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Category: Congress



  • TPA Applauds Legislative Efforts to Reform FCC Lifeline Program

    David Williams on April 5, 2016

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    Some phones that might be included in a Lifeline plan

    The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is one of the more active regulatory agencies under the Obama Administration and many times their actions have come at a price to taxpayers and consumers. Net neutrality and municipal broadband expansion are two very public battles that the agency has been at the center of, and the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has been fighting them every step of the way. TPA has worked hard to ensure that the taxpayers’ voice is heard as FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler continues to expand the agency’s power through increased regulations. One program that has received some attention and notoriety is Lifeline. The program is part of the Universal Service Fund (USF), which is a tax on phone bills, provides a discount on phone service for qualifying low-income consumers. In 2005, the program expanded to pre-paid cellular phone services and now the FCC wants to expand the reach of the program to broadband services. The problem though is that the program is a mess, filled with rampant fraud and abuse.

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  • Coalition to Congress: Enact a Regulatory Budget

    Michi Iljazi on April 1, 2016

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    Just weeks ago the House released a pair of budget proposals that put forth a path toward a balanced budget. Though each proposal was not perfect, particularly on Pentagon spending reform, the important work of getting a budget done is only helped by what the House Budget Committee and Republican Study Committee brought to the table. One way to make Congressional budgeting more effective for taxpayers is to implement a regulatory budget to address the costs of federal regulations. The impact of regulations on jobs and the economy has never been more apparent, and Congress can play a role in mitigating that impact or at least shedding more light on it. That’s why the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) joined a coalition effort led by the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) signing this letter urging Congress to move forward with a regulatory budget.

    Click 'read more' below to see the full letter

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  • Puerto Rico's Toxic Landfills: Why Congress Must Act

    David Williams on March 31, 2016

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    Puerto Rico’s official tourism slogan is “Puerto Rico does it better!”  But, with several House and Senate hearings recently on Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis, which has spotlighted the Island’s disastrous economic and fiscal management, that slogan should be updated.  Puerto Rico’s books aren’t the only example of poor governance.   There is also the environmental disaster building up in its toxic landfills.  This is personally troubling considering the 3 ½ years I lived on the Island. The media in Puerto Rico reports that 22 of the Island’s 27 municipal landfills are in violation of federal safety standards, and a cursory review of media reports shows that these landfills appear to have an unbroken record of violating safety rules since they were applied to Puerto Rico in 1994.  The small number of landfills that have been consistently in compliance with federal rules are all privately owned and managed.  Conversely, the long list of toxic landfills that have never managed to be in compliance are all owned by the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, managed by municipalities with a green light from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and funded by taxpayers. As background, when Subtitle D of the Resources Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) was applied to Puerto Rico in 1994, the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board (EQB) promised to close a majority of the landfills. Over the last 22 years, only three landfills have been shut down.

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  • Venue Reform Gets A Boost in the Senate

    Michi Iljazi on March 24, 2016

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    The clock continues to run on the short calendar that Congress made for itself in 2016.  But, that doesn’t mean that important issues should be put on the shelf. One major issue that Congress can still make an impact on is patent litigation reform. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) has been advocating for reform in this area for years now, and Congress has made some progress with the introduction of bills in the House and Senate. Even though there may be difference of opinion in some areas of patent reform, one specific area that there seems to be genuine agreement on when it comes to patent litigation reform is the need for reform in where patent cases are heard.  More commonly known as “venue reform,” the place where a case is heard is a real problem.

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  • TPA Supports the Unauthorized Spending Accountability (USA) Act of 2016

    Michi Iljazi on March 22, 2016

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    The national debt continues to grow, currently at $19 trillion, and Congress still hasn’t figured out how to get to serious spending reduction. Loosening spending caps and consistent failures to move back to regular order for the appropriations process are part of the real problems why Washington can’t get the budget under control. However, spending on unauthorized programs is also a problem. Today, there is more than $300 billion annually being spent on programs that aren’t authorized by Congress. This week on the TPA podcast, Chair of the Republican Conference Rep. Cathy McMorris-Rodgers (R-Wash.) joined the show to talk about her new legislation to solve the problem of unauthorized spending (click here to listen). Congresswoman McMorris-Rodgers’ legislation, the Unauthorized Spending Accountability (USA) Act of 2016, would put in place mechanisms for imposing cuts on programs not authorized and eventually letting them sunset. TPA supports this legislation and that is why we joined with National Taxpayers Union and other groups on a coalition letter expressing our support.

    Click "read more" below to read the full letter

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  • Budget Proposals Offer Ideas for Ways Forward on Balancing the Budget

    Michi Iljazi on March 21, 2016

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    This is the time of year when Congress begins work on a budget for the coming fiscal year, and last week marked the introduction of a pair of budget proposals from the both the House GOP and the Republican Study Committee (RSC). Both proposals are far better than President Obama’s eighth and final budget (click here to read more) released in late January. Each of the proposals released last week lay out a structure for a budget that will be balanced over the next decade by implementing spending cuts and enacting a series of reforms on spending programs and entitlements.

