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Everything is Happening! Deborah Collier of CAGW on Free File Program, & Much More - Speaking of Taxpayers, May 30
Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 05/31/14

It seems like everything is in this podcast, Pete Sepp is off in Vancouver for the World Taxpayers Conference, so Michi Iljazi of Taxpayers Protection Alliance joins Doug Kellogg to co-host. Deborah Collier of CAGW calls in to talk about the danger of letting the IRS do your taxes, and the need to keep the "Free File" program. Michael Tasselmyer of NTUF also stops in to talk about the most expensive bill this week. Plus, the Outrage of the Week takes the field!

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Pennsylvania Leaders Eying Higher Energy Taxes Should Look Instead to Liquor Reform
Posted By: Lee Schalk - 05/30/14

Budget negotiations in Harrisburg are just around the corner and there’s a chance that a massive tax on natural gas drilling could end up on Governor Corbett’s desk. This is a major concern for tax fighters across Pennsylvania, as Corbett faces re-election and continues to grapple with the Republican-led legislature on how to best deal with the $1.2 billion deficit.

The Tribune-Review reports:

The smart money is on the Senate sending the House a Marcellus shale tax proposal, perhaps in obscure legislation that accompanies the state budget, such as the fiscal code that sets state tax rates…

It’s quite the conundrum for the Governor:

Corbett might not get a shale tax bill from the Legislature before the November election. In that case Democrat Tom Wolf, his party's gubernatorial nominee, will continue to hit the issue and tout it for education funding while pointing to the need to fill budget holes that he says exist due to Corbett's cuts.

Despite pledging to not support tax increases upon entering office, the Governor signed a bill last year to raise gas taxes. Now he’s in another sticky situation, especially since, as the Tribune-Review notes, his re-election campaign is themed “promises kept.”

Instead of working on a tax hike bill that could cripple the Pennsylvania’s energy sector, perhaps lawmakers and the Governor should pursue common sense, cost-saving reforms. Liquor privatization should be at the top of the list.

Over the past few months, National Taxpayers Union has been beating the drum for true privatization of beer, wine, and liquor sales in the Keystone State. Like I said last September in the York Dispatch, Pennsylvania’s liquor laws are an absolute mess. It’s a system that has unfairly constructed anti-consumer monopolies for both government and private entities.

Last month, after catching wind of a faux-privatization plan in Harrisburg, NTU Vice President Brandon Arnold and I penned another piece in the Tribune-Review.

We pointed out that the corruption-riddled Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board (PLCB) is running state liquor stores on a taxpayers tab of approximately $400 million per year. By privatizing sales, the state could save hundreds of millions each year while increasing both competition amongst retailers and convenience for consumers.

Of course, privatizing liquor wouldn’t solve Pennsylvania’s budget crisis on its own, but it would be the best place to start, as would slowing government spending. Here’s to hoping that some fiscal sanity finds its way to Harrisburg over the next few weeks.

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Corporate Welfare Battered from All Sides of the Political Spectrum at Transpartisan Conference
Posted By: Nan Swift - 05/28/14

NTU Executive Vice President, Pete Sepp, was a panelist at yesterday’s “Unstoppable: A Gathering of the Left-Right Convergence” conference sponsored by Ralph Nader and the Center for Study of Responsive Law. The conference was held in conjunction with launch of Nader’s latest book, Unstoppable: The Emerging Left-Right Alliance to Dismantle the Corporate State.

sepp2014convergenceThe conference featured speakers from across the political spectrum who identified potential areas of cooperation on topics such as civil liberties, pentagon spending, and corporate welfare – the panel in which Sepp participated along with Ryan Alexander of Taxpayers for Common Sense, Lisa Gilbert of Public Citizen, Greg LeRoy of Good Jobs first, and James T. Bennett, an economist at George Mason University. 

