in employer or who ceased coverage of a qualified health plan.
  1. Provides tax exemption for nonprofit health insurance companies receiving federal start-up grants or loans to provide insurance to individuals and small groups.
  1. Provides tax exemption for entities providing reinsurance for individual policies during first 3 years of state exchanges.
  1. Provides premium assistance refundable tax credits for applicable taxpayers who purchase insurance through a state exchange, paid directly to the insurance plans monthly or to individuals who pay out-of-pocket at the end of the taxable year.
  1. Provides a cost-sharing subsidy for applicable taxpayers to reduce annual out-of-pocket deductibles.
  1. Outlines the procedures for determining eligibility for exchange participation, premium tax credits and reduced cost-sharing, and individual responsibility exemptions.
  1. Allows advance determinations and payment of premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions.
  1. Authorizes IRS to disclose certain taxpayer information to HHS for purposes of determining eligibility for premium tax credit, cost-sharing subsidy, or state programs including Medicaid, including (1) taxpayer identity; (2) the filing status of such taxpayer; (3) the modified adjusted gross income of taxpayer, spouse, or dependents; and (4) tax year of information.
  1. Provides nonrefundable tax credits for qualified small employers (no more than 25 full-time equivalents (FTE) with annual wages averaging no more than $50,000) for contributions made on behalf of its employees for premiums for qualified health plans.
  2. Requires all U.S. citizens and legal residents and their dependents to maintain minimum essential insurance coverage unless exempted starting in 2014 and imposes a fine on those failing to maintain such coverage.
  1. Requires every person who provides minimum essential coverage to file an information return with the insured individuals and with IRS.
  1. Imposes a penalty on large employers (50+ FTEs) who (1) do not offer coverage for all of their full-time employees, offer unaffordable minimum essential coverage, or offer plans with high out-of-pocket costs and (2) have at least one full-time employee certified as having purchased health insurance through a state exchange and was eligible for a tax credit or subsidy.
  1.  Requires information reporting of health insurance coverage information by large employers (subject to IRC 4980H) and certain other employers.
  1. Offers tax exclusion for reimbursement of premiums for small-group exchange participating health plans offered by small employers to all full-time employees as part of a cafeteria plan.
  1.  Subjects new group health plans to certain Public Health Service Act requirements and imposes the excise tax on plans that fail to meet those requirements. (Conforming amendment)
  1.  Authorizes IRS to disclose certain taxpayer information to the Social Security Administration (SSA) regarding reduction in the subsidy for Medicare Part D for high-income beneficiaries. (Conforming amendment)
  1.  Requires the independent institute partnering with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to implement a key national indicator system to be a nonprofit entity under section 501(c)(3).
  1. . Imposes a fee through 2019 on specified health insurance policies and applicable self-insured health plans to fund the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund to be used for comparative effectiveness research.
  1.  Imposes a 40 percent excise tax on high cost employer-sponsored health insurance coverage on the aggregate value of certain benefits that exceeds the threshold amount.
  1.  Requires employers to disclose the value of the employee’s health insurance coverage sponsored by the employer on the annual Form W-2.
  1.  Repeals the tax exclusion for over-the-counter medicines under a Health Flexible Spending Arrangement (FSA), Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA), Health Savings Account (HSA), or Archer Medical Savings Account (MSA), unless the medicine is prescribed by a physician.
  1.  Increases tax on distributions from HSAs and Archer MSAs not used for medical expenses.
  1.  Limits health FSAs under cafeteria plans to a maximum of $2,500 adjusted for inflation.
  1.  Imposes additional reporting requirements for charitable hospitals to qualify as tax-exempt under IRC 501(c)(3) and requires hospitals to conduct a community health needs assessment at least once every 3 years and to adopt a financial assistance policy and policy relating to emergency medical care.
  1.  Imposes a fee on each covered entity engaged in the business of manufacturing or importing branded prescription drugs.
  1.  Imposes an annual fee on any entity that provides health insurance for any U.S. health risk with net premiums written during the calendar year that exceed $25 million.
  1.  Allows the deduction for retiree prescription drug expenses only after the deduction amount is reduced by the amount of the excludable subsidy payments received.
  1. Increases the threshold for the itemized deduction for unreimbursed medical expenses from 7.5 percent of Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) to 10 percent of AGA (unless taxpayer turns 65 during 2013-2016 and then threshold remains at 7.5 percent).
  1.  Denies the business expenses deductions for wage payments made to individuals for services performed for certain health insurance providers if the payment exceeds $500,000.
  1. Imposes an additional Hospital Insurance (Medicare) Tax of 0.9 percent on wages over $200,000 for individuals and over $250,000 for couples filing jointly.
  1.  Limits eligibility for deductions under section 833 (treatment of Blue Cross and Blue Shield) unless the organizations meet a medical loss ratio standard of at least 85 percent for the taxable year.
  1.  Allows an exclusion from gross income for the value of specified Indian tribe health care benefits.
  1.  Allows small businesses to offer simple cafeteria plans—plans that increase employees’ health benefit options without the nondiscrimination requirements of regular cafeteria plans.
  1.  Establishes a 50 percent nonrefundable investment tax credit for qualified therapeutic discovery projects.
  1.  Requires employers to provide free choice vouchers to certain employees who contribute over 8 percent but less than 9.8 percent of their household income to the employer’s insurance plan to be used by employees to purchase health insurance though the exchange.
  1.  Imposes a tax on any indoor tanning service equal to 10 percent of amount paid for service.
  1.  Excludes from gross income amounts received by a taxpayer under any state loan repayment or loan forgiveness program that is intended to provide for the increased availability of health care services in underserved or health professional shortage areas.
  1.  Increases the maximum adoption tax credit and the maximum exclusion for employer-provided adoption assistance for 2010 and 2011 to $13,170 per eligible child.
  1.  Extends the exclusion from gross income for reimbursements for medical expenses under an employer-provided accident or health plan to employees’ children under 27 years.
  1.  Imposes an unearned income Medicare contribution tax of 3.8 percent on individuals, estates, and trusts on the lesser of net investment income or the excess of modified adjusted gross income (AGI + foreign earned income) over a threshold of $200,000 (individual) or $250,000 (joint).
  1.  Imposes a tax of 2.3 percent on the sale price of any taxable medical device on the manufacturer, producer, or importer
  1.  Amends the cellulosic biofuel producer credit (nonrefundable tax credit of about $1.01 for each gallon of qualified fuel production of the producer) to exclude fuels with significant water, sediment, or ash content (such as black liquor).
  1.  Clarifies and enhances the applications of the economic substance doctrine and imposes penalties for underpayments attributable to transactions lacking economic substance.
     
