Alex Hendrie

HHS Unveils Proposal to Require Retrospective Review of Regulations

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Posted by Alex Hendrie on Friday, November 6th, 2020, 12:01 PM PERMALINK

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) this week unveiled a notice of proposed rulemaking that would enact unprecedented regulatory reform by requiring regulations to go through retrospective review. Under the proposed rule, entitled “Securing Updated and Necessary Statutory Evaluations Timely,” HHS would be required to review existing regulations every ten years under the Regulatory Flexibility Act (RFA).

As many as 85 percent of HHS regulations created before 1990 have not been edited or updated, so this deregulatory action is long overdue.

The new proposal will address this mass of outdated regulations by providing a pathway to update, modernize, and eliminate regulations and help promote a healthcare system that provides Americans with high quality, patient centered care.

The proposal would require the vast majority of regulations to undergo a two-step review process. Under this process, the agency would first be required to determine the economic impact of any rule. If it is determined that a regulation has a significant economic impact, the agency is required to perform a more detailed review, which must consider a number of factors including how complex the rule is, whether it is duplicative in any way, and whether there are any technological, economic, or legal considerations in amending or rescinding the rule.

A small minority of regulations will be exempt from this process including regulations that are jointly issued with other agencies, regulations that legally cannot be rescinded, and regulations issued with respect to a military or foreign affairs function or addressed solely to internal management or personnel matters.

Retrospective review of regulations is a bipartisan issue that has been supported by every Democrat and Republican president in the last four decades. For instance:

  • In 1978, President Carter signed Executive Order No. 12044, which directed agencies to “periodically review their existing regulations,” requiring agencies to consider, among other things, whether “technology, economic conditions or other factors have changed in the area affected by the regulation.”
     
  • In 1981, President Reagan signed Executive Order 12291, which ordered agencies to “review existing regulations” in view of cost-benefit principles and potential alternatives. Reagan also signed Executive Order 12498 in 1985, which ordered agencies to create an annual plan of review for existing regulations.
     
  • In 1992, President George H.W. Bush released the “Memorandum on Reducing the Burden of Government Regulation,” which instructed agencies to conduct a 90-day review “to evaluate existing regulations and programs and to identify and accelerate action on initiatives that will eliminate any unnecessary regulatory burden or otherwise promote economic growth.”
     
  • President Clinton signed Executive Order No. 12866, which called for review of existing regulations to determine whether they have become “unjustified or unnecessary as a result of changed circumstances,” and “to confirm that regulations are both compatible with each other and [are] not duplicative or inappropriately burdensome in the aggregate” and requiring agencies to submit a plan to the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for period reviews.
     
  • In 2001, President George W. Bush released a report to Congress that reviewed how to assess the costs and benefits of existing federal regulations, including their aggregate costs.
     
  • President Obama signed Executive Order No. 13563, which ordered agencies “to facilitate the periodic review of existing significant regulations . . . to promote retrospective analysis of rules that may be outmoded, ineffective, insufficient, or excessively burdensome, and to modify, streamline, expand, or repeal them in accordance with what has been learned.”

 

This latest regulatory reform builds on these past actions. In addition, it builds on the record HHS has amassed in enacting significant regulatory relief during the COVID-19 pandemic. For instance, the agency issued emergency authorization for new COVID-19 tests and allowed out-of-state doctors to treat patients through telehealth. In addition, the agency eased rules to increase ventilator production and allow hospitals and providers significant flexibility regarding workplace rules, scope of practice requirements, and off-site treatment.

More recently, the agency unveiled a proposal streamlining the approval process of laboratory developed tests (LDT). The proposal removed duplicative regulations that required the FDA to conduct premarket review of LDTs even though diagnostic laboratories are already subject to regulation by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services under the Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments of 1988. There was no statutory requirement for the FDA to exert oversight over LDTs – this requirement was created through unofficial guidance. This resulted in significant regulatory costs for laboratories -- the FDA review process took an average of 262 days and impaired the ability for diagnostic laboratories to respond to public health emergencies.

