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by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
New Jersey recently published the annual “Taxpayers Guide to Educational Spending”. The headline in the Star Ledger was that school spending is up 5% over last year. This is hardly news given that inflation alone accounted for 1.7% of the increase.
Much of the remaining 3.3% increase in school spending is structural by design. Consider that new teacher salaries start low and increase annually as they gain experience. We also compensate teachers as they obtain higher educational degrees as a means of improving the quality of our teachers. Add to this the fact that the total number of teachers gradually increase as student enrolled numbers creep up a little every year. Then there is the higher than inflation increases in fuel costs that drive up the cost of student transportation each year. The retirement of higher paid teachers and administrators don’t quite balance out these other factors.
What irks the public most about this 5% increase is really the story behind how we fund public education in New Jersey. It just seems unfair. And when you look under the hood, it really is unfair. Wealth based public school funding is regressive in nature. It favors the wealthy and disfavors the poor. What it costs to educate a child doesn’t vary that much between wealthy and poor school districts, but the value of property and therefore the tax base varies a lot. In today’s economy especially, the prosperity in wealthy school districts is growing rapidly relative to per pupil costs while property values in less prosperous school districts are in decline.
To understand the disparity of wealth based public education funding, let’s take affluent Morris County as an example (located in the central most area of the Northern half of the State). Morris County has many wealthy school districts, such as Harding where the average home sells for over a million dollars. It also has districts like Wharton where the average home sells for a quarter of that amount, or about $251,000. Property values in Dover are a bit higher, but the median family income in the Dover school district is just $59,000 compared with $160,000 per year in Mountain Lakes. (Fig.1 below)
One way to gain some perspective on property based school funding is to compare what it costs to educate a student with what it costs to buy a home in the same district. In the eleven wealthiest districts of Morris County, home prices are 30 to 50 times more than the educational cost per pupil. Home values are just 16 to 18 times more than per pupil costs in the 12 poorest districts. As a general rule, the higher a district’s property values, the lower the tax rates. The reverse is usually true in poorer districts. Districts with lower property values, and lower income levels, generally have higher tax rates. While the 11 wealthiest districts in Morris County pay a little more to educate children in their district, their property tax rates are about one-third less than in the 12 poorest districts. (Fig. 2 below)
The dramatic contrast between home values and per pupil costs is partially masked when just comparing tax rates because, in the suburbs, wealthier districts tend to have fewer households. Fewer household to share the tax burden mean higher tax rates to generate sufficient revenue. Despite this fact, tax rates in 8 or the 11 richest districts is among the lowest in Morris County. Only three of these wealthy districts have higher per pupil costs while three have among the lowest per pupil costs. This highlights the fact that education costs are similar across the county. The average district cost per pupil is $17,730, plus or minus $2,038. There are a few outliers in either direction.
Educational costs vary far less than home values from district to district, so families in wealthier districts have a far easier time affording public education than families at the lower end of the economic ladder. While New Jersey’s State School Aid formula is supposed to help balance school funding across all districts, it does little to correct the underlying inequality and unfairness of wealth based educational funding.
Taxpayers’ Guide to Educational Spending 2013: http://www.state.nj.us/education/guide/2013/
General Tax Rates : http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/pdf/lpt/gtr13mor.pdf
Average Home Sales : NJ Spotlight News @ http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/13/02/28/average-home-sales-prices/ For March 1, 2013
Median Income and # Households: http://www.njspotlight.com/stories/13/12/19/median-income/
By Brian T. Lynch, MSW
How should sensible people respond to divisive attacks on the poor and vulnerable? Should we begin making similar distinctions between the worthy and unworthy rich? Should we affirm those who earned their great wealth and provide social benefit but rescind all advantages given to those who use their inherited wealth to squeeze the people and their government for still more?
It should be obvious that social polarity is not between Democrat and Republican, or between liberal and conservative, but rather where it has always derived, between rich and poor.
GOP Senate Candidate: Republicans Must Turn Poor against Each Other (Video)
Watch N.C. House Speaker Thom Tillis explain: .“What we have to do is find a way to divide and conquer the people who are on assistance,”
by Brian T. Lynch
Martin Gilens of Princeton University, and Benjamin I. Page of Northwestern University , conducted a multivariate analysis of 1,779 policy issues in the United States, the results of which confirmed that the United States is no longer a Majoritarian Electoral Democracy.