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  • TPA Signs Coalition Letter Urging Death Tax Repeal Vote in the Senate

    Michi Iljazi on March 17, 2016

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    One of our nation’s founders, Benjamin Franklin, is credited with saying, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” But who thought that combining the two would be good policy? The first time the government imposed a form of the Death Tax was back in the late 1700s with the Stamp Act.  A century later the tax was used to help finance the Civil War (as an inheritance tax).  And then again in 1916 when the Revenue Act became law (ushering in income tax), the estate tax (aka the “Death Tax”) came with it. Like before, when conflict arose in World War I (WWI), the tax became the vehicle for revenue generation. However unlike the previous two, the post –WWI Death tax was not repealed and is the foundation for what is in the current tax code. There has been momentum to repeal the Death Tax, and the broad coalition fighting for repeal continues to grow in size and diversity. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) recently signed onto a letter sent by the Family Businesses Coalition to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) urging action in the Senate to repeal the Death Tax. The House has already acted on Death Tax repeal by passing the Death Tax Repeal Act of 2015, sponsored by current House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-Texas). The time for the Senate to act is now and there is legislation ready to be brought to the floor, S. 860, sponsored by Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.). It is important to get a repeal bill of the Death Tax onto the President’s desk sooner rather than later.

    Click 'read more' below to see the full letter

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  • LEADS Act Awaiting Action as Privacy Concerns Mount

    Michi Iljazi on March 15, 2016

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    The intersection of issues can be found in places you never expect, but sometimes it is right there in plain sight. Privacy concerns have been gaining momentum over the last few years with major stories that have broken on government surveillance, data breaches, and terrorism. While disagreements on how to proceed on many of these issues become even more complicated as events take over the narrative, privacy remains a priority for all individuals and that privacy extends to taxpayers, consumers and businesses. One thing that Washington can do to help alleviate the concerns that many have when it comes to their privacy is to pass the Law Enforcement Access to Data Stored Abroad Act (LEADS Act).  The legislation was introduced by Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), and Chris Coons (D-Conn.), and would provide better tools for the United States government to obtain needed information abroad in criminal pursuits, but at the same ensure privacy protections for Americans while respecting the laws of other countries.

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  • Tax Reform Key to Vibrant NH Business Environment

    David Williams on March 14, 2016

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    This article appeared in the New Hampshire Union Leader on March 6, 2016

    According to exit polls, the economy remains a top concern with three-quarters of both Democrats and Republicans expressing concern. As well it should be. While recent jobs reports provided some encouraging news for the nation, more must be done before we can turn the page on a chapter of recent history marked by anemic growth and a sluggish economic outlook. One of the biggest warning signs of a sputtering economy was a disappointing 0.7 percent growth in the economy in the last quarter of 2015. If President Obama truly wants to leave a legacy behind and remove obstacles in the way of a healthy, vibrant business environment (as he pledged in his State of the Union address), he and his Capitol Hill counterparts have a golden opportunity to make real progress toward that goal by passing comprehensive tax reform. The U.S. tax code has become a complicated mess of loopholes, selective exemptions and sky-high rates. In fact, the United States has the highest corporate tax rate in the world at more than 39 percent, putting our competitiveness at risk. Meanwhile, the average tax rate worldwide has fallen seven points to under 23 percent.

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  • To Fix Our Broken Tax System, Sunset the Tax Code

    Michi Iljazi on March 11, 2016

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    IRS Headquarters, Washington, D.C. 

    Tax reform
    is critical to ensuring our economy recovers from the sluggish growth it has been experiencing.   Real individual and corporate tax reform will boost the middle class and encourage more business investment at home. President Obama, members of the House and Senate, groups like the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA), and individual Americans have all weighed in on how to get tax reform done. There is agreement that the code needs to be overhauled.  There is also agreement that the corporate tax rate is too high. There is now a new path forward with legislation in the House that guarantees something will be done when it comes to fixing our broken tax code. H.R. 27, the Tax Code Termination Act, introduced by House Judiciary Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), puts in place a blueprint to get rid of the current code, have a timetable for a new code to be approved, and then have that new code ultimately adopted.

