Tag Archives | Congressional clowns

Multinationals seek tax heavens, er, havens . . . oh, what’s the diff?

More and more U.S.-based corporations are growing wings and flying away from their U.S. tax obligations.

Bloomberg puts it as simply as possible: “U.S. companies looking for lower tax bills are heading for the exits, and Congress is doing nothing to stop them.”

The immediate impetus for the story was Pfizer’s proposed purchase of AstraZeneca, which would result in Pfizer reincorporating in Britain while tapping literally billions of dollars it has been holding outside the U.S., as The New York Times reported.

What’s the solution? Congress could grow a set and change the tax laws so that there is a crackdown on companies that use tax havens to keep profits outside of the U.S. system, as Steven Rattner suggests. Rattner also suggests in essence giving up on taxing corporations and instead increasing taxes on profits at the shareholder level, which would effectively increase the taxes paid by the wealthiest Americans.

I don’t know what the solution is, but when you consider that the effective federal tax rate paid by corporations has dropped from more than 40% in the 1950s to about 15% today, it seems clear that something has to change.

Food stamp cut passes House; why should “the takers” eat?

The House of Representatives in September passed, on an almost party-line vote, a bill slashing $40 billion from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamps, Read about it in the New York Times. The vote may have marked a new high, or low, in mean-spirited political gamesmanship.

If this bill survives the Senate, it would eliminate between 4 million and 6 million people from the food stamp program. As Paul Krugman points out in his blog, the SNAP program has gotten bigger in recent years , and that is exactly what you would expect when the economy is weak and unemployment and underemployment are at high levels.

But would cutting the program have much of a budget impact or reduce American’s taxes taxes? Not likely. The program historically amounts to about one-quarter of one percent of our gross domestic product. Slashing benefits won’t have much effect at all on the overall federal budget.

But the reductions would surely directly affect real people, including millions of the working poor, confirms the New York Times. Former Republican Presidential nominee Bob Dole and former senator Tom Daschle summarized their view of prospects going forward, writing in The Los Angeles Times, “The latest proposal from the House is an about-face on our progress fighting hunger. If Congress lets this bill fall victim to the misguided and detrimental partisan politics we face today, the results for families and children challenged with hunger will be severe.”

And it’s not as if the money spent on food just vaporizes into the atmosphere. Payments go to farmers, grocery stores, cashiers, truck drivers and other workers who produce food and bring it to market.

About 48 million Americans rely on food stamps, and almost three-quarters of the participants are families with children. The idea that it makes sense to try and balance the federal budget on their backs is nothing short of appalling.


World’s teeniest tax bracket

With the new tax bill passed by Congress in January 2013, there are now seven marginal tax brackets–10%, 15%, 25%, 28%, 33%, 35%, and 39.6%. OK, no big problem there.

Here’s the stupid thing: The only single filers who fall into the 35% marginal bracket will be those with taxable income of $398,350 to $400,000.

That’s right–there is now a tax bracket with a range of $1,650. One Thousand, Six Hundred Fifty Dollars.

You can see the new 2013 tax brackets for yourself here, courtesy of The Tax Policy Center, which estimates that fewer than 500 singles nationwide will fall into this bracket in 2013. You can also find Forbes contributor Howard Gleckman, in primo head-shaking mode, weighing in here.

I can’t make this stuff up.

Late refunds this year, courtesy of Congress

Are you used to filing your returns in January so you can get your tax refund early?

For 2013, think again.

Because Congress didn’t give us the final tax code for 2012 until January of this year, many taxpayers will be unable to get their returns processed by the IRS until late February or early March.

Who can’t file early? Anyone whose return includes depreciation (Form 4562), a residential energy credit (Form 5694) adoption expenses (Form 8839) and about two dozen other forms.

You can find out if you have one of the forms on the late list by checking here.


Congress’s “2% Solution” creates another mess for taxpayers

After some pathetic grandstanding by House Republicans, Congress passed an extension of the current Social Security tax break in December. Sounds good, right?

Get into the details and see how Congress can make the tax rules more complicated than ever — even when doing something as simple as this.

First off, the extension — reducing the withholding rate for Social Security taxes from 6.2% to 4.2% — is good for only two months. That means this issue is going to come up again during the winter.

Here’s the ridiculous part: If you earn more than $18,350 during the first two months of the year, you will have to pay a recapture tax on any earned income beyond that amount when you do your 2012 returns.

Doesn’t that sound like fun? If you have a job paying more than $110,100, do you like the idea of having to keep track of exactly how much you make before February 29? Does earning overtime in that case mean that you’ve inadvertently complicated your tax-filing life? And how are self-employed people supposed to track exactly when they earn or receive money during the year?

It’s very possible that Congress will eventually extend the tax break so it is good for all of 2012. But this is just one more reminder of how tax legislation is passed without any thought to how it complicates the lives of taxpayers.