What doing other people’s taxes taught me about our broken tax code

“In a 2019 paper, economists Jeffrey Liebman and Daniel Ramsey ran through the changes the US would have to make to adopt this system of exact-withholding. Under this approach, used by the UK, Japan, and others, “the majority of taxpayers do not need to file tax returns. Instead, these countries use withholding systems in which the correct amount of tax is withheld during the year.”
That could be us — so why isn’t it? They offer four big aspects of the US tax code that prevent it.

The first is the complex system of benefits for families with children. Creating a simple monthly child benefit would solve that.

The second is that capital income like interest and stock capital gains aren’t “taxed at the source”: your broker doesn’t automatically tax, say, 30 percent of the proceeds from selling stock and send it to the IRS. Creating a flat tax on capital imposed at the source would eliminate filing requirements for most people with this kind of income.

Third is the numerous deductions in the tax code. Most of these, like the mortgage interest or charitable deductions, don’t come up much in VITA because it’s almost always more advantageous for clients to claim a standard deduction — but things like the education credits do come up, and removing them would simplify our clients’ lives.

Fourth and most important is eliminating joint returns and moving to individual-based taxation. Joint filing makes precise withholding much more difficult because employers would need to know the earnings of each of their employees’ spouses in order to withhold correctly. If everyone’s taxed as an individual, then eliminating joint filing wouldn’t mean couples would have to file two returns: They’d have to file zero because precise withholding would be possible.”

Minnesota Taxpayers Could Be Pillaged for $280 Million in Vikings’ Stadium Upgrades

“Taxpayers fronted nearly $500 million for a new professional football stadium in Minneapolis that opened just seven years ago. Now, they could be on the hook for as much as $280 million more in ongoing maintenance costs over the next decade.”

“Another reason why these public projects so rarely “pay for themselves” is that cities often grant huge property tax breaks to the stadiums. In New York City, for example, a recent report from the city’s Independent Budget Office found that the four major stadiums in the Big Apple—Barclays Center, Citi Field, Madison Square Garden, and Yankee Stadium—are exempt from roughly $377 million in annual property taxes.
While Madison Square Garden’s situation is weird and unique, the other three stadiums are exempt because they “were all built on publicly owned land that is exempt from property taxes,” according to the IBO report. But there’s nothing actually “public” about a stadium—they’re not parks that anyone can visit whenever they’d like or use for a variety of purposes—and cities should stop engaging in the fiction that they are.”

“Taxpayers are forced to cover stadium construction costs with the promise of economic growth that doesn’t materialize, then sometimes get hit up for ongoing maintenance costs that can’t be covered by the economic growth that didn’t materialize, and all this happens while the supposedly public stadiums are not generating property tax revenue to help offset their public costs. It’s a bad deal for just about everyone—except for the stadium design firms that get to decide how much extra cash taxpayers will have to pony up to maintain a facility that’s still basically brand new.”

Does taxing the wealthy lower inflation?: Video Sources

Fiscal Policy – The Economic Lowdown Podcast Series Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis. https://www.stlouisfed.org/education/economic-lowdown-podcast-series/episode-21-fiscal-policy How Can Fiscal Policy Help Reduce Inflation? Peter G. Peterson Foundation. 2023 3 7. https://www.pgpf.org/blog/2023/03/how-can-fiscal-policy-help-reduce-inflation US history lesson: Taxes on rich people helped to beat inflation (and

The ultrarich are getting cozy in America’s tax havens at everyone else’s expense

“One of the revelations of the Pandora Papers leaked in 2021 was the proliferation of tax havens inside the US. They’re used not just by wealthy Americans but by foreign politicians, business leaders, and criminals as well. South Dakota in particular has become a destination for the wealthy to stash their riches, and it currently hosts more than $512 billion in trusts, according to the IPS report. The ultrarich have parked trillions of dollars in secretive trusts within US tax haven states.
“It’s not just South Dakota, it’s not just Delaware,” said Chuck Collins, director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies and one of the authors of the tax haven report. “A bunch of states are in the chase.”

The benefit for states is attracting businesses and jobs, but there’s little evidence that becoming a trust-friendly tax haven boosts job growth for states. Populous states like Texas and Florida are getting in on the game, too. It could accelerate what Collins calls a “race to the bottom,” in which more states change laws to attract the trust industry.