In other words, we have lost majority rule. The United States has become an oligarchy. Business interests and the interests of the wealthy elite have overwhelming dominance in influencing United States policy and laws. You can read their conclusions below and read this newly published study in full at this URL:
According to the authors, “Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.”
Of course, anyone paying attention to government policies versus the popular will of the electorate would already have drawn this conclusion. I recently posted a two part piece on this very subject a few months ago: http://j.mp/1bz7aO5
The Gilens and Page study opens by asking a critical question, who really rules? Are we, the people, the sovereigns of our nation, or have we become “largely powerless?” He begins to answer this by summarizing four different theoretical traditions recognized by scholars who study democratic governance.
The first of these theoretical traditions discussed is the Majoritarian Electoral Democracy, which is best “… encapsulated in Abraham Lincoln’s reference to government “of the people, by the people, for the people.” This tradition holds that laws and policies should reflect the views of the average voter, and that the positions of politicians seeking election should converge towards the center of the normal range of voter opinion. It is this view of democracy most often presented by major media outlets when covering our politics. More importantly, this is these are the outcomes most of us expect from our democracy.
The second tradition is the Economic Elite Domination tradition in which US policy making is dominated by those with high levels of wealth or income. Some scholars also include social status or position as part of this tradition. The economic elites often exercise their influence through foundations, think-tanks and “opinion shaping apparatus,” as well as to the lobbyists and politicians they finance.
Majoritarian pluralism is the third theoretical tradition that Gilens and Page discusse. This tradition analyzes politics through the lens of competing interest groups within the population. These groups may include political parties, organized interest groups, business firms or industry sector organizations. All things being equal, the struggle between diverse factions within the population should also produce policy outcomes that are at least compatible with civil majority opinions. But all things are not necessarily equal, leading to the fourth, related tradition called Biased Pluralism.
Biased pluralism entails policy outcomes that result from contending, but unrepresentative organized interest groups. These unrepresentative interest groups are generally made up of upper-class citizens with the power and influence to tilt policy towards the wishes of corporations, businesses and professional associations.So, after statistically comparing almost 2,000 policy outcomes against these four models of political influence in our democracy, what did the researchers find? In their own words:
“By directly pitting the predictions of ideal-type theories against each other within a single statistical model … we have been able to produce some striking findings. One is the nearly total failure of “median voter” and other Majoritarian Electoral Democracy theories. When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.”
“Nor do organized interest groups substitute for direct citizen influence [snip]… Over-all, net interest group alignments are not significantly related to the preferences of average citizens.” The net alignments of the most influential, business oriented groups are negatively related to the average citizen’s wishes.”
“Furthermore, the preferences of economic elites… have far more independent impact upon policy change than the preferences of average citizens do.
What then has become of our democracy? It has been usurped by billionaires who directly fund candidates for public office, directly influence policy through lobbying and heavily fund public marketing campaigns to influence public opinion for their own advantage.
We have seen this before during the “Gilded Age” at the turn of the last Century. We found our voice a hundred years ago and we took back our democracy from the wealthy elite. Today they are smarter, richer and have more control over the media and government than they did back then, so the challenges we face to save civil democracy and regain majority rule won’t be easy. But history tells us that power is ultimately with the people. We must start by recognizing our situation and begin organizing ourselves to collectively act in our own best interest. We need to become, once again, a nation of citizens, not a nation of businesses and the rich.
Like anything else, you can use a thing or abuse it. The Affordable Care Act is being shredded for political reasons in many states to create proof that it doesn’t work. It’s a shambles in the hands of those who want to use it as a cudgel with which to beat up Obama. More enlightened states are taking every advantage of the ACA and in doing so they are better serving their citizens and improving their state budgets. Here below is a snippet from an article in the Washington Post:
How we got Obamacare to work
By Jay Inslee, Steve Beshear and Dannel P. Malloy, Published: Washington Post, November 17, 2012
[snip] In our states — Washington, Kentucky and Connecticut — the Affordable Care Act, or “Obamacare,” is working. Tens of thousands of our residents have enrolled in affordable health-care coverage. Many of them could not get insurance before the law was enacted.
People keep asking us why our states have been successful. Here’s a hint: It’s not about our Web sites.
