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Posts tagged ‘United States House Committee on Ways and Means’

Proposed IRS Rule Change Splits Leaders of Key House Panel.


Image: Proposed IRS Rule Change Splits Leaders of Key House Panel

By Todd Beamon

Proposed changes in how the IRS evaluates the political activity of 501(c)(4)social welfare” groups have split the top two members of the House Ways and Means Committee — and they represent the same state.

The committee chairman, Republican Rep. Dave Camp of Michigan, said on Tuesday that the Obama administration should not issue the new guidelines, Roll Call reports.

“This smacks of the administration trying to shut down potential critics,” Camp said.

He was referring to those who have attacked the IRS for singling out tea party, conservative, and religious groups for special scrutiny in their applications for 501(c)(4) status.

The status allows the organizations to keep their donors private. Such groups spent “tens of millions” of dollars in the last election, Roll Call reports.

“There continues to be an ongoing investigation, with many documents yet to be uncovered, into how the IRS systematically targeted and abused conservative-leaning groups,” Camp said, according to Roll Call.

“Before rushing forward with new rules, especially ones that appear to make it harder to engage in public debate, I would hope Treasury would let all the facts come out first — something they could achieve by fully cooperating with Congress in the investigation.”

But the panel’s ranking Democrat, Sandy Levin, who also represents the Wolverine State, called the proposed rules “a good first step,” Roll Call reports.

“As we plainly saw in the investigations into the failings within the IRS tax-exempt division, the lack of clear guidance on defining and measuring political activities under current law led to mismanagement and delays in the processing of exemption applications from progressive and conservative organizations,” Levin told Roll Call.

“The proposal for a ‘candidate-related political activity’ is a reasonable starting place, but the details will be important, for example, in an area as critical as voter registration drives,” Levin said.

At issue is whether an organization may obtain tax-exempt status through promoting the “social welfare.”

Political groups have loosely interpreted the IRS rules to participate in a wide range of political activities, ranging from educating voters to coaching potential candidates for office, Roll Call reports.

The proposed new guidelines, however, would bar organizations seeking the exempt status from “candidate-related political activity.”

Levin called the work of 501(c)(4) groups “vital in communities across the country,” adding that it was “important that there be clear guidelines between promoting social welfare and engaging in political activity for organizations seeking this tax exemption.”

The Democrat said the proposed changes would help remove the “ambiguity” from the current IRS evaluation system, Roll Call reports.

Acknowledging that “gross mismanagement of the tax-exempt division” had occurred, Levin said clearer guidelines were needed to prevent future mistakes, Roll Call reports.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

GOP Rep. Camp Set to Rewrite Tax Code.


The U.S. Congress‘ top Republican on tax policy is drawing up a plan to rewrite the tax code and is likely to recommend repeal of a popular and costly federal tax deduction for state and local taxes paid, congressional aides said.

House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp, who is expected to unveil his plan soon, is pushing forward with the idea of a tax code overhaul despite expectations that this Congress is too fractured to take on such a big project.

The provision, available only to the roughly one-third of federal taxpayers who itemize, allows taxpayers to deduct from their income the value of state and local property tax paid, as well as state and local income or sales tax paid.

Claimed by 46.6 million Americans in 2011, the deduction reduced U.S. tax revenues that year by an estimated $42 billion, making it one of the largest tax breaks in the code.

With lawmakers faced off across a deep partisan fiscal divide, Camp’s determination to proceed reflects a personal conviction that the tax code badly needs work.

Future discussions on tax policy could begin with the plan Camp hatches and the lawmaker has said nothing is off-limits.

“Everything is on the table means everything is on the table,” said Michelle Dimarob, a committee spokesperson.

Several bipartisan deficit-cutting panels have urged repeal of the deduction for state and local taxes paid, including the Simpson-Bowles commission appointed by President Barack Obama and Congress. “It is hard to go into (tax) reform and not go there,” a top Senate Republican tax aide said.

The deduction will be significantly curtailed or axed in any proposal put forward by Camp, said an aide who works for him.

PAYING FOR LOWER RATES

Camp, like most Republicans, wants to slash tax rates. The cuts he envisions would sharply reduce U.S. tax revenues. Those reductions would have to be offset, at least in part, by new revenues, which could be found by ending some tax breaks.

