Where Do The GOP Presidential Candidates Stand on the Ex-Im Bank?

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Monday, June 22nd, 2015, 10:00 AM PERMALINK


On June 30, the charter of the Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) will expire. The bank, which purportedly exists to assist American exporters, has come under scrutiny because of countless cases of waste, fraud, and abuse. The bank does not serve the best interests of American exporters, and the overwhelmingly majority of its loans go to a select few well-connected businesses that can compete with or without Ex-Im.

With the 2016 election fast approaching, many presidential candidates have spoken out against this wasteful institution, while others remain determined to retain the status quo of crony capitalism even as the bank’s functions have been called into question.

As ATR, and others including AEI’s Tim Carney have noted, Hillary Clinton is a strong supporter of the bank. In her own words: “I’d like to put Ex-Im Bank On Steroids.”

In contrast, many declared GOP presidential candidates oppose Ex-Im, with the notable exceptions being Lindsey Graham and Rick Santorum, who support the bank. See where the candidates stand below:

Marco Rubio: “I don’t believe taxpayer money should be used as corporate welfare.”
Senator Rubio (R-Fla.) has been consistent in his opposition to ending Ex-Im. Rubio characterizes it as an unnecessary institution that picks winners and losers and he voted against the bank’s reauthorization in 2012.

Rick Perry“The best way to mend Ex-Im is to end it.”
In an op-ed to the Wall Street Journal, Perry said he can no longer justify supporting it amid “deeply disturbing” revelations of corruption and bribery within the bank.  

Rand Paul“The American people know corporate welfare when they see it”
Senator Paul, like many of his fellow Presidential hopefuls is opposed to renewing Ex-Im. Paul has argued that loans to Solyndra, Brightstone and numerous Fortune 500 companies prove that the bank is not working in the best interests of the American people.

Lindsey Graham: “I want a vote on the bank to be reauthorized.” 
Unlike his fellow GOP candidates, Senator Graham (R-S.C.) unreservedly supports the Ex-Im bank, recently saying there is “no way in hell” he would let the bank shut down. His unwavering support for the bank, even as controversy after controversy piles up aligns him firmly with Hillary Clinton as a supporter of crony capitalism.

Carly Fiorina: If we’re serious about stopping cronyism, we must do away with Ex-Im.”
 As Fiorina has said, Ex-Im is a vehicle of corporate welfare that picks winners and losers.

Ted Cruz: “The Export-Import Bank operates outside of commonsense.”
Senator Cruz has been vocal in his opposition to Ex-Im, describing it as “big businesses’ big-government bank backed by US taxpayers.”

Jeb Bush: “We should find ways to lessen the contingent liability of the federal government."
Governor Bush has called for the bank’s charter to expire saying that, “most of these things should be phased out.”

Rick Santorum: “I think it’s a mistake for us to be out there focused on the Export-Import Bank.”
Santorum, like Graham supports the Ex-Im bank despite the numerous controversies over its loans. As recently as 2014, Santorum criticized efforts to end the bank arguing it would be “tying the hands of our manufacturers.”
 

Photo Credit: 
Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

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Billions More Could Soon Be Spent on Obamacare State Exchanges

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Monday, June 22nd, 2015, 9:00 AM PERMALINK


The Obama administration has already given almost $5.4 billion in federal taxpayer dollars to states for the attempted construction of Obamacare exchange websites starting in 2011, according to official data. With the Supreme Court set to rule on the constitutionality of federal subsidies by the end of the month, there is the very real possibility that dozens of new exchanges will be set up, with billions more spent. Already, two states – Pennsylvania and Delaware – have announced they will construct their own exchange if the court removes federal subsidies.

The first round of state-run exchanges performed disastrously by any measure, with over half struggling financially or outright failing.

Oregon’s exchange was shut down earlier this year after burning through $305 million in federal funds - but not before spending an additional $41 million in taxpayer dollars to move back to the federal exchange. Oregon officials have since come under investigation over accusations they made decisions about the exchange based on political considerations.

