Obamas Make Jumbo 529 Contribution While Pushing Repeal for Everyone Else

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Posted by Ryan Ellis on Thursday, January 22nd, 2015, 1:46 PM PERMALINK

President Obama proposed this week to tax the earnings on new contributions to “Section 529″ college savings plans. These plans work like Roth IRAs for college–you put in after-tax money, the money grows tax-free, and withdrawals are tax-free if used to pay for tuition and fees.

Obama wants the earnings on these plans to face ordinary income tax, at rates as high as 39.6 percent federally. 529 expert Joe Hurley correctly predicts that taxing 529 plans this way will result in their effective repeal, as new contributions in will “dry up” overnight.

The tsunami of popular outrage against the Obama proposal can be explained by seeing that this tax increase is really an assault on the American Dream.

But just your American Dream–not the Obamas’.

You see, back in 2007, Barack and Michelle Obama made a stunning $240,000 contribution to the 529 plans of their two daughters. There’s a special provision in 529 tax rules that allow for a “jumbo” contribution in exchange for not gifting any more money to your kids for the next five years. The Obamas (wisely) took advantage of this–you can see the actual tax form reporting here.

This is odd, considering some of the nasty things the White House has said about 529 plans in recent days. Administration officials have called 529 plans “inefficient,” that 80% of the benefits accrue to those making more than $250,000 per year, and that 529 plans should effectively be repealed in order to plus up an education tax credit. Obama Administration mouthpiece Slate went so far as to call de facto 529 repeal “a great idea.

In fact, the College Savings Foundation–which knows a thing or two about the 529 industry–says that 70% of families which own a 529 plan make less than $150,000 per year, and almost 95% of families make less than $250,000 per year (note that this is the Obama Administration’s preferred dividing line to mark off the “middle class”). The average account balance in these 12 million 529 plans is just under $21,000.

So which one is it?  Are 529 plans an evil distortion in the tax code? If so, why did the Obamas plow nearly a quarter of a million dollars in them back in 2007? And why does Obama want to effectively repeal 529s (there would be no reason to contribute without the tax-free growth) for middle class families today?

The Obamas have already gotten their full tax advantage from 529 plans. Under his plan, they would get to keep all the tax-free growth their quarter-million dollar contribution will yield. But they want to deny that to others not so fortunate, to middle class families struggling to save for college.

If that sounds familiar, it should. Back in 2009, President Obama tried to kill school scholarships for some 1,700 low income elementary school students in the District of Columbia. This was at the same time as he sent his daughters–the ones who benefit from the Obamas’ 529 plan contributions–to the uber-pricey Sidwell Friends School in town. All this was done to appease the teachers’ unions, who largely dictate education policy to Democrats.

The story is the same–only the best for the Obama clan and his friends, but everyone else can eat cake.

Photo Credit: 
Justin Sloan

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Makes perfect sense to me...consistent with their strategy to make as many as possible dependent on the federal government for their student loans


Lets not forget the cutting of Pell grants from 18 semesters to 12. effectively cutting off anybody that needed help obtaining their Masters degrees.

The Grover Norquist Show: Obama Takes Aim at 529 College Savings Plan

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Thursday, January 22nd, 2015, 1:41 PM PERMALINK

During his State of the Union address, President Obama proposed taxing 529 college savings plan. 529 tax plans work by allowing families to deposit after tax funds into an account that then accumulates interest. When funds are withdrawn from the account to pay for college they are tax free.

Almost 12 million families rely on 529 plans to help pay for the costs of college but Obama’s proposal will tax these plans like ordinary income and destroy the viability of this widely used account.

ATR’s Grover Norquist and Ryan Ellis sit down to discuss how this new proposal will hurt the ability of middle class families to invest in their children’s college education.



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Grover Norquist Discusses the Great Cost of the “Great Society”

Posted by Dorothy Jetter on Wednesday, January 21st, 2015, 5:29 PM PERMALINK

Today Americans for Tax Reform President, Grover Norquist spoke at an event at the Council on Foreign Relations titled, “The Great Society at 50: Assessing the Legacy, Evaluating the Future.”  Norquist emphasized the importance of fiscal prudence in place of wasteful federal programs that promise taxpayers things they do not and cannot deliver.

