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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IRS Set to Receive Substantial Funding Boost

Congress is preparing to substantially increase the enforcement resources of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the FY 2010 Financial Services appropriations bill, representing a reversal in the lethargic funding approved during the Bush administration. This much-needed increase in resources is only a first step in improving the enforcement of the tax code, however, as observers say the IRS also needs to improve how it uses its limited resources.

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House Hearing Questions Whether PAYGO is Enough to Control Spending

The House Budget Committee held a hearing on June 24 on the Statutory Pay-As-You-Go (PAYGO) Act of 2009, which was recently introduced by Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD). During the hearing, House members focused on the enforcement mechanisms in PAYGO, the significant exemptions granted under the proposed legislation, and whether the bill is the appropriate method to reinstate fiscal discipline in Congress.

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Congress Passes FY 2010 Budget Resolution

On April 29, exactly 100 days into the Obama administration, the House and Senate each passed a final version of the Fiscal Year 2010 budget resolution. The final resolution outlines $3.56 trillion in spending and tracks closely with President Obama's major proposals, including key investments in health care, education, and energy.

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House, Senate Pass Budget Resolutions

The House and Senate each passed their budget resolutions on April 2, mostly along party lines, before breaking for a two-week spring recess. The resolutions delineate approximately $3.6 trillion in spending for Fiscal Year 2010 and track closely with the major proposals outlined by President Barack Obama, including estimates of historic budget deficits. Those deficits could become significantly worse due to the adoption of an amendment in the Senate that calls for further cuts to the estate tax, benefiting the richest families in the country.

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OMB Watch Joins Stimulus Transparency Coalition

OMB Watch has joined more than 30 other groups calling for transparency and accountability requirements in federal recovery efforts, including the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (H.R. 1). The Coalition for an Accountable Recovery (CAR) is an assembly of organizations and individuals who believe transparency and accountability are essential to ensuring that hundreds of billions of dollars of federal spending is disbursed fairly; spent with minimal waste, fraud, and abuse; and can be assessed as effective or ineffective.

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2008 Fiscal Policy Year in Review

It's been an exceptional year. 2008 saw not only economic indicators that evoked memories of the Great Depression, but also a record-breaking federal budget deficit. The federal government, through several agencies, activated trillions of dollars in loans and asset guarantees. Congress approved the largest supplemental spending bill in its history and gave the Treasury Department the authority to expend the equivalent of three-fourths of the federal discretionary budget on one sector of the economy. But in many other ways, Congress proved to be unremarkable by staying true to its recent history of underachievement.

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Unemployment Insurance in Need of Overhaul

As the anticipated severity of the recession increases and unemployment estimates for 2009 reach as high as eight percent, Congress is under increased pressure to enact an extension of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits, perhaps as early as the current lame-duck session. Yet a broader overhaul of the UI program is needed to improve this important safety-net program for American workers.

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Joint Economic Committee Holds Hearing on the Need for Economic Stimulus

On Oct. 30, a group of economic experts testified before the Joint Economic Committee (JEC) on the necessity and scope of a second economic stimulus package. While committee members and witnesses agreed on the severity of the ongoing economic situation, there was a clear ideological divide on which course of action Congress should pursue. At the center of the divide were the competing concerns for families facing certain hardships inflicted by a contracting economy and for the consequences of an increase in the federal budget deficit, which would be required to aid those families and help reverse the current economic trend.

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Commentary: Despite Record Deficits, Stimulus Package Warranted

Although enactment of an economic stimulus package could push the federal budget deficit above $1 trillion, political consensus on its necessity is emerging. Political factions are split on the issues of how large and what form a stimulus package should take. Economists, however, indicate that targeted spending can be a powerful weapon to address recession and the effects of economic hardship on American families, even if it increases the deficit. Now is exactly the time to be enacting such fiscal policy.

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