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Taxpayer Funds Spent on Union Activities (and more...)

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Posted by Zoe Crain on Wednesday, October 8th, 2014, 2:05 PM PERMALINK


Center for Worker Freedom executive director Matt Patterson was quoted in a Washington Examiner article written by Sean Higgins regarding the massive amount of taxpayer funds spent on union activities.

Matt Patterson, executive director of the conservative Center for Worker Freedom, said the cozy relationship between public-sector unions and federal agencies was suspect at best.

“People are under the impression that tax dollars go to pay public employees to do public , but that’s not always so,” Patterson said. “It all amounts to a huge public payoff from elected officials to their Big Labor campaign contributors.”

An op-ed written by Americans for Tax Reform director of state affairs Patrick Gleason was highlighted in Eric Boehm’s Watchdog.Org article regarding California’s plastic bag ban.

As Patrick Gleason of Americans for Tax Reform pointed out in a 2011 National Review article about the San Francisco plastic bag ban: “I don’t know about you, but bags from the store I usually keep to reuse again, to line waste bins, clean up after a pet, etc., so when you don’t have a stockpile built up and aren’t saving those bags, you have to go buy new ones. This goes together with the nonsensical nature of this policy, which has no positive impact on the environment. What’s the point of discriminating against bags on one side of the checkout from bags on the other?”

Julie Gunlock of the Independent Women’s Forum wrote a piece highlighting funds being taken away from breast cancer research and funneled into wasteful, redundant projects.

Mattie Duppler of the Cost of Government Center made this point in a recent post for The Hill newspaper, where she explains that “since 2000, nearly $170 million in grants has been doled out to focus on researching one chemical- bisphenol A (BPA)… despite regulators around the world insisting BPA is safe.” Duppler also points out the paradox that exists in these funding streams- while the agency declares a product safe, it simultaneously funds anti-chemical activist groups that are trying to ban BPA and release dubious studies that claim it’s unsafe for human contact.  

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Sen. Mark Udall Wants to Raise Taxes on Colorado Families

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Posted by Adam Radman on Tuesday, October 7th, 2014, 3:53 PM PERMALINK


Rep. Cory Gardner and Sen. Mark Udall are locked in one of the most highly contested senate races in the country. According to the Real Clear Politics Average, Gardner leads Udall by less than one percentage point. While the polls couldn’t be closer, their positions on taxes are miles apart.

During yesterday’s debate, the moderator asked Sen. Udall to respond to Rep. Cory Gardner’s comments on taxes. Whereas Gardner said he didn’t believe higher taxes were necessary to reform the tax code, Udall came out in support of the Simpson-Bowles commission:

You all know, and I’ve worked with you and many of you in this room that I’ve been a longtime proponent of the Simpson-Bowles proposal…

This is the typical response one expects of a Senator who votes with President Obama 96% of the time. Not only is the Simpson-Bowles proposal a terrible idea, it has an explicit revenue target of 21 percent of GDP. Historically, tax revenues have averaged 18% of the economy (GDP). What Simpson-Bowles wants to achieve is a federal tax burden hitherto unheard-of in American history, and keep it there forever. To get an idea of the tax hike’s size, raising tax revenue by 1% would equate to a roughly $180 billion tax hike in the first year. 

Let’s not forget, Sen. Udall already voted for a trillion dollars in higher taxes with Obamacare. President Obama’s “signature” piece of legislation contains 20 new or higher taxes; including 5 that specifically target the middle class:

1. Obamacare Flexible Spending Account Tax

2. Obamacare High Medical Bills Tax

3. Obamacare Medicine Cabinet Tax

4. Obamacare Individual Mandate Non-Compliance Tax

5. Obamacare 10 Percent Excise Tax on Indoor Tanning

Below is a transcript of Rep. Gardner’s response to the question of higher taxes. His response is the appropriate and classic pro-taxpayer response. The government doesn’t have a revenue problem; it has a spending problem. There is no reason to raise taxes:

Moderator: One of the issues that you’ll have to deal with in the next Congress, Congressman Gardner, is taxes. The business community is of course concerned about that issue. But in 2009, you also signed Grover Norquist’s no tax increase pledge. While you have advocated for tax reform, would you oppose any tax reform deal that includes a dime of a net revenue increase from taxes?

Gardner: I don’t think increasing taxes is the answer. I think the federal government has plenty of money. We ought to focus on ways that we can actually reduce spending, make the federal government balance its own books, make sure the government is spending its money wisely the way it should be doing, before it turns around and asks the people of Colorado for one more dime of their hard earned dollars.