While the New Deal and Great Society Eras are often referred to as successful periods of economic recovery in our history, the American people are still paying the price for entitlement programs established during these times. 

In fact, they represent half of all federal spending today and a large portion of every American’s income. Norquist pointed out that annually:

“The federal government spends 20% of what Americans make.”

The cost of President Lyndon Johnson’s so-called “Great Society,” is well, enormously great.  He continued:

“We have spent $20 trillion, inflation adjusted dollars, since 1964 on welfare programs.  Seventeen percent of income in the United States comes from means tested welfare programs.”

The American people are seeing the negative impacts of tax increases and federal entitlements implemented half a century ago, today.  Looking towards the future, Norquist reasoned:

“The real challenge is we can’t afford this, now or in the future.  Social Security has $10.6 trillion in unfunded liability.  That doesn’t mean $10.6 trillion owed sometime, that’s the present value of unfunded liabilities that we have in Social Security alone. Medicare is somewhere between $28- $35 trillion in unfunded liabilities.”

You can watch the entire event above.

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Gage Skidmore

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Obama Tax Hike on College Savings Plans Breaks Middle Class Tax Pledge

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Posted by Ryan Ellis, John Kartch on Tuesday, January 20th, 2015, 11:56 AM PERMALINK

Tonight, in his State of the Union address, President Obama will propose a series of tax increases on the American people. One of these tax increases is indisputably an income tax hike on middle class families with children. 

Under Obama’s plan, earnings in “Section 529” (named for its location in the Internal Revenue Code) college savings plans will face full income taxation upon withdrawal.

Under current law, earnings growth in 529 plans is tax-free if account distributions are used to pay for college tuition and fees. The Obama plan will tax earnings in these accounts even if they are used to pay for college tuition and fees.

These accounts are commonly used by middle class families. There are about 12 million 529 accounts open today, and they have an average account balance of approximately $21,000. Most 529 plans permit monthly contributions as low as $25 per month.

This middle class income tax increase is a clear violation of President Obama's “firm pledge” against “any form of tax increase” on any family making less than $250,000. This promise to the American people is documented below:

Speaking in Dover, New Hampshire on Sept. 12, 2008, candidate Obama said:

“I can make a firm pledge. Under my plan, no family making less than $250,000 a year will see any form of tax increase. Not your income tax, not your payroll tax, not your capital gains taxes, not any of your taxes.” [Video]

During a nationally televised Vice-Presidential debate in St. Louis on Oct. 3, 2008, candidate Joe Biden said:

“No one making less than $250,000 under Barack Obama’s plan will see one single penny of their tax raised whether it’s their capital gains tax, their income tax, investment tax, any tax.” [Transcript]

In an address to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 24, 2009, President Obama restated the promise in forceful terms:

“If your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime.” [Transcript] [Video]

"Rather than raise taxes on middle class families trying to save for their children’s education, Obama should abolish the seven tax increases in Obamacare that directly hit middle-income Americans,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

Photo Credit: 
U.S. Embassy, Jakarta

Top Comments


So he's going to tax the people who actually saved to send their kids to college to provide free college to takers who never saved - makes perfect sense in Obamaland.


He also gives Constitutional Rights to Illegal aliens.
No surprise here.


Why not? He gives tax "refunds" to people who pay no taxes.

ATR Presents 2015 State of the Union Bingo

Posted by ATR on Monday, January 19th, 2015, 5:46 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform once again presents a series of handy Bingo cards you may use to check off terms and phrases likely to be used during President Obama's State of the Union address on Tuesday.  

Print out all versions of the card and watch the speech with your friends, family, or book club: [BINGO Card I]  [BINGO Card II]  [BINGO Card III]

Official Terms and Definitions:


“Work together” = I will work together with my pen and phone.


“Infrastructure" or "Roads and Bridges” = Bullet trains to nowhere.

“Internet” = A dangerously under-regulated segment of the economy the FCC should start micromanaging.