The new proposal from HHS to require retroactive review of regulations will help ensure that these rules are efficient, modern, and are not overly burdensome to the American people. It builds on the recent record of regulatory reform and past efforts by Democrat and Republican administrations. Moving forward this rule should be swiftly finalized and implemented in order to provide important regulatory relief to taxpayers and the healthcare system.

 

 

Photo Credit: American Life League


Treasury Department Should Stop Obstructing Property Rights

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Posted by Alex Hendrie on Friday, October 30th, 2020, 2:30 PM PERMALINK

For decades, tyrannical socialist leaders in Venezuela wreaked havoc on the country’s economy, raising taxes, and pursuing countless other job-killing policies that inflicted suffering on the Venezuelan people. 

In one example of the attempt to nationalize the economy, Venezuelan dictator Hugo Chavez seized a gold mine from a private company, Crystallex. Since that unlawful seizure, Crystallex has pursued legal action and was ultimately allowed to pursue a stake in oil company CITGO, Venezuela’s largest asset in the United States. While the legal process has been long, this summer, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected Venezuela’s latest attempt to get off the hook for the costs incurred by its former dictator.

Moving forward, this process should be allowed to proceed so that property rights and the rule of law are upheld. Any effort which results in the Treasury department interfering in this case by shielding Venezuela should be rejected.

The fact is, this is an important dispute that has major implications for the preservation of property rights around the world. Conservatives, including ATR have previously written to Secretary Mnuchin in opposition to Executive Action from the Trump Administration that would harm property rights owners. 

While the Administration ultimately did not issue an Executive Order, the Treasury Department – through an obscure office called the Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) - has refused to grant the necessary license needed by aggrieved property rights owners like Crystallex to move forward on reclaiming its due. 

This bureaucratic blockade has continued in the face on numerous unanimous court decisions in favor of Crystallex and has the same effect of denying justice that an Executive Order would. Other Administration agencies, including the State Department and Department of Justice have made the case that the United States’ overarching foreign policy goals in Venezuela justify Treasury’s continued inaction.

These arguments from the United States and Venezuelan government are wrong and must be rejected. The Trump Administration must realize that the promotion of democracy abroad and property rights are not mutually exclusive goals, and that a license blockade by the Treasury Department sends a clear signal to dictators around the world that their confiscation of property will go unpunished. 

Instead of continuing down this path, Secretary Mnuchin and the Treasury Department should end its use of OFAC to deny the pursuit of private property rights. 

See also: 

Photo Credit: Mattia Panciroli


New Report Finds Government Tax Prep Would Disproportionately Harm Low Income Americans

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Posted by Alex Hendrie on Friday, October 30th, 2020, 12:14 PM PERMALINK

Government run tax preparation, often misleadingly described by the Left as “return free filing,” would disproportionately harm low and moderate income families, according to a recent study by Progressive Policy Institute.

As this report notes, the IRS does not have the information it needs to prepare tax returns for American families. This could deprive low-income Americans from important tax credits like the child tax credit and earned income tax credit (EITC). As the report notes, correctly filing would require the IRS to have a “deep knowledge” of the personal lives of a family:

“The IRS does not have the necessary information in its databases to accurately determine a low-income taxpayer’s eligibility for EITC and/or correctly calculate the amount of credit due to the taxpayer—indeed, far from it. The EITC is based on a stew of residency, family relationship, and income limits, with complex tie breaker rules. And like a giant puzzle, it requires deep knowledge of the personal lives of people living in the same household or family unit, with who else, for how long, and what their relationships and incomes are, just for a start.”

Far-left politicians such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Senators Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren, (D-Mass.) routinely call for the government to take over tax preparation. This would a terrible idea. While supporters of government tax preparation routinely describe it as a way to streamline tax compliance, it is not as simple as they claim. As the PPI report notes, families that claim the EITC have complex tax returns, which the government would have no way of properly administering: 

 “Oddly enough, low- and moderate-income taxpayer returns that claim the EITC have been repeatedly described as “simple” returns by advocates of having the IRS take over tax preparation. But a study by the Tax Policy Center highlights the sheer complexity of low-income tax returns, noting that ‘…eligibility for child benefits has increasingly relied on the concept of a tax unit, which has not evolved with families…. The income tax law is based on annual filing and bases the definition of a filing unit primarily on legal relationships, child residency, and support. Consequently, families that change throughout the year may have difficulty correctly determining their filing status and who can properly claim a child for the purpose of receiving child-related benefits.’”

