Toni-Anne Barry

Ways and Means Republicans Release Plan to Expand and Strengthen Telehealth

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Posted by Toni-Anne Barry on Wednesday, July 22nd, 2020, 11:32 AM PERMALINK

Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee led by Republican Leader Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) have released a discussion draft of their plan to strengthen and expand recent telehealth waivers.

In the days following the outbreak of COVID-19, the Trump Administration took steps to expand healthcare access for Medicare beneficiaries by issuing temporary waivers expanding telehealth options. This meant that seniors did not need to come in contact with health care providers to receive the quality of care they expect.

Prior to the implementation of these waivers, Medicare beneficiaries and providers had to meet a strict set of requirements before they could use telehealth. Once these waivers expire Medicare patients and providers will again be required to meet narrow standards to continue telehealth care.

This would be a blow to the millions of Americans now using telehealth. During the first three months of the pandemic, 9 million Medicare beneficiaries utilized  telehealth. This was a dramatic increase from pre-COVID telehealth use where an average week would see 13,000 beneficiaries using telehealth. This jump in participation signals that telehealth is not only a viable option in times of crisis, but also a legitimate alternative for Medicare beneficiaries who want more healthcare choice.

The Ways and Means Republican proposal would make key waivers permanent:

  • Remove geographical and originating site requirements – Medicare patients would be able to receive telehealth care from their own home rather than having to travel to a health care facility.
  • Remove restrictions on Federally Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs) and Rural Health Clinics (RHCs) to offer telehealth options – Medicare patients in rural and underserved areas can receive care locally without having to travel to qualifying facilities.
  • Protect the expansion of clinical practitioners allowed to utilize telehealth for their patients – Medicare patients would continue to benefit from a wider range of qualifying providers. The Secretary of Health would have the discretion to expand qualifying practitioners when needed.
  • Allow telehealth through audio means when visual is not available – Medicare patients could receive care over audio phone calls instead of being limited to video conferencing.
  • Allow HSAs to cover telehealth – Americans with HSA plans would be able to continue qualifying for telehealth and can use their plan to cover costs.  
  • Allow virtual authorization of dialysis – Medicare patients on dialysis can opt to receive care via telehealth once an initial in-person training visit from a healthcare professional is completed.
     

In support of the proposed measures, Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) stated, “Given the success of increased access to telehealth for Americans during the pandemic, Congress should prioritize making increased access to telehealth a permanent function of our nation’s healthcare system.”

The easing of telehealth regulations is yet another example of President Trump’s commitment to roll back and waive burdensome regulations to help Americans through the Coronavirus pandemic. These waivers have given Medicare beneficiaries across the country access to more convenient care and a range of new options. While telehealth has been a necessity during the pandemic, the reforms proposed by Ways and Means Republicans wisely build on this success so that the progress we have made will carry through long after the pandemic.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore

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Norquist: GOP Death Tax Repeal is Pro-Growth, Pro-Jobs, and Pro-Competition

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Posted by Toni-Anne Barry on Thursday, October 12th, 2017, 1:00 PM PERMALINK

Today, ATR president Grover Norquist appeared as a panelist for the 60 Plus Association’s event on Death Tax repeal. Norquist spoke about the importance of permanent Death Tax repeal in the GOP tax reform framework, arguing that the tax hinders the economy as well as future economic growth and job creation.

He noted that repealing the Death Tax is another crucial factor in boosting international competition along with reducing business and corporate tax rate.

Using statistics gathered by the Tax Foundation, Norquist stated, “Abolishing the Death Tax would increase the economy by eight tenths of a point, almost a point 1 percent increase, and 159,000 full time jobs would be added.”

Panelists also included Death Tax experts such as: Jim Martin, Chairman and President of the 60 Plus Association, Karen Kerrigan, President and CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council and Palmer Schoening, Founder and Chairman of the Family Business Coalition.

The Death Tax originated in 1797 to increase funding for naval expansion before being repealed shortly after in 1802. The tax would not be seen again until 1862 to pay for Civil War efforts. It would once again be repealed, but the tax would continue to follow this pattern, being implemented in 1898 and 1916 to help pay for the Spanish-American War and World War I respectively.

While the tax was repealed less than five years after its implementation during the Spanish-American War, it has never been repealed again. The tax has remained in our tax code for over a century, since 1916.

