Biden admin backs down on proposal to monitor account transactions over $ 600 / year

The Biden administration backed down on Tuesday on a controversial proposal to order the IRS to collect additional data on every bank account that records more than $ 600 in annual transactions, after widespread criticism from Republican lawmakers and officials industry, who said the tax enforcement strategy was an invasion of privacy by the federal government.

Instead, the administration and Senate Democrats are proposing to increase the threshold for accounts with more than $ 10,000 in annual transactions, and any income received through a paycheck from which federal taxes are automatically. deducted will not be subject to declaration. Recipients of federal benefits such as unemployment and social security would also be exempt.

The IRS would collect the total sum of deposits and withdrawals from bank accounts with over $ 10,000 in non-wage income. Information on individual transactions would not be collected.

The changes were announced Tuesday by the Treasury Department.

“In response to considerations of scope, he [Congress] developed a new approach to include an exemption for employees and recipients of the federal program. Under this revised approach, these employees can be completely excluded from the reporting structure. This is a well-reasoned change: for American workers and retirees, the IRS already has information on the wage income and federal benefits they receive, ”says a fact sheet from the Department of Treasure on the changes.

The changes would exempt millions of Americans from the reporting requirement and help the IRS target wealthier Americans, especially those who make money through investments, real estate, and others. transactions that are more difficult for the IRS to track.

“Under the current system, American workers pay virtually all of their tax bills while many top earners avoid paying the billions in taxes they owe by exploiting the system. At the heart of the problem is a gap in the how income types are reported to the IRS: Opaque income sources frequently avoid scrutiny, while federal wages and benefits are generally subject to almost full compliance. This two-tiered tax system is unfair and deprives the government resource country to fund core priorities, ”Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said in a statement.

“Today’s new proposal reflects the administration’s strong belief that we should target those at the top of the income scale who are not paying the taxes they owe, while protecting workers. Americans by setting the bank account threshold at $ 10,000 and granting an exemption for employees like teachers and firefighters, ”Yellen said.

The fact sheet says, “Imagine a taxpayer declaring $ 10,000 in income; but who has $ 10 million in inflows and outflows from their bank account. Having this summary information will help report to the IRS when high income people underreport their income (and underpay their tax obligations). This will help the IRS target its enforcement activities on those who are genuinely evading their tax obligations, reducing costly and burdensome audits for the vast majority of taxpayers who pay what they owe.

The proposal is far from being adopted. It is currently included in a multibillion-dollar social spending program that lawmakers and the White House have been negotiating for months. If this package is adopted, this requirement will not begin until December 2022.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden D-Ore., Who led the effort to revise the proposal, disputes Republican claims that the goal is to spy on Americans’ financial transactions.

“At the end of the day, the tax evaders of the rich rip off the American people to the tune of billions and billions of dollars a year. Tax evaders thrive when the reporting rules that apply to them are vague and obscure. Democrats want to correct this broken approach and crack down on cheating at the top, ”Wyden said at a press conference on the announcement on Tuesday.

Wyden clarified that even Americans who could make a large purchase over $ 10,000 would not be subject to the additional declaration.

“If you don’t have $ 10,000 more than your paycheck, social security or other income, there is no additional report. We also covered the scenario where an individual spends a large amount. in savings for a large purchase There will be no further reporting in this scenario, as long as the amount of money entering the account does not exceed wages + $ 10,000, “Wyden said.

The administration has not clarified whether the changes will impact the additional tax revenue they may be able to raise through enforcement. The administration has estimated that better tax enforcement could bring in up to $ 600 billion in additional tax revenue over the next decade.

The initial proposal, which would have affected nearly all non-dormant bank accounts in the United States, angered Republican lawmakers, who called it an invasion of privacy and an example of government overtaking. Even with the revisions to the proposal, Republicans in the Senate remained critical.

“So how long will it take them to say, ‘Well, you know we need a little more information because there really isn’t much we can do with it. “Then they’re going to want individual transactions and who knows what,” Sen. John Thune, RS.D. told reporters.

Senator Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, cited President Biden’s pledge not to raise taxes on Americans earning less than $ 400,000, suggesting that this threshold should be applied to IRS returns.

“Why don’t they just put in a ban that prohibits the IRS from snooping into the accounts of people who earn less than $ 400,000? This is the question I think we should ask ourselves with the sponsors of this approach, ”said Crapo.

Crapo struggled to give an example of another way to close the tax gap other than to mention “closing loopholes”.

Representatives of the banking industry remain skeptical of any additional reporting requirements, saying it will create a burden, especially for small community banks.

Michael J. Birnbaum

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