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Taxes

A "Balanced Solution" We Can All Agree On?
Posted By:  - 07/07/11

Whew! For a few weeks it actually looked like we weren’t going to get a debt ceiling deal. Fortunately, the President seems to have come to his senses by promoting a so called “balanced solution” in which higher revenues are part of a larger compromise.

In fact White House adviser David Plouffe said today,

“Our sense has been to make the numbers work, you’re going to have to have a revenue-positive situation.”

Perfect! So we agree.

In fact, achieving this “revenue positive situation” is as easy as…well…doing nothing.

The Congressional Budget Office’s Long Term Budget Outlook showed that revenues are expected to grow by more than seven percent each year, in large part due to a growing economy and population growth. In fact, by the end of the decade, revenue levels will exceed their historical average of 18 percent or Gross Domestic Product.

So we’ll cut spending by seven percent a year, leave revenues to grow as predicted, and watch as our deficit is erased in no time!

Having run the numbers himself, senior Cato Institute fellow Daniel Mitchell says that we really only need to cut spending by five percent each year in order to completely eliminate our deficit in just five years. In other words, because we conservatives are in such a giving mood, and so happy to compromise now that you’ve accepted a “balanced solution,” we’ll even go so far as to tilt the equation in your favor. In return for seven percent revenue growth you’ll only have to agree to five percent spending cuts.

Mitchell writes,

“So, Mr. President, do we have a deal? Should we use your “balanced approach” and eliminate today’s big deficit by cutting spending and raising revenue by equal amounts? You were serious about your request, right? Hello, is anybody there?

As you already realize, I don’t think the President actually means what he says about a “balanced approach.” Or, to be more specific, I think he’s happy to do a 50-50 deal, but only if “spending cuts” and “revenue increases” are defined in ways that enable the growth of government.”

Sadly, Obama does not mean what he says. He wants to raise revenue, above and beyond the increases that will take place naturally, pushing them to historically high levels. Likewise, he has no intention of actually cutting spending. Instead, he’s using an age-old Washington trick that allows him to call any reduction in the pre-planned growth of baseline spending a “spending cut.” Only in the crazy, mixed up world of Washington could spending be “cut” and yet increase year-over-year.

Conservatives fully support a balanced approach to reducing the deficit, if only the President were honest about what that actually entails.

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What Does Economic Freedom Look Like?
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 06/28/11

Pundits can talk your ear off about what they think, politicians can endlessly tell you how their plans will fix things, and professors can give you their views on what they feel is necessary. Luckily there are real numbers to compare these groups, and their claims, with reality. Economic indicators and statistics can be manipulated to fit arguments and talking points but you’ll always find similarities. Factors such as GDP (Gross Domestic Product) and average income always has the US on the positive side of the scale, while countries like North Korea almost always fall on the failing, or at best struggling, side of global economic comparisons. The difference? Americans can do what they wish, when they want, and in a way they so choose. North Koreas are told how to act, what to say, and even how to think. Americans have significantly more freedoms than, say, North Koreans. This has been our publicized “secret to success.” Here’s hoping more people understand that the more thick the U.S. Code gets with minute instructions and limits to how we handle our money, and thereby our ideas and rights, the thinner our achievements will be in long-term economic development and happiness.

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The "S" Doesn't Stand for Security
Posted By:  - 06/23/11

In case you didn't know the "S" in IRS stands for service not security.  A recent report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration indicates that the IRS could certainly use a healthy dose of security.  As Robert W. Wood writes at Forbes.com, "I recently asked if your IRS data is at risk.  I suggested it might not be, but I didn’t tell you to start worrying.  Now I’m not so sure." 

Here's a very disturbing finding:  "100% of IRS Databases TIGTA tested are vulnerable to hackers."  At least it's not more than 100 percent.  Fortunately, I suppose, "IRS has agreed with TIGTA’s recommendations and is taking steps to develop strategies to deal with these issues."  Given that hackers have hit Sony, the U.S. Senate, and the CIA recently, does anyone think that the IRS will develop and implement its strategic plan in time to prevent the loss of taxpayer data?