  2. Increases the required payment of corporate estimated tax due in the third quarter of 2014 by 15.75 percent for corporations with more than $1 billion in assets, and reduces the next payment due by the same amount.

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47 Reasons the IRS Is Unprepared to Enforce Obamacare


Posted by Ryan Ellis on Tuesday, March 5th, 2013, 4:11 PM PERMALINK


“It is unprecedented in recent history, the amount of responsibility the IRS is being given in an area that most people don’t think of as an IRS function...[t]his is going to lead to problems, sir...“[t]hey have to determine what enforcement mechanisms they’ll employ … how they go about determining who to audit and who not to.”

Treasury Inspector General for the IRS Russell George
March 5, 2013

Testimony before House Committee on Appropriations

You might already know about the twenty new or higher taxes in Obamacare.  What you might not know is that the non-partisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) says that the IRS has 47 new taxes and regulations to administer in overseeing Obamacare.  The IRS is not capable of doing all this, as the quote above confirms. 

Here is the list:

  1. Prohibits group health plans from discriminating in favor of highly compensated individuals.
  1. Establishes a temporary reinsurance program to provide reimbursement for a portion of the cost of providing health insurance coverage to early retirees.
  1. Imposes a penalty on health plans identified in an annual Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) penalty fee report, which is to be collected by the Financial Management Service after notice by the Department of the Treasury (Treasury).
  1. Requires state exchanges to send to Treasury a list of the individuals exempt from having minimum essential coverage, those eligible for the premium assistance tax credit, and those who notified the exchange of change in employer or who ceased coverage of a qualified health plan.
  1. Provides tax exemption for nonprofit health insurance companies receiving federal start-up grants or loans to provide insurance to individuals and small groups.
  1. Provides tax exemption for entities providing reinsurance for individual policies during first 3 years of state exchanges.
  1. Provides premium assistance refundable tax credits for applicable taxpayers who purchase insurance through a state exchange, paid directly to the insurance plans monthly or to individuals who pay out-of-pocket at the end of the taxable year.
  1. Provides a cost-sharing subsidy for applicable taxpayers to reduce annual out-of-pocket deductibles.
  1. Outlines the procedures for determining eligibility for exchange participation, premium tax credits and reduced cost-sharing, and individual responsibility exemptions.
  1. Allows advance determinations and payment of premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions.
  1. Authorizes IRS to disclose certain taxpayer information to HHS for purposes of determining eligibility for premium tax credit, cost-sharing subsidy, or state programs including Medicaid, including (1) taxpayer identity; (2) the filing status of such taxpayer; (3) the modified adjusted gross income of taxpayer, spouse, or dependents; and (4) tax year of information.
  1. Provides nonrefundable tax credits for qualified small employers (no more than 25 full-time equivalents (FTE) with annual wages averaging no more than $50,000) for contributions made on behalf of its employees for premiums for qualified health plans.
  1. Requires all U.S. citizens and legal residents and their dependents to maintain minimum essential insurance coverage unless exempted starting in 2014 and imposes a fine on those failing to maintain such coverage.
  1. Requires every person who provides minimum essential coverage to file an information return with the insured individuals and with IRS.
  1. Imposes a penalty on large employers (50+ FTEs) who (1) do not offer coverage for all of their full-time employees, offer unaffordable minimum essential coverage, or offer plans with high out-of-pocket costs and (2) have at least one full-time employee certified as having purchased health insurance through a state exchange and was eligible for a tax credit or subsidy.
  1.  Requires information reporting of health insurance coverage information by large employers (subject to IRC 4980H) and certain other employers.
  1. Offers tax exclusion for reimbursement of premiums for small-group exchange participating health plans offered by small employers to all full-time employees as part of a cafeteria plan.
  1.  Subjects new group health plans to certain Public Health Service Act requirements and imposes the excise tax on plans that fail to meet those requirements. (Conforming amendment)
  1.  Authorizes IRS to disclose certain taxpayer information to the Social Security Administration (SSA) regarding reduction in the subsidy for Medicare Part D for high-income beneficiaries. (Conforming amendment)