"Investment” = Tax hikes.


“Balanced” = Tax hikes.


“Fair share” = Tax hikes.


"Inequality” = Tax hikes.

"1%” = How kids feel after a Michelle Obama school lunch.


"Children and Grandchildren” = The people picking up the tab.

“Energy” = What my administration expends to ensure the Keystone XL Pipeline is never built.


"I or Me” = Center of the known universe.


“Education” = Teachers union payoff.


“Regulation” = Thank you for not asking about the 300 coal plants that are doomed due to my EPA regs.


“Affordable” = Affordable only after a taxpayer-funded subsidy. But not really.


"Middle Class” =  Those who are the target of seven tax hikes in Obamacare.


"Recovery”  =  The weakest post-1960 recovery on record.


“Deficit” = The product of an overspending problem which I want to “fix” with tax hikes.


“Compromise” = You pay. I spend.


“Responsibility” = Don’t forget to send in your Obamacare 'Shared Responsibility Payment' to the IRS.


"Health Insurance” = If you like your plan, you can keep your plan. Oh, wait.


“Access” = Government mandates + more tax dollars.


"Special Interests” = Taxpayers.


“Jobs” = Where young adults used to spend their time instead of Mom and Dad’s basement.


“God bless America” =  Good luck filling out your Obamacare tax forms. 


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Chris Christie: “I will veto any more income tax increases that come before me.”

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Posted by Paul Blair on Monday, January 19th, 2015, 4:45 PM PERMALINK

In his 2015 State of State Address, Governor Chris Christie (R-N.J.) reiterated his strong opposition to tax hikes in New Jersey. Since taking office 5 years ago, Democrats have passed income and business tax hikes that Gov. Christie has vetoed five times. Despite the state’s massive overspending problem and bloated pension liabilities, Christie has remained steadfast in rejecting Democrat efforts to raise taxes as a Band-Aid for those issues.

In his Address before the legislature last week, Christie mentioned taxes 22 times. Here are a number of excerpts:

"Now, I know that many of you in this room believe that income tax increases are the way to go. So yes, sometimes we will simply have to disagree.

I have vetoed four income tax increases passed by this body. And make no mistake… I will veto any more income tax increases that come before me.”

He continued, “And I will do it for one simple reason — the higher our taxes are, the fewer people and businesses will come to New Jersey and the more who will consider leaving. Raising taxes is the old Trenton way, and it didn’t work.

…“We will not win the fight to keep and create good paying jobs for our middle class families in New Jersey unless we lower taxes.”

…“And we know that the policies of lower taxes and less intrusive government have created higher economic growth and better paying jobs for our middle class.

Governor Chris Christie’s rejection of tax increases forced the legislature to work with him to reform the government in a number of ways. In 2011, Christie signed bipartisan pension reform that reduced costs by more than $120 billion over the next thirty years. Unfortunately, New Jersey’s pension crisis is a long-term problem that is still underfunded by $90 billion. 94 percent of the year-over-year growth of the 2014-2015 budgets went to public employee pensions, health benefits, and debt service payments.

Christie made mention of pensions 10 times in his State of the State Address. 

"Now, of all the long-term challenges we face, one of the largest and most immediate is our obligation to provide pension and health benefits for state and local employees.

This is not just a New Jersey problem. This is a national problem.

States across the country are struggling to fund critical programs because pension and health costs are eating up taxpayer dollars.”

Governor Christie is absolutely right. The state’s largest two problems remain a bloated pension system and an uncompetitive tax code that is forcing thousands of families and businesses to flee to other states.  In calling on the legislature to work with him to address both, Governor Christie has demonstrated that he understands issues not only important to New Jersey, but to states and localities nationally. 

Photo Credit: 
New York Post

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Obama Calls for $320 Billion in New Taxes

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Posted by Ryan Ellis on Saturday, January 17th, 2015, 10:59 PM PERMALINK

On Saturday night the White House leaked the major tax hike details of the president's upcoming budget. The common theme is higher taxes on savings and investment, totaling $320 billion over the next ten years.

