Lawmakers Must Repeal Obamacare’s Health Insurance Tax

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017, 7:00 AM PERMALINK


President-elect Donald J. Trump, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have all promised repeal of Obamacare will come in early 2017. As part of this commitment made to the American people, they must repeal the Obamacare tax on health insurance and all of Obamacare’s one trillion in higher taxes.

Obamacare contains numerous taxes that directly impact middle class families including taxes on Health Savings Accounts and Flexible Spending Accounts, an income tax increase on high medical bills, and even a tax for failing to buy “qualifying” health insurance – as defined by the federal government.

In addition, Obamacare directly increases the cost of healthcare through the health insurance tax. This tax is projected to cost taxpayers – particularly those in the middle class – $130 billion over the next decade. 

The total revenue this tax collects is set annually by Treasury and is then divided amongst insurers relative to the premiums they collect each year. While it was suspended in 2017, the tax will total $14.3 billion in 2018 and will increase in subsequent years.  Those effects will start to be felt in the next several weeks as businesses start to renew coverage that will extend into 2018.

While the negative impacts of the Obamacare health insurance tax are partially obscured from taxpayers, it undoubtedly hurts the economy and disproportionately impacts middle class families and small businesses. If lawmakers are serious about upholding their commitment to eliminating Obamacare, they must repeal the health insurance tax together with the nearly 20 other Obamacare taxes early in 2017.

Obamacare’s Health Insurance Tax is Bad Policy

Ideal tax policy should meet several criteria. One goal should be for taxes to be applied with a broad base so as not to pick winners and losers. This allows economic decisions to be made with the fewest distortions present which in turn promotes the efficient allocation of capital and creation of jobs.

On this measurement, the Obamacare health insurance tax fails. Not only is it levied in the form of a discriminatory excise tax on one product, the health insurance tax falls only on fully insured plans and thus exempts large corporations and labor unions who are almost universally self-insured.

Tax policy should also be transparent so that taxpayers – and voters – are fully aware and able to make educated decisions on the cost and size of government. If a certain tax is obscured from the view of taxpayers, it is far easier for politicians to raise that tax without any accountability.

On transparency, the health insurance tax fails too. Because the costs of the health insurance tax are baked into  health insurance premiums the negative impacts of the tax are obscured.

The Costs of the Tax are Passed on to the Middle Class, Seniors and the Poor

Despite its indirect nature, the costs of the health insurance tax are inevitably passed on to small businesses that provide healthcare to their employees, and middle class families through higher premiums. In addition, the tax impacts the care received by seniors through Medicare advantage coverage and low-income Americans that rely on Medicaid managed care.

According to the American Action Forum, the Obamacare health insurance tax will increase premiums by up to $5,000 over a decade and will directly impact 1.7 million small businesses, 11 million households that purchase through the individual insurance market and 23 million households covered through their jobs.

The Health Insurance Tax Hurts the Economy and Suppresses Job Creation

Typically, small businesses purchase insurance through the small group insurance market, while larger employers have the scale to provide healthcare through self-insured plans, which are excluded from this tax. 

Because it falls disproportionately on small businesses, the health insurance tax hits a key driver of American growth and jobs.

Small businesses account for half of all jobs in the US and two-thirds of new jobs in recent decades so this tax will mean businesses across the country can spend less investing in new equipment, hiring new workers, or providing higher wages.

One estimate, conducted by the National Federation for Independent Businesses estimates the tax could cost up to 286,000 in new jobs and reduce small businesses sales by $33 billion through 2023.

Photo Credit: 
https://www.flickr.com/photos/68751915@N05/

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ATR Statement on Obama's Offshore Ban

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Posted by Justin Sykes on Thursday, December 22nd, 2016, 11:31 AM PERMALINK


Washington – ATR President Grover Norquist issued the following statement this week in response to President Obama’s announcement that he will indefinitely ban new oil and gas offshore drilling leases in vast areas of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans:

“President Obama’s announcement this week that he will ban oil and gas drilling leases in large parts of the Arctic and Atlantic oceans is an unprecedented and ideologically driven move to appease far left environmentalists undertaken in the waning hours of his administration.   

