U.S. Trade Representative Lighthizer Warns France: No Digital Services Tax

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Posted by Kevin Adams on Wednesday, June 19th, 2019, 4:42 PM PERMALINK

Speaking in front of the House Ways and Means Committee on Wednesday, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said he believed the proposed French digital tax is “a tax that’s geared toward hitting American companies disproportionately.” Lighthizer also noted that he believes President Trump “would respond very strongly” should France or the European Union follow through on their proposals for digital services taxes. 

This latest development comes as world leaders prepare to gather in Japan next week for the G20 Summit. The development of a global consensus on the taxation of the digital economy is expected to be a hotly debated issue. Some countries, such as the United Kingdom, have backed off their plans to impose their own digital services tax, opting instead to wait to see what develops at the multinational level. 

The French proposal is a 3% tax on the revenues of companies with more than 750 million Euros in worldwide revenue. This is a short list of only about 30 companies, the vast majority of which are American companies such as Facebook and Google’s parent company Alphabet Inc. 

If enacted, a digital tax from France or the European Union could lead to retaliatory measures form the United States. If determined to be discriminatory, the U.S. could challenge the tax at the World Trade Organization or start issue tariffs under Section 301 of the U.S. Trade Act. A never-used provision of the tax code, Section 891, could even allow the U.S. to increase taxes on U.S. subsidiaries of French companies.

Instead of going alone, France and the EU should wait for talks to play out at the multinational level. The Trump administration has been engaging with the OECD to develop international rules do not unfairly target American companies. Should France choose to move forward, it will only be the beginning of a lengthy fight between two allies. 

Photo Credit: World Bank Photo Collection


Conservative Groups Oppose Any Effort To Roll Back Tax Cuts and Jobs Act

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Posted by Alex Hendrie on Wednesday, June 19th, 2019, 4:00 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform has led a coalition of conservative groups in opposition to Democrat efforts to roll back the Republican-passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

The Democrat-controlled House Ways and Means Committee will soon markup legislation that accelerates a scheduled death tax increase by three years. 

Increasing the death tax would be disastrous for small businesses and family farms and small businesses all over the country. 

The Trump tax cuts have had a positive effect on American families and businesses alike. A family of four earning the median income of $73,000 is seeing a federal tax cut of $2,000, and the corporate tax cut has made America competitive on the world stage.

Any effort to roll back the TCJA would undermine these hard-earned gains. Read the full letter here or below:

Dear Chairman Neal and Ranking Member Brady:

We write in opposition to any effort to roll back the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA).

The Ways and Means Committee will soon markup legislation that accelerates a scheduled death tax increase by three years.

This would be a mistake – increasing the death tax will disproportionately harm small businesses and family owned farms.

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act reduced taxes on American families at every income level and for businesses large and small.

A family of four earning the median income of $73,000 is seeing a federal tax cut of $2,000, while overall tax liability has dropped by almost 25 percent, according to a report from H&R Block.

Family businesses are benefiting from the doubled death tax exemption and the creation of the 20 percent small business deduction for businesses organized as passthrough entities.

The TCJA also reduced the federal corporate rate from 35 percent (the highest in the developed world) to 21 percent. This rate reduction has made the U.S. competitive with other countries and has allowed businesses to invest in the economy and in American workers.

The TCJA’s corporate rate cut has directly lowered utility rates in all 50 states. This means lower water, gas, and electric bills for American households. Any increase in the corporate rate would directly raise the cost of utility bills.

The tax cuts have also grown the economy. The unemployment rate is at 3.6 percent --- the lowest rate since 1969 – and has been below 4 percent for 15 consecutive months. Similarly, nominal average wages have grown by at or above 3 percent for the past 10 months. An average of 196,000 jobs have been created each month over the past year.

Rolling back any part of the TCJA undermines these gains. As such, we urge you to reject any proposal to undo the TCJA including a death tax increase.

Sincerely,

Grover Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

James L. Martin
Founder/Chairman, 60 Plus Association

Saulius “Saul” Anuzis
President, 60 Plus Association

Phil Kerpen ​​​​​​​
President, American Commitment

Lisa B. Nelson
CEO, ALEC Action

Brent Wm. Gardner
Chief Government Affairs Officer, Americans for Prosperity

Dan Weber
Founder and President, Association of Mature American Citizens

Ryan Ellis
President, Center for a Free Economy

Andrew F. Quinlan ​​​​​​​
President, Center for Freedom and Prosperity

Jeffrey Mazzella​​​​​​​
President, Center for Individual Freedom

David McIntosh
President, Club for Growth

Matthew Kandrach​​​​​​​
President, Consumer Action for a Strong Economy

Tom Schatz​​​​​​​
President, Council for Citizens Against Government Waste

Katie McAuliffe​​​​​​​
Executive Director, Digital Liberty

Palmer Schoening​​​​​​​
President, Family Business Coalition

Adam Brandon
President, FreedomWorks​​​​​​​

Tim Chapman
Executive Director, Heritage Action

Heather R. Higgins
CEO, Independent Women's Voice

Tom Giovanetti​​​​​​​
President, Institute for Policy Innovation

Seton Motley
President, Less Government

Pete Sepp​​​​​​​
President, National Taxpayers Union

Lorenzo Montanari ​​​​​​​
Executive Director, Property Rights Alliance

Karen Kerrigan
President & CEO, Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council

Tim Andrews
Executive Director, Taxpayer Protection Alliance

Photo Credit: kidTruant - Flickr


Trump EPA finalizes Affordable Clean Energy Rule, replacing Obama’s unlawful Clean Power Plan.

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Posted by Mike Palicz on Wednesday, June 19th, 2019, 3:42 PM PERMALINK

Today, EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler released the finalized Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) Rule which repeals the Obama-era Clean Power Plan (CPP).

The Obama EPA’s CPP was intentionally designed to regulate away coal from our nation’s energy portfolio with the ultimate goal of eliminating traditional forms of energy, resulting in higher prices for consumers.

The CPP was regulatory overreach at its worst as the Obama EPA exceeded its authority given by Congress under the Clean Air Act. In 2016, the Supreme Court was forced to issue a stay of the CPP and blocked it from ever actually being implemented.

