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News from Senator Grassley's Office PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Grassley Press   
Thursday, 15 September 2011 07:24

GAO report on improved IRS whistleblower office

Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa wrote the 2006 law improving the IRS whistleblower office to encourage people with information about big-dollar tax fraud to come forward and lead to the substantial recovery of tax dollars for the U.S. Treasury.  He modeled the whistleblower improvements after the successful 1986 whistleblower amendments to the federal False Claims Act.  Grassley was the Senate author of the False Claims Act whistleblower amendments, which since 1986 have brought back more than $27 billion to the federal treasury and deterred even more fraudulent activity. The False Claims Act whistleblower provisions have been very effective against defense and health care fraud, but there was no strong incentive to expose big-dollar tax fraud until Grassley’s work in 2006.  Grassley has been monitoring the progress of the new, improved whistleblower office.  In April, an in-house accountant who raised a red flag about a tax lapse that his employer then ignored, leading him to tip off the IRS, received $4.5 million in the first whistleblower award under the new, improved IRS whistleblower office, with a recovery for the taxpayers of a net $20 million in taxes and interest from the financial services firm. Grassley made the following comment on a report released today from the Government Accountability Office, GAO-11-683, “Tax Whistleblowers: Incomplete Data Hinders IRS's Ability to Manage Claim Processing Time and Enhance External Communication.”

“The report makes clear that the whistleblower program has been a success in providing good information to the IRS about big-dollar tax cheating.  The statistics show the IRS views a significant number of the whistleblower claims as having merit.  The IRS has received tips on more than 9,500 taxpayers from 1,400 whistleblowers in just five years. The IRS has acted or is acting on almost 8,300 of these claims, so only about 1,300 tips have been rejected so far.

“Now the challenge is for the IRS and Treasury to make the changes needed to provide assurance to existing and future whistleblowers so they’re not discouraged by the time needed to process their claims. With the nation facing massive deficits, Treasury and IRS officials need to do all they can to ensure the success of what’s clearly one of the best tools available to go after tax fraud.  The vast majority of taxpayers are honest.  They’re the ones who benefit from a successful whistleblower program.  More tax compliance means more fairness for hardworking families who pay what they owe.

“The report has good recommendations that the IRS needs to implement tomorrow.  The IRS needs to do a better job of communicating with whistleblowers.  Silence between the IRS and the whistleblowers only helps the tax cheats.  I’m concerned that the IRS management still might have too many opportunities to say ‘no’ to a whistleblower, even when the whistleblower office believes a claim has merit. The IRS commissioner has to make it clear that he expects the director of the IRS whistleblower office to speak up if it thinks an IRS office is foot-dragging on a good whistleblower claim.  The law I wrote gives the IRS whistleblower office the power to investigate claims on its own. The IRS commissioner should make that clear to all of his managers and provide the necessary resources so that valid whistleblower claims aren’t forgotten.  We can’t let the next Madoff get a free pass just because someone doesn’t want to be bothered.  Going through whistleblower claims is work but it’s worth it.

“The GAO report says the IRS is short on resources but also is doing nothing to take advantage of the resources of the whistleblower and his attorneys.  This has to stop.  A key provision of the whistleblower law, and a big part of the success of the False Claims Act provisions that I co-wrote, is to allow the government to leverage the whistleblower’s resources.  It’s worrisome that the IRS hasn’t taken advantage of this provision even once.  The tax cheats shouldn’t be the only ones who can take advantage of outside legal talent.  The IRS can’t ask for more resources while ignoring the free resources available.

“The GAO has done a good service by providing a road map for how to improve the IRS whistleblower program and go after big-dollar tax cheating.  For the benefit of honest taxpayers, I intend to ensure that the IRS follows that map.”

Senator Chuck Grassley tonight released the following statement after the President’s speech before a Joint Session of Congress.

An audio comment can be accessed on Grassley’s website by clicking here.