Hawaii’s exchange is the latest exchange to shut down after an announcement earlier this month. The website failed to become financially viable, enrolling half the number of individuals as was needed. Hawaii received $205 million in federal funds and it is estimated they will need $30 million to transition back to the federal exchange – if it is still around at the end of the month.

Needless to say, Pennsylvania, Delaware, and any other states considering setting up their own exchange must not make the same blunders that Hawaii, Oregon and many other states have made.

The billions in Obamacare grants were funneled through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to almost all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia, although only 15 states chose to set up their own exchange. As a result, these states received over 80 percent of the existing $5.37 billion in grants. However, they received these funds with zero oversight and no strings attached.

Federal grant money was divided into four categories. Planning grants were given to almost every state and DC, although three states returned all or part of their planning grant (Florida, Louisiana and New Hampshire).

Level one establishment grants provided one year of funding to states following their planning grants. Level two grants provided funding to states that were further along in the establishment of their exchange and met certain criteria established by HHS.

HHS also awarded seven states with “early innovator grants” with the goal of assisting these states in the development of IT models that could later be adopted and implemented by other states. This initiative was largely unsuccessful.

See the list, and breakdown of grant type here.​

Information on each grant can be found here. 

See the total funding each state received below:

State

Total

Alabama

$9,772,451

Alaska

Did not apply

Arizona

$30,877,097

Arkansas

$158,039,122

California

$1,065,683,056

Colorado

$184,986,696

Connecticut

$175,870,423

Delaware

$22,236,060

Washington, D.C.

$195,141,152

Florida

$0

Georgia

$1,000,000

Hawaii

$205,342,270

Idaho

$105,292,525

Illinois

$164,902,306

Indiana

$7,895,126

Iowa

$59,683,889

Kansas

$1,000,000

Kentucky

$289,303,526

Louisiana

$0

Maine

$6,877,676

Maryland

$190,080,144

Massachusetts

$224,908,758

Michigan

$41,517,021

Minnesota

$189,363,527

Mississippi

$42,712,661

Missouri

$21,865,716

Montana

$1,000,000

Nebraska

$6,481,838

Nevada

$101,001,068

New Hampshire

$15,253,960

New Jersey

$8,897,316

New Mexico

$123,281,600

New York

$575,079,804

North Carolina

$87,357,315

North Dakota

$1,000,000

Ohio

$1,000,000

Oklahoma

$1,000,000

Oregon

$305,206,587

Pennsylvania

$34,832,212

Rhode Island

$152,574,404

South Carolina

$1,000,000

South Dakota

$6,879,569

Tennessee

$9,110,165

Texas

$1,000,000

Utah

$6,407,987

Vermont

$199,718,542

Virginia

$15,862,889

Washington

$302,333,280

West Virginia

$20,832,828

Wisconsin

$999,873

Wyoming

$800,000

Total:

$5,373,292,439

 

 

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shane_d_k; https://www.flickr.com/photos/shanedk/

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EPA's Unattainable Ozone Regulations will Kill American Jobs and GDP

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Posted by Dorothy Jetter on Friday, June 19th, 2015, 10:00 AM PERMALINK


Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally released guidelines for regulations that were put in place back in 2008 to reduce ozone levels to 75 parts per billion (ppb). Yet before states even had an opportunity to make efforts to achieve these levels, the EPA has already begun planning to implement even more onerous regulations. 

Even though 40 percent of the U.S. population lives in areas already unable to meet the 2008 air quality standards that the EPA previously put in place, the agency now wants to cut levels even further, potentially as low as 65 ppb. 

These new regulations would likely have disastrous results for the economy.  The National Association of Manufacturers estimates that the new ozone regulation could reduce U.S. GDP by $270 billion per year and $3.4 trillion from 2017 to 2040 and result in 2.9 million fewer jobs or job equivalents per year on average through 2040.
 
Such a massive increase in ozone regulations is not even certain to have a positive impact on the environment or public health. 