The one for payment of state and local taxes tends to disproportionately benefit wealthy people in Democratic stronghold states. More than 30 percent of the total value of the deduction in 2011 was claimed by New Yorkers and Californians, according to congressional estimates.

If he targets the deduction, Camp will face stiff opposition from Democrats who control the Senate.

Lobbyists, particularly those for state and local governments, are not letting their guard down either.

Repealing the deduction “would fundamentally change a basic tenet of federalism in the United States – the notion that different levels of government don’t tax each other,” said Lars Etzkorn, a lobbyist with the National League of Cities.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: NEWSmax.com

IRS Targeted Tea Party After Granting Tax Status.


The Internal Revenue Service continued to target conservative political groups even after approving their applications for tax-exempt status, a key Republican lawmaker said Wednesday.

A May report by the IRS inspector general said the agency gave extra scrutiny to 298 groups when they applied for tax exempt status from the spring of 2010 to the spring of 2012. The vast majority of the groups — 248 — were conservative, while 29 were liberal and 21 were neither, according to an analysis by the Republican staff of the House Ways and Means Committee.

Of the 111 conservative groups that had their applications approved, 38 were flagged for additional monitoring, according to the staff review. Of the 20 liberal groups that had their applications approved, seven were flagged for additional monitoring.

The IRS acknowledged in May that agents had improperly targeted tea party and other conservative groups for additional, sometimes burdensome scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. But the revelation that groups were singled out for even more scrutiny after receiving tax-exempt status will broaden the committee’s investigation, said Rep. Charles Boustany, R-La., who chairs the panel’s oversight subcommittee.

“That’s a whole new line of investigation that we now have embarked on,” Boustany said at a committee hearing Wednesday. “There could have been potential meddling in that examinations process.”

After the hearing, the IRS issued a statement saying that while some groups had been flagged for additional scrutiny in the future, that monitoring never took place because the program was put on hold this summer.

“This means that none of them received special scrutiny,” the IRS said. “This precautionary step was done out of an abundance of caution and to ensure a fresh, independent evaluation to determine if these groups needed review at a future point in time. We are continuing to assess the situation going forward.”

The monitoring, known as a review of operations, would have fallen short of a full audit in most cases. Under the program, agents monitor groups to assess whether they are adhering to the activities described in their applications for tax-exempt status.

Acting IRS head Danny Werfel said all of the orders to more closely monitor tax-exempt groups have been rescinded while the IRS works to develop new guidelines.

“They are no longer on a path of potential examination at this time,” Werfel said at the hearing. “That whole process is on hold.”

The IRS has been under siege since May when agency officials acknowledged that agents working in a Cincinnati office had improperly targeted tea party groups for extra scrutiny when they applied for tax-exempt status. Shortly after the revelation, President Barack Obama forced the acting IRS commissioner to resign and appointed Werfel to run the agency temporarily.

In August, Obama nominated John Koskinen, a retired corporate and government turnaround specialist, to a five-year term as commissioner. Werfel continues to run the agency while Koskinen awaits Senate confirmation.

Three congressional committees and the Justice Department have launched investigations, and much of the leadership at the IRS has been replaced.

So far, congressional investigators have shown that IRS supervisors in Washington knew that applications by tea party groups were being delayed for months and even years. However, investigators have not publicly produced evidence that anyone outside the IRS ordered the targeting or knew it was happening.

The IRS has also released documents suggesting that progressive groups may have been targeted, too. House Republican investigators have been working to show that while some liberal groups were treated poorly, conservative groups were treated worse.

“Unfortunately, my friends on the other side of the aisle continue to frame this issue as a partisan one — as only affecting conservative groups,” said Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, the top Democrat on the Ways and Means subcommittee. “Time and time again the facts have shown that both Republican-leaning and Democratic-leaning groups were singled out during the application process.”

As part of their investigation, Ways and Means Committee staff have interviewed 25 IRS officials and are reviewing about 300,000 internal IRS documents, Boustany said.

Also Wednesday, the Republican staff of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee issued a 19-page update of its investigation. Much of the memo detailed how Democratic politicians, including Obama, were publicly vilifying conservative political groups at the same time that IRS agents were targeting them.

The memo included excerpts of interviews with IRS workers who said they were aware of the publicity surrounding some of the groups.

Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the top Democrat on the Oversight committee, dismissed the memo.