The Trump EPA’s ACE Rule repeals the unlawful CPP and correctly returns power back to the states while restoring the EPA to its proper regulatory role under the Clean Air Act.

The ACE rule creates guidelines for states to use when developing plans to limit emissions at their coal-fired power plants by identifying heat rate improvements as the best system of emission reduction (BSER). States are given 3 years to submit plans ensuring flexibility and adequate time for development.

The EPA projects that ACE Rule will result in annual net benefits of $120 million to $730 million, including costs, domestic climate benefits, and health co-benefits.

“Today, we are delivering on one of President Trump’s core priorities: ensuring the American public has access to affordable, reliable energy in a manner that continues our nation’s environmental progress,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Unlike the Clean Power Plan, ACE adheres to the Clean Air Act and gives states the regulatory certainty they need to continue to reduce emissions and provide a dependable, diverse supply of electricity that all Americans can afford.”

ATR applauds the Trump EPA’s Affordable Clean Energy Rule which puts more power back in the hands of the states and the private sector. This is a win for advocates of smaller government and consumers who want reliable and affordable energy.

Photo Credit: Maine Public Broadcasting

More from Americans for Tax Reform


Congress Should Avoid Price Controls When Fixing Surprise Billing

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Wednesday, June 19th, 2019, 3:27 PM PERMALINK

Tomorrow, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) committee will hold a hearing on the “Lower Health Care Costs Act,” legislation sponsored by Senators Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Patty Murray (D-Wash.)

One issue that the bill addresses is surprise medical billing, which occurs when a patient is unintentionally treated by a doctor or hospital outside of their insurance network. Typically, this happens in emergency situations. Patients then face steep medical bills because they were treated by an out-of-network provider. 

As lawmakers work through this issue, they must take care that they do not impose price controls on out-of-network rates. Surprise billing proposals should distinguish between setting rates, which would impose price controls, and capping rates, which would set a ceiling for rates.

The Alexander-Murray bill proposes benchmark payments, which would set medical rates. In this scenario, health plans would pay providers a median rate in the geographic area in which the provider is located

This moves dangerously close to top-down government price controls. Setting rates would lower some rates above the benchmark price, but raise rates under the median. Capping rates would limit the rates above the cap without raising prices below the cap.

A proposal from the Council for Affordable Health Coverage (CAHC) estimates that capping rates for all out-of-network and emergency services at 200 percent of Medicare could reduce the federal deficit by $400 billion over 10 years. 

Alarmingly, several proposals also include a binding arbitration provision based on New York’s surprise billing law.

Binding arbitration is a legal process wherein two parties settle a dispute without going through the court system. Each party appeals to a neutral third party that considers the options and chooses one of them as the binding decision. 

Imposing binding arbitration to resolve surprise billing would substantially increase administrative costs for healthcare providers. While there are many unknowns behind how the proposal would work in practice, it should be concerning as it would be another way for Washington bureaucrats to implement backdoor price controls on lifesaving medicine.

CAHC analysis found that including binding arbitration in surprise billing proposals could substantially raise rates because of high administrative costs.

Surprise billing is not the only area where Democrats are trying to impose backdoor price controls. Recent media reports indicate that a top aide to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) wants to impose binding arbitration into the healthcare system as part of drug pricing reform. 

Under Pelosi’s proposal, binding arbitration would apply when a subjective value of a drug is exceeded, for new drugs entering the market, and for drugs with no competition. HHS would pick a supposedly neutral third party to arbitrate between the department and the drug manufacturer.

This arrangement creates a critical problem — why would HHS pick panels that routinely rule against the department in arbitration? This would lead to selection bias which would all but ensure that HHS would be able to establish price controls on lifesaving medicine.

Conservatives are staunchly opposed to binding arbitration for prescription drugs. ATR recently joined a 26 coalition of conservative groups led by the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW) in a letter opposing the Pelosi plan for prescription drugs.

As lawmakers look to fix surprise billing, they should avoid imposing binding arbitration and price controls on American patients.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


What’s Worse than One Carbon Tax Proposal? Two.

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Tuesday, June 18th, 2019, 5:46 PM PERMALINK

New York State’s new Democrat majority is working hard to make New York the most expensive, unfriendly place to live and build a future.

The state is already unattractive. More people left New York State than any other from 2017 to 2018. Worse, 42 of 50 upstate counties lost population since 2010. Even New York City, which has grown, has nearly half of residents saying they can’t afford it.

But the cost of electricity, driving, heck, everything we buy could skyrocket if either of two live carbon tax proposals reaches the finish line.

New York may be even closer to getting hit with a carbon tax – done in the name of compensating for the “social cost” of carbon.

Legislation from Assemblyman Kevin Cahill (D) would impose a $35 per ton tax on carbon which would rise to $185 over time. And that may not be the most immediate carbon tax threat!

New York’s Independent System Operator has released a proposal that includes a $50 per ton tax on carbon. This proposal has a long bureaucratic path in front of it before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) renders a decision, but could happen without the legislature taking action.

The state is already part of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) cap-and-trade regime. But a carbon tax goes far beyond the burdens imposed by RGGI, driving costs over 50 percent higher than the cap and trade regime.

“The prices in this scheme (RGGI) have never exceeded $5-6/ton on an annual basis. We estimate an initial impact on wholesale energy prices of $21/MWh… This would represent a 50-75 percent increase in NYISO wholesale energy prices,” an ICF analysis states.

Regional cap and trade in the northeast has imposed billions of dollars in costs which get passed on to consumers and businesses. The program decreased goods production 12 percent, and “energy intensive goods” production dropped 34 percent in the region, according to a CATO Institute analysis.

This is just an inkling of the damage a carbon tax would do to New York. All that extra cost, and for what?

“The EPA reports that the aggregate emissions of six common toxic pollutants (carbon monoxide, lead, nitrogen oxide, volatile organic compounds, particulate matter, and sulfur dioxide) have declined by 67 percent since 1980. Meanwhile, gross domestic product is up 160 percent and population is up 42 percent. Energy-related carbon emissions are down to near 1992 levels,” writes Texas Public Policy Foundation senior economist Vance Ginn and ALEC chief economist Jonathan Williams.