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Odds & Ends for June 23
Posted By:  - 06/23/11

A few odds and ends, things that I've been meaning to get to, and a few things that I've missed and overlooked in my inbox.

Via ACTA's Tim Wise: Cartoonist Scott Adams suggests that the U.S. should create a stupidity tax in an effort to "reduce its prevalence over time." Adams suggests that such an idea is impractical: "No elected official could support a tax on stupidity." I would suggest that politicians are unlikely to make Tax Code changes that are going to lead to dramatically higher tax bills for themselves.

Tim also comments on a story from the Tax Prof Blog where the "IRS allowed 'millions in erroneous car deductions to prisoners, dead people, kid,' citing a report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration." Check out Tim's post for all of the details.

Perhaps I should have titled this post Tim Wise blogging. A couple of thoughtful quotations that Tim was kind enough to pass along for you to ponder over the approaching weekend:

"[T]he illusion that by means of progressive taxation the burden can be shifted substantially onto the shoulders of the wealthy has been the chief reason why . . . the masses have come to accept a much heavier load than they would have done otherwise."
--Friedrich A. Hayek
"Nothing is more calculated to make a demagogue popular than a constantly reiterated demand for heavy taxes on the rich. Capital levies and high income taxes on the larger incomes are extraordinarily popular with the masses, who do not have to pay them."
--Ludwig von Mises

 

A huge (and belated) thank you to Jim Agresti of justfacts.com for including NTUF's BillTally research in their discussion of the national debt. They have a number of helpful charts, tables, and footnotes so that you know where everything comes from. Please check it out.

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Is House Leadership Trying to Kill a BBA?
Posted By: Andrew Moylan - 06/09/11

The fix is in, my friends. Speculation on Capitol Hill runs rampant that House Leadership is actively undermining the prospects for passage of a Balanced Budget Amendment to our Constitution, effectively eliminating the most powerful tool we have to enforce budgeting discipline into the future. While all 47 Senate Republicans co-sponsored a strong BBA that included a spending limit and a supermajority threshold for tax increases, House Leadership has been either ambivalent or subtly hostile towards real structural budget reform. In interviews, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) has said he isn't interested in "gimmicks," which many regarded as a backhanded comment about a BBA or a statutory spending cap.

This bad-mouthing seems to be working. The National Journal surveyed Members of Congress about what they expected from a debt ceiling agreement and only 39% of Republicans thought a BBA would be a part of the deal. For some perspective a recent poll found that 81% of Republican voters support a BBA, so I think it's safe to say that elected Rs appear to not be reflecting the will of their constituents very well.

And now word is leaking that Republican House leaders seem to be rushing through a BBA not in order to actually pass it, but to give it a speedy euthanasia and get it out of their hair. Just this morning, I received an email from a House staffer who said "Leadership is planning on bringing H.J. Res. 1 to the floor for a vote sometime over the next two weeks to delegitimize the BBA and separate it from the debt ceiling vote."

H.J. Res. 1 is the version of a BBA that was sped through a House Judiciary Committee markup last Friday with little notice. NTU has been advocating for a BBA for 40 years and I was one of just three people invited to personally testify in its favor at a House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution hearing last month, yet I heard NOTHING about the proposed markup until the morning it was occurring. That's not how a leadership team that's trying to build support for something operates, it's how you try to sneak something through quickly without a lot of scrutiny.

What's so peculiar about this turn of events is that a BBA is not some controversial too-conservative provision toxic to moderate Members' reelection prospects. This isn't, for example, Medicare reform, where dozens of Republican members had to swallow hard and cast the right vote in support knowing that Democrats would demagogue the issue mercilessly. Simply stated, NOBODY will have to "walk the plank" to vote for a BBA knowing that attack ads await them on the other side. It's a rare combination of good politics AND good policy, yet some Republicans are trying to kill it.

