Ethics and Fairness, Growth and the Environment, Retirement and Tax Shelters

Just in time for Tax Day—are you being served? The Senate Finance Committee holds a hearing today on how best to protect taxpayers from incompetent and unethical return preparers. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen and National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson will appear. The Joint Committee on Taxation’s backgrounder on the issue is here.

Would a fairer tax code support economic growth and fiscal responsibility? The Senate Budget Committee holds a hearing today to explore the issue with John Buckley, former top tax staffer at both the Ways & Means Committee and Joint Committee on Taxation, Jane Gravelle of the Congressional Research Service, and Diana Furchtgott-Roth of the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research.

Should tax breaks be permanent for wind power? The House Ways & Means Committee holds its hearing today on making permanent some of the many tax subsidies that expired last December. The JCT’s analysis on those business-related tax provisions is here. Meanwhile wind power generates 4.8 percent of the nation’s electricity, according to the latest from Bloomberg. It reflects its highest market share ever, as its prices are now more competitive with gas and other power sources. But wind turbine producers still are counting on subsidies (and tax breaks) to remain competitive with the gas industry, whose pipeline operators can avoid income tax.

Maybe breaks and subsidies can help limit global warming. Competition between clean and fossil-fuel-reliant power suppliers is worth scrutiny, given the latest report expected from United Nations: “Nations will have to impose drastic curbs on their still rising greenhouse gas emissions to keep a promise made by almost 200 countries in 2010 to limit global warming.” This raises another question: if tax breaks and subsidies were wholly absent, would “clean competition” among different power suppliers help reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Can retired same-sex spouses benefit from spousal retirement plans? The IRS says yes, and requires that benefits be paid retroactively, at least back to June 26, 2013, the date of the repeal of a key section of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Plans may choose to go further back. DOMA had prohibited the recognition of same-sex couples under federal tax law.

What will become of Credit Suisse? The State of New York may join the federal government in investigating the Swiss bank. The state’s top financial regulator has requested documents from the bank to determine whether it deceived New York financial authorities in creating tax shelters.

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