Tom Hebert

Elizabeth Warren's New Tax Would Crush Millions of Americans and Small Businesses

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Thursday, September 12th, 2019, 4:43 PM PERMALINK

Massachusetts liberal and 2020 Democrat presidential hopeful Elizabeth Warren today released yet another proposal that would raise taxes on millions of Americans and businesses. This proposal would disproportionately impact small businesses that operate on tight margins, and the plan’s multiple tax hikes will eventually hit every American. 

Warren’s plan, entitled “Expanding Social Security,” imposes a new 14.8 percent payroll, or “FICA,” tax on individuals making more than $250,000 a year. The Warren tax is evenly split between employers and employees at 7.4 percent each. This new tax is levied on top of the current 12.4 percent FICA tax, which is split evenly between employees and employers at 6.2 percent each. 

The plan also imposes a new 14.8 percent tax on investment income for individuals making over $250,000 a year and families making more than $400,000 a year. This new tax is modeled after Obamacare’s disastrous National Investment Income Tax (NIIT), a 3.8 percent surtax on investment income that ended up targeting retirees and the disabled.

The Warren plan levies these new taxes to fund an unsustainable benefit increase. Under her proposal, beneficiaries will receive an extra $200 a month or $2,400 a year. This benefit increase applies to all current and future beneficiaries. 

The Warren plan is nonsensical on its face. Instead of working sensibly to reform Social Security by raising the retirement age or means testing benefits, Warren doubles down on the existing failed structure.

As it stands right now, the Social Security Trust Fund is heading towards complete collapse. A recent report from the nonpartisan Social Security Trustees forecasts that the fund will be totally depleted by 2035. This insolvency will automatically trigger 20 percent across-the-board benefit cuts for retirees. As of 2018, Social Security provides income to approximately 67 million Americans

While Warren claims that her plan targets the rich to “fix” Social Security, her misguided tax hikes would eventually ensnare every taxpayer. As mentioned before, the annual salary cap for FICA increases year over year. Eventually, the 12.4 percent payroll tax cap will reach $250,000. This will lead to Americans making between $0 and $250,000 in wages paying a 6.2 percent tax every dollar they earn, and Americans making more than $250,000 paying an additional 7.4 percent tax on every dollar they earn in perpetuity. This assumes that Warren does not immediately raise the wage cap to $250,000 (she is unclear about this in her proposal) or does not raise the FICA payroll tax. 

This plan is simply one amongst many tax hikes that Warren has proposed. Since launching her campaign, Warren has proposed a wealth tax, a gun tax, a $1 trillion business tax hike, a carbon tax, and full repeal of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. Warren has also endorsed socialist Senator Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) Medicare for All proposal and far-left Rep. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez’s (D-N.Y.) Green New Deal, plans that would raise taxes on millions of Americans. 

The Warren plan for Social Security is simply another tax hike on American individuals and businesses alike. While Warren frames her proposal as raising taxes on the wealthy, the reality is that it would eventually ensnare all Americans and small businesses in a massive tax hike trap. 

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


Trump Economy Adds 130,000 Jobs in August

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Friday, September 6th, 2019, 10:55 AM PERMALINK

Despite the liberal media’s predictions, two new reports show that President Trump’s economy is still as strong. The U.S. economy added 130,000 jobs in August, defying Democrats who said that tax cuts and deregulation were no longer working. The economy has added over 6 million jobs since President Trump took office. 

This morning’s Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows that the unemployment rate remained steady at 3.7 percent. In 30 of the 33 months since President Trump took office, job gains have surpassed 100,000. The unemployment rate for African Americans hit a record low at 5.5 percent, and the Hispanic unemployment rate matched previous record lows at 4.2 percent. 

Labor force participation increased to 63.2 percent in August, a stark contrast to the 40-year lows that metric hit under the Obama Administration. 

The civilian labor force increased by 571,000 according to the BLS household data, the largest such gain since October 2018 and the fourth consecutive month of labor force growth. 

Wages are also continuing to grow. Over the past year, average hourly earnings have increased by 3.2 percent. Nominal average hourly wage gains have not reached 3 percent since April 2009. 

The healthcare industry added 24,000 jobs in August, and added 392,000 over the past year. Professional and business services added 37,000 jobs in August, and financial activities employment rose by 15,000. 