A trust is a contract that stipulates what assets one person wants to pass on to another. When assets are put into a trust, the original wealth-holder technically no longer owns them. A third-party entity, known as a trustee, manages the assets for a named beneficiary until the terms of the trust are fulfilled — for example, a parent establishes a trust for their child that will transfer assets to them when they turn 25 or upon the parent’s death. A trust is supposed to end at some point, and ownership of assets is supposed to pass to the beneficiary; it’s a way station for wealth, not the final destination.

Except that a growing number of trusts don’t end. None of the 13 tax haven states has a strict life span limit on trusts. Several states have abolished a rule limiting the life span of trusts altogether. Others set the limit somewhere between 300 and 1,000 years. By carefully setting up a dynasty trust that lasts generations, a wealthy family can avoid paying inheritance or estate taxes for millennia. These trusts often obfuscate who really owns the assets, so they can continue using them — assets like real estate or yachts — or take out “loans” from the trust without triggering gift taxes. The secrecy and confusing ownership structures of trusts are big problems. The government can’t tax something that legally doesn’t belong to a person anymore, and it certainly can’t tax assets that it doesn’t even know exist.”

Trump’s income taxes were often paltry, newly released documents show

“Trump frequently made tens of millions of dollars annually during that period. But he was able to whittle away his tax bill by claiming steep business losses that offset that income.

In 2016, he paid $750. The following year he again paid just $750. In 2020, he paid nothing.”

“In other years, Trump paid more. In 2018, he had far fewer losses to report and ended up paying $999,466.”

Here’s why defunding the IRS is the House GOP’s first priority

“The House GOP’s first bill out of the gate doesn’t address inflation or gas prices or immigration, but instead zeroes in on the Internal Revenue Service.
The bill set to be voted on Monday evening — barring a stalemate over approving the rules for the 118th Congress — would reverse much of the $80 billion in extra funding set aside for the agency by 2022’s Inflation Reduction Act.

While it has little chance of being enacted with Democrats in control of the Senate, the prominence of the issue shows just how much the IRS has become a target of Republicans even though experts say the funds in question would go toward more prosaic concerns like helping the agency chase down tax cheats and refresh its shockingly outdated technology.”

“The claim from McCarthy, which has been echoed by many Republicans, is that the influx of money will lead to a flood of 87,000 new IRS agents who will then harass everyday Americans. Some critics of the agency go even further and claim these new agents will be armed.

But fact-checkers have repeatedly debunked the claims, and the agency itself pushed back in a Yahoo Finance op-ed from then-IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig in August.

The viral claims are “absolutely false,” Rettig wrote at the time, adding his agency “is often perceived as an easy target for mischaracterizations,” but he promised the new money will not lead to increased audit scrutiny on households making under $400,000.

The plan is instead for much of the money to go toward wealthy tax cheats. IRS estimates of the so-called “tax gap” — the difference between what taxes are owed to the government and what is actually paid — is hundreds of billions of dollars a year.

Much of the $80 billion will be focused on taking a bite out of the gap, focusing on wealthy tax payers. The investment is projected to pay for itself and then bring in over $100 billion in increased tax revenue over the coming decade.

In addition, a May 2021 report by the Department of Treasury estimated that more IRS funding could lead to 86,852 new employees, but many of those new employees would not be agents. Many would work in other areas like information technology.

And nearly all new agents would be unarmed.”

The wealthy get a free lunch on capital gains taxes. Let’s fix that. VIDEO SOURCES.

How could changing capital gains taxes more revenue? Grace Enda and William G. Gale. 2020 1 14. Brookings. The rich benefit as Democrats retreat from tax on unrealized capital gains Greg Iacurci. CNBC. 2021 12 29. https://www.cnbc.com/2021/12/29/the-rich-benefit-as-democrats-forgo-tax-on-unrealized-capital-gains.html The Many Problems With Taxing

The relationship between taxation and U.S. economic growth

“So, what did corporations spend their large tax cut on, if not wages or investment? Analysts at the International Monetary Fund find that 80 percent of the corporate tax cuts were repurposed into stock buybacks and dividends, which overwhelmingly benefited wealthy shareholders.16 And Lenore Palladino of the University of Massachusetts Amherst documents that these corporate buybacks and dividends also widened the racial wealth divide, finding that White stock-owners hold $27 for every $1 in corporate equity and mutual fund value held by a Black or Hispanic stock-owner.17
The main effects of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act were less government revenue and regressive tax cuts for corporations, wealthy shareholders, and executives who bear nearly all the burden of corporate taxes even as the rate changes had little effect on business investment or workers.””