FY 2018 Appropriations Bill and the IRS

Last Thursday, the House passed an appropriations bill by a vote of 211 to 198. At this point, it’s anybody’s guess how much of the appropriations bill will survive the Senate, but, just in case, it’s worth taking a look at it. And, it turns out, the House really wants to use the appropriations bill to regulate the IRS. Some of the provisions strike me as warranted. Some innocuous. Some strike me as bizarre, payback, perhaps, for long-held grudges. And some strike me as downright insidious. In this post I’m going to focus on the last two categories because frankly, they’re more fun to write about.

The provisions that regulate IRS behavior can be found in sections 101-116 of the appropriations bill. And what provisions are bizarre payback or downright insidious? Continue reading “FY 2018 Appropriations Bill and the IRS”

Boredom and Taxes

I’ve been known to occasionally get bored at work, notwithstanding my job being the best job in the world and taxes being one of the most interesting topics in the world. For better or worse, when I’m bored, I can always turn to the internet for entertainment. Of course, as we know, that wasn’t always the case.

I’ve been looking at nineteenth-century tax assessment lists for a project I’m working on. The lists are fairly sterile, mostly a series of names, with the amount of income and various types of property that each individual had. Copying the various assessments to the formal assessment book must have been relatively mind-numbing work, especially for assistant assessors who were grossly underpaid.[fn1] Also, they were overworked:

Perhaps the most burdensome administrative tasks fell on the assessors, the workhorses of the collection staff. Their offices were kept open at all hours. They were required to issue a summons after notice to make returns had been issued, to hear appeals, examine taxable property, accept income tax returns, and audit returns for correctness.[fn2]

Continue reading “Boredom and Taxes”

Responding to the SPLC “Exposé”

By Sam Brunson

Last week, the Free Beacon ran an exposé of the Southern Poverty Law Center, making four principal claims. First, the Free Beacon said, the SPLC was keeping literally tons of money in offshore tax haven investment funds and bank accounts. Second, it spends too much on fundraising. Third, it overpays its executives. Fourth, it underspends on its mission.

The problem with the exposé? At best it misunderstands what’s going on, and at worst, it is flagrantly wrong.

I’m usually not interested in doing fact-check-style responses, but I’m going to nonetheless. The accusations Schoffstall levels sound plausible, so it’s worth explaining why and how they’re wrong.[fn1] Continue reading “Responding to the SPLC “Exposé””

The Zelda Tax

Yesterday, the House Republicans posted “What Do the The Legend of Zelda and the American Tax Code Have In Common?”

Sadly, by the time I read about it on Twitter, the post had been taken down.

Why did the post come down? Probably because it was instantly and ruthlessly scorned, mostly because it claimed Nintendo had been founded in 1985 (it was founded in 1889). It has now been reposted with the dates corrected.

Unfortunately, the GOP didn’t correct the bigger flaw in the post: it promised something awesome and failed to deliver. See, what do Zelda an the Internal Revenue Code have in common? Zelda was released in 1986 and the last fundamental tax reform happened in 1986. Continue reading “The Zelda Tax”

Slurpees and the Cook County Sweetened Beverage Tax

Me with my Slurpee.

By Sam Brunson

Today and tomorrow are 7-Eleven’s annual Bring Your Own Cup Day. In case you’re not familiar with it (or your Facebook feeds aren’t filled with bizarre containers of florescent sugar-ice), on #BYOCupDay, you can bring any container in your house to a 7-Eleven and, as long as it fits in the Slurpee machine, you can fill it up for $1.50.

After my wife and kids spent the day on the beach watching the Air and Water Show rehearsal, they were ready for some Slurpee. So, when I got out of work, we walked the three blocks to the nearest 7-Eleven. (Last year, we took berry-picking buckets; this year, we were much more modest and just brought cups my father-in-law bought when we took him to a Cubs game a couple years ago.)

When we got to the store, we were greeted by this sign: Continue reading “Slurpees and the Cook County Sweetened Beverage Tax”

The IRS vs. the KKK

By Sam Brunson

My family’s summer vacation has already given me two posts (here and here), and it still promises a couple more, including this one.

As we drove across Alabama, we stopped by the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. The BCRI is, in large part, a museum of the civil rights movement; it is not only interesting and informative, but it is deeply powerful and affecting to see how white Americans (mis)treated African Americans, what motivated civil rights activists, and what they faced in their activism.

I didn’t go in looking for taxes, but the Institute handed them to me anyway: Continue reading “The IRS vs. the KKK”

Tax at the National Parks: Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site Edition

By Sam Brunson

Last week, my family and I were at the Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site. I wasn’t terribly familiar with the Tuskegee Airmen before visiting; frankly, their story is amazing, inspiring, and shocking. Basically, Army War College study from the early twentieth century claimed that African Americans lacked intelligence, ambition, and courage, and were thus unfit for the military, and especially unfit to be airmen.

The Tuskegee Institute had an airfield where it trained African American pilots; eventually the government accepted it as a training ground for military pilots. The Tuskegee Airmen proved the Army War College study wrong with a distinguished record of military service. Still, the military in the 1940s was segregated, and these Tuskegee Airmen served in segregated units and, when they returned home, they faced continued racism. Many, tired of what they experienced, went on to join the civil rights movement. And many of them share their stories, through audio, video, pictures, and artifacts, at the NHS. Continue reading “Tax at the National Parks: Tuskegee Airmen National Historic Site Edition”

Tax at the National Parks: Great Smokey Mounains Edition

By Sam Brunson

This will be the third in my series of tax-in-the-National-Parks posts. (I’m as surprised as you.)[fn1]

We spent a couple days camping at Great Smoky Mountains National Park. At the Oconaluftee Visitor Center, there were a series of displays about Appalachian life.[fn2] As I was looking at the moonshine still, I noticed this sign: Continue reading “Tax at the National Parks: Great Smokey Mounains Edition”

Welcome to Surly, Adam Thimmesch!

Great news: Adam Thimmesch of the Nebraska College of Law has agreed to come aboard as a Surly blogger. You may remember Adam from last year, when he gave us a great (and popular!) post on Pokémon Go.

While Adam will provide a fuller introduction of himself in due time, let me say: we’ve been sadly deficient in our SALT expertise, and Adam will capably fill that slot, as well as blogging about whatever other tax issues he finds interesting. So welcome, Adam!

Tax at the National Parks: Grand Portage Edition

By Sam Brunson

A year ago, the National Parks surprised me with a tax name-check. I mean, realistically, there shouldn’t have been anything surprising about encountering a picture of Al Capone at Alcatraz, but I didn’t think I’d see taxes there.

So consider this the second year in a row where the National Parks have surprised me with tax. My family was at Grand Portage National National Monument (which is incredibly cool, btw) learning about the Ojibwe and the North West Company and the thriving fur trade. In one room, there was a display about hatmaking. And, on the wall, was this cartoon:

Continue reading “Tax at the National Parks: Grand Portage Edition”