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  • Coalition to Congress: Make Crop Insurance Reform Part of Budget Deal

    Michi Iljazi on March 8, 2016

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    It’s budget season in Washington. D.C. and while there are some obvious hurdles, there is work being done to get Congress to come up with a budget that works for both chambers. The House will begin work in committee next week, and though the Senate has delayed work until April, there is still hope for a bicameral budget deal. There are many things that the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) would like to see (and not see) in any budget deal. There should be a clear line on spending caps, there should be no earmarks, and there should be an effort to reduce spending wherever possible both on defense and domestic sides. One particular area where TPA and others believe there is opportunity for reforms that include reduced spending is the Crop Insurance program. President Obama’s budget, while mostly political optics, did include some meaningful reforms to the Crop Insurance program. These reforms would save $18 billion over the next decade. With that in mind TPA signed this letter, in an effort led by the R Street Institute, urging Congress to adopt the reforms when putting together a budget deal.

    Click 'read more' below to see the full letter

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  • TPA Joins Coalition Effort Urging Easier Public Access to CRS Reports

    Michi Iljazi on March 4, 2016

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    Transparency is an important issue for taxpayers, and a key tool in the fight for good governance. One issue that merges both transparency and good governance is the movement to make Congressional Research Service (CRS) reports more accessible to the public. CRS reports are funded through taxpayers, but the easy access goes to Congress and staff, not taxpayers. The reports are important resources of information on policy, and there is now bipartisan, bicameral legislation in the House and Senate to make them available to the public. This would increase transparency and that is why the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) signed onto this letter, urging lawmakers to make CRS reports more accessible to the public.

    Click 'read more' below to read the full letter.

     

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  • Venue Reform Critical to Improving Patent Guidelines in the United States

    Michi Iljazi on February 26, 2016

    The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) recently placed Congress on notice reminding them of the opportunity for and importance of getting something done on patent litigation reform. Reforms would help to strengthen intellectual property (IP), which would boost the competitive economy all while benefitting consumers, businesses and taxpayers. As part of any legislation there are many parts and “venue reform” remains an important component to any legislation that would move through Congress. Venue reform refers to moving the current patent litigation system away from courts that generally favor patent trolls. Patent trolls are generally one or two individuals hiding behind a fictitious shell corporation. They scour the Internet trying to find vague, near-end patents, buying them up with the goal of filing lawsuits to extort settlements from businesses or individuals who can’t afford the high cost of litigation. They issue threatening letters, demanding payment through licensing fees for the use of ambiguous or commonly-utilized technologies, or threaten to sue. Most small businesses can’t afford the steep costs of litigation and instead are bullied into paying excessive licensing fees. Right now most patent disputes are dealt with in just one court in Texas, that’s right a single court hears most patent disputes in the country. In 2015 the Eastern District of Texas handled 2,540 cases of the total 5,830 (43.6%). That is a higher percentage than of all districts outside the top 3 (41.9%).


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  • Tax Reform – Not Higher Taxes – Will Bring Economic Growth

    David Williams on February 22, 2016

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    This article appeared in Morning Consult on Feburary 16, 2016

    Two significant documents were delivered to Congress last week:  President Obama’s Fiscal Year 2017 budget and U.S. Federal Reserve Chair Janet Yellen’s semiannual Monetary Policy Report. The President’s budget is a $4.1 trillion plan containing $2.6 trillion in tax hikes.  And it’s not surprising that it’s a repeat of his previous plans – more spending and tax increases.  When it comes to the latter, one proposal in particular has garnered the most ink and discussion: a $10 per barrel tax on oil produced in the United States. As always, it will be consumers on the losing end of this deal, which many on Capitol Hill have called “dead-on-arrival.”  And for good reason.  It’s estimated that President Obama’s $10 per barrel tax on oil would add almost 25 cents a gallon to the cost of gasoline, hitting middle class and low-income families particularly hard.  But it’s not just the pump where Americans will feel the pinch.

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  • Taxpayers Are in Love With Tax Reform. What About Members of Congress?

    David Williams on February 12, 2016

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    Love is in the air as Valentine’s Day approaches.  With that in mind, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) continues our Valentine’s Day themed campaign designed to address the serious issue of tax reform for members of Congress. The “Love is Patient, Taxpayers Aren’t” campaign (click here for press release) sums up the desire for immediate tax reform.  Much like the holiday of Valentine’s Day, the campaign will be conducted with the passage of cards, candy and alluring messages.

    As part of the campaign, members of Congress and their staff will be sent a BuzzFeed-style personality quiz to see if their views truly are aligned with tax reform. The results of the quiz are simple - either the member of Congress is in favor of economy boosting tax reform, or they oppose tax.  TPA will also encourage Capitol Hill to utilize our snapchat filter that features conversation hearts adorned with tax reform messages such as “Tax Reform BAE (Before Anything Else)” and “Tax Reform 2016.”  Additionally, Congress will be sent eCards featuring tax reform memes with holiday-themed facts such as: “There are 75 thousand pages in the US Tax Code. That’s enough paper to write a love letter every day for the next 200 years.”

