Obama Administration Kills Program That Helps Low-Income Families File Taxes

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Friday, March 27th, 2015, 3:51 PM PERMALINK


The Obama Administration has quietly ended a tax assistance program that assisted low-income Americans file their taxes, despite Congress fully funding the program. Instead, the administration has given millions of dollars to liberal groups to perform the same role.

According to a report by the Daily Caller, the administration is giving $12 million in federal grants to community service groups through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program in place of the federal program. Unsurprisingly, many of the largest grants issued under this program have gone to groups that have close political ties to the Obama Administration. A recent investigation by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found that these so-called “volunteer community groups” had a 49 percent failure rate.

The IRS justified the elimination of this program as a “resource management decision.” However, it is clearly a move by the Obama Administration to provide backdoor funding to its liberal allies. As ATR’s Ryan Ellis points out:

“There is a long history of using supposedly neutral government resources to fund the activists and organizers who have all sorts of agendas. It’s not surprising at all that they would be using IRS resources to essentially subsidize some of these organizations.”

According to the National Taxpayer Advocate’s Annual Report to Congress, the administration cancelled the tax assistance program without properly evaluating the impact it would have on low-income Americans.  The tax assistance program had enjoyed longstanding bipartisan support and the program was fully funded by congress despite other parts of the IRS budget facing cutbacks.

This degradation of taxpayer assistance comes at a time when filing taxes is more complex than ever, in part due to several Obamacare provisions coming into effect this year including the employer mandate and the individual mandate. In fact, IRS commissioner John Koskinen raised concerns late last year that the 2015 tax filing season could be delayed, in part due to Obamacare.

 

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Chuck Holton

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Senate Should Reject Tax Hike to Benefit Trial Lawyers


Posted by Ryan Ellis on Thursday, March 26th, 2015, 8:33 PM PERMALINK


This week, the U.S. Senate will vote on an amendment (#587, introduced by Senator Leahy) to the budget resolution. This amendment is a clear payoff to trial lawyers in the form of a brand new tax hike.

The measure would permanently deny employers the ability to deduct punitive damage assessments from lawsuits as a business expense.​

It is not tax reform.  It is a permanent new tax increase.  Taking away this legitimate deduction results in higher taxes.  If it's not canceled out by equal or greater tax relief elsewhere, this income tax increase violates the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

Businesses can deduct all “ordinary and necessary business expenses” under tax law.  This has always included punitive damage costs.  To deny this well-grounded deduction to employers is arbitrary and clearly intended to benefit a constituency.

Since settlements out of court are still deductible under this tax law change, trial lawyers will be empowered to file junk lawsuits (hoping that employers will choose to settle rather than risk a punitive damage award with no tax benefits). When a lawsuit is settled rather than challenged, the trial lawyer gets a guaranteed win.​

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ATR Opposes Increase in Passenger Facility Charge Fee

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Posted by Alexander Hendrie on Thursday, March 26th, 2015, 3:19 PM PERMALINK


ATR President Grover Norquist today sent a letter to members of Congress urging against an increase in the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) fee which would raise the cost of air travel for passengers.

The proposed 90 percent fee increase is entirely unnecessary because airports already have ample funding for infrastructure investment and have successfully financed numerous projects over the past few years. As the letter states:  

Since 2008, the 30 largest airports in the nation have spent nearly $70 billion on completed, underway or approved airport capital projects to improve their infrastructure. At the same time, airports have enjoyed a revenue increase of 52% since 2000, far exceeding the consumer price index which rose just 35% in the same time period. Given this period of prosperity, it is puzzling that airports are now pleading poverty and asking passengers to pay more.

Doubling the PFC would result in yet another increase in the cost of air travel for passengers. Already taxes and fees make up 21% of the cost of air travel. As the letter states:

Air passengers are already overburdened by government taxes and fees – taxes make up 21% of the cost of an average domestic flight, and passengers paid $20.5 billion in taxes last year. While airports are requesting a seemingly modest $4 increase in the PFC, this proposal represents a $2.8 billion annual tax increase on air passengers. 

See the full letter here.

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Robert Couse-Baker

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U.S. Senate Should Reject Price Controls in "Vote-a-Rama"


Posted by Ryan Ellis on Thursday, March 26th, 2015, 10:09 AM PERMALINK


The Senate this week may be voting on a pair of amendments to the budget resolution pertaining to government price controls on prescription medicines.  The Senate should reject any and all such efforts.  They are bad health care policy, they are even worse trade policy, and they're not a free market solution.

