Tax Changes for Highways, Delays and Missing Links

The Senate Finance Committee takes their turn as “The Highway Men.” They’ll consider tax changes for more highway funds tomorrow with Chairman Ron Wyden’s bill to keep the Highway Trust Fund solvent through the end of the year. The plan would raise $9 billion in tax revenue over ten years. Tax code changes include: doubling of the maximum use tax for heavy vehicles; changing mortgage-interest deduction documentation to improve tax compliance; clarifying the statute of limitations for back tax collection in cases of overstatement of asset cost; and requiring inheritors of IRAs and other retirement plans to take taxable distributions over five years. The fund will be empty by August without legislative action.

The IRS might not have walked the line. National archivist David Ferriero testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee yesterday and indicated that the IRS “did not follow the law” when it did not immediately report the loss of former IRS employee Lois Lerner’s email to the Archives. IRS email problems, he shared, are part of a broader government challenge: Agencies are working to manage all email records digitally by the end of 2016.

The White House appears never to have been on that road. White House attorney and former IRS employee Jennifer O’Connor testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee yesterday, too. The committee’s GOP members are determined to find a human link between the IRS and the White House in the case of the missing email and alleged IRS targeting of political groups. O’Connor insisted, though the House GOP members appeared not to believe her, that she “did not know that [Lois Lerner’s] emails were missing and unrecoverable or that her computer crashed.”

“Follow the money.” In his latest post, TPC’s Howard Gleckman reroutes attention to the real issue at hand: “Curbing the use of non-profits as laundries for hundreds of millions of dollars in secret campaign money.” Some would like to run that effort into a ditch.

Down under and on the other side of the road, Australia’s Prime Minister would ditch the carbon tax. Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott is trying a second time to repeal the country’s carbon tax. The Prime Minister is trying to reduce household electricity bills, but it’s unclear what the impact of a carbon tax repeal would be. Incoming senators face pressure to side with Abbott, who wants a vote on his bill soon after July 1. A carbon tax would likely have a mitigating effect on global warming and climate change by reducing carbon emissions. In the US, a carbon tax could be a state tool in meeting new EPA greenhouse gas rules.

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