“Obama’s move to ban oil and gas drilling chokes off the vast economic potential these areas would offer the American economy through increased energy production and the creation of good paying jobs. In the Arctic alone, these areas are estimated to hold 27 billion barrels of oil and over 130 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

“Obama’s actions are all too typical of a president concerned only with ‘green’ vanity at the expense of American prosperity. ATR looks forward to working with President-elect Trump to undo this and a number of other economically disastrous policies put forth under the Obama administration.”  

 

Photo credit: DCBlog

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Katie Calahann

This is just another childish move to try to tie our new President Trump's hands. I am sure he has a smart person to unravel this


ATR Statement on Puerto Rico Economic Growth Report


Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Wednesday, December 21st, 2016, 7:49 PM PERMALINK


The Congressional Task Force on Economic Growth in Puerto Rico yesterday released its recommendations to lawmakers. Most importantly, the report acknowledged the need to implement tax policy that encourages and strengthens investment, jobs, and economic growth.

While legislation passed earlier this year by Congress addressed the short-term debt crisis of Puerto Rico, more needs to be done over the long term to ensure the island can recover and thrive. Moving forward, any solution to Puerto Rico's economic woes must include permanent, pro-growth tax policies that encourage competition and investment as acknowledged in the report. 

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Out of Touch Oregon Governor Kate Brown Proposes Bevy of Tax Hikes in Her First Budget

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Posted by Paul Blair on Wednesday, December 21st, 2016, 8:30 AM PERMALINK


In her first-ever proposed budget, Oregon Governor Kate Brown has called for hundreds of millions of dollars in higher taxes and spending over the next two years. This comes on the heels of the announcement that the state faces a $1.7 billion overspending problem and a rejection by voters of a union-pushed ballot measure in November that would have raised taxes by $3 billion per year on Oregon businesses.

Brown’s tax hikes include:

  • Elimination of “Partnership Pass-through,” which allows for lower tax rates for S-corps as well as the IC-DISC dividend subtraction. This is personal income tax hike of more than $183 million.
  • Restructuring the Hospital Assessment tax. Currently, hospitals pay the state a portion of patient revenue to garnet matching federal dollars and get the money back after the money comes in from D.C. Turning the assessment into a higher “true tax” would raise taxes by $379 million (and game the system further).
  • Reinstating the recently expired insurance and managed care tax: $151 million;
  • Increase in cigarette tax of 85 cents per pack from $1.33 per pack to $2.18 per pack: $21.5 million;
  • Other Tobacco Products tax hikes across the board (from 65% to 75%) and specifically on products like cigars (+0.50/cigar) and moist snuff (+$0.89/oz): $13.7 million;
  • Liquor tax hike of 50 cents per bottle and a 100% increase in liquor licensing fees: $39 million;

 

Oregon taxpayers have an important protection from politicians like Gov. Kate Brown, with a supermajority requirement in the legislature to raise taxes. Three-fifths of legislators in both chambers must vote to raise taxes for passage, meaning Brown will need the support of both Democrats and Republicans to get her way.

Republican leadership seems to be hesitant to take her approach. In a statement, House GOP leader Mike McLane said:

“Until we are willing to … address the root of our budget problems, we will continue to experience the same kind of budget challenges we are facing today.”

The root cause? Overspending.

Oregon’s general fund and lottery revenues are expected to increase by more than $1.3 billion over the next two years. But even that isn’t enough to keep up with the out of control rate of spending in the state. What are among the main drivers of spending growth over the next two years, according to the Governor herself?

  • Obamacare’s misguided Medicaid expansion: nearly $1 billion;
  • Increased public education spending: $781 million;
  • Public pension payments: $354 million.

 

Each of these cost-drivers are best addressed through reforms that have been implemented successfully elsewhere, as opposed to the “Oregon Way” of throwing money at everything and hoping no one asks questions about outcomes. This budget represents a 9 percent increase in spending, more than three times population growth and inflation. 

The failure of labor unions in November to convince voters to approve a 2.5 percent gross receipts tax on Oregon businesses, which would have made it the most burdensome and highest tax in the nation, has forced an important debate in the state. Without the billions of dollars Measure 97 would have taken from consumers and businesses alike, the state must now address the underlying problem in Salem: overspending.

