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The Late Edition: May 15, 2013
Today’s Taxpayer News!
NTUF’s Michael Tasselmyer breaks down the CBO’s updated budget predictions through 2023.
Take a first hand look at the inspector general report on the IRS "abuse of power" scandal.
The IRS has wasted at least $110.8 billion dollars since 2000 in misappropriated Earned Income Tax Credits alone, says the Heartland Institute.
Men between ages 25 and 36 could see their premiums jump above 50% as a result of “Obamacare” says CNN Money.
Check out this chart showing how age and gender change the amount the law will likely have you pay.
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TV Investigation Wins Peabody Award for IRS Fraud Investigation, Sparks Agency Reforms
You would never have even heard of a recent scheme that let fraudsters make off with $4.2 billion per year in taxpayer dollars, if it were not for intrepid investigative journalism by WTHR-TV in Indianapolis. For these efforts that taxpayers in particular can appreciate, WTHR recently won the highest award in journalism, the Peabody Award.
The 6-month long investigative series that earned the award exposed the IRS for ignoring a “loophole” that allowed people here unlawfully to insert on tax forms the names of children that may not have even lived in the U.S., snagging unwarranted taxpayer cash.
The series has struck a chord with citizens across the nation, and even inspired many IRS employees aware of the abuse to contact WTHR and share their experiences. One whistleblower confided:
"I just saw your report and there's something I need to tell you. I see this stuff every day and there isn't anything I can do about it."
The controversy also made its way to Capitol Hill, and led to a debate in the spring of last year as to why nothing had been done about this disturbing mishandling of taxpayer dollars.
In May of 2012, following WTHR’s investigative report, the House of Representatives debated the issue, with the majority of Republicans arguing in favor of closing the loophole, and the majority of Democrats opposing doing so.
Citing WTHR’s findings, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), espoused outrage during the floor debate on a reconciliation package, H.R. 5652, which included closing the loophole:
“This is where our taxpayer money is going, to the [additional] child tax credit. One investigation in Indiana said illegal immigrants in Indiana are getting $29,608 for 20 children they claimed for the tax credit who live in Mexico and have never visited the United States before!"
Unsurprisingly, after the House managed to pass the bill along strict party lines, H.R. 5652 died in the Democrat-controlled Senate, leaving taxpayers on the hook to continue doling out billions.
Still, after WTHR’s scathing investigation into the fraud and abuse under the agency’s purview, the IRS announced new reforms to how the child tax credit is allotted in October of 2012.
“The IRS also announced heightened review of documentation related to child tax credits by requiring more information to be sure residency requirements for these credits are met. This is probably in response to concerns about nonresidents successfully claiming these credits.”
When it comes to addressing fraud that victimizes taxpayers, the phrase ‘better late than never’ comes to mind, and WTHR deserves a warm round of applause for affecting change in an instance where officials openly neglected their duty to ensure the law is properly enforced.
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NTU and Foundation Poll Youth Conference for Their Important Issues
Staff from the National Taxpayers Union and NTU's research and education arm, NTU Foundation, participated in the 2013 International Students for Liberty Conference (ISFLC) with one question for attendees: What policies will you fight for? Over the course of the weekend, students and young adults responded by voting for one of six issues that we thought Americans of all ages could at least agree needs addressing. Many attendees were interested in the mission of NTU and NTUF and asked us many, often challenging questions. I recall one conversation about the economic and realistic reasoning behind whether or not to establish a federal Balanced Budget Amendment. Some even took up the cause of lower taxes and less government by becoming members of NTU or saying that they would enjoy the opportunity to intern with us over the summer. If you’re interested, check out our Internship page. We accept interns year-round and there’s a lot of government to roll back. Still others were looking to show their support for NTU and Foundation in other ways:
Blogger and Vlogger Julie Borowski stopped by for a bumper sticker and a picture
We asked people to cast a vote for their number one issue that needs reform right now. Our six fishbowls highlighted some of the issues we thought the ISFLC participants would identify with the most. The issues were: a Balanced Budget Amendment, cutting the Pentagon budget, ending the Federal Reserve, less spending, real tax reform, and right to work. One lucky entry would be drawn to be interviewed on NTU's Speaking of Taxpayers podcast. The Results were interesting:
We also found that these six issues were just the tip of the iceberg. On a separate board, students pinned other ideas on where NTU and Foundation can help out taxpayers, including stopping sin taxes, ending corporate welfare, and fighting for bacon (yes, we had some serious bacon fans at ISFLC). All of this proved that young people are just as interested in the important fiscal issues as any other age group.
