Tag Archives: individuals

New tax breaks cause confusion, enforcement issues

New tax breaks enacted last year are causing confusion for taxpayers and enforcement problems for the Internal Revenue Service, according to a government report issued Thursday, the deadline for filing individual returns.

As of March 5, the IRS erroneously gave out $24.2 million in Making Work Pay tax credits, according to the report by J. Russell George, the Treasury inspector general for tax administration. The IRS issued a total of $25 billion worth of the credits during the period, for an error rate of less than one-tenth of 1 percent.

The IRS also erroneously issued about $4.7 million in tax credits meant for people who bought plug-in electric cars. The new tax breaks were enacted as part of the massive economic recovery package passed last year.

“Our report concludes that the IRS is having a mixed filing season this year,” George said. “On the one hand, they are having difficulty implementing many of the changes created by the passage of the laws designed to stimulate the economy. On the other hand, the news is not all bad as the IRS is detecting and stopping more erroneous refunds this year.”

The report covers returns processed as of March 5. At the time, the IRS had received about 61 million returns. The agency expects to receive about 140 million individual returns this year.

“Any time you have major tax changes you will see some confusion over it,” said IRS spokesman Terry Lemons. The IRS is doing “everything we can” to work through problems and process returns quickly.

The stimulus package enacted last year presented many challenges for taxpayers and the IRS, making an already complicated tax system even more complex. There were tax credits for qualified families who buy new homes or make energy improvements to existing ones, as well as tax breaks to help pay college tuition or buy new cars.

The Making Work Pay tax credit was President Barack Obama’s signature tax break in the package. It provides individuals with up to $400 and couples up to $800.

The homebuyer tax credit was so popular that Congress extended and expanded it in November. Buyers who have owned their current homes at least five years are eligible, subject to income limits, for tax credits of up to $6,500. First-time homebuyers — or people who haven’t owned homes in the previous three years — can get up to $8,000. To qualify, buyers have to sign purchase agreements before May 1 and close before July 1.

The IRS expects half the people claiming the homebuyer credit not to include proper documentation, such as a settlement statement, and that will delay refunds, according to the report.

As of April 2, the average refund was $2,950, up about $255 over last year, Lemons said. The fastest way to get a refund: file electronically and have the refund deposited directly into a bank account, which takes about 10 days.

Refunds can take six to eight weeks for last-minute filers who use paper returns and receive checks, Lemons said.

North Korea – China committed to enforcing North Korea sanctions – U.S.

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North Korea – China committed to enforcing North Korea sanctions – U.S.

China says it is committed to enforcing U.N. sanctions against North Korean companies and individuals linked to Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs, a U.S.

Ambassador Philip Goldberg, U.S. coordinator for implementation of U.N. sanctions against North Korea, told reporters that U.N. member states have voiced “a unity of view, a singleness of purpose in implementing these (sanctions) resolutions.”

“That’s the case, certainly, with our Chinese partners,” he said after addressing a closed-door meeting of the Security Council’s sanctions committee on North Korea. “There have been some results, some of those have been reported in the press.”

This week a Chinese newspaper reported that Chinese border police seized 70 kg (154 lb) of the strategic metal vanadium bound for North Korea, foiling an attempt to smuggle a material used to make missile parts. [ID:nPEK204312]

The 15-nation U.N. Security Council first imposed sanctions on North Korea after its nuclear test in October 2006.

China, the closest North Korea has to a major ally, voted for that resolution but never implemented it, which meant the partial arms embargo and ban on trade in nuclear and ballistic missile technology were left virtually unenforced.

After North Korea’s second nuclear test in May this year, the council passed a new resolution that expanded the arms embargo, urged states to cut off all financial ties with Pyongyang unrelated to aid programs, and called for additional firms and individuals to be placed on a U.N. blacklist for aiding North Korea.