The way New York’s proposal is unfolding could shield legislators from some of the political consequences we’ve seen in other states and other countries. But perhaps it could be a problem for Governor Cuomo, who has already indicated he will run for a fourth (!) term as governor.  

Photo Credit: Wikipedia


2019 Pig Book Shows Record Increase in Pork Barrel Spending

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Posted by Cavan Hagerty on Tuesday, June 18th, 2019, 4:02 PM PERMALINK

It seems that pork is once again on the menu in the halls of Congress this year.

Earlier this month, Citizens Against Government Waste released their annual Congressional Pig Book. The book outlines some of the most obscene and outlandish examples of pork barrel spending during the current Congress.

Citizens Against Government Waste works to expose and eliminate waste, inefficiencies, and mismanagement in government. The Pig Book serves as an important tool in this work, showing how harmful pork barrel spending and earmarks can be to the legislative process.

“Earmarks are the ‘broken windows’ of government overspending, the currency of Congressional corruption, and the price of bad votes for more spending,” said ATR President Grover Norquist. “Earmarks are used to buy the votes of congressmen who would never vote for the overall package standing alone, without a bribe.”

Among the notable examples from this year’s book: $9 million for a fruit fly quarantine program, $12 million for aquatic plant control, nearly $8 million for the purchase of new fish screens, and nearly $14 million for wild horse and burro management. In total, this year’s earmarks will cost taxpayers some $15.3 billion, with very little oversight as to how this money is allocated.

In the face of such waste of taxpayer’s money, some lawmakers are finally taking a stand against the practice of earmarking. Senator Ben Sasse recently sponsored a conference motion to end the practice of earmarks in the Senate. The Senate Republican Conference adopted the motion last month. “It’s pretty simple: Earmarks are a crummy way to govern and they have no business in Congress,” said Sasse.


How the Trump Tax Cuts Have Helped Florida, Site of 2020 Re-election Launch

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Posted by John Kartch and Adam Sabes on Tuesday, June 18th, 2019, 2:09 PM PERMALINK

Today President Trump will launch his 2020 re-election campaign with a rally in Orlando. Floridians are raking in the benefits of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, signed into law by Trump.

Thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act:

25.5% tax cut: Floridians received a 25.5% tax cut on average, according to a report from H&R Block. Every income group in every Florida congressional district saw a tax cut.

Doubled child tax credit: 1,244,430 Florida households are benefiting from the TCJA’s doubling of the child tax credit.

Standard deduction:  7,381,270 Florida households are benefiting from the TCJA’s doubling of the standard deduction.

Obamacare individual mandate tax relief: 375,930 Florida households are benefiting from the TCJA’s elimination of the Obamacare individual mandate tax. Most households hit with this tax made less than $50,000 per year.

Lower utility bills: As a direct result of the TCJA’s corporate rate cut, Floridians are paying lower utility bills. Lower electric, water, and gas bills help households each month, and also help small businesses operating on slim profit margins. Florida examples of utilities passing on tax savings to customers include – but are not limited to – Gulf Power Company, Tampa Electric, and Duke Energy Florida.

Thanks to the TCJA’s corporate tax rate cut – from 35 percent to 21 percent – and the TCJA’s 20 percent tax cut for small businesses, employers of all sizes are hiring, expanding, increasing pay and benefits, and paying special tax-cut bonuses:

​​​​​​Magellan Transport Logistics (Jacksonville, Florida) - Expanding facility operations, hiring more employees:

“Just last month, Mr. Speaker, I toured Magellan Transport Logistics, a service-disabled, veteran-owned logistics company in my hometown of Jacksonville, Florida. They are adding at least 100 new jobs in the next 5 years and were able to acquire a new 47,000- square-foot facility. During the tour of the facility, we were told by the company’s CEO that this expansion is a direct result of the tax cuts that the business received from the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act. This is just one example of the differences that these cuts are making to improve the way of life for countless Americans in Florida and across the Nation. I have heard from many small businesses throughout my district who are thriving unlike never before because of these landmark reforms.” - May 17, 2018, Rep. John Rutherford statement on U.S. House Floor

Florida Concrete Unlimited (Miami, Florida) – Pay raises for all employees and higher year-end bonuses due to tax reform:

“My father and I decided, once this tax bill passed, the first thing that we should do is reinvest in the company. So we have extra cash available to give back to the employees instantly before we even felt the effects of the tax bill, we increased the bonuses for the year-end. So everybody got a little bit more in their paycheck at the end of the year for their Christmas bonus, about 20 percent more. And everybody got a raise based on tax reform.” – Feb. 2018 statement by President and COO Jason Goff

Don Ramon Restaurant (West Palm Beach Florida) -- The Cuban restaurant gave bonuses and pay raises and in addition to installing new coffee machines and refrigerators will renovate and expand:

As the owner of Don Ramon Restaurant in West Palm Beach, I know the positive impact of small business better than most.

Because of the recently passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, we will pay lower taxes and qualify for higher deductions, leaving Don Ramon in a better position than ever before. We plan to open a takeout window and set up a customer bar, which would generate up to eight new jobs. We will also install new refrigerators and coffee machines, in addition to making much-needed renovations to better serve our customers.

Perhaps most important, all of our key employees received generous bonuses in December, and they will also see pay increases in the coming weeks. We take great pride in rewarding our workers, and the new tax code makes it much easier to do so. -- Feb. 3, 2018 Palm Beach Post op-ed excerpt

Biscayne Bay Craft Brewery (Miami, Florida) – Hiring two new employees and purchasing new equipment:

Consider the story of Jose Mallea, owner of Biscayne Bay Craft Brewery, who participated in President Trump's event. The tax cuts have allowed him to purchase $100,000 more in equipment and hire two new employees. – April 29, 2018 Tallahassee Democrat article excerpt

Benada Aluminum Products LLC. (Sanford, Florida) - Increased production capacity:

“It’s given us relief. We’re able to get some margins back,” said Jim Piperato, president of Benada Aluminum LLC, a Florida-based producer of aluminum framing for patio and pool enclosures.

Mr. Piperato said the company, owned by private equity firms Big Shoulders Capital and ABGB Capital, recently increased production capacity by 50% to expand into the door and window frame market.