Sure, having functioning Web sites for our health-care exchanges makes the job of meeting the enormous demand for affordable coverage much easier, but each of our state Web sites has had its share of technical glitches. As we have demonstrated on a near-daily basis, Web sites can continually be improved to meet consumers’ needs.
The Affordable Care Act has been successful in our states because our political and community leaders grasped the importance of expanding health-care coverage and have avoided the temptation to use health-care reform as a political football.
In Washington, the legislature authorized Medicaid expansion with overwhelmingly bipartisan votes in the House and Senate this summer because legislators understood that it could help create more than 10,000 jobs, save more than $300 million for the state in the first 18 months, and, most important, provide several hundred thousand uninsured Washingtonians with health coverage.
In Kentucky, two independent studies showed that the Bluegrass State couldn’t afford not to expand Medicaid. Expansion offered huge savings in the state budget and is expected to create 17,000 jobs.
In Connecticut, more than 50 percent of enrollment in the state exchange, Access Health CT, is for private health insurance. The Connecticut exchange has a customer satisfaction level of 96.5 percent, according to a survey of users in October, with more than 82 percent of enrollees either “extremely likely” or “very likely” to recommend the exchange to a colleague or friend.
In our states, elected leaders have decided to put people, not politics, first.
_______________ … _______________
If you feel that the media isn’t doing a good job of covering the positive side this story and isn’t reaching the ACA doubters and haters you know, then do something about it. Point them to this article or refer them here to read something that is directly from the chief executives of states where the ACA is working.
by Brian T. Lynch, MSW
Here is the Internal Revenue Service controversy in a nut shell. Rank and file IRS agents used search terms such as “tea party” to triage a mountain of applications for tax exempt status. What the agents were trying to identify were applications where the purposes of the organizations were primarily political. Under IRS regulations, organizations applying for 501(c)(4) tax exempt status must primarily be involved in social welfare activity. All the triaged applications were eventually approved. Virtually everyone agrees the IRS must be politically neutral, so the methods the agents used to organize their workload is not an acceptable practice.
This principle and these core facts are not in dispute by anyone familiar with the details. The partisan contentions understandably arise from the lengthy inaction by senior IRS officials to end this practice. Were senior managers incredibly blind to what agents were doing or did they turn a blind eye? If it was the latter, did they ignore the practice for practical reasons or political reasons? Who up the political chain of command knew of the practice and when did they learn about it?
As happens often in today’s politically charged atmosphere, the partisan conflagration set off by the revelations is sucking all the oxygen out of the room leaving no one to explore why these practices developed in the first place. The “scandal” is a media induced distraction from much more serious problems under the surface. Among the questions we should be asking are these:
Is there an increase in tax exempt applications and is the increase asymmetrical?
Probably so, although the assessment of this is indirect. According to an analysis of data released by the IRS in response to the criticism, Martin A. Sullivan of TaxAnalysitst.org found that among the tax exempt applications approved by the IRS about two-thirds were submitted by conservative organizations. The remainder were either liberal leaning organizations or politically neutral. According to Professor Rob Reich in the April/May Boston Review, there has also been an unprecedented growth in the number of charitable foundation, or 501(c)(3) organizations. He attributes this to the growing wealth of the richest Americans. They are establishing foundations to leave a legacy and project their political influence on society from beyond the grave. So far, according to the IRS and other sources, there does appear to be a sharp increase in 501(c)(3) and (4) applications for tax exempt status. It also appears that this increase in applications are skewed towards conservative organizations and wealthy donors.
Is there a problem with tax exempt 501(c)(3) and (4) organizations being too overtly political, and if so, is the problem asymmetrical?
According to some sources, since the Supreme Court’s Citizens United case there has been a growing number of wealthy people and corporations creating charitable foundations and social welfare organizations through which predominantly political messages are being delivered to the public, tax free. Just as we have increasingly been subsidizing big business through corporate welfare, we may now be subsidizing political messaging campaigns directed at us.
Here is an experiment readers can replicate for themselves. Type “left wing organizations” in a Google search. You will see that two right wing organizations and one left wing organization pop up. The first of these is discoverthenetwors.org, a “Guide to the Political Left” put out by David Horowitz’ Freedom Center Foundation. This guide is an alphabetical listing of allegedly left wing organizations, but looking down the list you will see it lumps together such “subversive” left wing organizations as the AARP and Abu Nidal. Abu Nidal is a Middle-East, “Spinoff of the Palestine Liberation Organization… [that] Has killed or maimed more than 900 people in over 20 countries.”
