Doug Sword

Retirement savings bill seeks small business buy-in
Bipartisan momentum for change comes as retirement crisis looms

The House on Thursday will take up what could be the most significant changes in retirement savings policy in more than a decade.

But the bill’s backers acknowledge it’s just an initial step in addressing what critics call a huge hole in Americans’ nest eggs, at a time when traditional pension plans are increasingly rare and Social Security is facing financial headwinds.

Senate, House start to chip away at ‘kiddie tax’ hike
Increase for low-income children was an unintended consequence of 2017 tax overhaul

Both chambers are moving to reverse tax law changes that unintentionally subjected investment earnings of low-income children to the same tax rates paid by wealthier households.

The House, which under the Constitution must originate revenue bills, plans to act later this week on a broader retirement savings bill that would eliminate the full set of changes to the so-called kiddie tax made by Republicans in the 2017 tax overhaul.

Grassley, Wyden want to end uncertainty over temporary tax breaks
Five task forces charged with coming up with solutions for so-called tax extenders

Senate Finance Chairman Charles E. Grassley announced the creation of five task forces charged with delving into what to do about 42 myriad tax breaks that continually get turned on and off by Congress, ranging from an incentive to sell cleaner-burning biodiesel fuel for trucks to a deduction for mortgage insurance premiums.

The joint announcement by the Iowa Republican and Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, the committee’s ranking member, comes 16 and a half months after 26 tax “extenders” expired at the end of 2017. Grassley said the task force is charged with coming up with solutions by the end of June, including whether to consolidate or change certain provisions, make them permanent or allow them to lapse.

Trump’s tax return battle will be fought in court, Mnuchin says
‘We haven’t made a decision but I think you can guess on the way we’re leaning on our subpoena,’ Mnuchin told appropriators

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Wednesday he expects the courts will resolve the conflict between the administration and House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal over the release of President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

“This will go to the third branch of government to be resolved,” Mnuchin said Wednesday during questioning before the Senate Financial Services Appropriations Subcommittee.

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig subpoenaed over Trump tax returns
House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal makes announcement Friday

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal issued subpoenas Friday for Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig to provide President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

The action takes to the next level a five-week-long dispute between the administration and Neal, D-Mass., who first asked on April 3 for six years of Trump’s personal tax returns, the returns for eight Trump companies and other tax information.

Mnuchin rejects Neal’s request for Trump tax returns
Department ‘not authorized’ to disclose information, Treasury secretary says

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin told House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal Monday that the IRS will not hand over President Donald Trump’s tax returns and associated information.

“In reliance on the advice of the Department of Justice, I have determined that the Committee’s request lacks a legitimate legislative purpose, and … the Department is therefore not authorized to disclose the requested returns and return information,” Mnuchin wrote in a letter to Neal.

GOP conservatives sharpen knives for spending fight
House Republicans express concern about paying for $2 trillion infrastructure tab

Conservatives are making a fresh push to spread their message of fiscal discipline after new estimates that the Medicare and Social Security trust funds will soon be depleted, and amid talk of a $2 trillion infrastructure spending package and busting discretionary spending limits.

The House Republican Study Committee released a budget proposal Wednesday that assumes cutting $12.6 trillion in spending over a decade and eliminating the deficit within six years.

Mnuchin misses Trump tax returns deadline; asks for more time
Noncompliance with Democrats’ request could put Treasury secretary in jeopardy, legal experts say

Updated 6:12 p.m. | Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said Tuesday he will make a determination by May 6 on whether to comply with House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal’s request for six years of President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

Neal had set a 5 p.m. deadline Tuesday for the administration to comply with his request. The Treasury Department announced shortly after the deadline that Mnuchin had sent a 10-page response to the Massachusetts Democrat’s request.

Social Security could go broke by 2035, but lawmakers have new ideas to fix it
If policymakers wait too long, solutions to fixing the program may involve politically unpalatable options

There’s nothing like waiting until the last minute — as long as waiting doesn’t make the problem worse.

Therein lies the conundrum facing lawmakers and 2020 presidential candidates when it comes to Social Security, which last year paid out retirement and disability benefits to some 63 million Americans.