“Our business has been extremely strong.” he said. “Most of the customers I’ve spoken to say there’s no end in sight.” - July 17, 2018, Wall Street Journal article excerpt

Our Town America (Clearwater, Florida) – Raise wages, hire new employees, and purchase new equipment:

There's no small business owner I talk to who isn't thankful to be able to protect one-fifth of his or her earnings from taxes. For some marginal small businesses, it will make the difference between staying in business and closing.

My business is no different. We're using our tax cut savings to raise wages, hire new staff, and add even more features and equipment to our brand new headquarters — a 44,000 square foot office building in Clearwater. – April 29, 2018, Tallahassee Democrat article excerpt

St. Augustine Distillery (St. Augustine, Florida) - Hiring new employees, purchasing new equipment and inventory:

“As a young business facing more than their share of regulatory challenges, the St. Augustine Distillery was relieved, to say the least, when the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act was signed into law. The distillery announced shortly after the bill’s passage that they would be using their savings to make further investments in their employees and increase their equipment and inventory, creating new local jobs and hiring additional staff to manufacture, market, and sell their products.” - May 17, 2018, Rep. John Rutherford statement on U.S. House Floor

Darden Restaurants (Orlando, Florida) - workforce investments:

Olive Garden owner Darden Restaurants on Monday said it would reinvest $20 million in tax savings this year back into its workforce.

The Orlando, Fla.-based casual-dining operator said that tax reform would lower its effective tax rate by 600 basis points in its current fiscal year, due to changes made under the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed in December.

--

“One of the best investments we can make is in our people,” Darden CEO Gene Lee said in a statement. “This investment will strengthen one of our most important competitive advantages.” - March 15, 2019 Restaurant Business Online article excerpts

Massage Envy (locations across Florida) - Increased worker pay and facilities remodeling:

“I’m a manager and a massage therapist at Massage Envy. My employers own seven of Massage Envys. So for me I guess what they’ve done is what’s affected me most. They’ve really reinvested into the company. We’ve got a total overhaul remodel of everything top to bottom, front to back and that’s been great for business. They have given every single person in our clinic an increase in compensation and just have changed the quality of our lives greatly. I mean in the last three years I’ve doubled my salary with what they’ve been able to do and so personally for me how that translates into my life is that you know both of my kids have their own cars so they can drive and I don’t have to share a car with them. I’m able to finish an internship that I’ve been doing in mental health counseling. I had finished my academic requirements a year ago and just couldn’t take off work to finish the internship. I’m in it and I’ll be done in October and I’m not losing any money and not losing any time with my children or anything like that. So it’s been pretty awesome for me. I appreciate it a lot. I know my employers do as well.” - April 17, 2018 Tax Talk Roundtable, Kasey Moore, Manager at Massage Envy

Arthrex Inc. (North Naples, Florida) – Pay raises and $1,000 bonuses:

The company has given all of its U.S. employees either a $1 an hour pay increase or a one-time bonus of $1,000.

In the news release, Schmieding attributed the decision to boost pay for U.S. workers in part to the passage of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which lowered the federal corporate income tax rate and to the deferral of the medical device tax for the next two years nationwide. -- April 27, 2018 Naples Daily News article excerpt

Landmark Reporting, Inc.  (Orlando, Florida) — $500 bonus checks for all three employees:

“I own a small business in Orlando, Florida with three employees. It is a business that I DID BUILD and have owned and operated for over 35 years. After I saw the increase in take-home pay in all of our paychecks after President Trump’s tax cut implementation, I wrote bonus checks of $500 each to my employees. On the Memo line, it’s labeled 'President Trump Tax Cut Bonus.’ — Candy Morgan, owner, Landmark Reporting, Inc.

Crowley Maritime Corporation (Jacksonville, Florida) - Employee bonuses:

Hill, a Crowley employee for more than 24 years, extolled real-world benefits of the tax cuts, including helping her pay for her sons’ college expenses.

Crowley Maritime “used its benefit from tax reform to pay employees bonuses,” Hill said.

“Crowley Maritime is a fantastic company,” she added. “I’ve been there 24 years. I’m very honored to work for such a great company and for the company to benefit from such a great tax opportunity, which they were able to give back to the employees.” - May 29, 2018, Florida Politics article excerpt

Liberty Landscape Supply (Jacksonville, Florida) - Expanding operations and services offered to customers, hiring a new employee:

Mike Zaffaroni calls the newest piece of equipment at his landscaping company in Jacksonville, Florida, his “Tax Cut Truck.”

He had long wanted to expand the services he offers to his customers and says the tax cuts President Donald J. Trump signed into law six months ago were the motivation he needed to buy the $80,000 truck and forklift.

“Without the tax cuts, we’re not so sure it would have been the right move for us financially,” he said.

Under the new tax law, Mr. Zaffaroni will be able to write off the entire cost of the purchase this year. Along with the lower tax rates and other benefits of the law, he says his accountant estimates he’ll save 7 percent to 10 percent on his taxes this year. That’s a big saving for a small company like his, and it’s money he’ll reinvest in his business.

“We’re going to be able to expand, we’re going to add a product line, we’ll be able to deliver more materials than we were able to before,” Mr. Zaffaroni said. “We’ve actually already hired another driver, so that also adds another job.”

I toured Mr. Zaffaroni’s company, Liberty Landscape Supply, soon after he was named Florida’s National Small Business Person of the Year, and just days after the truck was delivered.

