The Treasury Department has released its latest report on the fight against widespread fraud in the Earned Income Tax Credit program. The problem is, fraud is still winning. And there’s not even much of a fight.
“The Internal Revenue Service continues to make little progress in reducing improper payments of Earned Income Tax Credits,” a press release from Treasury’s inspector general for Tax Administration says. “The IRS estimates that 22 to 26 percent of EITC payments were issued improperly in Fiscal Year 2013. The dollar value of these improper payments was estimated to be between $13.3 billion and $15.6 billion.”
Wait. Didn’t the President sign a bill in 2010 to fix all this?
The new report found that the IRS is simply ignoring the requirements of a law called the Improper Payments Elimination and Recovery Act, signed by President Obama in 2010, which requires the IRS to set fraud-control targets and keep improper payments below ten percent of all Earned Income Tax Credit payouts.
Whatever the EITC does to help the working poor, it is a boon to the Grifter-American community. Fraudulent EITC claims are a staple of ID theft fraud and low-tech tax cheating in general.
It’s worth noting that the high rate of improper EITC payouts has not gone down in spite of the ever-increasing IRS requirements for preparers who issue returns claiming the credits. This should give pause to folks who think IRS preparer regulations will stop fraud, though it won’t.
It’s also notable that Iowa recently increased its piggyback EITC to 15% of the federal credit — increasing the annual cost of the credit by an estimated $35 million. Assuming Iowans are just as honest as other Americans, that means about $8 million of additional stimulus to the Iowa grifter economy.
Finally, the phase-out of the EITC functions as a hidden high marginal tax rate on the program’s intended beneficiaries, the working poor. The effective marginal rate in Iowa exceeds 50% at some income levels. Combined with other income-based phase-outs, the EITC becomes a poverty trap.
Related: Arnold Kling, SNEP and the EITC. “My priors, which I think are supported by the research cited by Salam, is that trying to use a program like the EITC for social engineering is a mug’s game.”
Legislation that would extend for two years nearly all the tax provisions that expired at the end of 2013 cleared a procedural hurdle in the Senate May 13.
Senators voted 96 to 3 to invoke cloture on the motion to proceed to H.R. 3474, a bill to exempt from the Affordable Care Act’s employer mandate employees with healthcare coverage through the Veterans Benefits Administration or through the military healthcare program TRICARE.
The bill is the legislative vehicle for the tax extenders. It will be amended to include the text of the Expiring Provisions Improvement Reform and Efficiency (EXPIRE) Act of 2014 (S. 2260) and likely that of the Tax Technical Corrections Act of 2014 (S. 2261), both of which the Senate Finance Committee passed April 3 via voice vote.
The bill that passes will probably look much like the Senate bill. The House has advanced bills to make some of the perpetually-expiring provisions permanent, but the President, pretending that they won’t get passed every year anyway, says permanent extension is fiscally irresponsible.
Among the provisions to be extended yet again, mostly through 2015, are the research credit, new markets credits, wind and biofuel credits, bonus depreciation, and increased Sec. 179 deductions. The five-year built-in gain tax recognition period is also extended through 2015.
Related: TaxGrrrl, Senate Moves Forward To Extend Tax Breaks For 2014
O. Kay Henderson, Knoxville Raceway ceremony for state tax break of up to $2 million:
Governor Terry Branstad went to Knoxville today to sign a bill into law that gives the Knoxville Raceway a state tax break to help finance improvements at the track.
“This is a great facility,” Branstad told Radio Iowa during a telephone interview right after the event. “Last year, in 2013, they attracted 211,000 visitors, so it’s a big tourism attraction and it’s a good investment and it’s great for the state to partner with the community for a project of this magnitude.”
Here’s how that partnership works: the racetrack will charge sales tax to its customers, and keep the money. Only two other businesses are special enough to get this sweet deal. Tough luck for the rest of us who don’t have the good connections and lobbyists.
Jana Luttenegger, Updated E-Filing Requirements for Tax Preparers (Davis Brown Tax Law Blog). “The handbook is not exactly clear.”
Jason Dinesen, Things Tax Preparers Say: S-Corporation Compensation. “But too many business owners — and their accountants — treat S-corps like a magic wand that can just make taxes disappear completely.”
Peter Reilly, Can Somebody Explain Tax Shelters To Thomas Piketty? In the unlikely event that the Piketty recommendations are ever enacted, Peter notes that “there will be a renaissance of shelter activity.” Peter provides a “Cliff Notes” summary of this year’s big forgettable book I’ll never read, which I appreciate. Also: Peter uses the tax-law-as-Swiss Army Knife analogy that I am so fond of.
Robert D. Flach, STILL MORE CLIENTS SCREWED BY THE TAX CODE. “The list of taxpayers screwed by our current Tax Code is not a short one. Today I add taxpayers with gambling winnings.”
Howard Gleckman, How “Dead Men” Fiscal Policy Is Paralyzing Government (TaxVox). He reviews a new book, Dead Men Ruling, by Gene Steurle:
“We are left with a budget for a declining nation,” Gene writes, “that invests ever-less in our future…and a broken government that presides over archaic, inefficient, and inequitable spending and tax programs.”
All this has happened due to a confluence of two unhappy trends: The first is what the late conservative writer Jude Wanniski memorably described almost four decades ago as the “Two-Santa Theory.”
The Santas are the two parties, each of whom pick our pockets to fill our stockings.
Alan Cole, The Simple Case for Tax Neutrality (Tax Policy Blog). “When states give preferential rates of sales tax to certain goods, the most visible result is the legal bonanza that follows from trying to re-categorize goods into the preferred groupings. ”
David Brunori, Repealing the Property Tax Is an Asinine Idea (Tax Analysts Blog). “Public finance experts are almost unanimous in their belief that the property tax is the ideal way to fund local government services… Most importantly, the property tax ensures local political control.”
William McBride, What is Investment and How Do We Get More of It? (Tax Policy Blog). “Full expensing for all investment, according to our analysis, would increase the capital stock by 16 percent and grow GDP by more than 5 percent.”
TaxProf, The IRS Scandal, Day 370
News from the Profession. AICPA Tackling the Important Issue of Male CPAs Wanting It All (Going Concern).