Posts Tagged ‘David Brooks’

Tax Roundup, 2/15/16: President’s Day. Bah. Humbug. And more Monday news!

Monday, February 15th, 2016 by Joe Kristan

20160215-1Today is President’s Day. I don’t care to honor presidents, as a class. They range from remarkable to vile, and they are in the end, just men with a job and great responsibility, often exercised badly.

It seems as good a day as any to ponder a well-buried scandal of the current presidency, the Tea Party scandal. It came to light with a staged admission by Lois Lerner that Tea Party groups had been singled out for special treatment” by the IRS. The admission was intended to get in front of an Inspector General report exposing the partisan mistreatment.

Peter Reilly has followed it closely, from a viewpoint more sympathetic to the IRS than mine. He recently mused, in a post on Day 1000 of the scandal:

The narrative that seems most plausible to me is Lois Lerner as the Agent From Hell.  AFH is my term for a certain type of IRS agent that I have thankfully only encountered a couple of times in my career.  AFH is not that technically astute, but AFH is dogged.  And AFH is certain that your client is up to no good.  AFH just hasn’t quite figured out what that no good is.  That was Lois Lerner and the Tea Party applications, only she had to do her work through minions.  Lois Lerner was passionate about the dark money issue and nobody else seemed to care. So she tortured her line agents to get them to torture bewildered applicants who were already pumped up on conspiracy theories. A perfect storm of bureaucratic bumbling coming across as brilliantly subtle conspiracy.

Toby Miles, IRS.

Toby Miles, IRS.

It was never realistic to think the scandal would bring down the administration, considering how carefully the media cheerleaders avoided the subject. But the lack of presidential involvement only leads to a more disturbing conclusion, one I discussed way back when the scandal was only in single digits:

I doubt the White House left fingerprints on IRS efforts to harass political opponents (though it didn’t lift a finger to stop it).   That leads to an even more depressing possibility: that the IRS went out its way to beat up on the President’s opponents on its own.  Nobody blew the whistle.  That means IRS management is so corrupt and political that it would go after the administration’s political opponents with only a wink and a nudge.  And anybody who doesn’t think this was politically-motivated is kidding themselves.

James Taranto puts it well:

And the IRS scandal was a subversion of democracy on a massive scale. The most fearsome and coercive arm of the administrative state embarked on a systematic effort to suppress citizen dissent against the party in power. Thomas Friedman is famous for musing that he wishes America could  be China for a day. It turns out we’ve been China for a while.

The self-weaponization of the bureaucracy against its political opponents is hugely depressing. The government workforce is overwhelmingly on the side of the political party that favors an ever-larger state. There are plenty of Lois Lerners in the IRS and throughout the Leviathan. The Tea Party scandal, and the complete lack of accountability for its perpetrators, gives no reason to hope those who don’t share that worldview can expect a fair shake. That’s especially true when the sitting president shows no interest in discouraging such behavior.

 

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Arnold Kling, David Brooks Sends a Valentine. “Brooks claims that the Obama Administration was scandal-free. I think it was more of a case that the mainstream press had his back. Could George Bush have survived the IRS scandal?”

David HendersonIs David Brooks Right about Obama? (Econlog):

But that’s not the worst. Among the worst is his administration’s use of the Internal Revenue Service to go after Tea Party groups. After claiming in May 2013 that any IRS targeting of political groups, if true, was outrageous and that he would hold the relevant people accountable, he has not. Lois Lerner has not been charged. That’s a scandal. It’s true that the scandal did not swallow years from Obama. Is the relevant criterion for a scandal whether it uses up a president’s years or whether the president’s employees use their discretionary power to go after political scandals? If the former, then a president can avoid a scandal by being evasive and shifting the topic, as Obama has done. That’s not integrity, by the way.

And it was true. Whether you believe the IRS was told to do it, or whether you believe the bureaucracy took it on itself to pursue ideological enemies, it was a dangerous ideological abuse of the tax agency that is going unpunished.

TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 1010Day 1011Day 1012. Don’t recall major network coverage of the scandal? Day 1011 says that it’s not because you weren’t paying attention.

 

William Perez, Understanding Form W-2, the Annual Wage and Tax statement. “An overview of common problems with Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement, plus a description of various items, codes and amounts shown on Form W-2.”

Annette Nellen, Video – What’s New for 2016 Filing Season

Jason Dinesen, When Are Purchases Made With a Credit Card Deductible?

Kay Bell, ‘Pharma bro’ Martin Shkreli facing $4.6 million tax lien

Jim Maule, Relying on Incorrect IRS Advice Spares Taxpayer Penalty. “The question of how to deal with incorrect advice from IRS employees has befuddled the tax practice community for decades.”

Robert Wood, Atkins Doctor Tax Evasion Conviction Upheld (How Not To Deal With IRS). Sometimes bad examples are the most useful ones.

Russ Fox, North Carolina Added to Bad States for Gamblers. “There’s no longer a deduction for gambling losses, so an amateur gambler residing in North Carolina who has $100,000 of wins and $100,000 of losses owes tax on the $100,000 of wins.”

TaxGrrrl, On Valentine’s Day: Getting A Tax Break After The Big Break-Up. “A Sarasota area Goodwill has your answer: make yourself feel better by donating your ex’s stuff to charity.” Well, compared to leaving it on the curb for the garbage man, it has its attractions.

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Tyler Cowen, Do higher marginal tax rates reduce income mobility? Marginal Revolution). “The idea that taxes matter is making a comeback in economics, though I am not sure you would get that impression from most of the economics blogosphere.”

Joseph Henchman, Justice Scalia’s Legacy and What Happens Next (Tax Policy Blog).

Don Boudreaux, Evidence that Donald Trump Is As Ignorant of Economics As Is Bernie Sanders (Cafe Hayek). File under “longest books ever written.”

Scott Greenberg, Checking Bernie Sanders’s Math (Tax Policy Blog). “However, under the Sanders tax plan, households in the middle of the economy would also be subject to two new indirect taxes: a 6.2 percent payroll tax paid by employers (for healthcare) and a 0.2 percent payroll tax paid by employers (for family leave). Virtually all economists agree that, even though payroll taxes are remitted to the government by employers, the burden of the payroll tax is born entirely by wage earners.”

 

News from the Profession. The ‘Everyday Jeans’ Policy Backlash Has Begun (Caleb Newquist, Going Concern).

 

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