This positive economic news echoes a report released Thursday from the ADP Research Institute which shows that business payrolls increased by 195,000 in August. The report also shows that small businesses added 66,000 jobs in August, a four-month high, while mid-sized companies added 77,000 jobs and large corporations added 52,000 jobs. 

These strong jobs reports and the positive underlying economic indicators show that the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is continuing to work for American workers. 

Businesses have responded to the tax cuts by giving employees higher wages and creating new employee benefit programs, while utility companies are passing tax savings onto consumers in the form of lower rates.

Families are also seeing direct tax reduction – a family of four with annual income of $73,000 (median family income) will see a tax cut of more than $2,058, a 58 percent reduction in federal taxes. In net, households are paying an average of 24.9 percent in lower taxes according to a report released by H&R Block based on their clients’ tax returns. 

Tax cuts and deregulation championed by the Trump Administration is continuing to deliver a prosperous economy for all Americans. 

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


Ending the Inflation Tax on Capital Gains Will Help Millions of Middle Class Households

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Saturday, August 31st, 2019, 11:00 AM PERMALINK

Indexing capital gains taxes to inflation would benefit millions of middle income households. 

ATR looked at Internal Revenue Service data from 2016 (the most recent available data) to determine what percentage of middle class households had a capital gains filing:

24,139,920 households had a capital gains filing.

56% (13,487,170) of capital gains households made less than $100,000.

82% (19,695,490) of capital gains households made less than $200,000.

In Pennsylvania, more than one million households had a capital gains filing in 2016. 60 percent of these households made less than $100,000, and 84 percent of households made less than $200,000. 

These results are just from one year. Imagine how many middle income households would be helped over the course of a decade by ending the inflation tax.

The breakdown for all 50 states is below. 

Alabama
226,500 households had a capital gains filing.
132,140 (58%) made less than $100k
191,350 (85%) made less than $200k

Alaska
50,380 households had a capital gains filing. 
26,830 (53%) made less than $100k
42,000 (83%) made less than $200k

Arizona
468,470 households had a capital gains filing. 
280,680 (60%) made less than $100k
398,060 (85%) made less than $200k

Arkansas
149,030 households had a capital gains filing. 
93,700 (63%) made less than $100k
128,600 (86%) made less than $200k

California
3,036,260 households had a capital gains filing.
1,489,030 (49%) made less than $100k
2,297,060 (76%) made less than $200k

Colorado
528,160 households had a capital gains filing.
287,880 (55%) made less than $100k
431,940 (82%) made less than $200k

Connecticut
370,530 households had a capital gains filing. 
185,720 (50%) made less than $100k
283,540 (77%) made less than $200k

Delaware
74,220 households had a capital gains filing. 
41,910 (57%) made less than $100k
62,780 (85%) made less than $200k

Florida
1,481,850 households had a capital gains filing.
896,240 (61%) made less than $100k
1,240,750 (84%) made less than $200k

Georgia
565,790 households had a capital gains filing. 
299,930 (53%) made less than $100k
452,150 (80%) made less than $200k

Hawaii 
Note: 2015 data presented. 2016 data unavailable. 
115,420 households had a capital gains filing.
69,370 made less than $100k
100,680 made less than $200k

Idaho
121,910 households had a capital gains filing.
80,600 (66%) made less than $100k
108,130 (89%) made less than $200k

Illinois
1,080,400 households had a capital gains filing. 
589,230 (55%) made less than $100k
877,810 (81%) made less than $200k

Indiana
426,670 households had a capital gains filing. 
270,410 (63%) made less than $100k
371,080 (87%) made less than $200k

Iowa
266,630 households had a capital gains filing.
170,630 (64%) made less than $100k
236,240 (89%) made less than $200k

Kansas
236,020 households had a capital gains filing.
146,750 (62%) made less than $100k
204,140 (87%) made less than $200k

Kentucky
231,590 households had a capital gains filing.
145,380 (63%) made less than $100k
200,410 (87%) made less than $200k

Louisiana
238,420 households had a capital gains filing. 
138,840 (58%) made less than $100k
198,750 (83%) made less than $200k

Maine
103,550 households had a capital gains filing. 
68,010 (66%) made less than $100k
91,300 (88%) made less than $200k