“What the President’s saying is more of the same, especially with what was in the stimulus bill.  That massive government spending bill passed two years ago, right after the President took office, and was touted by the administration as a way to keep unemployment below eight percent, which it hasn’t by a long shot.  When we’ve tested something like that, and it failed, we need to try something new.  That something new would be to remove the tremendous anxiety that Congress, the President and Washington lately are creating for employers throughout America, in businesses small and big.   Employers don’t know what’s coming next in the way of regulations and higher taxes.  As a result, they’re understandably reluctant to spend the trillion dollars that’s now sitting in corporate treasuries.  The cash flow of small businesses needs to be protected, or they can’t hire anybody new.  We’ve got to free up that corporate money and the entrepreneurial spirit to create economic activity and jobs.

“The best way for Congress and the President to lessen that anxiety is to make a serious effort to get rid of duplicative, outdated regulations and really consider the economic impact of forthcoming regulations before reflexively moving them forward, as in the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed dust regulation, which doesn’t reflect an understanding of farming and the economic impact on rural communities; to make sure the biggest tax increase in the history of the country, which everyone knows is coming on December 31, 2012, doesn’t happen; and to get under control the excessive government spending that’s tripled the national debt over the last two years.  I’m willing to work with the President to make things happen, but that doesn’t mean more of the same.  In the end, the President inherited a very bad economic situation, but by any measure of the economy, including inflation or unemployment or deficit spending, his policies and programs have made it worse.  We want the President to see that what he’s tried hasn’t worked and for him to work with Congress to get the economy turned around.”

 

BAUCUS, GRASSLEY APPLAUD PASSAGE OF BILL TO INCREASE TAX FAIRNESS, DETER TAX SHELTERS BY ELIMINATING PATENTS ON TAX STRATEGIES

Finance Senators Say All Taxpayers Have a Right to Legal Methods to Reduce Tax Bills

Washington, DC – Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) and senior Committee member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) today applauded the Senate’s passage of their bill to protect taxpayers and fight tax evasion, which was included in the larger patent reform bill.  The Baucus-Grassley legislation prevents any individual or firm from patenting tax strategies, which could otherwise subject taxpayers to royalty fees for using the patented strategy when filing their taxes.  The bill also stops tax patents from providing windfalls to lawyers and patent holders by preventing them from holding exclusive rights to use loopholes, which could provide some businesses with unfair advantages over their competitors.  Now that both the House and Senate have passed the patent reform bill, it goes to the President for his signature.

“Unfair patents can give a small number of people a stranglehold on tax strategies that should be open to anyone,” Baucus said. “This bill will bring fairness to the system, and it will deter the use of tax shelters to evade the responsibility we all share.  Our ongoing tax reform effort will continue cleaning up the code, and it can create jobs and be a major boost to our economy.”

“Tax strategy patents are on the rise.  More and more legal tax strategies are unavailable or more expensive for more and more taxpayers,” Grassley said. “It’s important to protect intellectual property rights for true tax preparation and financial management software.  At the same time, we have to protect the right of taxpayers to have equal access to legal tax strategies.  That’s necessary for fairness and tax compliance.  We need more tax compliance, not less.”

In order to obtain a patent, an inventor must show, among other things, that the claimed invention is novel and non-obvious and has a practical application.  In 1998, the courts determined that a method of doing business may be patentable, and soon thereafter, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office began granting patents for various tax-related inventions.

Tax practitioners have long decried the issuance of these tax-strategy patents because they are unlikely to be novel, given the public nature of the tax code, and undermine the fairness of the Federal tax system by removing from the public domain particular ways of satisfying a taxpayer’s legal obligations.  The bill expressly provides that a strategy for reducing, avoiding or deferring tax liability cannot be considered a new or non-obvious idea, and therefore, a patent on a tax strategy cannot be obtained.

Baucus and Grassley have long been leaders in congressional efforts to protect taxpayers and prevent the patenting of tax strategies that result in extra costs for taxpayers.

###

Grassley, Johanns Work to Stop Long Reach of the EPA in Regulating Dust

WASHINGTON – Senator Chuck Grassley today introduced legislation to prevent the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating dust in rural America while maintaining the protections of the Clean Air Act to the public’s health and welfare.  Grassley introduced the bill with Senator Mike Johanns of Nebraska.