LeRoy highlighted three states where activists on the left and right are working to bring transparency and accountability to economic development incentives at the state and local level. For example, in Arizona, the Goldwater Institute has teamed up with the state chapter of the U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG) to bring to light misuse and crony deals made by the Arizona Commerce Authority.  Bennett noted the serious social welfare impact of corporate welfare, pointing to the high price of food due to Marketing Orders that confiscate crops in order to artificially inflate prices.

Sepp discussed NTU’s annual Common Ground report done in conjunction with U.S. PIRG where, despite our disparate views on the role and scope of government, the groups have been able to agree on the need to end the Export-Import Bank and rein in costly crop insurance premiums. 

Sepp also explained that NTU works closely a wide variety groups on issues such as reforming or eliminating the Renewable Fuel Standard and reducing wasteful spending at the Pentagon. Transitioning to corporate welfare outside DC, Sepp’s assertion that the political right needed to work harder to end sports welfare that saddles taxpayers with expensive, unnecessary stadiums, noting that Common Cause of Georgia and leftist groups in Minnesota are doing an exceptional job at tackling the issue in their states. This received a huge round of applause from attendees.

Pete concluded his remarks by urging listeners to work hard to protect ballot initiatives, saying that this form of direct democracy was the best tool activists have for holding out-of-control legislators accountable.

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Latest Taxpayer's Tab: EITC Expansion, Travel Limits
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 05/25/14

Taxpayer's Tab Update

Happy Memorial Day Weekend from the staff at National Taxpayers Union Foundation!

In this weeks' edition of The Taxpayer's Tab, NTUF took an in-depth look at three bills we recently scored as part of our ongoing BillTally project.

  • Most Expensive: The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is one of the largest and most well known anti-poverty programs the government runs. In 2011, almost 28 million families and individuals claimed the credit, resulting in outlays of over $55.7 billion. Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY) introduced the EITC for Childless Workers Act in order to expand EITC benefits by lowering the age for eligibility and increasing benefit rates for childless workers who claim the credit. H.R. 4117 would increase spending by at least $4.4 billion per year.
  • Least Expensive: The Farm Bill was enacted in February without the reforms to the federal crop insurance program that many had been hoping for. Senators Jeane Shaheen (D-NH) and Tom Coburn (R-OK) introduced S. 2201 in an attempt to head off some of the program's costs; the bill would cap the amount of premium subsidies any farm could receive from the government at $70,000 per year. The bill's provisions would save $500 million over five years.
  • Wildcard: Members of Congress are offered hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to hire staff, rent office space, and travel to and from their home districts. Congressman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) introduced the If Our Military Has to Fly Coach Then so Should Congress Act of 2014, which would prevent Mmebers from using federal funding to purchase airline tickets above coach class.

The Tab is available online with more information on each of these bills.

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Is Govt. Going Green, or Just Taking Your Green with LEED Shenanigans? TPA’s David Williams - Speaking of Taxpayers, May 23
Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 05/23/14

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A quick update from Pete & Doug as another Article V resolution passes; David Williams of Taxpayers Protection Alliance joins the podcast for a must-hear discussion on the problems with LEED green building standards and his efforts to get to the bottom of government's cozy relationship w/ the Green Building Council. Plus, the Outrage of the Week!

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(VIDEO) Time to Let American Energy Compete
Posted By: Pete Sepp - 05/21/14

Thanks to the natural gas boom, the United States is on the brink of becoming a net energy exporter. But as NTU has often pointed out, the next step depends on what public officials do, or  fail to do.

A new video produced by the organization Act on LNG is the latest to underscore the pivotal point we’ve reached. Whether the United States will expand on this competitive advantage, and in doing so sustain the gains made in recent years, hinges on whether the Department of Energy will license the export facilities necessary to ship natural gas beyond the U.S. border in its liquefied from (LNG). To date, only seven permits have been approved. More than 20 are still pending review, some for years.