Gov. Brown, who supported the Measure 97 tax hike, clearly didn't get the November memo that taxpayers aren't interested in raising taxes; they prefer spending restraint instead. The legislature should heed the will of voters though, buy rejecting Gov. Brown's tax hikes when they return for session next year. 

Photo Credit: 
Oregon Department of Transportation

Top Comments

RuReady

LOL. Progressive. LOL

MaxRedline

I wish we could deport her back to her home state of Minnesota.

TKList

Maybe they will learn from their mistakes.


ATR's Naughty and Nice List for 2016


Posted by ATR on Tuesday, December 20th, 2016, 3:00 PM PERMALINK


Nice

President-elect Donald J. Trump

For proposing a big, beautiful tax cut that will increase take-home pay for all income levels and Make America Great Again

 

Naughty

Hillary Clinton

For proposing a $1,000,000,000,000 tax hike on the American people.

Nice

Clinton campaign senior staff

For failing to send their candidate to Wisconsin and Michigan during the final stretch of the campaign. 

Nice

Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady

For leading the charge for pro-growth tax reform.

 

Nice

Sedgewick County in Wichita, KS

For naming a building after Ronald Reagan for the very first time in the Sunflower State.

 

Naughty

Tom Steyer

For funding campaigns to tax e-cigs and vaping devices.

 

Nice

Ron Swanson

 

Naughty

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval

For pushing yet another tax hike, this time to pay for an NFL stadium.

 

Naughty

Cook County, IL Board of Commissioners, and San Francisco and Boulder, CO voters

For approving soda tax hikes. As Senator Bernie Sanders has correctly pointed out, “a tax on soda and juice drinks would disproportionately increase taxes on low-income families.”

Naughty

Hillary Clinton

For proposing to increase the Death Tax to 65%


 

Nice

Sierra Club and other green groups

For opposing a ballot measure that would’ve imposed a revenue neutral carbon tax, and in so doing making it crystal clear that environmental groups care more about growing government than supposed reductions in emissions.

 

Naughty

IRS Chief John Koskinen

For stonewalling the investigation into Lois Lerner/IRS abuse of conservative grassroots groups.

 

Nice

San Diego voters

For rejecting a massive hotel tax hike that would have been funneled to an NFL stadium

 

Naughty

The United Nations

For launching an assault on IP through its Access to Medicines report.

 

Naughty

The World Health Organization

For recommending that all countries impose a soda tax.

 

Nice

NRSC staff and Chairman Roger F. Wicker

For holding the Senate majority

 

Naughty

Hillary Clinton

For refusing to offer any income tax rate reduction for any American family or business.

 

Nice

Fairfax County voters

For rejecting the “Meals Tax”

 

Naughty

The United Kingdom Courts

For upholding plain packaging laws that are a clear violation of IP rights

 

Naughty

President Obama

For continuing to break his no middle class tax hike pledge by vetoing Obamacare repeal.

 

Nice

Voters in Iceland

For overwhelmingly choosing the Center-Right Independence Party in this year’s elections.

 

Naughty

Sen. Elizabeth Warren

For pushing for government controlled tax preparation.What could possibly go wrong?

Naughty

IRS Chief John Koskinen

For skipping his own impeachment hearing.

 

Nice

The India Property Rights Alliance

For hosting its 2nd annual conference that helped with the global launch of the International Property Rights Index.

 

Naughty

President Obama

For proposing a $3.4 trillion tax hike in his final budget.

 

Naughty

EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager

For retroactively taxing US companies based on the argument that competitive taxation constitutes “illegal state aid”.

 

Nice

Dr. Tom Price

For his work holding CMMI accountable.

 

Naughty

The IRS

For wasting $12 million in taxpayer funds on an unusable email system.

 

Naughty

President Obama

For imposing new, complex, unconstitutional regulations on Americans.

 

Nice

President-elect Donald Trump

For promising to repeal Obamacare and its massive tax hikes.

 

Naughty

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo

For signing into law a bill that prohibits people from advertising their property online for short-term rental.

 

Nice

House Speaker Paul Ryan

For his “Better Way” plan to get the economy working again by cutting taxes, reining in regulations, and repealing and replacing Obamacare.

