Federal Budget Spending Feed

Maybe the National Taxpayer Advocate's recommendations came too late in the budgeting process. Or maybe members of Congress just like whacking the most hated federal agency with a fiscal bludgeon. Whatever the reason, the Internal Revenue Service is going to have to make do with less money in fiscal year 2014 under the omnibus budget bill worked out this week on Capitol Hill. UPDATE: The House passed the spending bill Wednesday, Jan. 15, afternoon by a bipartisan 359-to-67 margin. It now awaits Senate action. And that means all of us taxpayers will probably suffer at least a little bit this... Read more →


I'm a big believer in you get what you pay for. Apparently, so is National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson. Olson this week released her annual report to Congress. In the yearly analysis, the Internal Revenue Service's internal watchdog details at least 20 of the biggest problems that taxpayers face. For 2013, Olson enumerated 25 taxpayer troubles. And she put the inability to get good service from the IRS near the top of her latest list. One of the most frustrating taxpayer-IRS interactions is telephone service. Folks seeking answers via phone are getting worse service now. And why is there such... Read more →


For the last few days of September and the first 16 days of October, much of the attention was on one Representative and one Senator. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) led a fight to defund Obamacare and egged on House Republicans to do the same, leading in large part to the government shutdown. That made things difficult for House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) as he tried to bring the opposing factions of his party together. However, now that a deal has been reached to reopen federal facilities, the focus has shifted to 29 members of Congress. They are the bipartisan group... Read more →


Benjamin Franklin's famously noted that there are only two sure things: death and taxes. I'd like to add a third: Congressional Groundhog Day. Yes, our Representatives and Senators, at least this current crop, seem to like doing the same thing in the same way over and over and over. I am talking, of course, about lawmakers' penchant for walking to the brink of financial and tax disaster and peering over the edge. Sorry history of fiscal brinksmanship: We had it with the debt ceiling fight during the summer of 2011. That led to the 2012-2013 fiscal cliff, which we briefly... Read more →


Tell Congress what you think as brazenly as you wish

There's a lot of talk about the Beltway Bubble, the phenomenon where the nation's capital exists in an atmosphere insulated from the real lives the rest of us lead. One Representative, however, recently tried to burst it. Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.) saw the latest surveys revealing that public approval of Congress has plummeted to its lowest level ever and he wanted to make sure his House colleagues knew about the lack of esteem in which they are held. Grayson attempted to use a special House rule that allows members to address harms to the "dignity" of the House. Yes, I... Read more →


What do we like more than Congress. Apparently, just about everything. But there is a silver lining to our disgust with Representatives and Senators. It might finally force federal lawmakers to rethink their so-called governing strategies. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and other Republican leaders have put together a proposal to extend for six weeks the debt ceiling, which is the maximum amount the United States can borrow to pay already incurred bills. They've met with President Obama, who reportedly said he would make a deal, but only if it also went beyond the debt ceiling and cleared the way... Read more →


A lot of attention has been paid, rightfully, to the federal workers who are on furlough or working for free until Capitol Hill agrees on a fiscal 2014 budget. Among those sitting out the political stalemate are around 86,000 Internal Revenue Service rank and file workers. But as the shutdown approached, there also were some changes -- or not -- at the IRS' executive level. Werfel remains, for a while: First, the top guy's status. Daniel Werfel stepped in as Acting IRS Commissioner (his title was tweaked for administrative reasons in June) after word broke, and Congressional hearings began, on... Read more →


Nearly 800,000 federal employees are off their jobs. Those who are still working won't get actual money when their paydays arrive. They are working on a promise (also made to furloughed workers by a House vote Saturday afternoon) that they'll get what they are owed when Congress finally agrees on a budget plan for the 2014 fiscal year. Some agencies are offering their working-for-free employees a form letter explaining the financial situation that workers can show or send to creditors in lieu of the money they don't have. That might convince the electric or phone companies not to cut off... Read more →


'Essential' Representatives, Senators get paid during shutdown

Right now, most Americans -- and especially those furloughed federal workers sitting at home a second straight day -- don't consider Representatives and Senators essential. That's the designation made by federal agencies about their various jobs to determine who comes to work during a government shutdown. Employees in essential jobs are at their desks, with at least the hope of eventually getting paid when the government comes back online. Holders of nonessential positions are furloughed. And despite what some members of Congress have said, being furloughed is not the same as a paid vacation day for federal workers. It means... Read more →


Oct. 1, the beginning of the 2014 fiscal year, is more than half over. The stalemate between Congressional Republicans and Democrats over a stopgap spending bill is far from over. The biggest stumbling block is the continuing stubbornness insistence of House conservatives to tie Uncle Sam's operational costs to the president's signature health care law. The resistors, most of them recently elected thanks to Tea Party support, want Obamacare, as the Affordable Care Act is popularly known, either defunded or at least delayed for a year. That ship, folks, has sailed. The health care reform law's insurance coverage exchanges opened... Read more →


