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April 15th, 2010
06:00 PM ET

Where would you want your tax dollars to go?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

In honor of today's dreaded tax filing deadline - a whopping majority of Americans say the government wastes their tax dollars. No big surprise there.

A new CNN/Opinion Research Corporation poll shows 74 percent of those surveyed say a lot of their tax money is wasted by the government, 23 percent say some of their tax dollars are misspent... and only three percent say not much is wasted.

This poll also finds that 50 percent of the public says the tax system is unfair, which isn't surprising when you consider that 47 percent of U.S. households won't pay federal income taxes this year. Not a single dime.

And, the survey shows a growing public frustration with taxes over the last couple decades... 40 percent say they're angry about the amount of taxes they pay... that number is up sharply from the 1980s... and is a big part of the message coming from the Tea Party folks.

But whether you're angry or not, you don't have a choice about it... nor do you get to choose where your tax money goes.

Federal income taxes represent the government's largest source of revenue - at more than $900 billion. This money is used to run the country - everything from national defense, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to things like education, public safety and infrastructure.

Here’s my question to you: If you could choose, where would you want your tax dollars to go?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Taxes
April 12th, 2010
05:00 PM ET

Is it right that half of American households pay no federal income taxes?

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FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Tax Day is around the corner - but it turns out that millions of Americans don't dread the April 15 filing deadline much at all:

That's because 47 percent of U.S. households will pay no federal income taxes for 2009. That's right - almost half of Americans will pay nothing.

So what we have in effect is roughly half the households paying the tax load for the whole country. One Washington research group says it's either because people's incomes are too low or they qualify for enough credits, deductions and exemptions.

In the past few years, credits for lower income families have grown so much that a family of four - with two children younger than 17 - making $50,000 will pay no federal income tax for last year. Nothing.

We now live in a country where half of the people aren't paying for the government services and programs that benefit everyone - that includes national defense, public safety, infrastructure and education. It's estimated that the wealthiest 10 percent of Americans pay about three-quarters of the income taxes collected by the federal government.

Under President Bush, the nation's wealthiest taxpayers got big tax breaks; but President Obama has been pushing tax cuts for poorer Americans and tax increases for the wealthiest.

Everyone gets hit paying lots of other taxes... things like federal payroll taxes and excise taxes on gasoline, alcohol and cigarettes - as well as state or local taxes. But when it comes to the government's biggest source of revenue - the federal income tax - almost half of all American households pay not one thin dime.

Here’s my question to you: Is it right that almost half of American households pay no federal income taxes?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Taxes
March 3rd, 2010
06:22 PM ET

Would you rat out a tax cheat for $?

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(PHOTO CREDIT: SAUL LOEB/AFP/GETTY IMAGES)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

If you know someone cheating on their taxes - and chances are you do… there may be a buck or two in it for you.

Under the Internal Revenue Service's Informant Program, you could receive up to 15 percent of the amount that's been underpaid... with a maximum award of $10 million.

Informants have to complete a claim and send it to the IRS. Informants' names aren't made public, even though they have to reveal their identity to the IRS. They also have to give a lot of detailed information about the tax cheat - including the person's social security number, address and date of birth.

In the last few years, the IRS has also started cracking down on big-time cheaters with a new whistle-blower program... which has turned up lots of tips.

It's believed the most common informants are dissatisfied middle-ranking employees in big companies. They may feel frustrated about not advancing so they turn in co-workers or bosses. Although one tax expert points out there's likely a real mix of informants - including those looking for revenge and turning in their former spouse or boss.

People snitch for various reasons, including of course the big financial payoff. Some also feel angry about others being above the law and getting away with it or feel morally obligated to turn in cheaters.

Some factors that turn people away from reporting cheats: The exhaustive amount of information required along with fear of retaliation.

But with tax season right around the corner...

Here’s my question to you: Would you rat out a tax cheat to make money?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Taxes
February 5th, 2010
07:00 PM ET

Taxing basics like food to fill local budget shortfalls?

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FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Phoenix, Arizona has approved a two percent sales tax on food. The city has a $240 million budget shortfall. So instead of laying off city workers, they have decided to tax people on what they eat. This is getting ridiculous.

It's estimated the tax on everything from milk to meat to vegetables will bring in tens of millions of dollars a year.

The tax is scheduled to last five years. The mayor says the city council could reverse its decision after hearing from the public in upcoming budget meetings.

Phoenix had been at risk of cutting close to 1,400 jobs - including 500 police and firefighters - along with closing libraries, senior centers and after-school programs.

Supporters of the tax say it's critical to keep emergency responders on the streets; and it can mean the difference between life and death. You could make the argument that eating also means the difference between life and death.