 

Nice

Congressman Rob Bishop

For passing legislation addressing Puerto Rico’s Debt Crisis without a taxpayer funded bailout.

 

Naughty

CFPB Director Richard Cordray

Out of control, unaccountable imposition of nearly 50 rules since CFPB creation just five years ago.

 

Nice

Congressman Peter Roskam

For his oversight of the IRS and illegal Obamacare subsidies.

 

Naughty

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards

For massive tax hikes.

Naughty

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler

For opening the door for taxing the internet.

 

Nice

Congressman Warren Davidson

For fighting back against Obama’s unilateral Death Tax hike.

 

Naughty

Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D)

For pushing a capital gains tax hike on investment partnerships​.

 

Nice

Missouri Governor-elect Eric Greitens 

For his opposition to use of taxpayer funds to build a soccer stadium in St. Louis

 

Nice

Rep. Tom MacArthur (R)

For pushing hard for pro-growth tax reforms in Puerto Rico.

 

Nice

Congressman Mark Walker and Sen. Ben Sasse

For fighting against the billion dollar Obamacare Reinsurance bailout.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nice

Bill Clinton

For acknowledging the need to cut the uncompetitive corporate rate, despite his wife's hostile position on the issue.

 

Nice

State Senator Mark Green

For making Tennessee a true no income tax state by leading the successful effort to pass legislation getting rid of the state’s six percent tax on investment income.

 

Nice

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas)

For working to protect consumers and American businesses by pushing Congress to reform the costly and burdensome Dodd-Frank Act.

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Highlights of The Sharing Economy

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Posted by Laurens ten Cate on Monday, December 19th, 2016, 5:26 PM PERMALINK


Recently the Federal Trade Commission brought out a report on the Sharing Economy. This very positive report included almost two thousand (2000!) individual comments submitted by Americans participating in this new style of economy. People use the sharing economy as a way to thrive and survive in the slowest recovery of a recession since the Great Depression and this sentiment is felt in almost all comments in this massive database.

In the midst of holiday cheer it’s good to spend some time thinking about not just why more choice for people and how flexibility in setting your own hours is good but also how the Sharing Economy has impacted the thousands of Americans working in it. I went through most of the by the FTC collected comments and picked out some of the most warm, heartfelt and inspiring quotes found among them.

Susanne Warfied from New Jersey talks about how she felt safe and empowered to invite guests to stay at her apartment through Airbnb’s platform and how this has helped her pay for the enormous increases in her healthcare premium through Obamacare.

“I joined AirBNB in March of this year as I was having problems making ends meet. I am self-employed and have been struggling to make mortgage payments and maintain my association management company and pay for the so-called Obamacare. The impact of Obamacare alone has raised my personal health care premium by over $300 a month! I thought it was supposed to help small business owners?”

Ridesharing was praised for reducing drunk driving deaths and tragedy for thousands every year.

“May 26, 2015

To Whom it May Concern, 

Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) has had great success since our founding in 1980 in reducing the number of drunk driving fatalities. Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go. In 2013 over 10,000 people were killed due to a drunk driver. This accounts for almost one-third of all traffic deaths. While the best way to stop drunk driving is to couple strong drunk driving laws with strong DUI enforcement and educating the public on the consequences of breaking these laws, it is also important for those over the age of 21 to have a safe ride should they go out to consume alcoholic beverages. To that end, MADD supports new ridesharing platforms and alternative means of transportation that use new and emerging technologies to enable more transportation options throughout the country. MADD knows that the Federal Trade Commission is holding a workshop on the sharing economy and wanted to weigh in support of new rideshare programs and platforms which include companies like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar. Of particular interest to MADD is the potential for these new alternatives to take drunk drivers off the road and provide a safe alternative. Due to the competition that Uber has introduced into the market, people can now get a safe and cash-free ride home at the touch of a button. Please consider the tremendous social value that ridesharing companies offer as you put together your June 9 workshop. We urge you to take into consideration the issue of drunk driving as you continue to debate this issue.

Thank you and best wishes, J.T. Griffin”

And finally, Carlton Timeus regales the story of how he once saved a young man’s life.

“There was a night, a young man requested for ride while he was in a very bad area in Miami. He cried that I came quickly because he feared for his life. When I arrived, 3 guys were getting ready to jump him for his watch and wallet. So I quickly pull my car between him and those 3 guys. That's just one story.”