Government tax preparation is a terrible idea and would represent a huge conflict of interest for the government. Under this system, the IRS would assess taxes owed and process payments. This could create an incentive to overcharge or withhold information from taxpayers. It would require taxpayers to have an intricate understanding of their personal finances to ensure they are not being overcharged. It would empower the IRS to collect even more personal information and could even create a new pathway for the agency to target taxpayers.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, government tax preparation is unpopular. According to polling data by the Computer & Communications Industry Association, 60 percent of taxpayers oppose government tax preparation including 45 percent that “strongly oppose.” Just 8 percent of taxpayers strongly support government tax preparation.

Not only would government tax preparation harm low-income families, but there is already a solution to tax complexity. The Free File program – a public private partnership between the IRS and tax preparation companies – provides taxpayers with adjusted gross income of below $69,000 with access to free federal tax preparation software. Since its inception, this program has been used by more than 56 million families as a way to successfully navigate tax complexity. 

Moving forward, policymakers should focus on improving Free File, rather than pushing for a government takeover of tax preparation. While the left claims that return free filing would be a simple way for the government to file and prepare tax returns for the American people, the reality is that this would be a near impossible task and would harm low and moderate income Americans.

Photo Credit: S.E.B.


Trump Economy Continues To Strongly Recover From COVID-19 With Fastest GDP Growth Ever

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Posted by Alex Hendrie on Thursday, October 29th, 2020, 10:26 AM PERMALINK

The US economy grew by 7.4 percent in the third quarter of 2020, or 33.1 percent on an annualized basis. This is the fastest pace of GDP growth ever recorded and is another sign that the economy is recovering strongly from the Coronavirus pandemic. 

This GDP growth was nearly double the previous record quarterly growth of 16.7 percent which was recorded in the first quarter of 1950.

Private domestic investment increased by 83 percent on an annualized basis in the third quarter of 2020, while personal consumption increased by 40.7 percent.

This is just the latest sign of good economic news. 11 million jobs have been recovered in the past five months after businesses were forcefully shuttered, meaning we have recovered more than half of the jobs lost. The unemployment rate is down to 7.9 percent, a comparable level to the 7.8 percent rate in 2012 under Obama.

Moving forward, we need to continue promoting pro-growth policies to ensure the economy fully recovers.

Prior to the pandemic, the unemployment rate was 3.5 percent, a 50-year low. In 2019, real median household income increased by $4,400  or nearly 7 percent. This wage growth exceeded gains during the entire Obama administration, which was just $3,000 or 5 percent.

This economic prosperity was experienced by key demographics and income levels. For instance, African Americans and Hispanic Americans saw their median income hit record levels, while the poverty rate declined to 10.5 percent, the lowest rate in decades. The bottom 25 percent of wage earners also experienced wage growth faster than the top 25 percent of wage earners, according to the Atlanta Fed.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


Lawmakers Introduce Legislation to Increase Retirement Security by Strengthening 401(k)s and IRAs

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Posted by Alex Hendrie on Tuesday, October 27th, 2020, 4:49 PM PERMALINK

Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richie Neal (D-Mass.) and Republican Leader Kevin Brady (R-Texas) today released the “Securing a Strong Retirement Act of 2020,” legislation that contains numerous provisions that expand defined contribution plans like 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts (IRAs). 

The legislation contains several tax cuts for families and businesses in order to increase the utility of 401(k)s and IRAs. The bill gives Americans increased flexibility over required minimum distributions so that they can continue saving for longer. The proposal also contains several other commonsense provisions to incentivize increased retirement savings such as allowing businesses to provide matching contributions to a retirement account when a worker makes student loan payments.

Members of Congress should support and co-sponsor this legislation.

