Politics Feed

Congress hopes to move beyond talk and have tax reform details in writing by mid-November. The Senate Budget Committee released its 2018 budget blueprint on Sept. 29, setting the stage for up to $1.5 trillion in tax cuts over the next 10 years. That's an astounding, alarming, amazing, pick-your-adjective amount. But the figure that caught my eye, and which earns this week's By the Numbers honor, is 13. As in Nov. 13. That's the date set in the Senate budget resolution by which it wants some legislative flesh attached to the framework of a tax reform that Republicans released on... Read more →


The arrival of a new NFL season each year also means the arrival of fantasy sports. More states are looking to regulate and, of course, tax daily fantasy sports operations. How's your National Football League team doing this season? For most fans, the answer is probably pretty good. A quick glance at NFL.com's standings after week three shows a preponderance of 2-1 teams, along with a handful that are undefeated. For many fans, however, the more important, and potentially lucrative, question is how is your fantasy football team doing? Quick confession here. I watch NFL games (until my teams start... Read more →


Shelley Long and Tom Hanks confront one of many (MANY) problems of homeownership in 1986's "The Money Pit." (Click image to view full MovieClips.com scene.) How expensive is owning a home? So expensive that many homeowners view "The Money Pit" as a documentary. But, we console ourselves, at least we get some nice tax breaks for our piece of the American Dream. In many cases, though, the reality of buying a house is, at best, a wash economically. Some folks would be better off financially renting. Ah, but emotionally, there's little that can beat the feeling of having your own... Read more →


House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady of Texas, surrounded by his Republican colleagues, displays a postcard tax return his Party says will be possible under the tax reform framework released today. (Screenshot of C-SPAN video; click image to watch tape.) And so tax reform 2017 begins. Unfortunately, it begins vaguely. The Republican Party today released its "Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code." That long title, which is in dramatic all capital letters on cover of the nine-page document, belies the amount of information it provides. In fact, there are fewer tax details in this latest GOP... Read more →


Real estate taxes, along with other now-deductible state and local levies, could be eliminated as part of the forthcoming Republican tax reform plan. One thing is true when it comes to tax law changes. Some people win and some people lose. The big question as we await the Trump Administration's tax reform proposal is who will end up in which group. One segment seen as a potential big loser in the proposal Republicans will release on Wednesday, Sept. 27, are the Americans who pay state and local taxes. These include income, sales and property taxes, all of which currently can... Read more →


UPDATE, Oct. 26, 2017: Uh-oh, it looks like the prez has changed his mind, at least somewhat, regarding his tough "NO change" to 401(k)s stance (see Oct. 23 update below). On Oct. 25, Donald J. Trump reiterated his support for the workplace retirement accounts, but added that changes to the tax-deferred defined contribution plans are still on the table "and maybe we'll use it as negotiating." The prez's comments came after he also got some push-back from Congressional tax writers, including House Ways and Means Chairman Rep. Kevin Brady (R-Texas). UPDATE, Oct. 23, 2017: 45th president apparently is a big... Read more →


Former Internal Revenue Service Exempt Organizations chief Lois Lerner leaves a Capitol Hill hearing on how the agency handles tax-exempt status requests. Her refusal to testify before two House Oversight Committee hearings in May 2013 and March 2014 ultimately led to her resignation from the IRS. Remember back in April 2015 when the Department of Justice decided it wouldn't follow-up on a Congressional contempt citation against Lois Lerner or "take any other action to prosecute" the former Internal Revenue Service executive? Current Republican Representatives do. And now, with the Justice Department full of fresh faces serving under a GOP White... Read more →


UPDATE: On Oct. 2, 2017, South Dakota made it official when Attorney General Marty Jackley filed a petition for certiorari, asking the United States Supreme Court to review the South Dakota Supreme Court decision in State of South Dakota v. Wayfair, Overstock and Newegg. South Dakota wants the nation's highest court to overrule current physical-presence requirement that prevents it (and other states) from requiring out-of-state retailers to remit taxes for sales made within state borders. Online is the preferred purchasing method for millions. That's why states are looking at law changes, and court rulings, that let them get their sales... Read more →


One of the major drivers of the latest federal tax reform effort is the corporate tax rate. The Trump Administration is still pushing for a 15 percent corporate tax rate, the White House's budget director, Mick Mulvaney, told CNBC last week. However, just the day before Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin conceded a 15 percent rate would be difficult to attain. Meanwhile, one Washington, D.C.-based tax policy group has looked at how much corporate taxes contribute per capita to state coffers. That analysis by The Tax Foundation earns this week's Shout Out Saturday honors. Not a major tax matter: "The corporate... Read more →


Bitcoin continues to confound financial and tax officials worldwide. BTC China, the country's first and largest digital currency exchange, announced Thursday, Sept. 14, that would stop trading by the end of the month. One reason apparently is the Chinese government ban instituted days earlier of fund-raising for new digital currencies. Although China embraced Bitcoin trading, the virtual currency's growth has increasingly worried the nation's regulators. One of the concerns was tax evasion. "Because it is traded anonymously and peer to peer, Bitcoin makes it easy for money laundering and tax evasion," Sheng Songcheng, an adviser to the People's Bank of... Read more →