It is time to abolish the Death Tax. Permanently. The GOP tax reform plan achieves this.

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Why We Need To Pass Tax Reform

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Posted by Toni-Anne Barry on Monday, May 1st, 2017, 10:00 AM PERMALINK

For too long American families and businesses have been at the mercy of a tax code that has impeded economic growth and innovation. With sky-high tax rates, archaic provisions like the death tax and numerous distorting credits and deductions, the code does not work for taxpayers. Our code is in desperate need of an overhaul, here are the top three reasons why:

  1. The tax code is too complex. The tax code has been getting longer and more complicated, filled with unnecessary and outdated provisions that many Americans not only do not understand but in many situations are simply unaware of. With seven different tax brackets and a 74,000 page code, the complexity of the tax code makes it difficult for Americans to complete their taxes without having to hire a costly professional. A study released by the Tax Foundation estimated that Americans will spend $409 billion and 8.9 billion hours completing their taxes this year. There is no reason why filing taxes should require so much time, energy, and money.
     
  2. The tax code hurts economic growth.   The U.S corporate tax rate sits at a staggering 39 percent, towering over the global average of 25 percent. The top federal rate for businesses organized as a pass-through, is just as high at almost 40 percent. These tax rates have barely changed since 1986, the last time tax reform was passed, while other countries have continued to lower their rates. The U.S. rate makes it impossible for businesses to compete with foreign competitors in countries such as Canada (26.3 percent), the U.K. (20 percent), and Ireland (12.5 percent).
                                                 
    On top of these high rates, businesses are also subjected to the consequences of a worldwide system of taxation implemented under current law. The U.S. is one of only six OECD countries that still uses this system, forcing businesses to not only pay taxes to the country where the income was earned but then again to the U.S. This leaves U.S. companies at a clear disadvantage to companies in other countries that have moved toward territorial taxation in order to increase business incentive and competition.
     
  3. The tax code is enforced by an inefficient and untrustworthy IRS. In recent years the Internal Revenue Service has proven it is unable to fulfill its most basic duties to taxpayers. The agency has become synonymous with corruption and misconduct due to their mishandling of personal information and direct targeting of conservative individuals and groups. For example, in the three year span between 2009 and 2012 the IRS only granted tax-exempt status to one conservative non-profit organization while giving numerous to left-leaning groups.

    IRS officials have also falsely claimed that they are woefully underfunded, stating that they were, “struggling to keep the lights on.” They used this as an excuse for being unable to provide adequate services to taxpayers such as answering their calls. They did however, have enough funding, footed by taxpayers, to pay $1,000 an hour for a high profile law firm to perform one audit.
     

President Trump rolled out his tax plan Wednesday to fix these issues that have been plaguing Americans for years. His plan makes the tax code both fairer and simpler, reducing the number of tax rate brackets from seven to three, narrowing to 10 percent, 25 percent, and 35 percent. This drastically decreases the needless complexities in the current code. Additionally, the plan would reduce the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 15 percent allowing businesses, large and small, to finally be able to compete at home and abroad. These changes would re-energize our economy as well as streamline the cumbersome, outdated tax code.

Simplifying the tax code through President Trump’s plan will effectively reduce the need for the IRS. For what needs remain, the House GOP “Better Way” tax reform blueprint outlines the implementation of an innovative, citizen-first IRS. This includes a “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” that enforces a taxpayer’s right to confidentiality, quality of service and grants them the ability to appeal a decision made by the IRS. This ensures that IRS employees will be held accountable for their actions and safeguards taxpayer information. With a “service first” mission, taxpayers will have access to an agency structured specifically with their best interests at its core. 

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Philly Falling on Hard Times after Implementing Soda Tax

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Posted by Toni-Anne Barry on Friday, March 3rd, 2017, 4:27 PM PERMALINK

Back in June, Mayor Jim Kenney signed into law a city-wide tax on soda. Kenney claimed that it would promote public health all while funding a program to expand the city’s pre-k system, seemingly indifferent to the economic impact that it would have on Philadelphia residents and businesses.