The legislation expands the saver’s credit making it available to millions of American families. Currently, the credit is available in three different income thresholds:

  • Single filers with AGI of $19,500 or less and joint filers with $39,000 of AGI or less can claim a credit of 50 percent on 401(k)/IRA contributions of up to $2,000. 
  • Single filers with AGI of less than $21,500 and joint filers with AGI of less than $43,000 can claim a 20 percent credit. 
  • Single filers with AGI of less than $32,500 and joint filers with AGI of less than $65,000 can claim a 10 percent credit.

While this credit incentivizes some Americans to save for retirement, the low threshold levels mean that many Americans cannot utilize the saver’s credit. The Securing a Strong Retirement Act addresses this by expanding the credit. 

Under the legislation, the 50 percent credit is available to single filers with less than $40,000 in AGI and joint filers with less than $80,000 in AGI and can be claimed for 401(k)/IRA contributions of up to $3,000. This credit begins phasing down through $60,000 of AGI for single filers and $100,000 for joint filers. This will dramatically increase utilization of the credit and provide another incentive for Americans across the country to save for retirement.

The proposal also increases incentives for small businesses to offer retirement plans. Specifically, the start up credit, which is currently available to businesses with 100 employees or less, is increased from 50 percent of startup costs to 100 percent of costs. Employers with 50 workers or less are eligible for a credit for employer contributions of up to $1,000 per employee. This credit is also available for businesses with between 51 and 100 employees but phases out by 2 percent for every employee above 50. 

The legislation contains several provisions granting savers more flexibility to avoid making required minimum distributions (RMDs). Currently, Americans must begin taking RMDs from their 401(k)s and IRAs beginning at aged 72. RMDs are typically calculated based on a fraction of the total account balance and the individual’s life expectancy.

The legislation increases the RMD age to 75, so that Americans can keep their savings in retirement plans for longer. Individuals with account balances of $100,000 or less would be exempt from RMDs. In addition, the bill makes it easier for annuity payments to count toward the RMD amount and reduces the excise tax for failing to tax RMDs from 50 to percent to 25 percent or 10 percent.

The legislation also contains a number of other provisions designed to increase retirement savings. For instance, the bill would allow employers to make matching contributions to a retirement account when an employee makes student loan payments. This will serve as another way that businesses can help their employees save more for retirement.

In addition, the legislation allows employers to offer their workers small financial incentives to join and contribute to a retirement plan. Lastly, the proposal indexes the $1,000 IRA catch-up contribution to inflation and creates an additional catch-up contribution for employer sponsored plans for Americans aged 60 and above of $10,000 so that those approaching retirement can save more.

The Securing a Strong Retirement Act of 2020 contains a number of important provisions that increase the flexibility and utility of 401(k)s and IRAs including several tax cuts for American families and businesses in order to encourage retirement savings. Members of Congress should support this important legislation.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


ATR Supports The “Protecting Retirement Savers and Everyday Investors Act”

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Posted by Alex Hendrie on Tuesday, October 27th, 2020, 9:00 AM PERMALINK

ATR President Grover Norquist today released a letter in support of the “Protecting Retirement Savers and Everyday Investors Act,” legislation that prohibits states from imposing financial transactions taxes (FTT) on American savers and investors across the country.

All members of Congress should support and co-sponsor this legislation. 

You can read the full letter here or below:

Dear Representatives McHenry and Huizenga:  

I write in support of the “Protecting Retirement Savers and Everyday Investors Act,” legislation that prohibits states from imposing financial transactions taxes (FTT) on American savers and investors across the country. All members of Congress should support and co-sponsor this legislation.

New Jersey Democrats are pushing an FTT on transactions processed by national exchanges at data center operations in the state. This would impose a tax of between 0.10 and 0.25 cents on trades of stocks, options, and futures. 

If implemented, this tax would result in significant harm to investors in the state. According to a study by Modern Markets Initiative, the New Jersey FTT could cost the state pension fund between $2.2 billion and $8 billion over the long-term. It could also cost NJ residents with a 529 college savings plan between $200 million and $560 million and NJ investors and 401(k) plan holders between $200 million and $8 billion. 

Because the tax would be imposed on transactions processed by the exchanges in the state, it would harm investors across the country, not just those in New Jersey. Your legislation would protect against this by prohibiting a financial transactions tax on taxpayers outside a state’s borders. 

