The White House Strikes Back… sort of. The White House and President Trump derided The New York Times story about the Trump family’s tax issues. Trump called the story “boring” but didn’t deny any specific allegations. Meanwhile, New York State’s tax department is reviewing the story’s claims and may open its own investigation. And, in a true testament to our era, Showtimewill air a “docu-short” about the investigation on Sunday. The network had assigned a camera crew to cover The New York Timesreporters as they worked, for over a year.
The Phantom… Tax Returns? Following the New York Times story, reporters asked White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders whether President Trump would release his tax returns. She said that "a number" of his returns were still under audit, but would not say whether any are from the period investigated by The Times. She is also “not aware of any plans” to release his returns. But the president may have little choice. The Wall Street Journal reports (paywall)that congressional Democrats will subpoena (and presumably make public) Donald Trump’s tax returns should they win control of at least one house of Congress in November.
The FSA Awakens? The Tax Hound returns with a look at how federal taxpayers help pay for… her daughter’s braces. Namely through the tax subsidy known as the Flexible Spending Account. She asks, “if we want to use the tax code to subsidize the cost of health care expenses, can we find a way that is fairer?"
The Return of the “Common Sense.” Australia will eliminate a 10 percent goods and service tax on feminine hygiene products starting in January. The decision came after nearly 20 years of campaigning by gender rights activists, who said that the tax discriminated against women. “Common sense has prevailed,” said Federal Treasurer Josh Frydenberg, calling the tax repeal “long overdue.”
May the deduction be with you? Bloomberg Tax reports that major league baseball owners—many of whom are billionaires—have asked the IRS to include them as business owners eligible for the TCJA’s 20 percent deduction for pass-through businesses. The TCJA and the regs bar high-income athletes and coaches from taking the deduction, but say nothing about owners.
Attack of the… Experts. Well, not so much “attack” as “humble presence.” TPC’s Rudy Penner described the role of experts in today’s political climate in a speech to the annual meeting of the OECD Network of Parliamentary Budget Officials and Independent Fiscal Institutions in July. The former CBO director said that policy analysts have gotten better at what they do, with better data and better techniques. But there’s always room for improvement.
Revenge of the Business Dinner. The IRS has issued guidance on the TCJA’s changes in the business expense deduction for meals and entertainment. Taxpayers still may deduct 50 percent of the cost of business meals if the taxpayer (or her employee) is present and the food and drink are not lavish or extravagant. The meals must be provided to a current or potential business customer, client, consultant, or similar business contact. But deductions for any expenses generally considered entertainment, amusement, or recreation are no longer allowed. So… here’s to boring meals.
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