“Unable to prove a link between the White House and the IRS conduct, Republicans now allege that President Obama and other Democrats sent subliminal messages through the media directing the IRS to target tea party organizations,” Cummings said in a statement. “This latest partisan staff memo demonstrates that Republicans are grasping at straws. It’s time for the committee to stop the political games and start working to restore the public’s confidence in the IRS.”

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© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: NEWSmax.com

WSJ: Emails Show IRS’ Lerner Targeted Tea Party Groups.


Image: WSJ: Emails Show IRS' Lerner Targeted Tea Party Groups

By Dan Weil

New IRS emails raise doubts about the agency’s claims that its targeting of conservative groups wasn’t politically motivated and that it was low-level IRS workers in Cincinnati who masterminded the operation.

The emails were sent between former IRS Director of Exempt Organizations Lois Lerner and her staff, and were discovered by the House Ways and Means Committee, according to a Wall Street Journal editorial.

In a February 2011 email, Lerner told her staff that a tea party issue is “very dangerous” and is something “Counsel and [Lerner adviser] Judy Kindell need to be in on … Cincy should probably NOT have these cases.”

That contradicts former IRS Commissioner Steven Miller’s comments in May that the targeting was merely the work of two “rogue” employees in Cincinnati. “When the story broke, Ms. Lerner suggested that her office had been unaware of the pattern of targeting until she read about it in the newspaper,” the editorial says.

“Earlier this summer, IRS lawyer Carter Hull, who oversaw the review of many tea party cases and questionnaires, testified that his oversight began in April 2010.”

Tea party cases are “being supervised by Chip Hull at each step,” IRS Rulings and Agreements Director Holly Paz wrote to Ms. Lerner in a February 2011 email. “He reviews info from TPs [tea parties], correspondence to TPs etc. No decisions are going out of Cincy until we go all the way through the process.”

The emails also bring in the issue of conservative campaign spending on the 2012 elections, the editorial says. In July 2012, Lerner-adviser Sharon Light emailed Lerner a National Public Radio story saying outside money was working against Democratic efforts to keep their Senate majority.

The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee told the Federal Election Commission that conservative groups such as Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity should be treated as political committees rather than as tax-exempt social welfare groups that don’t have to reveal their contributors, the editorial says.

“Perhaps the FEC will save the day,” Lerner wrote back.

“That response suggests Ms. Lerner’s political leanings,” the editorial says.

“Democrats want to pretend the IRS scandal is over, but Ms. Lerner’s role deserves much more exposure.”

In the end, the IRS actions against tea party groups may have done them a favor. Outrage over the government agency’s activity is being credited with helping the national movement regain its momentum.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

AFL-CIO Vote Slams Obamacare: It Will Drive Up Costs.


The AFL-CIO is ramping up pressure on the Obama administration to change parts of the health care overhaul law that could impair benefits for millions of union members.

The nation’s largest labor federation approved a strongly worded resolution on Wednesday that says the Affordable Care Act will drive up the costs of union-sponsored health plans to the point that workers and employers are forced to abandon them.

Some individual unions have complained about the law’s impact for months, but the resolution marks the first time the AFL-CIO has gone on record embracing that view. It comes from one of the president’s major boosters just as the administration is rolling out a multimillion-dollar advertising campaign to encourage Americans to sign up for health care exchanges starting Oct. 1.

Editor’s Note Video Exposes Dangers of Obamacare Law

Unions were among the most enthusiastic backers of the law when it passed in 2010. The resolution says labor unions still support its overall goals of reducing health costs and bringing coverage to all Americans, but it complains that the law is being implemented in a way that is “highly disruptive” to union plans.

Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Firefighters, said the intent is to “point out the criticisms without being overly caustic.”

“There have to be some changes made in the areas that are giving a number of our unions great concern,” said Schaitberger, who chaired the committee that hammered out the resolution’s language.

The resolution was approved at the AFL-CIO’s quadrennial convention in Los Angeles. It claims the new law will increase costs for health plans that are jointly administered by unions and smaller employers in the construction, retail and transportation industries. That could encourage employers to hire fewer union workers or to abandon the health plans altogether and force union members to seek lower quality coverage on the new health exchanges.

Union officials are seeking rule changes that would make their low-income workers eligible for the same types of federal subsidies they could get in the exchanges. They have also suggested rules that would treat their multi-employer plans as qualified exchange plans under the new law.