"Democrats are demanding, yet again, tax increases on America. This never ends. When it comes to tax hikes Democrats are like a teenage boy on a prom date: they keep asking the same question different ways but always to the same point," said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

Here are the major tax increases in the President's upcoming budget:

​1. Capital Gains Rate Hike: raises capital gains and dividends tax rate from 23.8% today (20% plus 3.8% Obamacare surtax) to 28% (including the Obamacare surtax).

The capital gains tax has not been that high since President Clinton signed a rate cut in 1997.  

It would represent a massive hike in the rate since Obama took office. When he was sworn in, the rate was 15%. He proposes to nearly double it to 28% in the twilight of his administration.

2. Stealth increase in the death tax rate from 40% to nearly 60%.

Under current law, when you inherit an asset your basis in the asset is the higher of the fair market value at the time of death or the decedent's original basis. Almost always, the fair market value is higher.

Under the Obama proposal, when you inherit an asset your basis will simply be the decedent's original basis.

Example: Dad buys a house for $10,000.  He dies and leaves it to you. The fair market value on the date of death is $100,000. You sell it for $120,000. Under current law, you have a capital gain of $20,000 (sales price of $120,000 less step up in basis of $100,000). Under the Obama plan, you have a capital gain of $110,000 (sales price of $120,000 less original basis of $10,000).

There are exemptions for most households, but this misses the larger point: the whole reason we have step up in basis is because we have a death tax. If you are going to hold an estate liable for tax, you can't then hold the estate liable for tax again when the inheritor sells it. This adds yet another redundant layer of tax on savings and investment. It's a huge tax hike on family farms and small businesses.  

It's like a second death tax (the first one has a top tax rate of 40% and a standard deduction of $5.3 million/$10.6 million for surviving spouses). Conceivably, an accumulated capital gain could face a 40% death tax levy and then a 28% capital gains tax on what is left. Do the math, and that's an integrated federal tax of just under 60% on inherited capital gains.

3. "Bank Tax"

A new 7 basis point (0.07%) tax on the liabilities (not assets) of the 100 or so U.S. firms with assets over $50 billion. This will obviously be passed along to these firms' customers and employees, since businesses don't pay taxes--people do.

4. Tax Increase on Families Saving for College

Under current law, 529 plans work like Roth IRAs: you put money in, and the money grows tax-free for college. Distributions are tax-free provided they are to pay for college.

Under the Obama plan, earnings growth in a 529 plan would no longer be tax-free. Instead, earnings would face taxation upon withdrawal, even if the withdrawal is to pay for college. This was the law prior to 2001.

5. Tax Increases in Retirement Plans and a New Employer Mandate

There would be a new cap in the amount one could accumulate in the aggregate in all IRA and 401(k) type accounts of $3.4 million. After that, you can't save any more new dollars. The idea is that this is enough to secure a $210,000 annual distribution in retirement, which the government apparently deems "enough" for a retiree.

In addition, all employers with more than 10 workers and who do not have a 401(k) type plan would be mandated to set up payroll deduction Traditional IRAs for their employees. Also, part-time workers would have to be covered under retirement plans if they have been working someplace long enough. These two things are a new kind of employer mandate from Obama.

Photo Credit: 
Jeff Glagowski

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How else will we be able to feed, clothe, cure, house and educate the millions of illegals soon to arrive here in America? Those future democrat voters have to be cared for by someone and Obama's current supporters are already on welfare. We can't take anything away from them, can we?

Raymond A. Nelson Jr.

You're a special kind of stupid aren't you? Take your ass to Mexico, Guatemala, Yemen, Somalia, or Africa illegally and see if you receive a work permit, resident/work visa, SSnumber, welfare, drivers license, or a free birth certificate.

Daniel Zaborowski

I myself am a Polish immigrant who had no vote in the decision to come here and who benefited greatly from the Deferred Action Plan. I pay my taxes, I work a legal job, I take no welfare from anybody safe the deferred action (which, in turn, makes me a productive member of society). I go to school and pay from my own savings. Yet strangely, I can't help but agree with all the libertarian principles and would rather vote Republican than Democrat even though this can be detrimental to my status. I think Obama is a criminal who helped me only by acting unconstitutionally and would never want to see a president like him in the Oval Office. I don't want to be the guy who says "not all immigrants are bad" but I hope that I am but a tiny speck of a large ocean of immigrants that, given a chance, would NOT vote democrat because they understand the long-term repercussions of that decision.

