News from the Hill: A compromise $1.1 trillion spending bill is expected to be released today. The House is scheduled to vote on the bill tomorrow and then adjourn for the year. The Senate will likely vote on Thursday, just hours before the December 11 deadline. The package will fund most of the government through next September 30. But the Department of Homeland Security, which has jurisdiction over immigration enforcement, will be funded separately, and for just a few months. As for those expired tax breaks? The Senate may vote on those tomorrow.
Meanwhile, the IRS Oversight Board Report is out. Almost 90 percent of taxpayers surveyed say they find it unacceptable to cheat on taxes. More than 25 percent were unsatisfied with the service they received from the IRS. The compromise spending bill Congress is about to pass is expected to provide about $10.9 billion for the IRS, a 5.5 percent cut in funding.
Did Pennsylvania’s newly elected Governor miss the mark? When it comes to a proposed new severance tax on natural gas drillers, Democrat Tom Wolf could be off by hundreds of millions of dollars. This could stymie his campaign promise to fund Pennsylvania schools and address the state’s budget shortfall. He had expected the new tax would raise more than $1 billion. But a production boom has depressed prices, to the point where a 5 percent severance tax would now produce between $525 million and $675 million a year. Prices could rebound, but perhaps not soon enough.
Will a challenge to Colorado’s Internet tax law head to federal court? Colorado’s Supreme Court heard arguments yesterday on a state law that requires online retailers to notify customers who spend more than $500-a-year that they owe state sales tax on their purchasers. Fair? Online companies don’t think so: They’ve been challenging the law since 2010.
A whistleblower contends Vanguard’s transfer pricing methods kept its taxes artificially low. The huge mutual fund firm says the Securities and Exchange Commission allows it to charge its own funds at-cost prices for management services. Such transactions between related businesses, or transfer pricing, are supposed to be completed at fair market value. A whistleblower, former Vanguard tax attorney David Danon,argues that the SEC order applies only to securities law, not taxes, and Vanguard’s pricing has cost taxpayers more than $1 billion. His suit may get a hearing early next year.
Nice try, but it needs some work. That’s how Brookings Institution’s Isabel Sawhill judges the Family Fairness and Opportunity Tax Reform Act, co-sponsored by GOP Senator Mike Lee. “Efforts to simplify the system, to eliminate many deductions, and to reach out to the struggling middle class” are commendable, she says. “But without modifications this legislation is regressive, balloons the deficit, and is oddly motivated to boot.”
Don’t forget: Tune in today for a webcast on state and local pension reform. Public employee retirement plans face a $2 trillion nationwide deficit. A live webinar will examine the funding of state and local pensions and assesses various reform options. You can register here.
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