Importing Foreign Government Price Controls

One amendment in question would allow Americans to purchase prescription medicines from Canada.  On its face, this is a pro-free market amendment.  Why should the government prevent people from buying goods or services from anywhere they want to, especially from a developed nation like Canada?

The free market answer is that consumers would often not be importing just the medicine, but also the price control.  In most countries, the prescription drug industry labors under burdensome government-imposed price controls.  These price controls allow politicians to give voters seemingly-cheap medicines, but there's a heavy price.  Since the drug companies are left with little or negative profit, there is virtually no money left over to finance the next generation of drug research and development.

One of the only countries left that allows drug prices to be (mostly) set by the free market is the United States.  The profits made here finance the next generation of life-saving and life-improving prescription medicines.  If the U.S. market suddenly gets flooded with price-distorted drugs from all around the world (they only need to make their way to Canada first), our drug market will be permanently-damaged by price controls in other countries.

Think about it this way: suppose you are taking a blood pressure medication that costs you $50 per dose.  This amendment passes, and you start to purchase a medicine from Canada (really, from anywhere) that only costs $20 per dose, thanks to the price control in the other country.  You would be a fool not to take that deal.  Millions of other Americans do the same, and suddenly no one is buying the $50 version of the drug anymore.  No new drugs have entered the country--it's the exact same medicine whether it's a market-set $50 or a government-set $20.  But price controls dictated by foreign bureaucrats have entered the country, totally distorting our drug market.  By importing price controls today, the miracle drugs of the future are strangled in the crib.  All the capital for future R&D is gone.

This type of amendment would be a good idea in a world free of market-distorting price controls.  Free trade is a good thing.  But free trade requires transparent, signal-setting prices set by markets, not by governments.

Price Controls from Our Own Government

A related amendment may also seek to impose price controls on prescription medicines from our own government.  There are already government price controls on medicines purchased in the Medicaid system.  Congressional Democrats would like to expand this price control regime to also include medicines purchased in the Medicare system.  

Doing so is the opposite of a free market solution.  Prices send signals.  If prices are distorted by governments, they can't do their vital job of regulating supply and demand.  

Furthermore, artificially lowering the price of anything--life saving medicines especially included--steals the capital needed to finance the next generation of that good or service.  Government imposed low prices today mean the miracle cures of tomorrow simply never happen.

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Governor Rick Scott Kicks Off “Cut My Taxes Week” at Florida State Capital

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Posted by Paul Blair on Tuesday, March 24th, 2015, 4:56 PM PERMALINK


Today, Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) kicked off “Cut My Taxes Week” at the Florida State Capitol. Taxpayers are being invited to bring their bills and use a tax cut calculator to see their savings under the governor’s proposed cell phone and TV tax cut.

Whether or not you’re a resident of Florida, you can use the calculator to see what kind of savings you’d experience under Gov. Scott’s proposal by clicking here.

The Florida Communication Services Tax (CST) is imposed on cell phones, cable and satellite TV, and non-residential landline phone services. While the state rate is 9.17 percent, with local taxes the average rate exceeds 14 percent and is as high as 17 percent in some areas.

Governor Scott’s proposed tax cut reduces the state portion by 3.6 percent to 5.57 percent, which equates to a potential $470 million in annual savings for taxpayers. Estimates suggest the cut will save every single Florida family around $43-$54 a year, depending on their provider and service.

Source: KeepFloridaWorking.com 

Currently, Florida has the fourth highest CST rate in the country, behind Washington, Nebraska, and New York. These state, local, and federal taxes can add up to more than 22 percent of service costs, which represent a significant burden on families, especially low-income ones. Prepaid calling services are not subjected to these high discretionary tax rates, making switching more attractive.

The CST tax is not neutral as it forces consumers to alter their behaviors. Reducing it will provide financial relief to families and small businesses and may create jobs by attract more investments in telecommunications infrastructure.

Gov. Scott is so committed to this most recent set of tax cuts that he will be manning the booth at the state capitol himself today and tomorrow. Florida residents are encouraged to take advantage of the opportunity to calculate their savings with the governor in person.

The Senate Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities Committee unanimously passed a version of Scott’s tax cut. Americans for Tax Reform encourages the entire legislature to pass the CST cell phone and TV tax relief legislation.

Flashback: Governor Rick Scott has already signed over $2 billion in tax cuts into law. He also campaigned for re-election on reducing the communications tax and is a signer of the Taxpayer Protection Pledge.

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Robert Bentley Breaks His Pledge, Runs From the Truth

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Posted by Will Upton on Tuesday, March 24th, 2015, 2:53 PM PERMALINK


After unveiling a $541 million tax increase at the beginning of this year’s legislative session, Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has been called out for violating his written promise to the voters to “oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.”