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  • TPA Releases Statement on Final Budget Proposal from President Obama

    Michi Iljazi on February 9, 2016

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    Washington, D.C.- Today, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) reacted to the final budget proposal from President Barack Obama. The budget, released on Tuesday calls for $4.1 trillion in spending for Fiscal Year 2017, an increase over the previous proposal from the White House which sought $3.99 trillion for FY 2016. With calls for new taxes and no meaningful reform on spending, it is hardly a proposal that moves the needle in the right direction.

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  • TPA to Senate: Support H.R. 644 and Make the Ban on Internet Access Taxes Permanent!

    Michi Iljazi on February 9, 2016

    Taxpayers Protection Alliance is committed to seeing relief for taxpayers whenever victories appear to be sight, and lately taxpayers haven’t had too many victories. That could all change over the next few days as the Senate considers legislation that will permanently extended the moratorium on Internet access taxes. In December, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 644, Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 by a vote of 256-158.This legislation contains measures regarding our trade agenda, but it also contains a positive taxpayer provision, the "Permanent Internet Tax Freedom Act" (PITFA), which will forever eliminate any threat of tax increases for Internet access. PITFA will give millions of Americans the certainty they need on a looming tax increase that can finally be eliminated for good. The conference report contains language that will ban those online taxes nationwide permanently.  TPA and many other groups have been working and fighting for years to have the moratorium (which has been extended on a limited basis continually since 1998) made permanent. The Internet is critical to businesses, and working families that cannot afford any new tax increases, particularly one that would reach every jurisdiction in the country, which would amount to more than 10,000 different possible new increases around the country. Individuals and businesses use a number of tools to access the web, including smart phones, tablets, TVs, and computers; all of those mediums would be impacted by these new tax increases. E-commerce is paramount to growing our economy, and this is a tax that would absolutely damage the internet-based economy.

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  • Taxpayers Are in Love With Tax Reform. What About Members of Congress?

    David Williams on February 8, 2016

    heart

    Love is in the air as Valentine’s Day approaches.  With that in mind, the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) launched a Valentine’s Day themed campaign designed to address the serious issue of tax reform for members of Congress. The “Love is Patient, Taxpayers Aren’t” campaign (click here for press release) sums up the desire for immediate tax reform.  Much like the holiday of Valentine’s Day, the campaign will be conducted with the passage of cards, candy and alluring messages.

    As part of the campaign, members of Congress and their staff will be sent a BuzzFeed-style personality quiz to see if their views truly are aligned with tax reform. The results of the quiz are simple - either the member of Congress is in favor of economy boosting tax reform, or they oppose tax.  TPA will also encourage Capitol Hill to utilize our snapchat filter that features conversation hearts adorned with tax reform messages such as “Tax Reform BAE (Before Anything Else)” and “Tax Reform 2016.”  Additionally, Congress will be sent eCards featuring tax reform memes with holiday-themed facts such as: “There are 75 thousand pages in the US Tax Code. That’s enough paper to write a love letter every day for the next 200 years.”

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  • IRS Credibility Gap Widens: Agency Admits to Deleting Hard Drives

    Michi Iljazi on January 25, 2016

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    The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has been no stranger to controversy over the last few years. Political targeting, hollow complaints about budget cuts, and continued stonewalling into investigations of impropriety and misconduct have been nothing short of damaging to the credibility of the agency. Now, another major story is brewing as news unfolded about information related to an ongoing court case.  And yes, the impropriety involves missing e-mails.   And, this new revelation about the IRS impacts an ongoing investigation that the Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) is conducting. According to The Daily Caller, “Samuel Maruca, owner of the hard drive in question and a former senior IRS executive, participated in the IRS hiring of the outside law firm Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP allegedly to investigate Microsoft. Maruca left the IRS in August 2014, according to court documents.” The name of the IRS officials may not seem important but it is. Mr. Maruca was in charge of a key hire at the IRS, the prominent trial lawyer law firm Quinn Emanuel. The firm was hired to handle an audit the agency was conducting. The IRS then used taxpayer money to pay the $1000 per hour billing that Quinn Emanuel charged the agency.

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  • Still Time for Congress to Take Action on Patent Litigation Reform

    Michi Iljazi on January 22, 2016

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    In an election year there is rarely optimism about the ability of Congress to get big things accomplished.  This year has just begun, and while the campaign for the White House is in full swing there is still an appetite in Congress to get moving on important items including tax reform and trade. However, another area that Congress should focus their attention on and keep momentum going is patent litigation and venue reform. The Taxpayers Protection Alliance (TPA) believes in the foundations of intellectual property (IP), the importance it has to the overall economic health of the economy.  Protecting IP will benefit taxpayers and ensure the success of small and large businesses. Laws that encourage innovation and creation are key to ensuring that IP can be abundant, and worth the time and investment from those in the private sector; which impacts jobs and economic output. That logic applies even when it comes to the rules that govern patents in the United States today.  Unfortunately, there are still some glaring problems with regards to how the law treats this area of IP.

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