The Environmental Lobby’s Ludicrous Polls

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Posted by Chris Prandoni on Friday, January 16th, 2015, 10:41 AM PERMALINK

Over the past week, the environmental lobby released two polls claiming widespread support for President Obama’s costly, job-killing and downright dangerous environmental agenda. The problem is: the polling data is flawed—a gross misrepresentation of voter opinions formed into a patchwork that supports environmentalists’ extremist narrative, yet fails on the facts.

New data from Yale University and a poll released today from the Center for American Progress made questionable claims that caught our eye; claims that stand in stark contrast to what we hear time and again from American consumers: regulations that drive up energy costs are bad policy.

Yale’s poll doesn’t include a single question that references the effects of the president’s regulations, like higher costs and weakened reliability. One can only imagine that polling results would have been quite different if participants had full disclosure about the impacts of the Obama climate plan.

In addition, the data used consists of information collected over a three-year period.  A great deal can change in terms of how people feel about issues during such a lengthy timeframe. In the case of EPA regulations, they have taken a turn for the worst under the Obama Administration during this period, and Yale’s modeling felt a bit like an apples-to-oranges exercise to merge polls together and distill support when it is very likely those numbers have fluctuated.

The poll conducted by CAP concluded that overall, voters prefer energy policy that invests in renewables, rather than multiple low-cost fuel sources. However, as we know, Americans are in favor of policies that will keep their energy costs from soaring—something sure to happen should we shift reliance on resources like wind and solar.

And did we also mention that one of the polling firm’s research associates, Matt Lee-Ashley, is a CAP senior fellow? Curious.

On the other hand, a variety of polls conducted by groups whose constituencies have real skin in the game had very different outcomes. A poll conducted by the 60 Plus Association in September found that a majority of senior voters are concerned about energy costs rising under EPA’s regulations. With many seniors plagued by hefty finances from medical bills and assisted-living, implications of rising utilities are especially worrisome.

Likewise, the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and National Black Chamber of Commerce polled Hispanic and African-American voters before November’s midterm elections. Unsurprisingly, the data revealed that these groups, whose families often rely more on energy assistance programs, are most concerned about the potential economic impacts of EPA’s proposed guidelines.

Photo Credit: 
Christopher Adach

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Norquist Letter to Congress: Don't Raise the Gas Tax, instead...

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Posted by Chris Prandoni on Friday, January 16th, 2015, 10:29 AM PERMALINK

January 15, 2015

Dear Representative:

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) and millions of taxpayers nationwide, I urge you to oppose any increases to federal gasoline taxes. Before even considering asking drivers to increase the $35 billion they annually pay in gas taxes, Congress should ensure that Highway Trust Fund (HTF) outlays are actually spent on roads and are not diminished through Davis-Bacon wage requirements.  If these reforms are implemented and the federal government still needs more money to build and repair roads, bridges, and highways, I urge you to consider dedicating repatriation revenue to the HTF.

Since 2008, the HTF has spent $55 billion more than it garnered from gas taxes. The HTF is supposed to be a user fee where drivers’ gas taxes fund the HTF and that money is reinvested in bridges and roads. In reality, billions of gas tax dollars are syphoned off to fund mass transit projects in major cities, bike paths, and things like squirrel sanctuaries.

Additionally, Davis-Bacon wage requirements reduce the federal government’s bang for its buck. According to the Davis-Bacon Act, federal construction contracts worth more than $2,000 must pay wages using data collected by the Wage and Hour Division at the Department of Labor. The Joint Economic Committee found that wages paid under Davis-Bacon rules were 22 percent above market wages. This makes sense since an inspector general report found errors in 100 percent of wage reports examined. It also reduces the number of roads and highways the government can build and repair.