Yesterday, Gov. Bentley sat for an interview with FOX’s WBRC-Birmingham. In the course of the discussion, Gov. Bentley responded to a question about tax increases with this:

I think those are legitimate concerns. Well let me say this. I did sign a no tax pledge my first four years. I did not sign it the last four years. What we did the first four years, we streamlined, we cut, we consolidated, we did everything that was necessary to make our state more efficient and we've done that. We've cut government by 12%. We've saved the taxpayers $1.2 billion annually. And so we have done everything that you could do the first four years to make government more efficient. Now, it's halftime, little bit past halftime in fact, but we don't have enough money to fund the general fund.

Gov. Bentley is hung up on his written promise to voters to not raise taxes despite Americans for Tax Reform, Alabama’s United State Senator Richard Shelby, and many others having pointed out numerous times the danger that his proposed $541 million tax hike poses to the Alabama economy.

Despite this, Gov. Bentley would like Alabama taxpayers to think he’s just being reasonable. That he is the victim of circumstance here. In reality, it is the opposite.

In 2010, when he first ran for governor, Robert Bentley signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge. The Pledge reads: “I, Robert Bentley, pledge to the taxpayers of the state of Alabama, that I will oppose and veto any and all efforts to increase taxes.” At no point in the history of the Pledge has it been construed to only apply to one term in office (for more information click here). If a politician says they are pro-life, is it not safe to assume that they will remain pro-life for more than just one term in office? When someone takes their vow in marriage, is it not safe to assume that that vow is supposed to be for life?

Given his response to WBRC, it would seem that Gov. Bentley doesn’t want to be bound by promises.

In fact, he has gone out of his way to attack those who have tried to hold him to his promise. State Senator Bill Holtzclaw, a retired Marine, made it clear that he would not support Bentley’s call for higher taxes with a bill board in his district. How did Gov. Bentley respond? He put a stop to $100 million worth of road projects in Sen. Holtzclaw’s district.

While running for a second term in office in 2014 – supposedly a term in which Bentley viewed himself as no longer bound by his pledge not to raise taxes – the Bentley campaign was awash with “No New Taxes” rhetoric. 

Literally, the words “No New Taxes” were on Gov. Bentley’s website.

His campaign’s Facebook page.

And on campaign billboards across Alabama.

Gov. Bentley claims that he did not know that Alabama would be facing a budget shortfall (read overspending problem) during his re-election campaign, but Alabama talk radio host Matt Murphy has thrown cold water on that theory.

The fact is, Gov. Bentley has broken his no new taxes pledge to Alabama voters and in doing so broken their trust in him. Unfortunately, having entered his second and final term as governor, Bentley may not have to face the voters ever again.

In the end – with a preponderance of evidence against him – one can only conclude that Gov. Robert Bentley is either grossly incompetent, a prisoner of spending interests and influential Democrats, or a liar.

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Snertly

Of course, any politicians who haven't broken the No Taxes pledge are like frogs in the cooking pot who can't tell the water is heating up.

Because it makes no allowances for disaster or circumstances, not even inflation, one of the major engines of the US economy.

This turns the pledge from a restriction on government to an ever tightening noose. Most people's awareness of how government affects their day to day lives is rather like that story of the fish who asks "What's water?"

No government is the same thing as anarchy. If you can afford a private army and a staff surgeon, then no big whoop. But most folks have no idea of what a no government reality would be like.


Indiana Legislators Considering 911 Tax Increase

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Posted by Sven Werner on Monday, March 23rd, 2015, 5:42 PM PERMALINK


Indiana state senators are considering legislation, HB 1475, that would double the point of sale 911 tax for prepaid wireless customers, assessing a levy of $1.00 for every retail transaction.  This increased rate would be four times greater than what was paid just two years ago.

If passed, HB 1457, the Indiana 911 Board would get the authority to hike the tax for prepaid wireless customers by 0.10$ without any legislative approval. Below is a copy of the letter that ATR sent to Indiana senators, urging them to oppose HB 1457:

March 19, 2015

Dear Member of the Indiana Senate

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform and our supporters across Indiana, I urge you to reject House Bill 1475, legislation that would increase taxes and fees on Indiana residents. HB 1475, which will soon come to the Senate floor, would target Indiana residents who utilize pre-paid wireless services and impose drastically increased costs.