Maryland
485,940 households had a capital gains filing. 
228,570 (47%) made less than $100k
378,940 (78%) made less than $200k

Massachusetts
682,790 households had a capital gains filing.
329,540 (48%) made less than $100k
515,440 (75%) made less than $200k

Michigan
757,870 households had a capital gains filing.
473,780 (63%) made less than $100k
654,980 (86%) made less than $200k

Minnesota
534,310 households had a capital gains filing.
278,180 (52%) made less than $100k
418,190 (78%) made less than $200k

Mississippi
111,550 households had a capital gains filing
68,480 (61%) made less than $100k
96,130 (86%) made less than $200k

Missouri
453,470 households had a capital gains filing.
288,740 (64%) made less than $100k
394,870 (87%) made less than $200k

Montana
99,880 households had a capital gains filing.
69,030 (69%) made less than $100k
89,680 (90%) made less than $200k

Nebraska
172,900 households had a capital gains filing. 
110,470 (64%) made less than $100k
152,840 (88%) made less than $200k

Nevada
176,340 households had a capital gains filing. 
106,420 (60%) made less than $100k
148,570 (84%) made less than $200k

New Hampshire
130,390 households had a capital gains filing.
71,210 (55%) made less than $100k
107,560 (83%) made less than $200k

New Jersey
889,750 households had a capital gains filing. 
436,310 (49%) made less than $100k
678,400 (76%) made less than $200k

New Mexico
114,520 households had a capital gains filing. 
71,420 (62%) made less than $100k
100,160 (88%) made less than $200k

New York
1,667,340 households had a capital gains filing.
907,220 (54%) made less than $100k
1,321,100 (79%) made less than $200k

North Carolina
670,350 households had a capital gains filing.
383,900 (57%) made less than $100k
557,750 (83%) made less than $200k

North Dakota
66,670 households had a capital gains filing
40,660 (61%) made less than $100k
57,970 (87%) made less than $200k

Ohio
832,260 households had a capital gains filing.
522,480 (63%) made less than $100k
718,890 (86%) made less than $200k

Oklahoma
204,400 households had a capital gains filing.
125,070 (61%) made less than $100k
174,380 (85%) made less than $200k

Oregon
356,920 households had a capital gains filing. 
211,730 (59%) made less than $100k
303,800 (85%) made less than $200k

Pennsylvania
1,082,680 households had a capital gains filing.
647,490 (60%) made less than $100k
911,900 (84%) made less than $200k

Rhode Island
81,930 households had a capital gains filing. 
46,140 (56%) made less than $100k
68,630 (84%) made less than $200k

South Carolina
303,650 households had a capital gains filing. 
180,170 (59%) made less than $100k
258,450 (85%) made less than $200k

South Dakota
81,840 households had a capital gains filing. 
53,760 (66%) made less than $100k
72,290 (88%) made less than $200k

Tennessee
361,910 households had a capital gains filing.
213,120 (59%) made less than $100k
301,140 (83%) made less than $200k 

Texas
1,510,740 households had a capital gains filing.
765,970 (51%) made less than $100k
1,179,050 (78%) made less than $200k

Utah
181,300 households had a capital gains filing. 
103,490 (57%) made less than $100k
152,350 (84%) made less than $200k

Vermont
63,770 households had a capital gains filing.
41,650 (65%) made less than $100k
56,380 (88%) made less than $200k

Virginia
700,430 households had a capital gains filing. 
334,720 (48%) made less than $100k
550,050 (79%) made less than $200k

Washington
675,760 households had a capital gains filing.
347,390 (52%) made less than $100k
538,630 (80%) made less than $200k

West Virginia
79,490 households had a capital gains filing. 
52,840 (67%) made less than $100k
70,800 (89%) made less than $200k

Wisconsin
541,240 households had a capital gains filing.
353,220 (65%) made less than $100k
479,990 (89%) made less than $200k

Wyoming
49,480 households had a capital gains filing. 
31,010 (63%) made less than $100k
43,280 (87%) made less than $200k

Photo Credit: SalFalko


ATR Supports the Government Bailout Prevention Act

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Thursday, August 8th, 2019, 2:30 PM PERMALINK

Senators Todd Young (R-Ind.), Pat Toomey (R-Penn.), and Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) have introduced S. 2120, the “Government Bailout Prevention Act,” legislation that takes federal taxpayers off the hook for the fiscal mismanagement of state and local governments. Americans for Tax Reform supports this legislation and urges its passage. 

