Congress Should Make Improvements to Working Families’ Tax Credits Permanent

Monday, September 28, 2015 at 1:26 AM by

Congress has a chance this fall to save key provisions of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC), two proven pro-work strategies that help working families make ends meet and provide the basics for their children.

If Congress does not act, 158,000 Wisconsin families with 301,000 children will lose some or all of their working-family tax credits, according to a new analysis by the Wisconsin Budget Project.


There is an effort underway in Congress to make several temporary corporate tax provisions permanent, and the debate is expected to come to a head this fall. Some federal lawmakers have advocated for letting these corporate provisions leap-frog over tax credits for working families instead of putting top priority this fall on saving key provisions of the federal EITC and CTC.  Something similar happened during the last major tax debate, when these EITC and CTC provisions were only extended through 2017 but estate tax changes for wealthy families were made permanent. Read more

Federal Budget Plan Casts a Dark Shadow over Sunshine Week

Friday, March 20, 2015 at 6:34 PM by

This week is national Sunshine Week, which is a time to celebrate openness and transparency in government.  That seems rather ironic after the House Budget Committee Chairman offered a plan for the federal budget that fails basic standards of transparency.  As Robert Greenstein of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities wrote on Wednesday:

The plan proposes a whopping $1.1 trillion in essentially unspecified cuts in mandatory (i.e., entitlement) programs outside health care and Social Security, which reflects an exceptional if not unprecedented lack of transparency.” Read more

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Online Sales Grow, but Federal Action to Address Sales Tax Issue is Stalled

Thursday, December 11, 2014 at 11:56 AM by

Holiday shoppers are increasingly turning to the internet to make their purchases, but Congress has yet to close a loophole that gives online only retailers an advantage over their bricks and mortar counterparts.

Currently, online retailers that do not have a physical presence in a particular state are not required to charge sales tax to residents of that state. That doesn’t mean that these purchases are tax free, though: purchasers are still legally required to pay the sales tax, by declaring it on their income tax form. Few do.

When online-only retailers do not charge consumers sales tax – even though sales tax is owed on the purchases – those retailers have a competitive advantage over other retailers that are required to collect sales tax.

Ideally, Congress would step in to level the playing field between different types of retailers, by passing legislation that would allow states to require all retailers to collect sales tax. Read more

Categories: Blog, federal issues, sales tax, STATE TAXES | Comments Off

President Promises Veto of Budget-busting Tax Bill

Wednesday, November 26, 2014 at 5:38 PM by

Congress is on the verge of passing a tax cut plan that would prioritize tax breaks for corporations over middle-income and low-wage working parents, while significantly increasing the federal deficit. As the New York Times reported this morning, President Obama has threatened to veto the bill if it reaches him in its current form.  

The bill in question is referred to as “tax extender” legislation, which comes up on a regular basis as the start of the next tax year approaches. In his On the Economy blog today, Jared Bernstein describes this annual process as follows:

“Tax extenders are a series of allegedly temporary tax breaks that are conventionally extended, unpaid for, year after year. These include tax credits for research and development, expensing deductions for small businesses, deductions for state and local sales taxes, and more. To put them in the annual budgets that Congress and the President construct each year would mean they’d either have to be paid for with higher taxes or spending cuts elsewhere or added to the deficit. Read more

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Paul Ryan’s New Poverty Plan Focuses on Opportunity, but Comes up Short

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 at 4:09 PM by

Paul Ryan has a released a new poverty plan that advocates consolidating federal safety net programs and turning the money over to the states. It’s always worth taking a look at changes that could make anti-poverty program more effective, but Ryan’s approach would decrease opportunity for individuals living in poverty, not increase it.

Ryan frames his new proposal as aimed at giving low-income people the tools they need to make ends meet and lift themselves out of poverty. According to his proposal, Expanding Opportunity in America:

“A key tenet of the American Dream is that where you start off shouldn’t determine where you end up. If you work hard and play by the rules, you should get ahead. But the fact is, far too many people are stuck on the lower rungs…There are many factors beyond public policy that affect upward mobility. But public policy is still a factor, and government has a role to play in providing a safety net and expanding opportunity for all.”