Look, if you just look at the bill that I introduced on wasteful spending, over two hundred billion dollars could be saved simply because we eliminated duplicative and overlapping programs. I support a balanced budget amendment to our Constitution. We must make sure that we are reducing spending, reforming taxes. We have to reform taxes; we have to make sure that small businesses are able to keep more of their own dollars in their own pockets to invest into job creation.

That’s why I support comprehensive tax reform. That’s why I believe that we can allow Coloradans to invest more money into their own ideas and their own families if they’re allowed to keep that money. Now, Senator Udall has voted for the largest estate tax increase in the history of our country, he’s voted for higher taxes time and time again. He had a balanced budget amendment that exempted a great degree of spending.  He likes to call himself a fiscal hawk, but Senator Udall I think you plucked the fiscal hawk when you voted for the stimulus bill.

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Grover Norquist Speaks on Hot Issue GOP Candidates Will Face in Next Presidential Election (and more...)

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Posted by Loren Long on Monday, October 6th, 2014, 4:40 PM PERMALINK


In a Daily Beast article written by Olivia Nuzzi, Grover Norquist is quoted emphasizing that he thinks criminal justice reform will be a hot topic for Republicans vying for the GOP nomination in the next presidential election:

Grover Norquist, the libertarian tax activist and noted Burning Man attendee, told The Daily Beast: “By the time we get to the caucuses, every single Republican running for president will be versed on this, and largely in the same place… Some guys will be playing catchup ball, but I do believe that, largely, this will become a consensus issue within the center-right.”

In an article from California Watchdog written by Eric Boehm, ATR staff member Patrick Gleason is quoted talking about the nonsensical concept behind the idea of banning plastic bags at checkout, which California has made a law:

As Patrick Gleason of Americans for Tax Reform pointed out in a 2011 National Review article about the San Francisco plastic bag ban: “I don’t know about you, but bags from the store I usually keep to reuse again, to line waste bins, clean up after a pet, etc., so when you don’t have a stockpile built up and aren’t saving these bags, you have to go buy new ones. This goes together with the nonsensical nature of this policy, which has no positive impact on the environment. What’s the point of discriminating against bags on one side of the checkout from bags on the other?”

Quoted in a Chattanooga, Tennessee Times Free Press article, written by Mike Pare, Center for Worker Freedom executive director Matt Patterson speaks about Volkswagen breaking its own rules by allowing workers to use paid time on the job to vote on behalf of union organization:

However, the Center for Worker Freedom said that plant management have told superviors that some workers will be allowed to take time off to vote in the election without being charged vacation time.

The Center said this is a violation of the company’s own policy, which is known for its strict accounting of employee time away from the job.

“This is yet another example of Volkswagen managment bending over backward to make it easier for the UAW to organize in Chattanooga, despite their promises to remain neutral in the matter,” said CWF Executive Director Matt Patterson in a statement. “In effect, VW would be paying employees to do union activity if they allow this to happen.”

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IRS Does Not Need More Money

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Posted by Loren Long, Margaret Mire on Friday, October 3rd, 2014, 4:55 PM PERMALINK


A recent report issued by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reveals that the IRS collected more revenue in the fiscal year 2013 for the third consecutive year despite funding reductions made by Republicans.

Though the IRS conducted fewer audits, its gross collection peaked at $2.9 trillion in fiscal year 2013 while enforcement revenues increased by $3.1 billion between fiscal year 2012 and fiscal year 2013. Additionally, an increase in tax return fillings and gross accounts receivable, now $400 billion, was also reported.

Regarding delinquent accounts, the TIGTA report concluded that the IRS’collection function received more delinquent accounts than were closed.

An increase in revenue combined with a lack of control of delinquent accounts makes it apparent that the IRS has no problem enforcing its policies on hardworking American people, yet has no solid internal regulation of its own.

As the IRS budget continues to decrease due to a Republican-led Congress, the revenue continues to expand at a horrifying rate. The report of increasing IRS revenue comes at a time when frustrations with the IRS’ regulatory process are also continuing to grow. The Freedom of Information Act failures, coupled with the Breitbart investigation and Lois Lerner scandal prove that despite collecting more money than ever before, the IRS is rapidly losing the very-little internal regulation it had to begin with.

Unfortunately, with programs like ObamaCare, the IRS will continue to grow its revenue while becoming more intrusive and oppressive upon hardworking American taxpayers.