Louis Anthony Cox Jr., Chief Sciences Officer of NextHealth Technologies explains

"If we look at actual data instead of at EPA’s model-based predictions, it is clear that, in many places in the United States, much larger reductions in ozone levels have already occurred in recent decades than those that are now being proposed. Yet, these relatively large reductions in ozone levels have caused no detectable public health benefits. Therefore, EPA’s assumption that future proposed reductions in ozone will do so is unwarranted. Such changes have been tried and they have not worked: their predicted public health benefits have not materialized."

In regards to man-made ozone, the U.S is hardly the only country contributing to the overall levels. Emissions from other countries contribute to the global ozone level and affect our air quality here in the U.S. Increasing regulations on ozone levels domestically does not take this factor into consideration, but it certainly puts the American economy at an unnecessary disadvantage endangering jobs and stunting economic growth. All pain for the U.S. economy with little to no proven environmental gain.
 
Despite using their data to justify jeopardizing American jobs and GDP, the EPA does not currently have the capacity to measure the global effectiveness of their programs in action. USA News reports “only 675 of the nation's 3,000 counties have ozone monitors currently in place.” This further reinforces the EPA’s inability to actually measure whether such economically devastating regulations are justified.
 
At a recent hearing on this issue, Representative Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) suggested that over 600,000 small businesses have fallen victim to burdensome regulations under the Obama Administration.  The EPA's new proposal will merely add to this staggering statistic.  

 

Photo credit: Neon Tommy

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IRS Woes Due to Incompetence, Not Funding Level

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Friday, June 19th, 2015, 9:40 AM PERMALINK


According to a recently released report produced by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), reductions in the IRS’s budget have impaired the agency’s ability to collect taxes and assist taxpayers. In reality, the agency’s poor performance is not because of its funding level, but due to its inability to complete even the most basic tasks, as has been detailed on numerous occasions.

Detailed reports have shown the agency cannot justify its spending decisions, has repeatedly failed to produce complexity reports, has failed to strengthen data protections, and has continually spent its finite resources in inappropriate ways.  

Unable to Justify Spending Decisions

According to the National Taxpayer Advocate’s Annual Report to Congress the IRS was unable to justify spending decisions. As the report stated:

“The IRS lacks a principled basis for making the difficult resource allocation decisions necessitated by today’s tight budget environment.”

As the report noted, the agency’s decision making has been questioned by watchdog groups on numerous occasions. The IRS’s response has not been satisfactory: 

“the IRS has come under scrutiny by external oversight organizations who have questioned the IRS’s rationale for its budget decisions. They have not been satisfied with the IRS’s response to their inquiries.”

Failure to Produce Legally Required Tax Complexity Reports

The agency has also repeatedly failed to compile legally required tax complexity reports. These reports are supposed to contain the IRS's specific recommendations on how to make the tax code easier to comply with. Since 1998, the IRS has done so just twice – in 2000 and 2002. When the agency completed these reports, the recommendations helped Congress make improvements to the tax code, which in turn made the IRS’s job easier.

When questioned about the costs behind compiling these reports, the IRS said it would take “about two full time employees working for about a year.” But as the NTA points out, any costs associated with compiling these reports “pale in comparison to the costs of complexity.”

Outdated Technology

The IRS continues to use decades old technology to serve taxpayers, including some applications over 50 years old. As Commissioner Koskinen recently admitted:

“In regard to software, we still have applications that were running when John F. Kennedy was President.”

In addition, the IRS still uses COBOL, a programming language, that Koskinen characterizes as being “outdated back when I served as Chairman of the President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion.”

It is difficult to believe that the IRS has willingly ignored updating these applications given that Koskinen has stated that tax-filing season “is a tremendously risky operation to run with outdated equipment and applications."

Inability to Adopt Watchdog Recommendations

Following the recent hack in which the personal information of 100,000 households was compromised, IRS Commissioner John Koskinen admitted that the hack was not due to reduced budgets. Instead, a possible reason for the hack is the failure of the agency to implement 44 recommendations that would strengthen data protections. 