Ryan believes that a fundamental redesign of how federal anti-poverty programs deliver services can help expand opportunity across the board. Read more

Can State Lawmakers Count on Federal Funds for Highways and Health Insurance Subsidies?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014 at 7:06 PM by

Today’s Circuit Court Ruling Reinforces the Inconsistencies in State Lawmakers’ Reasoning 

Should state lawmakers turn down federal funds whenever there’s a risk that the funding in question could be cut in future years?  If so, why is Wisconsin proceeding with major highway and bridge construction plans at a time when Congress is using short-term gimmicks to keep the Highway Trust Fund from becoming insolvent?  And why did Wisconsin cut BadgerCare eligibility in half for parents, based on reliance on federal funding to subsidize the federal health insurance Marketplace? 

That last question has gotten little attention over the past year, but it will be raised more often following a ruling today by a subset of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. Two of the three judges participating in that ruling concluded that federal subsidies for the health insurance Marketplace can only go to people in states that set up their own Marketplaces.  Read more

New Bill in Congress Would Make Wisconsin’s Budget Harder to Balance

Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 2:48 PM by

A bill under consideration in the U.S. House of Representatives could limit Wisconsin’s flexibility in applying sales tax and make it more difficult to invest in schools and communities, a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows.

A committee in the House recently approved a bill that would prohibit all state and local taxation of Internet access. Currently, there is a moratorium on new taxes on Internet access fees, but seven states with pre-existing internet access taxes – including Wisconsin – were grandfathered in. This new proposal would eliminate the exception for Wisconsin and other states, and permanently ban all taxes on Internet access.

For Wisconsin, this restriction would reduce the resources the state uses to invest in public education, a healthy workforce, and a solid transportation network. Wisconsin would lose $127 million in tax revenue in 2015 if prohibited from taxing Internet access – resources that could be used to make Wisconsin a more attractive place to live and do business. Read more

At the Corner of Lawful and Shameful?

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 at 9:00 AM by

Walgreens portrays itself as America’s pharmacy, located in communities across the country “at the corner of happy & healthy.” But if a group of hedge funds gets its way, Walgreens could become a “foreign” corporation for tax purposes – operating at the intersection of lawful and shameful.

Some States Tackle Corporate Tax Havens

Tuesday, April 15, 2014 at 6:43 PM by

Report Released Today Recommends State and Federal Reforms to Close Offshore Tax Havens

Maine legislators recently gave preliminary approval to a bill that could make it the third state to pass legislation to crack down on corporate tax avoidance in off-shore tax havens. The proposed legislation would close the so-called “water’s edge” loophole by requiring corporations to report income from a list of 38 known offshore tax havens. Passage of the bill would generate an estimated $10 million per year (in a state less than a quarter of the size of Wisconsin).

Oregon and Montana have already enacted such legislation. In 2010, Montana recovered $7.2 million, and state analysts expect Oregon to recover $18 million this year. The problem costs states about $1 billion, according to a report by US PIRG report.  You can read more about the bills in these three states in an April 3 Washington Post blog post. Read more

President’s Budget Would Help Make Work Pay for 252,000 Childless Wisconsinites

Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 6:31 PM by

The FY 2015 budget proposal unveiled by the President this week addresses an issue that many politicians, researchers and commentators across the political spectrum have recently been talking about – providing assistance to low-income working adults who don’t have dependent children.  We were very pleased to see the part of his budget that would help that long-overlooked population by making more “childless” workers eligible for the federal Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and increasing the small credit for those who are already eligible.

The EITC encourages and rewards work, offsets federal payroll and income taxes, and boosts living standards. As the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) points out: “Next to Social Security, the EITC combined with the refundable portion of the CTC [child tax credit] constitutes the nation’s most powerful anti-poverty program.”  However, the federal EITC currently provides little or no benefit for adults who don’t have dependent children, and the Wisconsin EITC doesn’t apply to that population. Read more