According to it’s mission, “The David Horowitz Freedom Center combats the efforts of the radical left and its Islamist allies to destroy American values and disarm this country as it attempts to defend itself in a time of terror.”
Painting the American left as affiliates of Islamist terrorists (or other notorious dictatorships as seen in on other sites) is a common theme on some conservative websites. This information is what passes as a public educational service justifying tax exempt status. Additionally, the site contains ads, which may or may not be paid advertizing. The site does claim to be 501(c)(3) tax exempt and solicits the viewers tax exempt donations.
The next organization on the search list is the Western Center for Journalism. It bills itself as a 501(c)3 tax exempt foundation and accepts tax exempt donations, yet it describes itself as a conservative organization and promotes a book written by the organizations current president, Floyd Brown. Brown’s latest book, “Obama Enemies List: How Barack Obama Intimidated America and Stole the Election”, was released in January 2013. Virtually all of the contents on this site are partisan in topic and perspective. One article by Steve Baldwin, for instance, starts out this way:
” Very few Americans realize there exists a large network of far left philanthropists and foundations in America dedicated to destroying the American way of life, our Christian-based culture and our free enterprise system. They seek to remove America from its constitutional foundations and move it toward a European-style socialism. Much of this effort is coordinated by a little known group called the Tides Foundation and its related group, the Tides Center.”
So I looked into the Tides Center and found it to be a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to fund projects related to:
“ Art & Film, Civic Engagement, Civil Discourse, Community Development, Disability Rights, Economic Justice,’ Economic Opportunity, Education/Training, Environmental Sustainability, Faith & Spirituality, Food & Agriculture, Health Services/Healthcare Reform, HIV/AIDS, Housing/Homelessness, Human Rights, Immigration, International Development, LGBT Issues, Media ,Native Communities, Nonprofit Spaces, Peace & Conflict Resolution, Professional Development, Racial Justice, Reproductive Justice & Health, Technology, Women & Gender, Youth Development & Organizing”
Donations to the Tides Center are tax exempt, but other than its support for some issues unpopular with conservatives you will find nothing overtly political on the web site.
The third organization on the Google search list is the RightWingWatch.org operated by People for the American Way. This is a liberal organization. RightWingWatch was on the search list in connection with an article refuting a claim by Rick Joyner that Timothy McVeigh (Oklahoma City Bomber) was actually a left wing radical, not a right wing terrorist. Rick Joyner is the founder and executive director of MorningStar Ministries and Heritage International Ministries. He is also the Senior Pastor at the MorningStar Fellowship Church, a tax exempt organization.
People for the American Way bills itself as a 501(c)(4) organization, but they don’t use our tax money. When you donate you get this disclaimer:
“Because we lobby Congress, donations to People For the American Way, a nonprofit 501(c)(4) organization, are not tax deductible.”
In contrast, Freedom Works Foundation is a conservative non-profit organization. It is currently headed by former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey, a Republican. The site say it is inspired by the leadership of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan. It’s content is distinctly and exclusively conservative. If you press the icon to donate to the foundation web site you are taken to the donation page for Freedom Works (without the word “foundation”) which is a political action organization. There you will be given a choice to donate, “… where my donation will be used directly in the fight in Washington,” or “… where my donation will be 100% tax deductable and will be used for education, research and other efforts.” So the Freedom Works Foundation, which is tax exempt, shares the donation page of Freedom Works, which isn’t tax exempt.
Now, for symmetry sake, Google “right wing organizations.” The first three organizations (excluding the C.S. Monitor) on the search list are People for the American Way (or RightWingWatch), which does not count donations as tax deductions, the PublicEye.org operated by a tax exempt group named Political Research Associates, and Common Dreams, also tax exempt. The Common Dreams link is to a three paragraph article on the resignation of the IRS commissioner. It isn’t particularly political. The People for the American Way provides an extensive list of right leaning organizations with detailed information on each. Unlike the David Horowitz Freedom Center, this list appears to contain only US organizations. There is no attempt to link these groups to foreign or domestic terrorist organizations. The site describes their effort this way:
“Right Wing organizations come in all shapes and sizes, from think tanks to legal groups, local and national lobbying organizations, foundations and media forums. At any given moment, the Right is at work in our public school systems, courthouses, in Congress and state assemblies. At the same time, right-wing groups are reaching huge audiences through media outlets they own or influence — promoting regressive policies that seek to drive wedges between and among Americans.”