  1.  Requires the independent institute partnering with the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to implement a key national indicator system to be a nonprofit entity under section 501(c)(3).
  1. . Imposes a fee through 2019 on specified health insurance policies and applicable self-insured health plans to fund the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund to be used for comparative effectiveness research.
  1.  Imposes a 40 percent excise tax on high cost employer-sponsored health insurance coverage on the aggregate value of certain benefits that exceeds the threshold amount.
  1.  Requires employers to disclose the value of the employee’s health insurance coverage sponsored by the employer on the annual Form W-2.
  1.  Repeals the tax exclusion for over-the-counter medicines under a Health Flexible Spending Arrangement (FSA), Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA), Health Savings Account (HSA), or Archer Medical Savings Account (MSA), unless the medicine is prescribed by a physician.
  1.  Increases tax on distributions from HSAs and Archer MSAs not used for medical expenses.
  1.  Limits health FSAs under cafeteria plans to a maximum of $2,500 adjusted for inflation.
  1.  Imposes additional reporting requirements for charitable hospitals to qualify as tax-exempt under IRC 501(c)(3) and requires hospitals to conduct a community health needs assessment at least once every 3 years and to adopt a financial assistance policy and policy relating to emergency medical care.
  1.  Imposes a fee on each covered entity engaged in the business of manufacturing or importing branded prescription drugs.
  1.  Imposes an annual fee on any entity that provides health insurance for any U.S. health risk with net premiums written during the calendar year that exceed $25 million.
  1.  Allows the deduction for retiree prescription drug expenses only after the deduction amount is reduced by the amount of the excludable subsidy payments received.
  1. Increases the threshold for the itemized deduction for unreimbursed medical expenses from 7.5 percent of Adjusted Gross Income (AGI) to 10 percent of AGA (unless taxpayer turns 65 during 2013-2016 and then threshold remains at 7.5 percent).
  1.  Denies the business expenses deductions for wage payments made to individuals for services performed for certain health insurance providers if the payment exceeds $500,000.
  1. Imposes an additional Hospital Insurance (Medicare) Tax of 0.9 percent on wages over $200,000 for individuals and over $250,000 for couples filing jointly.
  1.  Limits eligibility for deductions under section 833 (treatment of Blue Cross and Blue Shield) unless the organizations meet a medical loss ratio standard of at least 85 percent for the taxable year.
  1.  Allows an exclusion from gross income for the value of specified Indian tribe health care benefits.
  1.  Allows small businesses to offer simple cafeteria plans—plans that increase employees’ health benefit options without the nondiscrimination requirements of regular cafeteria plans.
  1.  Establishes a 50 percent nonrefundable investment tax credit for qualified therapeutic discovery projects.
  1.  Requires employers to provide free choice vouchers to certain employees who contribute over 8 percent but less than 9.8 percent of their household income to the employer’s insurance plan to be used by employees to purchase health insurance though the exchange.
  1.  Imposes a tax on any indoor tanning service equal to 10 percent of amount paid for service.
  1.  Excludes from gross income amounts received by a taxpayer under any state loan repayment or loan forgiveness program that is intended to provide for the increased availability of health care services in underserved or health professional shortage areas.
  1.  Increases the maximum adoption tax credit and the maximum exclusion for employer-provided adoption assistance for 2010 and 2011 to $13,170 per eligible child.
  1.  Extends the exclusion from gross income for reimbursements for medical expenses under an employer-provided accident or health plan to employees’ children under 27 years.
  1.  Imposes an unearned income Medicare contribution tax of 3.8 percent on individuals, estates, and trusts on the lesser of net investment income or the excess of modified adjusted gross income (AGI + foreign earned income) over a threshold of $200,000 (individual) or $250,000 (joint).
  1.  Imposes a tax of 2.3 percent on the sale price of any taxable medical device on the manufacturer, producer, or importer
  1.  Amends the cellulosic biofuel producer credit (nonrefundable tax credit of about $1.01 for each gallon of qualified fuel production of the producer) to exclude fuels with significant water, sediment, or ash content (such as black liquor).
  1.  Clarifies and enhances the applications of the economic substance doctrine and imposes penalties for underpayments attributable to transaction lacking economic substance.
  1.  Increases the required payment of corporate estimated tax due in the third quarter of 2014 by 15.75 percent for corporations with more than $1 billion in assets, and reduces the next payment due by the same amount.