These are just three of the two thousand comments on the Sharing Economy collected by the FTC.

The Sharing Economy has empowered thousands of people with the opportunity to make their lives better. For Americans working in the Sharing Economy the case seems clear, they overwhelmingly like it. The report by the FTC found that over 90% of the two thousand comments were positive and of the 10% negative comments, many came from existing industry players such as hotels, bed and breakfasts and taxi companies.

For innovation to be possible, disruption of old incumbent industries needs to be allowed. The Sharing Economy is just another example of that. The market has spoken and they overwhelmingly shouted in favor. The Sharing Economy is here to stay. 

Photo Credit: 
Mark Warner, http://bit.ly/2i8xXMn

Top Comments

Jeremy Wales

This Sharing Economy ideal sounds like a common sense pro-idea


Obamacare Individual Mandate Devastates Families and Businesses

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Posted by Alec DiFruscia on Thursday, December 15th, 2016, 11:12 AM PERMALINK


When it was passed into law in 2010 Obamacare created more than $1 trillion in higher taxes on American families and businesses over the course of 10 years. Of the trillion dollars, seven of Obamacare’s tax increases directly hit Americans making less than $250,000 a year, violating President Barack Obama’s “firm pledge” to not raise taxes on the middle class. One of the seven tax increases, the individual mandate, has proven one of the most burdensome for Americans.

The individual mandate  will cost $43.3 billion over the course of the next 10 years and prove devastating for taxpayers. The tax penalty gave Americans a choice - purchase “qualifying” health insurance – as defined by President Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services – or pay an income surtax to the IRS. In 2016, the annual fee was $695 for an individual, and $2,085 for a family of four, or 2.5% of your household income, whichever is higher, for “noncompliance.”

In order for Obamacare to work, there needs to be a significant portion of young healthy people to offset the cost of older, less healthy people. For a sustainable Obamacare, 40% of all enrollees need to be in the “golden” 18-34 age. However, Obamacare does not have its 40%. According to HHS, only 28% of enrollees are in this “golden” age range. Because of high costs and one-size-fits all insurances that does not suit the needs of young people, the economics of Obamacare are setup to fail.

For many Americans, going uninsured is a more financially feasible option for their families than paying the skyrocketing costs of Obamacare premiums. Close to 7.5 million taxpayers, or six percent of all filers, opted to pay the individual mandate tax in 2014, more than 25 percent higher than the administration’s highest estimate. As of the fall of 2015, this number increased by 3 million, to 10.5 million Americans.

The lack of healthy, young people on the Obamacare exchanges means insurers are unable to break even and are being forced to pull out of the system. This economic instability of Obamacare caused 1.4 million Americans to have their insurance terminated this year. Major insurance companies, like Aetna Inc., UnitedHealth Group, Inc., and other regional carriers have pulled out of the individual insurance markets. In addition, 17 of the 23 Obamacare exchanges have collapsed leaving millions more without health insurance and putting taxpayers on the hook for $1.8 billion.

According to a HealthDay/Harris Poll, 64% of respondents said that they would like to see the individual mandate provision of Obamacare repealed. The poll revealed that the individual mandate is overwhelmingly unpopular and creates a needless headache for millions of Americans.

Luckily for Americans, Republicans in Congress and President-elect Trump finally have an opportunity to repeal Obamacare and the individual mandate and take the burden of the disastrous healthcare law off of millions of American families.

Sign the petition and tell Congress and President-election Trump to repeal Obamacare in the first 100 days in office.

Photo Credit: 
https://www.flickr.com/photos/sandiandsteve/

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Dodd-Frank is Crushing America's Credit Unions

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Posted by Johnathan Sargent on Tuesday, December 13th, 2016, 2:40 PM PERMALINK


Get ready to say goodbye to your neighborhood credit union! Slowly, but surely regulations imposed by Dodd-Frank are putting credit unions out of business across America. As a result of the Dodd-Frank regulatory burden, U.S. credit unions have seen skyrocketing compliance costs and loss of revenue that are not only hurting credit unions, but also the American consumers that they serve.