So regressive policies and promoting division among citizens is the worst this group has to say about right wing organizations.
Political Research Associates also provides a list of right wing organizations similar to the one at the PFAW. This list is far less detailed. It doesn’t include foreign or terrorist organizations. There are no militia groups, or hate groups or overtly raciest organizations on the list as far as I can tell. It doesn’t include the Aryan Nation or the Klu Klux Klan, for instance.
This isn’t an exhaustive survey, of course. It’s just an exercise. But on the face of things it does appear that some tax exempt organizations have a very political agenda. It also seems that conservative leaning non-profits are more overtly political and include more information of questionable educational value. The problem of political activity among tax exempt groups seems asymmetrical. The added value to the public worthy of extending tax credits to these, or to any overtly political organization is dubious.
Does the IRS have the personnel and resources to properly handle their workload?
According to the IRS, the answer is no. IRS funding was held flat for three years between FY 2005 and 2007. There was a 2.5% cut in its 2012 budget and now it is being squeezed by budget cuts and the sequestration, prompting protests by IRS personnel. There is also this summary of the IRS situation prior to the last two years of budget cuts:
The most serious problem facing U.S. taxpayers is the combination of the IRS’ expanding workload and the limited resources available to the IRS to handle it. Among the consequences:
• the IRS is unable to adequately meet the service needs of the taxpaying public. [it’s only funded at an 80% level for this service.]
• the IRS is unable to adequately detect and address noncompliance, requiring honest taxpayers to shoulder a disproportionately large share of the tax burden.
• the IRS is unable to maximize revenue collection, contributing to the federal budget deficit.
—National Taxpayer Advocate, 2011 Annual Report to Congress
So the answer to this question seems to be no. This gives credence to claims that IRS line staff were triaging tax exempt applications to better handle their workloads. It also suggests that the problem of the huge collection gap, between what is owed and what is paid, won’t be fixed anytime soon. It has been estimated by the IRS’s own computer analysis that there are about a million tax returns each year that appear to contain fraudulent information but are not audited. At a time when the federal government is starving for revenue the anti-tax sentiments in congress seem to extent to collection of legally due taxes, not just tax increases.
Finally, is IRS agents to determine the degree of political activity permitted by current IRS regulations an impossible job?
The answer to this last question is yes, it is absolutely impossible. In the increasingly polarized politics of today there are often disagrements on who is a liberal or a conservative. The two camps can’t even on a common set of facts for any given topic. How can the IRS possibly create a suitable metric for deciding which 501(c)(4) organizations have crossed the political line. Even more importantly, why is the IRS even trying to make room for political activity for tax exempt organizations? The clear intent of the law excludes the from any political activity at all. This is what tax payers should demand in exchange for the tax break these organization receive from us.
Here then is the real scandal. The IRS, one of the most fundamental agencies in government, is under staff and without resources by congressional design at a time when it faces massive fraud and abuse, growing anti-tax sentiments and a groundswell of people and organizations trying to claim tax exemptions for overtly political purposes. It is trying to police this latter situation with an unenforceable and illegal regulation that it has been saddled with for over 60 years. Why isn’t this the real IRS scandal?
Tax breaks, also know as federal tax spending, includes things like mortgage deductions, child tax credits and lowered tax rates on capital gains. The CBO published a report today on what these deductions and tax breaks cost the federal government in annual revenues. The total amount is enormous. The top 10 most revenue syphoning tax cuts (there are more than 200 tax deductions in all) cost $900 billion. Tax spending is greater than budge expenditures for Medicare, Defense, or Social Security. It equals 1/17th of the US economy (or GDP). But taxbreaks or loopholes don’t show up anywhere in the federal budget, so the relative size of these hidden expenses are not usually apparent. They don’t often make it into the national dialogue when we talk about the budget. Below is the CBO report summary.
congressional budget office
supporting the congress since 1975
The Distribution of Major Tax Expenditures in the Individual Income Tax System
report date: May 29, 2013
A number of exclusions, deductions, preferential rates, and credits in the federal tax system cause revenues to be much lower than they would be otherwise for any given structure of tax rates. Some of those provisions—in both the individual and corporate income tax systems—are termed “tax expenditures” because they resemble federal spending by providing financial assistance to specific activities, entities, or groups of people. Tax expenditures, like traditional forms of federal spending, contribute to the federal budget deficit; influence how people work, save, and invest; and affect the distribution of income.
