Daily Deduction

from the Tax Policy Center

Disbelief, Devolution, and Death Benefits

By :: June 24th, 2014

Deja vu all over again, and then some. IRS Commissioner John Koskinen, who began his tenure at IRS in December, testified last night before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee for about four hours on the loss of former Treasury official Lois Lerner’s emails and the crash of her hard drive. House GOP members believe that the hard drive was intentionally destroyed. They accused the Commissioner of lying and hiding the “spoliation of evidence,” and also tested his knowledge of criminal statute, statistics, and vocabulary. Representative Elijah Cummings likened the hearing to “hell.” Its sequel begins this morning: White House attorney Jennifer O’Connor and National Archivist David Ferriero will appear.

The federal Highway Trust Fund? Some want to call the whole thing off. Last week saw the release of a bipartisan bill to raise the federal gasoline tax and replenish the near-broke Highway Trust Fund. But this summer, stay tuned for renewed attention on last year’s House and Senate GOP bills to phase out the federal gasoline tax and turn over most of the federal transportation program to states. The Senate and House proposals would reduce the tax from 18.4 cents per gallon to 3.7 cents per gallon over five years.

But the Child Tax Credit could be expanded. Kansas Republican Representative Lynn Jenkins has a new bill that would index the $1,000 child tax credit and income cutoffs to inflation and remove a marriage penalty. The House Ways & Means Committee plans to vote on the bill tomorrow.

Your life insurance benefits could cover your former colleagues’ pensions. As much of 20 percent of all new life insurance policies are taken out by companies on their employees. The cash surrender value of policies Bank of America has taken on its employees is nearly $18 billion. The premiums, investment returns on the policies, and death benefits are tax deductible. Companies and banks say those dollars cover the costs of long-term health care, deferred compensation, and pension obligations. But companies and banks can use the tax-free gains however they want.

There’s a new tax sheriff in town, in Greece. After the country’s top tax official abruptly resigned after barely a year. Katarina Savvaidou, a lawyer and  senior manager at PricewaterhouseCoopers, has been named to the post. Greece has committed to reform its tax system and raise tax revenues as a condition of its $326 billion bailout by the European Union and International Monetary Fund.

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  1. Ralph H  ::  8:50 am on June 24th, 2014:

    The loss of the Emails is simply not believable without an intentional cover-up. Just imagine the outrage by the Feds if GM lost Emails on the ignition switch fiasco or if any of the big banks lost Emails pertaining to selling loans or insider trading. If people at the top of the administration wanted to recover them the FBI would do it. This is symptomatic of a cover-up much like the 18 minute gap. The only explanation is the the missing messages directly link this to a deliberate attempt to quiet opposition.

  2. Michael Bindner  ::  4:30 pm on June 24th, 2014:

    Loss of email media are easy and I suspect the words redact and executive privilege are applicable if the hard drive is suddenly found in the Treasury General Counsel’s Office. Regardless, this seems like another Republican witch hunt – more like McCarthy than Watergate. Have they no sense of, well, sense? Let the bone go.

    I would support turning highway maintenance over to a consortium of power companies, car dealers and manufacturers and local employers (not oil companies – sorry Sen. Rockefeller) to build an all electric fleet that does not need recharging. That will work. Letting state governments do it means that the blue states will have excellent highways while the ALEC states will revert to pre-Eisenhower conditions. Since I live in Virgina (an American Legislative Exchange Council state), I say Heck NO!

    Indexing the Child Tax Credit to inflation and removing the marriage penalty is progress – small progress – but progress. Make it 12 times greater and a child’s expenses would be paid for and new children could be added to a family regardless of their base wages. I suspect that is too pro-life for the pro-lifers (who then start talking about family individual responsibility – as long as that responsibility does not include women controlling their own bodies). I would like to be surprised.

    The only way that life insurance on employees is affordable is when you have a large numbers of employees to cover. I would say it is there money, but that would deny that most employment arrangements are at least somewhat monopsonistic – meaning that pay is lower than a perfectly free market would dictate. Better that firms were employee owned and self-insured these things – with the beneficiaries being the family, not the company. The current arrangement, if used for surviving employees, essentially creates a tonteen – with income and health care for the survivors rather than some item of significance to all – like a bottle of brandy liberated in World War I.

    No doubt Greece should reform – however its pensions should be run by the EU, as well as all other member pensions, with a central debt and tax system and a phase in so that current retirees are not harmed.

  3. Michael Bindner  ::  4:31 pm on June 24th, 2014:

    18 minute gap. Funny. The other historical analogy is the phrase “Have you no sense of decency?”

  4. 2014 TAX FREE DAY  ::  1:19 pm on June 26th, 2014:

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