Richard Neal will lead House Ways & Means Democrats. A battle between Neal (D-MA) and Xavier Becerra (D-CA) was averted when California Governor Jerry Brown picked Becerra to be the state’s next attorney general. Becerra will fill the vacancy left by incoming Senator Kamala Harris. Most observers felt that Neal, a moderate who first came to Congress nearly three decades ago, would be selected as ranking Democratic on the panel. Michigan’s Sandy Levin announced this week that he’d step down from the post.
In exchange for $7 million, 800 jobs stay in Indiana. Carrier, manufacturer of furnaces and air conditioners, and its parent company United Technologies, secured $7 million in state tax breaks from Indiana over ten years. In exchange, it will keep a total of 800 jobs in the state. Carrier will still fire 1300 people who work in other to-be-closed plants in the state. President-elect Trump and Vice-President-Elect Pence (who is Indiana’s governor) announced the agreement yesterday. Trump had pledged to save the jobs during the campaign.
Could Donald Trump sell his businesses, tax-free? TPC’s Steve Rosenthal reviews the evidence, and says, “Surprisingly, the answer may be yes. The law is ambiguous, a 50/50 proposition.” Why? Because the Ethics Reform Act of 1989 requires officers or employees of the executive branch to avoid conflicts of interest. If they sell assets to avoid conflicts, the act’s Section 1043 lets them defer taxation on any profits as long as they reinvest the proceeds in Treasuries or diversified mutual funds. The president or vice-president do not have to divest, but still may be able to take advantage of the provisions allowing tax-free dispositions. The president himself could make the determination.
Senate Democrats want to see tax returns of Trump nominees. The lawmakers are demanding three years of returns for all of the president-elect’s cabinet appointees. Currently, only three committees, including the Finance panel, are authorized to request returns.
Illinois Governor Bruce Rauner wants a property tax freeze. The Republican announced his plans yesterday. He’d prefer a long-term spending plan instead of the temporary bill that’s been debated since the summer. He will, however, consider a stop-gap budget if it includes a permanent property tax freeze and term limits. Meanwhile, Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan wants to raise the state income tax rate back up to 5 percent. Rauner had said he could only support a tax increase with reforms.
The IRS has a new online tool to help taxpayers. The application will give taxpayers access to straightforward balance inquiries. Taxpayers will be able to see their IRS account balance, which will include the amount they owe for tax, penalties and interest. Taxpayers may also continue to take advantage of the various online payment options. To use the tool, taxpayers have to use a two-step authentication process.
China thinks car owners should be less flamboyant. As of yesterday, the government will levy a surtax of 10 percent on cars that cost more than 1.3 million yuan (or $189,000). Chinese authorities are trying to curb extravagant demonstrations of wealth and reduce carbon emissions.
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