No Taxation without Information

The idea of providing taxpayers with an itemized receipt for their income taxes was recently proposed by Third Way, a center-left think tank. The proposal, which is not entirely new, has attracted considerable commentary. However, there are significant challenges to creating a simple and engaging taxpayer receipt that would provide meaningful transparency for federal spending.

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Modernization at IRS Could Help Reduce Tax Gap and Shrink Deficit

The estimated $345 billion in revenue that goes uncollected every year is a tempting target for deficit crusaders. However, closing the so-called tax gap is not a cure-all, and attempting to address the problem could create other tax compliance issues. Despite such potential complications, a new report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has found that recent modernizations to the Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) computer systems show promise in helping to close the tax gap while avoiding some of the problems that may arise from aggressive tax collection.

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Commentary: The Case for a Strong Estate Tax

On Capitol Hill, there exists a debate about the future of the Bush tax cuts and the federal estate tax. While President Bush's 2001 tax policy eliminated the estate tax for 2010, it is set to return to pre-Bush tax cut levels in 2011 unless Congress intervenes. How Congress chooses to address the estate tax will have significant implications for the federal budget deficit and the fair distribution of the nation’s prosperity.

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Americans for a Fair Estate Tax Urges Senators to Co-Sponsor the Responsible Estate Tax Act

WASHINGTON, July 26, 2010—Americans for a Fair Estate Tax (AFET), a coalition of national and state organizations, sent a letter to the Senate today asking members to co-sponsor the Responsible Estate Tax Act, S. 3533. Over seventy organizations, including major labor, religious, social equity, and good government groups, are urging senators to support the bill. OMB Watch is a member of AFET and signed on to the letter.

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Recent GAO Reports Show Need for Better Data on Tax Expenditures

Two recent reports released by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), which examine the effectiveness of tax credits that target poverty and unemployment in economically distressed areas, show that Congress must require better data collection to properly assess tax expenditure programs.

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President Obama's Progressive Tax Initiatives

When President Obama rolled out his Fiscal Year 2011 budget in early February, many focused attention on the potential negative effects of the administration's proposed three-year freeze on non-security discretionary spending. Moreover, the possible effects of the president’s hawkish rhetoric toward the federal budget deficit dismayed those in the progressive community who are concerned with social equity. However, a detailed examination of the tax section of the president's budget reveals several progressive proposals designed to aid in the fight against poverty and bolster the middle class.

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An OMB Watch Statement on President Obama's Fiscal Year 2011 Budget Request

WASHINGTON, Feb. 2, 2010—President Obama has sent his budget request for fiscal year 2011 to Congress. Far from bringing change, it at best tinkers with federal priorities while perpetuating the wrong budget agenda.

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The Recovery Act Spending That Wasn't There

Recovery Act recipient reporting has received a great deal of attention in the media, and while some of this coverage has been critical (reporting on non-existent congressional districts or ZIP codes, unreliable job creation numbers, etc.), many news articles portray comprehensive oversight of the act because of transparency requirements in the law. However, approximately two-thirds of the spending in the Recovery Act bypasses these requirements, leading to a dearth of information about how the money is being spent. As time passes and Recovery Act spending continues, this lack of data is becoming more apparent, as highlighted by a recent Internal Revenue Service (IRS) report showing that millions of dollars in Recovery Act tax breaks are vulnerable to tax fraud.

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Estate Tax Reform Bill Passes House, Moves to Senate

On Dec. 3, the House passed the Permanent Estate Tax Relief for Families, Farmers, and Small Businesses Act of 2009 (H.R. 4154). With time running short, the bill now moves to the Senate, where straight passage of it is uncertain, and passage of any estate tax legislation is anything but assured.

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The IRS Gets Serious about Tax Enforcement

On Nov. 17, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) announced that some 14,700 taxpayers had taken part in its recently concluded tax amnesty program by coming forward to report previously undisclosed income hiding in foreign bank accounts. The figure represents a near doubling of the original estimate of 7,500 taxpayers the IRS provided at the end of the voluntary disclosure program. Credited in part for the success of the tax amnesty program is the Obama administration's larger emphasis on tax enforcement. With a beefed up IRS enforcement budget, new tax treaties with countries that once acted as tax havens, and stricter tax haven legislation in the works on Capitol Hill, the U.S. is starting to get serious about international tax enforcement.

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