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Tag Archive: taxes

Will NFL lobby team sack proposal to tax the league?

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Fiscally-minded senators and the K Street reps of some of the country's most popular professional sporting leagues may be lacing up the cleats for a battle over the tax-exempt status of these groups.

Bloomberg News is reporting that budget hawk Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., is leading a push to challenge the 501(c)6 status of groups like the National Football League, the National Hockey League and the Professional Golfers Association -- citing the need to close loopholes in the tax code and the $109 million that taxing these groups would add to the federal budget over ten years. However ...

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Apple lobbies on taxes more than any other subject

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Ahead of a hearing at the Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations tomorrow at which its CEO, Tim Cook, is the star witness, computer, tablet and smartphone manufacturer Apple has preemptively released his prepared remarks defending the company's tax practices, which include pooling $100 billion overseas, away from the grasping hand of the Internal Revenue Service. 

The prepared testimony does not mention the more than $14.5 million Apple has spent on lobbying the federal government since 1998, nor that taxes top the list of issues the company has raised, according to data in Influence Explorer. One of the bills ...

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Untangling the webs of tax lobbying

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It’s tax day today, and while Americans all over the country are scrambling to pay what they owe, in Washington there is a different kind of hustle taking place. About 6,500 lobbyists are busily working to make sure that their more than 2,000 client organizations can pay a little less in taxes. Some want a new tax credit passed. In this year that threatened comprehensive tax reform, many are focused on protecting existing loopholes, credits, and exemptions. To understand the vast and busy world of Washington tax lobbying, a new Sunlight Foundation analysis and visualization has mapped out the networks of tax lobbying from the 112th Congress (2011-2012), which should also be a pretty good guide to what lobbying in the 113th Congress will look like. Our interactive component lets you follow the industries and issues that you care most about. Click for Interactive Graphic by Alexander Furnas and Amy Cesal. Click to explore the network interactively. The visualization draws on the complete record of tax lobbying in the 112th Congress. For those keeping score at home, that covers:

  • $773 million in reported lobbying spending
  • 1,454 bills
  • 2,221 organizations

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Lobbying and declining corporate tax burdens

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According to a report today in the Washington Post, most companies in the Dow 30 have dropped their tax rates by at least half in the last four decades. The article notes a few factors: the corporate tax rate of today (35%) actually is lower than the corporate tax rate of 1971 (48%); Large U.S. companies today are increasingly multinational companies and so can keep corporate profits overseas; Companies have become increasingly aggressive in their tax strategies. But here’s another factor: Lobbying. Changes in reported tax rates

Company 2007-2010 decline 2007 rate 2010 rate 2007- 2009 lobbying (in millions) Estimated tax reduction (in millions)
Exxon Mobil -1.1% 41.8% 40.7% $81.92 -$565.32
Verizon Communications -7.9% 27.4% 19.4% $77.58 -$1,005.51
General Electric -7.6% 15.0% 7.4% $73.17 -$1,082.70
At&T -40.4% 34.0% -6.4% $70.96 -$7,359.95
Altria +0.2% 31.5% 31.7% $63.31 none
Amgen -7.1% 20.1% 13.0% $58.33 -$377.16
Northrop Grumman -11.4% 32.9% 21.5% $57.56 -$296.08
Boeing -7.1% 33.7% 26.5% $56.99 -$321.5
Median among 200 companies -0.6% 31.8% 31.6% $5.48 -$13.08

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Will lobbyists complicate fiscal cliff deal-making?

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As the wheeling and dealing around the “fiscal cliff” continues to envelop Washington, thousands of lobbyists representing more than a billion dollars are watching. After all, any grand bargain on spending and revenue is will go right at the heart of two of the most heavily-lobbied issues in Washington: budget and taxes In the 112th Congress, 2,049 organizations have so far spent $619 million to lobby on tax issues, and 4,576 organizations have so far spent $576 million to lobby on federal budget and appropriations issues (totals are through the second quarter of 2012). Another 1,843 organizations have spent $234 million to lobby on defense issues (under the sequester, half of the cuts are slated for defense). Add it up, and and you have at least $1.3 billion in lobbying devoted to these three issues in the 112th Congress.

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Shouldn’t Robots Be Doing My Taxes By Now?

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It's Tax Day, and if you're a software developer, I'll bet you find it as mystifying as I do. Not the actual tax preparation (mine are still pleasantly straightforward, I'm happy to say), but the general awfulness of the experience. Why am I responsible for collecting PDFs (or worse, paper) from a half-dozen institutions, then manually reentering that data? Why am I paying a vendor $50 for what amounts to some unit tests and an electronic transaction or two?

It makes no sense. Government uses technology for a lot of things, and some of those things are very hard [insert requisite reference to the Apollo Program here]. But filling out forms is not a hard thing. In fact, it's one of the problems that web technology has tackled first and most comprehensively. The first thing you learn in most web frameworks is how to make forms! It's hard to think of any other part of the government's mission that affects so many people negatively and could so easily and obviously be improved by better technology.

The IRS is trying to make progress on this score, of course. E-Filing has been with us since 1986. And they seem excited about the new version of their IRS2Go mobile app. But why on earth would I want a mobile app to help me find the IRS's YouTube channel?

Here's a better idea: instead of assuming I want to learn more about how to do my taxes, why not make it so that I can afford to know less about the process? Five minutes in a text editor tells me that my W-2 can be represented in less than 300 bytes -- a fraction of a QR code's capacity. How about promulgating some data standards that would make it easier for me to digitize all those 1099-INTs saying that I earned thirty cents on a checking account? Surely TurboTax or H&R Block would be willing to create some mobile apps that let me input my information by scanning a matrix barcode with my phone.

Better yet: since the agency is already receiving that data from all those financial institutions through a separate stream, how about organizing the data for me and simply letting me sign off on my automatically-generated return? I suspect that a lot of people would like that, given that the alternative is spending a spring day doing paperwork.

Naturally, this is not an original idea. As you'll see in these fine pieces from United Republic and the New York Times, many people feel that lobbying by firms like Intuit (the makers of TurboTax) has stopped efforts to make filing your taxes less unbearable.

Is this a case of malign influence peddling to prop up an industry that should be partially automated away, or is it just another example of government technology badly lagging behind that of the private sector? Whatever the case might be, here's hoping something changes soon. The fact that we're still doing our taxes this way is ridiculous.

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