The tax comes in the form of a 1.5 cent increase per every ounce of soda. The tax has increased the price of a 12-pack of soda by $2.16, directly affecting low and middle income families. Unsurprisingly, Philadelphia residents are by-passing their local stores in order to avoid the onerous tax, causing revenue to flow out of the city.  Soda sales in the city have dropped between 30 to 50 percent since the tax has taken effect less than two months ago. This loss in revenue has many local retailers looking to cut the size of their workforce.

Brown’s Super Store, one of Philadelphia’s largest distributors of soda products is likely to cut around 20 percent of its employees due to the sharp decrease in profits. Some businesses have reported a drop in sales as large as 50 percent.  This tax has single-handedly hurt middle class families, business incentive, and job creation.

In a Bloomberg interview, Jeff Brown, CEO of Brown Super Stores said, “I would describe the impact as nothing less than devastating."

Regardless of the clear economic distress that has been caused, Mayor Kenney is still under the illusion that the tax has been beneficial for the city. Kenney blamed the upcoming job cuts on retailers for not merely absorbing the added costs. During an interview with Philly.com, he stated, “I didn’t think it was possible for the soda industry to be any greedier.” Philadelphia’s out-of-touch mayor clearly has no conception of the most basic fundamentals of economics. Businesses actually need to make money in order to sell products and create jobs.

Yet, Mayor Kenney is proud of the $5.7 million that has been funneled into the city off the back of the soda tax. He continues to be unconcerned with the obvious toll this tax has already taken on retailers and Philadelphians alike. This is hardly the economic boost for the city that Kenney claimed it would be considering the massive job loss and burden it’s placed on families. The Philly soda tax fiasco is a sign of things to come if other cities make the mistake of using this as a model.  

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Pro-Growth Tax Reform Must Reduce Taxes on Capital Gains

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Posted by Toni-Anne Barry on Wednesday, March 1st, 2017, 4:48 PM PERMALINK

The federal tax code is out of control. At more than 74,000 pages it is too long, too complicated and much too expensive for taxpayers. Comprehensive tax reform is imperative in 2017 and this must include reducing double taxation.

Here in the U.S. the same dollar is taxed when it is earned, invested, and yes even when you die. A key aspect of decreasing the effects of double taxation is reducing the capital gains and dividends tax. 

To improve economic growth, lawmakers should reduce taxes on capital gains/dividends, continue to treat carried interest as a capital gain, protect section 1031 like-kind exchanges, and index capital gains taxes to inflation. These changes will help promote much needed investment incentive to reboot the economy. Here’s how:

(Read the Full Study Here)

Taxes on Capital Gains/Dividends Should Be Reduced

The capital gains and dividends tax is levied on income that has already been subjected to individual income taxes and is then reinvested into the economy in a way that increases productivity and economic growth. 

Simply put, Obama’s policies have not worked and need to be changed. During his presidency he has raised the top capital gains rate from 15 to 20 percent and imposed a 3.8 percentage point surtax on capital gains. These polices have only resulted in putting U.S. businesses at a global disadvantage.

Among the 35 developed countries in the Organisation for Economic Development and BRICS, comprised of Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa, the U.S. has some of the highest capital gains and dividends rates, coming just behind France.

To put it in perspective, the average OECD/Bric rate for distributions (includes corporate and state taxes) made as capital gains is 40.3 percent. This contrasts sharply with the U.S. rate that sits at 56.3 percent.

This trend is the same when dividend rates are averaged. OECD/BRICS have an average of 44.5 percent while the U.S. is 56. 2 percent.

Carried Interest Is and Should Be Treated as a Capital Gain

Some recent proposals have promoted taxing carried interest as ordinary income. Contrary to the common misconception that treating carried interest as a capital gain is a shady loophole, carried interest is actually the same as all other capital gains. It is simply the share of an investment partnership allocated to the investor. All of the income from the partnership is derived from a long-term investment in a business or real-estate. This means that all income earned is treated exactly the same as a capital gain.

Supporters of higher taxes on carried interest classify it as a matter of fairness when in reality it would hurt a wide range of investment partnerships such as pension funds, charities, and colleges. These partnerships rely on shared investments for their savings.

Additionally, increasing taxes on carried interest capital gains would only raise $19.6 billion over the next ten years, a miniscule number that barely fluctuates the $41.7 trillion that the Congressional Budget Office estimates will be raised throughout the upcoming decade.