Internal Revenue Service Principal Deputy Commissioner Daniel Werfel spoke to hundreds of tax preparers meeting in Texas Tuesday, but his message was clearly directed at Capitol Hill. Werfel was a last-minute addition to the July 30 opening day itinerary at the IRS Nationwide Tax Forum in Grapevine, Texas, in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. He received applause from the tax professionals that filled the ballroom. That was probably the most welcome public appearance he's made since taking over as the temporary IRS chief specifically to help it deal with a variety of missteps and public and Congressional outrage. Despite the agency's... Read more →


Congress is about to go on its annual August recess without coming to an agreement on a farm bill. The fate of the legislation, which would extend the current farm bill that expires on Sept. 30, has been in limbo since the House-passed version stripped the food stamp program, which is known as the nutrition title. But it's not just Representatives and Senators who have issues with the bill. The U.S. Public Interest Research Group (U.S. PIRG) says that the final farm bill should take a more comprehensive view of federal tax support for all of America's nutritional needs. Inequities... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service isn't getting as much front page coverage as it did when the 501(c)(4) application debacle broke back in May. But not to worry, tax geeks, things are still happening in and around the federal tax collection office. And recent Congressional hearings on IRS operations and the agency's bottom line were topics last week at my other tax blog. Intriguing email: Let's start with the applications for tax-exempt status and the use of be on the lookout, or BOLO, lists to deal with the requests from conservative and progressive groups. In looking into how what the Treasury... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service will be open for business on July 22. Next Monday was to be the fourth agency-wide furlough day. But this afternoon, IRS workers got an email from tax chief Daniel Werfel telling them, "The IRS will be open for taxpayers that day as scheduled, and all employees will be paid for that day." There was no mention of the possible loss of bonus pay, an option floated last week by Werfel as a way to meet sequester costs instead of making employees take unpaid leave days. Rather, said Werfel, the decision to conduct IRS business as... Read more →


If the acting Internal Revenue Service chief has his way, all tax agency employees will be working -- and getting paid -- on the previously announced furlough days of July 22 and Aug. 30. American Federation of Government Employees members in San Antonio, Texas, were among those who participated in 100 rallies across the country as a part of AFGE's National Day of Action on March 20 to protest sequestration and furloughs. Photo courtesy AFGE via Flickr Creative Commons. But in exchange for putting all of the IRS' almost 98,000 employees back to work as usual, some of those workers... Read more →


How many of you are still working this afternoon, the day before the July 4th holiday? And how many of you will be back in the office on Friday, July 5? All of the Internal Revenue Service's employees will be taking Friday off, but not because they want to. Friday, July 5, is the tax agency's third furlough day of the year, meaning IRS personnel won't be paid for the sequester-forced time off. As was the case on May 24 and June 14, the first two furlough days, all IRS operations again will be closed. What is and isn't available:... Read more →


If you're planning on efiling a tax document, you might want to get to it today. The Internal Revenue Service is facing another furlough day tomorrow, Friday, June 14. All IRS employees will stay at home that day without pay in order for the agency to meet sequestration budget cuts. Yep, for the second time this year, the IRS is closing all its doors nationwide. That includes not only IRS offices, but also the agency's nearly 400 taxpayer assistance centers across the country as well as Taxpayer Advocate Service facilities. No tax returns will be processed and no compliance-related activities... Read more →


Did you take a quick trip over the Memorial Day long weekend? If so, you probably drove. But when it comes to longer vacation jaunts this summer, many of us will fly. Yes, despite current boarding hassles and new charges for in-flight amenities, air travel still is preferred for longer excursions. And adding more fiscal injury to those flying insults is the possibility that we soon could be paying more for our airline tickets. President Obama's fiscal year 2014 budget includes an increase in the aviation security fee, generally known as the passenger security tax that supports the Transportation Security... Read more →


The Internal Revenue Service was able to push off sequestration effects until the main tax-filing season ended, but time has run out. IRS offices will shut down tomorrow, May 24, in the first of five furlough days scheduled for this summer and early fall. Closed sign by voteprime via photopin cc So if you're trying to finish up some tax work before you head out for the long Memorial Day weekend, you'd better get to it today. And judging by the pace of Capitol Hill budget talks, you probably should mark the four other scheduled IRS furlough dates -- June... Read more →


I quit smoking cold turkey more than 30 years ago as a gift to the hubby. But every now and then during tax filing season, I think about lighting up again. I suspect I am not alone in that response to stress. Dependence on, or addiction to if you prefer, cigarettes is one reason why taxing the product is so popular. Sure, sure, lawmakers say it's for our own good. That by making us pay more for a pack of cancer sticks, we'll smoke less or give them up altogether. And that does work, especially for younger smokers who have... Read more →