Cleaning Up The Federal Taxes And The Federal Budget

Yesterday The Washington Times posted an article about one aspect of the tax bill that will limit fraud and save the taxpayers billions of dollars.

The article reports:

The new GOP tax overhaul would strip illegal immigrants of the ability to claim several major tax credits, saving the government $23.1 billion over the next decade, according to the bill’s authors.

For years Republicans have complained that despite a general ban on taxpayer benefits flowing to illegal immigrants, the IRS has allowed them to collect the child tax credit, the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

…But the new tax overhaul tries again, calling for taxpayers to have to submit work-eligible Social Security numbers in order to claim the credits.

Immigrant-rights advocates have complained about attempts to close the tax credits in the past.

In the case of the child tax credit, activists say that while the parents may be in the country illegally, their children are often U.S. citizens who deserve the credit.

…Many illegal immigrants pay taxes using Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers, which the IRS issues to those who aren’t authorized to work in the U.S., but whom the government still wants to pony up to Uncle Sam.

The IRS pays out billions of dollars a year in tax credits to people filing using ITINs each year, according to the agency’s inspector general.

The inspector general has repeatedly urged the IRS to stop making the payments, but the agency has refused, saying it interprets the law related to those tax credits to cover illegal immigrants as well as other taxpayers.

The obvious question is why is the government making payments to people who are not in America legally and have no right to work here.

The Need For Fiscal Responsibility In Washington

Yesterday The Washington Times reported that the Internal Revenue Service was extremely generous with taxpayer money–paying millions of dollars in refunds to people who were not legally entitled to them.

The article reports:

The IRS doled out more than $24 billion in potentially bogus refunds claimed under several controversial tax credits in 2016, according to a new audit that said $118 million was even paid to people who weren’t authorized to work in the U.S. in the first place.

Some $16.8 billion in payments were made on improper claims under the Earned Income Tax Credit, signifying a 24 percent error rate. Investigators also estimated $7.2 billion in improper payments for the Additional Child Tax Credit, representing 25 percent of the total, and $1.1 billion in improper payments, or 24 percent, for a higher education tax credit.

The totals and error rates for the earned income and child credits were comparable for 2015, while the education tax credit saw improvement.

The article explains that Congress passed a law in 2015 that was supposed to curb payments to people who were not entitled to them.

The article reports:

Both the inspector general and the tax agency said that steps have already been taken to try to prevent a repeat in the future, saying that a law passed in late 2015 should help.

Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration J. Russell George said the IRS needs to follow through on the 2015 law, which imposes more restrictions on certain filers and delays refunds for people claiming the credits to give agents more time to flag suspicious returns.

One particular problem the IRS faces is checking people who have Social Security numbers but who aren’t authorized to work in the U.S.

This is one place that the federal budget could be easily cut. Tax refunds should only go to the people entitled to receive them.

 

Bringing The Federal Budget Under Control

The Washington Examiner reported yesterday that one of the steps President Trump will be taking to help balance the budget next year will be reining in tax payments to illegal immigrants.

The article reports:

Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget, set to be released Tuesday, will set higher eligibility standards for the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit, Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney said Monday. According to the administration, the measures will save $40 billion over 10 years.

In May 2014, The Washington Examiner reported:

The Treasury Department has released its latest report on the fight against widespread fraud in the Earned Income Tax Credit program. The problem is, fraud is still winning. And there’s not even much of a fight.

“The Internal Revenue Service continues to make little progress in reducing improper payments of Earned Income Tax Credits,” a press release from Treasury’s inspector general for Tax Administration says. “The IRS estimates that 22 to 26 percent of EITC payments were issued improperly in Fiscal Year 2013. The dollar value of these improper payments was estimated to be between $13.3 billion and $15.6 billion.”

There is no reason to continue funding tax fraud.

The article concludes:

Some anti-illegal immigration groups have said that allowing workers to claim credits without providing a Social Security number amounts to paying illegal immigrants to stay in the country. Conservative lawmakers also have favored tightening the restrictions as a matter of fiscal conservatism.

Liberal groups, though, argue that illegal immigrants pay taxes, such as payroll taxes for Social Security, for which they won’t get benefits. More generally, the low-income tax credits generally benefit needy families, even if they technically did not qualify for the benefits they received.

Why are we running huge budget deficits to pay benefits to people who are not eligible to receive them? This doesn’t make sense to me. It would be nice to see that change.

