John Oliver’s sardonic spoof of televangelists raises important issues that deserve more than comic treatment. Oliver’s satire was aimed both at the televangelists themselves and at the IRS. In Oliver’s narrative, the IRS acquiesces to televangelists’ abuse by granting their churches tax-exempt status and failing to audit these churches.
Medicare recently announced that it will pay for end-of-life counseling as a legitimate medical service. This announcement provoked little controversy. Several groups, including the National Right to Life Committee, expressed concern that such counseling could coerce elderly individuals to terminate medical treatment they want. However, Medicare’s statement was largely treated as uncontroversial—indeed, almost routine in nature.
The recent news about charitable contributions in the United States has been encouraging. The Giving Pledge, sponsored by Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, Jr., recently announced that another group of billionaires committed to leave a majority of their wealth to charity. Among these new Giving Pledgers are Judith Faulkner, founder of Epic Systems; Hamdi Ulukaya, founder of Chobani Yogurt; and Brad Keywell, a co-founder of Groupon.
In a letter addressed to President Obama, 26 members of the United States Senate expressed their support for the private sector retirement savings laws adopted in Illinois and California, and also being considered in other states. In particular, the senators asked that the United States Treasury and Labor Departments resolve three legal issues clouding the prospects of these adopted and proposed state laws.
The Obamacare “Cadillac tax” is currently scheduled to go into effect in 2018. However, last week, sixty-six members of the House of Representatives, including both Republicans and Democrats, proposed to repeal the Cadillac tax before it becomes effective. The Cadillac tax will be imposed at a 40% rate on the cost of health care insurance, exceeding statutorily-established thresholds. Unions and many of their Democratic stalwarts, otherwise supportive of Obamacare, oppose the Cadillac tax because generous union-sponsored health care plans will trigger the tax.
On one level, I admire the public furor now surrounding Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). In an important sense, this discussion reflects the Founder’s vision of a republican citizenry robustly debating the meaning of important values like nondiscrimination and religious freedom. On the other hand, this public controversy has, at times, regrettably reflected failure on both sides to respect their fellow citizens and confront the merits of the issue in civil fashion.
Tomorrow night’s appearance before a joint session of Congress by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin (“Bibi”) Netanyahu raises four important questions, including the following: Should Speaker John Boehner have invited the Israeli Prime Minister to speak without first consulting with President Obama?
In his State of the Union address, President Obama proposed several tax increases aimed at affluent taxpayers. The President did not suggest one such increase which some Republicans might be persuaded to support: limit the estate tax deduction for bequests to private foundations.
The “lame duck” session of the 113th Congress managed to avoid a shutdown of the federal government, but did not accomplish much else. Among the unfinished business left for the new, 114th Congress assembling this month is the Marketplace Fairness Act (MFA). The MFA would permit states to require out-of-state Internet and mail order sellers […]
In Freedom From Religion Foundation, Inc. v. Lew, the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit recently dismissed a constitutional challenge to the parsonage allowance provisions of the Internal Revenue Code (Code). Under Section 107(2) of the Code, a “minister of the gospel” need not pay income taxes on the housing allowance received by the minister as part of his or her compensation.
There is a reason that Congress’s post-election meetings are called “lame duck” sessions. They often aren’t pretty. Senators and representatives not returning to Congress (because they retired or were defeated for re-election) may not have strong incentives to legislate responsibly. Senators and representatives who will be part of the new Congress starting in January may […]
As President Obama ponders whom he will nominate as Eric Holder’s successor as attorney general, he should consider President Ford’s appointment in 1975 of Edward Levi to head the nation’s Department of Justice.
Maryland State Comptroller of the Treasury v. Brian Wynne requires the US Supreme Court to decide whether the US Constitution compels a state to grant an income tax credit to its residents for the out-of-state income taxes such residents pay on out-of-state income.
By Edward Zelinsky
Few recent decisions of the US Supreme Court have engendered as much controversy as Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc. In that case, the Court decided that a closely-held corporation’s employer-sponsored medical plan need not provide contraception if the shareholders of such corporation object to contraception on religious grounds.
By Edward Zelinsky
The sad story of Casey Kasem’s last illness is now over. Casey Kasem was an American pop culture icon. Among his other roles, Mr. Kasen was the disc jockey host on the legendary radio program, American Top 40. He was also the voice of Shaggy Rogers of Scooby-Doo.
By Edward Zelinsky
Lucio Noto worked for Mobil and ExxonMobil in Virginia and Texas before retiring in 2001. In his retirement, Mr. Noto and his wife Joan maintain homes in Greenwich, Connecticut and in East Hampton, New York. For state income tax purposes, the Notos are residents of both Connecticut where they are domiciled and New York where they spend at least 183 days annually at their second home.