Like-Kind Exchanges Should Be Preserved and Strengthened

Under current law, taxpayers are able to defer paying taxes on certain types of assets when they use those earnings to invest in another, similar asset because of the provisions set by Section 1031 of the tax code. This can be used on assets such as real estate, machinery for farming and mining, and other equipment such as trucks and cars.

Section 1031 eliminates unnecessary barriers that would impede investment. Allowing an investor to not have to pay taxes until they cash out promotes more efficient allocation of capital resources.

The House GOP “Better Way” blueprint takes the code in a pro-growth direction by implementing immediate full-business expensing, which streamlines business activity by allowing the effect purchase of new assets. Section 1031 compliments full expensing by letting businesses replace less productive assets with more productive assets.

Repealing section 1031 would only lead to higher taxes on investment, hurting economic growth and incomes.

Index Capital Gains to Inflation Through Treasury's Regulatory Authority

Indexing the capital gains tax to inflation is another pro-growth option for reform. The existing capital gains tax, without an inflation index, discourages long-term investment by exposing investors to higher inflation risk than short term investors. This essentially means that a long term investors have less incentive to invest than short term investors inhibiting a healthy, growing economy.

Without indexing capital gains taxes with inflation, long term investors are also subject to pay capital gains on real capital loses. This is why it is imperative that capital gains are measured with inflation, without the adjusted values the taxes on capital gains are not accurately evaluated.

To combat this issue, the Treasury should use its authority to interpret “cost” based on inflation. In the past the Treasury has advocated for the implementation of inflation based indexing on capital gains but was impeded by congress. Allowing the Treasury to interpret “costs” using inflation indexing would help create an even playing field for investors and promote investment incentives. 

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Flashback: In Obama’s First Address to Congress He Lied About Obamacare Tax Hikes on Middle Class

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Posted by Toni-Anne Barry on Monday, February 27th, 2017, 4:20 PM PERMALINK

During President Trump’s first joint address to Congress he will discuss his plan to fix much of the damage caused by his predecessor’s policies. During the early months of Obama’s presidency, the American people heard many promises that, to say the least, were never followed through. When Obama was making his first joint address to Congress ATR compiled the top five false claims made by the newly elected president. Most notably, Obama promised that no American family making less than $250,000 would see any form of tax increase.

What Obama promised: “If your family earns less than $250,000 a year, you will not see your taxes increased a single dime. I repeat: not one single dime.”

What actually happened: Obamacare imposed 20 new or higher tax hikes, many of which directly hit low and middle income Americans. It implemented taxes such as the medicine cabinet tax that has caused millions of Americans to be unable to use their pre-tax Flexible Spending Account or Health Savings Accounts to purchase over the counter medicine. Over ten years this tax has cost FSA and HSA users $6.7 billion.

10 million Americans have also felt the burden of the Obamacare chronic care tax. Prior to Obamacare Americans with high medical expenses were allowed an income tax deduction if their expenses exceeded 7.5 percent of their adjusted gross income. This tax has increased the threshold from 7.5 percent to 10 percent, making it harder for families to receive this deduction. This tax will cost Americans a whopping $40 billion over ten years.

Obamacare also famously imposed the individual mandate tax ranging from a minimum of $695 for an individual to $2,085 for a larger household.

These are only some of the tax hikes that all Americans have been burdened with since Obamacare has taken effect. All 20 tax increases have culminated in a $1 trillion net tax increase on the American people. A far cry from Obama’s adamant assurance that no American family outside of the top 2 percent would feel the effects of a tax increase.

You can read the full list of Obamacare tax hikes here.

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Changes to FTC Contact Lens Rule Promotes Free Market Competition

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Posted by Toni-Anne Barry on Wednesday, January 25th, 2017, 4:05 PM 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.) The proposed changes to the rule promote and protect the free market by ensuring consumers have the freedom to purchase where they choose free from interference.

In 2003, the Fairness to Contact Lens Consumers Act (FCLCA) was made into law in response to this issue. The act required that optometrists provide patients with a copy of their prescription.

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 lens rule protect the successes from FCLCA introducing new provisions that will strengthen federal law.

The rule calls for additional record keeping in the form of a “receipt of contact lens prescription” that enshrines the right of consumers to freely purchase from either their optometrist or a third party provider.