For a PDF version, click here.

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Taxpayer Advocates Issue Joint "Free File" Letter


Posted by Ryan Ellis on Monday, March 4th, 2013, 11:16 AM PERMALINK


The following joint letter was issued to Capitol Hill this morning:

 

Dear Congressmen:
 
We, the undersigned groups and conservative movement leaders, write today to express our support for H.R. 495, the “Free File Program Act,” sponsored by
Congressman Peter Roskam (R-Ill.) This legislation would make the private sector “Free File” program permanent.  We would urge you to co-sponsor this pro-taxpayer, anti-IRS power grab legislation.
 
It’s no secret that the IRS and big spenders in Washington, D.C. want to socialize all tax preparation in America.  The (ironically-named) IRS Office of Taxpayer Advocate has been pushing for IRS preparation of tax returns for years.  There’s only one reason proponents want to do this—tax revenues.  If the IRS invites a conflict of interest by adding “tax preparer” to its role as “tax collector,” it’s a near-certainty that everyone’s taxes will rise.  In fact, higher tax revenues are a major selling point of mandatory IRS-prepared tax returns.
 
The “Free File Program Act” is the best hope for preventing this taxpayer nightmare.  Since 2003, sixteen private sector tax software providers have voluntarily banded together to provide free tax preparation services to low- and moderate-income families with simple tax situations.  70 percent of all taxpayers—more than 100 million families—have access to this voluntary, private sector initiative.  To date, 37 million tax returns have been processed by Free File, saving taxpayers $129 million in administrative costs.
 
H.R. 495, the “Free File Program Act,” would permanently authorize this free and voluntary private sector effort.  More importantly, it directs the IRS that it “shall not compete with the private sector in providing these services to taxpayers, nor acquire, develop, or deploy enabling systems to duplicate or replace private tax preparation services.”  Never again would taxpayers have to worry about the IRS filling out a Form 1040 for them against their will.
 