“It makes it very real,” he told me. “A lot of America doesn’t really understand the implication these tax cuts have on each individual small business.” - June 29, 2018, White House article excerpt

Primrose School of South Tampa (Tampa, Florida) – Salary increases; playground upgrades; educational hardware and software investments; upgraded classroom flooring:

“Primrose School of South Tampa joined the ranks of other companies in giving back to our employees as a direct result of the tax reform.  We are an educational preschool providing a premier early education and child care experience for children and families in the Tampa Bay area.  Located in Tampa, Florida, we employ 85 teachers and management staff.   Thanks to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by the Republican Congress and signed into law by President Trump, each of our full-time staff members will receive a $1,040 salary increase and our part-time employees will receive one-half of that amount.  We will invest over $75,000 in turf to improve our playgrounds for our children. We purchased 50 new Apple iPads and software for classroom/student use, and we are investing in upgraded classroom flooring. Our total infrastructure investment in our beautiful school is over $150,000 thanks to President Trump and the Republican Congress!  This would not have been possible but for the tax reform and our sincerest thanks go to President Trump and to Congress for passing this legislation. President Donald Trump is doing a great job and we appreciate the hard work on his aggressive agenda.” – Jana Radtke, Franchise Owner, Primrose School of South Tampa

Jones Auto & Towing (Riverview, Florida) – the company, which provides 24-hour wrecker service, roadside assistance, emergency towing, and fuel delivery etc. will put two additional trucks into service, which will add two more full time jobs:

“The tax cuts are putting two more tow trucks on the road for my business. This will add two more full time job openings that will help two more families. And it will put a little more money in the bank for my family. My wife is a registered nurse and has a 401k which is doing better this last year than in the previous 13 years!!

Thanks to President Trump!!!

Thankfully I will be taken delivery of my new trucks in two weeks and hitting the road! MAGA!” – Guy Jones, Jones Auto & Towing

Joseph’s Lite Cookies (Sebastian, Florida) – $3,000 - $4,200 salary increases, new computer systems, new product packaging:

"As the president and CEO of Joseph’s Lite Cookies in Florida, I run a family-owned, sugar-free cookie business. We bake more than 12 million sugar-free cookies a day, in addition to supplying other diabetic-friendly products.

I employ numerous workers who stand to directly benefit from the Republican tax overhaul. Why? Because lower rates and increased deductions leave me with more resources to expand business operations and reward hardworking staffers.

Because of the tax bill, I’m purchasing new computer systems and creating new product packaging for international expansion. More importantly, I’m giving raises to four key employees — half of our workforce — which range from just over $3,000 to nearly $4,200. My top employees have earned greater financial security, and the Republican tax package made it a reality for them.

Because of President Trump’s commitment to lowering rates and increasing deductions, we are now experiencing the largest tax-induced investment revolution ever. Never before have we seen such a frenzy of pay hikes, 401(k) increases, and bonuses due to a single piece of legislation. Democrats scoff at their own peril. – Feb. 5 2018, Washington Examiner news article excerpt

Cogent Building Group -- the firm builds homes in Santa Rosa Beach, and gave $2,000 bonuses for all four employees.

Tampa Electric (Tampa, Florida) – The utility is passing tax reform savings to customers:

Tampa Electric bills won’t rise to pay for Hurricane Irma restoration costs, thanks to new tax savings. The Florida Public Service Commission (PSC) unanimously approved the measure today.

Because of recent changes made to the federal tax law, customers will directly benefit. What Tampa Electric would have paid in corporate income taxes will instead be used to cover the cost of restoring power after Hurricane Irma and several other earlier named storms. Additionally, Tampa Electric bills will reflect the ongoing benefits from tax reform starting in 2019. – March 1, 2018, Tampa Electric Press Release

Duke Energy Florida (St. Petersburg, Florida) – the utility will pass along tax savings to customers:

Duke Energy Florida today announced that customers will directly benefit from the new federal tax law and avoid a rate increase for power restoration costs associated with the company's response to last September's Hurricane Irma.

Instead of increasing customer rates, the company plans to apply federal tax reform savings toward those storm costs.

On Dec. 28, 2017, the company had filed for recovery of $513 million – $381 million for power restoration costs and $132 million to replenish the storm reserve fund. Residential customers would have seen an increase of $5.20 per 1,000 kWh of electricity on a typical monthly bill over a three-year recovery period – an average of $187.20. Commercial and industrial customers were expected to see an increase of approximately 2.5 to 6.6 percent, though bills would have varied depending on a number of factors.

Like many companies, Duke Energy has been working to analyze the benefits of tax reform.

"We are pleased that this solution will prevent a rate increase for our customers," said Harry Sideris, Duke Energy Florida state president. "Hurricane Irma was the worst storm to ever hit Duke Energy Florida and impacted many lives. Redirecting the tax reform savings against the storm costs ensures that our customers will reap the benefits of this new law." -- Jan. 24, 2018 Duke Energy Florida press release

Harris Corporation (Melbourne, Florida) -- Each of the 17,000 non-executive employees will receive 10 shares of common stock which will vest over two years. 10 shares of stock is currently worth $1,470; additional $300 million contribution to employee pension fund; $20 million in innovation investments:

Harris Corporation (NYSE:HRS) today announced that, as a result of the passage of the tax reform bill, the company anticipates making an additional contribution to its employee pension fund, increasing its investment in research and development, and providing a one-time stock grant to all of its non-executive employees. The actions are expected to occur within the company’s fiscal 2018.

To increase current and former employee retirement stability, Harris anticipates contributing an additional $300 million into the company’s employee pension fund.

The company also will invest an incremental $20 million in technologies to accelerate innovation and affordability initiatives for its customers. This investment in research and development will leverage and enhance the company’s strong engineering talent, strengthen Harris’ position and help it capture new market opportunities in areas such as small satellites, software defined electronic warfare systems, open systems avionics, robotics and air traffic management solutions.

In addition, the company will grant each of its approximately 17,000 non-executive employees 10 shares of Harris common stock that will vest over two years. The grants have a current market value of about $1,470 each, or approximately $24 million in total.

“We are pleased to share the benefits of our strong performance and the recent tax reform legislation with our employees,” said William M. Brown, chairman, president and chief executive officer. “This represents an investment in Harris’ greatest asset and differentiator – our talented employees. Coupled with our innovation and technology investment, we are using this opportunity to further strengthen the company and position Harris for future success.” -- Jan. 30, 2018 Harris Corporation press release

T.J. Maxx91 stores in Florida – tax reform bonuses, retirement plan contributions, parental leave, enhanced vacation benefits, and charitable donations:

The 2017 Tax Act benefited the Company in the fourth quarter and full year Fiscal 2018. The Company expects to continue to benefit from the 2017 Tax Act going forward, primarily due to the lower U.S. corporate income tax rate. As a result of the estimated cash benefit related to the 2017 Tax Act, the Company is taking the following actions:

Associates

  • A one-time, discretionary bonus to eligible, non-bonus-plan Associates, globally

  • An incremental contribution to the Company’s defined contribution retirement plans for eligible Associates in the U.S. and internationally

  • Instituting paid parental leave for eligible Associates in the U.S.

