On the Hill: Senate Democrats vow to block all GOP spending bills, while the House plans to spend the remaining weeks of July on two tasks. The first: Finding a way to extend the Highway Trust Fund. The second: Cutting IRS funding by 7.7 percent and barring the agency from using appropriated funds to implement the Affordable Care Act's individual mandate. There is no chance either IRS initiative will become law. Will Congress be forced to pass a continuing resolution to keep the government funded after September 30? It’s a pretty good bet.
TIGTA says there’s no fire behind IRS email smoke. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration found no evidence of political motivation, White House involvement, or intentional destruction of IRS emails. The missing electronic correspondence has been the subject of intense GOP scrutiny.
An across-the-board individual tax rate cut of 1 percent helps top bracket taxpayers the most, for the most part. A new TPC analysis finds that households making under $30,000 would get almost no benefit from a 1 percent rate cut, while middle-income households earning between $50,000 and $75,000 would get an extra $250 a year. The cut would increase after-tax income of those making $1 million or more by 0.8 percent, or almost $17,000. But as TPC’s Howard Gleckman explains, “Only half of those making $500,000 to $1 million in expanded cash income would get a tax cut. Why? Mostly because of the dreaded Alternative Minimum Tax.”
A look at Puerto Rico’s debt crisis. TPC’s Tracy Gordon explains that US investors pay no federal, state, or local income taxes on interest on bonds issued by the commonwealth, its municipalities, or its public corporations. This triple-exempt status allowed Puerto Rico’s public debt to explode, but as a US territory, the island cannot access federal bankruptcy protection. Gordon concludes, “Puerto Rico will eventually emerge from this crisis… But economic development is a long game. Sustained growth takes basic building blocks like good schools, low crime, and investments to improve quality of life and lower costs of doing business.”
California’s audit of Blue Shield of California uncovers a stockpile of cash. The California Franchise Tax Board revoked the insurer’s tax exemption last year, and has now explained why. The nonprofit had stockpiled over $4 billion but failed to reduce premiums. The auditors found that Blue Shield’s operations were indistinguishable from its for-profit competitors, and thus should be stripped of its tax exempt status. Blue Shield enjoyed that tax break since its founding in 1939.
The State of Washington enjoys its high marijuana tax revenue. It was the second legal marijuana market to open in the country, and one year in, 160 shops are selling weed. Sales have exceeded $1.4 million per day and tax revenues are booming. Over the past year, Washington collected about $62 million in marijuana excise taxes, well beyond the forecast of $36 million. This month a three-level excise tax shifts to a single 37 percent tax.
Oregon’s pay-per-mile road tax is now underway. The voluntary program began July 1. Up to 5,000 drivers can install a device in their car that tracks their distance driven. They’ll pay a tax of 1.5 cents per mile and receive a credit against gas taxes they pay at the pump. Oregon hopes that this will be a fairer way to pay for roads, since fuel efficient cars use less gas and pay less in gas taxes.
Would it be fair for Michigan to cancel business tax breaks to pay for its roads? TPC’s Tax Hound considers the tax deals Michigan has made with the Big Three automakers and a few hundred other companies. Thanks to a healthy economy, the projected price tag of these tax subsidies has ballooned to $9.4 billion over the next two decades. But, for now, it’s a price Michigan taxpayers must pay.
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