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Jim Costa on Tax Reform

Democratic Representative (CA-20)

 


Voted YES on extending AMT exemptions to avoid hitting middle-income.

Congressional Summary: Amends the Internal Revenue Code to:
  1. increase and extend through 2008 the alternative minimum tax (AMT) exemption amounts;
  2. extend through 2008 the offset of personal tax credits against AMT tax liabilities;
  3. treat net income and loss from an investment services partnership interest as ordinary income and loss;
  4. deny major integrated oil companies a tax deduction for income attributable to domestic production of oil or gas.
Wikipedia.com Explanation: The AMT became operative in 1970. It was intended to target 155 high-income households that had been eligible for so many tax benefits that they owed little or no income tax under the tax code of the time. However, when Ronald Reagan signed the Tax Reform Act of 1986, the AMT was greatly expanded to aim at a different set of deductions that most Americans receive.

The AMT sets a minimum tax rate of 26% or 28% on some taxpayers so that they cannot use certain types of deductions to lower their tax. By contrast, the rate for a corporation is 20%. Affected taxpayers are those who have what are known as "tax preference items". These include long-term capital gains, accelerated depreciation, & percentage depletion.

Because the AMT is not indexed to inflation, an increasing number of upper-middle-income taxpayers have been finding themselves subject to this tax. In 2006, an IRS report highlighted the AMT as the single most serious problem with the tax code.

For 2007, the AMT Exemption was not fully phased until [income reaches] $415,000 for joint returns. Within the $150,000 to $415,000 range, AMT liability typically increases as income increases above $150,000.

OnTheIssues.org Explanation: This vote extends the AMT exemption, and hence avoids the AMT affecting more upper-middle-income people. This vote has no permanent effect on the AMT, although voting YES implies that one would support the same permanent AMT change.

Reference: Alternative Minimum Tax Relief Act; Bill H.R.6275 ; vote number 2008-455 on Jun 25, 2008

Voted YES on paying for AMT relief by closing offshore business loopholes.

H.R.4351: To provide individuals temporary relief from the alternative minimum tax (AMT), via an offset of nonrefundable personal tax credits. [The AMT was originally intended to apply only to people with very high incomes, to ensure that they paid a fair amount of income tax. As inflation occurred, more people became subject to the AMT, and now it applies to people at upper-middle-class income levels as well. Both sides agree that the AMT should be changed to apply only to the wealthy; at issue in this bill is whether the cost of that change should be offset with a tax increase elsewhere or with no offset at all. -- ed.]

Proponents support voting YES because:

Rep. RANGEL: We have the opportunity to provide relief to upward of some 25 million people from being hit by a $50 billion tax increase, which it was never thought could happen to these people. Almost apart from this, we have an opportunity to close a very unfair tax provision, that certainly no one has come to me to defend, which prevents a handful of people from having unlimited funds being shipped overseas under deferred compensation and escaping liability. Nobody, liberal or conservative, believes that these AMT taxpayers should be hit by a tax that we didn't intend. But also, no one has the guts to defend the offshore deferred compensation. So what is the problem?

Opponents recommend voting NO because:

Rep. McCRERY: This is a bill that would patch the AMT, and then increase other taxes for the patch costs. Republicans are for patching the AMT. Where we differ is over the question of whether we need to pay for the patch by raising other taxes. The President's budget includes a 1-year patch on the AMT without a pay-for. That is what the Senate passed by a rather large vote very recently, 88-5. The President has said he won't sign the bill that is before us today. Republicans have argued against applying PAYGO to the AMT patch. In many ways PAYGO has shown itself to be a farce.

Reference: AMT Relief Act; Bill HR4351 ; vote number 2007-1153 on Dec 12, 2007

Voted NO on retaining reduced taxes on capital gains & dividends.

Vote to reduce federal spending by $56.1 billion over five years by retaining a reduced tax rate on capital gains and dividends, as well as.
Reference: Tax Relief Extension Reconciliation Act; Bill HR 4297 ; vote number 2005-621 on Dec 8, 2005

50-25-25 budget formula for debt-tax cuts-spending.

