This Year’s Tax Cut Cost Some Gold Star Families Dearly | Military.com

The very idea that we – as a nation – would tax survivor benefits in the first place is nauseating to me. I’m sure that Congress will see the need to rectify this retroactively and put the well-being of those who are left behind by those who have given this nation their last breath ahead of unimportant things, right?

RIGHT????

Military widows and widowers who put their benefits in their child’s name saw a significant spike in their taxes this year.

Source: This Year’s Tax Cut Cost Some Gold Star Families Dearly | Military.com

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Congress Backs Criticized “Taxpayer First Act of 2019” — Justia News — April 11, 2019

The Act was passed with support of Democrats and Republicans.

Source: Congress Backs Criticized “Taxpayer First Act of 2019” — Justia News — April 11, 2019

On April 2, the US House Ways and Means Committee passed H.R.1957, the Taxpayer First Act of 2019 (the “Act”). Widely cited as a win for private online tax preparation companies such as TurboTax, opponents claim it will prohibit the IRS from creating competing free software to assist citizens in tax preparation and filing which could threaten the profits of these companies. Anyone in the US who makes under $66,000 a year is entitled to file their taxes for free, and while private companies do provide free filing products, only three percent of eligible U.S. taxpayers make use of them. Critics argue that these free services are “deliberately” un-promotedsimply and simply used as a tool to upsell other products and services to taxpayers. Those who support the Act, however, argue that the IRS will still be able to create its own software, and that other elements in the Act offer valuable consumer assistance, such as providing protections from private debt collectors.

Congress Is About to Ban the Government From Offering Free Online Tax Filing. Thank TurboTax. — ProPublica

So… is this what YOU want from your legislator? Assuming that you, like me, don’t want this, why are we the people ignored in favor of a cash donating, lobbying private business to pass a law to benefit themselves, but not you?

Have you read Federalist 57 lately?

My Congressman is about to hear from me. How about your Congressperson??

 

A bill supported by Democrats and Republicans would make permanent a program that bars the IRS from ever developing its own online tax filing service.

Source: Congress Is About to Ban the Government From Offering Free Online Tax Filing. Thank TurboTax. — ProPublica

Just in time for Tax Day, the for-profit tax preparation industry is about to realize one of its long-sought goals. Congressional Democrats and Republicans are moving to permanently bar the IRS from creating a free electronic tax filing system.

Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee, led by Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass.passed the Taxpayer First Act, a wide-ranging bill making several administrative changes to the IRS that is sponsored by Reps. John Lewis, D-Ga., and Mike Kelly, R-Pa.

In one of its provisions, the bill makes it illegal for the IRS to create its own online system of tax filing. Companies like Intuit, the maker of TurboTax, and H&R Block have lobbied for years to block the IRS from creating such a system. If the tax agency created its own program, which would be similar to programs other developed countries have, it would threaten the industry’s profits.

“This could be a disaster. It could be the final nail in the coffin of the idea of the IRS ever being able to create its own program,” said Mandi Matlock, a tax attorney who does work for the National Consumer Law Center.

Experts have long argued that the IRS has failed to make filing taxes as easy and cheap as it could be. In addition to a free system of online tax preparation and filing, the agency could provide people with pre-filled tax forms containing the salary data the agency already has, as ProPublica first reported on in 2013.

The Free File Alliance, a private industry group, says 70% of American taxpayers are eligible to file for free. Those taxpayers, who must make less than $66,000, have access to free tax software provided by the companies. But just 3% of eligible U.S. taxpayers actually use the free program each year. Critics of the program say that companies use it as a cross-marketing tool to upsell paid products, that they have deliberately underpromoted the free option and that it leaves consumer data open to privacy breaches.

The congressional move would codify the status quo. Under an existing memorandum of understanding with the industry group, the IRS pledges not to create its own online filing system and, in exchange, the companies offer their free filing services to those below the income threshold.

One member of the Free File Alliance explicitly told shareholders that the IRS “developing software or other systems to facilitate tax return preparation … may present a continued competitive threat to our business for the foreseeable future.”

The IRS’ deal with the Free File Alliance is regularly renegotiated and there have been repeatedbipartisan efforts in Congress to put the deal into law.

Those efforts have been fueled by hefty lobbying spending and campaign contributions by the industry. Intuit and H&R Block last year poured a combined $6.6 million into lobbying related to the IRS filing deal and other issues. Neal, who became Ways and Means chair this year after Democrats took control of the House, received $16,000 in contributions from Intuit and H&R Block in the last two election cycles.

Neal, who describes himself as a longtime champion of the existing Free File program, has argued that it would “would help low- and moderate-income taxpayers.”