But the Congressional Research Service issued a memo earlier this year finding that neither change is allowed through rulemaking. The AFL-CIO resolution calls for the law to be amended by Congress if new rules cannot satisfy their concerns.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka held meetings at the White House last month in which he and other union leaders pressed the administration to make changes. Trumka has said he is encouraged that the White House is listening, but that no firm proposals have been made.

The White House issued a statement Wednesday saying there is nothing in the Affordable Care Act that changes the law for union plans. The statement said the White House would continue to work with unions and other stakeholders on ways to ensure smooth implementation of the law.

The AFL-CIO resolution was toned down from a draft originally offered by Sean McGarvey, head of the AFL-CIO’s Building and Construction Trades Department. The early draft said the AFL-CIO could no longer support the health care law and called for its repeal unless changes were made to protect union multi-employer plans.

Republican critics of the health care law have seized on the union complaints to fuel their push to repeal the law. At the same time, GOP leaders have warned the White House against carving out any special deal for unions.

“We will do whatever is within our power to ensure that the administration does not once again provide a special exemption to unions at the expense of American taxpayers,” Michigan Rep. Dave Camp and Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch wrote in a letter this week to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew. Camp is chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee and Hatch is top Republican on the Senate Finance Committee.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Source: NEWSmax.com

IRS Video Spoofing ‘Apprentice’ Draws GOP Fire.


Republicans in the House of Representatives on Friday released another embarrassing U.S. Internal Revenue Service training video, this one a spoof of “The Apprenticetelevision program that shows IRS workers coming up with ideas to save money on conferences.

The House Ways and Means Committee released the 2011 parody of the show starring real estate mogul Donald Trump after a report released in June detailed lavish spending at a 2010 IRS conference, including a video parody of the television show “Star Trek.”

The four-minute “Apprentice” spoof cost $10,000 to produce, Republicans on the committee said.

“Months ago, I demanded the IRS come clean about the time and money it spent to produce these frivolous videos,” said Representative Charles Boustany, chairman of a Ways and Means subcommittee probing IRS spending.

“While we may have no answers, we do have an endless supply of what appears to be the IRS’s idea of entertainment,” he said.

IRS acting chief Daniel Werfel apologized in May ahead of the report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration that detailed the 2010 conference with the “Star Trek” parody.

On Friday, IRS spokeswoman Michelle Eldridge said the “Apprentice” video was “from a prior era and does not reflect the stringent policies IRS now has in place to ensure that all training videos are made at the lowest possible cost and with appropriate content.”

“Simply put, this video would not be made at the IRS today,” Eldridge said.

Rules put in place this year cut spending on videos to an estimated $139,000 from $2.2 million in fiscal 2012.

The IRS is still recovering from a separate inspector general report in May that criticized the agency for inappropriately scrutinizing Tea Party and other conservative-leaning political groups seeking tax-exempt status.

The IRS Tea Party controversy has lost some of its punch in recent months amid revelations that IRS workers also used key words associated with liberal-leaning political groups. The inspector general is now examining that issue.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.
Source: NEWSmax.com

Obamacare Creators Raking in Dough as Lobbyists.


More than 30 former members of the Obama administration, members of Congress and their staffers who were part of forming the health care law are now making money for lobbying firms as the law is being implemented, The Hill reports. 

“When (Vice President Joe) Biden leaned over (during healthcare signing) and said to (President) Obama, ‘This is a big f’n deal,’ he was right,” headhunter Ivan Adler told The Hill.

Clients such as Delta Airlines, UPS, BP America and Coca-Cola are looking for help navigating the law, which keeps changing. Unless Republicans are successful at undoing major portions of Obamacare, the lobbyists are likely to have job security through 2020 as the new regulations continue rolling out.

Former Rep. Earl Pomeroy, D-N.D., dealt with healthcare and tax issues when he was a member of the House Ways and Means Committee. Today he works at Alston & Bird.

Dora Hughes, who served as senior counsel to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, works for the law firm Sidley Austin providing “strategic policy advice,” since she is not a registered lobbyist and signed at ethics pledge not to lobby the administration.

Even Obama’s White House is hiring help. Former Clinton administration policy expert and lobbyist Chris Jennings is navigating the current administration through the Affordable Care Act‘s implementation.

Jennings spent eight years in the Clinton White House and 10 years as a Senate aide focusing on health care.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Greg Richter

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