One Reason Washington Insiders Fear Ted Cruz

Senator Ted Cruz is not a Washington insider. Despite the fact that his career path has taken him to Washington, he is not part of the ‘in-crowd.’ He has shown numerous times that he has basic principles and that he is willing to take a stand on those principles whether anyone joins him or not. This sort of thinking is dangerous to the Washington establishment–of either party. That is one reason the attacks on him will increase as the primary elections continue.

Currently the Internal Revenue Service Tax Code is a tribute to the effectiveness of lobbyists. The tax code is used to encourage certain behavior and discourage other behavior. There are times when the tax code has been used to encourage marriage and families and times when it has been used to discourage marriage. Certain business with strong lobbyists have received tax breaks in the past. The tax code has been used to subsidize certain industries and behaviors. Crony capitalism has been a major force behind changes and writing of the tax code. It is time for that to end, and Ted Cruz has an interesting suggestion as to how to end it.

The following is taken from Ted Cruz’s webpage:

FlatTaxPlanWouldn’t it be nice to be able to pay your taxes on this simple form?

The website further reports:

PERSONAL INCOME TAX – SINGLE RATE: 10%

The Simple Flat Tax creates a simple, single-rate flat tax for individuals. The existing seven different rates of individual income tax will become one low rate: 10%.

  • A family of four will pay no taxes on their first $36,000 of income.
  • The plan exempts a large amount of initial income for low- and middle-income taxpayers, with a $10,000 standard deduction and $4,000 personal exemption. It also keeps the Child Tax Credit and expands and modernizes the Earned Income Tax Credit with greater anti-fraud and pro-marriage reforms.
  • The plan keeps the charitable giving deduction and features a home mortgage interest deduction, capped at principal value of $500,000.

BUSINESS FLAT TAX – SINGLE RATE: 16%

The corporate income tax along with the payroll tax are abolished, replaced by a 16% Business Flat Tax.

  • The current corporate tax code is riddled with years of accumulated loopholes and special favors, burdening U.S. businesses with the highest top tax rate among the advanced nations. This convoluted and anti-competitive structure will be replaced with a simple 16% tax on net business sales (gross sales minus expenses and capital expenditures).
  • The current payroll tax discourages work and job creation. The vast majority of Americans pay more in payroll tax than in income tax. The Simple Flat Tax will eliminate the payroll tax, boosting jobs and wages for working Americans, while guaranteeing funding for Social Security and Medicare.

UNIVERSAL SAVINGS ACCOUNTS (USA)

The Simple Flat Tax creates Universal Savings Accounts (USA) allowing savings of up to $25,000 per year in tax-deferred dollars.

Savers can withdraw the funds at any time for any reason – whether it be for college tuition, a down payment on a home, or their son or daughter’s wedding. This savings feature harmonizes with the tax elements of the Cruz Simple Flat Tax to move toward encouraging savings and investment – a recipe for economic growth and jobs.

There are other tax reform plans out there, but this plan looks possible and interesting. The plan also eliminates the death tax, the overseas profits tax, the Alternative Minimum Tax, and the ObamaCare taxes.

I would just like to note that there is some serious double taxation in our current tax code–the death tax taxes money that taxes were paid on during the life of the person who died. Taxes paid on Social Security income are being paid on money that was already taxed when it was earned. The government needs to become considerable less greedy and allow Americans to keep more of the  money they earn.

 

 

Who Gets Green Energy Money

Yesterday Steven Hayward posted a story at Power Line about a Haas School of Business at the University of California at Berkeley study showing who gets the tax credits associated with green energy. The results of the study are not surprising, but provide another example of excessive government spending helping people who really don’t need help.

The article reports:

Since 2006, U.S. households have received more than $18 billion in federal income tax credits for weatherizing their homes, installing solar panels, buying hybrid and electric vehicles, and other “clean energy” investments. We use tax return data to examine the socioeconomic characteristics of program recipients. We find that these tax expenditures have gone predominantly to higher-income Americans. The bottom three income quintiles have received about 10% of all credits, while the top quintile has received about 60%. The most extreme is the program aimed at electric vehicles, where we find that the top income quintile has received about 90% of all credits. By comparing to previous work on the distributional consequences of pricing greenhouse gas emissions, we conclude that tax credits are likely to be much less attractive on distributional grounds than market mechanisms to reduce GHGs.

Logically this is not surprising. Lower income people are not likely to pay the extra money for an electric car (or have a charging station). Lower income people are less likely to own their own home. People on welfare have no incentive to reduce their energy bills–welfare is paying for them. On the other side of the equation, most upper income people are in the habit of taking advantage of any ‘free’ money offered to them. Many upper income people have financial advisers who are paid to follow government tax programs and rebate programs. Upper income people may also have the money on hand to do the capital improvements required to get the tax credits, lower income people may not. Generally speaking I favor tax credits, lower taxes, etc., but I resent the fact that the tax code is used to control behavior–that is why it is so long. It really is time to build a tax code with two or three deductions that everyone can understand and that results in everyone paying some taxes. We all need skin in the game so that when our legislators start giving money away to people who do not need it, everyone will complain,.