Guess who gets hit the hardest with a tax on food? The working poor, seniors and others on fixed incomes.

This tax will cause even more pain for the people of Phoenix during an already difficult economic time. Grocery shop owners worry what the food tax might do to their bottom line.

There's already an 8.3 percent sales tax on non-food items at grocery stores; and two percent of that goes to the city. But Phoenix wants more...

Here’s my question to you: Is taxing a basic necessity like food the answer to filling local budget shortfalls?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Food Prices • Tax Hike • Taxes
November 23rd, 2009
06:00 PM ET

Should the wealthy pay more taxes to send more troops to Afghanistan?

Should the wealthiest Americans pay more taxes to send more troops to Afghanistan?

Should the wealthiest Americans pay more taxes to send more troops to Afghanistan?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Some top Democrats think the wealthy should have to pony up more taxes in order to pay for a troop increase in Afghanistan.

Democrat Carl Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, says people earning more than $200,000 or $250,000 a year should pay an "additional income tax."

Levin says richer Americans have done "incredibly well,” and that it's important to pay for a troop surge instead of increasing the federal debt.

Democratic Rep. David Obey, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, also says
he favors a so-called "war surtax."

Obey says that people making $400,000 or $500,000 per year should be asked to pay as much as 5 percent of their incomes, while lower earners might pay a smaller amount - down to 1 percent.

Obey says if we don't increase taxes, the war in Afghanistan will "bleed every dollar in the budget away from any other initiative." Unless of course the government cut spending elsewhere. Hah!

First they wanted to tax the rich to pay for health care reform. Now they want to do it to pay for more troops for war. This administration also plans to increase the top income tax rate. Pretty soon the rich won't be.

The White House suggests it could cost as much as 40 billion dollars per year to send 40,000 additional troops into Afghanistan. President Obama is expected to announce his decision in the next few weeks. He will meet with his national security team tonight - again.

Here’s my question to you: Should additional taxes be levied against wealthy Americans to pay for more troops in Afghanistan?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?
FULL POST


Filed under: Afghanistan • Taxes
August 28th, 2009
05:00 PM ET

Should government raise taxes to deal with deficit?

 Should the government raise taxes to deal with the deficit?

Should the government raise taxes to deal with the deficit?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

With a $9 trillion deficit facing this country over the next 10 years, it is almost inevitable that taxes will have to go up at some point. The questions are: When and by how much? The answers are probably soon and a lot.

As the government continues to spend more than it takes in, it keeps borrowing more – especially from overseas. These countries, like China and Japan, pretty much own us and can demand higher interest rates or decide to put their money somewhere else.

Experts say if that happened, taxes would shoot sky high in the U.S. and the government would only be able to provide the most basic public services while the social safety net would "evaporate."

The problem with raising taxes now is we're still fighting our way out of a recession, and most economists think that's the wrong time to make people shell out more.

For his part, President Obama is promising to keep taxes low for most people. The president's plan to raise taxes on only the wealthiest is estimated to raise about $600 billion over the next 10 years – but that's only a drop in the bucket when you consider a $9 trillion deficit during that same time.

Tax experts suggest Congress will eventually have to take pretty drastic measures, like making the entire tax system less complicated. Also, income tax revenue alone likely won't be enough to raise the money we'll need, which is why some suggest a value-added tax on all goods and services.

Here’s my question to you: Should the government raise taxes to deal with the deficit?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Deficit • Taxes
August 3rd, 2009
05:00 PM ET

Would raising middle class taxes cost Obama a 2nd term?

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FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

The Obama administration is not ruling out tax increases on the middle class. And this could be a very big deal.

During the campaign - candidate Obama repeatedly promised the middle class wouldn't see their taxes increase "one single dime." In fact, he said he would cut taxes for "95-percent of all working families, because, in an economy like this, the last thing we should do is raise taxes on the middle class."

Fast forward a year... After bank bailouts, auto bailouts and the economic stimulus package - the president is trying to figure out a way to pay for all this plus health care reform while also reducing deficits. There aren't many choices: either raise taxes or cut spending. White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs today insisted the president wouldn't break his campaign promise.

But Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and National Economic Council Director Larry Summers both sidestepped questions over the weekend about raising taxes on the middle class. Geithner said they're not ready to rule out a tax increase to lower the deficit, while Summers pointed out that health care overhaul needs money from somewhere, saying "it is never a good idea to absolutely rule things out, no matter what."

But the problem is, the president is the one who ruled it out. We all remember how former president George H. W. Bush's famously promised: "Read my lips... no new taxes." A couple years later, he raised taxes and that was the end of his presidency. He lost his bid for re-election to Bill Clinton after one term.

