IRS emails, student debt, and Spain's corporate tax: The week ahead in tax news

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will begin its two-part hearing on missing IRS emails today. Tomorrow, the Senate Finance Committee will examine the role of the tax system in reducing student debt. 

Lauren Victoria Burke/AP/File
Former Internal Revenue Service (IRS) official Lois Lerner speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington in March 2014. The Internal Revenue Service has lost more emails connected to the tea party investigation, congressional investigators said Tuesday.

'My kingdom for a hard drive!' Tonight, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee begins its two-part hearing on missing IRS emails—lost after a hard drive crash. During a contentious House Ways and Means committee hearing on Friday, panel chair Dave Camp demanded an apology from IRS Commissioner John Koskinen and called for a special prosecutor to investigate what he believes may be a “cover up.” Koskinen refused to apologize and said a special prosecutor would be a waste of taxpayers' money. So far the Justice Department has not indicated it will appoint one.

How about a special prosecutor with an IT background? IRS email technology is far from up to date: Its modernization program had been on the Government Accountability Office’s list of “agencies and program areas with vulnerabilities to fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement, or are most in need of transformation”  from 1995 to 2013. The IRS missed an operating system upgrade deadline in April. Being chronically underfunded can’t help matters.

On the Hill tomorrow: The Senate Finance Committee will hold a hearing to examine the role of the tax system in reducing student debt load. The share of households with student loans rose from 9 percent in 1989 to 19 percent by 2010. Inflation-adjusted median student debt rose by more than 50 percent.

It’s possible to get too high in the 'other' Washington. The state levies a 'sin' tax of 44 percent on legalized recreational marijuana, but taxes medical marijuana at 9.9 percent. State officials had projected $1.9 billion in tax revenues through June 2017. Now, they project tax revenues of just $586 million through June 2019. The recreational tax is “too high for the consumer,” and it is, understandably, affecting demand. What’s not too high? The hoop a consumer jumps through for a medical marijuana card.

Will tax cuts be too high in Spain? It unveiled a corporate tax cut plan last month and on Friday announced more cuts to take effect before the general election. Starting in 2015 and through 2016, individuals will pay on average 12.5 percent less in income taxes. Corporate income tax rates will fall from 30 to 25 percent over the same period. At the same time, the European Commission expects Spain keep its pledge to reduce its deficit from 5.6 percent of gross domestic product to 3 percent by 2016. Spain’s unemployment rate is 26 percent.

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