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Health Care Reform Debate

dr-toby-cosgrove

Health Care Reform Debate

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Healthcare reform is a general rubric used for discussing major health policy creation or changes—for the most part, governmental policy that affects healthcare delivery in a given place. Healthcare reform typically attempts to:

  • Broaden the population that receives health care coverage through either public sector insurance programs or private sector insurance companies
  • Expand the array of health care providers consumers may choose among
  • Improve the access to health care specialists
  • Improve the quality of health care
  • Decrease the cost of health care

Contents

  • 1 Netherlands
  • 2 Russia
  • 3 Taiwan
  • 4 United Kingdom
  • 5 United States
  • 6 Elsewhere
  • 7 See also
  • 8 References
  • 9 External links

United States

The debate over healthcare reform in the United States centers around questions of a right to health care, access, fairness, sustainability, and quality purchased by the high sums spent. The mixed public-private health care system in the United States is the most expensive in the world, with health care costing more per person than in any other nation, and a greater portion of gross domestic product (GDP) is spent on it than in any other United Nations member state except for East Timor (Timor-Leste).

A study of international health care spending levels in the year 2000, published in the health policy journal Health Affairs, found that while the U.S. spends more on health care than other countries in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the use of health care services in the U.S. is below the OECD median by most measures. The authors of the study concluded that the prices paid for health care services are much higher in the U.S.

The U.S. is the only wealthy, industrialized nation that does not have a universal health care system, according to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and others. The number of people in America without health insurance coverage at some time during 2006 totaled about 16% of the population, or 47 million people. In addition, many or most of those with insurance are not sufficiently insured, with high-deductible policies, policies that do have limits on what they will pay for or policies that cost a significant percentage of their income.

In spite of the amount spent on health care in the US, according to a 2008 report, the United States ranks last in the quality of health care among developed countries. The World Health Organization (WHO), in 2000, ranked the US health care system 37th in overall performance and 72nd by overall level of health (among 191 member nations included in the study).

International comparisons that could lead to conclusions about the quality of the health care received by Americans are subject to debate. The US pays twice as much yet lags other wealthy nations in such measures as infant mortality and life expectancy, which are among the most widely collected, hence useful, international comparative statistics.

Brian Gratzer of the Manhattan Institute is at the forefront of individuals who argue that these differences have little to do with the lack of universal health insurance.

Whether a universally accessible health care system should be implemented in the U.S. remains a hotly debated political topic. Reform proposals include the removal of the private health insurance market, the establishment of a “public option,” premium subsidies to help individuals purchase health insurance, increased use of health information technology, research and incentives to improve medical decision making, reduced tobacco use and obesity, reforming the payment of providers to encourage efficiency, limiting the tax federal exemption for health insurance premiums, and reforming several market changes such as resetting the benchmark rates for Medicare Advantage plans and allowing the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate drug prices.

A fundamental problem in evaluating reform proposals is the difficulty of estimating their cost and potential impact. In an effort to cut drug costs and potential drug-related toxicities, medical doctors have been instructed by the FDA only to prescribe those medications which are “absolutely indicated” in the management of patient’s illnesses. The empirical data and theory underlying cost estimates in this area are limited and subject to debate, increasing the variation between estimates and limiting their accuracy.

Another impediment to implementing any reform that does not benefit insurance companies or the private health care industry is the power of insurance company and health care industry lobbyists in the United States. Possibly as a consequence of the power of lobbyists, key politicians such as Senator Max Baucus have taken the option of single payer health care off the table entirely.

Public opinion on health care reform, sometimes called health system reform, suggests a high percentage desire reforms; however, do not want to see their taxes raised. According to The Patient Poll, a study of Pennsylvania adults age 21 and older conducted in July 2008 by The Institute for Good Medicine at the Pennsylvania Medical Society, 63.4 percent believed that the United States should enact some form of universal health care.

But, when asked how this care should be funded, only 26.8 percent were willing to have their taxes increased. On a national polling level, similar results were found in a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll that suggested high interest in overhauling the health care system, but less enthusiasm on the funding mechanisms. Another survey of Pennsylvanians conducted in July 2009 through The Patient Poll from The Institute for Good Medicine at the Pennsylvania Medical Society suggests that the majority of Pennsylvania adults (68.2 percent) believe that health care is neither a right nor a privilege, and that both government and individuals bear some degree of responsibility.

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