FTTs represent another attempt by the left to create new and higher taxes on the American people and grow the size and scope of government. If implemented, this tax would have broad, negative economic effects. It would impose an additional layer of taxation on top of corporate income taxes, capital gains taxes, and individual income taxes. This would impose a barrier to trades, which could increase the cost of capital and reduce economic productivity.

An FTT would especially impact 401(k)s, pensions, and index funds. These funds make frequent trades, so the tax would increase the costs of buying and selling, resulting in lower returns. This tax could even increase market volatility as investors would be less likely to buy and sell. It also punishes shareholders who have strategically invested, saved and planned for a prosperous future.

FTTs fail to raise significant revenue because they reduce trades and increase the cost of capital. In fact, an analysis by the Congressional Budget Office found that imposing a FTT would “decrease the volume of transactions and would make some types of trading activity” and “probably reduce output and employment.” 

This is not hypothetical. FTTs have failed when they have been tried overseas. For instance, in 1984, Sweden imposed a financial transaction tax. However, this tax lasted just six years due to investors fleeing to foreign markets. This is not an isolated occurrence- when Italy and France imposed FTTs in 2012, both countries raised less than a quarter of expected revenues.

The effort by blue states to impose FTTs should be rejected. These taxes have failed where they have been tried before, would harm economic growth and investment, and would fail to raise any significant revenue. 

The Protecting Retirement Savers and Everyday Investors Act would protect Americans from FTTs by ensuring that states could not impose them on taxpayers across state lines. All members of Congress should co-sponsor and support this important, pro-taxpayer legislation.  

Onward,

Grover Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

Photo Credit: Reizigerin - Flickr


ATR Releases New Video Against Foreign Price Controls on Medicare

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Posted by Alex Hendrie on Wednesday, October 21st, 2020, 11:57 AM PERMALINK

ATR has released a new video highlighting free market opposition to efforts to impose price controls on medical innovation and seniors in Medicare.

The video, narrated by ATR President Grover Norquist, highlights the coalition of 80 conservative, free market, libertarian groups, and activists that oppose the “most favored nation (MFN)" executive order to tie the prices we pay for medicines to foreign, socialist healthcare systems. 

Foreign countries have been free riding off American medical innovation for decades through crushing price controls and other market-distorting government rules and regulations.

If we adopt these same price controls, we will do significant harm to the healthcare system. Studies have shown that countries with price controls have access to fewer innovative cures leading to healthcare shortages.

For instance, 290 new medical substances were launched worldwide between 2011 and 2018. While Americans had access to over 90 percent of these medicines, countries with price controls had limited access – the United Kingdom had access to only 60 percent of these medicines, Japan had 50 percent, and Canada had just 44 percent.

Implementing price controls through an MFN will also threaten the ability of our country to continue recovering from COVID-19. The U.S. is the best in the world when it comes to developing innovative, lifesaving, and life preserving medicines. Because of this, the U.S. is leading the way when it comes to developing COVID-19 vaccines, with several promising candidates entering the final stages of testing and clinical trials. 

In addition, price controls could harm the U.S. economy. Medical innovation directly or indirectly supports 4 million jobs and $1.1 trillion in total economic impact, including jobs in every state. These jobs will be threatened by price control schemes like the MFN. 

Rather than imposing price controls, lawmakers and President Trump should adopt a deregulatory, market-based approach that allows free market innovation to flourish. Moving forward, we should look to policy proposals that promote medical innovation and the development of new cures and reject efforts to impose price controls on the American healthcare system. 

The full video can be found here: 
 

Photo Credit: Wellness GM


The Tax Code is Already Steeply Progressive

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Posted by Alex Hendrie on Wednesday, October 14th, 2020, 1:36 PM PERMALINK

Democrat presidential candidate Joe Biden says he wants to make sure “the rich” pay their “fair share.” However, Biden fails to mention that the tax code is already steeply progressive.

According to recently released Congressional Budget Office data analyzing 2017 household income: 

  • The top one percent of households pay 38.6 percent of federal income taxes and 25.3 percent of all federal taxes.
     
  • The top 20 percent of households pay 87.1 percent of federal income taxes and 69.2 percent of all federal taxes.
     