Free File Alliance Executive Director Tim Hugo called it “a great idea when you can provide a great product — free tax returns — to Americans at no cost to the federal government.” An H&R Block spokesperson said the company believes “Free File should be the subject of ongoing improvement, and we are committed to working with all parties to strengthen and improve Free File on behalf of the American taxpayer.”

Spokespeople for Neal, Lewis and Kelly did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the provision. A companion Senate bill with the same provision has been introduced by Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, and Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

While efforts to make the IRS’ deal with the tax preparation industry permanent have fizzled in the past, critics are particularly worried this year. The Taxpayer First Act also includes a provision that would restrict the IRS’ use of private debt collectors to those above a certain income. A Wyden spokesperson said the current bill is a “bipartisan, bicameral compromise so it includes priorities of both chairmen and ranking members.” Wyden “supports giving the IRS the resources it needs to offer more services to taxpayers,” the spokesperson added.

Do you have information about the IRS or the tax preparation industry? Contact Justin Elliott at justin@propublica.org or via Signal at 774-826-6240.

Portrait of Justin Elliott

Justin Elliott

Justin Elliott is a ProPublica reporter covering politics and government accountability. To securely send Justin documents or other files online, visit our SecureDrop page.

Amazon Not Paying Federal Income Taxes on $11.2 Billion Profits | Fortune

Everybody’s mad at Amazon for this… but nobody seems to even bat an eye at the idiots who wrote the laws that allowed this to happen. In fact, we keep re-electing them…

This is the second year in a row the trillion dollar company won’t pay

Source: Amazon Not Paying Federal Income Taxes on $11.2 Billion Profits | Fortune

Those wondering how many zeros Amazon, which is valued at nearly $800 billion, has to pay in federal taxes might be surprised to learn that its check to the IRS will read exactly $0.00.

According to a report published by the Institute on Taxation and Economic (ITEP) policy Wednesday, the e-tail/retail/tech/entertainment/everything giant won’t have to pay a cent in federal taxes for the second year in a row.

This tax-free break comes even though Amazon almost doubled its U.S. profits from $5.6 billion to $11.2 billion between 2017 and 2018.

To top it off, Amazon actually reported a $129 million 2018 federal income tax rebate—making its tax rate -1%.

Amazon’s low (to non-existent) tax rate has been chided by politicians ranging from Senator Bernie Sanders to President Donald Trump.

But even though Trump previously blasted Amazon for its limited state taxes—a single presidential tweet caused the company’s shares to fall by 9%—ITEP notes that its non-existent federal tax payment is a result of the Trump Administration’s corporation-friendly tax cuts. The think tank writes that the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act not only decreased corporate tax rates from 35% to 21%, but it also didn’t close “a slew of tax loopholes that allow profitable companies to routinely avoid paying federal and state income taxes on almost half of their profits.”

According to The Week, Amazon ended up paying an 11.4% federal income tax rate between 2011 and 2016, which is a contrast to the -1% rate this year.

Amazon has a history of avoiding various sales taxes and made headlines last summer after successfully convincing Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan to repeal a tax that would have helped the city’s homeless population.

Furthermore, New Yorkers made waves after learning about the significant tax cuts Amazon would receive if it built a headquarters in Long Island City.

As a result of public and political contention, Amazon canceled its plans to expand to New York Thursday.

A “360 Degree Turnaround”Congresswoman Starts Furor with Lindsey Graham Tweets

Rep. Ilhan Omar is pushing back after being labeled a bigot by critics for two tweets, one about Sen. Lindsey Graham and the other about Israel.

Source: Rep. Ilhan Omar: Freshman Dem slammed for tweets on Graham, Israel

WASHINGTON – Freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar is fighting back after being labeled a bigot by critics for two tweets, one a recent post about Sen. Lindsey Graham and the other from more than six years ago about Israel.

On Tuesday, the Minnesota Democrat posted a tweet about Graham, saying, “They got to him, he is compromised.” The comment was made with a retweet of a post featuring a 2015 CNN interview in which the South Carolina Republican called then-presidential candidate Donald Trump a “race-baiting, xenophobic, religious bigot.”

When asked about the tweet on CNN Thursday, Omar said her point was “we have seen many times where Sen. Lindsey Graham has told us how dangerous this president could be if he was given the opportunity to be in the White House and all of the sudden he’s made not only a 180 turnaround but a 360 turnaround.” (A 360 would technically mean Graham came full circle and opposes Trump again.)

“So, I am pretty sure that there is something happening with him, whether it is something that has to do with his funding when it comes to running for office, whether it has something to do with the pull that they might have in his district, or whether it has to do with some sort of leadership within the Senate,” she continued without explaining who she meant by “they.”