HB 1475 would double the point of sale 911 tax for prepaid wireless customers, assessing a levy of $1.00 for every retail transaction. This increased rate would be four times greater than what was paid just two years ago. Worse, HB 1475 would give the Indiana 911 Board authority to hike the 911 tax for prepaid wireless customers another $0.10 without legislative approval. It’s never a good idea to give taxing authority to an unelected body. Under current law, legislative approval is required for any 911 tax increase and it is best for Indiana taxpayers that it stays that way.

HB 1475 also increases the 911 tax on standard billed, postpaid, wireless customers from $0.90 to $1.00. That represents a 10% increase from the current rate and a 100% hike from what the rate was just two years ago. HB 1475 also includes provisions to aid the 911 Board’s goal of taxing low-income Indiana residents who receive federal Lifeline benefits.

Over 20 federal tax increases, along with a host of costly regulations, have been imposed by Washington on Indiana residents in recent years. The last thing Hoosiers need are higher taxes at the state level. As such, I urge you vote “No” on HB 1475. Americans for Tax Reform will continue to follow this issue closely throughout session and will be educating your constituents as to how you vote on this important matter. If you have any questions, please contact Patrick Gleason, ATR’s director of state affairs, at (202) 785-0266 or pgleason@atr.org.

Onward,

Grover G. Norquist

President, Americans for Tax Reform

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industry_watcher

ATR needs to read the bill. The .10 cent increase can be proposed by the Board, but requires Budget Committee approval. The Budget Committee are all elected representatives.

Prepaid is the fastest growing segment of the wireless industry. These pay-as-you go plans are almost indistinguishable from legacy monthly contract plans. Both types of plans now offer unlimited voice, unlimited text and unlimited data.

The bill does not contain provisions to tax federal lifeline users, but does contain provisions to ensure that the 911 surcharge - which is paid through the federal lifeline program to the wireless providers - is remitted to the state program

Today, these providers receive the surcharge, but some keep it rather than remit to the state 911 fund.

The current 911 statute sunsets if HB-1475 is defeated. That means 911 service for Indiana would cease to be provided since there is no funding to operate the service.

ATR's position appears to be that the safety of the public is not worth $12 a year to continue to fund an efficient, effective service that is used 20 million times a year by Indiana residents and visitors to the state.


Documents: California Department of Public Health Launches $75 Million Campaign to Discourage Vaping


Posted by Paul Blair on Monday, March 23rd, 2015, 4:33 PM PERMALINK


Today, the California Department of Public Health (CADPH) kicked off a new public relations campaign aimed at discouraging consumers from using electronic cigarettes and vapor products. Documents reveal that a cost of $75 million to taxpayers, this campaign is the most recent in a long list of efforts to create negative public sentiment about vaping.

In a press release, the CADPH stated that today they were going to “premiere a series of television, digital, and outdoor ads in a new campaign called ‘Wake Up,’ as part of its educational effort to inform the public about the dangers of e-cigarettes.”

Thought they do not announce the cost of the program in the press release, documents from the California Tobacco Control Program Funding Opportunities and Resources reveal the cost of this campaign: “Approximately $75 million is estimated to be available for the five-year contract period.”

A website, www.stillblowingsmoke.org is being promoted by the state. To the tune of the 1958 song by The Chordettes, one ad flashes images of young adults vaping. Another ad claims that e-cigarettes are “a new way to inhale toxic chemicals with a drug addictive as heroin.”

"The orchestrators of this campaign at the California Department of Public Health should be ashamed of themselves. For years, public health bureaucrats claimed that efforts to discourage smoking were about increasing public health. This most recent $75 million taxpayer-funded effort has further exposed the fraud of those claims by demonstrating that anti-vaping government activists care about one thing and one thing alone: money," said ATR president Grover Norquist. "Campaigns like this are clearly aimed at preventing smokers from making the transition to a much healthier alternative so that the state can continue to fund big government initiatives with cigarette tax revenue." 

The original documents from the state show that a Request for a Proposal (RFP) was released in December of 2013 as RFP 14-10003. A “pre-proposal webinar” stated that at the time, the goal was to make California “America’s largest non-smoking section.” Despite the fact that vapor products don’t contain tobacco and smoke isn’t produced in their use, this proposal asked a firm to apply for available taxpayer resources for this project.

A PowerPoint at the time noted “Other Tobacco Products” like electronic cigarettes were an area of concern. One slide suggested, “Funding: Less smoking = less tax collected” with regards to smoking.

