Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Walker: IRS looks at tax cheats= bad, Wisconsin looks at tax cheats= good?

Hilarious to see Gov Walker and fellow screwup Gov Bobby Jindal shoot their mouths off today about right-wing non-profit groups being targeted for further investigation by the IRS. The paranoia and hypocrisy in this letter addressed to President Obama is strong enough on its face.
We write to you today disturbed after learning that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has been unfairly targeting and applying added scrutiny to applicants for tax-exempt status based on their conservative beliefs. To be blunt, this is Big Brother come to life and a witch hunt to prevent Americans from exercising their First Amendment rights.

The First Amendment gives Americans the ability to freely express their opinions regardless of their political beliefs. The actions of the IRS are an attempt to gag the voices of Americans who may disagree with the policies and left-leaning ideology of your administration. Quite frankly, this is un-American.

This is a subversion of American liberty and a secret but direct attack against the U.S. Constitution. Immediate action must be taken to ensure this never happens again. Here are two steps that should be taken:
1.Fire any and all employees responsible for this situation.
2.Appoint a Special Prosecutor now to find out if laws were broken and if anyone committed crimes.
"A witch hunt to prevent Americans from exercising their First Amendment rights." Well Scotty, I think a few Solidarity Singers might know what's it's like when an executive tries to punish political opponents. Your buddies at the MacIver news service also know how to do this, as they wasted $140,000 in taxpayer dollars in an attempt to smear public sector workers by demanding State Sen. Jon Erpenbach hand over the names of those who contacted him during the 2011 Uprising.

And unlike Walker's attempts to squelch voices of dissent, the IRS had a damn good reason to investigate some of these groups- because they had sprung up (like Astroturf) as newly-created 501(c)4 organizations in the wake of the Citizens United decision. These organizations are allowed tax-exempt status as long as they don't spend 50% of their activities on politics, and they're allowed to conceal who donates to them. Now, if the IRS was ONLY looking at groups that were Tea Party-allied and not similar organizations on the left, that's unacceptable and there should be severe repercussions. But let's be real - the only reason Scott Walker and the Republican Governors Association care about this subject is because it's THEIR GUYS that were investigated, and not because they think singling out a group for political reasons is wrong (left, right, or otherwise).

The fact remains this incident sprung from the IRS rightfully looking into whether these groups were complying with the law, or whether they should have to pay taxes. I call that due diligence. And you know who else believes in heavier government oversight to make sure people follow tax law? Scott Walker

Here is why Walker's statement is so transparent and hypocritical

If you look at Governor Walker's budget, he wants to spend another $7 million in taxpayer dollars over the next 2 years to hire more auditors and IT workers for the Wisconsin Department of Revenue. And what'll they do? Go after the low-income working poor in Wisconsin who allegedly overclaim on the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Homestead Tax Credit (HTC)
In 2012, DOR created a cross-functional project team to review the Department's tax enforcement practices for identifying and preventing fraud. The team developed a plan to address fraudulent tax refunds, and EITC and HTC claims. The plan included reallocating resources for 2012 returns and tax credit claims filed in 2013. DOR cross-trained and reassigned more auditors to review HTC and EITC claims. Auditors were reassigned to assist investigators in identifying potential fraud in returns of first-time filers, and in refund deposits into certain online banks. The cross-functional team report also includes confidential compliance information and identifies enforcement activities that require information technology, and fraud detection services and databases that would increase the Department's anti-fraud workload. In order to implement the plan, DOR requests additional funding and audit positions in 2013-14 and 2014-15.

In general, the plan includes the following actions: (a) enacting legislation that would allow more data sharing with other state agencies, particularly the Departments of Workforce development (DWD), Transportation (DOT), Children and Families (DCF), and Corrections (DOC); (b) acquiring IRS data on incarcerated persons and incorporating it into the data warehouse; (c) acquiring a nationwide death index file, and incorporating it into the data warehouse; (d) conducting more pre-processing reviews of the income tax returns of first-time filers; (e) developing predictive modeling capabilities to detect anomalies in filing and to prevent identity theft; (f) modifying business rules for pre-processing review, and reviewing a higher percentage of HTC and EITC claims; (g) reviewing all returns filed that have refund deposits into online banks where fraudulent filing schemes have been discovered; (h) reviewing filing patterns from Internet provider addresses to identify suspicious filing activity; (i) acquiring and implementing technology (hardware and software) to enable qualified staff to systematically analyze the data, develop business rules, do queries, and conduct investigations; (j) acquiring additional staff to build analytical systems and conduct analyses and investigations; and (k) considering procuring fraud detection services with prepackaged analytics of nationwide data elements.
Hmmm, sounds like a whole lotta targeting and flagging of certain types of returns...not unlike what the IRS was doing with fly-by-night 501(c)4's that started showing up in time for the 2010 elections.

And that's not the only money that the Walker boys want to shell out to go after possible tax cheats. The Governor's budget includes nearly $2 million extra to try to collect from tax delinquents, and changing rules on which debt should be collected and/or held back to pay off other tax liens. On the face, I approve of many of these measures, although I'm skeptical of the large returns this administration is promising when it comes to getting back several times more taxes than it costs to add staff.

But the fact that it's EITC and Homestead credits that are the main focus speaks volumes. Wisconsinites that are on EITC and needing Homestead Credits are working poor, often female, and often of color, and Walker chooses those people to go after to try to squeeze more money out of. Those who are on the Homestead Credit will be especially susceptible to mistakes in their taxes, as the amount of the Homestead Credit was cut starting in 2012, which can go unnoticed by someone who's done their taxes the same way for years. I know, the law's the law, but this seems especially cruel and without regard for those people's situations.

At the same time that the Governor wants to jack up the amount of DOR auditors that have oversight of poor people's taxes, he's gone out of his way to relax regulations on the groups who need controls- businesses. Heck, he had state agencies take down notes from business owners and come up with a 53 page report to figure out how to make things easier on the beleaguered "job creators." The double-standard is obvious and sickening.

Lastly, let's go to the real reason GOP politicians like Scott Walker are unhappy that these new 501(c)4's were targeted. Because those groups allowed rich oligarchs to give corporate puppets like Walker a whole lot of money these last 2 1/2 years, and they don't dare want to have to pay taxes (you know, like the rest of us do). And they sure don't want to have us look behind the curtain of these "grassroots" organizations to find out just which millionaires and billionaires they're fronting for (you know, like how One Wisconsin Now has exposed the ways Michael Grebe's Bradley Foundation props up many pro-Walker and school voucher groups).

This is the "tell" behind all of the chirping of Republicans like Scott Walker on this subject- they don't want the IRS's heat to reach these tax-dodging groups that have grabbed far too much of the political pie since Citizens United came down in 2010. They know they can't win on their policies, and they'd have a very hard time surviving if their benefactors were exposed to the public, with the money faucet being shut off. So when I read Walker and Jindal's statement today, I immediately thought "Scotty doth protesth too much," and their strong reaction indicates to me that the IRS is doing the right thing to look into these sketchy right-wing front groups.

If Dems had any brains or guts at all, they'd turn this story into an example of the disaster that Citizens United has caused to our political system, and ask why these groups are allowed to pollute our airwaves with ads every two years, but don't have to reveal who's donating to put the ads on the air. And then the Dems could pummel the GOPs as they try to explain why Karl Rove's American Crossroads shouldn't have to pay taxes, but a Wisconsin single mom making $12 an hour should be investigated and audited to the full extent of the law.

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