This report examines how 10 of the largest tax expenditures in the individual income tax system in 2013 are distributed among households with different amounts of income. Those expenditures are grouped into four categories:
- Exclusions from taxable income—
- Employer-sponsored health insurance,
- Net pension contributions and earnings,
- Capital gains on assets transferred at death, and
- A portion of Social Security and Railroad Retirement benefits;
- Itemized deductions—
- Certain taxes paid to state and local governments,
- Mortgage interest payments, and
- Charitable contributions;
- Preferential tax rates on capital gains and dividends; and
- Tax credits—
- The earned income tax credit, and
- The child tax credit.
Some of the provisions of law that reduce the amount of taxable income under the individual income tax also decrease the amount of earnings subject to payroll taxes. The figures presented in this report are generally based on the reduction in payroll taxes as well as the reduction in income taxes, but some figures separate those two effects. (Provisions that reduce payroll tax receipts generally reduce future Social Security benefits as well; that effect is not analyzed in this report.)
How Do Tax Expenditures Affect the Federal Budget?
Although the 10 major tax expenditures listed here represent a small fraction of the more than 200 tax expenditures in the individual and corporate income tax systems, they will account for roughly two-thirds of the total budgetary effects of all tax expenditures in fiscal year 2013, CBO estimates. Together, those 10 tax expenditures are estimated to total more than $900 billion, or 5.7 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), in fiscal year 2013 and are projected to amount to nearly $12 trillion, or 5.4 percent of GDP, over the 2014–2023 period. In addition, tax credits to subsidize premiums for health insurance provided through new exchanges to be established under the Affordable Care Act will represent a new tax expenditure beginning in 2014, estimated to equal 0.4 percent of GDP over the 2014–2023 period.
How Are Tax Expenditures Distributed Among Households?
The 10 major tax expenditures considered here are distributed unevenly across the income scale. In calendar year 2013, more than half of the combined benefits of those tax expenditures will accrue to households with income in the highest quintile (or one-fifth) of the population (with 17 percent going to households in the top 1 percent of the population), CBO estimates. In contrast, 13 percent of those tax expenditures will accrue to households in the middle quintile, and only 8 percent will accrue to households in the lowest quintile (see the top panel of the figure below).
When measured relative to after-tax income, those 10 major tax expenditures are largest for the lowest and highest income quintiles. In calendar year 2013, CBO estimates, the combined benefits will equal nearly 12 percent of after-tax income for households in the lowest income quintile, more than 9 percent for households in the highest quintile, and less than 8 percent for households in the middle three quintiles (see the bottom panel of the figure above).
The distribution of tax expenditures across the income scale varies considerably among the different tax expenditures. For example, CBO estimates that more than 90 percent of the benefits of reduced tax rates on capital gains and dividends will accrue to households in the highest income quintile in 2013, with almost 70 percent going to households in the top percentile. Those benefits will equal 2 percent of after-tax income for the highest quintile and 5 percent of after-tax income for households in the top percentile. In contrast, about half of the benefits of the earned income tax credit will accrue to households in the lowest income quintile, equaling 6 percent of after-tax income for households in that group.
Tax credits that will provide assistance in paying premiums in health insurance exchanges are excluded from the distributional results presented here because they are not in effect in 2013. When those tax credits come into effect, they will appreciably increase tax expenditures for households in the lower and middle income quintiles. Individuals and families who have income between 100 percent and 400 percent of the federal poverty guidelines and who meet certain other requirements will be eligible for those credits.
How Do Tax Expenditure Estimates Differ From Revenue Estimates?
Estimates of tax expenditures are traditionally intended to measure the difference between households’ tax liabilities under present law and the tax liabilities they would have incurred if the provisions generating those tax expenditures were repealed but households’ behavior was unchanged. Such estimates do not represent the amount of revenues that would be raised if those provisions were eliminated, because the changes in incentives that would result from eliminating those provisions would lead households to modify their behavior in ways that would mute the impact on revenues. For example, if the preferential tax rates on capital gains realizations were eliminated, taxpayers would reduce the amount of capital gains they realized. Because the size of that tax expenditure is estimated on the basis of the gains that are projected to be realized with the preferential rates in place, the amount of additional revenues that would be received if those preferences were eliminated would be smaller than the reported tax expenditure.