S. 2120 prevents federal dollars from going towards bailouts of state and local governments that declare bankruptcy. This bill prohibits any arm of the government, including the U.S. Treasury and the Federal Reserve, from guaranteeing state and local government obligations. This bill does not impact federal assistance in the event of a natural disaster. 

Runaway state spending is a serious, bipartisan problem. In Fiscal Year 2017, forty states did not have enough money to pay all of their bills. According to the nonpartisan fiscal watchdog Truth in Accounting, the total unfunded debt among the 50 states is more than $1.5 trillion. State taxpayers will bear the burden of government largesse for generations to come. 

The federal government certainly doesn’t have the money to bail out insolvent state governments. The national debt is $22 trillion and counting. By 2027, interest payments on the debt will eclipse military spending. By 2048, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office projects that federal spending will consume 30 percent of GDP, exceeding projected federal revenues by 10 percent. 

D.C. lawmakers have shown no appetite to curb spending, as they have routinely disregarded spending caps and refuse to take up entitlement reform. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid comprise well over half of federal spending. Starting next year, the Social Security Administration will start paying out more in benefits than it takes in, and the program will be completely bankrupt by 2034. Medicare will be out of money in 2026. 

The Government Bailout Prevention Act prevents Washington politicians from using money they doesn’t have to pay off debt that state governments shouldn’t have accumulated. The bill is an important first step towards bringing fiscal responsibility back to the states. Congress should pass S. 2120 and President Trump should sign it into law.

Photo Credit: Ken Teegarden - Flickr


Sens. Cassidy and Sinema Release Paid Family Leave Plan That Won't Raise Taxes

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Tuesday, August 6th, 2019, 1:05 PM PERMALINK

Senators Bill Cassidy (R-La.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have released a proposal that builds upon the success of the child tax credit (CTC) to help working families all across the United States.

The Cassidy-Sinema proposal gives parents the option of advancing up to $5,000 from the CTC in the event of a birth or adoption of a child. This would allow parents to finance child care, time off from work, or other expenses incurred at the beginning of a child’s life. 

Notably, the Cassidy-Sinema proposal does not raise taxes, endanger Social Security, or put costly mandates on employers to fund the new benefit. Instead, parents that claim the advanced credit receive an adjusted CTC of $1,500 over the next ten years. The $5,000 advance is completely optional, as parents can forgo the benefit if they already receive paid leave from their state or employer. 

This plan builds off the success of the CTC, which is broadly popular amongst middle and low-income families. According to the most recent IRS data available, over 23 million families per year claim the CTC. The most recent reforms to the CTC were in the Republican-passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which doubled the credit from $1,000 to $2,000 and raised the phase-out threshold to $200,000 for single filers and $400,000 for joint filers. The law also made the CTC refundable up to $1,400, meaning that if the credit brings an individual’s tax liability below zero, the IRS will cut a check for $1,400. 

Other plans for paid family leave do not strike the delicate balance of the Cassidy-Sinema proposal. The Family And Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act, sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), would impose a 0.4 percent payroll tax on employers and employees that would only cover 15 percent of the bill's $226.8 billion cost. Analysis from the American Action Forum shows that a new payroll tax as high as 2.9 percent would have to be implemented to fully fund the plan’s new benefits. The Gillibrand-DeLauro tax hikes would be especially devastating for small businesses that would be forced to cut staff or wages to comply with the new mandate. 

The Cassidy-Sinema plan is a truly bipartisan proposal that builds on the success of an existing program without raising taxes, endangering entitlements, or imposing costly mandates on employers. The plan works within the existing framework to give families an important financial boost during one of the most costly periods of a child’s life.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


Bill de Blasio Calls for $10 Trillion Tax Increase

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Monday, August 5th, 2019, 3:08 PM PERMALINK

New York City Mayor and Democrat presidential candidate Bill de Blasio has released his “Fair Share Tax Plan.” If implemented, de Blasio’s plan would raise taxes on millions of Americans and devastate the U.S. economy. 

Based on estimates provided by the de Blasio campaign, this plan would increase taxes by over $10 trillion over the next decade.