Recognizing the urgency of the situation and spurred by recent global market developments, Congress has stepped up with legislation to pressure DOE and help surmount the outdated export obstacles. NTU has long supported efforts to lift trade restrictions and more recently backed a solid plan in the House to make it happen.

Much of the development that paved the way to the position America enjoys now happened in spite of federal policy, not because of it. If the President truly supports an all-of-the-above energy portfolio, he should direct the Department of Energy to expedite approval of outstanding LNG permits. Congress should move forward with legislative solutions as well. Natural gas has put the United States on a promising path to energy prosperity – it is Washington’s responsibility now to make sure we don’t reach a dead end.

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On Capitol Hill, May 20: NDAA Hits the House, Harry Reid Foils Tax Extenders
Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 05/21/14

NTU Federal Affairs Manager has the news from the Hill as Congress considers the Water Resources Development Act, NDAA; and Harry Reid sparks the Senate GOP to bail on  last week's tax extender package - all of which put your tax dollars on the line! Don't forget to subscribe to NTU's YouTube channel!

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When It Comes to Foreign Investment, Sales Pitch Should be to Congress
Posted By: Nan Swift - 05/20/14

Marketplace reports that President Obama is meeting with business executives today to pitch investment in the U.S.:

Last year, foreign investment in the U.S. was roughly $193 billion -- down from its peak of $310 billion in 2008.

Dartmouth’s Matthew Slaughter says the U.S. attracts investments from foreign companies by telling executives that the U.S. is "the most innovative, open, largest economy on the planet.”

But Slaughter says many foreign company leaders respond by saying growth in the U.S. has slowed compared to developing countries like China, not to mention an aging infrastructure, complicated immigration system and high corporate taxes.

Slaughter does a good job summing up the problem, however, in the past six years our infrastructure hasn’t aged a great deal and the immigration system hasn’t grown significantly more complicated.  While those things don’t help, what is hurting the most is our high corporate tax rate. For the past two years running, the U.S. has had the highest corporate tax rate among industrialized economies and the effects are clearly taking a toll. This problem continues to worsen as more and more countries cut their rate each year.

As NTU has noted again, and again, and again, the best way to declare the U.S. open for business is to lower the corporate tax rate and pursue other reforms, such as rolling back burdensome regulations, making our business climate competitive once again.  Before President Obama sits down with global investors, he should first sit down with the legislators on Capitol Hill who need to act before the U.S. falls further behind.



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Keeping Economy Free from Internet Sales Tax Mandate Is About Your Rights
Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 05/20/14

There’s yet another volley out from the pro-Internet sales tax mandate crowd, this one from the supposedly conservative side of the aisle – “supposedly” because changing the law to chase revenue just doesn’t seem like a “conservative principle.”

It is not just the additional tax complexity imposed on interstate transactions that makes MFA bad policy, but the destruction of traditional taxpayer protections that would extend government taxing power to a degree we have never seen before. 

That’s just the beginning of why this article should lead to many questions from online business, taxpayers, and anyone concerned with fiscal freedoms.

The first line kicks off the questioning with the statement, “The federal government has a policy that directly puts Main Street brick-and-mortar retailers at a competitive disadvantage.”

If you want to call the U.S. Constitution, state sovereignty, and Supreme Court precedent, “a federal policy,” we’ll tolerate that phrasing for now – but for taxpayers and businesses these “federal policies” are needed protection against reckless, budget-busting, revenue-hungry state and local governments that have no interest in shrinking themselves if there’s any tax dollar out there they can devour.

How does the article argue for states’ rights while supporting a policy that would tear down the vital boundary that protects a state’s citizens from being subject to another state’s government when they have no physical presence in that state?

Stated more plainly: Would a business owner in South Carolina feel their state’s sovereignty is particularly strong when New York tax officials show up to audit him because someone from Brooklyn ordered something from his store?

Should we also allow a state government like Illinois to go after the gift shop in Montana where a Chicago resident bought a t-shirt on vacation?