  • Enhancing vacation benefits for certain U.S. Associates

Communities

Made meaningful contributions to TJX’s charitable foundations around the world to further support TJX’s charitable giving. – Feb. 28, 2018 The TJX Companies Inc. press release excerpt

Ryder (Headquartered in Miami, multiple retail location in Florida) – Tax reform bonuses for all non-incentive bonus eligible employees, totaling $23 million:

In connection with the anticipated benefit of the Tax Act, the Company awarded a one-time cash bonus, estimated to be approximately $23 million or $0.27 per diluted share, to all non-incentive bonus eligible employees of the Company employed on December 31, 2017. The bonus will be paid to eligible employees in February 2018. -- Jan. 29, 2018 Ryder System, Inc. filing

RGF Environmental Group, Inc. (Riviera Beach, Florida) -- $1,000 bonuses:

“We, as a privately held manufacturing firm in Riviera Beach, Florida, will benefit greatly from the Tax Reform act recently passed. Because of this savings, we have given all our employees a $1,000 Bonus (This is in addition to their 2017 year-end bonuses. – Sharon B. Rinehimer, Executive Vice President/General Counsel, RGF Environmental Group, Inc.

Spellex Corporation (Tampa, Florida) -- $1,000 bonuses for all 26 full-time employees:

"I'm the founder and CEO of Spellex Corporation located in Tampa, FL. We're a software development company which I founded in 1988. This is the first time I've done anything like this. I'm hoping there are thousands of companies like mine who gave their employees $1,000 bonuses to show our support for the new tax plan which will ultimately help the middle class." -- Sheldon Wolf, CEO, Spellex Corporation

The Flood Insurance Agency (Gainesville, Florida) -- $1,000 bonuses for 17 full time employees:

“Small businesses represent almost 75% of all jobs in the USA and the new tax laws benefit many those businesses. Their allocation of additional after tax income could be what causes a wave to turn into a tsunami of economic growth that moves the USA to a destiny defined by everyone’s hopes and dreams. 

My hope is that our insurance industry leads the way with both large public insurance corporations and small insurance agencies announcing their plans for leveraging their tax savings toward a bright American future. My hope is that news media does their part by reporting every announcement building awareness of the growing tsunami. 

I want our company to participate in that tsunami. I want our employees to help define that destiny. Our company is a mid-size insurance MGA with approximately $15 million of revenue. On Tuesday December 26th we announced a $1000 bonus for all our full time employees.” – CEO Evan Hecht

CenterState Bank (Davenport, Florida) – $1,000 bonuses to non-officer employees:

CenterState also finds itself competing more with major regional banks for customers and employees, so — following in the footsteps of other leading financial institutions — it is giving $1,000 bonuses to its non-officer employees as a result of the new tax law. About 700 workers, or 60 percent of the company’s employees as of Dec. 31, will receive the bonus, CenterState said in a Jan. 19 filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. – Jan. 19 Tampa Bay Business Journal article excerpt

AT&T -- $1,000 bonuses to 13,331 Florida employees; Nationwide, $1 billion increase in capital expenditures.

Fleet Advantage (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) – New options for customers thanks to immediate business expensing in the tax bill:

The changes to the tax law for 2018 as a result of Tax Cuts and Job Act of 2017 have led more fleets to consider vehicle leasing, and many of those are smaller fleets and owner-operators who may have only sought out equipment on the used market previously.

James C. Griffin Jr., COO & CTO of Fleet Advantage, said the company has launched new flexible leasing programs in response to the tax changes to help fleets achieve more balance-sheet benefits.

“We got ahead of the tax changes and have some new lease products that take advantage of the tax changes,” Griffin said. Leases now hit the balance sheet at “net present value,” he said.

In addition to the depreciation aspect of the tax plan, Griffin said the flat 21% tax on corporations has also allowed Fleet Advantage to “do a little more predictable planning for our customers.

“A lot of organizations are looking at this as an opportunity to upgrade their fleets,” he noted. “[And] our model is really starting to resonate, so we’ve seen a huge uptick [in business].”April 30, 2018 FreightWaves article excerpt

Apple (18 Apple store locations in Florida: Altamonte Springs, Aventura, Boca Raton, Brandon, Estero, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, Miami Beach, Miami Brickell City Centre, Miami Dadeland, Miami The Falls, Naples, Orlando Florida Mall, Orlando Millenia, Palm Beach Gardens, Sarasota, Tampa, Wellington) --

$2,500 employee bonuses in the form of restricted stock units; $30 billion in additional capital expenditures over five years; 20,000 new employees will be hired; increased support of coding education and science, technology, engineering, arts, and math; increased support for U.S. manufacturing:

     Bonuses:

Apple Inc. told employees Wednesday that it’s issuing a bonus of $2,500 worth of restricted stock units, following the introduction of the new U.S. tax law, according to people familiar with the matter.

The iPhone maker will begin issuing stock grants to most employees worldwide in the coming months, said the people, who asked not to be identified because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly. The move comes on the same day Apple said it would bring back most of its cash from overseas and spend $30 billion in the U.S. over the next five years, funding an additional technical support campus, data centers and 20,000 new employees.

Apple confirmed the bonuses in response to a Bloomberg inquiry Wednesday. – Jan. 17 2018, Bloomberg News article excerpt

     Capital expenditures, etc:

Apple expects to invest over $30 billion in capital expenditures in the US over the next five years and create over 20,000 new jobs through hiring at existing campuses and opening a new one.

Building on the initial success of the Advanced Manufacturing Fund announced last spring, Apple is increasing the size of the fund from $1 billion to $5 billion. The fund was established to support innovation among American manufacturers and help others establish a presence in the US. It is already backing projects with leading manufacturers in Kentucky and rural Texas.

Apple works with over 9,000 American suppliers — large and small businesses in all 50 states — and each of Apple’s core products relies on parts or materials made in the US or provided by US-based suppliers.