However, it would only cover a portion of the cost of new spending that de Blasio supports.

For instance, the Green New Deal would cost $93 trillion to implement, a tenth of the cost of the revenue raised from the de Blasio’s tax plan.

This tax hike plan would barely dent the $40 trillion price tag to implement the Medicare for All socialized healthcare plan that de Blasio supports.

While de Blasio might pay lip service to the idea of making the rich “pay their fair share,” this plan shows that there is no way to fully pay for far-left spending priorities without hiking taxes on the middle class. 

Dismantling the Trump Tax Cuts 

De Blasio plans to dismantle most of President Trump’s signature legislative achievement, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA). De Blasio would:

  • Raise the current top marginal tax bracket from 37 percent to 60 percent. This would create a total top tax rate of approximately 73 percent for de Blasio’s New York constituents. 
  • Treat capital gains as ordinary income, stifling investment and throttling economic productivity. This capital gains tax hike would make the top capital gains rate  in de Blasio’s NYC 76.5 percent:
    • De Blasio top capital gains tax rate: 60 percent
    • NY/NYC combined top capital gains rate: 12.7 percent
    • Obamacare capital gains tax: 3.8 percent
    • TOTAL: 76.5 percent
  • Subject derivatives to mark to market treatment, which would force a balance sheet to value an asset at its current market price instead of at book value. 
  • Expanding the Alternative Minimum Tax. The TCJA raised the exemption threshold for the AMT to $1 million for families and $500,000 for individuals, which still affects approximately 200,000 families and individuals a year. De Blasio would lower the threshold back to pre-TCJA levels, which would cause approximately 5 million families to resume paying the tax. 
  • Repeal the 20 percent passthrough income deduction mainly used by small businesses. 
     

Taxing American Businesses 

De Blasio would impose a number of tax increases on American businesses, which would harm investment, job creation and the expansion of the economy due to the Trump tax cuts.

De Blasio proposes raising the corporate rate to the pre-TCJA rate of 35 percent, which would give the U.S. an effective 41 percent corporate tax when combined with the average state corporate tax rate of 6 percent. 

The de Blasio corporate tax increase would give the U.S. a much higher rate than the United Kingdom (19 percent), China (25 percent), Canada (26.8 percent), and Ireland (12.5 percent). It would impose a tax rate higher than the current combined corporate rate across the 36 member Organisation for Economic Development and Cooperation (OECD), which is currently 23.7 percent. An increase in the corporate tax rate would directly raise the cost of utility bills in all 50 states.

The de Blasio plan would also: 

  • Restore a “Corporate Alternative Minimum Tax” that would prevent businesses from using lawful deductions and credits upheld by bipartisan majorities in Congress
  • Subject U.S. businesses to double taxation on income earned at home and abroad. Most countries have a territorial tax system, which would put the U.S. at a competitive disadvantage on the world stage. 
  • Impose a 0.2 percent financial transactions tax on stock, bond, and derivative trades. As ATR has written, this type of tax would harm economic growth and fail to raise any significant revenue. 
  • Impose a 0.15 percent tax on banks 

 

Massive New Wealth Tax

De Blasio openly claims that he has the “most aggressive tax on extreme wealth of any candidate in the race.” His proposal: 

  • Imposes a 1 percent tax on households with wealth between $10 million and $25 million
  • Imposes a 2 percent tax on households with wealth between $25 million and $100 million
  • Imposes a 3 percent tax on households with wealth $100 million and above
     

De Blasio would also empower IRS agents to keep a list of all household assets.

This tax would subject Americans to unfair double taxation as Americans already pay taxes on income and capital gains, not to mention the 40 percent death tax on estates.

Contrary to de Blasio’s claim, a wealth tax would also fail to generate any significant revenue. A recent study shows that a wealth tax levied on assets above $11 million would only generate $146 billion in revenue, well short of what de Blasio would need to raise $3 trillion over a decade. 

A wealth tax has also failed everywhere it has been tried. In France, a wealth tax imposed on assets over 1.3 million euros led to taxpayers fleeing the country. In 2016 alone, 12,000 millionaires left France, the highest outflow in the world. Wealth taxes have also been repealed in Sweden, Denmark, The Netherlands, Austria, Finland, Germany, Iceland, Luxembourg, Ireland, and Italy. 