Grassley first began asking questions about the EPA’s proposed dust rules in 2006.  He has hounded the EPA as the rule has progressed through the regulating process to ensure that the unique aspects of agriculture and rural America are accounted for.  Grassley has invited the last two EPA administrators to Iowa to see for themselves the important role that farmers play in their communities.  Administrator Stephen Johnson came to Iowa in 2006 and heard directly from several farmers and agriculture specialists.  Current Administrator Lisa Jackson sent two staff members to Iowa in 2009 to spend the day with Grassley touring a family farm, the Iowa State University research facility and a biodiesel plant.

“In each of my most recent town hall meetings the excessive amount of regulations coming out of Washington, D.C. and the impact on small businesses and rural communities was a top issue,” Grassley said.  “The dust rule is a perfect example. It makes no sense to regulate the dust coming out of a combine harvesting soybeans or the dust off a gravel road of a pick-up truck traveling into town.  If the administration were to decide to revise the standard, farmers and livestock producers will likely be unable to attain the standard levels and the rural economy would be devastated.”

The bill takes a two prong approach to keep the EPA from regulating farm dust.  First, it prevents the EPA from revising the current dust standard for one year from date of enactment.

The bill also provides flexibility for states, localities, and tribes to regulate “nuisance dust.”  Nuisance dust is defined in the bill to exclude the type of dust typical of rural areas (unpaved roads and dust resulting from agricultural activities) from the National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) regulation targeted at harmful air pollutants. If the state, tribal, or local government chooses to regulate nuisance dust, these regulations would supersede any regulations put forth by the federal government under the Clean Air Act. If there are no local regulations in place and the EPA wants to regulate this type of dust, the EPA must find that the specific type of dust or particulate matter causes adverse health effects and that the benefits of applying EPA’s standard to that area outweigh the costs to the local and regional communities, including economic and employment impacts.  The Clean Air Act does not currently differentiate between urban and rural dust, so this provides the EPA with a distinction between the two for implementation of air quality standards.

A companion bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Representative Kristi Noem of South Dakota.

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Messages from Congressman Brley PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Kira Ayish   
Tuesday, 13 September 2011 12:47

Braley Statement on President’s Jobs Address

 

Washington, DC – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement tonight after President Obama addressed a joint session of Congress on job creation:

“I hope tonight’s speech helps refocus the debate in Washington right where it needs to be: on creating jobs and growing the economy.

“Ideas like extending the payroll tax cut for middle class families and investments in roads and highways should attract support from Republicans and Democrats.

“I’m proud that tonight, Jan Heister of Peosta, Iowa and owner of Premier Tool, joined First Lady Michelle Obama during the speech.  In February 2010, I introduced the Back to Work Act, which provides tax incentives to businesses to hire unemployed workers and my provisions passed into law in March 2010. Since that time, over 100,000 Iowans were hired using this tax incentive, and some of these workers were hired at Jan’s company, Premier Tool. I visited Premier Tool in January 2011 and I was so proud to talk to Jan and some of the workers hired through my Back to Work Act. I’m glad the President has also recognized the good work done at Premier Tool, and invited Jan to attend tonight.

“Focusing on strengthening the middle class – what makes America great – is exactly what we need to be doing to get our economy back on track.  Now, it’s time Congress gets to work on these ideas so Iowans can get back to work.”

# # #

Braley’s Protecting Veterans' Homes Act Moves Forward in House

Washington, DC – Today, the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs unanimously passed Congressman Bruce Braley’s bill, the Protecting Veterans’ Homes Act. This legislation would protect veterans from being foreclosed upon by banks and would give returning soldiers time to get their finances in order after long deployments. It passed unanimously as part of a larger legislative package and will now likely proceed to the House Floor.

“Our veterans often return from combat only to face new challenges,” said Rep. Braley. “Whether it’s an injury or a financial crisis caused by long deployments and time off from their civilian jobs, our veterans deserve to know that we’re standing up for them. This bill will give our soldiers enough time to get back on their feet and get their finances in order before being kicked out of their homes. This is the least we can do for the brave men and women who serve this country.”

Currently, similar protections for veterans are set to expire in December, 2012. Rep. Braley’s bill would make these protections permanent and would extend the grace period from nine months to a full year for veterans returning from deployments.