Will the IRS ever learn that an increasing budget does not equal more bureaucratic bias and government intrusiveness?  The continuous unraveling of the regulations of the Internal Revenue Service make it clear that, in fact, the agency does not need more money.

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JD

More rich people are being audited...that's why Grover's crying about this...


Grover Norquist says Kansas' gubernatorial race is "most important" in 2014 election cycle (and more...)

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Posted by Loren Long on Friday, October 3rd, 2014, 3:29 PM PERMALINK


A United Liberty article by Matthew Hurtt highlights why Grover Norquist calls Kansas’ gubernatorial election “the most important race in the 2014 cycle”. Hurtt writes extensively about Grover’s support for Brownback and his achievements.

The genius of Brownback’s 2013 legislation to abolish the income tax over time is that the law now states that each year that state revenue comes in above a two percent increase—and this happens in a normal period of modest growth—all the additional revenue is used to permanently reduce the state personal income tax. Beginning in 2019, after the first round of tax rate reductions are enacted, every year the personal income tax rates will fall until they hit zero. Then the corporate income tax rate will be brought down year by year to zero. Lastly, Kansas has a banking tax that will then be reduced to zero. The tax rates will ratchet down every year there is modest growth in state revenues.  Kansas can—and now by law will—fund necessary government expenses out of the revenues from growth over time and use those to replace the personal and business income taxes.

 

In a Fox News Politics article, Barnini Charaborty writes about the tight Senate race in North Carolina, stating that key conservative groups have spent $14 million to elect Republican Thom Tillis to fill incumbent Kay Hagan’s seat and are also increasing vocal support for Tillis.

Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, followed with a simple message: “We are low maintenance. We are a ‘leave us alone’ coalition.”

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EPA Clean Power Plan to Disproportionately Affect Seniors

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Posted by Cassandra Carroll on Friday, October 3rd, 2014, 3:01 PM PERMALINK


The EPA itself has predicted that their proposed Clean Power plan will cause electricity rate prices by 2020 to go up an average of 5.9% - 6.5%, or even 10%-12% in some regions. The cost of this will be hard enough for the average working American to shoulder, but could be devastating for the approximately 27 million senior households in the United States, who already only have a median pre-tax income of $33,848. A recent study from the 60+ Association details these disturbing predictions as well as others for young and elderly Americans alike. Among the findings are:

  • The Census Bureau reports that the median pre-tax household income of 65+ households in America was $33,848 in 2012, 41% below the $57,353 median income of younger households.
  • More than 40% of America’s 65+ households had gross annual incomes below $30,000 in 2012, with an average pre-tax household income of $17,032, or $1,419 per month.
  • The prices of all essential consumer energy products – electricity, natural gas and gasoline- have increased at rates exceeding both the CPI and Social Security COLAs for the past decade, and these trends are expected to continue.
  • The average annual electric bill for 65+ households, $1,164 in 2009, represented 61% of total residential energy bills.
  • Energy costs are adversely impacting lower-income seniors afflicted by health conditions, leading them to forego food for a day, reduce medical or dental care, fail to pay utility bills, or become ill because their home was too cold. (APPRISE, 2009).

    The Clean Power Plan will have no significant effect on global carbon emissions as it is. There is no way to justify a regulation that stands to do so much harm to some of the most vulnerable among us.
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DC Tax Reform to Take Effect

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Posted by Damien Salamacha on Thursday, October 2nd, 2014, 2:19 PM PERMALINK


In July, the DC Council approved tax reform based on recommendations made by the District of Columbia Tax Revision Commission.  The shortcomings listed by the commission on DC’s tax code were the relatively large share of income that DC’s middle class had to pay, the high business taxes, and a narrow tax base.  Acting on the advice of the commission, the DC Council enacted tax reform that cuts income and business taxes, expands the low-income tax credit, and broadens the tax base through the sales tax. 

The base broadening aspects of the tax reform became effective yesterday.  Now, previously exempt items such as bottled water delivery, storage rentals and leases, carpet and upholstery cleaning, car washes, bowling alleys and billiard parlors, and among the most controversial, health club and tanning services, will be affected by the 5.75 percent sales tax.  It is important to note that no special fitness tax was included in the tax reform.  Rather, the local sales tax is now simply applied to yoga and gym classes, along with other previously exempt services.  The income tax cut amount will far exceed the higher sales tax collection that this base broadening measure will generate. 