Thanks to everyone who came by our booth and let their voices be heard and congratulations to Annie Setten who will be interviewed next Friday!0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
The Late Edition: February 19, 2013
Today’s Taxpayer News!
NTU’s Pete Sepp on the approximately $45,000 a year taxpayer-funded pension Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. will be due, unless he chooses not to take it.
NTU’s Nan Swift takes a detailed look at the President’s proposals for education reform.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
The Late Edition: January 28, 2013
Today’s Taxpayer News!
Pete Sepp weighs in on two bills sponsored by Iowa Representatives Tom Latham (R) and Dave Loebsack (D) which would limit congressional pay increases. Read the full story from The Gazette.
State Affairs Manager Lee Schalk on North Carolina’s legislative plans to make the state more business-friendly.1 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
In 1997, the U.S. government established the International Cooperative Administrative Support Services (ICASS) system to offer administrative support to federal agencies with employees stationed overseas. Funded at over $2 billion in fiscal year 2011, ICASS provides a wide variety of services, ranging from vehicle maintenance to furniture supply and upkeep, for nearly 23,500 federal employees in more than 40 agencies stationed at over 250 embassies, consulates, and offices around the world. ICASS is a cost-sharing system, in which participating agencies contribute funds relative to the costs they incur by using the system.
However, participating agencies aren't always keen on utilizing the services that ICASS offers: from 2005 to 2011, 13 agencies decreased their participation by more than 10 percent each. A 2012 report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) attempted to find out why.
GAO found that nearly all participating agencies decline some level of support from ICASS and instead find alternative means of providing select services. For example, many agencies prefer to manage their own vehicle fleets rather than pay for ICASS support, often citing in a GAO-conducted survey that they had concerns about the cost and quality of ICASS services. In fact, 11 of the 56 respondents in that survey who indicated that they did not use ICASS vehicle support said that their departments’ missions simply could not be carried out if they had to rely on ICASS vehicular services.
In December 2012, Senator Daniel Akaka (D-HI) introduced S. 3676, the Reducing Duplication Overseas Act. That legislation would have required government agencies to obtain administrative support from ICASS unless they could demonstrate significant cost or efficiency advantages from other providers. Specifically, the bill would apply to vehicle and furniture services.
In theory, with higher participation rates, ICASS could purchase more administrative services in bulk, and therefore at lower costs per unit - a concept economists refer to as "economies of scale." By consolidating government support services, ICASS can purchase them more efficiently, and cut down on extraneous costs such as paying for separate warehouses, more individualized workloads, and convoluted inventory tracking.
GAO found that if ICASS participation increased by 10 percent, per-unit costs for various services affected by Akaka's bill could decrease by 5 to 8 percent.
If federal agencies are going to opt out of the ICASS system, they should document and show that the alternatives they employ are justified. They should make the case that they are either saving money or cannot meet their objective with existing services. This data could, in turn, be used to streamline and improve ICASS.
NTUF does not support any public official or position. For more information on BillTally, please visit ntu.org/ntuf.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
The Late Edition: January 10, 2013
Today’s Taxpayer News!
NTUF’s Demian Brady and NTU’s Brandon Arnold address the necessity of spending reform in this Townhall op-ed.