# # #

Braley: Jobs Plan Should Focus on Boosting Iowa’s “Struggling Middle Class”

 

Washington, DC – Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-01) released the following statement today before the president’s address to a joint session of Congress:

“Creating jobs and growing the economy should be Congress’ number one priority, but it sure hasn’t been lately.  That’s why Iowans are so frustrated with Washington right now.  All they see is partisan gridlock and nothing getting done on jobs.

 

“That’s why I hope the president uses tonight as an opportunity to refocus on job creation.  I hope his job creation plan makes helping the struggling middle class a centerpiece.

 

“We need to act now on ideas like extending the payroll tax cut for middle-class families, providing incentives for the hiring of veterans and Iowa Guard members, and investing in our aging roads, highways, and infrastructure.  Then we need to pay for them.  These proven job creators are ideas that I expect would attract bipartisan support.”

# # #

 
Braley Statement on Labor Day PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Mark Noble   
Tuesday, 13 September 2011 09:28

Washington, DC – Today, Congressman Bruce Braley (D-Iowa) released the following statement on Labor Day, which falls on Monday, September 5:

"On Labor Day, we honor hard-working men and women who provide for their families and keep America strong. By doing this, we're celebrating the American dream - the promise that anyone can make it in America. In recent years, though, many Americans have lost their jobs and are struggling to achieve their own dreams. On this Labor Day, let us honor those who work hard every day, and also those who want to work hard but have been unable to find a job due to the recession. These are the Americans I will be thinking of this Labor Day."

###

 
Local Legionnaire hears President, top government leaders make their case to nation’s veterans PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Norma Seehusen   
Tuesday, 13 September 2011 09:19
Minneapolis (Sept. 1, 2011) – Norma Seehusen was among more than 3,000 leaders of The American Legion attending the nation’s largest wartime veterans organization’s 93rd National Convention in Minneapolis.

Seehusen is a member of Post 588 in Pocahontas, IA and is active in programs that benefit veterans, their families and the children of this area. Highlights of the three-day gathering included addresses by President Barak Obama, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs Gen. Eric Shinseki, Minority Leader of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Al Franken and Rep. Michelle Bachmann, among others.

President Obama told Legionnaires that while the United States is in a time of fiscal restraint, that the restraint won't include cutting benefits of America's veterans.

“As a nation, we're facing tough choices as we put our fiscal house in order," the president said, getting a standing ovation from the crowd of thousands in the process. "But I want to be absolutely clear: We cannot, we must not, and we will not balance the budget on the backs of our veterans. And as commander-in-chief, I won't allow it.”

Secretary of the Dept. of Veterans Affairs Eric K. Shinseki said that VA and the Department of Defense "will spearhead a government-wide effort to reform the way members transition out of the military services. Every member will receive the training, education and credentials needed to successfully transition to the civilian workforce or to pursue higher education."

House Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi told delegates, "In the weeks ahead ... Congress will take up the budget at a table of 12," Pelosi said. "I want The American Legion, and all of America to know - that the values of America's veterans will have a strong presence at that congressional table. I want to assure you that as we reduce the deficit, America's veterans will not be short-changed. Meeting the needs of our veterans ... is a value of the American people that we will protect in those negotiations.

"Supporting our veterans is a bipartisan cause,” Pelosi said. “That's the beautiful part of it. It's a place we can all come together. America's veterans have earned our respect by their actions, their bravery and their valor, their willingness to step forward and serve on our behalf."

Among the major events preceding the Legion's 93rd National Convention in Minneapolis was a veterans hiring fair produced jointly by The American Legion and the United States Chamber of Commerce. Legion organizers praised the hiring fair as among the most productive of recent Legion-sponsored career fairs and credited the U.S. Chamber's participation, through its network of local and regional chambers of commerce, for its success. The Legion hiring event was the 19th in an initial series of 100 veterans career fairs to be co-produced by the U.S. Chamber and veterans' advocates nationwide as part of its ‘Hiring our Heroes' initiative.

Kevin Schmiegel, vice president of veterans' employment programs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, announced the impending rollout of three additional components in the organization's concerted campaign to employ military veterans. The official announcement of the program expansion will be made on Veterans Day, said Schmiegel, but Legionnaires were being given a "sneak preview."

