Bramwell’s Lunch Beat: Municipality's Boot Stipend Under Review by IRS

Senate ready to send $1.1 trillion spending bill to Obama
In case you missed it yesterday, the House passed the $1.1 trillion spending package by a wide margin – 359 to 67. The Senate could vote on the measure as early as today. Read the Associated Press article here.

Obama signs bill to fund government through Saturday
Also yesterday, President Obama signed a stopgap spending measure to fund the federal government through January 18, which will allow the Senate to pass the $1.1 trillion spending bill. Read the United Press International article here.

IRS auditing Schenectady on employees’ boot allowance
The Albany Times Union reported on January 13 the IRS is auditing the city of Schenectady, New York, for, among other things, how it reimburses employees for their boots.

“Mayor Gary McCarthy said the city has been providing unionized public works employees and other workers a flat fee yearly to compensate them for on-the-job footwear, but City Hall has not reported the money as income to the IRS,” Lauren Stanforth wrote. “It appears what the city should be doing is either reporting the money – about $100 per year – as taxable or having employees submit a receipt for the boots and be reimbursed, the mayor said.”

Democrats are leery of wild card Wyden
According to a January 16 article by The Hill, Republican lawmakers are looking forward to working with Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR), who is expected to become the next chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, because of Wyden’s history of reaching across the aisle on issues like health care and taxes.

But Wyden’s eagerness to work with Republicans makes some Democrats nervous.

“They feel confident, however, that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and other Democrats will keep the lanky Oregonian from straying too far,” wrote Alexander Bolton.

“You can’t do stuff like this if you’re chairman. And you don’t want to because you’re conscious of being a chairman and you want to be fair,” said Reid, as reported by The Hill.

Baucus races against clock on IRS probe
Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), whom Wyden will replace as Senate Finance Committee chairman, is scrambling to complete an investigation into the IRS’s screening of Tea Party and conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status before he becomes the US ambassador to China, Bernie Becker of The Hill reported on January 16.

“[Baucus] said Wednesday he hopes to wrap up the IRS probe in the next two to three weeks,” the article stated. “Still, he also acknowledged he was trying to make progress on several other issues in what should be the final weeks of his nearly four-decade career on Capitol Hill. Those include a new trade measure that Baucus crafted with Republicans and a bipartisan effort on the so-called Medicare ‘doc fix.’”

[Click here to access AccountingWEB’s coverage of the Tea Party scandal.]

Obamacare tax credit suit rejected
In a legal victory for the IRS, a federal judge on January 15 rejected a lawsuit that challenged tax credits for Affordable Care Act coverage in the thirty-six states with federal-run exchanges – one of the most significant remaining legal fights over President Obama’s health care law, Politico reported on January 15.

“The four individuals who brought the lawsuit, Halbig v. Sebelius, had argued that the IRS overstepped its legal authority by allowing federal-run exchanges to provide tax credits for people who purchase health insurance,” Jason Millman wrote. “They contended that the Affordable Care Act only allows for state-run exchanges to access such credits and that Congress purposefully designed the law that way to incentivize states to run their own insurance marketplaces.”

US District Judge Paul Friedman said an entire reading of the law and congressional intent make clear that the law provides premium tax credits through all exchanges, regardless of who’s running them.

Cummings: GOP left sensitive Obamacare files ‘in unlocked rooms’
Speaking of the Affordable Care Act, you might find this article interesting: US Representative Elijah Cummings (D-MD) accused Republican Chairman of the House Oversight Committee Darrell Issa (R-CA) of recklessly handling sensitive Affordable Care Act documents, Jonathan Easley of The Hill reported on January 15.

“Cummings asked [Issa] to implement security protocols for Oversight’s handling of sensitive Obamacare materials, saying that on two occasions last week ‘sensitive documents were left unattended in unlocked rooms accessible by the public,’” the article stated.

An Issa spokeswoman called Cummings’ accusation a “false controversy” and a “petty reference” to an instance where staffers moved documents from one room to another in an adjoining suite.

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