This Real Clear Politics article examines President Obama’s lackluster stance on cutting spending.1 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Via the Washington Examiner, the Cato Institute's Director of Information Policy Studies, Jim Harper, asks why the Appropriations Committees in both federal chambers don't use technology to better convey their spending intentions when considering legislation:
"For better or worse, the movement of money is a reflection of our values, but the appropriations process is the cloudiest mirror America ever gazed into. More than a trillion dollars move each year based on appropriators' instructions, but Congress's spending decisions are so cloistered in arcane language and inaccessible documentation, the appropriation committees might as well be a pair of mountain monasteries.
"Why not publish proposed spending in appropriations bills using digital formats and uniform codes to indicate what agencies, bureaus, programs, and projects would get the money, as well as what they're supposed to do with it? So far, appropriators have deeply lagged their colleagues in Congress and the rest of the government. There's no sign they plan to change that."
Props to Jim in his efforts to not only change the way government releases information for taxpayers to better understand government but to be active in allowing Americans to voice their opinions on proposed legislation through his WashingtonWatch.com website. Check it out & you’ll see some NTUF BillTally figures there!0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
The Late Edition: January 8, 2012
Today’s Taxpayer News!
As the debt ceiling approaches, cutting unnecessary government spending needs to be front and center in Washington. This opinion piece from the Washington Post examines the history of farm subsidies and their burden on taxpayers.
Because the debt deal to avert the Fiscal Cliff failed to specify the spending cuts that will need to take place in coming months, states are left unsure about how to manage their budgets.0 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts
Whistleblower Protections: A Living Example of Their Relevance
This past November NTU celebrated the signing into law of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, after a decade-long campaign to strengthen the process by which federal employees who report waste, fraud, and abuse are shielded from on-the-job retaliation. From time to time, we’re reminded that the issues of transparency and insight into the inner workings of government surrounding whistleblower laws have human dimensions. They’re not just about dry language in some obscure federal statute.
Karen Hudes, a former US Export Import Bank employee who served in the Legal Department from 1986 to 2007, is one such example. She contacted NTU after learning of a grassroots petition on World Bank shenanigans we conducted with the Government Accountability Project. According to Hudes’ website, after witnessing what she believed to be a flawed and fraudulent takeover of a Philippine bank in 1999 she voiced her concerns to the World Bank’s Internal Audit Department. Hudes alleges that instead of having her concerns addressed she was placed on probation while the matters she raised were swept aside:
“The Bank’s Country Director in the Philippines reassigned Karen when she asked him to sign a letter warning the Philippines’ government that the Bank could not disburse its loan without a waiver from the Board of Executive Directors since the loan conditionality was not met. The World Bank’s Internal Audit Department refused to correct the satisfactory evaluation of the Bank’s supervision performance or the flawed report of the Institutional Integrity Department to the Audit Committee of the Board of Executive Directors.”
Hudes’ attempt to report what she had experienced has gone on for several years now. The Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and Senators Richard Lugar, Evan Bayh and Patrick Leahy made attempts to gain answers from the World Bank concerning Hudes’ findings, but those efforts did not, she contends, prove conclusive. After Hudes brought her complaint to the Internal Audit Department, the World Bank proceeded to fire her, as well as the Staff Association’s lawyer. In 2009, after years of legal battles, the Chairman of the World Bank's Committee on Governance and Administrative Matters and Dean of the Board of Executive Directors reversed her firing, but the Bank’s President at that time did not recognize the decision. Hudes still currently has cases in the U.S. District Court and in the U.S. Court of Appeals.
Although we do not claim to have the expertise that could judge the merits of the highly technical financial details behind the World Bank’s practices, Hudes’ story illustrates one important point: how vital the recent victory of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act is in at least helping to provide government employees safe avenues to report information that can then be evaluated without fear of reprisal.6 Comments | Post a Comment | Sign up for NTU Action Alerts