Countless Wasteful Spending Habits
Other reports have detailed the countless wasteful spending habits of the agency. A recent report found the IRS spends over 500,000 hours per year on “union activities” which could instead be used to answer 2.3 million additional phone calls. Last month, it was revealed that the IRS was spending $1,000 an hour hiring a litigation-only white shoe law firm for an investigation, despite having over 40,000 employees dedicated to enforcement efforts. In the past, the agency has been caught red-handed wasting taxpayer dollars on Nerf footballs, the world’s largest crossword puzzle, and extravagant $100 dollar lunches.

 

While the IRS continues to blame poor service on budget reductions, countless reports point to the real problem – the inability of the agency to competently complete basic tasks and spend taxpayer dollars in a responsible way.

 

Photo Credit: 
Simon Cunningham

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FL-18: Brian Mast Makes Written Commitment to Oppose Higher Taxes

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Posted by Emma Boone on Friday, June 19th, 2015, 9:36 AM PERMALINK


Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) congratulates Army veteran Brian Mast for signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, which is a written commitment to the people of Florida to “oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses and oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates." Mast is running for the open congressional seat that Rep. Patrick Murphy (D) is leaving to run for Senate.

Candidates running for office like to say they will not raise taxes, but often turn their backs on the taxpayer once elected. The Pledge requires these candidates to put their rhetoric in writing and provide an additional layer of accountability to the taxpayer.

The Taxpayer Protection Pledge is offered to every candidate for state and federal office and to all incumbents. Nearly 1,400 elected officials, from state to representative to governor to US Senator, have signed the Pledge.

“I want to congratulate Mast for taking the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. The American people are tired of the tax-and-spend policies coming from Washington and they are looking for solutions that create jobs, cut government spending, and get the economy going again,” said Grover Norquist, president of ATR.

“I challenge all candidates for federal office to make the same commitment to taxpayers by signing the Taxpayer Protection Pledge today,” Norquist continued.

ATR will continue to follow this race closely and will provide additional updates as more candidates sign the Pledge.

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ATR Statement On Rand Paul Tax Plan

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Posted by ATR on Thursday, June 18th, 2015, 7:20 PM PERMALINK


"Senator Rand Paul's tax reform proposal creates a single low income tax rate. This would be a great incentive to save, work, and invest for all Americans. Senator Paul has put forward a dynamic and exciting outline for tax reform. It would put America back on the path to strong economic growth and away from the recent years of malaise."

 

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Gage Skidmore https://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/

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Lickylick

Rand is the only person in DC who actually does represent the people of this country. Others try and always come up short. They come up even shorter when they are held next to Rand though. Ending the income tax is huge and it is the best thing and right thing to do.

JD

LOL


Today in History: Winston Churchill's "Finest Hour" Speech

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Posted by Conner Lynch on Thursday, June 18th, 2015, 5:00 PM PERMALINK


Today marks the 75th Anniversary of Winton Churchill’s “Finest Hour” speech delivered in the House of Commons on June 18, 1940. In this speech, Churchill expresses the need for the British people and the world to stand up to Hitler to not only save themselves but also to preserve freedom, democracy, and human civilization.

Beginning in 1939 with the invasion of Poland, Hitler’s war machine launched blitzkrieg warfare and steadily made gains across mainland Europe. By 1940, Germany had occupied the majority of France and only through bold action were the remaining British and French divisions evacuated from Dunkirk in June 1940, leaving equipment and ammunition to fall into German hands. After the end of the “Battle of France,” Winston Churchill knew Hitler would soon attack the British people as they were the last obstacle standing in the way of him conquering Europe. Churchill called upon the British people to embrace their duty and stand up bravely to the Germans, citing dire consequences if they were to fail to stop Hitler’s ambitions:

“If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands. But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for, will sink into the abyss of a new Dark Age made more sinister, and perhaps more protracted, by the lights of perverted science. Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves that, if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, "This was their finest hour."