“He is somehow compromised to no longer stand up for the truth,” she concluded from his change of opinion.

When pressed on how she could make such a charge without evidence, Omar at first asserted “the evidence really is present to us” but then backtracked, explaining, “My tweet was just an opinion based on what I believe to be visible to me and I’m pretty sure there are lots of Americans who agree on this.”

Although she made no reference to Graham’s sexuality, many conservatives denounced her for homophobia, saying her tweet about Graham being compromised was a reference to long-running and unsubstaniated rumors that he is gay.

“This is ignorant, homophobic and unacceptable,” CNN’s S.E. Cupp tweeted with a link to the CNN interview in which Omar made no reference to Graham’s sexuality. “Democrats, this is becoming a very bad look.”

S.E. Cupp

@secupp

This is ignorant, homophobic and unacceptable, @IlhanMN. Democrats, this is becoming a very bad look.

Tom Elliott@tomselliott

Rep. Omar: “Lots of Americans” agree with me that Trump is blackmailing Sen. Graham over his homosexuality

Embedded video

5,975 people are talking about this

“Here we have Ilhan Omar, a sitting Congresswoman, floating around a conspiracy theory with absolutely zero evidence that Lindsey Graham is secretly gay and the GOP is holding him hostage. Unbelievable,” tweeted social media strategist Caleb Hull.

Embedded video

Caleb Hull

@CalebJHull

Here we have Ilhan Omar, a sitting Congresswoman, floating around a conspiracy theory with absolutely zero evidence that Lindsey Graham is secretly gay and the GOP is holding him hostage.

Unbelievable.

2,760 people are talking about this

Jason Howerton

@jason_howerton

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar’s conspiracy about Lindsey Graham is literally no better than birtherism.

I can’t believe this is where we are.

See Jason Howerton’s other Tweets

Omar responded with a tweet of her own.

“I love how revealing the Right is in their assumptions of me,” Omar said Thursday in response to a Breitbart News link to an article about the controversy. “Pro-tip- just because you are homophobic, doesn’t mean everyone else is.”

Ilhan Omar

@IlhanMN

I love how revealing the Right is in their assumptions of me.

Pro-tip- just because you are homophobic, doesn’t mean everyone else is.

Deal with your own bigotry and Islamophobic views of me, and stop with the hateful smears.

1,793 people are talking about this

In another tweet, she said conservatives jumped to the conclusion she was being homophobic “because the Right thinks being homosexual is ‘compromising.'”

“Well I have news for them, being LGBTQ+ isn’t something we should be ashamed of!” she said. “Y’all know my tweet had nothing to do with his sexuality and everything to do with his blind cooperation w/ Trump. Let’s focus!”

Ilhan Omar

@IlhanMN

Yes, because the Right thinks being homosexual is “compromising”.

Well I have news for them, being LGBTQ+ isn’t something we should be ashamed of!

Y’all know my tweet had nothing to do with his sexuality and everything to do with his blind cooperation w/ Trump.

Let’s focus!

Peter Daou

@peterdaou

ALERT: The right is spreading a false claim that @IlhanMN accused #LindseyGraham of being compromised because of his sexual orientation.

SHE DID NOT SAY THAT. She said it may be due to his financial ties. Anyone pushing this fabrication is engaging in a smear against Rep. Omar.

3,558 people are talking about this

But Cupp and others did not accept Omar’s explanation. When asked to remove her tweet calling Omar’s comment homophobic, she tweeted, “No. A member of Congress jumped on the patently homophobic ‘Lindsey must be hiding something’ bandwagon and offered precisely ZERO proof, only wholly invented, baseless hypotheticals. That’s irresponsible…and also ignorant, homophobic and unacceptable.”

S.E. Cupp

@secupp

No. A member of Congress jumped on the patently homophobic “Lindsey must be hiding something” bandwagon and offered precisely ZERO proof, only wholly invented, baseless hypotheticals. That’s irresponsible…and also ignorant, homophobic and unacceptable.

Peter Daou

@peterdaou

You should delete this tweet @secupp, as @AaronBlake deleted his. It is based on a pure fabrication. Watch the video. The only person being smeared here is Rep. Omar. https://twitter.com/secupp/status/1085933031658000385 

2,316 people are talking about this

Omar was not alone in her commentary on Graham.

On Sunday, Jon Cooper, who heads the Democratic Coalition super PAC, tweeted that a “Republican just told me that he doubts @LindseyGrahamSC is kowtowing to Trump (and indirectly Putin) because he’s being blackmailed over his sexual orientation (an open secret) or even financial corruption. Rather, he thinks it probably involves some pretty serious sexual kink.”