Costa adopted the Blue Dog Coalition press release:

The 33 member Blue Dog Coalition applauds Senator Joe Lieberman (D-CT) for his commitment to fiscal responsibility. In a floor speech today, Senator Lieberman called for a budget framework that would devote half of the budget surplus to debt reduction, a quarter of the remaining funds to tax cuts, the final quarter to targeted spending increases in America’s priority programs. Senator Lieberman touted a mantra long held by the Blue Dogs that “our top priority must remain debt reduction.”

Senator Lieberman’s position closely reflects the “50-25-25” equation for responsible budgeting long advocated by the Blue Dog Coalition. The Blue Dogs’ formula would extract the Social Security and Medicare Trust Funds from the projected budget surplus and use half of the remaining funds to pay down the national debt. After committing 50 percent to debt reduction, 25 percent would be allocated to tax cuts and the remaining 25 percent would fund increases in priority programs, such as education, agriculture, defense, and health care. “The 50-25-25 budget framework is a common sense, fiscally conservative approach that will provide for a healthy economy, lower taxes, and reduction of our national debt. I am pleased that Senator Lieberman stressed the need for fiscal discipline,” said Blue Dog Budget Task Force Co-Chairman, Rep. Dennis Moore (D-KS).

“Senator Lieberman got it exactly right,” said Blue Dog Co-Chairman Rep. Jim Turner (D-TX). “We need a budget that meets our commitments and lives up to our responsibilities. Most importantly, we need a budget that adds up. The 50-25-25 framework is a smart, conservative, approach that prioritizes paying down the debt and still leaves room for real tax relief.”

Source: Blue Dog Coalition press release 01-BDC3 on Feb 8, 2001

Rated 50% by CTJ, indicating a mixed record on progressive taxation.

Costa scores 50% by the CTJ on taxationissues

OnTheIssues.org interprets the 2005-2006 CTJ scores as follows:

About CTJ (from their website, www.ctj.org):

Citizens for Tax Justice, founded in 1979, is not-for-profit public interest research and advocacy organization focusing on federal, state and local tax policies and their impact upon our nation. CTJ's mission is to give ordinary people a greater voice in the development of tax laws. Against the armies of special interest lobbyists for corporations and the wealthy, CTJ fights for:

Source: CTJ website 06n-CTJ on Dec 31, 2006

Death Tax is a pernicious double tax.

Costa voted YEA Death Tax Repeal Act

Heritage Action Summary: This bill would repeal the estate and generation-skipping transfer taxes, as well as cut the top gift tax rate.

Heritage Foundation recommendation to vote YES: (4/16/2015): Collectively, these measures repeal the pernicious double tax known as the "death tax," and result in a tax cut of $269 billion over 10 years. The death tax hurts economic growth and therefore limits the ability of Americans to prosper. Repealing the death tax would generate an average of 18,000 jobs annually and increase the overall net worth of American households by $300 billion a year. The federal government should encourage, not punish, Americans who work and pay taxes their whole lives, save enough to support themselves through retirement, and retain the ability to fulfill the American Dream by passing along a better life to their children.

Secretary of Labor Robert Reich recommendation to vote YES: (robertreich.org 6/4/2015): At a time of historic economic inequality, it should be a no-brainer to raise a tax on inherited wealth for the very rich. Yet there's a move among some members of Congress to abolish it altogether. Today the estate tax reaches only the richest 2/10 of 1%, and applies only to dollars in excess of $10.86 million for married couples or $5.43 million for individuals. That means if a couple leaves to their heirs $10,860,001, they now pay the estate tax on $1. The current estate tax rate is 40%, so that would be 40 cents. Yet according to these members of Congress, that's still too much. Our democracy's Founding Fathers did not want a privileged aristocracy. Yet that's the direction we're going in. The tax on inherited wealth is one of the major bulwarks against it. That tax should be increased and strengthened.

Legislative outcome: Passed by the House 240-179-12; never came to vote in Senate.

Source: Congressional vote 15-H1105 on Apr 16, 2015

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