The Economist states it just right. Big corporations are avoiding their tax obligation. They have no sense of duty or obligation towards the peoples government which created corporations and the condition in which they have flourished. Increasingly, government is a gadfly to corporate profit making as citizens insist, through their government, that we breath clean air, drink pure water and eat healthy foods. Corporations are so large and powerful today that the only checks on their power is big government… hence the sustained attacks they are waging on big government. But when governments no longer have the power or ability to collect taxes from the elite or the largest corporations, they are close to colapsing. That is the message I take away from this latest report. I encourage everyone to go there and read more.
Taxing for some
America’s corporation-tax receipts falter even as company profits soar
THE pressure on tax-avoiders is mounting. In the latest episode Tim Cook, Apple’s boss, was called before a Senate subcommittee to explain why the tech giant had paid no tax on $74 billion of its profits over the past four years—though it has done nothing illegal. This comes at a time when America’s corporate profits are at a record high, thanks to the swift sacking of workers at the start of the recession, lower interest expenses, and the fact that cheap labour in emerging markets has eroded union power, allowing firms to move production offshore and defy demands for pay rises. Meanwhile corporation tax, which makes up 10% of the taxman’s total haul (down from about a third in the 1950s) has plummeted. An increase in businesses structuring themselves as partnerships and “S” corporations, which subject profits to individual rather than corporate income tax, is in part to blame. But tax havens are also culprits, as they lower their tax levels to lure in bigger firms.
In the New Jersey Star Ledgers editorial, “A Level Field,” it is argued that it is time for online sellers to collect state sales tax. The principle concern is that New Jersey is losing out on tax revenue. But the issue is not that simple. There is the little matter of the interstate commerce clause in the US Constitution. In the case of Complete Auto Transit vs. Brady, U.S. Supreme Court said that collecting taxes on out-of-state sales is constitutional when:
1. The activity taxed has a substantial nexus with the taxing state
2. The tax is fairly apportioned
3. The tax does not discriminate against interstate commerce, and
4. The tax is fairly related to services the state provides the taxpayer
With this in mind, consider the example of a couple in New Jersey who goes online to the website of a California firm to buy a product made and shipped from New York State. Where is the point of sale? Which state can claim to have the most substantial nexus? In which state are the most taxpayer supported services provided as related to this sales ransaction?
These are questions for those drafting the Market Place Fairness Act to consider. If raising state revenue was the primary consideration, each state might decide to impose their own sales tax in the above example. This situation would discriminate against interstate commerce. More importantly, if raising state revenues is the issue then the obvious places to start would be the elimination of tax loop holes and sweetheart deals for businesses, elimination of the ridiculous tax loopholes for wealthy individuals, and maybe raising taxes on those who financially benefit the most in New Jersey. Sales taxes are already far too regressive and burdensome to the poor.
Beware America! The push is on for yet another round of self-serving corporate tax reform. A press release from the Business Roundtable announced the release of a new report touting the economic benefits of “revenue neutral” corporate and individual tax reforms. Below is a summary of the findings from the press release and a link to the report. But before you read it, consider what the real trend is in corporate tax revenues compared with what individuals contribute.
HERE IS THE TRUTH! Corporate tax rates do not reflect what corporations actually pay in income taxes, and the effective corporate tax rates, as well as the percentage of tax revenues they contribute have been in decline for decades.
Decline in Corporate Tax Burden Over 40 Years
The shift in the percentage of total taxes paid by individuals has grown substantially over the years. Individual income taxes raised 41% of the total income tax revenue in 1943 compared to 79% of total revenues today. And the shift in tax receipts from corporations to individuals cannot be explained by a shift away from C corporations (who pay the corporate income tax) to S corporations (who don’t). An analysis of that shift in corporation type is an insignificant contributor to the overall shift in the tax burden. [http://rdwolff.com/content/massive-shift-tax-burden-corporations-individuals-statistical-mirage ]
Shifting the tax burden from corporations to individuals over the past 40 years is yet another factor contributing to the current decline in domestic consumer spending. Wage suppression, the shifting of the tax burden from the rich to the middle class, coupled with the decline in the tax burden on corporations are all that is needed to explain the decline of America’s middle class, the rise in poverty and the growth of government spending in social support programs. The people are going broke, the government is going broke trying to prop us up and the rich are becoming richer and more powerful each year.
