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November 11, 2013 at 6:00 AM
I don’t share the media cynicism about the five tax-advisory questions the people of Washington voted on last week. Media folks are parroting politicians, and politicians have motives that are different from those of ordinary people.
It’s true that the advisory votes don’t determine anything. The tax is in effect already. If the people vote “Repeal,” the tax is not repealed.
Why have a vote, then? To tell the voter, who hasn’t been paying attention to this stuff, that there have been tax increases. How many people knew that there had been five such increases, or tax breaks erased, in the 2013 legislative session? Not one in 100 knew this. Three of the five changes were tiny taxes and four applied only to a few people. Still, they were increases that added up to hundreds of millions of dollars over 10 years, and the Voters Pamphlet told citizens about them.
“They made people think. How can that not be good?” says Tim Eyman. The advisory votes were last defined and put into law in Eyman’s Initiative 1185, which voters supported in 2012. The other part of 1185 was the rule that the Legislature required two-thirds of both houses to raise taxes, or a simple majority plus a vote of the people. The Washington Supreme Court nullified that part. The advisory votes are all that’s left of this measure to slow down tax increases.
Initiative 1185 includes a part of the Voter’s Pamphlet that lists the legislators and how they voted on tax increases. For example, in the 26th district, you could see that Sen. Nathan Schlicher, D-Gig Harbor, and his challenger, Rep. Jan Angel, R-Port Orchard, had voted “Yes” on the three little increases. They had voted “No” on the increase in the telephone tax, a fairly substantial increase that affected a lot of people. On the retroactive enactment of an estate tax, a big increase to a small group of people, Schlicher had voted “Yes” and Angel had voted “No.”
Was that worth knowing? Maybe it was, if you were in the 26th district. (more…)
September 3, 2013 at 6:34 AM
Call it the affirmation of normalcy. Epic Supreme Court decisions, citizen referendums and initiatives, and legislative action in state capitols and the U.S. Congress can launch dramatic social change. Other events serve as welcome milestones of ordinariness and acceptance.
One sure sign of two individuals crossing the threshold into life as a couple is filing a joint tax return. Last week the U.S. Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service said that legally married same-sex spouses can opt for married filing jointly or married filing separately.
As an article in The New York Times explains, this all spins off a Supreme Court decision that struck down the 1996 Defense of Marriage. Legally married same-sex couples are entitled to the same federal benefits.
The IRS deals with taxes so it gets complicated by nature. Civil unions are not covered, but location does not matter. Legally married in one state and residing in a state that does not recognized same-sex marriages does not trump the federal tax benefit. Sorting out state tax laws might take an accountant.
As U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., noted, “the IRS sent a clear message: America’s federal tax system will not discriminate based on who you love.”
Public opinion in America is moving swiftly to embrace same-sex couples and families. Getting a nod from the tax collector is a reminder how delightfully ordinary this has all become.
May 23, 2013 at 7:10 AM
Apple executives were shocked, shocked to find U.S. senators who were amazed at the technology giant’s capacity to avoid taxes. Maybe the incredulous response was appropriate. Congressional indifference has aided and abetted the scam for years.
Apple moves billions of dollars around the planet before it lands in Ireland for a bit of Irish cream. Low taxes and, sweeter still, tax avoidance.
The Senate appearance by Apple CEO Tim Cook was, in effect, an homage to the power and influence of Apple in U.S. politics. The company gets to use the federal services in the United States, and not pay its fair share of them. That is left to you and me. How do you like that arrangement?
One has to marvel at the magic of Apple’s legal and accounting crews. The Los Angles Times story described how one of the companies, Apple Operations International, which has no employees, reported $30 billion in income in four years, and has not filed an income-tax return in any country for the past five years.
Right. So if you wait tables or work as a barista, try not reporting any tips for a few years. Expect a call.
Oh, and the best part, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., the deficit hawk, cannot understand what the fuss is all about with Apple. Any pursuit of equity for mere mortal taxpayers would be “bullying, berating and badgering” one of his district’s favorite constituents.