The next few weeks will tell you all you need to know about whether or not Republican leaders actually heard the message that was sent last November. Rushing a Balanced Budget Amendment through without allowing grassroots BBA supporters across the country to weigh in and build support would be a pretty clear indication of their true colors. If leaders in the House of Representatives schedule a vote on the Balanced Budget Amendment in the month of June, I'd consider it the equivalent of a big middle finger to the millions of fiscal conservatives who helped create the majority they now enjoy.

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The Late Edition: What do Snooki, a Former Marine, and NTU have in common?
Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 06/08/11

Today's Roundup of Taxpayer News!

NTU, along with Rep. Michael Grimm, and Snooki (from the Jersey Shore) Support Putting an End to the Tanning Tax

NTU is working with lawmakers to repeal the tanning tax, which has already led to the loss of 24,000 jobs.

GM CEO Wants Higher Gas Taxes

GM’s CEO Daniel Akerson came out in support of higher gas taxes as well as raising taxes on wealthy Americans. He said that higher gas taxes will help GM and the auto industry continue its rebound from the previous economic crisis. What it is it with people on the government dole?

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Fox Business: Property Taxes Rising in a Down Housing Market
Posted By: Douglas Kellogg - 05/23/11

Fox Business network  recently cited National Taxpayers Union data on property taxes in a story that exposed how property taxes have not declined despite the downward spiral in real estate values (Video available HERE). As NTU points out, this is due in large part to the fact 60% of properties are over-assessed.

Housing values have dropped about 18%, but property taxes continue to rise by 7% every year. Property taxes now account for over three quarters of local and state government tax revenue, and (surprise!) are not always accurately assessed by government officials.

Fox’s Gerry Willis offered some key tips to find out if your property is over-assessed:

  1. Call the accessor’s office to ask for their taxing authority (how they assess taxes) and ask for your property record.
  2. File an appeal if there is an error in your property record, official challenges can help.
  3. During the appeals process, make sure you have photos or hard evidence.
  4. Grab as many tax exemptions (i.e. disabilities, senior citizen) as you can by applying for them through the accessor’s office.

Avoid becoming one of the 60% of taxpayers whose property is over-assessed. In this down housing market, government officials are in no rush to update your property value. For more tips on reducing your property tax burden, check out NTU’s publication How to Fight Property Taxes.

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Coming This Summer: New DC Bus Tax
Posted By: Dan Barrett - 05/18/11

Folks traveling these days are faced with higher gas prices, more airport security fees, and static rail schedules, but new bus companies like Bolt and Mega Bus have utilized new technologies and business models to drive down the cost and hassle of getting around. If I wanted to take a mental health day from researching our federal budget (taxing as it is bloated), I could have paid a measly $20 for a round trip to New York City from Washington DC. Aside from the long gone Skybus airline, you can’t get any better than that.

The companies get by with rock bottom prices because they don’t have investments in bus depots, heavy union contracts, or out of touch leadership. They pick you up from a designated location -- a parking lot or street curb -- and get you where you’re going in a reasonable amount of time. My trip to NYC would take four hours in morning traffic.

However, the deals might be coming to an end. The DC government plans to impose a public space rental fee of $80,000 (or more) per year on these companies. This is a city government that already taxes its citizens and businesses similar to the nation’s biggest tax-hogs: Tied with California in the Tax Foundation’s Tax Freedom Day and with Washington State in the Americans for Tax Reform’s Cost of Government Day. In as little as a month, consumers will take another blow to their purchasing power because of government taxing and regulation.

This is likely not the end of the story. The nearby states of Virginia and Maryland have an opportunity to become new stop points for the bus companies. Whether they would impose a similar tax or leave the companies to serve their customers remains to be seen.

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