Delegates to The American Legion National Convention also heard special reports from two dozen committees and adopted resolutions that will guide the organization’s legislative and operational efforts for the coming year.
National Commander Jimmie L. Foster reported on progress made during his year as leader of the nation’s largest veterans organization, praising Legionnaires for their successes in advocating for veterans, a strong national defense, Americanism and youth programs.

The convention ended with the election of Fang Wong of New York, a retired Army Chief Warrant Officer and Vietnam War veteran, as the new national commander.

Seehusen and other American Legion leaders left Minneapolis with a renewed sense of urgency in meeting the needs of today’s military while helping other veterans and the nation. Issues high on the agenda for the coming year include: jobs for veterans, supporting our armed forces during the war on terrorism; reducing the backlog of VA disability claims and veteran homelessness, returning to the American people the right to protect the U.S. Flag from desecration and immediate enforcement of immigration laws with no amnesty.

 
On 9/11 Anniversary, Remember Legacy of Those Lost PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Sen. Charles Grassley   
Thursday, 08 September 2011 07:50

by U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley

A decade after vicious terrorist attacks killed thousands of innocent people and caused immeasurable grief to victims and survivors, America has shown the world that 9/11 may have changed life as we knew it, but it has not changed America’s commitment to freedom, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

The national tragedy tapped an overwhelming sense of solidarity and sacrifice among Americans from across the country. Consider the selfless acts of courage and patriotism from the moment the hijackers commandeered three airplanes on that clear September morning 10 years ago: from the passengers aboard United Flight 93, to the first responders who reported to the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and the heroes who serve on the front lines from within the nation’s military and from behind-the-scenes in our intelligence and counterterrorism operations. Thanks to the allegiance of public servants and private citizens, our men and women in uniform and our captains of commerce and industry, the United States of America continues to serve as a beacon of hope, freedom and opportunity to the rest of the world. Those who sought to undermine the exceptionalism of the American people underestimated the resiliency of the American people.

Just consider the recent protests across the globe, where after decades of oppression, the people of Tunisia, Egypt and Libya have thrown out autocratic regimes in the pursuit of self-government, economic opportunity, higher standards of living and personal freedoms. The 10th anniversary of 9/11 offers Americans and our friends around the world the opportunity to embrace the common threads that tie us together.

For more than two centuries, the United States has attracted millions of newcomers to live and work in the land of opportunity. Generations of Americans have scaled the ladder of economic and social mobility, enjoyed the freedoms of press, speech and religion, and embraced the ups and downs of entrepreneurship, risk-taking and innovation. Unleashing the power of the individual has served as a catalyst for economic growth and prosperity for the last 235 years.

Along the way, the United States evolved as an economic, cultural and military leader in the world. The 9/11 terror attacks dealt a devastating blow to America and all of humanity. And yet, 10 years later, America still stands as the shining city on the hill. Despite the economic downturn, America still bears the promise of better days ahead. Despite high unemployment and unprecedented public debt, the American Dream still serves as the magical elixir that ultimately defines the nation’s resiliency and bone-deep belief in the goodness of America.

That bone-deep belief in the goodness of America flows through the veins of those called to serve their country in the U.S. military, including one of Iowa’s own hometown heroes who lost his life in the line of duty this summer. Jon Tumilson enlisted in the Navy after graduating from high school in 1995.  A 35-year-old Navy SEAL from Rockford, he was one of 30 Americans killed in one of the deadliest attacks on U.S. forces since 9/11. Barbara and I were able to pay our respects to this fallen Navy SEAL at his funeral in August. The long-time Iowa Hawkeye football and wrestling fan left behind family members and loved ones, including his beloved Labrador retriever named Hawkeye. The black lab led family members into the school gymnasium for the service and proceeded to lie next to the casket of his owner. They say a picture is worth a 1,000 words. The image of Tumilson’s dog lying next to the flag-draped casket brought three words to mind; loyalty, loss and love.

Let’s honor the memory of the many Iowans who've died in military service since 9/11, and all the soldiers and veterans who have served their country to protect U.S. national security and preserve our American way of life.

May their sacrifice remind us of their bone-deep belief in America’s goodness. As policymakers return to Washington, D.C. and Americans observe the 10th anniversary of 9/11, let’s keep their legacy and love of country close to mind as we work to put America back on the right track towards economic growth and prosperity.

 

Friday, September 2, 2011

 
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