As your fellow Americans struggle this tax season to comply with our nation’s costly and complicated tax system, we urge you to stand up for them by co-sponsoring H.R. 495, the “Free File Program Act.”

Sincerely:

 

Grover Norquist
Americans for Tax Reform

Duane Pardee
National Taxpayers Union

Tim Phillips
Americans for Prosperity

Tom Schatz
Council for Citizens Against Government Waste

Jim Martin
60 Plus Association

Heather Higgins
Independent Women's Forum

Phil Kerpen
American Committment

David Williams
Taxpayer Protection Alliance

Andrew Moylan
R Street Institute

Andrew Quinlan
Center for Freedom and Prosperity

Seton Motley
Less Government

Jimmy LaSalvia
GOProud
 

Letter PDF
 

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ATR Supports "Right to Refuse" Constitutional Amendment


Posted by Ryan Ellis on Friday, February 22nd, 2013, 4:30 PM PERMALINK


ATR today sent the following letter to Cong. Steven Palazzo (R-Miss.):

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform, I am pleased to support H. J. Res. 28, your Constitutional amendment to prevent Congress from enacting any future “Obamacare mandate” style tax penalties. 

When the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate in
June 2012, the Court stated that the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate was a valid exercise of the congressional taxing power cited in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution.

In the majority opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts stated that while “the Federal Government does not have the power to order people to buy health insurance… [it] does have the power to impose a tax on those without health insurance. Section 5000A [the individual mandate] is therefore constitutional, because it can reasonably be read as a tax.”

If passed, your “Right to Refuse” Amendment would exempt individuals and businesses that opt not to purchase insurance from facing thousands in mandate taxes set to take place in 2014.   It would also permanently prevent Congress from passing future legislation forcing Americans to choose between purchase of goods and services or tax penalties.     

There are 20 new or higher taxes in Obamacare, none worse than the penalty tax provisions.  Your amendment will prevent any further damage to taxpayers’ freedoms.

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The Real Story of the Fiscal Cliff and Its Aftermath


Posted by Ryan Ellis on Thursday, February 21st, 2013, 4:30 PM PERMALINK


The fiscal cliff was one of the largest tax hikes in American history.  The tax components actually came from four different clusters of expiring tax provisions.  They were:

The "Bush tax cuts."  The 2001 and 2003 tax relief, extended many times by Congress and most recently by a unified Democrat government in 2010, expired.  This meant that tax rates rose from an old range of 10 to 35 percent up to a new range of 15 to 39.6 percent.  Additionally, the capital gains rate rose from 15 to 20 percent, the dividends tax rose from 15 to 39.6 percent, and the death tax rose from 35 to 55 percent.  A host of other tax increases also kicked in, most notably a halving of the child tax credit to $500 and a return of the marriage penalty for all taxpayers.

The end of the business and personal "extenders."  There were several dozen business and personal tax provisions which expired for good with the fiscal cliff.  Most notable here was the expiration of the AMT "patch" which prevented the AMT from growing from 4 million to 31 million families overnight.  Other notable highlights were the ethanol tax credit and small business expensing of assets.

The end of the payroll tax "holiday."  In 2011 and 2012, Congress provided for a temporary 2 percentage point reduction in the FICA tax.  For most workers, this meant that the fiscal cliff raised their FICA tax portion from 5.65 percent of wages to 7.65 percent of wages.

The inauguration of most of the Obamacare tax hikes.  There were 20 new or higher taxes in Obamacare.  Most of them went into effect with the fiscal cliff.  These included a new 3.8 percent "surtax" on investment income, a hike in the Medicare payroll tax rate, and a new tax on medical device manufacturers. 

All told, these tax hikes totaled nearly $500 billion in 2013 alone.  The most important thing to know about these tax hikes is that they all, in fact, happened.  They happened automatically at midnight on New Year's Eve/New Year's Day.  No one in Congress voted for this to happen, nor did any President sign a tax hike into law.  Temporary law was simply allowed to expire.

This happened despite the efforts of House and Senate Republicans to vote on bills to temporarily or permanently defer this fiscal cliff tax hike nightmare.  At the insistence of President Obama and Harry Reid, the nightmare happened anyway.

