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Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Tax News Roundup

New York Times: Treasury Official: Tax Overhaul May Not Be Drastic:

No decisions have yet been made on how to overhaul the U.S. tax code -- a core part of the Bush administration's economic platform -- and reforms may be more incremental than sweeping, a senior Treasury Department official said on Tuesday.  "There is a lot of work left to do, a lot of decisions yet to be made. We are early in the process yet,"' Greg Jenner, acting assistant secretary for tax policy at the Treasury Department, told a group of business leaders.  Jenner said White House calls for a simpler tax code that encourages savings do not necessarily mean the U.S. income tax will be jettisoned and replaced by a consumption or sales tax.

New York Times (David Cay Johnston): Man Sentenced in Tax Schemes Also Releases Data on Lawyers:

Jerome Schneider, the nation's most prominent seller of offshore banks in tax evasion schemes, was sentenced yesterday to six months in prison by a federal judge in San Francisco. He also released documents identifying Manhattan lawyers who worked with him.

New York Times: Congress Votes to Kill Tax Provision:

Congress voted unanimously Monday to kill a provision making it easier for lawmakers and aides to peruse people's income tax returns in a vote Republicans hoped would end a political tempest.

New York Times: Federal Judge Lifts Freeze on Assets in Tax-Shelter Case:

A federal judge has dealt a blow to the government's efforts to curb tax shelters it considers abusive, lifting a rare freeze on more than $500 million in assets of thousands of doctors and dentists who invested through a company in San Diego. The order lifting the freeze, issued on Friday by Judge Larry Burns of United States District Court in San Diego, reverses another federal judge's order, issued on Nov. 4, which temporarily froze the assets while the government pressed its case against the company, Xelan. Judge Burns, and not the other judge, heard Xelan's appeal of the original order because of court scheduling issues.

Washington Post:  Tax-Return Provision in Spending Bill Dropped:

The House voted unanimously last night to scuttle a controversial provision empowering Congress's appropriations committees to examine Americans' tax returns, clearing the way for a $388 billion government-wide spending bill to be sent to President Bush as early as today. Voting 381 to 0, the House killed the provision in response to a demand by the Senate that the language be dropped before the big spending bill -- which was approved by both houses late last month -- could be sent to the White House for Bush's signature.

Washington Post:  Private Firms to Chase Delinquent Taxpayers:

When Reps. Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) teamed up in September to get the House to pass an amendment blocking the use of private companies to collect back taxes from delinquent taxpayers, it seemed the Bush administration plan might be doomed for at least a year. But in the final hours of drafting a 3,300-page spending bill last month, House and Senate negotiators eliminated Capito's and Van Hollen's handiwork, clearing the way for the Internal Revenue Service to hire commercial debt collectors. These private agents could keep as much as 25% of the amounts they recovered. While the Bush administration has strongly supported the initiative as a way to increase revenue collections amid growing deficits, critics contend it could lead to harassment of taxpayers and breaches of privacy. Labor groups representing federal workers also oppose the change. But it has the backing of the debt-collection industry, which has contributed heavily to GOP organizations and causes since Bush became president.

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