Photo Credit: Kevin Case


List of Tax Hikes in Kamala Harris Healthcare Plan

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Monday, July 29th, 2019, 3:30 PM PERMALINK

Democrat presidential candidate Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) today released her “Medicare for All” healthcare plan. 

This “Kamalacare” proposal will impose a number of devastating tax hikes on the American people:

  • 7.5 percent payroll tax increase on employers, which would slash wages for middle class workers as employers pass the additional costs down to their employees.
  • 4 percent payroll tax increase on households making more than $100,000 per year (this will directly hit 29.2 percent of American households).
  • 70 percent top tax bracket for ordinary income and capital gains income. This would give America the highest income tax rate in the world.  
  • 77 percent Death Tax rate.
  • 1 percent “wealth tax.”
  • 0.2 percent tax on stock trades
  • 0.1 percent tax on bond trades
  • .002 percent tax on derivative transactions
     

Note, Harris uses dishonest terminology to hide the fact that she is raising the payroll tax: she uses the term “premium” instead of “payroll tax.”

There is one minor difference between the Harris and Bernie Sanders “Medicare for All” proposals. While Sanders imposes a new 4 percent payroll tax on Americans making more than $29,000, Harris imposes the tax on Americans making more than $100,000. This tax hike would directly hit the 29.2 percent of households that make over $100,000 a year. 

The definition of middle class seems to be getting smaller and smaller for Democrats. During the fiscal cliff negotiations in 2012, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer did not want to raise taxes on anyone making less than $1 million a year. Former President Obama defined “middle class” as making less than $250,000 a year. 

To make up the funding gap between her $100,000 threshold and Sanders’s $29,000 threshold, Harris would impose a slew of financial transaction taxes on American businesses. These new taxes includea 0.2 percent tax on stock trades, a 0.1 percent tax on bond trades, and a .002 percent tax on derivative transactions.

These new FTTs would especially impact 401(k)s, pensions, and index funds. Returns on pension funds and other savings would be lower because of the increased costs of buying and selling and the reduction in value of shares. On a macroeconomic level they would increase the cost of capital and reduce productivity, harming jobs and wages all across the country.  

The Harris tax hikes don’t stop there. Harris has repeatedly promised that she will repeal the entire Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. At a recent campaign stop, Harris said she would repeal the TCJA four times in three minutes. If Harris repealed the tax cuts, the following would happen:

  • 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 sum, Harris would increase taxes on millions of Americans, cause millions of Americans to lose their current healthcare plans, and harm economic growth. This plan is an unserious attempt to pander to the Democrat party’s far-left base. 

 

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore


ATR Supports Pro-Consumer Contact Lens Rule Changes

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Friday, July 26th, 2019, 10:25 AM PERMALINK

ATR has sent the following letter in support of proposed changes to the Contact Lens Rule, 16 CFR Part 315, Project No. R511995:

On behalf of Americans for Tax Reform, I write in support of new changes to the Contact Lens Rule (16 CFR Part 315 Project. No R511995). These changes strike the correct balance between promoting the free market and protecting important consumer rights. 

In 2003, President George W. Bush signed the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA) into law. The legislation required that optometrists provide patients with a copy of their prescription.

This requirement ensured consumers have the freedom to purchase lenses from wherever they choose without interference. 

Prior to passage of FCLCA, optometrists could make it more difficult for their patients to purchase from a third party. These concerns were far from hypothetical – there were many well documented cases of bad actors implicitly or directly blocking the free choice of consumers.

To be clear, there should be no restrictions on professionals selling contact lens, nor should there be any restriction on consumers safely purchasing from a third party. 

Since the rule has been enacted, patients have had more options on where to fill their prescriptions. FCLCA fixed existing flaws in law by allowing consumers the right to “passive verification” over contact lens prescriptions, a change that meant patients would have access to a written prescription, so they could shop where they wanted.

The newly proposed changes to the contact lenses rule would protect FCLCA successes and further strengthen federal law. 

The rule changes maintain that prescribers are required to have patients affirmatively acknowledge in writing that they have received a copy of their prescription. The acknowledgements must be kept on file for three years. The FTC is giving optometrists four different options for patients to acknowledge prescription receipt, including printing the acknowledgement on the receipt where they pay for their exam.  