When these tax increases went into effect, a new and permanent revenue baseline was established.  Under this new normal, tax revenues would come in at about 21 percent of economic output, far higher than the historical average of 18 percent.  Per year, taxes would be about $500 billion higher than they would have been if the fiscal cliff had been avoided.

Because this tax increase was broadly-felt down the income scale, Congress felt the need to cut taxes from this new, higher, permanent, post-cliff level.  This tax cut was in the form of H.R. 8, the "American Taxpayer Relief Act." 

This bill cut taxes from this "new normal" by $3.7 trillion over 10 years.  The Bush tax cut expiration was rolled back for all taxpayers making less than $400,000 per year.  Most of the business and personal extenders were extended, and the AMT patch was made permanent.  Nothing was done about the Obamacare taxes or the end of the payroll tax rebate.  The death tax was permanently set at a new 40 percent rate with a $10.3 million exemption for married couples.  A new phaseout of itemized deductions and personal exemptions was put in place for those making more than $200,000 per year.

Some have said that Congressmen voting for H.R. 8 were voting for a tax increase, as if a vote for H.R. 8 was somehow an endorsement of the fiscal cliff tax hikes which happened hours earlier.  That is simply untrue.  House and Senate Republicans voting for H.R. 8 made it clear that their strong preference was for the fiscal cliff tax hikes to never have happened, but they did.  Given that new reality, their vote to cut taxes can hardly be called a bad thing.

That's not to say that H.R. 8 was an ideal bill--far from it.  It failed to fully roll back the fiscal cliff tax hikes which had already happened, and resulted in a tax policy regime worse on net than the one which preceded the fiscal cliff.  However, that does not make H.R. 8 something it is not.  H.R. 8 is a tax cut--a large one.  Those voting for it cannot be smeared as tax hikers when the facts simply don't support that analysis.

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ATR Supports Hatch Ideas for Medicare, Medicaid Reform


Posted by Ryan Ellis on Thursday, February 14th, 2013, 4:23 PM PERMALINK


ATR sent the following letter today to Senator Orrin Hatch (R-Utah):

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform, I am pleased to support your five common-sense reforms to the Medicare and Medicaid systems.  They represent a serious down payment on reform, and are the first steps Congress should take in a broader health entitlement overhaul.  Your reforms include:

Allowing the Medicare eligibility age to grow with life expectancy.  Under current law, the eligibility age for Medicare enrollment is 65.  Your proposal would permit this level to reflect longer life expectancy by increasing the age 2 months every year until a new age of 67 is met.  At that point, both Medicare and Social Security normal retirement ages would be aligned.  Because the change is not abrupt, it’s a fair deal for current and near-retirees who have planned their retirements around Medicare.

Putting more market forces to work in Medigap policies.  Many seniors purchase “Medigap” policies to wrap around the holes in their traditional Medicare plans.  However, most of these Medigap plans provide first-dollar coverage, which means that seniors have little incentive to be smart about their heathcare purchases.  Your plan would prohibit Medigap policies from covering initial out-of-pocket expenses for seniors when they receive care, giving seniors a motivation to ask their doctors how much medical services will cost.

Creating a simple, unified Medicare cost-sharing structure.  Most people are unaware that Medicare has a confusing hodgepodge of deductibles, coinsurance limits, and caps which make planning healthcare nearly impossible for seniors.  Your plan would create a simple system with one unified deductible, uniform coinsurance rates, and an annual catastrophic out-of-pocket cap.

Allowing for competitive bidding within Medicare.  This is an idea whose time has come.  It has a long, bi-partisan history.  Its origins can be found in the 1999 Breaux-Thomas commission, but it also has roots in the Rivlin-Domenici plan, and most recently in the Ryan-Wyden agreement.  Letting private companies compete to provide Medicare services will provide better Medicare choices for seniors at less cost than the status quo.

Putting a per-capita cap on Medicaid.  Similar to block granting, this form of defined contribution Medicaid reform has its origins in the Clinton Administration.  Spending limits would be set by beneficiary eligibility categories and adjusted for patient health condition.  Whether done per-beneficiary or per-state, it’s time for Washington to get out of the way and let the states reform Medicaid the same way they reformed welfare in the 1990s.
 