It’s All Done With Smoke And Mirrors

I will have further comments on the President’s State of the Union Speech tomorrow, but I do have one observation on some of what has been released to the public ahead of time.

This afternoon The Washington Examiner posted a story about President Obama’s proposed tax cut for middle class families. The President has proposed a $500 tax credit for two-earner families.

The article reports:

The provision is included in his effort “to help middle class families get ahead.” Like who? Administration officials said families earning up to $210,000 would get a piece of the tax credit. That is four-times the earning of the “typical” middle class income of $51,939 calculated by the Obama-supporting Center for American Progress.

It’s to pay for the added commuter and child care costs of two-earner families, but it wouldn’t cover much.

Take child day care. The just-out Child Care Aware of America’s 2014 report said the child care price for an infant can reach $14,508 a year or $279 a week.

The article also points out that the cost of dinner on New Year’s Day for the president and the first lady was $295 per person, not including wine. President Obama’s middle class tax break would not have even paid for his New Year’s Day dinner.

Adding To The Confusion Of ObamaCare

CNN posted an article today about how the subsidies paid to ObamaCare subscribers are going to impact their taxes. No one told them this was going to be taxable!

The article reports:

Obamacare enrollees who received subsidies to help pay for coverage will soon have to reconcile how much they actually earned in 2014 with how much they estimated when they applied many, many months ago.

This will likely lead to some very unhappy Americans. Those who underestimated their income either will receive smaller tax refunds or will owe the IRS money.

That’s because subsidies are actually tax credits and are based on annual income, but folks got their 2014 subsidy before knowing exactly what they’d make in 2014. So you’ll have to reconcile the two with the IRS during the upcoming tax filing season.

Filing taxes has never been any fun–ObamaCare just made it worse.

Subsidies were what kept the cost of ObamaCare down for subscribers:

We’re not talking chump change. Those who applied through the federal exchange received an average monthly subsidy of $264, according to the most recent figures reported by the Obama administration. They only had to pay $82 a month, on average, for coverage, Roughly 85% of total enrollees received help with insurance premiums. The administration last month said 2014 enrollment was 6.7 million.

Those who underestimated their earnings could owe thousands of dollars, though there is a $2,500 cap for those who remain eligible for subsidies. The threshold for eligibility is based on income – $45,900 for an individual and $94,200 for a family in 2014.

In June, the Supreme Court is expected to rule on whether or not subsidies can be given in states that did not create healthcare exchanges. If the ruling says no, we can expect total chaos in the healthcare sector of the economy while everyone regroups. Meanwhile, the taxman cometh!

The Internal Revenue Service And Tax Fraud

On Tuesday, Byron York posted an article at the Washington Examiner website about widespread fraud in the Earned Income Tax Credit program.

The article reports:

“The Internal Revenue Service continues to make little progress in reducing improper payments of Earned Income Tax Credits,” a press release from Treasury’s inspector general for Tax Administration says. “The IRS estimates that 22 to 26 percent of EITC payments were issued improperly in Fiscal Year 2013. The dollar value of these improper payments was estimated to be between $13.3 billion and $15.6 billion.”

That’s not pocket change. Remember that these are the people who will administer the revenue part of ObamaCare.

The article explains that the IRS is not making any serious effort to end this fraud:

The new report found that the IRS is simply ignoring the requirements of a law called the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act, signed by President Obama in 2010, which requires the IRS to set fraud-control targets and keep improper payments below ten percent of all Earned Income Tax Credit payouts. “The IRS continues to not provide all required IPERA information to the Department of the Treasury,” the new report says. “… For the third consecutive year, the IRS did not publish annual reduction targets or report an improper payment rate of less than 10 percent for the EITC.”

Let’s eliminate all bonuses paid to IRS employees until this fraud is at least under control. That might cause the IRS to develop some interest in solving the problem.

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When You Subsidize A Behavior You Get More Of It

The charts below are from PJ Media. They illustrate the destructive impact of ObamaCare on the family and marriage:

MarriedNoKidsAge60OcareGraph0913

MarriedVsCohabit60yoOcare0913

MarriedCouple93kDivorce2KidsOcare0913

When you subsidize a behavior, you get more of it. We have seen that with the impact the War on Poverty has had on the black family. Up until the poverty programs that were put in place in the 1960’s, ninety percent of black families had two parents living with their children.  In 2011 two-thirds of black families were single-parent families. We see the impact of this in the growth of gangs and gang violence. Marriage and the family are the foundation of a healthy society. The way ObamaCare is set up totally undermines that foundation.