Apple, which has a 40-year history in education, also plans to accelerate its efforts across the US in support of coding education as well as programs focused on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math (STEAM). – Jan. 17, 2018 Apple press release excerpts

Cintas (Multiple locations in Florida) -- $1,000 bonuses for employees of at least a year, $500 bonuses for employees of less than a year.

Walmart -- 67,500 Floridians employed at 328 Walmart stores will receive tax reform bonuses and wage increases and expanded maternity and parental leave. Walmart employees who adopt children will be given $5,000 to help cover expenses.

Lowes 21,000 employees at 123 stores and two distribution centers in Florida. Employees will receive bonuses of up to $1,000 based on length of service, expanded benefits and maternity/parental leave; and $5,000 of adoption assistance.

Home Depot -- 153 locations in Florida, Florida-based Home Depot employees will receive bonuses of up to $1,000.

Starbucks Coffee Company -- (Multiple locations in Florida) -- $500 stock grants for all Starbucks retail employees, $2,000 stock grants for store managers, and varying plan and support center employee stock grants, totaling more than $100 million nationwide in stock grants; 8,000 new retail jobs; an additional wage increase this year, totaling approximately $120 million in wage increases, increased sick time benefits and parental leave. 

U-Haul (Multiple locations in Florida) – $1,200 bonuses for full-time employees, $500 for part-time employees.

Bank of America -- (Multiple locations in Florida) Florida-based employees of Bank of America will receive $1,000 bonuses.

Comcast (Multiple locations in Florida) -- $1,000 bonuses; Nationally, at least $50 billion investment in infrastructure in next five years.

FifthThird Bancorp150 locations in Florida; $1,000 bonuses; base wage will increase to $15 per hour.

Wells Fargo -- 614 bank locations in Florida -- Base wage raised from $13.50 to $15.00 per hour; $400 million in charitable donation for 2018; $100 million increased capital investment over next three years.

Note: If you know of other Florida examples, please email John Kartch at jkartch@atr.org


 

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore/Flickr


Climate Protection Act Could Be Lights Out for NY

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Posted by Doug Kellogg on Tuesday, June 18th, 2019, 12:11 PM PERMALINK

Democrats in the New York State legislature and Governor Cuomo have agreed on a massive climate bill, the Climate Leadership and Community Protection Act (built off the Climate and Community Protection Act), which will deal a fatal blow to affordable energy in the Empire State.

Under Governor Cuomo, New York’s energy policy is a political mess. Largely in pursuit of costly 50-by-30 renewable energy mandates (50% renewable energy by 2030), the state forces consumers and taxpayers to subsidize renewable energy, rams through wind turbine projects in communities that don’t want them, and bails out aging nuclear power plants that even their operators wanted to close.

Cuomo has also blocked multiple natural gas pipelines because… reasons. That part makes no sense because natural gas has brought down carbon emissions. Meanwhile, New York City is mostly powered by natural gas, but from Pennsylvania.

The results have New Yorkers paying high energy prices, in February 2019 New Yorkers were paying 30 percent more than the national average.

With Democrats now in complete control of state government, the situation could get even worse.  

The initial Climate and Community Protection Act (Senate Bill S7971A and Assembly Bill A8270B) received massive backing from left-wing groups, and it was passed in the Assembly. Now a tweaked bill based of a deal with the Governor has passed both houses.

This measure would impose an 85 percent cut in carbon emissions in the state, compared to 1990 levels. 50 percent is unrealistic, 85 percent is a dangerous and costly for energy producers and manufacturers. The compromise bill will also call for 100 percent renewable energy by 2040.

“Numerous scientists, climate activists, and environmental organizations believe achieving zero greenhouse gas emissions in New York by 2050 seems to be physically impossible” writes Business Council of New York’s Darren Suarez in the Buffalo News.

According to an American Action Forum (AAF) analysis, a 100 percent renewable energy requirement, similar to the federal Green New Deal, is estimated to cost $423.9 billion annually, just to build and maintain the renewable energy capacity. “Merely building and operating the required number of renewable electric power plants would cost more than what Americans pay for electricity today,” AAF’s report states.

This would unfold on a smaller, but no less damaging scale in New York under the CCPA. New Yorkers already struggling to afford the cost of living will have to throw in the towel.

Also, manufacturers produce carbon dioxide in the manufacturing process. The National Association of Manufacturers states that manufacturing makes up nearly 5 percent of the state’s economic output and workforce.

The measure creates a council to develop reports and plans to get the state to those goals. A council that must include “environmental justice” advocates.

The plan includes a prevailing wage standard for projects  – a big wink toward big labor. It also means these projects will be as expensive as humanly possible.

Initial bills also included language calling for a low carbon fuel standard buried in it. This policy requires fuel producers to compensate for higher carbon fuels they deliver to the state by either producing lower carbon fuels, or buying credits. California’s low carbon fuel standard will add an estimated 69-cents to the cost of gas by 2030, if not changed.

The Governor’s bill is expected to send less than the 40 percent of revenues earlier bills promised to help disadvantaged communities. The council will have to map out more details on that, it could mean subsidized jobs for an area, or plastering solar panels all over rough neighborhoods.

Hammering New York businesses with a costly, and impossible demand will kill more jobs and growth in the state. The ironic side effect could be that overall carbon emissions go up because businesses with a carbon footprint flee New York’s onerous regulations.

Photo Credit: Flickr - Chris Ford


Senator Rob Portman Unveils Bipartisan Retirement Reform Bill

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Posted by Spencer Peck, Alexander Hendrie on Tuesday, June 18th, 2019, 11:45 AM PERMALINK

Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) has released a bipartisan retirement reform bill alongside Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md). The ‘Retirement Security and Savings Act of 2019’ enacts sweeping, common sense reforms in order to advance the American retirement system into the 21st century.

The legislation includes numerous reforms that strengthen 401(k) plans. These popular and important to American families because they allow individuals control over their own retirement savings. Contributions to 401(k)s are tax free and any gains accrued are also tax free. Additionally, most employers offer some sort of ‘matching contribution’ plan wherein the company will match, up to a point, whatever contributions a worker makes to their own 401 (k) account. This not only boosts savings, it also allows workers to more directly manage their own retirement plans.