Here’s my question to you: Would breaking his word on tax hikes for the middle class make Barack Obama a one-term president?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: President Barack Obama • Taxes
July 29th, 2009
04:00 PM ET

Should fattening foods be taxed?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Slapping a tax on fattening foods could help pay for health care reform while also combating the nation's growing obesity epidemic. A new study by the non-partisan Urban Institute says a 10-percent tax on fatty foods could raise more than $500-billion over the next 10-years.

They liken it to the steep taxes on tobacco, which helped dramatically reduce the number of smokers in this country.

However, taxes alone won't do the job when it comes to battling obesity. The study also recommends banning advertising of fattening foods to children and better labeling these products.

Restaurants and beverage groups have already waged a multimillion-dollar media campaign against any new taxes on food or drinks. They say it's no time to add taxes on "the simple pleasures we all enjoy" and argue this tax would be unfair since it soaks the poor.

But the authors of the study say that as much as $180 billion of revenue raised could be used to subsidize poor families' purchase of fruits and vegetables; and to help make healthier foods available to them.

There's no question something has to be done. At the rate we're going, this study says 40-percent of adults will be obese by 2015. And it's costing us a fortune. Obesity-related issues like diabetes and high blood pressure cost more than $200 billion a year - half of which is paid by taxpayers, whether they're fat or not.

Here’s my question to you: Should fattening foods be taxed like tobacco?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Obesity • Taxes
June 1st, 2009
04:00 PM ET

Should taxpayer money cover Obamas' NYC date night?

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Patrons at a restaurant across from the Belasco Theater peer out of the windows at the theater where the President and First Lady attended a show Saturday in Manhattan. (PHOTO CREDIT: MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

President Obama made good on a campaign promise Saturday night... by taking his wife on a date to New York City.

The president says he promised his wife he would "take her to a Broadway show after it was all finished."

Mr. Obama and the First Lady flew from Washington to New York on a Gulfstream jet, then took a helicopter from the Marine One fleet from JFK airport into Manhattan. The first couple dined in the Village and then headed to Times Square, where they saw "Joe Turner's Come and Gone" - a show about a man coming to terms with the history of slavery.

New Yorkers seemed to love it all, with crowds eight-deep in places, but critics are accusing the president of insensitivity. The Republican National Committee says as the president prepared to "wing into Manhattan's theater district," GM prepared to file bankruptcy and families across America continue to struggle to pay their bills. They added that if President Obama wanted to go to the theater... why wasn't the presidential box at the Kennedy Center good enough?

The president paid for dinner and the show tickets, but the rest of the bill will land on the taxpayers; and The White House hasn't said yet how much that is. They cited fuel efficiency - saying instead of taking the larger Air Force One, the president and first lady took a smaller plane. There were two other planes carrying media and staff.

Here’s my question to you: Should taxpayers pick up the bill for the Obamas' date night in New York?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST

May 14th, 2009
04:00 PM ET

Tax cigarettes, alcohol, junk food to pay for health care reform?

FROM CNN's Jack Cafferty:

Health care reform won't come cheap, and that's why lawmakers are considering higher taxes on everything from alcohol and cigarettes to junk food and soda as a way to pay for it. The Senate Finance Committee is looking into how to pay for this massive overhaul, which could cost $1.5 trillion over 10 years.

So-called sin taxes may raise $600 billion over the next decade.

Several experts are suggesting taxes on bad behavior, including a $2 dollar tax on a pack of cigarettes and a higher excise tax on alcohol.

Politico reports that the ranking Republican on the committee, Senator Chuck Grassley is nixing the idea of taxing soda and sugary drinks. But it's easy to see why so-called sin taxes are appealing - taxing cigarettes, junk foods and alcohol could raise $600 billion over 10 years.

A recent poll found support among Americans for imposing such taxes to help pay for health care reform. The Kaiser Family Foundation survey shows 61 percent of those polled say they would be in favor of raising taxes on items that are thought to be unhealthy - like cigarettes, alcohol, junk food and soda. 37 percent are opposed.

When asked about specific items, there's more support for taxing cigarettes and alcohol than snack foods and soda.

But before you start hoarding your beer and chips, Congress is also looking at other ways to pay for reform - like eliminating the tax-free status of company health benefits along with non-health related options like capping the deduction on charitable donations.

Here’s my question to you: Is taxing cigarettes, alcohol and junk food a good way to pay for health care reform?

Interested to know which ones made it on air?

FULL POST


Filed under: Health care • Taxes
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