The article at PJ Media concludes:

The couple’s annual unsubsidized premium while married is $11,547 (OFA’s vaunted “tax credits” disappear at $92,401 for married couples with two children). But if they divorce and shack up while giving custody of both children to the lower-earning spouse, their combined annual premiums, at $4,317, will be over $7,200 lower. That’s over $600 a month. As was the case in the previous example, the savings from divorce will gradually increase every year. Parents will be torn between doing what Western civilization has considered morally right for millennia and their children’s financial well-being as never before.

The train wreck that is ObamaCare needs to be stopped.

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About That Tax Policy Thing…

Yesterday wthr.com, an Indiana television station, posted an article about a tax loophole that it costing Americans billions of dollars–it doesn’t involve ‘evil’ corporations or the ‘evil’ rich–it involves a simple IRS tax policy toward legal and illegal aliens who are working in America.

Please watch the video at the link above to hear the entire story. Essentially what is happening is that non-Americans who are working in America are issued an ITIN, an individual taxpayer identification number. A 9-digit ITIN number issued by the IRS provides both resident and nonresident aliens with a unique identification number that allows them to file tax returns. This number is issued to both legal and illegal aliens.

The article reports:

Each spring, at tax preparation offices all across the nation, many illegal immigrants are now eagerly filing tax returns to take advantage of a tax loophole, using their ITIN numbers to get huge refunds from the IRS.

The loophole is called the Additional Child Tax Credit. It’s a fully-refundable credit of up to $1000 per child, and it’s meant to help working families who have children living at home.  

But 13 Investigates has found many undocumented workers are claiming the tax credit for kids who live in Mexico – lots of kids in Mexico.

“We’ve seen sometimes 10 or 12 dependents, most times nieces and nephews, on these tax forms,” the whistleblower told Eyewitness News. “The more you put on there, the more you get back.”

Some of the tax refunds generated by this practice have reached $30,000. I wonder if $30,000 was paid in taxes in the first place.

The article posted a statement from the IRS regarding this matter:

Full statement to WTHR from the Internal Revenue Service

The law has been clear for over a decade that eligibility for these credits does not depend on work authorization status or the type of taxpayer identification number used. Any suggestion that the IRS shouldn’t be paying out these credits under current law to ITIN holders is simply incorrect. The IRS administers the law impartially and applies it as it is written. If the law were changed, the IRS would change its programs accordingly. The IRS disagrees with TIGTA’s recommendation on requiring additional documentation to verify child credit claims. As TIGTA acknowledges in this report, the IRS does not currently have the legal authority to verify and disallow the Child Tax Credit and the Additional Child Tax Credit during return processing simply because of the lack of documentation. The IRS has procedures in place specifically for the evaluation of questionable credit claims early in the processing stream and prior to issuance of a refund. The IRS continues to work to refine and improve our processes.

Why do I have the feeling that if I start listing my nieces or nephews on my tax return, the IRS will pay me a visit?

 

 

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Should Snooki Get A Tax Break ?

Jersey Shore (TV series)

Image via Wikipedia

The Blaze is reporting today that New Jersey must reimburse the producers of that classic television show “Jersey Shore” $420,000 thanks to a now-suspended tax credit program. Governor Christie suspended the Economic Development Authority in 2010, but all deals made before that have to be honored.

I attempted to watch “Jersey Shore” once. I lasted about five minutes. Admittedly, I am long past my teenage and young-adult angst, but the show just struck me as being about some very shallow, self-centered people who were not very entertaining. Among the cast, there seemed to be barely enough intelligence and common sense to fill a teacup. I spent my teenage years in New Jersey, and I can honestly say that the show does not depict the Jersey Shore I remember.

The article reports:

Less than a decade ago, only five states offered financial incentives to movie makers, but by 2010, almost every state in the union had a film commission and a package to offer producers. These generous tax breaks for movies and TV seemed to have gone under the radar until recently. A combination of budget problems and abuses discovered within some of the systems slowed the amount of money being offered by states to filmmakers. However, the Screen Actors Guild website lists all of the state film commission offices which contains offers of rebates/tax credits from 10% to 40%. (Puerto Rico has the most generous package.)

Tax breaks for movies probably do generate short-term revenue, but it’s a shame that the states cannot demand a higher quality product!

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