Tax News & Views Mr. Roboto Roundup

June 20, 2022

Robots Will Answer Your Tax Questions in IRS Wait-Time Call Fix – Richard Tzul and Laura Davison, Bloomberg ($). “The IRS is expanding its use of voice bots to help taxpayers quickly set up or modify payment plans without having to wait long periods on the phone.”

‘We continue to look for ways to better assist taxpayers, and that includes helping people avoid waiting on hold or having to make a second phone call to get what they need,’ IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said in a statement Friday.

The IRS currently answers about 20% of its calls. Rettig hopes the use of robots will increase that rate to 70%.

Assistance for eligible taxpayers in setting up or modifying payment plans now available; more functions planned in 2022 to help taxpayers obtain account information – IRS:

Voice bots run on software powered by artificial intelligence, which enables a caller to navigate an interactive voice response. The IRS has been using voice bots on numerous toll-free lines since January, enabling taxpayers with simple payment or notice questions to get what they need quickly and avoid waiting. Taxpayers can always speak with an English- or Spanish-speaking IRS telephone representative if needed.


Wyden Releases Outline of Bill to Bolster Retirement Savings – Senate Finance Committee. "Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden, D-Ore., today released the following statement in conjunction with a section-by-section summary of the bipartisan Enhancing American Retirement Now (EARN) Act."

‘The Finance Committee has worked in a bipartisan way to make important improvements to the retirement system, building on our success in 2020. Our framework includes policies put forward by many members of our committee, and I appreciate the collaboration of Senators Crapo, Portman, and Cardin in crafting this package.’

A section-by-section summary of the bill is here

The committee is expected to work on this bill on June 22nd. It will then be combined with retirement legislation recently approved by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. 

The legislative text of this bill is here

A section-by-section summary of the bill is here.


Reconciliation outlook shifts as election looms - John Bresnahan, Punchbowl News ($):

There’s lots of buzz about a possible reconciliation deal between Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.). Discussions are ongoing, although there’s no deal yet, and there won’t be one this week.

The package being discussed by many in the Senate and downtown – full or partial repeal of the 2017 Trump tax cuts, Medicare prescription drug price negotiations and a climate-energy package, with a portion of the revenue raised going to pay down the deficit – would have problems passing the House, even if it got through the Senate.

The revenue mentioned above largely refers to tax increases on businesses and wealthy individuals. Basically, any taxpayer (be it business or person) earning over $400,000 would get a tax increase. Democrats support such tax increases and passage of the bill can pass both chambers with only their support. But passage could have consequences, according to the article:

[I]t’s going to be quite tricky for Democrats to find a winning message about why they’re raising taxes with a recession looming. Any moderate or Frontliner [vulnerable candidate] would get hammered on it.


Liability Shifts in Leveraged Partnership Freezes - Michael Spiro, Tax Notes ($). “In this article, Spiro explores ambiguities and traps for the unwary that are introduced in leveraged partnership freezes.”


The Worthless Stock Deduction - Jasper Cummings, Jr., Tax Notes ($). “Any taxpayer holding stock for investment can recognize a worthless stock deduction, but only a domestic corporation that is affiliated with the worthless corporation may be able to recognize a more useful ordinary loss. Therefore, worthless stock presents two major tax planning issues: (1) the universal issue of identifying the deduction year, and (2) trying to obtain an ordinary deduction either as an affiliated parent or otherwise. The frequent flyer in this area is the corporate parent of a worthless affiliated subsidiary.”


Gasoline Tax Holiday ‘Worth Considering,’ Yellen Says – Andrew Ackerman, Wall Street Journal ($). “Federal policy makers should consider a temporary gasoline-tax holiday to ease the burden of soaring fuel prices, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on Sunday.”

‘Gas prices have risen a great deal and it’s clearly burdening households,’ she said on ABC’s ‘This Week.’ ‘That’s an idea that’s certainly worth considering.’

State Tax Revenues Rose 21% in First Quarter; California Up 38% - Bloomberg ($). “State tax revenues increased 21% to $357.3 billion in the first quarter compared with the same period last year, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.”

What some states are doing with the revenue:

Why Some States Are Expanding Tax-Free Periods – Ann Carrns, New York Times ($). “This year, the back-to-school tax ‘holidays’ that many states offer each summer are being expanded with new types of tax-free periods that are aimed at giving beleaguered consumers a break on rising prices.”

Impetus behind the holidays:

What’s behind the renewed enthusiasm for offering a tax hiatus? A serious bout of inflation and large state budget surpluses, from both tax revenue and federal pandemic relief, have made such holidays feasible as well as politically attractive, said Jared Walczak, vice president of state projects with the Center for State Tax Policy at the Tax Foundation, a think tank in Washington.


One key problem has 1 in 4 expats ‘seriously considering’ or ‘planning’ to renounce U.S. citizenship – Kate Dore, CNBC:

  • Roughly 1 in 4 American expatriates is 'seriously considering' or 'planning' to renounce their U.S. citizenship, according to a survey from Greenback Expat Tax Services.
  • The top reason why expats want to dump their U.S. citizenship is the burden of filing U.S. taxes.
  • Some 77% of expats don’t think they should have to pay U.S. taxes while living abroad.


Gas v. Electric:

Whither Windfall Profits Taxes? – Lee Shepard, Tax Notes ($):

What’s the point of a windfall profits tax, other than revenge against a Republican constituency? Does it serve any purpose? The bills before Congress aim to rebate the proceeds of a WPT [windfall profits tax] to gasoline consumers. But imposing a tax and then rebating it to consumers doesn’t achieve environmental aims.

The article refers to President Biden’s attempt to broaden the use of electric cars, so why provide incentives for gas. The article also highlights a Wall Street Journal article on how the infrastructure for “filling up” an electric car can be problematic when traveling across states. This article is hysterical:

The lede:

I thought it would be fun.

That’s what I told my friend Mack when I asked her to drive with me from New Orleans to Chicago and back in an electric car.

At one point in the story, the juice in the car's battery is extremely low so the women turn off the radio and air conditioner - and barely run the windshield wipers while its raining - to help ensure they have enough energy get to the next charging station. 

Cut to the end:

We pull into New Orleans…exhausted and grumpy.

The following week, I fill up my Jetta at a local Shell station. Gas is up to $4.08 a gallon.

I inhale deeply. Fumes never smelled so sweet.

FWIW: In its Salad Days, locating a gas station while traveling across the country was also probably problematic. 


It’s National Dump the Pump Day! Today encourages the use of public transportation instead of cars. With a gallon of gas costing roughly $12 billion, I’m metro bound! 

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