  • The top one percent of households pay an average income tax rate of 24.4 percent while the middle 20 percent of households pays an average income tax rate of 3.3 percent.
     
  • The top one percent of households pay an average federal tax rate of 31.6 percent while the middle 20 percent of households pays an average federal tax rate of 14 percent.  
     
  • The top 20 percent of households pay an average federal tax rate of 26.1 percent while the middle quintile pays an average total tax rate of 14 percent. 
     

The data is shown below: 

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


Voters Support Allowing All Americans to Pay for Healthcare Tax Free by Four to One Margin

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Posted by Alex Hendrie on Friday, October 9th, 2020, 3:06 PM PERMALINK

Two-thirds of the American people support expanding Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) so that all Americans can pay for their health care tax-free during the duration of the coronavirus pandemic, according to polling conducted by John McLaughlin.

McLaughlin worked as an advisor and pollster for President Donald Trump during the 2016 election campaign.

The polling data found Americans support expanding HSAs during the pandemic by a ratio of four to one – with 67 percent of respondents supporting the policy and just 15 percent opposing.

70.5 percent of Democrats and 64.7 percent of Republicans backed the policy. Importantly, the strongest support was among women, swing voters, and independents.

This policy could be accomplished by passing S.3546/H.R. 6338, the “Pandemic Healthcare Access Act,” introduced by Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Congressman Ted Bud (R-NC). This simple, one-page bill will cut taxes and enact healthcare reform.

Currently, there is a government requirement that HSAs can only be offered to Americans that have a high deductible health plan (HDHP). The Pandemic Healthcare Access Act suspends this requirement for as long as the coronavirus emergency declaration is in effect.

This will increase access to health care by making HSAs available to hundreds of millions of Americans- including those on Medicare and Medicaid, and those that receive care through the VA, Indian health plans, ObamaCare and any employer plan.

It will also help individuals pay for their deductible or any increased health care costs, allow HSA funds to pay for direct primary care, and allow telemedicine below the deductible.

The full polling data can be seen below (click here to expand image): 

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Photo Credit: 401(K) 2012


New Report: IRS Continues to Use 50 Year Old Obsolete Technology

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Posted by Alex Hendrie on Monday, October 5th, 2020, 4:18 PM PERMALINK

Federal government agencies are using technologies that have been obsolete for decades, creating numerous obstacles in their ability to provide basic services, notes a recent report by the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI).

This outdated IT has been exacerbated by the Coronavirus pandemic and points to a need for the government to engage in public-private partnerships to resolve this problem.

As the report notes, several agencies, including the IRS, continue to use technology that was developed almost 50 years ago and was considered obsolete decades ago.

For instance, the agency is using COBOL, a programing language first developed in the 1960s, to administer key programs. COBOL was designed for use with mainframe computers and has been replaced by cloud computing services offered by companies like Amazon and Microsoft.

The government continues to use COBOL even though they are struggling to find employees that have expertise with the technology. This shortage of expertise not be surprising – according to the PPI report, COBOL is 43rd most popular programming language and the average age of a COBOL programmer is 55-years-old.

As the report notes, the continued used of COBOL meant that many Americans struggled to receive COVID-19 stimulus payments:

“Many Americans encountered error messages (‘Payment Status Not Available’) when they tried to find out why they hadn’t received their stimulus check yet. The solution? Using only uppercase letters in the form (and if that didn’t solve the issue, people were advised to try abbreviating words like ‘Street’ and ‘Avenue’).”

To be clear, this is only one case of outdated technology. As the report notes, the IRS has a “profoundly outdated and inaccurate taxpayer database.” Several parts of the IRS IT infrastructure date back to the Kennedy administration.

One way the government can improve its IT is through public-private partnerships that take advantage of private sector innovation. As the report notes:

“Governments should start with pilot projects and partner with the private sector where possible. Likewise, modern public-private partnership strategies would enable government to leverage private sector investments and infrastructure to apply them to public purpose.” 

The IT used by federal government is in dire need of modernization and points to clear limitations of the IRS and other agencies. In addition, this dangerously outdated technology points to a need to engage with the private sector.

Photo Credit: 401(K) 2012


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