Donald J. Trump is Tweeting about tax reform. He's also holding bipartisan dinners at the White House to talk taxes. West Virginia Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin was pleased steak was on the menu. The White House website has a video explaining how the tax code is broken. House Speaker Paul Ryan says Congressional Republican's tax reform plan outline will be released in a couple of weeks. Meanwhile, pundits have been honing their prognostication skills, attempting to tease out tax possibilities and their potential effects. But despite all this action, the bottom line is that it's still just a big tax... Read more →


Texas Rep. Kevin Brady, left, accepts a truckload of help from his New York colleague Rep. Tom Suozzi to help Hurricane Harvey victims. Now Brady wants to offer more help via special tax relief for retirement account withdrawals. (Photo from Rep. Brady via Facebook) Here's a clear indication that tax reform isn't going to be as easy as many hope. Talk of tax reform has focused variously on tax rate cuts, deduction reductions and overall simplification of the Internal Revenue Code. Rep. Kevin Brady, the Texas Republican in charge of the House tax-writing committee, is himself considering adding a new... Read more →


Amazon's headquarters (center high rise) dominates downtown Seattle. Now the online retail giant is looking to build a second HQ in another North American city. (Photo courtesy Amazon) In June, Amazon acquired what many Austin residents felt was a part of the city's core, the organic grocer Whole Foods. Now Texas' capital city is looking to get something back from Amazon — the online retailer's second headquarters. But becoming home to that new facility also raises a big question: At what tax cost? Second HQ as big as the first: Amazon announced Sept. 7 that it's looking for a city... Read more →


Houston paramedic Jesus Contreras, shown with some of his coworkers, was brought to the United States by his mother when he was just six. He is one of the almost 800,000 young people facing potential deportation if the Trump Administration revokes an Obama-instituted immigration leniency action. Click image to see the full NBC News report, via Twitter, on Contreras and the law. The White House is expected to make a decision on President Obama's Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program as soon as Tuesday, Sept. 5. UPDATE, Sept. 5: It's official. DACA is ending. In a press conference this... Read more →


Congress is looking to revise at least part of the bloated U.S. tax code in the coming months. In addition to reducing taxes, lawmakers say they want to make things simpler for taxpayers. In support of this argument, politicians and policy groups often point to the Internal Revenue Code’s complexity and compare it unfavorably to other nations. Our closest ally, however, shares a lot of the same tax troubles, at least according to one British economics writer. Growing British tax code: "Every [English] government promises to simplify taxes. None succeeds. We need more scrutiny of schemes that are too easy... Read more →


Most of the time, employees who are fired must look elsewhere for work. However, that’s not the case for some Internal Revenue Service personnel. An audit by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) found that around 10 percent of more than 2,000 former employees the IRS rehired between January 2015 and March 2016 were folks the agency had let go earlier because of conduct and performance issues. Troubling terminations: Those 213 rehired workers, according to TIGTA, had previously been ousted for workplace issues that included falsifying documents, avoiding taxes and taxpayer privacy offenses. Specifically, the July 24 report... Read more →


Virginia GOP Rep. Thomas Garrett, sponsor of a legislative petition to force a House vote on a clean repeal of Obamacare without any replacement measure. (Screen shot from appearance on Fox News) Congress isn't meeting this month, but that hasn't stopped a group of conservative Republicans in recent days from devising a plan they hope will, as they've promised for seven years, repeal Obamacare. House Freedom Caucus members are looking to force a straight repeal of the Affordable Care Act, known as the ACA or more (un)popularly Obamacare, and the health care law's related taxes. The erasure of the law,... Read more →


Downtown Seattle seen from Queen Anne Hill, with the Space Needle standing out and Mount Rainier in the background. (Photo by Rattlhed via Wikimedia Commons) Washington is one of seven states that does not have a personal income tax, but it’s largest city plans to collect one from its wealthiest residents. If the courts let it. On July 14, Seattle City Council bill 119002 became ordinance 125339, which beginning in 2018 will officially impose an income tax on high-income residents. The 2.25 percent tax will apply to individuals within the city's borders with an annual income exceeding $250,000 a year,... Read more →


Tax reform, or at least tax cuts, will top Congress' agenda when it gets back from August recess. But will Representatives and Senators actually rewrite the tax code the way most Americans want? Today's Shout Out Saturday piece says maybe not. Donald J. Trump reportedly is now backing a corporate tax rate of 20 percent to 25 percent, up from the 15 percent rate included in his April tax overhaul outline. That slightly higher business tax rate jibes with what corporate executives and business lobbyists say is attainable. That, however, is not what American taxpayers want, according to a recent... Read more →


I’ve mentioned in few posts already this month that it’s hot. Here in Central Texas, we’re in a stretch of triple-digit temperatures that are breaking records every day. That’s why our pantry is full of Cokes — that’s Texan for any kind of soft drink — and bottled water, since I like the carbonated kind. The refrigerator also is stocked with juices and, of course, beer. Our increased liquid diet every summer means that we pay added sales taxes based on what beverages are in our grocery cart. Soft drinks are subject to Texas state and local sales taxes, but... Read more →