While requiring a written acknowledgment of prescription receipt might place a minimal recordkeeping burden on optometrists, other methods of ensuring patients receive a copy of their prescription have proven ineffective. In California, many optometrists have ignored a state law requiring them to hang signs detailing patient rights as enumerated in the FCLCA.  

Consumers will also have the ability to receive prescriptions in digital form. While this should not replace paper prescriptions entirely, especially for older patients, digital prescriptions give patients flexibility to shop around with third-party sellers. 

Taken together, the new proposal will add to the success of existing law, promoting the well-being of patients and the free market. I urge the FTC to move forward with this rule and continue to reject any proposals that weaken contact lens consumer protections. 

Onward,
Grover G. Norquist
President, Americans for Tax Reform

Photo Credit: Andy Simmons


Conservative Lawmakers Should Reject New Budget Deal

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Tuesday, July 23rd, 2019, 3:28 PM PERMALINK

Congress is set to vote on a spending deal that will bust discretionary spending caps and raise the debt ceiling through 2021. This package busts the discretionary caps by $320 billion over the next two years and contains less than $80 billion in budget offsets. 

Conservative lawmakers should reject this budget deal. 

This package breaks spending caps as outlined in the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). The BCA contained an enforcement mechanism that capped discretionary spending in the event an agreement on $1.2 trillion in deficit reduction could not be reached. 

Discretionary spending accounts for 30 percent of total federal spending, and Congress appropriates funding for these programs on an annual basis. The other 70 percent of the federal spending is automatically funded, and comprises programs like Medicare and Social Security. 

If lawmakers are serious about reducing federal spending in the short term, holding the line on discretionary spending caps is the only option.

Since the BCA was enacted, Congress has passed three Bipartisan Budget Acts that broke the BCA caps by a combined $440 billion over 6 years. The first two deals broke the caps by a combined $144 billion. The third deal, which Congress passed in 2018, broke the caps by $296 billion over 2018 and 2019. That deal was only offset by approximately 13 percent. 

This year’s spending package rapidly accelerates the growth of federal spending by breaking the discretionary caps by $320 billion over the next two years with less than $80 billion in offsets. With a national debt of $22 trillion and climbing, this runaway spending is simply unsustainable. 

Conservatives have led the fight for fiscal responsibility throughout these budget negotiations. The Republican Study Committee (RSC), the House's largest caucus of conservative lawmakers, sent a letter to Congressional leadership outlining the need for fiscal restraint in this budget deal. Unfortunately, it appears that none of their recommendations have been included in the final deal. 

The legislation being taken up this week will only worsen the failure to constrain spending. Instead of working to constrain spending and pass a fiscally responsible budget, Democrats have been trying to raise their own pay

If Democrats (and some Republicans) were serious about fiscal responsibility, they would go back to the drawing board and produce a budget resolution through regular order that abides by the BCA spending caps.

Photo Credit: Ken Teegardin


Steny Hoyer in 1992: Indexing Capital Gains “Benefits Small Business”

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Posted by Tom Hebert on Monday, July 8th, 2019, 11:04 AM PERMALINK

In 1992, current House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) spoke in favor of indexing capital gains to inflation. 

Hoyer said: “The capital gains provisions in H.R. 4287 benefit small business by indexing newly purchased assets. Income gauged would be much more reliable so that, real not inflationary gains will be taxed, and taxed at the same 28 percent maximum rate on gains.”

Other Democrats like Chuck Schumer lined up on the House floor to praise H.Amdt. 438, an amendment to the H.R. 4210, the Tax Fairness and Economic Growth Act of 1992. The amendment would have ended the inflation tax on capital gains. 

Ultimately, 220 House Democrats voted to end the tax on inflation, including Hoyer, Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, and Bernie Sanders. Read Democrat remarks in support of indexing capital gains to inflation here

As President Trump prepares to index capital gains taxes to inflation, ATR expects strong support from the Democrat party based on their previous statements and votes. 

See also: 

Schumer Video: "I Would be for Indexing All Capital Gains"

The tax law Chuck Schumer hates - but used to praise
The Case for Ending the Inflation Tax on Capital Gains
Indexing Capital Gains Taxes to Inflation Resources

Photo Credit: Center for American Progress


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