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Boston Public Library, https://www.flickr.com/photos/boston_public_library/8094102449/in/photolist-dkfoEv-yPHbe-bDHtGp-dkfoX9-7xzS38-5BrTbr-7Pypm4-dS85f7-7PCd8q-7xDFVo-dkfoRQ-dkfoYf-7Pyr7T-sVZXzx-riXeYS-dkfoPq-dkfn86-dkfn9i-7PyjZt-hJGbfA-7PywmK-8Xaphp-7PC

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Who Wins with Ex-Im?

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Posted by Nate D'Amico on Thursday, June 18th, 2015, 3:01 PM PERMALINK


A hot topic of debate in Congress right now is the Export-Import Bank. The Ex-Im is an export credit agency, or an institution that serves as a go-between between governments and businesses that engage in exporting products. Set to expire at the end of June, many are fighting for the bank to continue its mission to “fill in the gap” when American companies can’t get private financing. In reality, however, Ex-Im serves a little more than corporate welfare for a few well-connected companies.

What Ex-Im does is essentially to subsidize a few massive corporations and do very little for small businesses and the average American. Of the $20.5 billion in loans, insurance, subsidies, and other funds authorized in 2014, a whopping 40% went to Boeing. They have also given hundreds of millions of dollars to the Ex-Im Bank of China and the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, as well as to a Chinese semiconductor manufacturer that competes with US companies.

It seems that the only people not receiving help from Ex-Im are ordinary US businesses. According to data from 2014, 49 states conducted upwards of 90% of their trade without Ex-Im support. Washington State, the one exception, had close to 18% of its exports backed by the bank because the state is home to Boeing.  After South Carolina (6.73%) and DC (6.2%), no state’s Ex-Im backing exceeded 2.5% of exports.

So why are there so many ardent supporters of the the Export-Import Bank? It has received strong support from prominent figures in the Democratic Party, such as Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren, and major unions.  All have endorsed the bank as vital to protecting American jobs. In the case of Mrs. Clinton, it seems her interest is not in American jobs but in corporate donations.

In 2014 Ex-Im’s largest recipient, Boeing, contributed $5 million to the Clinton Foundation. The second largest foreign recipient, Emirates Air, also donated as much as $5 million. It appears as though supporting Ex-Im is not good for American businesses so much as it is for the Clinton business. The real winners here are clear, and they’re not the American people.

Photo Credit: 
Mike Poresky

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Swiss Voters Reject Inheritance Tax

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Posted by Kendyll Ferrall on Thursday, June 18th, 2015, 11:00 AM PERMALINK


On Sunday Swiss voters turned out to overwhelmingly reject a ballot initiative to introduce a federal inheritance tax. Opposed by 71 percent of voters, the initiative would have created a 20 percent tax on inheritances over 2 million Swiss francs ($2.2 million).

Proposed as a way to invigorate the shrinking economy, the tax would have potentially affected the majority of the country’s workforce. The businesses that would bear the brunt of the tax, small and midsize firms, employ 80 percent of Swiss workers.

Swiss Businesses, the Swiss cabinet, and both houses of Parliament urged voters to reject the ballot measure, describing the initiative as an effective double-tax that would cripple over 7,000 small businesses and threaten nearly 12,000 jobs per year.

With some estimations ranging up to a 40 million franc tax-bill, Swiss small-business owners raised concerns over how their family members would be able to afford the tax while maintaining their businesses. For many family-owned operations, the money needed to pay the tax is tied up in the company.

Supporters of the proposal suggested that revenue from the tax should go to Switzerland’s social-security system. Advocates for the initiative estimated that the tax would generate 3 billion francs annually. Currently four of Switzerland’s 26 cantons, similar to U.S. states, impose a tax on heirs who inherit funds from a parent.