Consumers will also have increased flexibility to have their prescriptions verified through phone, fax, or online, a change that makes sense given the ease of communication today.

Importantly, changes to the rule do not include some of the proposed changes that would restrict the free market. 

Critics of existing law have long argued that it is unsafe for patients to fill their prescriptions through a third party. These opponents have proposed regulations to the FCLCA such as allowing optometrists to block any third party from filling a prescription based on their own discretion and prohibiting automated verification that makes it easier and faster for patients to receive their prescriptions.

After a year-long examination the FTC has rightly debunked all safety issues that have been raised and decided that there is no basis for implementing these unnecessary regulations.

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 Norquist

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Rep. Emmer's "CREATE Jobs Act" Will Fix America's Competitiveness Problem

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Posted by Toni-Anne Barry on Friday, January 13th, 2017, 5:42 PM PERMALINK

Congressman Tom Emmer (R-MN) recently introduced H.R. 533, the Corporate Rate Equality and Trade Empowerment (CREATE) Jobs Act. This innovative legislation lowers the corporate tax rate to a globally competitive level so American businesses are able to compete in the global economy. ATR urges all members of Congress to support and co-sponsor Rep. Emmer’s bill.

America’s corporate income tax rate is close to 15 percent higher than the average in the developed world. The tax rate has barely changed since tax reform was passed 30 years ago in 1986.  At the time, we lowered our rate to 39 percent – below the developed average of 44 percent. Since then, other countries have cut their rates aggressively.

32 of the 35 developed countries have reduced their corporate rates since 2000. Only the U.S. and Chile have higher corporate tax rates than they did in 2000. Our high rate makes it difficult, if not impossible for our businesses to compete with competitors that have much lower rates Canada (26.3 percent), the United Kingdom (20 percent), and Ireland (12.5 percent).

The CREATE Jobs act would address this inequity by reducing the U.S. corporate rate to five points below the OECD average and creating a process by which the U.S. rate is regularly reviewed to ensure economic competitiveness.

The current high U.S. rate not only hurts American competitiveness, it has real world implications for the economy. The high rate has resulted in close to 50 American businesses leaving the country through an inversion in the past decade, according to data compiled by Democrats on the Ways and Means Committee. The uncompetitive code has also resulted in a net loss of more than $700 billion in assets that have been acquired by foreign competitors according to a report by Ernst and Young.

By creating a system that creates a competitive corporate tax rate, Rep. Emmer’s CREATE Jobs Act ensures that the U.S. again becomes a leader in the global economy and it stays there. Members of Congress should support and pass H.R. 533 to help provide a much needed booster shot to the economy. 

The letter can be read here.

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ATR Supports Rep. Renacci's "Fiscal State of the Nation" Resolution

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Posted by Toni-Anne Barry on Friday, January 13th, 2017, 5:15 PM PERMALINK

ATR today sent a letter in support for H.Con.Res.8, the Fiscal State of the Nation Resolution, introduced by Congressman Jim Renacci (R-Ohio) along with 34 other members of the House of Representatives. 

This bipartisan resolution will require the Comptroller of the United States to provide an official report on the financial status of the United States to a joint session of Congress.

Financial statements for the United States are already compiled, but are too complex and too long. As a result, important information on the federal government’s assets, liabilities, revenues, expenses, and sustainability of programs are often ignored or missed by Members of Congress, the media, and the public.

The full letter can be read here.

Photo credit: Cafecredit.com

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ATR Supports the Health Savings Act of 2017

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Posted by Toni-Anne Barry on Friday, January 13th, 2017, 4:45 PM PERMALINK

Americans for Tax Reform recently sent a letter supporting H.R. 35, the Health Savings Act of 2017 sponsored by Congressman Michael Burgess (R-Texas). By making important improvements to HSAs this commonsense legislation gives individuals and families the ability to make the best decision for their medical needs.

The incoming Congress is committed to reform our health care system by repealing and replacing Obamacare as well as implementing reforms that put patients first and are fiscally responsible. The Heath Savings Act of 2017 will expand the limits of HSAs, helping to ensure patient-centered healthcare reforms by keeping costs low and allowing Americans to make decisions that fit their needs.  

ATR support the Health Savings Act of 2017 and urges all members of congress to vote is support of this commonsense legislation.

The letter can be read here.

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