Thursday, April 16, 2015

Would You Let the I.R.S. Prepare Your Taxes?

New York Times ^ | 04/16/2015 | Farhad Manjoo 

Around this time every year, Joseph Bankman, a professor of tax law at Stanford Law School and a longtime advocate of using technology to simplify tax filing, gets on the phone with reporters to explain what is wrong with how we do our taxes in the United States. Every year he says pretty much the same thing: No other industrialized country asks its citizens to jump through as many hoops to calculate their taxes as ours.
It isn’t just lawmakers or the hapless-seeming Internal Revenue Service that is perpetuating the annoyance of tax time, he adds. Instead it is the private sector — specifically, the software company Intuit, which makes TurboTax, the most popular tax program in the country.
For more than a decade, Mr. Bankman and a small group of tax experts have called on the government to create a tax preparation method that they say would vastly reduce the time and cost of tax-filing for most people. Intuit has been a primary obstacle to the effort.
The reform plan would work like this: Today, employers, banks, brokerage firms and pretty much every other financial organization in the country send the federal government detailed records about our economic activity every year. These organizations also send you, the taxpayer, a similar set of documents, which are forms with names like W-2 and 1098. After you file your taxes, the government matches its two sets of documents to make sure you have filed correctly.
To Mr. Bankman, this double documentation doesn’t make much sense. If the government is already collecting financial data from employers and banks, why can’t the I.R.S. use that information to precalculate our tax returns for us? At the very least, why can’t tax software just connect to the government’s database to download all the information
(Excerpt) Read more at ...

The Obama ‘Framework’ for Israel’s Doom!

FrontPage Magazine ^ | April 16, 2015 | Moshe Phillips and Benyamin Korn 

So now it turns out that Israel’s security, perhaps its very existence, will be jeopardized in order to give Barack Obama some post-presidential bragging points.

It was recently revealed that the President intends to publicly endorse specific borders and other terms for a Palestinian state, which he hopes will go down in history as the “Obama Framework.” But it would be more truthful to call it what it is — the Palestinian Framework.
The new “Obama Framework” scheme was reported on March 30 by Jackson Diehl, deputy editorial page editor of the Washington Post, a journalist whom the Obama administration has often used to leak information it wants to float for trial balloons.
Why does Obama intend to push forward with a plan that will be rejected by Israel and lead to a crisis in Israeli-American relations? It would be a “bid by Obama for a foreign policy legacy,” Diehl writes. “At a minimum,” according to Diehl, Obama hopes that “diplomats who now talk of the ‘Clinton parameters’ from 2000 (a proposal by then-President Bill Clinton) would henceforth speak of the “Obama framework.”
So the President’s bid for a “legacy” should become Israel’s security nightmare?
Most disturbing are the specific terms that President Obama intends to embrace, as outlined by Diehl. They mirror the Palestinian position in almost every respect.
• “Palestine’s territory would be based on Israel pre-1967 borders with the West Bank and Gaza Strip, with territorial swaps to allow Israel’s annexation of some Jewish settlements.” However, it takes two sides to swap, so if the Palestinian Authority does not want to swap, there will be no swapping. Let’s call it for what it is: the pre-1967 borders.
That would leave Israel nine miles wide at its vulnerable mid-section. A Palestinian tank column would be able to cut the Jewish state in two in a matter of minutes. A study by the Joint Chiefs of Staff after the 1967 war concluded that in order to have “a militarily defensible border,” Israel would need “control of the prominent high ground running north-south through the middle of West Jordan” [i.e. most of Judea-Samaria].”
• “Jerusalem would be the capital of both nations.” Since it is physically and administratively impossible to have two countries use the same territory as their capital, there would have to be a geographical division. The Arab position has always been that the pre-1967 parts of the city should be the Arab capital–meaning the Old City section of Jerusalem (where the Temple Mount and Western Wall are located), the Mount of Olives cemetery, and the neighborhoods of Ramot, French Hill, Gilo, and Har Homa, among others.
• “A description of security arrangements would glide over the question of exactly how the West Bank and Gaza would be prevented from becoming a launching pad for attacks on Israel.”
Even when security arrangements have been spelled out, the Palestinians ignored them. Recall that the Oslo Accords required the Palestinian Authority to outlaw and disarm terrorist groups, and extradite terrorists to Israel. The PA has ignored Israel’s dozens of extradition requests and never disarmed or outlawed terror groups. The New York Times reported last year that Israeli troops had recently been forced to enter the Jenin refugee camp in pursuit of terrorists because although Jenin is under the “full control” of the PA, “the Palestinian [security forces] did not generally operate in refugee camps.” If this is how the PA has acted when security obligations are spelled out, imagine their response when “Palestine” ‘s obligations are not even put in writing.
• “The thorny question of Palestinian refugees would be dispatched with a call for an ‘agreed solution’.”
This sets up a minefield for Israel. By failing to rule out the right of the Palestinians to flood Israel with millions of “refugees,” the Palestinians will keep on demanding that right, and will threaten war if they doesn’t get their way.
• “A stipulation that Israel would remain the homeland of the Jewish people.”
Whether this stipulation will really be included in the U.N. resolution remains to be seen. If it is, it will be a meaningless gesture intended to mollify Israeli and world Jewish opposition — an attempt to get Israel to trade territory it needs to survive, for words that will be as worthless as Yasser Arafat’s 1993 pledge of “peace.”
In conclusion, Diehl conjectures that “As in the case with restoring relations with Cuba, Obama can also disregard the domestic political considerations that restrained him before he began his ‘fourth quarter’ in office.”

A Classic!


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