Portman’s bill contains provisions dedicated to solving one of four goals -- offering relief to Americans who have saved too little for retirement, incentivizing and supporting small business retirement plans, promoting accessibility to retirement savings for low-income workers, and offering flexibility for current or near retirees.

 

Help for Workers who have Saved too Little:

Unfortunately, many Americans approach retirement age with insufficient savings. This bill contains a number of provisions that remove regulations that hamper late-term saving and make it easier for workers to contribute to retirement accounts later on in their careers.

The first of these provisions is an employer tax credit which is made available by automatically enrolling workers in ‘safe harbor’ plans at a rate of 6% of pay (on top of the current 3% of pay safe harbor). The bill also increases the ‘catch up’ contribution cap from $6,000 to $10,000 for people 60 years or older. Additionally, the plan allows employers to make matching contributions to retirement plans equal to the amount workers are paying towards their student loan debt.

Small Business Retirement Plan Incentives:

Small businesses are burdened by complex and overbearing IRS regulations which impact retirement plans for their workers. Portman’s bill simplifies these rules and makes it easier for small business employees to save for retirement.

The proposal increases the tax credit for new small business retirement plans form $500 to as much as $5,000. It also provides a tax credit for small businesses which offer more generous ‘safe harbor’ plans to their workers. On top of this, the bill also eliminates penalties for unintentionally violating complex IRS retirement plan rules as long as the company self corrects its mistakes.

Retirement Access for Low-Income Workers:

Low-income Americans often live paycheck to paycheck, making it difficult to save for retirement. This bill expands access to retirement for these workers by cutting taxes and simplifying retirement plans.

The plan lowers the income threshold for ‘Saver’s Credit’, expanding access to those who need it most. Additionally, Portman makes ‘Saver’s Credit’ directly refundable into retirement accounts with a new ‘government match’. The bill also expands 401 (k) eligibility to part-time workers who put in 500 - 1,000 hours for two years in a row.

Flexibility for Current Retirees:

Increased life expectancy along with the changing nature of work make it more desirable for many Americans to continue working later and contributing to their retirement accounts. Current regulations punish them for doing this. Portman’s bill allows workers to more fully control their own retirement.

It does this by first, gradually increasing the age for required minimum distributions to 72 by 2023 and 75 by 2030. It also exempts people with $100k or less in retirement savings from the required minimum distributions, allowing them to continue contributing to their retirement savings. Finally, the bill encourages the expansion of ‘QLAC’s’ - retirement plans which pay out annually to retirees who live past their life expectancy.

 

The Retirement Security and Savings Act of 2019 makes great, long-needed reforms to the American retirement system. It makes saving much easier for low-income workers, and it incentivizes the creation of new retirement plans for small businesses. Ultimately, this is a bipartisan, common sense bill which provides more financial control to workers and small businesses. Several members of the Senate Finance Committee have expressed support for the bill, but the rest of Congress needs to come around and support these reforms to serve the American people.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


Biden: “First thing I would do as President is Eliminate the President’s Tax Cut.”


Posted by Adam Sabes on Tuesday, June 18th, 2019, 9:22 AM PERMALINK

[See also: 75 conservative groups tell congress: "We oppose ANY carbon tax."]

Joe Biden said Monday that the first thing he’d do as president is “eliminate” the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act:

“First thing I would do as president is eliminate the president’s tax cut,” Biden said during the Poor People's Forum in Washington, D.C. on Monday.

[Click here for video]

Biden’s promise to repeal the tax cuts is a promise to raise taxes. If the tax cuts were repealed:

  • A family of four earning the median income of $73,000 would see a $2,000 tax increase.
  • A single parent (with one child) making $41,000 would see a $1,300 tax increase.
  • Millions of low and middle-income households would be stuck paying the Obamacare individual mandate tax.
  • Utility bills would go up in all 50 states as a direct result of the corporate income tax increase.
  • Small employers will face a tax increase due to the repeal of the 20% deduction for small business income.
  • The USA would have the highest corporate income tax rate in the developed world.
  • Taxes would rise in every state and every congressional district.
  • The Death Tax would ensnare more families and businesses.
  • The AMT would snap back to hit millions of households.
  • Millions of households would see their child tax credit cut in half.
  • Millions of households would see their standard deduction cut in half, adding to their tax complexity as they are forced to itemize their deductions and deal with the shoebox full of receipts on top of the refrigerator.
     

In Washington, D.C., where Joe Biden spoke, households with the median income of $82,372 received an average tax cut of around $1,990, according to a recent Tax Foundation report.

As noted by the New York Times, thanks to the GOP tax cuts, “Most people got a tax cut.” The NYT also stated: “To a large degree, the gap between perception and reality on the tax cuts appears to flow from a sustained — and misleading — effort by liberal opponents of the law to brand it as a broad middle-class tax increase.”

The Washington Post also stated: “Most Americans received a tax cut.”

More examples of the benefits stemming from the tax cuts are shown in a recent H&R Block report, which states, “overall tax liability is down 24.9 percent on average.” In Biden’s home state of Delaware, the report found that residents received a 24.8% tax cut.

In D.C. - where he made the threat to repeal the TCJA - residents received an 18.0% tax cut.

Biden also lied to the American people when he ran for Vice President in 2008 when he repeatedly said he would not support any form of any tax that imposed even “one single penny” of tax increase on anyone making less than $250,000. Biden shattered that promise upon taking office.

See also:

Bernie Sanders claims people would be “delighted to pay more in taxes”

Biden: Tax Cuts Will be “Gone” If I’m Elected

Kamala Harris: I Will Repeal Tax Cuts “on day one”

Biden again says capital gains tax is “Much too Low”

Biden: Capital gains tax “much too low”

VIDEO: Five Times Biden has Threatened to Repeal Tax Cuts

Biden: “First thing I’d do is repeal those Trump tax cuts.”

Joe Biden broke his middle class tax pledge

“Mayor Pete” Calls for Steep Tax Hike on Homes and Businesses

Kamala Harris Vows Repeal of Tax Cuts “on Day One”

Biden: “When I’m President, if God willing I am, we’re going to reverse those Trump tax cuts.”


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