BUSINESS ROUNDTABLE RELEASES ECONOMIC CASE FOR CORPORATE TAX REFORM
Comprehensive Data Analysis Shows Tax Reform Would Ensure U.S. Competitiveness and Lead to U.S. Economic Growth
Key components of the Roundtable’s analysis include: [also known as “talking points”]
- U.S. Companies’ Fiercest Competitors Enjoy Lower Home-Country Tax Rates: It is well known that the U.S. combined (federal and state) statutory tax rate is the highest of any developed nation, averaging 39.1 percent. As the analysis points out in detail, American companies now find that their closest foreign competitors are based in countries with lower corporate tax rates and international tax systems more favorable to their global operations than the U.S. rules. Since 2000, 30 of the 34 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) countries have reduced their corporate tax rate.
- High Rates are a Drag on the U.S. Economy: Researchers at Cornell and the University of London report that a one-percentage-point decrease in the average corporate tax rate would result in an increase in real U.S. GDP of between 0.4 to 0.6 percent within one year of the tax cut.
- Double Tax on Foreign Earned Income Hurts American Companies and U.S. Competitiveness: Within the OECD, of companies headquartered outside the United States, 93 percent of the world’s top 500 companies (based on Fortune’s 2012 list) are headquartered in countries that use “territorial” tax systems, where income earned abroad is not taxed again when earnings are repatriated, unlike under the current U.S. system. This is up from only 27 percent of the same countries utilizing territorial systems in 1995 – signaling a significant trend towards the more competitive method of taxation.
- Under current law, foreign earnings are effectively “locked out” of the United States: An estimated $1.7 trillion in accumulated foreign earnings was held by the foreign subsidiaries of American companies in 2011. If only half of that amount came back to the United States in response to enactment of a market-based territorial tax system, the funds freed up for use at home would exceed the increased government spending and tax relief provided under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
- Effective U.S. Corporate Tax Rate 12+ Percentage Points Higher than OECD Countries: Data in the new document disproves claims of low “effective” rates (amount of tax paid after deductions) paid by U.S. corporations, citing a new World Bank study of corporate income taxes in 185 countries for 2013 that finds that tax payments are higher for companies operating in the United States as a percentage of income than the average of other OECD and non-OECD countries. In fact, the U.S. effective tax rate (ETR) of 27.6 percent is more than 12 percentage points higher than the average of other OECD countries and 11 percentage points higher than the average of non-OECD countries. The analysis also explains why using the ratio of corporate income tax to GDP is an improper measure of effective rates.
- U.S. Workers Bear the Burden of the Outdated U.S. Corporate Tax System: Corporate Tax Reform – The Time Is Now also analyzes a number of recent studies that find that workers bear between half and three-quarters of the burden of the corporate income tax. These findings suggest reducing the corporate income tax rate would provide benefits to workers through higher wages.
Since Reagan in 1980’s Tax Rates for the wealth were cut in half and capital gains tax (where most make their money) was cut in half again. http://j.mp/ZFFQHB
Wages and GDP rose together until wages were suppressed in the 70’s, otherwise median income today would be greater than $100K instead of $51K http://j.mp/14MoT67
A majority of American’s don’t make enough money to support a robust economy because a handful of us have more money than they can spend. http://j.mp/16E3zOT
Current US policy is creating permanent income inequality. Income mobility is shrinking as income caste system forms. http://t.co/nK5uFGyCaG
We know what victory looks like in Class Warfare. It’s the formation of an income caste system where birth determines your level of success. http://j.mp/Y1HwQP
Obama’s proposed raise in min. wage from $7.20 to $9/hr would mean a person working 40hr/week at min. wage would still be below poverty line. http://j.mp/10DwY7V
If the minimum wage was raised to $18/hour the Federal Government could eliminate almost all aid to the working poor, saving tons of money. http://j.mp/10DVrLn
Every tax dollar paid to assist the working poor is a tax subsidy providing their employer a federally funded labor discount. http://j.mp/16Bml7r
God! When are we going to wake up?