After these reforms have been implemented and if the HTF is still in need of more revenue, Congress should allow American companies to bring back, and pay a reduced tax rate on, capital currently stuck abroad.

There is likely well over $1 trillion in after-tax earnings sitting overseas today. Companies don't bring this money back to the U.S. because they would have to pay taxes on the difference between the U.S. corporate income tax rate (over 39 percent when states are included), and whatever rate they already paid overseas (the OECD average is just under 25 percent).  Repatriated earnings from an average developed country thus faces a 14 percent surtax when brought home to the United States.

Allowing companies to bring back this money at a reduced, reasonable rate would be a huge boon to the American economy and could bolster the HTF. In 2005, companies were allowed to bring after-tax overseas earnings back to the United States and face an IRS double-tax no higher than 5.25 percent.  With this positive incentive, about $320 billion was brought back, resulting in a pro-growth cash windfall to the Treasury of about $17 billion. This money could be earmarked to the HTF. This is an example of raising revenue without raising taxes, unlike a gas tax hike.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration has said that average U.S. households will save about $550 on gasoline costs this year. Washington should not be looking to raid this reprieve in gas prices but should ensure that gas tax revenue is spent on roads and that American companies are allowed to bring back earnings abroad.


Grover Norquist


Photo Credit: 
Gavin St. Ours

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cravin morehead

when does corporate welfare end?

IRS Breaks Law, Refuses to Produce Tax Complexity Reports

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Thursday, January 15th, 2015, 2:10 PM PERMALINK

WASHINGTON, D.C. — In defiance of federal law, the Internal Revenue Service has failed to produce annual reports on ways to reduce tax complexity, the National Taxpayer Advocate said in its Annual Report to Congress released this week.

Under the IRS Restructuring and Reform Act of 1998, the agency is required to provide annual recommendations “for reducing the complexity of the administration of Federal tax laws; and for repeal or modification of any provision the Commissioner believes adds undue and unnecessary complexity to the administration of the Federal tax laws.”

But as noted by the National Taxpayer Advocate, the agency has not bothered to produce such a report since 2002. Only two such reports have ever been issued, in 2000 and 2002.

"The IRS has enough time to harass taxpayer groups and bully churches but not enough staff to produce the legally mandated annual report on how to improve their own performance,” said Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform. "An unexamined life is a waste. An unexamined bureaucracy is a threat to taxpayers and all living things."

Each year, Americans spend six billion hours complying with the four million word Internal Revenue Code. As the NTA report states, “As the tax administrator, only the IRS has certain data about complexity, and its short reports [in 2000 and 2002] probably helped both the IRS and Congress to identify and address key problem areas."

But the IRS apparently can’t be bothered to compile the report. When asked by the NTA to explain themselves, the IRS said it would require “about two full time employees working for about a year” to produce the report. 

It is difficult to believe that the IRS, with 82,982 employees, cannot find two employees to carry out such important work. 

As the NTA points out, the IRS’s refusal to compile these reports is actually making their jobs harder:

“While the IRS would need to spend some resources to produce the complexity report, these costs pale in comparison to the costs of complexity. Moreover, if they prompt a reduction in tax complexity, the reports might ultimately help the IRS do its job and reduce the cost of administering the tax code.”

Perhaps if the agency wasn’t filling its days harassing tea party groups, taking junkets, making Star Trek and Gilligan’s Island parody videos, and charging Nerf footballs, kazoos, and $140 meals on agency credit cards, they could find the time to follow the law and make life easier for the American taxpayer.

The full NTA report may be accessed here.

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Eric Johnson

Increasing complexity is a good reason to increase the bureaucracy which means more supervisor and manager positions at higher pay levels. This report is threat to that bureaucratic delight.

Linus Upanother

The Obama regime is a criminal regime.

william russell

Hey all the irs has to do is get the 4.2 million in back taxes owed by sharpton, 10 million owe by buffett and collect back taxes of 4.3 billion owed by 328,000 federal employees working in back taxes. They would have enough in these three cases to hire a thousand employees. I would like to a congressional hearing and a list of all people who owe back taxes, how much for how long and what is being done in each case to collect.