The rest of DC’s tax reform will take effect in 2015. According to the Tax Foundation, here is what to expect from the rest of the reform:

  • Middle-income taxpayers (those between $40,000 and $350,000) will see their tax rate drop from 8.5 percent to 7 percent next year, then 6.5 percent the year after that. Those earning up to $1 million will see their tax rate drop from 8.95 percent to 8.75 percent.
  • All taxpayers will see more generous standard deductions and personal exemptions, as they will be increased to match federal levels.
  • Childless low-income workers will see a larger Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), from 40 percent of the federal credit to 100 percent of the federal credit.
  • The District’s hefty business tax will drop from the current 9.975 percent to 9.4 percent (2015), 9 percent (2016-17), 8.5 percent (2018), and then to 8.25 percent (2019), and the District will adopt single sales factor apportionment.
  • The estate tax threshold will be recoupled to federal laws

Americans for Tax Reform has previously applauded the DC City Council for restoring this much needed tax relief for District residents.  By lowering the rate of taxation for both businesses and middle-income earners DC residents can finally get some much needed relief.  This will surely boost economic activity by leaving more money in the pockets of those that have earned it.  DC is moving in the right direction by lowering tax rates on individuals and business, as well as by broadening the tax base.  It is nice to see actual tax reform occurring in our nation’s capital.

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The Kansas Tax Cuts Are Not to Blame for Revenue Woes

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Posted by Will Upton on Thursday, October 2nd, 2014, 1:28 PM PERMALINK


Several pundits, including the New York Times's Paul Krugman, have made hay over Kansas’ “revenue shortfall” this past fiscal year, chalking it up to the historic 2012 and 2013 Kansas tax cuts. At first glance, one might suppose them correct. Indeed taxes were cut and revenue did fall. But their 30,000 foot view passes over the more likely culprit behind the $338 million revenue drop – a change in the federal capital gains rate, caused by President Obama’s forced expiration of some of the Bush tax cuts.
 
The Kansas tax reforms did not cause the revenue shortfall. According to the Kansas Department of Revenue (KDOR), the shortfall stands at about $338 million for FY 2014, which ended on June 30. Now, $103 million of that—nearly a third--can be squarely blamed on the Division on the Budget increasing its revenue estimate just months before the end of the fiscal year. In the beginning of April 2014, the Division on the Budget increased their revenue estimate from $235 million to $338 million, citing strong economic indicators. The revision occurred right before Division on the Budget realized that their revenue estimates for the year were off beyond what could be considered a standard deviation. If you subtract the $103 million revenue error and use the original revenue projection, the shortfall is only $235 million.
 
As ATR has argued—and backed with CBO data—in the past, the shortfall is mainly due to a shift in capital gains payments by taxpayers into the prior fiscal year to avoid higher rates caused by the expiration of some of the Bush tax cuts (namely the increase in capital gains tax). Several states experienced surplus revenue in 2012-2013 (Virginia, Connecticut, and New Jersey) but are now experiencing deviations from initial revenue estimates or downward revisions in state revenue for 2013-2014. In Connecticut, for example, Democrat Gov. Dan Malloy’s budget director blamed their $400 million decrease in projected revenue on the capital gains shift prompted by the Fiscal Cliff.
 
Josh Barro in the New York Time’s “The Upshot” argues that if you reduce taxes you will get less revenue. No one is arguing with this assertion, at least in the short term. In fact, KDOR agrees with Barro: “The initial estimate for FY 2014 is $5.464 billion, which is $704.8 million, or 11.4 percent, below the newly revised FY 2013 figure. Factors influencing this forecast in addition to the state of the economy include the fully annualized impact of the new state income tax law that is effective in tax year 2013….” For Barro and other critics, the shortfall is proof-positive that Brownback’s tax cuts have wrecked the Kansas economy, except that there is, again, plenty of evidence that the error has more to do with federal tax policy than state tax policy.
 
As noted above, the shortfall actually stands at about $235 million for this past year. Duane Goossen, a former Kansas Budget Director who served under three governors (one Republican, two Democrats), has estimated that the capital gains shift possibly cost Kansas $147 million in tax revenue: “If Kansans had claimed another $3 billion of income for 2013 and that income had been taxed at the upper rate of 4.9 percent (the highest rate in place for tax year 2013), at most $147 million would have been added to state income tax collections in FY 2014… Even $147 million in additional tax receipts... would not have stemmed the tide of our state's $712 million revenue drop.” 
 