Jon Cooper

@joncoopertweets

A Republican just told me that he doubts @LindseyGrahamSC is kowtowing to Trump (and indirectly Putin) because he’s being blackmailed over his sexual orientation (an open secret) or even financial corruption. Rather, he thinks it probably involves some pretty serious sexual kink.

9,883 people are talking about this

Cooper added in a follow-up tweet that “as an openly gay man myself, I couldn’t care less about Lindsey Graham’s sex life (gay, straight or otherwise). However, Graham is the Senate Judiciary Chair and there’s a strong likelihood that he’s being blackmailed by the Russians. If so, that needs to be revealed.”

The same day Omar posted her controversial tweet about Graham, MSNBC anchor Stephanie Ruhle suggested Graham had a change of heart about the president because “Donald Trump or somebody knows something pretty extreme about Lindsey Graham.”

And on Saturday night, “Avengers” actor Chris Evans called Graham “Smithers” in reference to a sycophantic character on “The Simpsons” who spent 26 seasons as a closeted homosexual before coming out in 2016.

“What do they have on you? I can’t tell if this shameful 180 is born of fear or thirst,” Evans tweeted to Graham in response to the senator’s call for President Donald Trump to declare a national emergency to secure funding for a southern border wall.

Chris Evans

@ChrisEvans

Hey Smithers, remember when you said this:
‘You know how you make America great again, tell Donald Trump to go to hell.’
What do they have on you? I can’t tell if this shameful 180 is born of fear or thirst. Either way, we will always remember you as nothing more than remora.

Lindsey Graham

@LindseyGrahamSC

Replying to @LindseyGrahamSC @realDonaldTrump

Mr. President,

Declare a national emergency NOW.

Build a wall NOW.

19.4K people are talking about this

Graham’s office declined to comment when asked by USA TODAY. But in 2018 the senator did address a series of tweets from comedian Chelsea Handler, some of which included highly offensive language, that also implied he was being blackmailed for being a homosexual.

“She wants to live her life that way, that’s up to her,” Graham told TMZ. “She knows zero about me. To the extent that it matters, I’m not gay.”

Another Omar tweet from 2012 has drawn accusations of anti-Semitism against the congresswoman, who was appointed to a seat on the House Foreign Relations Committee by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., on Wednesday.

“Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel,” Omar, who is Muslim of Somali descent, tweeted during an Israeli military offensive against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

“Anti-Semitism has no place in Congress and certainly not on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. I am deeply disappointed in Speaker Pelosi’s choice, a choice that threatens the Committee’s long history of bipartisan support for Israel,” House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said in a statement Thursday.

Minority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., said it was “disgraceful that Speaker Pelosi and her Democrat majority gave a coveted seat on the House Foreign Relations Committee to a member who has a documented history of making anti-Semitic and anti-Israel remarks.”

On Thursday, Omar told CNN her tweet was a regrettable way of expressing” her point and said she didn’t know her “comments would be offensive to Jewish Americans.”

The night before, she told Christiane Amanpour that she thought her choice of words was “unfortunate.”

“There’s a difference between criticizing a military action by a government that has exercised really oppressive policies and being offensive or attacking a particular people of faith,” she said.

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Senior administration officials poised to get $10,000 raises as pay freeze lapses – U.S. – Stripes

“Without legislation to stop them…”

And who is it that passes “legislation?”

——————————————————————

The pay raises for cabinet secretaries, deputy secretaries, top administrators and even Vice President Mike Pence are scheduled to go into effect beginning Jan. 5 without legislation to stop them, according to documents issued by the Office of Personnel Management and experts in federal pay.

Source: Senior administration officials poised to get $10,000 raises as pay freeze lapses – U.S. – Stripes

Congressman Cohen Introduces Constitutional Amendments | Congressman Steve Cohen

I know three things for a fact:

(1) NEVER bet on the Broncos when they are playing in the Eastern Time Zone

(2) I will always forget my second point because it’s a throwaway point mandated by bad hermetics teachers.

(3) Anybody – and I mean ANYBODY and EVERYBODY – who claims that the Electoral College is “unfair,” and should be eliminated has no clue – none whatsoever – as to why it exists in the first place.

Which always makes me wonder how they get elected to Congress in the first place.

——————————————————————-

 

WASHINGTON – Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee, introduced two Constitutional Amendments today on the opening day of the new Congress. The first would eliminate the Electoral College and provide for the direct election of the President and Vice President of the United States. The second would limit the presidential pardon power by prohibiting presidents from pardoning themselves, members of their families, members of their administrations and their campaign staff. Congressman Cohen made the following statement:

Source: Congressman Cohen Introduces Constitutional Amendments | Congressman Steve Cohen