How is it “fair” to make states with the most expansive and invasive tax laws more powerful by letting them interfere with out of state entities that interacted with their citizens?

What is “conservative” about scrapping long-standing taxpayer and business protections, unleashing tax collectors from reckless big states, and thus killing businesses in one of the few bright spots in our economy?

The article then goes on to contend that “you cannot honestly argue for returning control from Washington to the states and then say ‘but not in this case.’” Actually there are many “cases” in which our Constitution’s commerce clause provides safeguards against states’ excesses. (Anyone interested in limiting government probably wants all the abusive powers the federal government has been exercising to go away, not be transferred to another government.)

Congress has recognized this imperative in the past, through laws that forbid higher state taxes on air carriers than on other businesses, limit the applicability of stock transfer taxes, among a host of examples.

Is the author actually arguing to repeal all these protections and raise Americans’ tax burdens?

It’s understandable how politicians from any party see a revenue grab, especially one that comes at the expense of people who cannot vote for you (taxation without representation), as enticing.

But how can educated groups or citizens honestly fall for MFA, which would empower state and local taxing authorities to force out-of-state businesses to collect – and carry the burden for collecting – sales taxes.

Especially since those governments can already collect use tax from taxpayers who live within their borders!

They also reap major revenues right now from big-box outfits that integrate their physical stores with online shopping options. And there’s a third source of money: taxes on Internet sales made between a customer and a business located in the same state (which can easily happen in big states like Texas and California).

That’s right, we’re being fed a sob story as if these poor states have been stripped of all means. But, they can collect anything due to them already…

They just prefer to harass people who can’t vote for them and place the cost of compliance on someone else, while conveniently not having to disturb their voters with an invasive tax collection process.

Ultimately this is a losing game – with over 9,000 taxing jurisdictions involved, businesses (and by extension their customers) across the country will suffer, including those in the hometowns of politicians who support the MFA scheme.

But perhaps the politicians and opportunistic big businesses looking to implement an Internet Sales Tax Mandate will start to get the picture as voters show they share these questions and concerns.

An NTU/R Street poll conducted by Mercury found 57 percent of respondents were against an MFA-type scheme – strong majorities were opposed across every demographic group but one.

A Georgia primary candidate can testify to that as he took a hit recently for claiming to be against tax hikes, while supporting MFA.

Perhaps that’s because more “brick and mortar” stores than ever are now also online sellers – making up 38 percent of total online sales – and they aren’t letting singular self-interest trump taxpayer rights. 

Now one final question: How does one who favors ‘limited government’ back a policy that would do so much to un-limit government?

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Latest Taxpayer's Tab: Promoting U.S. Tourism
Posted By: Michael Tasselmyer - 05/19/14

Taxpayer's Tab Update

The latest statistics show that tourism accounted for nearly 2.8 percent of total U.S. GDP in 2013, and the industry as a whole supports 5.7 million jobs. The latest edition of the Taxpayer's Tab features a bill from U.S. Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) which would reauthorize Brand USA, the public-private organization that promotes U.S. tourism to international audiences, through 2020. The Travel Promotion, Enhancement, and Modernization Act has been sponsored by 66 Representatives and 25 Senators.

Also featured in the newest issue:

  • Most Expensive: Congressman Cory Gardner (R-CO) has introduced the Covering People With Pre-Existing Conditions Act, which would expand state-run high risk pools to provide health coverage to those unable to qualify because of their health history. It would cost $7.5 billion over the next five years.
  • The Wildcard: Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Congressman Jim Matheson (D-UT) introduced the Strategies to Address Antimicrobial Resistance (STAAR) Act. It would expand funding for research that combats antibiotic resistance by $100 million per year.
  • Pricey Bus Stops, New Concern About the Debt: NTUF staff has been blogging lately, this week about a new report from GAO on the problem of U.S. debt and an Arlington County, VA transportation proposal that could cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars.

The latest edition of the Tab is available online.

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