Nebraska, Iowa, Kentucky, New Jersey, Maryland, and Pennsylvania are the only states in the U.S. with an inheritance tax. New Jersey and Maryland are the only states that impose an inheritance tax and an estate tax on residents. 

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ATR Supports H.R. 2777, The Social Security Integrity Act

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Posted by Dorothy Jetter on Wednesday, June 17th, 2015, 4:13 PM PERMALINK


On June 15, Representative Steve King (R-Iowa) introduced H.R. 2777, The Social Security Integrity Act.  This legislation is a response to an investigation into the Social Security Administration and its failure to maintain proper death records, leaving it vulnerable to mass cases of fraud.  

Americans for Tax Reform has recognized this important issue in the past.  ATR noted several cases of blatant fraud, particularly an instance of the SSA giving money to a beneficiary allegedly born in 1896.  

Representative King explains, "Taxpayers deserve the assurance that the actions necessary to uphold the integrity in the payment of federal benefits is maintained. My bill stops fraudulent payments and enforces more transparency within the Social Security Administration."

Americans for Tax Reform supports H.R. 2777 as a regulatory reform that will lessen the tax burden on American families by cutting wasteful spending.  We urge Congress to act swiftly on this important issue.  

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brucetonn

One of the biggest elements of the IRS' corruption is not the Title 26, the Internal Revenue Code, the Code is primarily Congress' problem and desperately needs fixing, as you well know. The examination process in place at the IRS has its own very costly and unfair problems. The first of these is that the "Service" deliberately set about to keep "issues" or the IRS position of a particular code section open indefinitely, They did this by coming up with an internal doctrine that states "If the IRS looses a case in court, then that loss sets a "bad precedent" and bad precedents are to be avoided at all costs, as this will cost revenue." Once this journey to corruption started the IRS began to settle case rather than resolve issues. The idea of the "bad "precedent" was and continues to be a complete fiction.

If a federal court decides that the taxpayer is correct in the position that he holds, then the mere fact that the government lost the case does not create a "bad precedent" it only creates a correct precedent. Further the government always had available to it alternatives to correct the "bad precedent" These include at a minimum.
1. Write up "an action on decision." An "action" notifies IRS attorneys in other jurisdictions to take a similar case forward in those other courts looking for a win on the same issue so that they can force the issue up to the Appeals Court or the Supreme Court for a final resolution.
2. The IRS can go back to Congress and provide it the necessary language to "fix" the code section that prompted "bad Precedent" and thereby continue the revenue flow.
3. The IRS can agree with the taxpayer and interestingly enough this actually makes enforcement fair again.

The fairness problems arises when one group of people "know" about the taxpayers position and therefore refuse to agree with the Revenue Agent's position. This forces the case to the IRS' internal appeals function where the case is "settled." Settling means that the IRS takes some of the proposed tax and the single taxpayer "setteling" gets a reduction in the tax proposed by the Internal Revenue Agent. So what's the impact?

The IRS audits less than 3% of the returns filed consequently, if so you or your accountant are at all savvy you take the deduction and hope you do not get audited. But if you do you still win the lottery because also know that under no circumstances will you pay all of the tax you would have had to pay if you had done as most taxpayers do and accept the government position as Law, So what does this cost the rest of us?

Billions of dollars a year in lost revenue to the government that has to be made up elsewhere. Elsewhere of course being you and me. So what's the solution.

First the issue should be reviewed internally to determine if it is in fact a reasonable issue. If it is not the agent's report should be corrected the the issue dropped until the end of time. If the issue is determined to be reasonable then the solution is to require the government to take the issue to court in the first taxpayer examination where they raise that issue. In the alternative the IRS may take the issue to Congress to have the Code modified to fix the problem in that way. In either of these situations the IRS should then be required to notify the public that anyone with that issue must notify the IRS with the details of the details in the returns they have files and either pay up of await the ultimate resolution of the issue in the court. In this way all taxpayers will be treated the same and the fairness of the Examination process will cease to be a problem. If you ant more information you have my email address


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