Happy Friday and welcome to March! It’s going to be a busy month.
IRS Begins Crackdown on Millionaires Who Don’t File
The IRS is cracking down on thousands of high-income earners who haven’t filed tax forms in years, an effort that could yield hundreds of millions of dollars in unpaid taxes.
The tax agency said Thursday that it is starting to send letters to 25,000 people who earned more than $1 million a year but didn’t pay taxes between 2017 and 2021. The IRS is targeting another 100,000 people who earned between $400,000 and $1 million and didn’t file taxes during the same period.
The initiative is made possible by the additional funding the IRS received through the Inflation Reduction Act, the agency said in a statement. Through third-party sources such as 1099 forms, the agency has long been aware of high earners who had failed to file their taxes, but in recent years the IRS has lacked the resources to pursue them.
“Without adequate resources, the IRS non-filer program has only run sporadically since 2016 due to severe budget and staff limitations that didn’t allow these cases to be worked,” the agency said. “With new Inflation Reduction Act funding available, the IRS now has the capacity to do this core tax administration work.”
The third-party resources the IRS is relying on indicate that the economic activity involved exceeds $100 billion, which could generate hundreds of millions of dollars in payments if and when the cases are cleared up.
“If someone hasn’t filed a tax return for previous years, this is the time to review their situation and make it right,” said IRS Commissioner Danny Werfel. “For those who owe, the risk will just grow over time as will the potential for penalties and interest. These non-filers should review information on IRS.gov that can help and consider talking to a trusted tax professional as soon as possible.”
Shutdown Averted for Now, but This Month Could Still Get Messy
Government agencies won’t be shutting down tonight now that President Joe Biden signed into law the stopgap government funding measure Congress passed yesterday. The new law extends federal funding in two stages, with some agencies funded through March 8 and the rest through March 22.
The House passed the stopgap in a 320-99 vote Thursday and the Senate followed suit last night, approving the bill by a 77-13 margin. This is the fourth short-term spending fix Congress has passed for the current fiscal year, which started in October.
With a shutdown averted for now, lawmakers will focus on the six-bill spending package they intend to pass next week. Text of the “minibus” package could be released this weekend, but it reportedly may also slip to Monday.
Conservatives are still grumbling about the lack of Republican policy victories in the spending package and the process that they say routinely results in appropriations being decided by leadership staffers behind closed doors.
“Whoever’s in charge of the Senate and whoever’s in charge of the House, they put their staff in a room and they come up with something and tell you to take it or leave it,” Republican Rep. Thomas Massie of Kentucky said earlier this week, per Politico. "This is exactly what we said we would not do at the beginning of this Congress. This is the exact way it’s been done for the 12 years that I've been here and it’s wrong."
Those conservative complaints mean that Johnson will rely on Democrats to pass the spending package next week under suspension of the rules, a process that requires a two-thirds majority.
What’s next: Mercifully, the end of the fiscal year 2024 budget and appropriations process may be in sight, though there could still be bumps — big or small — in the days and weeks ahead.
Yet even as lawmakers avoid a shutdown and look to finalize the annual spending bills, they are leaving aside, at least for the moment, a supplemental spending bill containing aid for Ukraine that Biden and others insist is crucial — for U.S. interests as well as Ukraine and Europe.
House Speaker Mike Johnson said again this week that U.S. border security must be addressed first. Johnson has helped kill a Senate border compromise and blocked action on Ukraine, channeling isolationist hostility to aiding Ukraine from many of his members — and vocal opposition to border legislation from former president Donald Trump, who wants to preserve the migrant crisis as a campaign issue in his race to retake the White House. While Johnson has expressed support for Ukraine, it’s unclear whether or when he might take up an aid bill.
The bottom line: This Congress still has plenty of work left to do.
Fiscal News Roundup
- Senate Clears Stopgap Bill, Setting Up Final Spending Talks – Roll Call
- With Weekend Shutdown Averted, Lawmakers Look to Meet New Spending Deadlines – Politico
- Mike Johnson Faces Pivotal Test With House Democrats – Axios
- Mike Johnson’s Plan for Getting the House in Line: Deploy Trump – Politico
- McHenry’s ‘Extreme Candor’ on Johnson Splits GOP – Politico
- Biden State of the Union Plans Confront a Standoff in Congress – Bloomberg
- US to Airdrop Humanitarian Aid Into Gaza, Biden Says – The Hill
- Congress Curtails Move Expanding Pell Grant Access for Some Students – Washington Post
- The Private Chats and Chance Encounters That Shape Joe Biden’s Thinking – Washington Post
- Tax Deal Stalls in Senate, Imperiling Breaks for Businesses and Families – Wall Street Journal
- Thousands of Millionaires Haven’t Filed Tax Returns for Years, IRS Says – Washington Post
- US Health Officials Drop 5-Day Isolation Time for COVID-19 – ABC News
- U.S. Prescription Drug Market in Disarray as Ransomware Gang Attacks – Washington Post
- Ransomware Attack on U.S. Health Care Payment Processor ‘Most Serious Incident of Its Kind’ – NBC News
Views and Analysis
- GOP Senators Face Trump Civil War With McConnell Retiring – Alexander Bolton, The Hill
- The Republicans Are a Party in Search of a Future – Alex Castellanos, Wall Street Journal
- Conservatives Lay Out Their Second Term Trump Tax Policy – Howard Gleckman, Tax Policy Center
- The US Economy Is So Strong That There Might Not Be Any Rate Cuts in 2024 – Nicole Goodkind, CNN
- A Fed Held Hostage by Data Is Asking for Trouble – Mohamed A. El-Erian, Bloomberg
- The IRS Finally Takes the Gloves Off – David Cay Johnston, The Nation
- How to Save Social Security Without Privatizing or Cutting Benefits – Terrence Keeley and Andy Puzder, Wall Street Journal
- Tax Gimmick in a BOXX – Steven M. Rosenthal, Tax Policy Center
- How the Fed Can Avoid a 2019 Balance Sheet Repeat – Neil Irwin and Courtenay Brown, Axios