The financial services industry has always been a heavily regulated industry, but since the financial crisis the level of regulations placed upon this industry has reached astronomical heights. Instead of solving what caused the financial crisis, Dodd-Frank imposed a new regulatory regime upon the financial services industry. This has made the industry as a whole less profitable and less competitive. While larger institutions that are able to absorb these costs thrive under Dodd-Frank, smaller institutions, like credit unions, are left to struggle for survival.

Credit unions are staples of every community across America. They offer a consumer focus larger institutions are unable to give since credit unions are member-owned, and not purely for profit like many of their larger competitors. This commitment to consumers and communities allows credit unions to focus on helping members save and borrow and receive affordable financial services. In many cases this means lower rates, reduced fees, and personalized service. Dodd-Frank puts this all in jeopardy.

Under Dodd-Frank the cost to simply comply with regulations continues to increase. According to a 2016 study, credit unions see three sources of these increased costs from regulations: additional staff; third party expenses; and depreciation of capitalized costs.

In order to simply understand the complex rules put in place by Dodd-Frank, credit unions have to hire additional staff, and in order to make sure that they are complying with regulations they must hire third party companies to review their work. Fully one in every four credit union employees time is now spent on regulatory compliance. All of this extra staff and expenditures added up to an additional $6.1 billion in costs for credit unions in 2014 alone.

Unfortunately, not all credit unions are created equal. Naturally some credit unions have more assets than others, and as a result are able to spread the costs. In fact credit unions with assets under $100 million face a regulatory burden almost 3 times greater than credit unions with over $1 billion in assets. As a result revenue from these institutions are drastically affected by Dodd-Frank regulations like the Durbin amendment. Estimates show that the total impact of these regulations comes in at $1.1 billion in lost revenue in 2014, and that’s just the conservative estimate.

Fortunately, amongst all of this bad news there is some hope for the millions of Americans that use credit unions. President-elect Donald Trump and his nominee for Secretary of Treasury, Steven Mnuchin, along with a unified Republican government will have the tools to repeal much of Dodd-Frank. Should they need any guidance they will have the work of Representative Jeb Hensarling (R-Texas) and Senator Pat Toomey (R- Penn.) to use as a roadmap.

Photo Credit: Johnathan Haeber 

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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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States Pave Road for Autonomous Vehicles

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Posted by Quinn Gasaway on Monday, December 12th, 2016, 4:47 PM PERMALINK


As they say, the future is now.

Just last week, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder (R) signed into law legislation that will establish a favorable legal and regulatory climate for innovative businesses looking to operate in the autonomous vehicle (AV) sector.

With this new law, it is now possible to research, develop, and test autonomous vehicles in Michigan. Already known for its rich history in the automotive industry, the Great Lakes State is now more appealing to many cutting-edge businesses, including General Motors, Google, Uber, and Lyft. 

Earlier this year, Tennessee approved similar legislation, which was championed by State Senator Mark Green (R). Already, Volkswagen has expressed interest in expanding such operations to its Chattanooga branch.

While such legislation sounds futuristic, laws pertaining to AVs have been in place for roughly half a decade. In 2011, Nevada became the first state to authorize the operation of AVs. Since then, California, Florida, Louisiana, North Dakota, Utah, and Washington, D.C. have passed favorable AV legislation. Two states, Arizona and Massachusetts, have seen their respective Governors issue executive orders related to positive AV legislation.

If more states were to follow this lead, the automotive industry could see a boom in job creation and ability to operate in a free market while better serving consumers. More states should follow the example set by State Senator Green and Governor Snyder; it’s up to state legislators to keep the momentum rolling. The future is now, and elected officials should act accordingly to bring a potentially booming industry to their states and constituents.

Photo Credit: 
MyDiscoveryContent

Top Comments

katy

I saw where several states, I think Virginia is one of them, are spending $$ to put sensors in the roads for the AV's. I'm sorry, but how many people are going to own AV's anytime soon. meanwhile thousands of addicts destroy families, increase crime in our cities and towns, strain EMS resources, and die everyday. THis affects EVERYONE. Sounds like our government has it's priorities screwed up.

SierraBear

Certainly there should be no objections to the development and implementation of this technology. Just don't forget our freedom to choose not to opt for an AV for transportation.


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