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Lunch Beat

Bramwell's Lunch Beat: Tax Extenders, Tax-Exempt Museums, Soda Taxes

Nov 30th 2015
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Tax extender negotiations heat up
House and Senate negotiators are working to complete a deal as early as this week that would revive dozens of expired tax breaks and expand some tax benefits for low-income workers, wrote Kelsey Snell of the Washington Post. A bipartisan group of staffers from the House Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees worked throughout the Thanksgiving recess in hopes of hashing out an agreement to retroactively reinstate the expired tax breaks for businesses and individuals, extending many for a year while making some permanent. Early versions of the package circulated by lobbyists and staffers were estimated to cost as much as $700 billion over 10 years, but aides said the discussions are still preliminary and nothing is finalized. The goal is to work out a deal in time to include a package in the upcoming highway funding bill that is due by Dec. 4 or the omnibus spending bill that must be completed by Dec. 11.

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Tax status of museums questioned by senators
The Senate Finance Committee is scrutinizing nearly a dozen private museums opened by individual collectors, questioning whether the tax-exempt status they enjoy provides sufficient public benefit to justify what amounts to a government subsidy, wrote Patricia Cohen of the New York Times. Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-UT) sent letters this month to small galleries like the Brant Foundation Art Study Center in Greenwich, Connecticut, and Glenstone museum in Potomac, Maryland, as well as Eli and Edythe Broad's new $140 million art museum in Los Angeles, asking for information about visiting hours, donations, trustees, valuations, and art loans. The inquiry is part of a broader effort by Hatch to re-examine bedrock institutions that have long enjoyed preferential tax treatment. “Tax-exempt museums should focus on providing a public good and not the art of skirting around the tax code,” Hatch said in an email statement.

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War over soda taxes coming to a polling place near you
Helena Bottemiller Evich of Politico wrote that public health advocates, flush from victories in Mexico and Berkeley, California, are plotting to bring voter referendums and legislation to tax soda in as many as a dozen US cities in 2016. It's all part of an international strategy backed by billionaires in New York and Texas, including former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, to reduce consumption of sodas, juices, and other sugary drinks in the fight against spiraling rates of obesity, diabetes, and other diet-related diseases. “We think that 2016 is going to be a very important year for the sugar-sweetened beverage tax discussion,” said Kelly Henning, director of public health programs at Bloomberg Philanthropies. “We think the Berkeley tax and the Mexico tax are really pushing the debate forward.”

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Hillary Clinton calls for a $250 billion ‘down payment' for infrastructure improvements
Hillary Clinton on Monday will unveil the details of what she has called a “down payment on the future,” a $250 billion federal investment in infrastructure over five years, wrote Amy Chozick of the New York Times. Improving the nation's bridges, railroads, and tunnels while providing middle-class jobs is not the only part of Clinton's plan. Her plan would overhaul the business tax code to pay for the infrastructure investment, according to her campaign. She has repeatedly told voters that she would not raise taxes on the middle class. “I'm the only Democratic candidate in this race who will pledge to raise your incomes, not your taxes,” Clinton said in Boston on Sunday, a veiled attack at Sen. Bernie Sanders' healthcare plan.

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Tesco agrees to $12 million payout to US shareholders over accounting scandal
Tesco has announced a $12 million deal to settle one of two US shareholder class-action lawsuits over its accounting scandal, wrote Julia Kollewe of The Guardian. Britain's biggest supermarkets group said it had reached agreement in principle to settle a class action brought in New York on behalf of holders of American Depositary Receipts (ADRs) representing 2 percent of Tesco's shares. They sued the company and three former directors, including Tesco's former chief executive Philip Clarke, claiming that accounting irregularities inflated the retailer's share price. The agreement, which requires approval by a federal court in New York, means Tesco will pay $12 million to settle the lawsuit without admitting liability. The company faces another claim brought in Ohio by the remaining holders of ADRs representing less than 0.2 percent of Tesco's shares.

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IRS technical guidance roundup (week of Nov. 23)
The IRS issued the following technical guidance last week:

Notice 2015-82 increases the de minimis safe harbor limit provided in § 1.263(a)-1(f)(1)(ii)(D) of the income tax regulations for a taxpayer without an applicable financial statement from $500 to $2,500.

Quick Links:

  • US should respond to OECD tax project with an ‘innovation box' (The Hill)
  • To beat crooks to your tax refund, start taxes now (USA Today)
  • Inversions divert tax dollars and undermine the USA's reputation (USA Today)
  • Fixing the most expensive tax deduction (Washington Post)
  • Hillary Clinton panders to middle-class voters with unrealistic tax promises (Washington Post)
  • Tax relief for Maryland businesses turns out to be not so simple (Washington Post)
  • Why Alberta's carbon tax matters (Bloomberg View)
  • Sorry, Chris Collinsworth: The NFL rulebook is nothing like the Internal Revenue Code (Tax Foundation)
  • The importance of broadening the US tax base (Tax Foundation)

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