A critic of the tax cuts, Goossen uses a gimmick to make the capital gains shift look minor by comparing it to year-to-year revenue (a much larger drop but one anticipated and factored into the revenue estimate by the Division of the Budget) as opposed to the estimating error as it stands. If compared to the past year’s shortfall, the capital gains shift caused by President Obama’s intransigence makes up roughly 62.5% of the revenue shortfall (using Goossen’s $147 million estimate).
 
Additionally, $10 million of the revenue shortfall can be attributed to a drop in Kansas’s excise tax collections in the first quarter of 2014. This coincides with the negative GDP growth experienced by U.S. during the same period. Negative growth suppresses consumption and would throw off excise tax revenue estimates.
 
In the end, the Kansas tax cuts may account for a net revenue deviation of about $78 million – or 1.5% of Kansas’s total revenue collections, projected to be $5,986,481,000 this past year. Anything below a deviation of 2% is something most states that have not enacted major tax reform experience on an annual basis. As to worries of a future shortfall and lost revenues, most responsible legislators in Kansas will tell you that there needs to be some spending restraint in the state and it is their intention to enact said restraint, avoiding any further revenue woes. In short, the Kansas revenue shortfall is little more than hyperventilating scare tactics. Don’t’ believe the fever-pitch hype.
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ATR's Grover Norquist Helps "Call Out Kay" (and more...)

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Posted by Zoe Crain on Thursday, October 2nd, 2014, 12:24 PM PERMALINK


A National Review op-ed, written by Erik Telford, highlighted redundant and expensive research conducted by the NIH and funded by taxpayer money.

So why the fears? Sadly, it appears that our tax dollars are largely to blame. As Mattie Duppler of the Cost of Government Center notes, data from the National Institutes of Health show that since 2000, nearly $170 million in grants has been doled out to fund research on BPA. Some of this money has been funneled through the NIH to anti-BPA causes.

Tony Capaccio of Bloomberg wrote a piece about the bipartisan push to have the Penatgon audited.

The Pentagon “should have to meet the same general principles of audit as every American taxpayer” who “must give the IRS numbers you stand behind, have receipts and face immediate financial consequences if you fail to meet the deadline,” said Rafael DeGennaro, director of the “Audit the Pentagon Coalition,” a group that says on its website it has bipartisan backing from lawmakers and advocates including Ralph Nader and Grover Norquist.

Americans for Tax Reform president Grover Norquist recently participated the “Call Out Kay” tour, as chronicled by Barnini Chakraborty of FoxNews.com.

Political parties, private donors and outside groups are pouring cash into the contest between Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican challenge Thom Tillis. With just a few weeks until Election Day, total midterm spending in the state has hit an estimated $228 million and is climbing still, with most going toward the Senate contest- putting North Carolina on course to be among the costliest midterms in history. That total is close to what all Democratic Senate candidates spent on their races a decade ago. 

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New TIGTA Report Reveals More IRS Incompetence

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Posted by Zoe Crain on Wednesday, October 1st, 2014, 4:23 PM PERMALINK


The newest victims of IRS incompetence are those requesting information under the Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act, according to a new report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA.) The report revealed that the IRS is still rife with issues, including accidentally releasing confidential information and refusing to provide requested information.

As part of TIGTA’s recurring audits, the group seeks to ensure that the rights of taxpayers are protected. The reports both identify ongoing issues with the IRS’s interaction with information requesters, as well as making recommendations to the group, which are included in TIGTA’s semiannual reports to Congress.

This latest release specifically evaluated Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act information requests, as well as those under IRC Section 6103. The results were the cherry on top of an objectively horrid year for the IRS, which included issues with non-profits, Congress, and now the taxpayers themselves.

In over 11% of surveyed Freedom of Information Act/Privacy Act cases, “taxpayer rights may have been violated because the IRS improperly withheld or failed to adequately search for and provide information to the requestors.” Whether this was due to missing hard drives or not still remains to be answered.

More concerning, 21% of FOIA/Privacy Act information requests “inadvertently” contained sensitive taxpayer information. This number was up from last year’s 16%.

When it comes to Internal Revenue Code Section 6103, which deals with “confidentiality and disclosure of returns and return information,” the IRS’s grade was equally dismal. 15% of information requests under this category were also missing information that the IRS had failed to sufficiently search for and provide.

All of these revelations fly in the face of the IRS’s “Taxpayer Bill of Rights,” which includes among its points, “privacy,” “confidentiality,” and “quality service.” Maybe their code should be rewritten to include the taxpayer’s right to shoddy information and released sensitive information.

Apparently, the IRS is too concerned with improperly targeting conservative media, or sending catty emails to actually fulfill the requirements of their jobs. 

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