In targeting an effective smoking cessation device – vapor products – it is clear that the California Department of Public Health wants to maintain cigarette sales as an important funding source for their big spending priorities. By discouraging vaping, the state may recoup potential revenue losses that occur when a smoker transitions from unhealthy cigarette use to products proven to be 99% less harmful, but not taxed as much. In doing so, the CADPH is putting at risk thousands of lives as they promote lies about the innovative and disruptive technology products that have grown in popularity over the last 5 years.

E-cigarettes are accomplishing what social engineers never could: they’re getting people to quit smoking across all demographics. And they’re accomplishing this without taxpayer funded PR campaigns or government bans and regulations.

A joint effort by the American Vaping Association, The Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association, and the Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association mocks CADPH’s propaganda and creates a different narrative about the product with a website of their own: www.notblowingsmoke.org. The website uses similar graphics and images, flipping the script on the CADPH.

Here is one example from a CADPH ad:

From notblowingsmoke.org

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Some Rabbit

tax revenue is more addictive than nicotine apparently.

Dragonmum

This is not going to end well for Public Health California - even Californians can't be blind to what's going on - this is blatant lying manipulation, and people will pay for it with their lives, literally!

mobtek mobtekl

Time for a class action to sue California for putting peoples lives at risk from continued smoking.


New Mexico Fights for Civil Asset Forfeiture Reform

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Posted by Jorge Marin on Monday, March 23rd, 2015, 4:32 PM PERMALINK


The New Mexico legislature passed a bill on Saturday which will change the way authorities are able to seize property under civil asset forfeiture rules. HB 560, introduced by Representative Zachary J. Cook (R-N.M.), is designed to curtail the practice of civil asset forfeiture and ensure that it is only used against criminals while applying strict rules of due process.

Civil asset forfeiture is a process by which authorities are permitted to confiscate the property of an individual suspected of a crime. The key word being suspected, meaning no conviction, warrant, or proof is required to take control of the property. This property, once taken, goes to the department that performed the confiscation, thereby padding their budget.

A person who has their property taken in such a way must engage in lengthy and often times expensive legal proceedings in order to prove the property had no connection to a crime.

Things may soon be different in New Mexico.

Under the new law, authorities will first have to convict an individual of a crime or prove the property was used in a crime in order to take it. Additionally, the money will go to a general state fund instead of the individual police budgets in order to remove the profit incentive.

As it stands the bill only requires the signature of Governor Susana Martinez in order to become law. Given the short legislative sessions in New Mexico, this will likely be the only opportunity to pass such a reform for the next few years. If it passes, HB 560 will become a milestone in the nation-wide effort to change civil asset forfeiture laws.

Billions of dollars have been taken under civil asset forfeiture since the eighties, when the rules were expanded. Though it will take the combined efforts of the state and federal governments to rectify the problem, measures like the one passed over the weekend will go a long way to protect individuals from government overreach.

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sparkobuzzer

lets see who votes against it and why.


Governor Paul LePage’s Plan for Prosperity in Maine

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Posted by Sven Werner, Paul Blair on Monday, March 23rd, 2015, 2:12 PM PERMALINK


Governor Paul LePage (R-Maine) recently announced his plan to place on the ballot a referendum in 2016 to abolish the income tax. His proposed amendment to the Maine Constitution would eliminate the income tax for good, preventing Augusta politicians from re-implementing the income tax in the future via legislative vote.

LePage announced that he would likely set 2020 as the year the income tax repeal would go into effect. If the referendum were successful, Maine would become the tenth state to not tax income, which would help fulfill one of the promises LePage made regarding his two terms in office.

Gov. Le Page recently pitched his budget and the elimination of the income tax at a town hall forum:

“The whole purpose of my budget is to make Maine more prosperous and to give the Maine worker the largest wage increase since the 1960s,” LePage said. “This is better than any minimum wage you can talk about. This will propel the economy for decades.”

According to his new budget, he not only wants to abolish the entire state income tax - which is comprised of two brackets - but also reduce the top tax rate from 7.95 % to 5.75%. His budget also reduces top corporate tax rate from 8.93% to 6.75% while broadening and raising the state sales tax from 5.5% to 6.5%.

The Tax Foundation concluded in their State Business Climate Index, that if all of Le Page’s budget proposals were implemented, Maine would move from being ranked at 33rd to 23rd in the index.

The budget would result in more than $250 million in net tax cuts, independent of the plan to eliminate the income tax.

In 2014, Forbes ranked Maine as second worst state to do business in, something that clearly concerns Gov. LePage. The governor has worked to make the case since his first election 5 years ago that the tax code must be simpler, flatter, and encourage more economic growth. His most recent budget and his plan to place the elimination of the income tax on the ballot further demonstrates his commitment to those principles.

 

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