Local Gov’t Stories, Events
Ref. : Civic Events
Ref. : Arts & Education Events
Ref. : Public Service Notices
Books, Films, Arts & Education
Ref. : Letters to the editor
Health Care & Environment
05.23 Environmentalists Are Ignoring the Elephant In the Room: U.S. Military Is the World’s Largest Polluter [Since Trump had the EPA's records on global warming and pollution destroyed—and thus reporting world-wide has nearly stopped, let's pick on the US Military]
05.23 White House proposes slashing funds to clean up toxic sites despite EPA's pleas [far worse than just being stupid]
05.20 Global Study Shows Americans Dying from Preventable Causes at Shocking Rates [“What a country!” —Yakov Smirnoff]
05.20 China claims breakthrough in mining 'flammable ice' [might greater release of methane to our atmosphere become a larger problem?]
News Media Matters
US Politics, Policy & 'Culture'
05.23 Trump's budget: major slashes to social programs – but $1.6bn for the wall [disgusting that this was proposed at all]
05.21 The small Texas city fighting to remain a ‘safe haven’ for immigrants [morally right & courageous]
Economics, Crony Capitalism
05.20 The Malta Files: How the smallest EU country became a haven for global tax avoidance [why can't we play nice together?]
05.23 Could an Islamic reformation prevent violent radicalisation in Egypt? [denied vital lives enmasse, angry youth rebel in the only way that has any effect]
05.23 Facebook flooded with 'sextortion' and revenge porn, files reveal [wake-up people, don't let kids 'play' here]
05.22 Big game hunter is crushed to death when an elephant he was hunting in Zimbabwe is shot and falls on top of him [a fitting death to an elephant killer]
05.21 UK needs more immigrants to 'avoid Brexit catastrophe' [who benefits from bad "conservative" policy?]
05.21 THE LIGHTS ARE GOING OUT IN THE MIDDLE EAST [we suggest enticing a solar panel and battery manufacturers to locate in your countries to diversify economies and create jobs. use solar to empower yourselves...]
05.21 Budget analysis shows some Australian women hit with effective marginal tax rates of 100% ["conservatives" are cruel to the poor and desperate everywhere, to protect themselves from higher taxes]
05.21 Venezuela: 50th day of protests brings central Caracas to a standstill [who does interventions for countries? could the UN help more?]
05.21 Brexit and the coming food crisis: ‘If you can’t feed a country, you haven’t got a country’ [fear-based nationalism will become a costly problem]
Self-Reporting Drives $385 Billion ‘Tax Gap’
The IRS reports that the net misreporting percentage for amounts subject to little or no information reporting, such as business income, is 56%. This should impel Congress to beef up income verification.
The real divide in U.S. incomes isn’t between the top 1 percent and the other 99 percent. It’s between those whose income is reported by their employers to the Internal Revenue Service, and those who self-report. The divide is costing the Treasury about $200 billion a year, and Congress should gradually phase it out.
Tax compliance studies have consistently linked self-reporting with Treasury shortfalls. The link was underscored early this year when the IRS released its latest estimate of the nation’s “tax gap”—the difference between true tax liabilities and what the Treasury receives. The IRS put the gap at $385 billion, with more than half stemming from unreported work income.
Here’s the key statement from the IRS summary of the new gap numbers: “For example, the net misreporting percentage for amounts subject to substantial information reporting and withholding is 1%; for amounts subject to substantial information reporting but no withholding, it is 8%; and for amounts subject to little or no information reporting, such as business income, it is 56%.”
Think for a moment about an income misreporting percentage of 56%. It means that taxpayers with incomes “subject to little or no information reporting” are paying, on average, less than half what they should be paying. The better part of the tax gap comes from assuming that human beings will act like angels when they self-report their work income. (True, there’s always the chance of an IRS audit. But odds are there won’t be any audit, and thousands of taxpayers are obviously playing the odds.)
The new gap totals should impel Congress to beef up income verification. Any such move, of course, would generate fierce resistance. Economist Bruce Bartlett held top posts under presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush and now blogs for a major daily. His remarks on the IRS data touched on the obstacles to reporting reform: “People don’t like the intrusion into their privacy—and the diminution of their opportunities for tax evasion—and businesses don’t like the cost or the alienation of their customers.”
The straight up answer to all such complaints comes from 2008 GOP presidential candidate John McCain: “Country First”. Fiscal prudence, national togetherness and tax fairness all argue powerfully for less porous reporting rules.
The billions that lose their way to the Treasury will likely increase the federal deficit, leaving a hard choice. We can raise taxes, or go without the societal benefits that $385 billion would buy. We could also stem the leakage. The nation and all taxpayers benefit from income reporting for wages and salaries. The nation would also benefit, and it would only be fair, if information reporting could become the norm for current honor system tax filers—self-employed professionals, small business owners, landlords and others. As Bartlett wrote, “It’s unfair to honest taxpayers and undermines tax morale when large numbers of people and businesses don’t pay their taxes.”
President Obama’s State of the Union address called for an America where “everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.” A current example on Wall Street shows that income reporting rules can move closer to that goal, and even gain bipartisan backing.
This is year two of the three-year phasing in of new rules for reporting capital gains. Proceeds from the sale of stocks and mutual funds were formerly reported to the IRS, but not the purchase price, called the basis. Since capital gains can’t be verified without knowing the basis, it was easy for taxpayers to misreport their investment income. Basis reporting began as the initiative of former Senator Evan Bayh (D-IN). It became a bipartisan bill when Bayh convinced fellow fiscal hawk Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) to sign on. The Bush Administration later added its endorsement.
There are ways of making business income reporting almost as simple as wage and salary income reporting (and much closer in tax compliance as well).
The reasons for basis reporting of capital gains apply many times over to information reporting of work income. The Treasury’s loss is far greater, as are the potential gains to taxpayers from simplified record-keeping and tax preparation. Businesses, for example, could have bank accounts with deposits coded as income and checks coded as expenses. At year’s end, banks could report the totals to businesses and to the IRS—and begin making business income reporting almost as simple as wage and salary income reporting (and much closer in tax compliance as well).
“Trust, but verify” became President Reagan’s trademark phrase during his Cold War nuclear negotiations with Russia. America’s foe today is a mammoth deficit coupled with a $385 billion tax gap. Congress could slash the gap by slowly but surely bringing self-reporting taxpayers into a “trust but verify” system. Ronald Reagan would approve.
Copyright 2012 Gerald E. Scorse.
New York City-based Gerald E. Scorse helped pass the basis reporting bill. He writes articles on taxes.
Copyright © 2012 The Baltimore News Network. All rights reserved.
Republication or redistribution of Baltimore Chronicle content is expressly prohibited without their prior written consent.
Baltimore News Network, Inc., sponsor of this web site, is a nonprofit organization and does not make political endorsements. The opinions expressed in stories posted on this web site are the authors' own.
This story was published on April 04, 2012.