Full Letter PDF

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Top Five Tax and Spending Lies from the State of the Union


Posted by Ryan Ellis, Mattie Duppler, Chris Prandoni on Wednesday, February 13th, 2013, 11:06 AM PERMALINK


Obama Claim #1:  “[The American people] know that broad-based economic growth requires a balanced approach to deficit reduction, with spending cuts and revenue, and with everybody doing their fair share.”

Reality:  According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), tax revenues to the federal government will double over the next decade, from $2.5 trillion in 2012 to $5 trillion in 2023.  Tax revenues will settle in at 19 percent of economic output, a full percentage point higher than the historical average.  That means that tax revenues every year will be running $150 billion to $200 billion higher than what we’ve come to experience as the norm since the Second World War. 

American taxpayers are already doing their part, Mr. President.  It’s time for Washington to go on a spending diet.

Obama Claim #2:  “We should do what leaders in both parties have already suggested, and save hundreds of billions of dollars by getting rid of tax loopholes and deductions for the well-off and well-connected.”

Reality:  Most so-called “tax expenditures” are actually common, everyday tax benefits enjoyed by the middle class.  As for denying these tax preferences to high-income households, that was already done as part of the fiscal cliff deal.  Besides, the tax code is already very steeply-progressive, and is only getting more so.  Washington’s giant debt and deficit problems are caused by overspending, not undertaxing.

Obama Claim #3:  “The American people deserve a tax code that…ensures billionaires with high-powered accountants can’t pay a lower rate than their hard-working secretaries.”

Reality:  This is a straw man argument and is intellectually-dishonest.  CBO has already shown that billionaires pay taxes at a far greater rate than a middle class family.

A typical middle income family faces an average federal tax rate (total federal taxes divided by income) of 11 percent.  The top one percent of families face an average tax rate of 29 percent.  That’s nearly three times as high. 

The middle quintile of taxpayers finance less than 10 percent of all federal taxes paid.  The top one percenters finance over 22 percent of all federal taxes.  This is more than twice as much as the middle quintile.

Whether it’s expressed as percent of income paid in taxes or as percent of all taxes paid to the government, it’s clear that progressivity is not one of the problems in our tax code.  Tax reform is not about punishing households (many of whom are small businesses paying taxes using individual rates), but about creating a pro-growth tax system that creates jobs and wealth for all Americans.

Obama Claim #4:  “Over the last few years, both parties have worked together to reduce the deficit by more than $2.5 trillion...Democrats, Republicans, business leaders, and economists have already said that these cuts, known here in Washington as ‘the sequester,’ are a really bad idea.”

Reality:  The President is claiming credit for the sequester savings while at the same time demanding the cuts be avoided. The $2.5 trillion in savings the President claims to have “worked together” with Congress to achieve are derived partially from spending caps in the Budget Control Act, and partially from $1.2 trillion in automatic spending cuts scheduled to take place over the next ten years. President Obama can’t avert those cuts while counting the savings as a successful token of bipartisan deficit reduction. Not mentioned in the speech? This “really bad idea” was Obama’s idea.

Obama Claim #5:  “So tonight, I propose we use some of our oil and gas revenues to fund an Energy Security Trust that will drive new research and technology to shift our cars and trucks off oil for good.”

Reality:  President Obama is triple-counting these tax hikes. Elsewhere in the speech he suggests that the tax increases on oil and natural gas companies should be used to reduce the deficit, pay for the sequester, and now to create a new “Energy Security Trust.” Raising taxes on oil and natural gas companies gives the government about $5 billion dollars in additional revenue annually, which is enough to avert about six percent of the sequester, reduce the deficit by 0.5 percent, or create a new “Energy Security Trust” but not do all three. And the repercussions of these tax hikes would be substantial, killing 48,000 jobs and reducing our domestic production by 700,000 barrels of oil. 

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100 Years of the Income Tax: Then and Now


Posted by Ryan Ellis on Friday, February 1st, 2013, 3:55 PM PERMALINK


The century-long history of the income tax has been marked by more and more taxpayers paying higher and higher amounts of tax. 

As Americans get ready for yet another tax filing season, let’s take a look at how the income tax became the raw deal it is today:

View PDF here.

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