Congress might finally help the IRS trade in its old clunkers for newer computers
Updates to the agency’s systems could provide new features and web-based solutions to taxpayers

IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig likes to compare the IRS’ past-their-prime computer systems to an aging car. In the case of this clunker, he puts the repair bill at somewhere between $2.3 billion and $2.7 billion.

That’s the cost of the IRS’ six-year modernization plan, intended to make dealing with the agency more like banking online, a goal it has attempted, and missed, in the past.

Treasury won’t meet deadline to release Trump tax returns
Mnuchin says more time is needed to review lawmakers’ request

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he needed more time to review House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal’s request for six years of President Donald Trump’s tax returns.

Mnuchin wrote in a letter Wednesday to Neal, D-Mass., that he would personally supervise the review and that he would consult with the Justice Department. Wednesday was the deadline set by Neal in a request to IRS Commissioner Charles P. Rettig on April 3.

Mnuchin isn’t sure who will decide whether to hand over Trump’s taxes
Mnuchin was quizzed about a request for 6 years of the president’s tax returns at a hearing Tuesday

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said he did not know if Treasury’s legal department was reviewing whether he or IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig should be the one to make the decision on whether to hand over President Donald Trump’s tax returns to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard E. Neal.

Mnuchin was quizzed about his reaction to Neal’s April 3 letter requesting six years of the president’s tax returns at a hearing Tuesday of the House Appropriations Financial Services subcommittee by the panel’s chairman Mike Quigley, an Illinois Democrat.

Ways and Means chairman asks for Trump’s tax returns
Richard Neal sets a deadline of April 10 for the IRS

House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal formally asked the IRS Wednesday for six years of President Trump’s tax returns and set a deadline of April 10 to get the documents.

Signaling a fight ahead, Trump told reporters later he was “not inclined” to comply with Neal’s demand.

Ways and Means considers major changes to retirement savings incentives
Much of the bill, approved by the committee Tuesday, recycles provisions from previous Congresses

The third time may be the charm for a 122-page collection of retirement benefit tweaks that died in the last two Congresses but has become a top priority for House Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal.

Much of the bill that the Ways and Means Committee approved Tuesday recycles provisions from previous Congresses. One major change would make it easier for small businesses to band together to offer retirement benefits, while offering tax credits to defray the start-up costs.

The Federal Reserve chairman is in demand amid economic danger signs
The Fed chairman is stepping up the number of group meetings on his dance card, including with House Democrats

It must be nice to get your own personal report on the economy from the head of the world’s largest central bank.

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell met with roughly 70 House Republicans at the whip team meeting prior to Monday night votes, where, among other things, he talked about the Fed recently lowering its economic growth projections for 2019 and 2020.

The Crime Victims Fund is not just for victims
CQ Budget Podcast, Episode 104

A fund designed to help crime victims is also used by lawmakers as an annual budgetary gimmick to help pay for other programs. But the victims fund is starting to run dry, making appropriations decisions tougher, as our tax and fiscal policy reporter Doug Sword explains.

Show Notes:

Shrinking victims fund signals tough times for appropriators
The program’s finances are drying up, and committees may not be able to depend on it to fill funding gaps elsewhere

It’s been an unspoken rule among appropriators for years: if the annual Commerce-Justice-Science subcommittee allocation feels a little light, fear not. There’s always money in the Crime Victims Fund.

However, the good times may be coming to an end. The program’s finances are drying up, and the Appropriations Committees are facing major new obligations in fiscal 2020 that will stretch the means of panel leaders even if there’s a deal to lift austere spending caps for next year.

FBI HQ investigation ‘closer to the beginning than the end’
GSA delivers 2,500 documents near midnight Tuesday in partial response to House Committee request

An investigation into whether President Donald Trump was involved in the decision to keep the FBI on prime Pennsylvania Avenue property is still far from over, lawmakers said Wednesday.

“We’re closer to the beginning than the end of the investigation,” said House Appropriations Financial Services Subcommittee Chairman Mike Quigley following a Wednesday hearing.